Statistical Heat

Despite positive steps since last season, the computers say the M’s have their work cut out for them.

In most baseball circles, the consensus is that no team had a better off-season than the Mariners. They traded for Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee, traded away ball-of-suck Carlos Silva, and signed slap-happy Chone Figgins away from those dastardly Los Angeles Angels. And that's just Exhibit A. Exhibit B looks like some unholy combination of a possibly rejuvenated Milton Bradley, a healthy Junior, and the undeniable karma that comes from having the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time, Randy Johnson, throw out the first Rawlings at Safeco. But does all this blood-pumping optimism mean a lick once you drain it of its color, render it in black and white, and enter it into a spreadsheet? No, it does not. Every year, the stat geeks at Baseball Prospectus release projections for how they think the upcoming season will play out. This year they've got the Mariners at 86 wins—an improvement over 2009, but still not enough to overcome the (surprise, surprise) upstart Oakland A's. Because the AL East is a baby-eating juggernaut that chews up and spits out any team that doesn't win more than 90 games, come October (according to the computers) the Mariners will all be scattered across Sun Belt country, chipping and putting while four lucky contestants are deciding who gets to prove yet again that the National League is inferior. The obvious caveat here is that it's February. We're still nine months and a lot of seeing-eye singles away from deciding which teams make the playoffs. And these projections often miss their mark. Witness last year's BP prognostication: the World Series runner-up, the Philadelphia Phillies, would miss the playoffs. In other words, it's an inexact science. Still, it'd be a lot easier for Mariners fans to disregard this sober outlook if BP hadn't spawned such impressive progeny: specifically, Nate Silver, the genius who called the 2008 presidential election.

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