We’ve already seen the supposed “Astros factor” — or “LASTros Factor” if you will — come into play this early season and the Mariners had best start making it work to their advantage.
The Lastros, miraculously, don’t have the worst record in all of MLB despite arguably having one of the worst teams of all-time. Somehow, Jeffrey Loria and his crew have managed to make the Miami Marlins even worse so far, but the season is still young.
Anyhow, the Mariners managed to drop two of three to the Lastros in Seattle while the rest of baseball was going 12-3 against the Houston nine. The Mariners rectified things a tiny bit last night with a fairly routine 7-1 victory, which will have to become more frequent for Seattle against the Lastros as we see just how this horrible baseball team impacts the rest of the AL West.
So far, at least, we’ve seen the impact within the division.
Everybody in baseball was marvelling at the the success of the Oakland Athletics this time last week, since they’d gotten off to a 12-4 start with the game’s best offensive attack.
Well, dig a little deeper and a big reason would jump out and bite you right off the bat.
Yes, the A’s had played the Lastros six times. In doing so, they went 6-0 while outscoring the Lastros 45-19.
There’s your best record in the game. There’s your run differential explanation.
Since playing against Houston, the A’s have dropped four in a row and been outscored 26-10.
In fact, the A’s have dropped their last six games that don’t involve the Lastros. Oakland is a +26 in run differential against the Lastros and a minus-9 against everybody else.
This is what many folks feared when it came to the move of a $20 million team into the high-octane AL West. That you’d have the possibility of a bunch of 90-plus-win teams wreaking havoc on the wild-card race because of 19 games apiece against one squad that padded their records.
The A’s looked like a decent team coming into the season. They did not look like a team that would come out of the gate 12-4 — especially after losing their first two games to Seattle.
But they’ve already used up a third of their “Lastros allowance” for the year while other division competitors are waiting for a more serious kick at this dead cat.
Now, not every team is going to go 19-0 against Houston. This is still MLB and the players are professionals and if the World Baseball Classic taught us anything it’s that, yes, any pro baseball team can beat another on any given day once in a while.
The Latros actually won the season opener against the high-powered Rangers — then promptly got outscored 11-0 the next two nights and didn’t win again for a week.
Houston actually won the first game against the Angels as well until Los Angeles took the next two.
But over the course of a season, things will even out and the Lastros will very well lose somewhere between 105 and 130 games. And that’s why we’ll likely see some in the AL West going 16-3 against them.
As for the Mariners, like the A’s, they’ll be a third of the way through their Lastros quota by tomorrow night.
Take these next two games — with decent pitching in Seattle’s favor — and you’ve got a nice 4-2 record against them and are sitting just a few games under .500.
When I picked the Mariners to win roughly 85 games this year — declaring that a .500 season is a bare minimum requirement — it was with the full Lastros Factor in effect.
And just like we saw it positively impact Oakland’s performance and perception early, it’s had the reverse trend on Seattle.
Dropping two of three to the Lastros at home two weeks ago sent Seattle’s season and perception into a full-on nosedive. Baseball is a game of momentum and psychology and it’s pretty safe to say those two games — on both the bullpen and Seattle’s overall psyche — had an impact that carried beyond those two contests.
After all, the Mariners still went out a split a four-game series with the Rangers after that. They still battled the Detroit Tigers tough. It wasn’t until this past weekend that the Mariners were thoroughly throttled by the Rangers to get us all to this current crisis point.
But just think about it. Think about how different the perception of the Mariners would be had they simply taken care of business against the Lastros like the A’s did.
Seattle would be a 10-11 team right now, having just gone through a torrid schedule against two of the better AL squads while battling injuries to their entire starting outfield and a series of pitching problems that have led to significant changes already.
So, yes. Letting the Lastros win their only series of the season against them really did impact the Lastros.
It’s not easy to go out and win every game when you’re supposed to win it.
And in the end, that might be the true Lastros impact on the AL West this year.
It won’t be so much the other AL West teams winning against them. The division itself might come down to which team can avoid stepping in that once-every-two-months cow pattie against them.