I just wrote a post at FanGraphs about the playoff implications of the Houston Astros moving to the AL West in 2013, and in conducting the research for that post, I crossed my fingers that I'd be able to find some recently generated regular-season standings projections. The only ones I'd come across earlier were from the beginning of December. Not only was I able to find projected standings generated recently -- I was able to find projected standings generated on Monday. Voila!
It's based on the CAIRO projection system. I believe it uses these depth charts. You know the deal. Projection systems are flawed, they're purely numeric, depth charts can be misleading, and the offseason isn't over yet. Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse remain unsigned, and the Mariners' front office remains unfinished. You know not to take these things as gospel, but you also know they're interesting, because they give you an idea of where the various teams stand. And where does the Mariners' team stand, by these numbers and simulations?
- fourth place
- in the division
- with 67 wins
The good news is that, sure enough, the Mariners currently project to be better than the Astros. They project to be the same as the Twins and worse than everyone else. Worse than the god damned motherfucking Marlins, and I think that's just how I'm going to refer to them from now on until they have a new ownership and management structure. According to the numbers, the Mariners don't look dreadful. But they look relatively dreadful, compared to the rest of the division and the league.
If it makes you feel better, the Mariners' projected Pythagorean record is more like 69-93. That's with Ronny Paulino instead of Kelly Shoppach, who the Mariners are apparently on the verge of signing. That's without Casper Wells on the bench. That's with Blake Beavan and Hector Noesi both in the starting rotation. That's with...I don't know. Other things. Uncertain playing time distributions. I'm trying, here.
We know that 2013 isn't supposed to be a contending year, and we know the Mariners are looking up at the Angels, Rangers, and Athletics. These projections put them way, way behind the pack, to such a degree that they're almost hard to believe. It's important to understand how much of the Mariners' future success will depend on young players taking steps forward. The projections aren't going to like Justin Smoak, but maybe his September was real. The projections aren't going to like Dustin Ackley or Jesus Montero, but they were very recently among the top two young offensive assets in baseball. The projections probably hate Franklin Gutierrez, but a healthy Franklin Gutierrez would obliterate any of his objective statistical projections, because they're based on information from when Gutierrez was basically dying. Which isn't to say that we can take for granted that Gutierrez will be back to normal going forward, but it's a possibility, and the projections won't really see that so much.
So I don't know how meaningful these projections are. The Mariners are still going to make more additions, most likely, and they have a lot of volatility on the roster in the persons of developing young players. I'd think the Mariners look more like a 75-80 win team, and I don't feel like that's me being too optimistic. I don't really wear Mariners-colored glasses. I am perfectly happy to be critical of this team, and I'd consider them dreadful if they looked like they were dreadful. We've seen those Mariners teams before.
I believe in the ability on the Mariners' roster, when it comes to preventing the team from looking that bad. That is, at least with another arm in the starting rotation, because holy shit get Noesi the hell out of here. There's a good amount of young talent, and odds are at least one of those players will take a step forward. If a handful of them take a step forward, who's to say what could be possible? There's the potential for upward volatility. Maybe significantly so, if you're really high on Smoak and Ackley and Montero's skillsets. Squint hard enough and you can see the 2013 Mariners making a second-half racket.
But maybe we're all too biased. Even though the Mariners aren't finished, we can't just ignore what these projections are telling us. This system, right now, doesn't think the Mariners are very good. Rather, it thinks quite the opposite of that, and it's not like the system has a bias in the formulas. We're all going to go into the season feeling somewhat optimistic, because that's how we do things. That's how baseball fans everywhere do things, and there's nothing wrong with it. Yet there exists the distinct possibility the Mariners will just fall flat. They could end up closer to fifth place than third place. They could even end up in the very basement, which isn't likely, but which isn't impossible.
People don't like to think about what happens if things don't go that well. The lesson here is that, no matter what you think of the 2013 Seattle Mariners, they might well end up really disappointing. Especially what with the one-year contracts they've acquired. It's not a lesson we of all people needed to learn, but the occasional reminder doesn't hurt. Physically. It does hurt emotionally, kind of a lot.