Every spring in Seattle people seem to rediscover the Mariners, enthusiasm burning bright over the first homestand before generally fading as the team and cool temperatures. But there’s something about this year that feels a little different, for those of us closely attuned to how much space the Mariners take up in the collective Seattle zeitgeist. It’s been surprising to turn on the local sports radio stations and find them still thickened in Mariners talk well after the buzz of the home opener has faded, well into what would normally be yet another segment on the upcoming NFL draft, and to see the Mariners continue to dominate the sports coverage from local media outlets while also receiving praise from the national media as MLB Network devotes another segment to Seattle’s rookies or Pitching Ninja posts another series of gifs of Matt Brash’s slider or Logan Gilbert’s changeup. Maybe for you, on an anecdotal level, this swell in support is evident in text messages from friends only loosely baseball fans suggesting a group outing to a game, or a casual conversation with a stranger because you’re wearing Mariners gear in public.
But there are numbers backing up that anecdotal evidence. Here at the site, we’ve seen our average daily pageviews and comments rise sharply as people gather digitally to read and talk about the Mariners. Likely the uptick in Mariners content you’re seeing at other outlets is fueled by similar underlying numbers—people want to consume content about the Mariners. And they want to go see the Mariners in person, too. In the nine games Seattle has played at home, while they’ve drawn an average of about 25K fans per game—only good enough for 19th in the league—they rank 13th in the total number of fans, right behind Boston, meaning their big games have been bigger, while not benefitting from a particularly compelling slate of opponents and contending with an abnormally cold April. And while the Mariners don’t have any players in the top 10 best-selling jersey club yet, if you want a Julio jersey, you’re currently out of luck—they’re all sold out on the MLB shop.
But it’s not just local fever indicating this year’s team might be special; the early returns are nothing short of thrilling. The Mariners currently have the AL’s best run differential at +22, a particularly astute bit of trolling by the baseball gods after inuring us all to the idea that run differential has nothing on fun differential. They currently have the league’s fourth and tenth best hitters by fWAR, and the highest AL fWAR for offense as well as a major-league leading wRC+ of 127. They have the AL starting pitcher with the lowest ERA (and he’d lead all of baseball if not for another former Mariner in Pablo López), and their bullpen leads the majors in K%, striking out over a third of batters faced. They lead the majors in drawing walks while being the fourth-hardest team in baseball to strike out.
And all those outlying-in-the-good-way numbers have shot the Mariners’ playoff odds up to almost 50% by PECOTA at Baseball Prospectus, and to 45.3% at FanGraphs—over double where their odds were to begin the season.
FiveThirtyEight gives the Mariners the best odds of all, with a 51% chance of making the postseason, and their +6 change this week was the third-highest positive change in baseball, trailing only the scorching-hot Giants and Blue Jays.
It’s early, of course, but it’s all quite heady. For now, we’re firmly in enjoy-the-ride territory here at LL, but we will continue to bring you updates on how these Mariners are stacking up— not just to their weekly opponents in the series previews, but to the greater landscape of baseball itself, since apparently that’s a conversation we’re able to have right now. In the meantime, on the anecdotal front, if the Mariners can continue to dominate the local sports conversation even during the frenzy of NFL draft week, we might be well on our way to Seattle truly coming into its identity as a baseball city at last.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism