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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

May 28, 2007 at 8:38 AM

Showdown in Anaheim

Just arrived in Anaheim. What a long day! At the ballpark now and Ryan Feierabend does indeed get the start tomorrow. Thanks to a couple of you who caught my “new math” courtesy of a lack of coffee this morning. Yes indeed, a 1-4 record in those games in-hand would cost Seattle 1 1/2 games, while a 3-2 record only gains them a half game. Actually makes the point all the more. Those games in-hand won’t mean much unless the M’s get in the habit of winning multiple games in a row and 10 or 11 of 15, or even 15 of 20. Does not mean they have to sweep this series though. Taking two of three here gains some ground, keeps them reasonably close and has them winning seven of nine. With the Texas Rangers coming to town. Sets the M’s up nicely.
What they really don’t want to do here is lose more ground. They especially cannot afford to get swept. But I don’t think they absolutely have to win all three games here. It would be great for them. But it’s not a neccessity right now. But there are no gimme games here. Each one is important. The difference between the M’s going 2-1 versus 1-2 is huge, given how they are already at that 4 1/2 game gap. Should be a very interesting few nights. Sorry about the math. As my mother in Montreal would tell you, it was never my strongest suit.
And a pleasant holiday morning to all of you. Sitting in the airport in Houston, waiting to catch my flight to Orange County. Yes, it was an early morning in Kansas City. And some of you think this baseball life is all glamorous, huh? Good morning to you, too, “kyoko”. Nobody wants you to stop commenting here. We just don’t want every single discussion to involve the race card. I’m glad you’re a Richie Sexson fan. He needs them. For what it’s worth, I think he’s overpaid as well. And no, I would not give him a raise. If you want to talk OPS, Ichiro had an .815 OPS in April. It’s a much better .872 in May and he has scored 21 runs this month as opposed to 12 in the previous. Both OPS totals are very good. But they, alone, are not enough to command that kind of money. That’s why we look at intangibles. Because with Ichiro, the OPS alone has never been truly indicative of his value. For me to even consider giving him that kind of money, he has to do more of what we’ve seen in May than in April — and do it consistently. I honestly don’t know how much extra in annual revenue Ichiro brings the club. The M’s are very secretive about that stuff. I would imagine that if it’s really high enough to warrant a salary in the $15-to$20 million range, they’d have locked Ichiro up by now. But that’s a guess.
On to the Angels. An interesting discussion down below about what the Mariners “have” to do this series. I do think frequent contributor “Nuss” goes a step too far in saying they have to sweep. The Angels are not the D-Rays or Royals. This is a bona fide contender we’re talking about. In my mind, what the Mariners absolutely “have” to do is avoid getting swept. That would drop them 7 1/2 games behind and making that up, from an historical perspective, would be next to impossible. Not totally impossible. But about as close as you can get.
Losing two of three would hurt as well. It would leave Seattle 5 1/2 games back. Not an impossible margin, but, as “Nuss” correctly notes, it can often take a week or two to make up just one game.
Now that we’re on that topic, though, it’s worth mentioning one overlooked aspect about the AL West standings. We all tend to forget that the Mariners have still played five fewer games than the Angels. In fact, they are only two games behind Los Angeles in the loss column. Is this cause for celebration? No, it’s not. Few people pay attention to the loss column until September because it’s generally assumed that, by then, all teams will have played roughly the same number of games. If that were to happen and the M’s were still two back, well, by golly we’d have a pennant race.
As things stand, the Mariners still have to play those added five games before we figure out how far back they truly are. They could win all five and truly be only two games back in the standings. Problem is, the Mariners have shown very little in the way of an ability to capture all five, no matter how randomly dispersed those games are. Don’t forget, some of them involve the Indians. Look at what that team’s been doing. The Mariners have yet to win more than four consecutive games all season. Chances are, the best they’d do in those five games — based on performance to-date — is go about 3-2. That picks them up an extra 1 1/2 games. So, instead of being 4 1/2 out as of today, they be three games behind.
But what if the M’s go 1-4? Gets them a half-game.
Remember all that talk about contenders needing to win five, six, or seven games in a row? It’s not just talk. Most playoff teams, in any given year, have at least one seven-game winning streak. They just do. It involves multiple sweeps, as you might imagine, and helps even out the standings in cases like this one. If the Mariners keep on winning, the chance of making up the difference on the Angels increases — especially with all of these games in-hand. Games in-hand, the loss column, that stuff’s all great. But it only means something if a team wins more often than it loses. Otherwise, it’s just a .500 dance.
All of that said, if the Mariners do take two of three in Anaheim, they will close the gap to 3 1/2 games. With those five games in-hand, it buys them some time to figure out how to start winning consistently. Take two of three and Seattle is only one game back in the loss column. Yes, the M’s would have to win all five games in-hand to actually wind up that far behind, but it’s still a palatable situation with four months to go.
Lose two of three, however, and the task becomes much more difficult. I’m fascinated by this M’s team. I can’t remember a club playing so many “must win” games so early on. The game in KC yesterday truly was a “must win” situation given how hot the Angels are. They have to be kept in sight.
Conversely, if you assume the Mariners will lose the Ryan Feierabend start tomorrow, then tonight’s Miguel Batista outing is a “must win” deal. I’m not convinced Feierabend will lose his start. Or sold on Ervin Santana, even if he is very good at home. But I do know the M’s would be doing themselves a huge favor by taking two of three, instead of dropping two of three in this series. But a sweep? I don’t think it’s a must. The games in-hand give Seattle an added chance to make up ground later on. Winning two of every three on a regular basis gives them that chance when those extra games are played. The gap with the Angels is still not as big as it appears. Not yet, anyway.
But lose two of three here and the gap starts to creep beyond Seattle’s control. No matter how many extra games the Angels have played.



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