The Seattle Mariners have opened as the favorite to win the division six weeks into the season. According to FanGraphs.com (into Saturday), the Mariners have a 49.7 percent chance to win the AL West, the best odds of any team thus far.
Coming into Saturday, the Mariners are surprising many at 21-15. The team has been mediocre since 2012, posting a 309-339 record (.477 winning percentage). They failed to meet lofty expectations in 2015, with some experts picking them to win the American League prior to the season's start.
Perhaps the man most significant in the Mariners' newfound success is general manager Jerry Dipoto.
The 47-year-old Dipoto was hired by Seattle in September 2015, coming off of a rocky tenure in Los Angeles with the Angels followed by an advisory job with the Red Sox.
The analytically-friendly Dipoto had something in Seattle that he just didn't have in Los Angeles: free reign. With the Angels, owner Arte Moreno called many of the shots, having involvement in many of the signings that have constituted a "downfall" in Los Angeles.
Dipoto also struggled to build a relationship with manager Mike Scioscia, and they often had disagreements over the use of analytics in game situations.
Nonetheless, it's hard to say Dipoto had a good run with the Angels. But with the Mariners, he has gotten to show his true creativity, beginning with the hiring of manager Scott Servais, someone who is known for embracing advanced statistics and their usage.
During the offseason, there did not seem to be a day that went by without a Mariners' move.
New faces in Seattle included Nate Karns, Leonys Martin, Chris Iannetta, Joaquin Benoit, Nori Aoki, and Adam Lind.
Those acquisitions, which have been worth about a win above replacement, coupled with a huge rebound season for Robinson Cano (1.7 fWAR in 36 games), have led the Mariners to a great start.
This team seems to be what the Angels never were: a team that Dipoto constructed. And that's why they've been so successful.