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

May 30, 2007 at 11:42 AM

Bucking the odds

Quite a few of you seem perplexed about having to admit that this game tonight has huge reprecussions on the rest of the season. I can understand the reluctance, given how this is only May 30. Yes, it is only a two-game spread between being 3 1/2 back and 5 1/2 back. Here’s the thing, though. If we check, the site that does computer simulations on how the rest of the season should play out, it tells us Seattle’s chances of post-season play dropped by 4 per cent based on last night’s game alone. But we don’t need them to point out the obvious. Let’s look back to May 1, on which the Mariners were a game above .500 and trailed the Angels by two games. One month later, should they lose tonight, the M’s will have played exactly .500 for the month and dropped another 3 1/2 games in the standings.
So, it is fair to say the spread between 3 1/2 and 5 1/2 is “only” two games. But as we can see, the M’s have to step up their month-to-month play just to keep the deficit between themselves and the Angels even. They haven’t done that. Even a win tonight means they’ll be running a 1 1/2 game deficit for the month. That’s not too shabby, given how well Los Angeles has pitched. I’m just making the point to illustrate that a two-game swing based on whoever wins tonight is nothing to be scoffed at.
On a larger-picture scale, which is what baseball purists are looking at when they continuously point out that the sport is played over 162 games, the Angels are currently projected for a 93-win season by coolstandings. For the Mariners to tie that, they would have to go 68-46 (.596) the rest of the way. As we’ve mentioned, the M’s have been a hair over .500 this entire season so far. Is it possible for them to change those odds? Certainly. We’ve already seen the Mariners win six of their last eight games. Keep doing that for an entire month and these odds will change in a hurry. In fact, if the Mariners were to do that for the next three weeks starting tomorrow — say, a 20-game stretch — they would go 15-5.
That would give Seattle a record of 41-27 if they win tonight’s game, a record of 40-28 if they lose tonight. How would that situation alter the standings? Well, if they began their 20-game run starting with a 5 1/2 game deficit, they would be exactly two games behind the Angels assuming Los Angeles maintains its current pace. A 40-28 record versus 45-29 for the Angels.
However, if the Mariners win tonight and begin their run only 3 1/2 back, they would wind up tied with the Angels with a bunch of games in hand. Seattle at 41-27, the Angels at 44-30. Now, we’re talking! Of course, this is all hypothetical. The M’s have to prove they can sustain this type of pace for more than a week. But it also shows you how one or two head-to-head games, as we’re seeing here, can impact things in the longer term. Just playing around with the numbers. Look, the Mariners have their best pitcher throwing tonight. Why not make life easier on themselves? Not saying they should surrender with a loss tonight, only that things will get a whole lot tougher.
Do I think the Yankees have a shot at the playoffs? Only the wild-card. They are too far behind the Red Sox. Again, you can’t keep repeating the 1978 mantra. Once-in-a-lifetime, folks. To assume otherwise would mean a Red Sox collapse. Are there any signs of this? Anywhere? Not really. The starting rotation has been so solid that even the absence of 7-0 Josh Beckett on the DL hasn’t slowed them down. If Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka collide during pitcher’s fielding practice, you might have a slim argument. But no, New York’s reign as AL East champion is over.
That said, the Yankees still have a shot at the wild-card, but only if Roger Clemens turns out to be the savior he’s being touted as. Remember, this isn’t the National League. The Clemens I watched pitching for the Houston Astros is going to have trouble getting beyond six innings in the AL. If that’s the case, given the state of the Yankee bullpen, he may have trouble. But these are the Yankees and the one thing I’ve learned over the years is to never count a champion out. If Clemens can consistently go seven, all of a sudden you’ve got a rotation with him, Andy Pettitte, Chien Ming Wang and Mike Mussina. Not too shabby. Bolster the bullpen at the trade deadline and all of a sudden things aren’t looking so bad.
Do the Mariners have that same wild-card chance? Well, I’d say no at first glance. They do not have the possibility of an impact-type arrival like Clemens. Yes, I know Felix Hernandez was out a month. But his replacement in the rotation, Cha Seung Baek, hardly went out and lost every game he pitched. Baek did a good job and the absence of Hernandez did not cost the M’s very many games. Even with some shaky outings since his return, the M’s have been winning when he’s on the mound. So, will a healthy Hernandez make that much of a difference? No. It may keep the Mariners from slowing their pace, but it likely won’t speed that pace up too much.
How about the Tigers? Are they poised for a wild-card collapse? I don’t think so. Their starters have struggled to deliver innings so far and they’ve still been on a good clip. The Tigers have worked out problems with some of their pitchers, Nate Robertson being one, and think they know why the innings being delivered are less. They should have Kenny Rogers back by the second-half and the Mike Maroth I saw pitch the other night against the Indians did an outstanding job after a terrible first inning. He’s rounding back into form. If anything, the Tigers stand to get better. I still think the division represents Seattle’s best shot.
Who will be available, arms-wise, at the trade deadline? Tough to answer that question now because we don’t know who the buyers and sellers are. If current trends continue, I’d do what everyone else is doing and throw the names of Mark Buehrle, Carlos Zambrano and Dontrelle Willis out there. Would any of those guys help the Mariners in a playoff push? You’d better believe it. I’d take Buehrle over the 2007 edition of Ryan Feierabend in the rotation any day of any week. Even if he is the second-coming of Jarrod Washburn, as some of you suggest, that’s not exactly a bad thing. If the idea is to win, a Buehrle type may represent the best you can do additions-wise. The idea isn’t to build a fantasy team for 2009. It’s to win ballgames in the second half.



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