Wild Stat of The Week: Pythagorean Record 78-52 (71-59 actual record)
Don't look now, but the third-place Mariners might be the best bet to represent the AL in the World Series this year. Lame duck commissioner Bud Selig's parting gift to baseball, the second wild-card spot, might hold the path to Seattle's first appearance in the Fall Classic. While their AL West counterparts, the A's and the Angels, have duked it out for the title of "Best Team" over the past few weeks, the Mariners have been solidly improving and their playoff outlook is better and better everyday. The AL's top teams are fading fast while the less high-profile talent on the Mariners have stayed consistent. The Mariners Pythagorean record, a prediction of what their record should be based off of their run differential, is second best in the MLB! They're going to sneak up on a lot of people this fall.
Long-time ace Felix Hernandez is having an unbelievable season, only overshadowed by pitching demigod Clayton Kershaw. Robinson Cano isn't hitting for as much power as he did in New York, but that's to be expected in Seattle's offense-dampening park. That contract still looks worth it though, he's more than made it up for the lack of power with his career-high .326 batting average. Austin Jackson is in from Detroit to sew up a patchwork outfield. Hisashi Iwakuma has missed some time with injuries but has absolutely killed it when he's pitched, striking out nine batters for every one he walks. The stars are performing as they should and the role players have stepped up when they needed to. Most importantly, they're surging into the playoffs at the same time the AL's top teams are seriously falling off.
The A's have a losing record in August, and have fallen into second-place in the AL West, so if the season ended tomorrow they would have a one-game playoff to advance into the ALDS. The A's offense is seriously struggling right now, and the Mariners would presumably be starting Hernandez, the best pitcher in the AL. It'd be a fools task to bet against the King in a one game playoff. In the next round they would play the Angels, against whom they have a 7-5 season record. The Angels only ace, Garret Richards, is almost certainly done for the season after a nasty knee injury, and the remainder of the Angels rotation has no chance against the Mariners. As much as the Angels have improved this season, quality pitching still wins out in the playoffs, and my money would be on the Mariners in this series.
In the ALCS the Mariners would play the winner of the series between the AL East champion and the AL Central champion. The Orioles will probably hold on to win a very weak AL East, and the Royals have overtaken the Tigers in the AL Central. If these results hold, the Mariners are flat our better than both of these teams and would be the favorites to advance. The more interesting possibility is that the Tigers reclaim first place in the Central division, beat the Orioles and meet the Mariners in the AL Championship. Baseball fans everywhere are rooting to see the A's and Tigers meet up in the playoffs so they could see a clash of top of the line aces, but the Mariners-Tigers matchup would be almost equally as excellent. I would have to bet on the Tigers to win this one, but the truth is Detroit is seriously fading and there's a very good chance the Royals win the division and the Tigers fall completely out of the playoffs. The trade for David Price looked like a master stroke from GM Dave Dombrowski, but it may be all for naught this season.
No AL team has advanced to the World Series from the Wild Card since the Red Sox in their historic 2004 season. It would be a major feat for the Mariners to make it all the way to their first World Series after finishing third, but everything seems to be breaking their way. We know from the Seahawks Super Bowl run that Seattle fans can show up and cheer for a winning team as well as anyone, and they should have a lot to yell about this fall.