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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

April 12, 2010 at 9:30 AM

Is there any historical correlation between Mariners starts, and their final record?

WIth the Mariners stumbling their way to a 2-5 start, I decided to check whether the first week of the season has proven to be any kind of indicator for them of how the entire season goes.

The answer is, sort of, but not entirely.

Keep in mind that in 33 seasons, the M’s have had just 11 winning records — none for their first 14 years of existence. In those 14 years, they had a winning record over the season’s first week five times, and ended up with poor seasons anyway. In 1985, they teased their fans with a 6-0 start, then proceeded to lose 12 of their next 13 and finished 74-88 — sixth place in the seven-team AL West that existed in those days.

Then, in 1991, the Mariners got off to a terrible 1-6 start, and managed to finish above .500 (barely, at 83-79) for the first time in franchise history. On one other occasion, 1997, they got off to a losing start (3-4) and finished not only with a winning record at 90-72, but one of their three AL West titles. So a losing first week doesn’t doom them to a losing season. Yet in nine of their 11 winning seasons, as the accompanying chart shows, they had a winning first week, so their 2-5 start is an ominous trend. In their four playoff seasons, they started 6-1, 3-4, 4-3 and 5-2.

The Mariners have started out 2-5 on nine previous occasions, and the outcome was not pretty. Each time, they finished in the second division (most recently was their 101-loss disaster two years ago), and averaged 93 losses (for strike-shortened seasons, I figured out what their record would have been over 162 games at the same pace).

That said, it’s still just one week, and there are examples throughout baseball history of teams starting poorly and still having great seasons. The team that comes to mind is the 1998 Yankees, who lost four of their first five, and were 3-4 after seven (after winning two straight over the Mariners). They went on to finish 114-48 en route to the World Series title, winning more games overall (125) than any team in history.

In other words, the Mariner start is alarming, and the trends are not encouraging, but it doesn’t doom them to a terrible outcome

For what it’s worth, here are the seven-game numbers for the Mariners over their history:

(Winning seasons in bold, playoff seasons in bold and underlined)

1977: 2-5 (64-98, 6th in seven-team AL West)

1978: 2-5 (56-104, 7th)

1979: 4-3 (67-95, 6th)

1980: 4-3 (59-103, 7th)

1981: 2-5 (44-65, 6th — strike-shortened season)

1982: 3-4 (76-86, 4th)

1983: 3-4 (60-102, 7th)

1984: 2-5 (78-88, 5th)

1985: 6-1 (74-88, 6th)

1986: 4-3 (67-95, 7th)

1987: 2-5 (78-84, 4th)

1988: 4-3 (68-93, 4th)

1989: 2-5 (73-89, 6th)

1990: 2-5 (77-85, 5th)

1991: 1-6 (83-79, 5th)

1992: 3-4 (64-98, 7th)

1993: 4-3: 82-80, 4th)

1994: 2-5 (49-63, 3rd in new four-team AL West, strike-shortened season)

1995: 6-1 (79-66, 1st (season started late because of strike)

1996: 4-3 (85-76, 2nd)

1997: 3-4 (90-72, 1st)

1998: 3-4 (76-85, 3rd)

1999: 4-3 (79-83, 3rd)

2000: 4-3 (91-71, 2nd, wild card)

2001: 5-2 (116-46, 1st)

2002: 4-3 (93-69, 3rd)

2003: 4-3 (93-69, 3rd)

2004: 1-6 (63-99, 4th)

2005: 3-4 (69-93, 4th)

2006: 3-4 (78-84, 4th)

2007: 4-3 (88-74, 2nd)

2008: 2-5 (61-101, 4th)

2009: 5-2 (85-77, 3rd)

Summary

7-0: Zero times

6-1: two times

5-2: two times

4-3: Eleven times

3-4: Seven times

2-5: Nine times

1-6: Two times

0-7: Zero times

Comments

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