The Seattle Mariners lead the majors in home runs, with six. They outscored the Angels 26-8 in three games, and they are the only team to have a run differential greater than seven. Justin Smoak has a slugging percentage greater than 1. Yesterday a rookie pitcher on whom playoff hopes depend literally twinkled on the mound, twirling and curling his pitches around forlorn bats. Two days ago a young pitcher with a name (if not a face) like a telenovela stud went seven innings and allowed only six baserunners. Springtime for Seattle, indeed. Literally nothing can go wrong. To wit:
Just kidding, Mariners fans. I know you stereotypically scoff at positive thinking, and probably fear jinxes as well. Just keep reading, I’ll cater to you.
With three games’ worth of evidence, it’s hard to find scientific basis for optimism. Almost everyone, including myself, predicted mediocrity for the Mariners, but of course those kind of preseason projections are based on probabilities, and every team has questionable and inconsistent players, players who could go one way or the other. If all those players exceeded expectations, that would of course be unlikely. And yet, we have a pool of thirty teams every year–some will get lucky. Give these Mariners that kind of luck and they’re a playoff team.
Nevertheless, there is one minor statistical oddity that could prove to be responsible for Seattle’s newfound offensive might. This table shows plate discipline statistics from last season and the first three games of this season. Nearly every Mariner has become more selective at the plate, reflected the decrease of O-Swing percentages from 2013 to 2014. In other words, everybody but Zunino has been laying off pitches outside the strike zone. Was this a point of emphasis for the coaching staff? Will it last, whatever the reason behind it? If it does, we’ll let you know about it.