4 stats that define the Mariners' year so far

June 2nd, 2023

This story was excerpted from Daniel Kramer’s Mariners Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SEATTLE -- Scott Servais regularly jokes with reporters about big-picture questions throughout the long baseball season. But two of the Mariners' manager’s oft-used quips stood out ahead of their road trip to Arlington, San Diego and Anaheim:

“Every game is important” and “you don’t have to answer the question.”

OK, context: Servais was asked about the Mariners’ schedule leading into the All-Star break, which features 25 of 33 games against teams that were at or above .500 when they flew to Texas on Thursday.

“There are series, certainly, you look ahead a little bit,” Servais said. “You're playing teams inner-division. You know those teams. You follow them a little bit more closely than you do other teams. We just need to play our game.

“If we play our game, we're perfectly fine. And for me, our game, it's a lower-scoring game. It's a well-pitched game, playing good defense. And again, you're relying on the timely hitting to get you over the hump. That's the key for us -- just play our game. I didn't answer your question, see?”

The Mariners went 17-11 in May and 7-3 on their recent 10-game homestand, an encouraging turnaround after a 12-16 March/April. But the "it’s early" adage no longer applies, and there are notable numbers worth examining as the season shifts to summer.

.370 -- Win percentage against above-.500 teams

The six division winners last season were among the top 10 in this category, as were the Mariners, who ranked fifth with a .535 win percentage (38-33) against winning teams. 

But they haven’t replicated that success this year. Seattle's 10 wins against winning teams in 2023 are tied for second-fewest, ahead of only Oakland and Kansas City, who have eight. And the Mariners' win percentage in those games is sixth-worst, ahead of the Nationals, Phillies, White Sox, Royals and A’s, all of whom are having a disappointing year.

Records fluctuate, and the numbers are based on where clubs are in that day’s standings, not where they were when the Mariners played them. Still, 16 of their 24 games in June are against teams currently above .500, including series on this road trip against the Rangers and Angels, who they’re chasing in the American League West.

7-12 -- Record in one-run games

This is actually 4-12 when taking out three such wins over Oakland, a club on pace for just 34 victories all season. 

The Mariners led MLB in this category each of the past two years, and they recaptured that familiar late-innings magic when ripped a walk-off single for a 1-0 win on Wednesday. Aside from games against the A’s, it was their first one-run win since April 22 against the Cardinals. 

The good news on this front is that the Mariners' bullpen remains elite despite the absence of and , who is on a rehab assignment and could return soon. But they’ll still need late offense, and their .644 OPS from the seventh inning on ranks fifth-worst.

24.3% -- Strikeout rate in May

Servais knew that there’d be swing-and-miss from primary run producers , and to a lesser extent, -- but not like this. Those three, along with , rank among the 30 highest strikeout rates in MLB. 

Seattle had a 24.7% K-rate in May, not much improved from its 26.6% mark in April. Those punchouts are more palatable when run producers are raking, but the Mariners' .388 slugging percentage last month ranked 22nd in the Majors. 

“They've got to hit doubles, they've got to hit homers -- and then it all balances out, in my mind. ... If you can hit them over the fence or you're really slugging, then you can live with a few more strikeouts,” Servais said. 

30 -- Number of quality starts

Because of those offensive shortcomings, if the starting pitchers have hiccups, it typically leads to a long night. The Mariners' losses on Monday and Tuesday behind and , respectively, were prime examples

But when they do get at least six innings and three earned runs or fewer -- the criteria for a quality start, a category in which they lead MLB with 30 -- the Mariners are 21-9. 

“Getting to the playoffs, you have to put a good run together at some point,” Servais said. “We did it last year. And I truly believe there's a very good run in this team, because we have starting pitching. We have power. We have all the things that you kind of need to put a good run together.”