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Making the difference

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The Mariners have the best run differential in the AL. You read that right.

Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

The Mariners are on fire.

The offense is heating up, the bullpen is lights-out, and we've won six straight series. After Tuesday night's win over Oakland, the Mariners' run differential finally exceeded the number of games the team has played. As it currently stands, they are leading the American League with a +29 run differential across 27 games. (For the sake of context, the Cubs are leading the National League with an otherworldly +93 in 26 games.)

It's barely May—way too early to read too far into this, but we're on top of the division, so why not have a little fun? Let's suppose that the Mariners continue at this rate over the course of the season, averaging at least one more run than their opponents for all 162 games. It looks like this:

Year
Team
RS
RA
RD
W
L

2016

SEA

732

558

174

96

66

To be clear, I'm not trying to say that run differential is a reliable predictor of record. It's not. Take the 2007 Diamondbacks, for example: They finished the regular season with the National League's best record at 90-72 and made it to the NLCS despite sporting a run differential of -20. Or look at the Mariners from the same year, who went 88-74 with a -19 run differential. You can get outscored over the course of the season and still be pretty successful, but if you scatter enough runs across 162 games, you're bound to win a few of them.

In the past 15 years, 25 teams have finished the season with a run differential of +162 or above. Of these 25, none have won fewer than 93 games, and all but two made the postseason.

Season
Team
RS
RA
RD
W
L

2015

TOR

891

670

221

93

69

2013

BOS

853

656

197

97

65

2013

STL

783

596

187

97

65

2013

DET

796

624

172

93

69

2011

NYY

867

657

210

97

65

2011

PHI

713

529

184

102

60

2011

TEX

855

677

178

96

66

2010

NYY

859

693

166

95

67

2009

LAD

780

611

169

95

67

2009

NYY

915

753

162

103

59

2008

CHC

855

671

184

97

64

2007

BOS

867

657

210

96

66

2007

NYY

968

777

191

94

68

2006

NYY

930

767

163

97

65

2005

STL

805

634

171

100

62

2004

STL

855

659

196

105

57

2004

BOS

949

769

180

98

64

2003

ATL

907

740

167

101

61

2003

SEA

795

631

164

93

69

2002

NYY

897

697

200

103

58

2002

BOS

859

665

194

93

69

2002

LAA

851

644

207

99

63

2002

SFG

783

616

167

95

66

2001

SEA

927

627

300

116

46

2001

OAK

884

645

239

102

60

In fact, only four total teams with at least 93 wins have missed the playoffs in that stretch—Boston in 2002, Seattle in 2002 and 2003, and Cleveland in 2005—all before the inception of the second wild card spot.

"So what?" you may ask yourself. "Of course scoring more runs means winning more games." And maybe you're right, but there's something more concrete in the data. Put simply: If the Mariners can maintain their current performance level, they're firmly on the right track for the playoffs. Hope springs eternal.

Go M's.