Before the start of the 2021 MLB season, the Seattle Mariners seemed like a lock for fourth place in the American League West division.
Everybody assumed they would be better than the Texas Rangers, but by virtue of having Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, and Anthony Rendon, three of the best hitters in MLB, the logical choice to finish higher between the Mariners and the Los Angeles Angels was the latter.
Surprisingly, the Mariners are not only significantly better than the Angels, but they are still fighting for a playoff spot with a 72-62 record.
Prior to the start of the season, if the Mariners were presented with a document saying that they would finish with a .500 record in 2021, they would have signed up for that.
A Surprising Playoff Push
Right now, they are 10 games over .500 and 3.5 games out of a playoff spot.
Yes: they are far from the division-leading Houston Astros, but they are just 3.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox for the second and final playoff spot.
But they remain in the hunt for the playoffs despite a rather mediocre offense (21st in runs scored per game, with 4.2 and last in hits per contests, with 7.3) and middle-of-the-pack pitching.
A quality bullpen has helped: the unit is third in FanGraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, with 6.3, and 10th in ERA, with 3.86.
This stood out about the Seattle Mariners, who have the longest playoff drought (since 2001) in the 4 major N. American leagues & are 3.5 games back of an AL wild-card spot:
After beating the Astros 1-0 yesterday, they're 28-16 in 1-run games this yr. The 28 wins is most in MLB.
— James Wagner (@ByJamesWagner) September 2, 2021
The Graveman trade, to the Astros no less, generated turmoil in the Mariners clubhouse.
However, and truth be told, Abraham Toro has been very good for the Mariners in 2021, with a .306/.383/.452 line, four homers, a .835 OPS, and two consecutive victories against the Astros thanks to Toro’s performance this week (including a home run against Graveman).
• Agosto 31, 2021 (anoche):
Graveman lanzando por Houston, Toro bateando por Seattle, juego empatado 0-0 en la 8va entrada.
— Javier Gonzalez 🇨🇺/🇺🇸 (@AstrosCoverage1) September 1, 2021
The Season Has Been A Resounding Success For Seattle
No matter the outcome, the 2021 campaign should be considered a success for the Mariners.
Yes, they are overachieving (they have, after all, a negative run differential, at -56) but crucial players for the future took a step forward in their development.
J.P. Crawford has developed into a decent starting shortstop, Mitch Haniger has had a huge rebound season, Kyle Seager has 31 homers, and Ty France leads all Mariners position players in WAR (3.2) despite missing a lot of games.
Even if they fail to accomplish their primary objective at this point, which is making the playoffs in 2021, the Mariners should consider the 2021 season a huge success and a perfect foundation for what’s going to come in the future.