The Statistical Anomaly that is the Seattle Mariners
I’m not much of a baseball fan. Despite my starring role as a pitcher on a Little League farm team in my youth… Nor a Mariners fan. But…
With the Mariners recent success, I thought I’d give them a try, in the most casual way possible. Record the games and then watch them mostly on fast forward, pausing when something of interest occurs. Lately, that has meant watching most of the game.
Baseball on TV is different now. It is still too slow, but fast forward helps with that. The big difference is the amount and depth of the statistics displayed on the screen. It is captivating, especially for anyone (like me, for example) with math nerd tendencies.
When a pitcher enters the game, the screen will tell you what pitches he throws (fastball, curve, slide, change-up) what percentage of the time, depending on the balls and strikes count. This info is available to the teams as well, I’m sure, and what an advantage! If the numbers tell you the pitcher throws a fastball 93% of the time when behind in the count, and the count is 3 balls and 1 strike, guess what pitch the batter will be looking for?
The screen is filled with sidebars of all sorts of arcane statistics that only the obsessed would collect, but I am happy to see the results without doing any of the work. For one thing, this allows baseball to bring to the viewer the history and tradition they want to market in an open and interesting way. As an example, there is one statistic displayed that shows that in one area the Mariner’s offensive success was last equaled by a team with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig playing!
For the casual fan, nothing creates more interest than offense and home runs, and here the Mariners are rollicking along at a pace that cannot possibly be sustained. They have hit at least one home run in every one of the first 15 games, an all-time record, and are averaging over two home runs a game and over 7 runs a game.
Frequent statistical records show you how they are comparing (favorably) with teams from the past 100 years, in a cornucopia of other categories I did not know existed, but are fascinating.
They do not show, at least so far, negative numbers, such as the number of errors committed, which is not a Mariner bragging point.
Their success is even more fun because the team is comprised of a bunch of guys you’ve never heard of most likely. One (Edwin Encarcion) is probably ending a long and successful career with the Mariners, and unlike most of his end of career predecessors he is eating the opponents alive. The rest of them, for a fan of my low standing, are literally “who are these guys?” You have to like the underdog.
The Mariners currently lead all of major league baseball in a slew of statistical categories, and it is not just one or two players doing all of the heavy lifting, but more like a dozen of them and all are having career years. On a long road trip, the manager has been blending in different players each game. This provides a day of rest for a player who does not want it because he is doing so well, but also allows another slavering beast to get a turn or four at bat and join in on the feast. It’s interesting to observe.
Today’s game added a new wrinkle. The Mariners were behind by several runs for most of the game, finally tying the score in the 9th inning and then scoring the winning run in the 10th – on another home run.
They are now 13 – 2. Can this continue? No. Certainly not at an average of almost 8 runs a game, nor almost two home runs a game. The Mariners bandwagon has emptied so often before it does not bother with seatbelts, but still they are great fun to watch.
I have a suspicion they are not going to dry up and blow away.
Copyright 2019 David Preston