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Seattle Mariners 2018 Fangraphs SOS-Adjusted Playoff Odds

The only real way to sugarcoat this is to disagree with it.

MLB: Spring Training-Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels
Daniel Vogelbach praying to the old-timey-baseball gods
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Fangraphs playoff odds page has gone live, folks: March is officially Mad. You can see the projections here. Jeff Sullivan’s companion post, giving some context to the page, is here. I’ll assume we’ve all taken a minute to read and digest that stuff so that we can use this space to fire off TAEKS about these odds. Ready? Ready.

Like most things relating to the 2018 Mariners offseason, your view of these odds is going to be colored heavily by your view of the current talent and especially upside of the roster. With that in mind, I’m a little more interested here in how the odds make things shape up for the Mariners’ competition, since otherwise we’re mostly just rehashing a debate we’ve had about 438 times in the last 5 months.

The first thing that jumped out to me here is how readily you can see exactly the broader conversation across MLB this offseason: tanking vs. non-tanking teams. The Indians, Red Sox, Yankees, and Astros are the class of the AL. You can debate the exact number of wins to assign to each, but there’s not much else to say about them. The rest of the AL? The expected mess. The Central’s incredibly weak year sets the Twins up well, but not well enough in the eyes of these numbers, to snag a wild card. The Central’s three tanking teams also mean the Indians get a little more of a trampoline effect; in short, it’s a good time to be in the Midwest, a sentence I would rarely write.

Meanwhile, the strength of the West is tanking the efforts of the Angels and Mariners, though as before the Angels look better in this set of projections than Seattle (the Athletics for some reason, too. I get why some systems like them, but suffice to say I am not a believer.) Top-to-bottom, the West is a very strong division—and beyond that, the Astros are a cut above the AL’s other elite teams, which makes the schedule that much tougher for teams that have to play them 19 times a year. Looking at the West, the thought occurs to me that while we’ve all focused on the Mariners’ need to beat their projections with certain players, one of the biggest boosts we could get might actually be the Astros’ failure to meet (lofty) expectations. It wouldn’t mean catching them in the division—but it might mean picking up a few key, and unexpected, wins.

For teams that aren’t in the big four, and aren’t explicitly tanking, they’re mostly making a series of calculated gambles that vary by team but basically arrive at the same place: if our bets are right, and other teams’ are wrong, we’ll be OK. Not the greatest place, but it’s at least interesting; by my view, the Twins, Mariners, Angels, and Rays are all somewhere in this cluster. Unfortunately for Seattle, playing in the (relatively) stacked West means they need their bets to go that much more right in order to play into October. In a season where a win or two may well make all the difference, losing out on a couple wins by playing in a tough division is not a pleasant thing to be staring in the face. At least it’s not the AL East, I guess?