09 November 2004

Boy of Summer 2004 NL Cy Young Award

This race is easily the toughest to call. Roger Clemens came out of retirement, granted, a retirement that lasted only slightly longer than some episodes of the Simpsons, to post an 18-4 record for the NL Wild Card Houston Astros. He put up a 2.98 ERA and 218 strikeouts, both of which were his best numbers since his 1998 Cy Young Award Season in Toronto. But Clemens' ERA and strikeouts were both "only" 5th in the NL, and the man didn't complete a start all year. Call me kooky, but I think if we're going to say that a starting pitcher was the best in the league, he ought to be able to finish the job once in a while.

If you're into guys who finish the job, maybe Livan Hernandez is your guy. Don't laugh. He led the majors in innings (255) and complete games (9, including two shutouts), placed in the top ten in the NL in strikeouts, and had a pretty good 3.60 ERA, winning eleven games for the lousy Montreal Expos. Of course, he also lost 15 games, and walked more batters than only six other National League pitchers, so maybe he's not such a good choice.

Jason Schmidt had three shutouts, leading the majors, struck out more batters (251) and pitched more innings than Clemens, with only a slightly higher ERA (3.20) and just as many wins. But his excellent season was bracketed by two months (April and September, silly) in which he had an ERA over 5.50. Not exactly the model of consistency. Speaking of consistency, maybe Roy Oswalt is a better choice. He won 20 games to pace the Senior Circuit, with a very good 3.49 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 237 innings. Of course, it sure helped that the Astros scored over six runs per game when Oswalt pitched, so it's hard to give him an award for what they did.

The Brewers' Ben Sheets pitched 237 innings as well, striking out 264 batters while walking only 32 (!). Talk about a control freak. Sheets had horrendous luck, though, getting less run support than all but two qualified pitchers in the majors, making it tough to muster up a vote for his lackluster 12-14 record, even though it comes with those gaudy strikeout/walk totals. Which brings us to...

...Randy Johnson. Johnson pitched for the worst team in the majors, the 111-loss Diamondbacks, and got the fifth worst run-support in the national League, and yet still managed to win 16 games, though he also lost 14. His ERA may have been second to Jake Peavey, but Peavey barely qualified for the ERA title, with 166 innings under his belt, while Johnson trailed only Livan Hernandez in that department. He led the majors in strikeouts with 290, a healthy margin over his closest competitors, and led the NL in WHIP, opponent batting, and numerous other categories.

A pitcher's job is to pitch, not to hit. Nobody expects them so score or drive in runs. It's nice when you get a Mike Hampton or a Jason Marquis. A pitcher who can hit is like a firstbaseman who can play defense or a toy in the Cracker-Jack box: it's a nice little bonus, but it's not the main reason you got it. ANd Johnson accomplished that main reason like nobody else in the National League in 2004, in spite of the Eight Stooges playing along side him.

If I have my way (not that I ever do), The Big Unit will have to clear some space on The Big Wall Unit for another Cy Young trophy.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

08 November 2004

Boy of Summer 2004 NL MVP

With all due respect to Albert Pujols and Adrian Beltre, is there really any serious argument to be made for an NL MVP other than the San Francisco Giants' left fielder? Pujols had a remarkable season. He's the best hitter on the best team in the National League, and at the age of 24, with the most impressive four-year start to a career that anyone has ever seen, Pujols should be winning MVP awards long after Barry Bonds has retired.

But not yet. Bonds' 45 homers did not quite lead the league, as Pujols, Adam Dunn (46 each) and Beltre (48) all had more. But each of those players had about 200 additional at-bats in which to hit their homers, while Bonds was lucky if he saw one good pitch to hit per night. He was walked an astonishing 232 times, 34 more than his own record set two years ago. The league so feared Bonds that he was intentionally walked 120 times, more often than anybody else in MLB was even un-intentionally walked. Mickey Mantle was only intentionally walked 126 times in his career.

Bonds won his second batting title, hitting .362, 15 points ahead of his closest competitor, Todd Helton, who had the help of Coors Field for half his games. His .609 on-base percentage, an all-time record, was 140 points better than Helton, his closest competitor, and marked the fourth consecutive year he's led the NL in that category. Ditto for slugging percentage, though his .812 clip marked only the fourth highest season in history. Boo-hoo. His 1.422 OPS also set a record, and outpaced Helton's Coors-inflated mark by about 350 points. There was, literally, no competition for him.

The Giants, however, did not make the playoffs, and some people like their MVPs to come from playoff teams. They finished a mere two games behind Los Angeles though, competing for the NL West until the very last weekend of the season, during which he went 0-for-3 with seven walks. That's right, three at-bats in a weekend, as the Dodgers refused to let him beat them.

It wasn't for a lack of effort on Bonds' part that the Giants missed the playoffs. He hit .349 in September, but with only 13 RBI, as his teammates tanked down the stretch. He even struck out 12 times, almost twice his total from any other month in 2004, apparently trying to make something happen for his team. This is not a selfish player.

This is a guy who wants to win and did the best he could with a weak supporting cast to get to the playoffs. According to Lee Sinins' Baseball Encyclopedia, Bonds had 152 Runs Created Above Average, which easily paced the majors (Helton was second with 78). This happened also to be exactly the number of RCAA that the entire Cardinals team had. The Giants were +90 overall, meaning that the rest of Barry's team racked up a nifty negative 62 combined. Put an average left fielder in his place and the Giants are on a par with the Expos and Rockies. With him, they had a shot at playoff glory until the second to last day of the regular season, when "closer" Dustin Hermanson coughed up four runs in the ninth inning of a game the Giants led 3-0. Hey, SuperMan can't do everything himself.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

06 November 2004

Boy of Summer 2004 AL MVP

Let me tell you a little about my pick for the American League Most Valuable Player of 2004:

* He did not win a batting title. Ichiro Suzuki had an historic season on a last place team, and even if he'd had the same season for a division-winner, he would not be my MVP. A singles hitter, even an extraordinary one, playing an easy defensive position will almost never get my vote.

* He did not lead the league in RBI. Miguel Tejada had an excellent season on a mediocre team, but he also had about 50 more plate appearances with runners on base than any other MVP contender in the AL. RBI have much more to do with circumstances than talent.

* He did not lead the AL in homers. Paul Konerko and a couple of idiots had a handful more.

* He did not lead the league in walks, falling well off Eric Chavez's pace of 95. (Interestingly, for the first time in a fuill season since 1976, the league leader did not have 100 bases on balls. I guess Barry Bonds took them all.)

He didn't have the best OBP, Slugging %, OPS, the most doubles, triples, or steals.

He did lead the league in Runs Scored. By one.

Other than that, all he did was win. All he did was to take a team that had a losing record a year ago, and carry them to the playoffs, beating out not one, but two very good teams for a division title.

Their big-name-free-agent "ace" had an ERA over 5.00. They got 118 games and fewer than 400 at-bats combined out of their starting thirdbaseman and starting DH, not to mention barely two-thirds of a season from their starting centerfielder and cleanup hitter. This team's firstbaseman was such a bad hitter that his OPS among AL regulars with at least 450 plate appearances at that position was better than only John Olerud, who was so bad that a last-place team released him in mid-season. Talk about having your work cut out for you.

Vlad the MVPer Posted by Hello

But Vladimir Guererro did just that, and more. He took his bat and his helmet, left the concerns over his gimpy back in the clubhouse, and went out every day to prove that the Anaheim Angels' 5-year, $70 million investment was not a waste. He picked up the team in September, hitting ten homers, winning AL Player of the Month honors and virtually holding open the door to the playoffs for his teammates, the Angels' first division title since 1986. All for the bargain-basement price of $11 million this year. Chan Ho Park This in the Right Field Stands made $13 million.

Oh, and he put fannies in the seats. Almost 3.4 million people came out to Edison Field this year, many of them to see their new star right fielder. That increase of over 300,000 from last year set an Angels' record. Most Valuable, indeed. In more ways than one.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

27 October 2004

Curses! Foiled Again!

What in the wide, wide world of sports is a-goin' on around here!?

Some curse. The only curses I can detect emanate from the lips of Cardinals fans each time the Red Sox inch themselves another out closer to Boston's first World Series title in 85 years. Yankee fans too, for that matter.

Frustrated Cards fan Posted by Hello

Personally, I don't really have anything against the Red Sox, specifically. It's just that I'm used to being able to pick on them, or at least I'm used to the Yankees being able to pick on them, and now they'll finally have something on us. A win. And not just any win, but a World Series Win.

The pundits who have told you that the Curse of the Bambino was over last week, after the Boston beat the Yankees in the Worst Choke in Postseason History were wrong. For one thing, calling the Yankees' performance a "choke" is an insult to the Red Sox, who deserve credit not just for beating the Yankees, but for not giving up when it seemed all was lost. A case can be made that the Yankees weren't themselves: than Kevin Brown was never quite right after breaking his hand, that they needed a healthy Jason Giambi or a rested Tom Gordon or whatever, but the reality is that Boston just played the hell out of New York for those last four games, and that they earned that win.

Secondly, the Red Sox have gotten to the World Series four times since 1918, twice against the Cardinals (1946 and 1967), and have lost all four of them. So if there ever was a "Curse" other than, "Damn you, Bucknah!", then it still exists.

At least until tonight.

Since divisional play started in 1969, there have only been five World Series sweeps, two perpetrated by the Yankees (1998 & 1999), one against them (1976), and also 1989 and 1990, for and against Tony LaRussa's Oakland Athletics. For whatever that's worth.

I don't think we're about to see a sixth addition to that list. Jason Marquis is, frankly, a better pitcher than Derek Lowe at this point in his career. He hasn't exactly impressed in the postseason thus far, but he pitched well in the regular season (3.71 ERA was 17th in the NL, 24th in MLB), and perhaps is bound to toss a good start this evening. I hope. Derek Lowe, on the other hand, has been pitching way over his head, after posting a 5.42 ERA in the regular season that ranked 78th(!) among the 86 MLB pitchers who pitched enough to qualify for the ERA title. Of the eight pitchers below him on that list, two spent half thier time in Denver (Shawn Estes and Jason Jennings) and two were the poster-children for overpaid disappointment, Estebomb Loaiza and Jose Contreras. (Those two, traded for each other in mid-season, somehow managed a 23-16 record despite a combinde ERA over 5.60. Have some Run Support with your Run Support. But I digress.)

Besides the pitching matchup, it would seem likely that the Cardinals' bats are due to escape the prison in which Boston pitching has kept them for the last three games. In total, St. Louis has hit only .208/.290/.344, for a sub-Neifi .633 OPS, scoring only 4 runs per game on average, well below the 5.28 runs per game they averaged in the regular season. Scott Rolen and Reggie Sanders don't have a hit between them. Jim Edmonds is 1-for-11, with zero RBI. With nobody on base in front of him, Albert Pujols has no RBI either, despite his .429 batting average. Cardinals second basemen are 2-for-13 and leadoff hitter Edgar Renteria has scored only two runs in three games.

Pedro looking to Daddy Posted by Hello

All in all, an impressive job by the Boston pitchers of shutting down the best offense in the National League, but I expect that the Cardinals will get at least one win in before the Curse truly ends.

I suppose we should have expected this. Not because the Red Sox had "momentum" or some silly notion such as "fate", but because the odds are simply against the team with the best record in MLB winning the World Series. Since the Wild Card format started a decade ago, only one team with the best record in MLB, the 114-win 1998 Yankees, has won the Whole Ball of Wax. One in ten. Well, one in nine, until tonight. Or tomorrow night.

For those of you who still believe in The Curse, consider this: Every time the Red Sox have lost in the World Series before, the series has at least been competitive. All four of those series went to seven games, and only one started out even 2-0 Red Sox, much less 3-0. Before last week's debacle, no baseball team had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in a 7-game series to even force a Game 7, much less win it. It is all but unfathomable that it should happen again in this lifetime, much less in a week.

Sox Hi-5's Posted by Hello

Speaking of this lifetime, if this pattern holds up, the Red Sox will be due to win another World Series 86 years from now. We'll both have reason to celebrate: the Red Sox their sixth World Championship, and me, my impending 116th birthday!

See you in 2090.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

21 October 2004

Maybe not... Posted by Hello

Stumble Upon Toolbar

19 October 2004

Spinal Tap Baseball

It seems that there's some cosmic force out there,working behind the scenes, to make sure that the Yankees-Red Sox games don't end at a reasonable hour. Prime-Time, drive-time, nine-innings, extra innings, it doesn't matter: this is the series that goes up to Eleven. PM, that is.

I need some sleep.

A week ago, my job necessitated me getting up at 2:30 AM to go with my boss as he made a presentation to the Navy regarding a research contract we were given. We spent about six hours driving to the facility in Maryland (roughly twice as long as I slept the night before) and spent a few hours in the meeitng itself. I got home about 7:30 on Tuesday night and then stayed up another three or four hours watching the Yankee-Red Sox game, which we won, 10-7, largely thanks to Curt Schilling's bum ankle. A game in which we were up 6-0 after two innings, and in which our own pitcher had been perfect through six innings, would not require me to stay up to watch the inevitable outcome, but as we now know, you'd have been wrong to think that. The Sox rallied to as close as 8-7 before the Yanks put them away for good, and despite only three hours of sleep and a 17-hour work day, I saw the whole thing, all three hours and 20 minutes of it.

Then, the very next night, still recuperating from the Needless Business Trip From Hell, another nail-biter (I may need to start with my toes soon...), another 3:15 game time, but a 3-1 victory. Saturday night, fans in Boston and around the country got to witness the longest nine-inning post season game in history, four hours and 20 minutes, a 19-8 laugher that looked like it might be competitive until about the third inning. I watched all of that one too, figuring that it was Saturday and that I wouldn't have to get up as early for church as I do for work. Sunday's game started at "Prime Time" and ended well into Monday, after five hours and two minutes, the longest post season game time ever, this time a Yankee loss, 6-4 in 12 innings. I missed most of that, having gone to bed at 11:00 or so, with the score 4-3 Yanks in the sixth, I think. No problem, New York was still up, three games to one in the Series.

And then Monday night, not to be outdone by, well, themselves, the Yanks and Sox played almost SIX HOURS, and ended with another Yankee loss, 5-4. Amazingly, this game started at about 5PM EST, and when my friends left after Monday Night Poker at about 9:30, I still got to watchan hour and a half of edge-of-your-seat baseball. This game was so long that I could have watched Patton twice! Then I could have rewound the tape to watch General Montgomery's embarassing entry into Palermo a third time, and still turned the game on i time to see David Ortiz single into center field to win the game, almost exactly as the clock struick 11:00. PM, that is.

By my count, that's a total of 21 and 3/4 hours of baseball in a week. Posada's and Varitek's knees must be killing them.

So the Yanks are now clinging to a 3-2 lead in the series. Assuming that they don't get rained out again, I expect the Yankees to wrap it up tonight. Here's why:

1) Jon Lieber is pitching for New York. Including the postseason, he's 12-3 with a 3.55 ERA at Yankee Stadium this year, compared to 3-5, 5.19 on the road. I don't understand it, but heck, it seems to work.

B) Curt Schilling is pitching for the Red Sox. Schilling's ankle, as you may recall, apparently consists of a lot of bailing twine and chewing gum, not unlike Curtis Leskanic's shoulder or Manny Ramirez' hair. I don't care if he wears the damn Ruby Slippers on the mound tonight, he won't be able to pitch well.

iii) Jeff Kellogg won't be behind the plate. There are few things that irk me more than an umpire with a Kleenex-sized strike zone that floats around home plate as erratically as, well, a Kleenex. Late strike calls is one of them. Kellogg does both. Enjoy that foul line assignment, Jeff! Can't say we'll miss you.

d) No one has ever, in the history of professional baseball, come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a 7-game series. Ever. And it's not gonna start now.

V) The Curse. No, not the stupid Curse of the Bambino. That's just an excuse for poor performance and/or bad luck. I'm talking about the Curtis Curse. No team with two pitchers named Curtis has EVER gotten to the World Series. Curt Schilling and Curtis Leskanic can wrap their bodies in as much duct tape and super glue as they want, it won't erase 100+ years of baseball history!

You could look it up.


By the way, I stumbled across a new baseball blog today, Fall Classic. Go check them out.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

16 October 2004

Playoff Ramblings...

Some random thoughts while I watch Saturday night's Yankees-Red Sox game...

I caught this game on the radio, in the second inning, and it was already 3-0 Yankees, so I thought it might be more of the same medicine we were administered in the first two games of this series: An entertaining, eventual Yankee win in which New York was mostly in control, even if the Sox did make it more of a contest at some point in the game. With Kevin Brown pitching tonight, who had been pretty good in his last couple of outings, and a home run from Hideki Matsui already, I figured the game might get out of hand early, and maybe I'd end up watching something from Blockbuster before the clock struck ten PM.

Good thing that DVD isn't due back tomorrow.

Kevin Brown didn't make it past the second inning, after giving up four runs in that inning on a Trot Nixon homer, a Derek Jeter error and a few other hits. The Yanks trailed 4-3 at the end of the second, but that didn't last. Alex Rodriguez hit the 4th pitch he saw over the Green Monster to tie the game. Then a Gary Sheffield walk, a Matsui double and a Bernie Williams RBI single chased Sox starter Bronson Arroyo. Ramiro Mendoza, former Yankees swingman, proved not to be much "relief" as he balked while facing the first batter of his night, Jorge Posada, to score another run, making it 6-4, Evil Empire. Mendoza did retire three straight to get out of the third, but was yanked after hitting Miguel Cairo with a pitch to start the fourth, even though Boston had scored two in their half of the previous inning to tie the score at six apiece.

That happened because Javier Vazquez was brought in to relieve Brown, who was probably so relieved that Vazquez was in there giving up hits and runs instead of him that he punched another wall. Javier has proven himself to be more than an enigma over the course of this season. He's been an absolute disaster, at least since mid-July. An All-Star four months ago, with ten wins and an ERA around 3.50, he's won only four games since, with an ERA of nearly 7.00 in the regular season, and an unimpressive outing in the ALDS against Minnesota (5 IP, 5 ER, 7 hits, 2 walks, 2 HBP) last week.

From watching Vazquez in that third inning tonight, it seems to me that he's got some real issues with his mechanics. His release point is all over the place, as he falls off the mound to the left in his follow through on some pitches, and finishes straight-up facing the plate at other times. He's got a straight three-quarters delivery, but his arm flattens out on his fastball sometimes, which puts a nice tailspin on it, but also keeps it from being a strike fairly often. I am not a pitching coach, but I can pitch a little and I watch a LOT of baseball, so I have some iea what I'm talking about. I don't know why this should be the case, if perhaps Vazquez just thrived in the low-pressure situation of Montreal, but that wouldn't explain how he did so well in the first half of this season in New York.

To his credit, he has pitched better over the last three innings or so than he did in the third, but even though hes kept the Sox from scoring any more, it's been anything but a walk in the (Fenway) park. A walk, three hits, and a few hard-hit outs have kept vazquez on his toes a little, though it's possible that the five to ten-run cushion he's been given has helped him to relax and "trust his stuff". Of course, as I typed that, Jason Varitek hit a 2-run homer to dead-center field, making it 17-8. Three scoreless innings bracketed by two 2-run innings do not constitute a good pitching peformance, in my book. Neverthless, it was enough, and with now 19 runs from the indefatigueable Yankee bats, I suppose I can't complain too much. But Paul Quantrill is pitching now, and he'll do well to endear himself to Joe Torre by giving him another scoreless inning or two.

Speaking of he Yankee bats, how's about an LCS-record 19 runs? They've hit five homers, eight doubles, including two each by Matsui and A-Rod, and every starter except John Olerud has at least one run or RBI. Hideki Matsui holds the ALCS single-game RBI record, with five in Game Two, and another five tonight after his second homer, but also five runs scored in this game, which ties the new record that Matsui now shares with A-Rod.

As you've probably heard, no team in baseball history has ever returned from a 3 games to none deficit to win a seven-game series, The Yankees under Joe Torre have never lost a playoff game in which they scored at least seven runs, and=I'm sure that the 9-run lead they're taking into the ninth inning is a record of some kind as well.

The FOX broadcasters sought out well-known Red Sox fan and author Stephen King, to get his take on things. At the time, the Yanks were only up by seven runs, and King said that if he had the chance to write the story for tonight he would have penned a big, dramatic comeback for the Sox. That doesn't look like it's going to happen. King also plugged his new book, a children's pop-up version of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, who once pitched for Boston but has since Turned to the Dark Side. As Gordon un-Flash-ingly finishes off his former franchise-mates, I doubt that girl fosters much love for him, or for anyone else in a Yankee uniform tonight, as they put yet another nail in yet another Red Sox coffin, burying thir World Series hopes for one more year.

It's just a matter of time now.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

11 October 2004

MVP Trophy Not So Valuable If You're Dead

It's often said that most players, when given the choice of a longer, undistinguished career or a shorter, more glorious one helped by steroid use, would choose the latter, even if they knew it would be followed by some health issues. I wonder if they'd make the same choice if they knew they wouldn't live to see their 50th birthday?

The tragic and premature deaths of people like Caminiti and Lyle Alzado ought to provide a harbinger to the MLB players' union. Donald Fehr and the MLBPA are so busy protecting their own asses (and pocketbooks) under the guise of "defending the players' right to privacy" that they refuse to see steroids for what they are: a quick-fix that creates more problems than it solves, and a potential killer. If a link can be found between Caminiti's steroid use and his heart attack at age 41, Fehr and the MLBPA lawyers ought to be tried as an accomplice to negligent manslaughter.

Please note that I think Ken Caminiti, like anyone else, is ultimately responsible for his own actions, but the Union should be protecting the players, even if it means protecting them from themselves, in whatever way they can.

Caminiti chose to use steroids, knowing the potential dangers associated with them, and he had substance abuse problems that exceeded the arena of performance-enhancing drugs, cocaine and alcohol, at least. But you can be sure that the steroids didn't help things, and you can also be sure that Caminiti would have traded in that one, great season of an otherwise undistinguished career for a few more years of life.

In a heartbeat.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

09 October 2004

I Don't Get it

Well, you win some...you lose some, right?

Unless you're the Twins and you're playing the Yankees, apparently. In that case, you win some, but you lose about three or four times as many, it seems. Minnesota's defenders coming into the ALDS argued that these Twins aren't the same Twins who lost 20 out of their last 23 contests with the Yankees. These twins are better, more experienced, more seasoned, with an ace pitcher who's as good as anyone to toe the rubber this side of Sandy Koufax, and the Soul-Train outfield, or whatever their stupid nickname was.

And do you know what? They're right. Almost everyone who's not with the team any longer from the 2003 season wasn't much good anyway: Denny Hocking, Doug Meintkiewicz, Eric Milton, A.J. Pierzynski. All are over paid, overrated, underperforming, or all three, and are no longer an albatross around the Twins franchise's collective neck.

But in the end, it didn't matter. The Yankees won anyway, though not without some excitement. The first game saw the Yankees lose by two runs in a game Johan Santana started but didn't finish, just like last year. Game Two saw the Yankees come back to win, as did games three and four. But where ten runs separated the two teams over the four games of last year's series, only four runs separated them this year. Two of the three Yankee wins, including tonight's ALDS-clinching game four victory. Yesterday's 8-4 victory wasn't really even that close, as three runs were scored on the Yanks' mop-up guys before Torre brought in Mariano Rivera to stop the nonsense an get two outs to end the game, which he did.

It's hard not to give some of the blame/credit, perhaps the largest share, to Twins' manager Ron Gardenhire. Gardenhire has, by most accounts, the best starting pitcher on the planet, in Johan Santana, and yet he yanked him after seven innings and only 93 pitches in game one. Granted, they won that game so I look silly criticizing a move Gardenhire made in it, but he took a bog chance taking out Santana and entrusting two innings of a two-run lead to his bullpen. Of course, it helps that he's got one of the more effective closers on the planet, with Joe Nathan, who pitched well in Game One.

And in Game Two, for that matter, at least until he tired in the tenth inning, as I mentioned a couple of days ago. Another questionable decision by Gardenhire, and this one led to a loss. Game Three hardly offered the opportunity to second-guess Gardenhire, since Carlos Silva and the Twins were already down by five runs when the bullpen came into things in the sixth inning.

But Game Four? Game Four is a whole different story. Again provided with Santana to start the game, Gardenhire made perhaps the strangest decision we've seen in the playoffs thus far. He pulled Santana again, this time after 87 pitches and only five innings. And not five so-so innings either, five innings of one-run, seven-strikeout ball. Don't get me wrong. I'm as big a believer as anyone in the effects of high pitch-counts on short term pitcher effectiveness and long-term injury risk, but with your season on the line, I think you can afford to leave in a guy who's pitched so well for so long in for another inning or two. What's he saving him for? Spring training against the Reds? Heck, Santana averages 111 pitches in five June starts against the vaunted offenses of the Mets, Devil Rays, Expos and Brewers (twice). One of the FOX commentators said that he'd seen Santana in the tunnel after he was taken out, and that Johan indicated that he was still raring to go, wishing he could still have been pitching. But at least he'll be fresh for those all-important March contests against the University of Central Florida.

Admittedly, the main reason the Twins lost this game was that Juan Rincon could not get the outs he needed. He managed to get one, but an RBI single and a three-run homer by Ruben Sierra ended his night prematurely. Anything is possible, of course, but it's quite likely that another solid inning or two out of Santana would have allowed Grant Balfour to bridge the gap right to Joe Nathan, who could have closed it out and necessitated a Game Five. Nobody really knows, and frankly I'm not complaining really, but I think I'd rather be second-guessed for doing what everyone else does, what I've done all year, and having it fail, than for pulling a stunt like Gardenhire did tonight.

Here's to second-guessing.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

07 October 2004

Who Wants a Blow-Out Anyway?

What a great, close couple of games we've had, at least in the Yankees-Twins series.

Tuesday night the Yankees had to face Johan Santana, easily the best pitcher in baseball for the last four months and probably the 2004 AL Cy Young winner. If he's not, they ought to stop giving the award. His streak of 21 consecutive quality starts (6+ innings 3 or fewer earned runs) was snapped not by the Yankees, but by his own manager, Ron Gardenhire, who yanked him to save him for the playoffs. Gardenhire for some reason felt it necessary to remove Santana from a game last week in which he had thrown only 71 pitches in five innings, allowing only four baserunners and one run, despite the facts that the Twins were up by only two runs with four innings left to play. The Yanks made them pay, coming back against what really is a strong Minnesota bullpen, to win a game that helped solidify the Yankees' homefield advantage in the playoffs.

But anyway, that was last week. Tuesday night, Santana was not removed after five innings, but threw seven strong in beating New York in game one of the ALDS. In the process, however, the Yanks made him do something he hadn't done since May 23rd: allow more than nine baserunners in a game. They somehow got nine hits, a walk and a hit-batter out of Santana's Golden Arm, and had baserunners in six of the seven innings he pitched, but couldn't bring any of them home. Alas, it took an unprecedented-in-the-playoffs five double-plays to keep the Yankees from scoring that night. Twin-killings, indeed.

Wednesday night was different for a number of reasons. For one thing, they started the damn game at 7PM instead of 8PM. There, now was that so terrible? Is it too much to ask to start a game so that a reasonable person who has to get up at 7AM the next day could watch the end of a nine-inning contest and still hit the pillow by 11:00? I don't think so. Of course, the game didn't end until 11:30 last night, but we got three free innings of playoff baseball out of the deal! A fair trade if ever I've heard one. And I got to watch it! Had it occurred at 12:30, I probably would not have gotten to see the Yankees come back not once, not twice, but three times in one game.

The 2004 Yankees had more come-from-behind wins (61) than any team in history this year, which is probably more an indictment of the quality of their starting pitching than some indicator of the team's 'moxy' but it's still a lot of wins. I wonder which team had the most come-from-behind, come-from-behind, come-from-behind wins?

On a different note, I saw some pretty questionable bullpen moves last night. First of all, Jon Leiber (not Leiberman as Joe Morgan kept referring to him on last night's broadcast) had been innefective in the first couple of innings, but apparently something had clicked in the third and the Twins hadn't done much since. Leiber had not only four and two-thirds straight scoreless innings under his belt with a man on second base in the seventh, he'd only thrown 78 pitches! He hadn't thrown so few since June 23rd, and of course you'd get yanked with a low pitch count too if you were down 7-0 after three innings and change. But he was pitching well last night in the seventh, and had one of the best ground-ball/fly ball ratios in the American League this year, and therefore (in my mind) had as good a chance as anyone in the bullpen at inducing an inning-ending grounder from pinch-hitter Jose Offerman. Offerman hadn't played much this year, but his 2001-03 seasons saw him hit only .238 against ground-ball pitchers. At 35 years old, he's just not the speed-demon he used to be. I suppose it's still possible that a grounder could have gotten through the infield, but the infield defense hasn't been nearly as bad this year as in the past, and since the light-hitting Offerman doesn't strike out very often, it seems silly to bring in a strikeout-pitcher like Flash Gordon to retire him.

Regardless of Joe Torre's intent, it worked, though just barely. Offerman lined out, and Gordon pitched well until he didn't. Or at least he pitched well until Torre made him stop. He struck out Jacques Jones on a curve in the dirt that Posada couldn't hold onto, and then gave up a single to Torii Hunter with one out in the eighth.

Again, almost inexplicably, Torre summonned help from the bullpen. A grounder to anywhere in the infield would likely have ended the inning. Gordon had held lefties (like upcoming rookie cleanup hitter and Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Justin Morneau) to a miniscule .185 average this year, had only thrown 17 pitches and had an off-day coming to boot. Mariano Rivera was summoned, apparently before he'd had enought time to warm up, for the proverbial "tough-save" with the tying run in scoring position and needing to get five outs to hold onto the win. Rivera promptly surrendered a single to Morneau, loading the bases, and an automatic (not ground-rule) double to Corey Koskie, which scored the tying run. Thankfully, Mo struck out clearly-overmatched rookie Jason Kubel (0-for-6, 2 K's, 5 Left On Base; Please, Ron, keep starting him!) and got Christian Guzman on a grounder to escape the eighth. Mo was sharp in the ninth, retiring the side on ten pitches.

Amazingly, and for essentially a lack of any better option, Tanyon Sturtze pitched reasonably well in the tenth and eleventh innings, though he did give up a go-ahead run in the 12th before Paul Quantrill stopped the bleeding. That run ended a whopping 13-consecutive scoreless innings for Sturtze, but I'm not yet convinced that seven appearances and thirteen innings say more about him than the previous 180 games and almots 700 innings, in which he has an ERA over 5.25. Hopefully he starts another streak tomorrow.

The real stories, or at least the ones on which the mainstream media are focusing, are Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez getting a few clutch hits and Twins closer Joe Nathan being left in too long. Both of these I think have been a bit over-blown, but I'll comment on them nonetheless.

Regarding A-Rod: Clutch This!
The A-Rod thing deserves the least discussion. The man hit .301/.384/.525 with runners on base, .357/.432/.679 with a runner on 3rd base and fewer than two out, and a completely reasonable .273/.360/.416 in "Close and Late" situations. He hit 36 homers, drove in 106 and even stole almost 30 bases to make himself more of an asset to the club. He had a rough month or so, which happened to coincide with the Red Sox unbelieveable 20-2 run, during which the Yankees relinquished a lot of ground despite winning more often than they lost. It was almost entirely a creation of the media, whose main business is to find something to harp on, whether or not there's anything actually wrong, just like the Democrats. Sorry, did I say that out loud?

Regarding Closers and Pitch Counts: Bad Call
Joe Nathan threw 53 pitches last night, and even if you discount the last four as not really "pitches", an intentional walk to Gary Sheffield, that was about 20 more than he'd thrown all season. For that matter, it's more than he'd ever thrown in the two-plus seasons since returning from a two-year rehab stint after arm surgery and being made into a full-time relief pitcher.

In his own defense, Gardenhire said that he asked Nathan and Nathan said he was OK, to which I respond, "Duh! WHat did you think he was going to say?!" In a culture in which men are men and women (supposedly) laugh at men when they cry, you can't really believe that. The manager's job is to take what the pitcher says into consideration, and then do whatever he wants anyway. He's a kid, you're his boss, do your job!

Gardenhire also said that his velocity was fine, but again, that's not the only indicator of a pitcher's health/effectiveness. As a pitcher tires, his arm and body mechanics suffer, and sometimes he has to alter them to get the giddy-up on his heater or the snap on his breaking ball - that's when injuries happen. Being able to hit 95mph on the gun (106 on the FOX gun) is not such a good thing if he's straining more than normal to do so. Especially given the fact that Nathan was having a LOT of trouble finding the plate, missing badly on several pitches, and that you're going to need him for the rest of the series, I think the manager has to do his job and manage that guy out of the game when it's clear to the other 60,000 people in the stadium and a few million watching on TV that he's lost his control.

A lot of research, such as that done by Baseball Prospectus, has been done on the effects of high pitch counts on starting pitchers, but I doubt that anyone has looked as intently at the effects of relatively high numbers of pitches for relievers, especially relievers who've had arm problems in the past. On the other hand, if Nathan's arm doesn't bounce back well, it may help the Yanks win the series, so ultimately I can't complain too much. Yet.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

04 October 2004

2004 PostSeason Picks

AL Division Series:

AL Wild Card winner Boston will play Anaheim in one of the Division Series matchups, probably the toughest to pick. Boston has a heck of a team: a great offense, significantly improved defense, a solid bullpen and potentially great starting pitching. I say 'potentially' because Pedro Martinez was only 2-4 with a 4.95 ERA in September. He lost twice to New York, who are, after all, his Daddy, but also twice to Tampa Bay, an unforgiveable offense, especially condisering how little of it the D-Rays have. If that Pedro shows up to face the Angels, the Red Sox are going back to Bean town Red-Faced, because they can't win. Curt Schilling can't pitch every day. A suddenly healthy and scary Anaheim team will chew them up and spit them out.

With the Yankees facing Minnesota, having home-field advantage, and frankly most other advantages as well, I can't imaging that this series can come out any way other than the a Yankee victory. The Yanks are 17-2 against Minnesota in regular season play since 2002, 20-3 if you include last year's Division Series. A 20-3 record won Roger Clemens a sixth Cy Young Award a few years ago, that's how good the Yanks have been against Minnesota in these three seasons. I know, I know, that wasn't always against Johan Santana, who will probably get to pitch twice in this series, and has been all but unbeatable for the past four months. Believe me, as a Yankee fan, nobody's more scared of Santana than I am, but like Schilling, he can't pitch every day. All they have to do is get a run or two out of him, and work his pitch count high enough that they can get into the bullpen, and the Yanks can win one of those. And that's all they'll need.

Anaheim in four.
Yankees in Five.

NL Division Series:

The Houston Astros are primed to finally end their drought of postseason victories. They've gone 54-36 since the trade for Carlos Beltran, including 47-26 since the All-Star Break and an astonishing 23-7 in September/October. There is no hotter team in the playoffs, for whatever that's worth, and they'll have their best pitchers available to start against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday and Thursday, with Roger Clemens likely to return from his stomach virus just fine and Roy Oswalt to follow him. Atlanta's pretty good too. You don't usually win your division by ten games if you're not, but the Astros should prevail.

The Dodgers just barely eeked out a division title over a two-man show in San Francisco. They've got a great bullpen and a good offense, much better than last season, but still not great. Their starting pitching, despite the advantage Chavez Ravine offers, is not particularly scary, and probably won't let the team hang in there for long against the best offense in the National League. Rolen, Pujols and Edmonds are or were all viable MVP candidates at some point this season, and will likely eliminate the Dodgers from the race in pretty short order.

Houston in four.
St. Louis in four.

AL Championship Series:

Assuming that the Angels and Yankees do in fact win the ALDS, as I have suggested, this is a tough matchup. Anaheim's offense is only decent overall, ranking 7th in the 14-team American League, but they've played better of late, especially since getting back some of the talent that wallowed on the DL most of the season. Still, if they go through with their decision to keep Jose Guillen suspended for the post-season, they'll have a hard time beating the Yankees, whose offense is much better, and much less prone to triking out than the team the Angels beat en-route to their 2002 World Series Championship. New York's chances hinge upon Kevin Brown and/or Orlando Hernandez being healthy and effective, and perhaps on Javier Vazquez pitching like he did in Montreal, or even like he did before the 2004 All-Star break (10-5, 3.56) rather than after (4-5, 6.92). Don't bet on the latter, but expet the Yankees to escape by the skin of their teeth.

Yankees in Seven.

NL Championship Series:

Though the Cardinals' offense and pitching strength allowed them to cruise to a 13-game lead in their division and win it handily, I have a hard time seeing them as an all-time great. They've got solid starting pitching, with five guys who have at least 11 wins and 180 innings to their credit, but you don't need five starters in the playoffs, and none of those who will pitch has an ERA much under 4.00. They've got a great bullpen, and a great offense, but Houston is one of the few teams that found a way to beat them this year, going 10-8 in the regular season, and they'll do it again.

Houston in Six.

World Series:

As I'm looking at it now, this matchup seems really improbable. Nevertheless, should the Astros face the Yankees in the World Series, this is how it will turn out:

Game One: Mussina vs. Clemens at Yankee Stadium
Mussina continues Sept-Ober dominance and Rocket gets a revisitation by his stomach virus, and has to leave after three innings, trailing, 6-0, to get an IV to rehydrate himself. Mussina goes seven strong innings and Flash and Mo close it out. Yanks up, 1-0.

Game Two: Roy Oswalt vs. Jon Leiber at Yankee Stadium
Leiber's six-inning, nine strikeout performance is wasted on an error by Miguel Cairo and an implosion by the bullpen. Oswalt goes the distance, Houston wins, 4-0. Series tied, 1-1.

Game Three: El Duque vs. Brandon Backe at the JuiceBox in Houston
El Duque's shoulder flares up again, and he leaves in the third trailing 2-0, but Kevin Brown pitches six solid innings of relief for the win. Backe and the Bullpen blow the lead and it becomes a laugher, 10-4, in which Brad Lidge never gets a chance. Yanks up, 2-1.

Game Four: Mussina vs. Carlos Hernandez at the JuiceBox in Houston
Hernandez is a late replacement for Clemens who's either still got a stomach virus or has converted to Islam and therefore can't pitch because it's Ramadan. Nobody's exactly sure. Hernandez doesn't disappoint. Well, he disappoints the Houston fans, giving up six runs in four innings before Scrap Iron tosses him on the scrap heap. Moose shines for eight innings and Torre adds insult to injury by letting Tanyon Sturtze pitch the last inning. Left-handed. Yanks up, 3-1.

Game Five: Oswalt vs. Leiber at the JuiceBox in Houston
With their backs against the wall, the Astros again turn to their true ace, Brad Ausmus. Just kididng. Roy Oswalt goes the distance again, shutting out New York's vaunted offense, and Leiber doesn't pitch nearly as well on the road as he had at home. Javier Vazquez comes in for long-relief in the fifth and the ThreeBees all homer of him in the same inning to win it for Houston, 8-1 and send the Series back to New York. Yanks up, 3-2.

Game Six: Brown vs. Backe at Yankee Stadium
With 35-going-on-60 year old Orlando Hernandez still nursing a stiff shoulder, Brown gets the nod and pitches well, but doesn't have the stamina and leaves after five and change. The Yankee bullpen blows another lead, and Houston's offense puts on another fireworks display against the likes of Sturtze, Paul Quantrill and Javier Vazquez, who despite the best efforts of the Yankee coaching staff, escaped from the hotel room in which they locked him in Houston and got a flight back to New York in time for the game. Houston wins, evening the Series at three games apiece.

Game Seven: Mussina vs. Clemens at Yankee Stadium
Roger Clemens converts to Judaism because somebody points out that they don't have any more holidays until December, at which point Roger will either be retiring or signing a one-year deal with the Cubs. Or both.

Clemens takes the mound in the top of the first to a hail of boos and batteries, but the crowd cheers up quickly. Rocket's best efforts are spoiled when Brad Ausmus is accosted in the clubhouse by Mike Piazza (6'3", 215 lbs), who gags him, stuffs him into a locker, and somehow squeezes into Ausmus' (5'11", 190) uniform, entering the game in disguise. Piazza gives the signs away to Clemens' former teammates, who tee-off on him for half an inning before Phil Garner comes out to yank his starter, who's down, 5-0. Piazza, as Ausmus, pats Clemens on the butt REALLY hard on his way out, causing Clemens to wonder, but Piazza hides his face and nobody knows the better until after the game.

In a surprise move, with nobody of much starting pitching prowess left on his roster, Garner calls in 58-year old Larry Dierker, a one-time 20-game winner for the Astros, albeit in 1969, reasoning that this gives him two 20-game winners and besides, he's still younger than El Duque. Dierker breaks out a knuckleball and keeps the Yankees in check, allowing one run in two innings and change.

Another surprise move sees Roy Oswalt come out of the bullpen to pitch four more shutout innings on one day of rest to keep New York from scoring any more and Brad Lidge makes his first World Series appearance, striking out the side in the bottom of the eighth. This is, in fact, really an accomplishment, as suddenly not-sure-handed "Brad Ausmus" drops three third strikes, allowing each of the runners to reach first base, but K-Lidge strikes everyone out, becoming the first pitcher in World Series history to amass six strikeouts in one inning.

The damage had been done, though, and Garner's creative bullpen antics fall by the wayside as the Yankees win their 27th World Championship. Brad Ausmus escapes from the locker into which Piazza had stuffed him after the top of the first, and tells his tale to anyone who will listen, but to no avail. Garner issues an official protest of the game, but the Commisioner's office figures that the two solo homers Piazza hit as Ausmus, with his catcher's mask on, more than compensate for the first-inning ruse that got Clemens yanked. Bud Selig has already handed the Commissioner's trophy to George Steinbrenner, and once he sees how ugly the thing is, Garner drops his appeal.

Jim Gray corners Mike Piazza in the parking lot and asks him repeatedly why he won't admit, just admit it now, here on national television, once and for all, c'mon, why don't you just admit that you're gay. Piazza decks him, since he was standing in the way of his path to his car, a pink Cadillac with maroon shag interior. Chad Curtis says he talked to his teammates and they're boycotting Jim Gray, but then someone realizes that Curtis hasn't played for the Yankees since 1999, or for any major league team since 2001. The embarassed network quickly cuts back to the victory celebration on the field, just in time to show Kevin Brown riding a police horse around the staduim in a victory lap, and then promptly falling off and reinjuring his non-pitching hand. George Steinbrenner immediately announces that horseback riding is expressly prohibited by Brown's contract, and that they'll release him before spring, but try to re-sign him at a lower rate, maybe $14 million.

Roy Oswalt becomes only the second player in history to win a postseason MVP award playing for the losing team, going 2-0 with 22 scoreless innings.

Steinbrenner files an immediate protest.

The Fans. C'mon,wouldn't it be interesting if it happened like that?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

30 September 2004

Down to the Wire...

The baseball regular season's almost over, and the final picture of the playoff races is beginning to finally come into focus. But, off in the distance, one or two areas simply refuse to be pinned down.

For the first time in months, the Oakland Athletics don't lead the AL West. Anaheim beat Texas last night accomplishing two things:

1) They eliminated the Rangers from the playoff picture, which is particularly good in that it will deprive those who would argue that the A-Rod/Soriano trade made Texas a better ballclub of some fodder for their argument.

B) They moved themselves into first place.

Of course, the second accomplishment was aided by Oakland's loss to last-place Seattle, but more broadly to Oakland's general inability to win consistently for the last month or so. They're 11-16 in September, after finishing August with eight straight wins, a 78-53 record and a healthy three-game lead in the West. Their starters have a 5.92 ERA this month, including one-time Cy Young candidate Mark Mulder's 8.10(!), to go with a 7-11 record. Not a convenient time for your starters to falter.

In the NL, the race for the West is nearly over, with the Giants hanging on for dear life, three games out with four left to play. Not likely, as they say in France. But the Wild Card is still up for grabs, as the Astros have ridden their star to a one-game lead as of last night. Just for the record, Boy of Summer's pick for the NL Wild Card is either San Francisco, Houston or the Cubs, whichever team finishes with the best record at the end of this weekend. Remember: you heard it here first.

So, on to more interesting isseus...

There is a surprising number of individual records that may fall this year. You probably already know about Barry Bonds' myriad of accomplishments: He'll break his own records in single season walks (225 and counting), on-base percentage (currently .610), OPS (1.435 right now), and others. But did you know that his on base percentage is currently higher than all but five other players' slugging percentages, only one of whom plays in the supposedly more offensively oriented American League (Manny Ramirez)? It probably won't happen, but if for some reason Barr's allowed to hit against the Dodgers during the last weekend of the season, and he can hit three homers while Adrian Beltre and Albert Pujols are held in check, he could be the first player in half a century to win a home run title without striking out as often as he homered. Ted Kluszewski did it in 1954, hitting 49 dingers with 35 strikeouts.

Speaking of offense, I'm pretty offended that people are making such a big deal out of Ichiro's chasing George Sisler. Ichiro's quest for the single-season hits record is an interesting footnote to the 2004 season, at best. He's a speedy singles hitter who hardly ever walks, so even with a .370+ batting average, his OBP barely cracks the top 10 in the majors, and his OPS is 38th! Over 150 players have as many doubles as Ichiro right now, and despite all those hits, he might not score 100 runs, partly because his teammates suck, but also because he so rarely gets himself into scoring position.

When George Sisler amassed 257 hits in 1920 he hit .407 to do it. He also was second in the league in homers, doubles, triples, extra base hits, slugging%, OPS, Runs, RBI, steals, and some other stats, most of them behind some guy named Ruth. Ichiro isn't even close to being the second best player in baseball this year. Sisler was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1939, one of the first classes to enter, and he got a higher percentage of the vote than Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie, Pete Alexander, Eddie Collins, Wee Willie Keeler or Rogers Hornsby, to name a few of his competitors on the ballots.

Another interesting note that's gotten almost no press coverage is Adam Dunn's potentially record-setting campaign. Don't know what I'm talking about? See, I told you it's not getting any coverage.

Adam Dunn plays left-field for the Cincinnati Reds and hits cleanup, which makes sense since he has 45 home runs, more than anyone in baseball but Dodgers' 3B Adrian Beltre. He's also walked over 100 times, and driven in and scored over 100 runs each, so he's no one to be trifled with, even though he's only hitting .264. After hitting .215 last year, .264 looks pretty good. What doesn't look good is this number:


That's how many strikeouts Dunn had coming into today's game against Mark Prior and the Chicago Cubs. By the time you read this, he will have at least tied or even set the record for strikeouts in a season. Prior has over 500 strikeouts in less than 440 innings of career pitching at the major league level, so it's a good bet that there might be a couple more added to that by this evening.

The record is 189, set by Bobby Bonds in 1970, his second full season, with the Giants. A handful of other players have been close to this record in recent years, most notably Jose Hernandez, then with the Brewers, in 2002. Erstwhile Brewers' manager Jerry Royster, despite the impending end to Milwaukee's lousy and otherwise inconsequential season, decided to sit Hernandez for the last few games to prevent him from breaking the record, a decision I much derided. But Reds' skipper Dave Miley apparently knows that Dunn is one of his best players, in spite of the strikeouts, amd that if the Reds are to have any chance of playing the spoilers to the Cubs' Wild Card hopes, that chance includes Dunn batting four or five times, and maybe striking out three, but maybe hitting another one over the Ivy covered brick wall at Wrigley as well.

Good for Dave Miley, my new hero. He may not be any better able to keep Junior Griffey in the lineup that Jack McKeon, or Bob Boone, or Ray Knight, or Lou Piniella, but at least he knows how to keep a healthy, productive hitter in there when he needs him, even if it means a possible public relations no-no.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

25 September 2004

Generic Yankees Update

Speaking of the Yankees...it seems they're back on track.

With a 6-4 win last night, the Yankees have pushed their lead to 5.5 games over the Red Sox, which is a pretty tough lead to blow given that the two teams have fewer than ten games left in the season.

It's not exactly the case that the Yanks are firing on all cylinders, but the starting pitchers have a 3.67 ERA in September, 3.27 if you remove Estebomb Loaiza and Brad "Not Ready for Prime-Time" Halsey from the mix. Of course, Estebomb had his best outing yet as a Yankee in his last start, but 5 innings and change and two runs against the Blow Jays does not inspire a lot of confidence in me that he'll be able to get the Twins or Athletics or Red Sox out in October. Or for that matter, that he'll be able to get the Red Sox out tomorrow night, when he goes up against Schilling.

Interestingly, despite their recent success, the Yanks' starting rotation has been decimated by injuries. Barring something bizarre, this could be the first season since 1988 that the Yankees have not had a 200 inning starter, this after having had four of them last year.

But Jeter's now hitting over .290, an impressive resurgence after that dismal April, including .398(!) in September. Two more homers before the end of the season will set a new career high for him.

Jeter Posted by Hello

Alex Rodriguez is about to become the first Yankee since 1975 to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in the same season. The late Bobby Bonds is the only player in Yankee history to do so thus far. A-Rod needs two steals to become the second. The Bondses (Barry and Bobby) are the only other players to have done so with more than one team, and A-Rod will be the first to have done so at more than one position, though Ho-Jo did it a couple of times playing a handful of games out of position for the Mets in the '80s.

Jason Giambi, while not exactly the Giambino right now, seems to be progressing. At least he's not laid up with a damn tumor and/or parasite anymore. And it's a good thing, too. John Olerud's resurgence seems to have been pretty short lived. He's hitting an unimpressive .271/.338/.400 in September after hitting .312/.393/.390 in August. With Tony Clark not exaclty living up to the "Tiger" moniker with his anemic .190 September average, and Ruben Sierra sitting around .226 for the month, the Yanks, it would seem, have little to lose playing Giambi every day in hopes that he gets his stroke back before the playoffs.

Now if Kevin Brown can just field a grounder...

Stumble Upon Toolbar

24 September 2004

Random Weekend Notes...

A few random notes on a note-worthy baseball news weekend...

The Smartest Pitcher Who Ever Lived...for 17 Years

Greg Maddux has done it again. He's won 15 games this year, for the 17th consecutive season. Everybody pretty much knows why: he's awesome. Not blow-you-away-with-108-mph-gas awesome like some pitchers, but rather I'm-smarter-than- whomever's-at-the-plate-and-I-know-it awesome, which might be better. Of course, it helped that he played for most of those Braves teams that averaged 98 wins per season for over a decade, and that he never does anything to get himself hurt (you listenin', Brown?), but it's still pretty remarkable any way you slice it.

Dumbest Athlete Baseball Player Writer BBTN Anchor Who Ever Lived

OK, so he's not the dumbest writer. I think Bill Conlin still works for the Philly Daily News. But John Kruk refreshes my amazement with him on a nearly daily basis by coming up with ever-more asinine things to say about baseball. His most recent column lists a few tongue-in-cheek awards and even acknowledges that The Big Unit has been a better pitcher than Roger Clemens this year, but c'mon, Chone Figgins for MVP?
What's next? Jeremy Affeldt for the Cy Young Award? Hey, Affeldt didn't know whether he was starting or relieving or closing on any given day, and his pitching was... um... mediocre, so why not?

Actually, I was in a Yahoo Fantasy League earlier this year that also thought Chone Figgins was pretty darn valuable as well. That league setup overvalued triples and steals while undervaluing silly things like, well, pitching, so I quit it. If MLB somehow starts giving awards to guys like Chone Figgins, I may have to seriously consider becoming a hockey fan. Oh wait, never mind.

Have You Seen This Pitcher?

Who Am I? Posted by Hello

GS  CG   IP    H   HR  BB   K   ERA   WHIP

30 4 217.1 177 20 60 271 3.35 1.09

He has fairly impressive credentials: over 270 strikeouts and barely more than a baserunner per inning in almost 220 innings of work. An ERA that ranks 4th in the AL this year. One of those complete games was a shutout, too, and the opposition has only hit about .215 off him. Not a bad resume, I'd say, except for this:


That's his record. In this day and age, that pitching line would put a guy at least in the running for the Cy Young award, if not at the head of the pack. Another 30 or so innings of work like that would nearly assure him of it, if not for the fact that he hasn't actually been able to win more games than he's lost (see Johnson, Randy). And besides, Johan Santana's running away with the AL CYA this year, with Schilling a distant second, right?

So why haven't you heard of this guy? What rock have you been living under to have not noticed someone who's struck out more batters than everybody but Randy Johnson?

Well, you have seen him. As a matter of fact, he's been on national television twice in the last week, pitching against (and losing to) the New York Yankees. You see, I've tricked you again (you keep falling for it...). The line above is Pedro Martinez, i.e. Punk-Ass, except it's his body of work against the Bronx Bombers over the course of his career, including three ALCS appearances. For reference, the rest of his career looks roughly like this, on average, not including postseasons:

GS  CG  IP   H   HR  BB   K   ERA   WHIP

29 4 210 159 16 56 241 2.65 1.02

In addition, you should know that his average record is 17-7 in games against not-the-Yankees. These numbers also include some of his relief work early in his career with Los Angeles, but you get the point. He's just about as stingy with the hits and walks, and just as prolific with the strikeouts, but for whatever reason, he just does a better job of keeping runners from crossing the plate when he faces everyone else. Granted, over the time he's been facing them (1998-2004 and counting) the Yankees have won their division every year, and have won three of the five World Series in which they've played, beating out (up, on) Pedro's Red Sox twice to get there. So I guess ascribing Wins and Losses to pitchers has some meaning after all.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

15 September 2004

"...I Knew Lefty, and Sir, You're No Lefty!"

Much attention this season has been paid to the plight of Arizona's Randy Johnson.

randy Posted by Hello

Naturally, it's hard to think of anything a world-famous man making bajillions of dollars a year to play a children's game in front of thousands of adoring fans would experience as a "plight". Nevertheless, it must be something of a drag to see your best efforts kicked to the curb like yesterday's hot dog wrappers, or, perhaps more poignantly, like an infield grounder to Chad Tracy.

ESPN Radio's morning show Friday mentioned that The Big Unit would pitch Friday night against San Francisco, and that despite his losing record, which stood at 12-13 entering the game (Note: Johnson won that game, pitching seven shutout innings to even his record at 13-13.) Mike Greenberg, a ~35ish sports reporter, proffered the idea that a case could be made for Johnson as the best pitcher in the NL this season, and that the only reason for his lackluster record was poor run support from a poor team, one that has already lose three more games to this point in the season than the Philadelphias did in '72, with three weeks yet to play. I tended to agree.

But Bob Pecose, a ~55ish newsman and self-declared purist, proved unwilling to concede the point. Bob still believes in Wins and Losses as a useful measurement tool for pitchers, and mentioned in support of his position the case of Steve Carlton, who somehow managed to go 27-10 and won the Cy Young Award for the 1972 Phillies, who lost 97 games for the worst record in the NL that year. Greenberg wondered aloud whether it might be determined that Carlton's record was indebted to unusually high run support, and suggested that they ought to look into it some time when they weren't so busy.

So I did.

I got to thinking about how this could possibly have happened, and whether or not something can be understood about the nature and/or usefulness of pitching wins and losses from comparing 2004 Johnson to 1972 Carlton. There are several factors here to consider here when cmparing two pitchers across eras like this.

Lefty Posted by Hello

For one thing, the starting pitcher's role has changed significantly in 32 years. Steve Carlton pitched 346 innings, while starting 41 games that year. He completed 30 of those starts, eight of which were shutouts. He easily led the league in starts, innings, complete games, ERA, strikeouts, and some more obscure stats. Johnson is second in the NL in innings pitched this season, but probably won't come within 100 innings of Carlton's total. At the rate at which Johnson consumes innings, he would have to start 50 games to equal Carlton's 346 innings pitched, and he would win 21 games...but would also lose 21. Carlton's 30 complete games were seven more than the next closest pitcher in the NL, but there were ten other guys with at least 13 complete games. This year Livan Hernandez will likely lead both leagues in that category without getting into double digits.

Carlton's 1.97 ERA was the lowest in the NL that year, whereas Johnson's 2.75 is currently pacing the NL, nearly a run higher. The NL ERA in 1972 was only 3.45, making CArlton's league-leading 1.97 was 75% better than the league average, whereas Johnson's on "only" 58% better this season, because as runs become more scarce, they also become more valuable.

This factor surprised me the most in my research. The 1972 NL average team scored 3.91 runs per game, as compared to 2004, when the NL is averaging 4.7 runs/game right now, again, almost a run higher. Carlton's horrendous team scored 3.22 runs per game on average, and about 3.28 when Carlton pitched, roughly 83% of the NL average. This was the big surprise for me. I figured that if he won 27 of the team's measley 59 victories, it must have been because they scored more runs when he pitched, but that wasn't the case. They scored almost exactly the same number of runs per inning innings in Carlton's starts as they did for anyone else, on average, which was substantially less than the NL average.

Again by contrast, the 2004 D-Backs average 3.88 runs per game, 3.92 when Johnson pitches, pretty much the same. The NL average this year is about 4.67 runs per game, which means that the 3.92 runs they score for Johnson are (wait for it...) 83% of the NL avearge! It should be noted that the D-Backs score slightly more than a run over the number of earned runs Johnson allows, but also that runs become "cheaper" as scoring increases. Johnson has allowed ten unearned runs this season as well, which hasn't helped. Carlton only let eight unearned runs score all season, while pitching almost 130 more innings than Johnson has to this point.

So clearly the expectations have changed. Starting pitchers rarely complete their starts, and if they allow three earned runs in six innings, it's called a "Quality Start" even though a pitcher who did that every time out would have a 4.50 ERA, which is basically mediocre.

That's the background you need to understand before we can really say anything about how good Randy Johnson is or is not. First, let's look at how well Johnson has pitched this year:

He's pitched 215 innings, starting 31 games so far and completing four. Both the innings and complete games totals are second in the NL to Hernandez. Of those 31 starts, 22 have been "Quality Starts" meaning that he pitched 6 innings or more and allowed three earned runs or fewer, theoretically giving his team a chance to win. Except that it doesn't win, because eight of his 13 losses have come in these so-called "Quality Starts." The team has scored a grand total of seven runs in those eight starts, and no more than two runs in any one of them, so Johnson is only 10-8 with four no decisions in those QS. Not surprisingly, the Diamondbacks proceeded to lose all four of those no-decisions as well.

In 1972 a Quality Start would have been assessed differently. The NL ERA was 3.45, so an appearance which leads to a 3.50 ERA might be aptly called "Quality", such as 7 innings and two earned runs, or eight innings with three earned runs. Carlton had 30 such appearances that year, and went 25-4 with only one no-decision, a 10 inning shutout that was lost when the first batter in the 11th inning homered off the relief pitcher who replaced the pinch runner who replaced the pinch hitter who replaced Carlton in the top of the inning. If I were Steve, I wouldn't ever give up the ball either.

One reason Carlton won so many games is that he almost never gave up the ball. He completed nearly 3/4 of his starts, was only replaced in the middle of an inning once all season, and even pitched the tenth and eleventh innings in three of his starts. As I mentioned, his run support was just about as feeble as Johnson's is, but he allowed so few runs to score, and refused to let a relief pitcher screw up his work unless he absolutely had to, that he managed to win.

Eight of his games, as I mentioned, were shutouts. Nine other times he pitched a complete game and allowed only one run, earned or otherwise. Five of his other complete games entailed only two runs by the opposition, and two of those were 11-inning jobs. In adidtion, he also had that 10-inning shutout bid ruined in the top of the eleventh, as I mentioned earlier. So that's 22 of his 30 complete games that included 2 runs or fewer, not all of which were wins. Johnson has only had 16 games of any length this year allowing 2 or fewer runs, and only seven of those have been eight innings or more, none more than nine. Pitchers just can't do the same type of job with any kind of consistency.

After 31 starts in 1972, Carlton was 20-7, with a 2.10 ERA and had just completed nine straight and 14 of 15 starts, including two 11-inning, 2-run jobs. And though he had pitched about 50 more innings than Johnson in those 31 starts, he had only one more decision, with seven more wins and six fewer losses. Carlton was, more often than not, so stingy with runs, and so reluctant to surrender the ball, that he usually managed to win.

In 1971 and 1973, Carlton pitched very similarly. He had an approximately league-average ERA, and pitched a lot of innings. But the 90-win, '71 Cardinals gave him enough run support to provide a 20-9 record at year end, whereas the 91-loss Phillies let him take it one in the "L" column 20 times in 1973. The difference in run support was less than two runs per game.

And for the most part, Johnson has done everything you could ask from a pitcher: he gets batters out, prevents runners from scoring, fields his position, etc. What he doesn't do is bat, at least not very well. Hey, if you had a strike zone the size of a screen door, you might have a little trouble making contact too. But Johnson's .114 average, with one Run scored and 4 RBI, certainly doesn't help his cause much. Carlton, though not exaclty Babe Ruth with a batting average that echoed his ERA (.197), did have 5 extra base hits, including a homer, 6 runs and 8 RBI. There were four times that season when a run that he scored or drove in made a difference in the game, four wins that (presumably) would have garnered the Big Unit a Big L.

Now we get into "what if" scenarios? What if Johnson got league-average or better run support? Well, looking at his game log, if the team could score runs to average out to 4.67, depending on how things worked out, Johnson might still only be something like 16-12, or with some breaks, 17-10, which would certainly put him under serious consideration for the 2004 Cy Young Award, but still isn't anywhere near as good as Carlton was.

Amazingly, though, Carlton did not win an inordinate number of games given his run support. The Pythagorean projection for his ERA and Run Support

[ERA^2/(ERA^2 + RS^2)]

suggests that 27-10 is exactly where Carlton's record should have stood in 1972. His team barely scored more than 3 runs per game, but he allowed only two, and didn't allow a relief picher to get in the way of victory. The margin for error was so close, but Carlton managed to be ever-so-slightly within that margin 27 times that season. Johnson's just had hard luck and bad relief pitching, as Pythagoras tells me that he should be 17-9 at this point, not 13-13.

This seems to make it fairly clear that though Johnson may be the best or one of the best pitchers in the league, he's still nowhere near as good as Carlton was that year. I doubt anyone would really argue with this. But you don't win a CYA by proving that you're better than some guy who pitched thirty years ago, you win by being better than anyone else pitching in your league now, theoretically. People like Bob Pecose and Joe Morgan need to wake up and smell the 21st century. Pitchers are asked to get batters out, in an effort to try to win games for their team. If the team doesn't score and they lose, 1-0, it's hardly the pitcher's fault. The fact that he has 13 wins on a team that might not win 50 is fairly impressive to begin with.

Let's not put a damper on his accomplishments by complaining that he's not another person in another time. That's a standard against which no one should have to be measured.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

08 September 2004

The Year of the Streak(s)

Forget Cal Ripken. Forget 1998.

 Posted by Hello
2004 is The Year of the Streak.

Or, more accurately, the Year of the Streaks, as there are several different kinds of streaks that have taken place or are currently underway.

For example, the Arizona Diamondbacks, though they might have been thought of as contenders before the season began, are easily the Worst Team in Baseball. Their current 42-97 record means that they have barely won 30% of their games, are eight games worse than the next most awful team in MLB, the pathetic Kansas City Royals. They're also 17(!) games worse than the Montreal Expos, the closest NL team, who are so bad that two countries don't want them. Montreal has the worst offense in the majors, averaging only 3.85 runs scored per game, which is only 2.98 with the exchange rate, and there's as much distance in the standings between the Expos and Diamondbacks as there is between the Expos and Cubs.

To be as bad as the Diamondbads are, sorry, Diamondbacks, you've got to have a few losing streaks, and boy do they. Arizona has lost nine games, eleven and even 14 games in a row, and has three other losing streaks of five or more, including the current one, which stands at six. When, in late August, they took two games out of three from the Cincinnati Reds (who should be ashamed of themselves, by the way...), it was only the second series the team has won since Mid-June. If you look at the games around those three largest losing streaks (9, 11 and 14 games, from June 18th to August 14th) the team won eight games out of 51, for a .157 winning percentage. Even the 2003 Tigers, who explored profound, new depths of futility in losing 119 games last season, never won fewer than 10 games in any 51-game span, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

The D-Backs are a Blur of Badness Posted by Hello

On the other side of the coin, the Florida Marlins have currently built a 9-game winning streak, which has helped them to get back into the NL Wild Card Race, where they are currently only 1.5 games behind the lead. Nine games is not that extraordinary a streak, but it sure is a timely one, as was the 7-game winning streak they had near the beginning of the season. That 7-game streak was helped by the Marlins getting to play the Phillies, who suck when they play Florida, as you may recall, and the Expos, who suck when they play anyone. It also served to put the Phils five and a half games behind the Marlins, which is just about where they sit now. This means, of course, that the Phillies and Marlins have played almost exactly as well as each other since the middle of April, and that the Phillies' lost postseason chance is owed entirely to their inability to beat the Fish.

Philadelphia has gone 69-58 in games they didn't play against Florida, while the Marlins have actually played at .500, 61-61, in non-Philly games. But Florida has won 11 of 12 contests between them, and, as I mentioned in a previous post, the two teams still have seven games against each other in September. So, while the Marlins' current winning streak is timely, it's really their success against the City of Brotherly BOO!! that they have to thank for even being in contention. And if the Fish should pull off another miracle and make it to the playoffs? The Phillies ought to get proper credit...for sucking exactly when they needed to.

Speaking of winning streaks, the Houston Astros have taken advantage of some of their NL Central rivals to win 12 in a row. Perhaps more impressively, they've won 15 out of 16 and 20 out of 23 since mid-August, to lead the NL Wild Card race, in a tie with the Giants, by half a game. This after the Astros were all but counted out, with a season-worst four games under .500 record at 56-60 on August 14th, and after losing two out of three to the Expos (who suck, remember?) Their next five games come against the Pirates, who also suck, but then a lot of the remaining schedule is against the Cardinals and Giants, who don't. Half a game isn't much of a lead, and while the Cubs are the class of the race on paper, they've done anything but put away the competition to this point.

And we can't forget Boston, though we might like to. The Red Sox comfortably lead the AL Wild Card race by five games over Anaheim, and are continuing to creep up on the Yankees in the AL East, only two games back now after beating Oakland 8-3 last night. That extends their current winning streak to a meager four games, but this follows shortly after a ten-game win streak and six-game streak, broken up only by singular losses, which means that the Dirt Dogs have won 20 of their last 22, and haven't lost consecutive games in over a month. It's almost sad that all this effort might prove to be for naught as the Division title and the Wild Card seem to offer about the same chance of making it t and winning the World Series. I Keep telling myself that Lady Luck will have to wake up at some point and start evening things out for the Sawx, but with the remainder of the Red Sox schedule taking place against Tampa, Baltimore and Seattle, streak or no streak, the Red Sox will not go away.

Well, not until October. When the Yankees beat them. Again.

It's just a matter of time... Posted by Hello

Stumble Upon Toolbar

05 September 2004

Looks Like I Picked The Wrong Week to Quit Sniffing Glue

It's been a rough week for the New York Yankees and their fans.

Though they took three out of four games from the Blue Jays in Toronto last weekend, they ended the series with a loss. One-time ace Mike Mussina could not get out of the seventh inning without allowing five runs, amking it the ninth time this season Moose had alowed at least five runs in a game. To his credit though, the six and a third innings he pitched marked his longest outing since returning from the DL. Still though, six innings and five earned runs is hardly the kind of performance you'd like to see from a pitcher making sixteen million dollars this year, especially against a last place team that's scored fewer runs than all but three teams in the AL (Seattle, KC and Tampa Bay.) An ace, he is not, at least this year.

As if that were not sufficiently depressing, the Yanks then traveled home to host the Cleveland Indians, in what should have been continued abuse of the American League's soft underbelly, but instead became an embarassment of historic proportions for the Yanks. Rather than showing the mediocre Cleveland Indians who's boss, the Yankees infuriated their own Boss by posting the most severe loss in the franchise's storied, 100+ year history, and equaled the most lopsided shutout in major league history, losing to the Indians 22-0. Jake Westbrook, who's having a decent season for the Tribe, shut them down for seven innings, and Jeremy Guthrie, making only his second major league appearance, pitched two scoreless innings to cap off the humiliation. Thankfully, they won the next two against Cleveland, but the bad press created by this demoralizing loss got a lot of people worried about the Yankees' chances in October, including me.

Without looking it up, I imagine that you'd be hard-pressed to find the last World Series championship team that had been beaten by something like 20 runs in the same season. Mercifully, they did manage to take the remaining two games of that series, but the damage had been done.

The next stop on the trolley through the American League Patsy-ville was Baltimore, who rolled into town Friday for a three game series that should have helped the Yankees pad their lead on division rival Boston, but instead turned out to be a nightmare of almost epic proportions.

Kevin Brown started on Friday night, and pitched reasonably well, allowing three runs in six innings, but ending his night rather abruptly when he punched a clubhouse wall in frustration after the sixth inning and broke two bones in his left (non-pitching) hand. He had been hit in the right forearm by Miguel Tejada's batted ball in the sixth inning, one inning after tweaking his knee covering first base on an infield grounder. Of course, Brown also missed a substantial portion of the season with lower back injuries and an intestinal parasite, so it's not as though they could afford to miss him for another few weeks. Heck, they needed him to pitch the very next inning, as his 81 pitches at the time certainly were not so many to have normally sent him to the showers at that point. Felix Heredia, his emergency replacement, walked the only two batters he faced before retreating to the showers in the clubhouse from the shower of boos coming from the stands. The Yankees still don't have a decent lefty in the bullpen, and by 'decent' I mean "doesn't completely suck."

The AP reported that the Yankees front office people began reviewing Brown's contract to see if anything like a self-inflicted injury would void his otherwise guaranteed money, another $15 mil next season, but that seems a moot point right now. Whether or not Brown is overpaid with the nearly sixteen million he's making this year (he is), he's still one of the best starters the Yankees have when he's healthy. Sadly, he won't be healthy enough to pitch again for about three weeks, perhaps even after the regular season has ended.

On this subject, I can speak a little from personal experience. About eight years ago, while I was in college, I did something like this as well. In my own anger and frustration, over a girl, a much better reason than Kevin Brown's, if you ask me, I punched something I should not have: my closet. The dorm closets at Lehigh were made of solid oak, and as you might have guessed, the bones in my hand were not, so you can imagine which of us lost that fight. (I have a rematch with that closet coming up in October. It's on Pay-Per-View.) My fifth metacarpal was broken just below the joint where it meets with my right pinky, what they call a "boxer's fracture" for obvious reasons. (Unlike Brown, I did not have the foresight to hit the closet door with my left hand.) I was told that they could perform surgery and reset the joint so that it would look nice again, but that the range of motion I would have if they did so might not even be as good as if they just let it heal itself in the semi-bent position, which took about 4-6 weeks in a cast, if I recall. I doubt that metacarpal fracture medical science has advanced all that much in less than a decade that Brown will be back before early October, even with his superior physical conditioning and probably better doctors. A bone is still a bone.

Ant to (literally) add insult to injury, the Yankees lost the only game I got to see in person this year, Saturday, also to the Orioles. And they didn't just lose, they couldn't even buy a hit. Sidney Ponson, at one time on a pace to lose 20+ games, with an ERA still pretty close to 6.00 as he entered the game, shut the Yankees out for the second time in a week, alowing only two hits and a walk in nine innings.

To his credit, Mike Mussina pitched pretty well overall. He struck out eight and allowed only two runs in seven innings, though he did need to work his way out of trouble on a few occasions. It's a shame his best performance in three months had to be squandered by poor offensive run support and a bad showing by the bullpen.

Down only 2-0 coming into the ninth inning, Yankees fans at the game had something for which to cheer, as Metallica's "Enter Sandman" began playing on the Stadium PA system, and The Best Closer in Postseason History sauntered in from the bullpen behind left-centerfield. Mariano Rivera, having been all but unstoppable this season with a miniscule 1.32 ERA and 46 saves entering the game, couldn't stop himself from allowing four runs while getting only one out. This rather intrigued me, as most managers won't bring in their best reliever, the Closer, in a non-save situation. Typically Joe Torre doesn't either, but we've seen often, especially in the postseason, that he's not afraid to buck convention with Rivera when it might help win a game. It didn't on Saturday.

The problems started with a solo home run by Rafael Palmiero into the right field bleachers, a no-doubt-about-it blast that traveled about 420 feet, and then traveled back about 40 feet, when the Bleacher Creature who caught it threw it back onto the field. Of course, Palmiero is a future Hall of Famer who's done that about 540 other times in his career, more than all but ten guys in history, so it was almost forgiveable. On the other hand, he hadn't hit one in over a month, and this was only his second homer since the All-Star Break. Still, with not such an insurmountable lead at 3-0, the Yankees still had a chance if Mo could buckle down and get some outs. But three singles and a fielder's choice grounder later he'd still only gotten one out, was down 4-0 and had men on first and third.

No pitcher wants to read the words "relieved by Bret Prinz" in a game story about himself, so I hope Rivera didn't pick up the Sports section on Sunday morning. Not being a good enough pitcher to keep Bret Prinz and his 5.25 ERA in the bullpen is a lot like not being a good enough lawyer to keep the state from calling in My Cousin Vinny to argue the case. And, as if that weren't depressing enough, Prinz came in and allowed Brian Roberts, whose "slugging" percentage ranks #139 out of 157 qualified major leaguers this season, to deposit his first pitch into the right field stands, scoring both runners and putting the Yanks down 7-0. Prinz did mercifully get the next batter out, but the Yanks' day was clearly over.

Sidney Ponson finished the game out with a perfect ninth inning to complete the Bronx Bombers' shame. It was his first complete game in over a month, his first shutout since mid-May. Just a bad week all-around for the Yankees.

Making things worse, the Red Sox had pulled, over the course of this week, from 6.5 games out to a paltry 2.5 games out of first place, with six games remaining in the season against the Yankees. The Sawx had to play insanely good baseball for a month in order to get this close, which would seem to indicate that the law of averages is bound to catch up with them and get them to lose once or twice in a while, but 2.5 games is hardly a comfortable cushion in a season that once saw the Yanks up by more than ten.

The remainder of New York's schedule is, as I mentioned, pretty easy, in theory: Six more games agains Toronto, five against Tampa Bay, and three each against Baltimore and Kansas City, besides the six against Boston and three against Minnesota. Boston's schedule isn't exactly tough though, and with the pitching rotation's struggles and injuries, the Yanks do have their work cut out for them the rest of this month.

If there's any solace to be had in this situation, it lies in that the AL East team that doesn't win the division will probably win the Wild Card, which we've already saeen offers a perfectly acceptable opportunity to win the Wolrd Series. But I think the Yankess would prefer to keep that streak of division titles going, if at all possible.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go buy some more rubber cement...

Stumble Upon Toolbar