The Seattle Mariners are surprising many fans by hanging around in the American League West this season.
With the All-Star break approaching, Seattle has a 45-40 record.
That’s good for third in the division, and the club is also making some noise in the Wild Card race, as the Mariners are currently just three-and-a-half games out of a playoff spot.
But like any team, Seattle would rather win its division to avoid participating in a single-elimination Wild Card matchup.
This begs the question: Is the AL West a viable avenue for the Mariners’ playoff hopes?
Unfortunately, probably not.
The Astros Are Likely Going To Run Away With It
The Houston Astros are playing like they have something to prove this season.
At 52-33, the Astros have the second-best record in the AL.
They have a three-and-a-half-game lead over the Oakland Athletics for the top spot in the division, and the gap between the Astros and Mariners is even bigger than that—it’s a seven-game difference.
While we have certainly seen teams overcome seven-game deficits (or bigger) before, there is nothing that suggests it could be in the cards for the Mariners this season.
Seattle is probably better off focusing on the Wild Card race.
Seattle’s Run Differential Is A Major Red Flag
There is an argument to be made that the Mariners do not belong where they currently are.
It goes something like this: The club has a -42 run differential, which ranks 22nd in all of baseball, and there is no way a playoff-caliber team should be anywhere near a number like that.
Mariners are closer to the 2nd wild card spot than the Blue Jays despite having a run differential that’s 115 runs worse lol
— . (@Megamedium455) July 4, 2021
For reference, the Mariners are the only team with a bottom-10 run differential and a winning record.
Perhaps that’s a sign of bad things to come.
Put Simply, The Team Lacks Quality Hitters
The Mariners do not have a single qualified hitter with an OPS north of .800.
Mitch Haniger is having a fine year, as the 30-year-old leads the team with 18 home runs and a .789 OPS, but you’re not going to get very far when you lack complementary pieces.
To give credit where it is due, rookie Jake Fraley has been a revelation since getting called up.
The sample size is still relatively small, but over 33 games, Fraley is slashing .261/.439/.511.
Jake Fraley – Seattle Mariners (7) Solo. pic.twitter.com/Gj1lTWj6uA
— MLB HR Tracker (@hr_mlb) July 3, 2021
He has a very veteran plate presence and has drawn 29 walks in 123 plate appearances.
He owes much of his lofty .439 on-base percentage to his patient approach.
The 26-year-old has an outstanding OPS+ of 170 and has also added a WAR of 1.6 over just one month of action.
Over a full 162, that would project to a WAR of 7.9.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves, but that’s an MVP-level watermark.
Anyway, to get back to the topic at hand, the Mariners don’t have a whole lot of quality bats beyond Haniger and Fraley.
Dylan Moore hasn’t produced at a high level (.186 average, .636 OPS), Taylor Trammell is having a difficult rookie season (.163 average, .626 OPS), and the Luis Torrens experiment hasn’t panned out (.205 average, .691 OPS).
The blame belongs to more than just those three, but you get the idea.
On the whole, the Mariners have the worst batting average in the Majors (.220), the fifth-worst OPS (.678) and the ninth-worst runs per game average (4.14).
At the end of the day, Seattle’s offensive struggles will likely sink the ship on the 2021 season.