Last season, the Mariners won 13 of their first 15 games. Over the next 147, they won just 55, finishing in last in the AL West.
The above isn’t merely a depressing reminder of our local baseball squad’s ineptitude of late, which has extended the longest playoff drought in the sport (and several others) to nearly two decades. It also highlights just how random baseball can be sometimes. Normally, a 162-game season offers enough of a sample size to compensate for these wild swings in performance, allowing the best teams to distance themselves from the worst.
But this year will be different. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and a prolonged dispute between players and owners, baseball will only hold a 60-game season. The league has also expanded its playoff format to include six more teams. All squads in either first or second place are guaranteed to make it.
This bizarro season, which began last night in Washington, DC with a positively terrible first pitch from Dr. Anthony Fauci, increases the chances that underdogs like the Mariners could get hot for a few weeks and find themselves playing in the postseason.
The Mariners will begin that quest tonight against the cheatin’ Astros at 6:10pm PST. Unlike the other leagues, MLB has opted to forgo a “bubble” and have clubs travel to face opponents in their home parks without fans, so the Mariners will be departing the relatively safe confines of Seattle for Houston, a coronavirus hot spot. If you're questioning the need for taking this risk amid a pandemic, you're not alone.
But if you do decide to tune in, be warned: You won’t see a star-laden squad with Junior or Ichiro or Félix but a young team with long odds to make the World Series.
That doesn't mean its hopeless. With baseball math all awry this summer, it might just be a winning formula.