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Mariners Heating Up?

Ichiro
Ichiro (via jbjsports.wordpress.com)
The Seattle Mariners are now on a three-game winning streak. The character of the games in the winning streak are worth noting too. In all of them the Mariners had to erase deficits. Last night, they erased it rather quickly. Against the Tigers, the comebacks were more dramatic.

Bottom line, the Mariners are playing much better, and the past three games smell a bit like the start of a hot streak to me. The team is loose right now, and they can't help but feel like they can win games, even if they get in some bad situations from inning to inning. They have been getting the big hits the past three days, and the bullpen seems to be stabilizing. The team's demeanor seems to have relaxed as well.

From a theoretical standpoint, there are a couple of ways to look at the Mariners at this point in the year. We can look at the past as the past, and only worry about projecting the future. In other words, we only look at what's remaining, and if we think they are a little better than .500 team (or whatever you think), that's what we project them to be the rest of the season. Tack the projection on to what is already done, and you get a finished product. This approach is probably the most accurate, and theoretically sound - and why the team's playoff hopes look so dim right now.

However, what if we look at the 2010 season more like a population? We have 162 games to choose from, but we have only picked ones in April and May. That would be a bit like all United States population statistics being based only on people that live in states that the Mississippi River runs through. There is a clear bias in the sample, so there is a realistic chance that the data does not fit the overall picture we want to get.

I tend to keep the population conception of a season in the back of my head. Much like Nebraska looks different than Florida, there are parts of a season that will look different from others. So, if we thought the 2010 Mariners were a pretty solid team at the start of the season, and we have already seen a horrible stretch, why can't we hope for a hot stretch? In theory, if we look at the season as a population, and we think it is most likely the M's are a .500-ish team, isn't a hot streak probable?

The Mariners play two more against the Angels, then come home for four against the Twins, three more against the Angels, and then hit the road for four in Texas. This is a critical stretch, given how far the team is back, and how many games they have in the next couple weeks against division foes. It is easy to look and see the disaster factor inherent in the upcoming games, given how awful the team looked most of May.

What if the M's are at the start of a hot stretch though? Let's pencil them in for 2 out of 3 against the Angels (so a split over the weekend), and a 5-2 home stand. Let's say Texas goes .500 over the same time period. That would put the Mariners 5.5 games back going into a four game series against them in Arlington. If the Mariners can win 3 out of 4 in that series, they are suddenly only 3.5 games back.

I haven't dialed out the most likely scenario. However, it was not likely that this team stopped scoring for about three weeks, so if this season is to get back to what was expected, there needs to be an unlikely good streak at some point. With the way the Mariners have started to play as of late, and the upcoming schedule, this is one of the more opportune times to hope for - and maybe on some level expect - a hot streak.