Bills Ended Their Playoff Drought … Now It’s On You, Mariners

Matthew Jordan

Monday, January 8, 2018 1:47 PM UTC

Monday, Jan. 8, 2018 1:47 PM UTC

Before you know it, pitchers and catchers will be reporting to spring camps in Arizona and Florida. Will 2018 finally be the year the Seattle Mariners end their MLB-longest playoff drought?

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It took a miracle from the Cincinnati Bengals, but the Buffalo Bills made the NFL playoffs – losing at the Jacksonville Jaguars in the wild-card round. Buffalo hadn’t played postseason football since 1999, the longest playoff drought in the four major American pro sports leagues. Now that dubious honor shifts to the Seattle Mariners, who last played extra baseball in 2001. That team, led by some rookie named Ichiro Suzuki, tied an MLB record with 116 regular-season victories but lost in five games to the Yankees in the ALCS.

So what are the chances the Mariners in 2018 can shift that “longest playoff drought” burden to the NFL’s Cleveland Browns? The Factory of Sadness last made it in 2002. If you are wondering, the second-longest MLB drought belongs to the Marlins as they last made it in 2003 and have zero chance this season thanks to Derek Jeter’s fire sale. The longest in the NBA belongs to the Minnesota Timberwolves as they last made the playoffs in 2004, but they are a lock to make it this April. In the NHL it’s Carolina, which last played postseason hockey in 2009.

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— Mariners (@Mariners) January 7, 2018

5Dimes lists the Mariners at +2600 to win the first World Series in franchise history. FanGraphs projects the Mariners to finish at 81-81 and third in the AL West following last year’s 78-84 mark and third-place finish. It’s not likely that 81 wins would be enough for a wild-card spot. FanGraphs would give those spots currently to the Yankees (91-71) and Angels (88-74), with Houston (97-65) winning the AL West again, Cleveland (93-69) repeating in the AL Central and Boston (91-71) repeating in the AL East (presumably winning a tiebreaker with the Yankees).

Seattle’s chances certainly would have increased had Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani chosen the Mariners. They were a finalist for his services and many thought a favorite, but he signed with the Angels.

The M’s should have one of the better lineups in the AL led by All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano (.280, 23 HRs, 97 RBIs), DH Nelson Cruz (.288, 39 HRs, 119 RBIs), third baseman Kyle Seager (.249, 27 HRs, 88 RBIs) and shortstop Jean Segura (.300, 11 HRs, 45 RBIs, 22 SBs). Each are among the best offensive players at their position in the Junior Circuit. The two biggest offseason moves were trades for the Marlins’ Dee Gordon and A’s Ryon Healy. Gordon hit .308 last year with an MLB-best 60 steals for Miami but will move from second base to center field for the first time in his career. Healy rather quietly his .271 with 25 homers and 78 RBIs with Oakland and slots in at first base.

The Seattle lineup should look something like this:

Dee Gordon CF

Jean Segura SS

Robinson Cano 2B

Nelson Cruz DH

Kyle Seager 3B

Mike Zunino C

Ben Gamel LF

Ryon Healy 1B

Mitch Haniger RF

That’s solid, but the rotation appears to be a major question mark, and that’s where Ohtani really would have helped. Former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez simply isn’t an ace any longer and seems to be breaking down at age 31 with all those innings on his right arm. King Felix was limited to 16 starts last year and was 6-5 with a 4.36 ERA. Canadian lefty James Paxton (12-5, 2.98) was a huge surprise in 2017 but those numbers might have been a bit of a fluke, and he dealt with forearm and pectoral strains. Those can be major warning signs.

Then you’re looking at Mike Leake, Erasmo Ramirez and some combination of Angel Miranda, Marco Gonzales, Andrew Moore and Hisashi Iwakuma. In the bullpen, Mariners relievers ranked seventh in the AL with a 4.06 ERA last season and the team has added Juan Nicasio. He’ll help set up for closer Edwin Diaz (34 saves, 3.27 ERA).

Seattle is listed at +1800 on the MLB futures to win the pennant. Barring a top free-agent addition or trade for a starting pitcher, I don’t see the playoff drought ending. This is probably around a 78-win team again. Season win totals should be released at SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks soon.

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