The 2016 Seattle Mariners are good, but also 2016 Seattle Mariners are bad.
Yup, that about sums it up. Thanks for the clicks, and have a nice day.
Okay, okay, I’ll give ya a little more.
After last night’s three hit complete game shut-out by the ceiling-scraping Taijuan Walker, you’re probably visiting Lookout Landing in an uncharacteristically jovial mood. They’ve won seven in a row! They’re two and a half back of the wild card! Baseball in September is fun again! Honestly, screw the Mariners. Their bungee jumping "hey we’re good!"/"oh crap I forgot to open my parachute" antics have destroyed all sorts of narratives and fun ideas, and after these last seven games those jerks are making sure we keep writing about them rather than, say, office desk chairs. So, as a compromise, this piece will have some of the good things you’re looking for but also some bad things because, hey, we are still Mariners fans.
Last week the brilliant Grant Brisbee (not to be confused with our brilliant Grant Bronsdon), published a piece about the frustrations of the 2016 San Francisco Giants, who are making franchise history with leads lost after the eighth inning and nonexistent comeback abilities. Like any good Mariners fan I figured our misery could be worse than theirs, and decided to look up some of the M’s numbers.
If it feels as though this team has played a lot of close games, you’d be right. They have played in 50 one-run games, of which they have won precisely half those contests. They’re second in all of baseball in one-run games played, after (ha ha ha) the Giants. If it feels as though this team has played a lot of extra innings games, you’d also be correct. They rank sixth throughout MLB in extra innings games played (although, if you want really impressive numbers, the 2015 Mariners had the second-most extra innings games in the last three years. But no, let’s not talk about that team again). There, you’re 2-0 now, doesn’t that make you feel good? Enjoy that, because this next part isn’t going to feel good at all.
After the eighth inning the average MLB team wins 96% of the time. In Grant’s article he marveled at the Giants’ 91% chance of winning in that same situation; the Mariners are worse, securing those wins only 90% of the time. If this season ends like 2014 did, just one game shy, there are going to be seven blown saves for us to revisit in our time machines. To put this in context, let’s look at how Mariners teams have stacked up in the last ten years.
|Year||Losses when ahead in the ninth||Wins when ahead in the ninth||Win percentage|
Well that’s not good. That’s not very good at all. The 2016 Mariners have the second lowest win percentage in the last ten years, and some of those teams set the bar pretty darn low.
So, if they’re blowing ninth inning leads with this kind of relative frequency, how is it that they’re 77-68 and fighting for a wildcard spot? Well, I’m so glad you asked, because this is the fun part. These 2016 Seattle Mariners, responsible for years taken off our collective lives, are incredible at coming back to win when trailing in the ninth. We’re talking historically good, on a franchise level. The league average win percentage for a team that’s trailing in the ninth inning is 3.9%. The Mariners nearly double that with a 7% win record. To offer further context for just how good that is, only the Cubs, Cardinals and the Rangers (at the expense of Jeff Banister’s soul) have higher win percentages in those situations this year. This is the best "clutch" team the Mariners franchise has seen in the last ten years, and it’s not particularly close. In fact, the 2016 Seattle Mariners are the fourth best ninth inning comeback team in franchise history. Take a look
|Year||Losses when behind in the ninth||Wins when behind in the ninth||Win percentage|
In a season where we’ve talked so much about the great games this team has played, these numbers reinforce just how fun the 2016 Mariners have been, and the wild thing is that they don’t even reflect all of that joy. These numbers don’t include games like the incredible 10-run comeback against the Padres, or the fifteen inning victory over the Tigers, or any of the other amazing extra innings victories.
It’s not always true that the numbers line up with what you feel when watching a team, but these 2016 Mariners refuse to give up and the numbers reflect that. They’re 2.5 games back from the wildcard and the odds are good that these last 17 games are going to be a heck of a lot of fun.