M's are done, but 2018 continues
|MARINERS BY THE NUMBERS,
|vs. NY Yankees||1||5||.167|
|vs. Tampa Bay||6||1||.857|
|vs. Chicago WS||4||2||.667|
|vs. Kansas City||5||1||.833|
|vs. LA Angels||11||8||.579|
|vs. LA Dodgers||1||2||.333|
|vs. San Diego||0||4||.000|
|vs. San Francisco||2||2||.500|
Game 162 has come and gone, and once again Your Seattle Mariners are not involved in October baseball. Safeco Field is dark and empty (for real empty, not last-Thursday empty). The M's won 89 games, the 6th-most in their history, which—weirdly, in this era of Wild Card teams—was only good enough for third place.
Why weirdly? Last year, 89-73 would have meant fifth in the league and a Wild Card berth. In 2016, fourth-best—both AL Wild Card entrants had records of 89-73. 2015, third in the league and best in the West (the AL West champion Rangers were 88-74). But here in 2018, five American League teams had better records than Seattle's, and eleven of the 30 Major League clubs—eleven!—won at least 90 games. Though not unprecedented, that's nuts. Before this year, the 21st-century average number of 90+ win clubs was 7.6. And there were eleven?!
So, yeah, it was a weird year. And at least the Mariners weren't alone in falling from grace in the second half. Over in the National League, the Arizona Diamondbacks had held first place for 125 days and held a share of the division lead as late as September 1st, yet they finished barely over .500 at 82-80; and in the East, the Philadelphia Phillies were a surprise success for most of the season, leading their division as late as August 12th, before a crash that had them end the year under .500 at 80-82. The Mariners might have finished 14 games back, but at least they didn't implode like the Snakes or Phils did.
The M's can revel in their first-half awesomeness, brood over their second-half blunders, and feel decent about their season on the whole. It's not a bad place to be going into next year.
But before we start counting down the days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, there's still the matter of the postseason. To be technical, before that there's a matter of not one, but two Game 163s to play tomorrow—both the NL West and NL Central finished in ties! And unlike in the Bud Selig era, they'll actually have to play a tiebreaker rather than just be given a division win outright because of some dumb formula of head-to-head or intradivisional records. Excitement remains in 2018 baseball. (Just not for the Mariners.)
The hottest teams going into the playoffs are the Astros, Brewers, and Rockies. Will that matter? Do Boston's big four bats give them an advantage? Do Houston's four starting pitchers make them unbeatable? Is Cleveland poised for an upset win? Is the Oakland bullpen enough to get them to Fenway? Can Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich lead Milwaukee to the Promised Land? No matter your rooting interest, if any, this has the makings of a memorable postseason.
The AL playoff teams are settled. Which will you be rooting for?