After a particularly painful loss such as last night's 8-7 debacle at Fenway, it's natural to slap one's forehead and mumble "Mariners."
Ah, but Win Expectancy, the baseball arm of cold, clinical probability, has a different story to tell. A plot twist! Be patient: we'll get there. First, some commiseration.
That game, last night? It hurt. It was unpleasantly reminiscent of the other ouchy losses Mariners fans have endured this year. Yes, I'm going to list them. And name them.
The "Seager Makes Useless History" Loss (link)
The "Series in Cleveland Total Loss" Losses (link)
Channeling a fan's profound annoyance, and fueled by a couple late-night Guinnesses, I stumbled over to fangraphs, where I proceeded to slog through every Mariners WE chart of 2013. I looked for every time the Mariners surpassed 80 percent and 90 percent win probability, and noted how the game turned out. I looked for every time the Mariners' opponent surpassed 80 and 90 percent, and made some more tally marks.
The results show a 2013 season that is unkind to the Seattle baseball fan, but not in the way you might expect.
M's W-L when team reaches 80 percent WE: 49-11. That's an .817 winning percentage!
M's W-L when team reaches 90 percent WE: 48-6. That's .889, by the way.
M's W-L when team reaches 95 percent WE: 48-2. Hey, a .960 clip.
In other words, the M's are blowing games at the rate the WE chart projects them to blow games.
Wasn't there a plot twist, you ask? Here.
M's W-L when team falls to 20 percent WE: 8-56. Only winning at a .125 rate.
M's W-L when team falls to 10 percent WE: 2-52. A pathetic .037 mark.
M's W-L when team falls to 5 percent WE: no wins. I'm told that's a .000 winning percentage.
Conclusion based on watching and listening to two-thirds of the 2013 season: Mariners are getting screwed over by bad luck, BABIP's fickle timing, blown leads in extra innings, epic comebacks, bullpen failures.
Conclusion based on fact: Mariners are losing the amount of games they should based on win probability while failing to mount as many comebacks as they should.
Now, logic aside, the deck HAS felt stacked against Seattle recently. The M's decided to lose three of those 90-percenters to the likable and cuddly Red Sox -- within the last month. On July 9, an big early lead got us nowhere good; on the 11th, the same disappointing result, except spiced up with extra innings. And then, there's yesterday's "game." We already poke voodoo dolls with white stockings and cartoon chiefs when you guys visit Chicago and Cleveland, Mariners. Are we really going to have to craft another marionette?
Some losses hurt more than most. Last night's has the potential to sour the next few wins, by instilling a dirty doubt in the back of my mind -- when the next large lead presents itself, I'll enjoy it less. But the guys in Northwest Green can fix that, and repair their WE deficit, by pulling out a couple games they have no business winning. Then we can start thinking about calling it even in 2013. Maybe.