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Out of Right Field: Statistics don’t lie, they just have a hard time predicting the future

UPDATED: Sat., June 30, 2018, 6:15 p.m.

Nelson Cruz is so consistent that the Mariners and their fans can pretty much count on him doubling his season totals in the second half. (Elise Amendola / Associated Press)
Nelson Cruz is so consistent that the Mariners and their fans can pretty much count on him doubling his season totals in the second half. (Elise Amendola / Associated Press)

The 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?

Projections aren’t the easiest thing to do – ask any local weatherperson. It’s hard to be sure if it will rain tomorrow, 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, we look at a few key M’s 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 slight 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 21 right now, don’t expect Gordon to reach 40.

Jean Segura: The M’s best hitter has hit better than .300 throughout his career before the break, so his .338 average entering the weekend 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 Arizona 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 played only 68 games this season. 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 .231. 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 RBIs? 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 improve 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 record (62, by Francisco Rodriguez in 2008), he will pitch the M’s to the postseason.

Overall

The Mariners were 50-31 at the halfway point. That’s good enough for the fourth-best American League record. They entered the weekend with a seven-game edge for the second wild card and just two games behind the defending World Series champion Houston Astros in the A.L. West.

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.

On deck

After concluding their series with lowly Kansas City, the Mariners have Monday off, their first day off in two weeks. They’ll then host a pair of three-game series: first against the fast-fading Los Angeles Angels, then against the Colorado Rockies in their first Safeco Field interleague series this season.


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