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Two strikes, so what?

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Just some light lunchtime numbers to explore

MLB: Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Watching the Mariners (did you hear they’re in first place?) this year has been strange, and not simply because they’ve been good (did you know the Mariners are in first place?). In the waning years of the Jack Z era, despite his best efforts, the pitching was the team’s strong suit; a salve for the festering sore that was their offense. The first year or so of Dipoto’s tenure stressed controlling the zone, prioritizing walks, OBP, and plate discipline. But now this offense is a new design altogether - they’re built to hit, to make contact, to put the ball in play - and I think that’s a large part of what has made them so compelling to watch this year (that and the winning. Hey, did you hear the Mariners are in first place?).

There are a lot of different pieces within the Mariners’ offensive profile that we could pull apart and explore, and maybe we’ll do more of that in the future, but in the meantime I wanted to offer up a statistical appetizer while we wait for tonight’s game (the first place Mariners against the second place Astros, dontcha know?). I’ll keep it short and sweet, since this is less of an analysis and more “oh, hey, check out this neat thing.”

The Mariners are really good in two strike counts. They’re currently 3rd in wRC+ (71), and 4th in wOBA (.248) in two-strike counts overall, behind Boston, New York, and Anaheim. They’re also 4th best by wRC+/wOBA in 0-2 counts after, you guessed it, New York, Boston, and Anaheim. For context, only six teams last season had a higher wOBA in all two-strike counts, including Cleveland, Boston, New York, and Houston, and only Cleveland and Houston had a higher wRC+. It’s still early in the season, but through this day last year the 2017 Mariners had just a 43 wRC+, good enough for a four-way tie of 12th in MLB.

As in many situations, in two-strike counts the team is pretty overwhelmingly carried by Jean Segura, who plays the same position as the top stars in the game but is perhaps deserving of some more credit of his own.

Interestingly, though, when you isolate 0-2 counts the script flips a bit.

These situational statistics don’t carry a whole lot of meaning, but it does serve to emphasize the company the 2018 Mariners are in. We worry a lot about the run differential, about upcoming competition, about whether this team is going to fall apart at any minute, and those worries are valid. But this team is also playing good baseball. We see it in their second-place-by-fWAR bullpen, their starting pitchers that have cobbled together competency and, yeah, we see it in their ability to make lemonade out of two-strike counts.