Yes, it’s still early. Let’s get all that out of the way. OK, understood. Now, let’s talk about what the Mariners will have to do in order to stay in first place.
One of the pre-requisties will be a homefield advantage. So far, the M’s have been better than expected on the road. They are 8-5 away from home to start the year, but only 7-6 at home. Now, a winning record in both places would normally guarantee a playoff shot at the team pulling that off.
But what are the odds of the M’s continuing to play .615 ball on the road? I’d say not very high. The team’s best road record ever was, of course, during a 116-win season in 2001 when Seattle went 59-22 (.728) away from home. Their next best road mark was 45-36 (.555) in 1997 and 2002. So, the odds say the M’s will likely start playing at a sub-.600 mark on the road shortly. And that’s still OK. As long as the team starts taking better advantage of home dates.
Now, as I said, it’s early. But it’s not that early. The M’s, after today, will be one game away from being a fifth of the way through their home schedule. When Seattle won 88 games two years ago, the M’s were 49-33 (.598) at home, with an extra makeup date at Safeco Field from an earlier snowout in Cleveland. That’s the usual formula for a contender to follow: play roughly .600 ball at home and try to be at least .500 on the road. Seattle was two games under .500 away from home that year, and fell out of contention in September.
But you get the picture: being a barely .500 team at Safeco Field will not make life easy on the M’s. It will force them to have to buck historical trends and be an above-average road team. It’s been done before. But it isn’t easy.
So far, the M’s have scored 54 runs in 13 home games. Just over four per contest. Away from home, the M’s have scored 62 runs in 13 games. Now, a pessimist will tell you that, in theory, it should be easier for home teams to score runs. Many teams are crafted so that their home parks cater to their style. We’ve heard talk before about how the M’s don’t do enough to cater to Safeco Field and the way it plays favorably to lefty hitters. Seattle has an abundance of right handed bats in the lineup. Catcher Jeff Clement was supposed to balance that out a bit, but he’s not part of the picture at the moment.
Is that why the M’s are only 7-6 at home. One idea. Truthfully, it’s too soon to gain any concrete reason after only 13 games. But that’s one trend to keep an eye out for. Bottom line: if the M’s are to win this division in 2009, they will have to take better advantage of their home dates. Because they’ve yet to visit places like Boston, Cleveland and elsewhere, where the home team traditionally does a far better job than they have so far of winning in front of the local fans.
And Seattle can start that off today, with Erik Bedard on the hill.
May 5, 2009 at 8:33 AM