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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.

September 7, 2010 at 2:19 PM

Can the Mariners avoid 100 losses?

Granted, that’s not one of the burning issues of our time. The Mariners have had a disastrous season, and that won’t change depending on whether the “L” column in the newspaper on Oct. 4 reads 100 or 99.

Still, there is something symbolic about 100 losses as the line of demarcation for a truly, epicly bad season. It’s a round number that resonates, just like a 20-win season seems better than a 19-win season, and a .300 average seems better than a .299 average. Somehow, that one point, one win, one loss translates to something more meaningful. One-hundred losses would be immediate shorthand for a season turned ugly.

There was a point this year I would have bet good money that the Mariners would hit triple-digits in defeats, hands down, no questions asked. In fact, I thought they could be headed for upwards of 105. When the M’s lost 2-1 to the Royals on Aug. 7 — two days before Don Wakamatsu was fired, the turmoil raining down in all corners — their record fell to 41-70. That put them on pace, mathematically, for 102 losses, but things were falling apart so rapidly that it seemed possible, even likely, that the pace would accelerate. And when Wakamatsu was fired on Aug. 9, adding another layer of disruption, 100 losses seemed more inevitable than ever.

But now, as we head down the home stretch, the Mariners actually have a decent chance to avoid 100 losses. And that’s despite the fact their bats have already gone into winter hibernation. The M’s have gone 11 games and counting without scoring more than three runs, 15 straight without scoring more than four.

Heading into tonight’s contest in Oakland, the M’s have 24 games left. They stand 54-84. Their magic number is 63 — the number of victories needed to avoid triple-digits in losses. So here’s their task: Go no worse than 9-15 the rest of the way.

Is that doable? Well, 9-15 equates to a .375 winning percentage. Their overall winning percentage this season, for all their issues and struggles, is .391. So they need to play even worse than they have all year to hit 100 losses. Their record under Wakamatsu’s replacement, Darren Brown, is 12-14 (.462), so he has done an admirable job restoring order.

On the other hand, the M’s are in the midst of one of their periodic nosedives this year. After starting Brown’s tenure by winning seven of 11, they have gone 5-11 since. That’s a .313 winning percentage — and, as we just mentioned, their offense is malfunctioning worse than ever. If they don’t snap out of that malaise quickly, 100 losses could happen. Having Felix Hernandez’s magic arm for four or five of the remaining 24 games will help. Their schedule is not easy, either. After Oakland, they are at the Angels for three, then home for series against Boston and Texas. They then go on the road to play Toronto, Tampa Bay and Texas before returning home for four with Oakland to end the season. Every opponent except the A’s and Angels has a winning record — and the Mariners are a combined 9-19 against those two teams.

So here the Mariners stand at another crossroads. All they have to do is scrape out nine more wins and they can avoid one final humiliation this season.

I’d say it could go either way.

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