At the All Star break the Mariners were sitting at 15 games under .500 and literally the last team in the AL Wild Card race. Since then, the Mariners have gone 25-13, good for the best record in the majors, to climb within three games of the Angels for last place and fourth place in the AL Wild Card race.
Predictably, the Seattle community is buzzing. The twitter universe exploded as the Mariners now suddenly have a better record than the Red Sox. Safeco Field? Remember that place? The one they couldn't win at? Don't blink but the Mariners have won 15 of their last 16 home games.
And they are only in fourth place in the AL Wild Card race.
All of this is well and good, except for that last hope. It is an understandable hope to have, and one that persists in all fandom of all sports - that borderline irrational hope that all win streaks will challenge to good times in October. Because at this moment that is what it is - irrational hope.
Now don't get me wrong here. I love the Mariners. I love the Mariners more than the guy sitting next to you. But I'm also grounded in reality. As a fanbase that has basically been pooped upon from up high for the past decade, we need to stay grounded in reality and hold this franchise accountable. Let's not confuse a win streak for sustained improvement here folks.
Justin Smoak since the All Star break: .136/.205/.303 line with three home runs and six RBIs.
Dustin Ackley since the All Star break: .224/.283/.354 with four home runs and 17 RBIs.
Kyle Seager since the All Star break: .255/.323/.340 with three home runs and 16 RBIs.
Michael Saunders since the All Star break: .222/.250/.385 with five home runs and 16 RBIs.
That isn't to say it has all been bad. Jesus Montero is finally starting to hit like the player the team hoped he was when they sent Michael Pineda off to the New York Yankees. Montero since the All Star break: .300/.351/.458 with five home runs and 21 RBIs.
Clearly, something has to be working right since the Mariners have been rattling off all these wins. Lets set aside the fact that the Mariners are 16-1 against the teams under .500 since the break and are just 9-11 against the teams above .500. Right now, it is safe to say that something is working in the Mariners bullpen, who have been downright spectacular since the break.
Oliver Perez since the break: 9.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, nine strikeouts. Stephen Pryor since the break: 7.0 IP, 2.57 ERA, 12 Ks. Tom Wilhelmsen: 15.1 IP, 2.35 ERA, 16 Ks, 11 saves.
The starting pitching hasn't been slouching either. Felix Hernandez has a perfect game. He also has pitched eight games, striking out 51 batters and posting a 1.41 ERA and a 0.69 ERA. Jason Vargas is getting in on that action, posting a 2.16 ERA over 50 IP with a 1.10 WHIP. Even Hisashi Iwakuma is feeling sassy, posting a sub 3.00 ERA in seven games with 37 strikeouts.
That is all fine and dandy. But lets scroll back up and look at those stats again. Those hitters aren't hitting so well. The pitching has never been a problem in recent years for the Mariners. It was just historically bad offense after historically bad offense.
The offense after the All Star break is definitely a bit better, but not that much better.
The Mariners have scored the third least amount of runs since the break. As a team they are hitting .242/.302/.379. This is an improvement on the year, but the fundamental issues of the Mariners remain the same. This time they just happen to be winning these games. But will they continue to win these games?
Laws of average would figure that King Felix has to come down to Earth eventually - but he is King Felix so he gets a walk. Vargas is pitching out of his mind right now. Iwakuma is pitching out of his mind right now. Blake Beavan is pitching like he isn't Blake Beavan but someone better not named Blake Beavan. The bullpen is unreal. Things are clicking on that end, and that huge cog known as the pitching machine is keeping the Mariners afloat.
But until the core of the line-up starts to hit better and the youngsters start to show improvement - this win streak, although nice in that it brings the team back to borderline respectability, isn't sustainable. Before the team went on this eight game winning streak there was a five game losing streak not lurking too far behind in the rear view mirror.
In other words, a win streak doesn't mean sustained success. A win streak is just that - a streak. And like all streaks, it will ride out and end. Lets ride this one out Seattle. But don't be disappointed when the playoffs are on Fox and not on Safeco Field.