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Grip on Sports: The past tells us the Mariners will have a fall-off in the second half but the numbers say it shouldn’t be all that bad

Seattle Mariners' Kyle Seager follows through on a two-run home run in front of Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph and home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, June 27, 2018, in Baltimore. Seattle won 8-7 in 11 innings. (Patrick Semansky / AP)
Seattle Mariners' Kyle Seager follows through on a two-run home run in front of Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph and home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, June 27, 2018, in Baltimore. Seattle won 8-7 in 11 innings. (Patrick Semansky / AP)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • The Seattle Mariners are halfway through the 2018 baseball season. And it’s been an exemplary first half. Does it bode well for the second – and beyond? Sure. Read on.

••••••••••

• Projections aren’t the easiest thing to do – ask any local weatherperson. It’s hard to be sure if it will rain tomorrow – it might – so trying to figure out how the M’s will do in the second half of the season is even tougher.

But, luckily, we have some history to draw upon. Using the magic of statistics, this morning we look at a few key Mariner players, check their statistical record and try to determine what will happen over the next three months. 

• Offense

Dee Gordon: Expect good things from the veteran second baseman in the second half, which might be counterintuitive. After all, Gordon’s build would seem to make him a prime candidate to fall off as the days grow hotter and the season wears on. Not so. He’s always hit better after the all-star break (.308 opposed to .283). One area that has fallen off, though, is his stolen base totals. That’s to be expected. With 42 right now, don’t expect Gordon to get to 80.

Jean Segura: The M’s best hitter has hit better than .300 throughout his career before the break, so his current .338 average isn’t unexpected. But keeping it there doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Over the course of his seven-year career, Segura has hit almost 40 points worse (.304/.267) in the second half. Unless this is truly a magical year, like he put together in 2016 for the Diamondbacks, expect a big fall off.

Nelson Cruz: Mr. Consistency. You can basically take Cruz’s first half statistics and just double them. Which bodes well for the M’s. After all, Cruz has only played 66 games this year. If he can play 75 or more the rest of the way, history tells us he’ll have no trouble hitting more than 40 home runs and driving in more than 100. That’s good.

Kyle Seager: It hasn’t been a good start for Seager, who, despite crushing the ball the past couple days, is still hitting just .230. And in his career, hits have been harder to come by after the break, especially in August and beyond. Expect a little uptick in July, statistically his best month, then a fall off. Will he reach 30 home runs and 100 RBI? Probably not, even though he’s halfway there now.

• Pitching

Felix Hernandez: You can breathe a sigh of relief. Hernandez has gotten through his (usual) worst months and has done OK. His 5.10 earned run average should fall as he’s traditionally pitched better in the second half. In fact, September and October have been his best months. He’s on pace for 70 walks in 190 innings though, and that has to improve.

Mike Leake: Though Leake’s ERA has been consistent throughout his career, hitters seem to figure him out after the break. They have hit 24 points better in the second half over the years, which, if it continues, bodes ill for Leake to double his win total to 16, which would be a career high.

Edwin Diaz: Like a lot of players on the M’s roster (Mitch Haniger, Ryon Healy, Marco Gonzales) there isn’t enough of a track record to make a solid projection. But if Diaz continues on his pace (he has 30 saves), not only will he threaten the major league single-season save record (62, by Francisco Rodriguez in 2008), he will pitch the M’s to the postseason.

• Overall

The Mariners are 50-31 at the halfway point. That’s good enough for the fourth-best American League record. They have a seven-game edge for the second wild card and are just 1.5 games out of the best wild-card mark.

That’s all positive. But there are concerns. (There always are concerns.) The biggest right now is the bullpen. The last couple weeks, the bridge from the starters to Diaz has been riddled with cracks, most notably with eighth-inning guy Alex Colome.

So what does the past tell us about Colome’s next couple months? 

Take heart Mariner fans. The hard-throwing right-hander has excelled down the stretch, with the opponents’ batting average dropping almost 60 points. That’s significant. He also seems to zero in on the strike zone, throwing more strikes and improve his strikeout-to-walk ratio considerably. 

The past is telling us one thing. The run isn’t over. The Mariners will continue to be baseball’s surprise team.

•••

WSU: It’s that time of year. Football season preview time. The Oregonian covers the Cougars today. … It looked over. With two outs and trailing by one, Oregon State’s quest for a national title seemed dead due to a foul popup. But it fell among three Arkansas players and the Beavers took advantage, scoring three times for a 5-3 win. The title will be decided tonight. … Oregon lost a kicker to transfer. … Colorado has a defensive lineman it moves all over.

Gonzaga: Few Good Men is set for this year’s The Basketball Tournament play and they will play a familiar foe. Jim Meehan has a preview of Friday’s matchup with Team Utah at Lewis and Clark High.

Idaho: Former basketball standout Victor Sanders has found an NBA summer team to play with. Peter Harriman has more in this story.

Chiefs: Spokane made a roster change before the import draft.

Indians: Everett came to Spokane running away with the North Division. The Indians have cooled the AquaSox off, winning 5-2 last night to take the first two games of their series. Dave Nichols has the coverage of Spokane’s fourth consecutive win as well as a look back at the game. … Around the Northwest League, Eugene lost its fifth consecutive game.

Hoopfest: There is an NBA player who spent much of his youth in Spokane. You may not have known Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson was a Hoopfest champion. Ryan Collingwood tells you all about it in this story.

Mariners: One area in which most M’s players probably won’t keep up their first half pace is home runs. Most of them see their power numbers fall as the season drags on, which is not unusual. So Healy and Haniger will be hard-pressed to reach 30 home runs. The offense came through last night after Colome couldn’t hold an eighth-inning lead, and they won 8-7 over Baltimore. … They did it without Cruz, out with a sore back.

Seahawks: The Hawks want to keep their best pass rusher in Frank Clark. How can they do that?

Sounders: When Seattle hosts the Timbers on Saturday, it’s more than just a rivalry match. It also is a win-or-forget-about-the-playoffs match for the Sounders.

•••        

• Past statistics don’t always tell us what will happen in the future. But the more data that accumulates, the more accurate it seems to be as an indicator of future outcomes. Put it all together on June 28, and it would seem to indicate the Mariners are headed to the postseason. Of course, the data available March 15 seemed to indicate the M’s had little shot at the postseason, so there’s that. Until later … 


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