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Fun Differential Rolls continues in Seattle

Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

This has not been the year of the AL West. With the reigning World Series champion Rangers sitting below .500 amid a series of injuries, the Astros’ total aging, and the Angels and A’s sitting low, one of baseball’s strongest divisions of the past few years has weakened considerably. Just one team with a winning record: the Seattle Mariners. At 43-31, the Mariners hold an 8.5 game lead in the West, as some of the numbers below show that the team is not as good as its record suggests. Seattle bested its Pythagorean record by four wins and its BaseRuns record by two, and its run differential is the worst among the division leaders. But this kind of thing is not new to this organization.

The Mariners are currently enjoying their fourth straight year, missing a Wild Card berth in 2021 and ’23 and snapping their decade-long playoff drought in ’22. In all of these seasons, they have produced winners in close games like no other club, and manager Scott Servais has pointed to the composure and experience with which his side handle tight games. Famously, after a 2021 road trip in which the Mariners went 6-2 despite being shut out by their opponents, Servais introduced the term “fun difference” to evaluate the team rather than its worst difference. Three years later, with a new group of players, the exciting contrast is still at its peak.

One Run Game Statistics

The team 1-Run Games 1-Run Game Rank 1-Run Win Rate 1-Run Win Rate Rank
Radiation 18 20 72.2% 1
Sailors 24 T-3 70.8% 2
Twins 17 24 70.6% 3
The Mets 24 T-3 62.5% 4
Diamondbacks 18 19 61.1% 5
Red Sox 12 30 58.3% 6
Phillies 19 14 57.9% 7
The guards 16 28 56.3% 8
The Yankees 18 21 55.6% 9
Cardinals 20 10 55.0% 10
The guards 20 11 55.0% 11
Brewers 24 T-3 54.2% 12
The Dodgers 15 29 53.3% 13
Marlins 17 23 52.9% 14
Pirates 23 6 52.2% 15
The Royals 22 7 50.0% 16
Giants 18 18 50.0% 17
Tigers 21 9 47.6% 18
The Rockies 19 12 47.4% 19
Cubs 29 1 44.8% 20
Athletics 25 2 44.0% 21
Padres 19 13 42.1% 22
Blue Jays 19 16 42.1% 23
Angels 22 8 40.9% 24
Foreigners 16 25 37.5% 25
The brave ones 16 26 37.5% 26
The Orioles 16 27 37.5% 27
White Sox 19 15 31.6% 28
Red 17 22 29.4% 29
The Astros 19 17 26.3% 30


Naturally, to win a lot of one-run games, you need to play in a lot of one-run games. One of the best ways to do that is to play a lot of low-scoring affairs, where neither team gets enough runs to pull away from their opponent. And indeed, the Mariners rank in the bottom third of the majors in both runs scored and runs allowed. The first factor that puts them in so many games is the strength of their starting rotation, which has been among the best in baseball in both volume and efficiency. As a team, they rank eighth in ERA- and FIP-, and second in innings per start; they are one of two teams to change the score starting at half time. While none of their starters dominate other boards, the depth they have is almost unmatched. The Mariners are one of three teams (along with the Phillies and Yankees) that have four professional starters with an ERA of 95 or less, even with Seattle’s fifth slot (started by Emerson Hancock, Bryan Woo, and Jonathan Diaz) included. . up to a 3.25 ERA. In short, they are the only team in the league that can expect to start throwing the ball well every night.

On the other hand, Seattle’s offense has taken a hit from last year. Lineage mainstays like JP Crawford, Julio Rodríguez, and Cal Raleigh have regressed this season, though Rodríguez turned things around last month. Most of the hitters Seattle added during the offseason didn’t perform well either. Returning fan favorite Mitch Haniger was below replacement level, and Jorge Polanco and Mitch Garver each hit below the Mendoza streak.

Mariners Offensive Production by Position

Position 2023 wRC+ 2024 wRC+ The difference
A hunter 114 79 -35
First base 108 116 8
Second Base 75 76 1
The Third Principle 102 93 -9
Shortstop 134 112 -22
Left Field 117 96 -21
Central field 126 98 -28
Right Field 88 76 -12
Designated Hitter 93 122 29

With an excellent rotation and below-average pitching, the Mariners have a recipe for low-scoring games, but there’s another factor here: their home field. Mobile Park has been considered a pitcher’s paradise since it opened 25 years ago, but it was less hitter-friendly in 2024 than in years past. Statcast’s single-season park features him as the best park to pass pitchers this season, with an 87 rating; it has scored between 92 and 96 over the past half decade. The result is that nearly one-third of the Mariners’ games have been decided by one run, one of the highest marks in the league.

Playing in multiple running games is one thing, but winning them is another. The Cubs and Athletics, the only teams with concurrent championships, each have losing records in such games. But the Mariners combined quantity and quality, having the most one-run wins while ranking second to the Rays in one-run percentage. In contests decided by multiple runs, the Mariners are 26-24 – their .520 winning percentage in such games is shockingly close to their .527 Pythagorean record – but the one-run win has put them a dozen games over .500. Some of these games came in dramatic fashion, as their five walk-offs tied for a team high. The Mariners were far from an offensive powerhouse, but all year the bats were alive when it mattered most.

Mariners State Hitting Statistics

The situation wRC+ Level
Flat rate 88 24
Average Rating 98 18
Getting High 144 3
The foundations are empty 93 18
RISP 117 11

These divorces are amazing. On a low level, the Mariners are one of the league’s best hitters. But when the stakes are high, they collectively produce as the 15th best hitter in baseball. However, the eye-popping figure of 144 wRC+ in highly rated positions comes with a .377 BABIP – more than 40 points more than any other team in that division. By the end of the year, that number will be lower than it is now, but if you look at the bottom, Seattle’s hitters have still been hitting better than the average. Their three-point walk rate is higher and their three-pointer rate is lower in such situations, and their strikeout rate is also modestly higher.

While the Mariners’ hitters may not be able to continue their dominance in dramatic moments, the production they get from their bullpen, another part of their success in the one-run game, is very consistent. Despite some confusing trades, a strong drop in assists has been a strength of Seattle’s team of late. The organization has the ability to detect, locate, and develop under-the-radar weapons.

Mariners Bullpen, 2021-24

A year ERA- FIP- WAR Rank Shut down%
2021 94 89 4 67.5%
2022 89 95 13 63.9%
2023 85 91 6 65.6%
2024 97 93 8 64.6%

Shutdown% is defined as Shutdown / (Shutdown + Meltdown)

Andrés Muñoz is enjoying his first full season as the Mariners’ closer, but he hasn’t been put in save situations just for the ninth inning. In fact, only half of his appearances have started in the top of the ninth inning. He was called upon to pitch more than a few innings, but his most notable performance came when he pitched a dirty eighth inning and turned the save into four or five outs. Muñoz has recorded more than three strikeouts in seven games, second only to Mason Miller among full-time closers, and in those games, he has not given up one. Servais has been picking the right time to find his relief ace on the mound, as Muñoz has the highest slugging percentage in the league.

Veteran reliever Ryne Stanek and 31-year-old Tayler Saucedo, who ranked higher than their closers on the leverage index leaderboard, handled most of the pitching duties ahead of Muñoz. The two complement each other well, as both Stanek, a righty, and Saucedo, a lefty, have significant platoon separation, and Servais uses them wisely based on matchups.

Among Seattle’s junior options, first basemen Austin Voth and Trent Thornton have made strides out of the bullpen; the duo led the staff in relief innings while keeping runs off the board.

It would be easy to chalk this all up to luck, even within the context of some of the Mariners’ recent teams. Their offense has less upside than in years past, and their bullpen relies more on top studs than the rest of the stable. However, they still have the ingredients that made them so successful in tough games, even if the recipe is slightly different. Besides, maybe a little diversity is a good thing. After all, in recent years the best the Mariners could do was secure one AL Wild Card spot. Now, for the first time in their happy split season, they are in a position to ride their recipe for success until they get the split crown.

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