06 July 2004

Observations and Projections from the (Approximate) Halfway Mark...

As most of the teams in the majors are currently right around 80 or 81 games played, this seems as good a time as any to take stock in the season to this point, if only because the math is easiest.

This is how the season would end, if todays standings are played out over 162 games, which of course, will almost definitely not happen:

American League						

East W L Pct GB RS RA
 NY Yankees 103 59 0.638 - 903 792
 Boston 87 75 0.538 16 863 770
 Tampa Bay 80 82 0.494 23 722 800
 Baltimore 73 89 0.450 30 844 901
 Toronto 71 91 0.439 32 717 761
Central W L Pct GB RS RA
 Minnesota 88 74 0.543 - 754 778
 Chi White Sox 87 75 0.538 1 910 768
 Cleveland 78 84 0.481 10 892 882
 Detroit 74 88 0.457 14 870 866
 Kansas City 59 103 0.363 29 689 909

West W L Pct GB RS RA
 Texas 93 69 0.575 - 921 790
 Oakland 93 69 0.575 - 812 715
 Anaheim 84 78 0.519 9 798 768
 Seattle 65 97 0.400 28 652 759

National League
East W L Pct GB RS RA
 Philadelphia 88 74 0.543 - 868 786
 NY Mets 82 80 0.506 6 718 690
 Florida 82 80 0.506 6 689 714
 Atlanta 81 81 0.500 7 759 721
 Montreal 56 106 0.346 32 560 754

Central W L Pct GB RS RA
 St. Louis 99 63 0.610 - 851 672
 Chi Cubs 91 71 0.561 8 765 636
 Cincinnati 87 75 0.537 12 761 848
 Milwaukee 85 77 0.525 14 715 719
 Houston 83 79 0.512 16 747 699
 Pittsburgh 75 87 0.463 24 747 780

West W L Pct GB RS RA
 San Diego 89 73 0.549 - 709 658
 San Francisco 88 74 0.542 1 812 802
 Los Angeles 87 75 0.538 2 705 691
 Colorado 64 98 0.395 25 868 998
 Arizona 58 104 0.361 31 710 898

Things to notice:

Wins and Runs:

...Only the New York Yankees are on a pace for 100 wins or more, though St. Louis is currently paced for 99, so that could easily change. The last time a seaosn ended with no team winning 100 games was 2000, when the Giants led everybody with 97 wins, but the Yankees got the wins in October, when they counted, to bring home their 26th and (hopefully not) last World Championship. Interestingly enough, that was also the last time no team lost 100 games. The Phillies and Cubs both lost 97 that year. Call it Parity, Mediocrity, I'm not sure what it means, but it's interesting.

...Three teams, Montreal, Arizona and Kansas City, are on a pace to lose 100 games or more. All three teams had winning records in 2003, were in the hunt for at least a Wild Card berth through some significant portion of the season, and KC and 'Zona both fostered some aspirations to make the playoffs this season. Ain't gonna happen.

So what happened? KC and the Expos both did it with smoke and mirrors last year, actually getting outscored over the course of the season despite their winning records. Montreal lost its two best players (Vlad and Vasquez) and didn't do much to replace them in the short term. Carl Everett, the main guy they expected to help pick up some of Guererro's slack, has two homers and eight runs scored through half of the season, most of which he has missed with injuries. Orlando Cabrera, Tony Batista and Brad Wilkerson are all hitting about .230, and the team is on a pace to score fewer runs than the Tigers or Dodgers did last season.

Kansas City failed to recognize Lady Luck when she bit them in the collective ass. They added the players they could afford, instead of the players they needed, and most of them have been inneffective, injured or both, and many of the starters who helped them win a little in 2003 have either gotten hurt or come back to earth. On the plus side, Scott Sullivan is having a decent year, as always, and might net them another half-decent prospect if they can dump him on some contender who actually needs dependable middle relief.

The Diamondbacks traded away Curt Schilling over the winter, and didn't get much to replace his innings, but fortunately Randy Johnson has returned to form. Brandon Webb had pitched decently, though gotten no run support, and no other pitcher who has started a game has an ERA under 4.50. If you throw out Shane Reynolds' 2-inning start and one run allowed, no other starter has an ERA under 5.13. And the bullpen has been almost as bad. Time to start the fire sale in Scottsdale!

...Nobody is on a pace to score more than 921 runs (Texas, in spite of losing Alex Rodriguez over the winter). So much for having seven All-Stars in the lineup (Yankees) or the sequel to the Boston Dirt-Dogs that was supposed to be even better.

...Tampa Bay only has to go 30-51 over their last 81 games to set a franchise record for wins. Of course, that record would only be 70 wins, but they stand a pretty good chance of doing that. You gotta start somewhere.

...Colorado is perilously close to allowing 1000 runs for the season, currwently on a pace for 998. The last time a team allowed 1000 runs was 1999 when (surprise!) Colorado did it. The last non-Colorado team to achieve this dubiouss honor was the 1996 Detroit Tigers, who allowed a 20th Century record 1103 runs. Colorado and Detroit are the only teams since the offense-inflated 1930's to allow 1000 runs in a season. [Church Lady Voice:]Well isn't thas special?

...Montreal's "offense" is on a pace to score 560 runs, which would (I think) be the fewest in a full season since the 1992 LA Dodgers (532). Those Dodgers had one (count 'em: 1) player with more than six home runs. Eric Karros hit 20...with a .257 average and 103 strikeouts. Nobody drove in or scored 90 runs. These Expos aren't quite that bad...but give them a chance!

Playoff Picture:

...San Diego could go worst-to-first, and take the NL West by a game over the Giants. The Giants and Dodgers are both playing a little better than what you'd expect based on their runs scored/allowed ratios, so the Padres may pull away from the pack more as the season wears on and the Law of Averages catches up with the competition...but it wouldn't hurt to pick up an outfielder who can hit, y'know?

...In the NL, the Chicago Cubs are currently on a pace to win the Wild Card, and they would play the Padres in the first round while the Cardinals play the Phillies.

...In the AL, there would be a tie in the West between the Rangers and Athletics...for an exciting, 1-game winner-take-all bout...except that the loser takes the Wild Card anyway, so it really doesn't matter much.

...The AL Central is currently led by the Twins, but the White Sox have actually played better, and could overtake them by year end, especially if Freddy Garcia pitches as he is capable of pitching.

...Currently half of the teams that would make the playoffs (Cardinals, Padres, Phillies and Rangers) were not in the playoffs in 2003, and of those, only the Cards were in them in 2002. If Chicago takes the AL Central, that would be 5 of 8 non-repeat teams. It's becoming increasingly difficult to take Bud Selig's contention that the same teams make it to the playoffs every season, or that only teams with the highest payrolls make it (only four of the eight teams that are currently slated to make the playoffs are in the top ten in payroll.)

...The Yankees, Athletics, Cubs and Twins are the repeaters on the list, and the Twins are likely not to be there at the end of the year, though it would be their third straight season in the playoffs. (Contract THIS!) It would be Oakland's fifth straight year in the playoffs, and the Yankees' tenth (or eleventh, if you want to give them credit for winning their division in the strike-shortened 1994 season...but you probably don't, Yankee-hater!).

...Boston ain't gonna make it. Sorry. Oh, wait. No I'm not.

Damn Lies and Statistics (hitters):

...Phillies' firstbaseman Jim Thome is on a pace to hit 53 homers, the only player in MLB who is tracking to hit more than 50. Scott Rolen leads all hitters in both leagues with 80 RBI right now, which would give him about 160 for the year. Yeah, he was worth Placido Polanco and Bud Smith.

...Texas SS Michael Young is on a pace ofr 242 hits, which would be the most since Ichiro broke into the league in 2001, and the ninth highest total in history. Sorry, I don't see that happening.

...Tampa Bay out-maker, er...sorry, outfielder Carl Crawford is on a pace to steal 77 bases, which would be the highest total since Marquis Grissom had 78 in 1992.

**Barry Bonds is on a pace to walk 239 times! Did you read that? Two Hundred and thirty nine times!!!!! If he does that...

...he would (probably) have more walks than anyone else in baseball had hits!

...He would shatter his own record of 198 walks in a season.

...By contrast, it took Garret Anderson, who is widely gonsidered a pretty good hitter, ten years to amass 239 walks.

...Bonds would also break his own record for single-season OPS (currently 1.400, his own record is 1.387).

...The .618 OBP he currently sports would demolish his own single season on-base percentage record (.582) set in 2002.

...Sadly, his .781 slugging percentage would only be fifth on the all-time single season list, behind Himself, Babe Ruth, Babe Ruth, and Himself. Oh, and ahead of Babe Ruth. Pretty select company, if I do say so Himself.

Damn Lies and Statistics (pitchers):

...Will the real Kenny Rogers please stand up?

Kenny Rogers is on a pace to win 24 games.

His previous best was 17, back in 1995, and he might become the oldest player to win 20 for the first time in his career, I think, for whatever that's worth. Even if he stinks up the joint next season, they seem to have gotten their $6 million worth. In any case, the Rangers hafta be happy with that gamble. (Get it, Kenny Rogers? Gamble? Ha!) About seven other pitchers are also within striking distance of 20 wins.

...Cincinatti reliever Danny Graves is on a pace to save 61 games. This won't happen. The record is 57, and nobody else has ever had more than 55, so I don't see 61 happening, especially since Graves hasn't really been that good, allowing a home run about every five innings, and not striking many batters out. If he starts walking people again, that pace will slow down soon. His next save will tie his career high (32). Four other pitchers are on a pace for at least 50 saves.

...Devil rays starter Victor Zambrano is on a pace to allow 152 walks this year, which would make it consecutive seasons leading the AL in that undesirable category, and would also be the highest single season total since 1991, when Randy Johnson allowed as many for the Seattle Mariners. Somehow I don't see five Cy Young Awards in Zambrano's future...

...Baltimore starting (and immediately ending) pitcher Sidney Pnson is on a pace to allow 306 hits, which would be the highest total since 1979 when Phil Niekro allowed 311. Of course, Niekro is in the Hall of Fame, while Ponson, at least these days, is usually in the hall on the way to the showers. It's doubtful that he'll get a chance to be this bad over the second half of the season, as he's also on a pace to lose 24 games, and I imagine that the Orioles' front office would just assume that the Detroit Tigers keep the honor of having hosted the last 20 game loser in the majors. Nobody else is on a pace to lose 20 this year, since Hideo Nomo, his 8.06 ERA and his "inflamed" (read: LOUSY) shoulder are on the DL right now.


Well that's it. Obviously, a lot can happen over the next three months, but it's always fun to wonder "what if?" Well, unless you're Sidney Ponson.

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