Joltin June

A blistering road trip, stunning individual stats, no injuriescan you imagine the Mariners winning 112 games this year?

HAVE A GANDER, all you stat rats out there. The 03 Mariners are on a pace to win 112 games, which would mean midsummer death to the pennant aspirations of their once-feared American League West competitors. Thats what emerges from a thundering, 11-1 road trip to rival a Rolling Stones tour. The Seattle nine rocked, socked, and cold-cocked three clubs with winning records. Then, on Sunday, June 8, they made the Mets look even less amazin than the 62 team facetiously so-referenced by Casey Stengel.

Sports statistics, of course, can be spun into apparel even more regal than the many-colored coats the pols make out of, say, tax-cut assumptions. Locally, we learned the hard way that a 116-win season and a buck-six-bits gets you a single-tall latte and a chance to watch the Yankees play in the World Series.

But try on some of these: Jamie Moyer, at 10-2, is on a pace to win 27 games. Hes got batters waving at the change-up like theyre trying to catch butterflies, and even if he doesnt have 16 wins by the All-Star break (which is possible), Moyer certainly will finally make the team. Edgar Martinez, if healthy, could easily hit .340 and claim a third batting title. Then theres Bret Boone. His fielding and team leadership alone earn him certain Most Valuable Player consideration, especially given that last years winner, Miguel Tejada, didnt have nearly as impressive stats as Boone promises to put up. With a batting-average boost of a dozen percentage points or so, Boone actually could become the first triple-crown threat since Funny Cidesorry, make that Carl Yastrzemski. Right now, Boone projects to 133 RBI, 45 home runs, and a batting average of about .320. Compare that with what Yaz had way back at the dawn of written history when, in 1967, he delivered 121 RBI and hit .326. His 44 home runs give him an asterisk triple crown because he shared that title with Harmon Killebrew.

MANY BELIEVE THERE ARE better ways of assessing the values of ballplayers on offense. Slugging percentage is one such measure. Divide the total number of bases earned hitting (four for a home run, three for a triple, etc.) by times at bat. The high end (a home run every time at bat) would yield a slugging percentage of 4.000. (Ancient texts indicate that God is the most recent One to have put up such a number.) The low end would yield Jeff Cirillo. As of Monday, June 9, Boone was third in the league in slugging percentage, but the leader, Carlos Delgado of Toronto, promises to go south, and the second-place guy, Carl Everett of Hell, er, Texas, figures to go mental.

Then theres a subjective plus about Boone, namely: Which guy would you rather have right nowBret Boone, or the leagues annual MVP pretender, Alex Rodriguez? Last week, Nay-Rod took an 0-5 that dropped him to .288, that day going 30 points below our own Carlos Guillen (who still leads Rodriguez going into the Ms home stand). At 27 and presumably in his prime, Rodriguez is quickly becoming the worst best player in baseball since Ken Griffey Jr.

DO ANY OF THESE estimable Ms stats matter? Yeah, if only because number-crunching provides much of the appeal of the pastime. If the Mariners numbers also portend a better-than-weve-seen postseason, then maybe were in for the ultimate October surprise.

There is much about this club to predict postseason success. What some of us took as the pejorative agedness is proving to be the ameliorative maturity. No one personifies this more than Moyer. Many of us probably have thought that even we could hit this guy (in truth, as Randy Johnson has observed, most fans couldnt even catch a major-league fastball, not even Moyers). That assumption about Moyers vulnerability has brought unintended humor to a season in which opponent batters have been reduced to flailing A-leaguers as the 40-year-old puts up Ks.

We say it frequently but it bears repeating: The greatest threat to a storied season is injury. Bob Melvin seems to be managing with an eye on a distant finish line, letting all the position players get regular work. An easier schedule (six coming up with San Diego, for example) ought to keep key butts rested on the bench, though its a shame to see Edgar have to sit out games in National League parks. Its a helluva lot better, though, than those years when he had to sit because of injury.

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