A week or two ago, somebody linked me to a game recap. It was a game recap from this past season. It wasn't a recap that I wrote, and it wasn't a recap about a Mariners game. It was a recap about an ordinary game between the Indians and somebody else from like the beginning of May. I read it and my first thought was "why am I reading this?" My second thought was "holy crap, that's right, eventually they play games."
The Mariners will play games. They'll start playing games relatively soon - sooner than everybody else. All of this offseason that we've been sitting through is referred to as the offseason because it is the time off between seasons. Seasons of games.
It's easy to forget that, weirdly enough. It's easy to forget that games exist. One hundred sixty-two of them, for each team, plus the meaningless games at the beginning, and the meaningful potential games at the end. During the offseason, you can forget what games are like. During the season, you can forget what the offseason is like. There is lots of forgetting in the lives that we live.
Everything is about the games. During the games, it is about winning the games. During the offseason, it is about preparing to win more of the games. Last year, the Mariners won 67 of the games. The year before that, they won 61 of the games. How are they shaping up for 2012? How many of the games does it look like they're going to win?
Of course, we can't know anything for certain. We can't know how many games the Mariners are going to win. I don't think that we'd want to know how many games the Mariners are going to win, except for one reason. But we can project. We can project the standings to come up with a mathematical outlook.
I've seen two projections recently, presumably based on the latest roster and depth chart information. One comes courtesy of the Hardball Times, using the Oliver projection system. The other comes courtesy of Replacement Level Yankees, using the Marcel projection system.
Over a number of simulations, the former currently projects that the Mariners finish with an average record of 73-89, good for third place in the division. Over a number of simulations, the latter currently projects that the Mariners finish with an average record of 76-86, good for fourth place in the division.
The two projection systems differ on methodology, and so it shouldn't come as a surprise that they differ on a number of teams. For example, one gives the Royals 79 wins, while the other gives the Royals 62 wins. For another example, one gives the Cubs 70 wins, while the other gives the Cubs 83 wins. The correlation between the two sets of projected standings is statistically significant, but it is not incredibly strong.
With that said, they more or less agree on the Mariners. And their statistical projections for the Mariners agree with our subjective projections for the Mariners. I think the majority of people feel like the Mariners are okay, with a shot at .500. That's what these numbers are telling us. They're saying to the Angels "you're good", and then they're saying to the Rangers "you're good", and then they're turning to the Mariners and saying "hey, you're all right" while patting them on the shoulder.
So, nothing too shocking. Something to keep in mind when looking over the Marcel projections is that Marcel regresses pretty heavily, and pegs all rookies to be league-average performers. Hisashi Iwakuma? League-average performer. Yu Darvish? League-average performer. Marcel also doesn't park-adjust. Marcel is just that simplistic. It's frighteningly accurate for something so simplistic, but it's simplistic.
Conclusion: the 2012 Mariners probably aren't going to contend for the playoffs. Even signing Prince Fielder would've left them as significant underdogs. This is news to nobody. Jack Zduriencik said in a publicly-aired press conference, "let's not kid ourselves," 2012 is going to be challenging. The pre-spring training media luncheon is supposed to be all sunny and buoyant. Eric Wedge said he expects his team to contend every March. Jack Zduriencik did not say that.
Two things, though. For one, obviously, the Mariners have a chance of making the playoffs. It is not a very good chance - this chance would require an awful lot of things to happen - but it is a real chance. It is about the same as the chance of, say, Miguel Olivo hitting a home run in a given plate appearance. Not crazy, right? Maybe Justin Smoak blossoms. Maybe Kyle Seager blossoms. Maybe Franklin Gutierrez bounces back, and Ichiro bounces back, and Mike Carp becomes Raul Ibanez, and...
And for two, even if the Mariners drop out of the race, think about what could be coming. Danny Hultzen could be coming. James Paxton could be coming. Also Erasmo Ramirez, and Vinnie Catricala, and maybe Forrest Snow and Stephen Pryor and who knows. One of the things that made 2008 so impossibly terrible is that the team was bad, and there weren't many talented young reinforcements. The Mariners now have the sort of talent that could keep you watching, and keep you wanting to be watching, through to the end. Maybe it doesn't work out that way, but there's the chance. Talented youth is exciting. Come August or September, this team could be dripping with talented youth.
I think the tone of this post is oddly positive. It's weird, because I'm usually not so positive about the Mariners, and I wish the Mariners would've had a more complete offseason. I wish they would've added one more significant piece, somehow. But despite the immediate outlook, there is a lot to be positive about, and besides, who really wants to be negative about sports? What a lame way to follow sports. They're sports! Find something to be happy about, or find something else to do. Boy did this end differently than I thought it would.