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The Mariners are on pace to hit 389 home runs

Put it another way: 23% of their hits have been home runs.

Seattle Mariners v Chicago White Sox Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

McCovey Chronicles will be covering news from around the league all season long with our new daily MLB Chronicles column.

Let’s start here:

Fifteen games in a row with at least one home run has netted Seattle 36 home runs overall on their way to a 13-2 start to the season. 13-2 has the feeling of a Glory Days 49ers season, but a baseball season is, of course, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much longer; and, “on pace” stats are frequently silly, but they’re usually the most fun when the sample is small, and well, how fun is a 389 home run pace to you? It’s a lot of fun to me. Can you imagine a professional team hitting 400 home runs in a season?

Yes, I know, it’s unlikely. It’s impossible. Still, could the M’s at least threaten to break the 300 mark?

The Yankees just set the team HR mark last season with 267. Remarkably, the 1997 Mariners held the previous mark of 264. Home run rates are at an all-time high and Seattle has a legitimate home run threat quartet of Edwin Encarnacion, Jay Bruce, Mitch Haniger, and Domingo Santana. Surely, they could at least threaten the record?

Every member of the 1997 team’s starting lineup — save catcher Dan Wilson — had an OPS+ above league average, ranging from 109 (Russ Davis) to 165 (Ken Griffey, Jr. and Edgar Martinez). Wilson still kicked in 15 home runs with his 96 OPS+, but the bulk of the four-baggers came from Griffey (56), Jay Buhner (40), Edgar Martinez (28), and Paul Sorrento’s career-high (31) home runs. Four sluggers...

Last year’s Yankees lineup had six of their prime nine above league average, ranging from 118 (Gleyber Torres) to 145 (Aaron Judge). Gary Sanchez (86), Greg Bird (79), and Brett Gardner (86) lagged, but also combined for 41 home runs. Four players hit 27 home runs, Gleyber Torres hit 24 and Giancarlo Stanton led the team with 38, so a little more balance. They also got another 56 from the bench (among the contributors: Neil Walker, Austin Romine, Tyler Austin, and Luke Voit).

That means there’s no right way to do this. Jay Bruce leads the Mariners at the moment with 7 home runs, followed by Dan Vogelbach with 6, and then three who have hit 4 (Tim Beckham, Encarnacion, and Domingo Santana) and then final 11 coming from five other players (even one from Dee Gordon!). That seems to suggest more of a Yankees approach — should the Mariners come close to the record.

Other factors in their favor include the Rangers’ ballpark and their rebuilding pitching staff and the Angels’ generally not great flyball staff. Last year, the Rangers and Angels were two of the worst teams in the American League (literally 2nd and 3rd-worst) in terms of home runs per fly ball rate. The Astros were 2nd-best, just behind the Rays. The A’s were 5th-best.

Working against them? Well, sample sizes and their projections. Anybody can look amazing in a 15-game sampling. A system like ZiPS attempts to project results over 162 games. The core Mariners bunch (Encarnacion, Haniger, Vogelbach, Santana, Bruce, Kyle Seager) projects to hit 132 home runs.

That number has already been affected by Kyle Seager’s hand injury which will take him out for at least half the season. He was projected to hit 22 home runs. So, already the ceiling would seemingly be around 110, putting them 60 off the pace of last year’s Yankees.

Then again, the 2019 Mariners are way ahead of the 2018 Yankees’ pace. That team did not hit a home run in each of their first fifteen games and altogether hit just 21 in their 8-7 start. Breaking a freshly set record — in particular, a home run record set by a team nicknamed The Bronx Bombers — seems unlikely, but it’s hard to argue against this all being very fun.