Monday, December 26, 2011

Guest Post - Worst Long Term Contract (7+ years)

Worst Long-Term MLB Contracts (7+ years)

In 2000, pitcher Mike Hampton signed an 8 year $121 million deal with the Colorado Rockies. This was the largest contract in sports history at the time. Hampton threw a disappointing 14-13 with a 5.12 ERA in 2001, and the following season pitched a disastrous 7-15 with a 6.15 ERA. Hampton was traded to the Florida Marlins only two years into his contract and the Rockies ate millions of dollars in losses. The Marlins in return traded Hampton to the Atlanta Braves where he threw two average seasons before suffering a major elbow injury. Due to injuries, Hampton sat out nearly three seasons before making a return in 2008. He was soon injured again, however, and finished 3-4 with a 4.85 ERA.

A special mention goes to pitcher Denny Neagle who signed a 5 year $51 million contract with the Colorado Rockies alongside Mike Hampton in 2000. Neagle went 19-23 with a 6.61 ERA in three seasons before succumbing to injuries and missing the 2004 season. The Rockies were fortunate enough to void the last year of his contract under morality clauses after he was caught soliciting a prostitute for oral sex.

The only three certainties in life are death, taxes, and bad investments from the Chicago Cubs. But perhaps none is worse than the 8 year $136 million contract signed by Alfonso (“Albozo”) Soriano in 2007. This was the largest contract in Cubs history and contained a no-trade clause (meaning Soriano cannot be traded without his consent). Needless to say, his performance since 2007 has been mediocre at best. He led the Cubs with 130 strikeouts during his first season and digressed to a personal worst .241 batting average in 2009. Soriano is notorious for his lack of clutch hitting with runners in scoring position and unsuccessful hacks at sliders low and outside.

Jason Giambi signed a 7 year $120 million contract with the New York Yankees in 2001. By 2003, Giambi had led the league in strikeouts and had a .250 batting average. He finished 2004 with a .208 batting average and 12 home runs. While he experienced resurgence in 2005 and 2006, his numbers dropped significantly in 2007 after suffering a foot injury (.236 batting average, 39 RBI’s, 14 home runs). The Yankees declined to extend Giambi’s contract after expiration and was signed by the Oakland Athletics. The Athletics subsequently released him and he was picked up by the Colorado Rockies.

A special mention goes to Alex Rodriquez (“A-Rod”) who signed a 10 year $275 million contract with the New York Yankees. This contract was the most lucrative contract in sports history. It is highly debatable whether A-Rod’s contract is one of the worst in MLB history because he did put up good numbers for the most part. Rather, he was known particularly for sub-par postseason performances and inability to hit in “clutch” situations. He developed the nickname “The Cooler” for the tendency of teams to turn cold when he became part of the team. Teammates also used to call him “A-Fraud” for an apparent prissy and needy attitude.

This is a guest post written by Jeff Herbst. Jeff has had a passion for sports ever since he could first walk and enjoys writing in his spare time. He works with Phoenix Bats, a company that manufacturers wooden baseball bats and specialty custom wood bats for amateur and professional ball players.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gio Gonzalez

15+ Wins, 7.5+ SO/9, .570 W-L%, 3.25 ERA or less (LHP, Multiple seasons throuby age 26, since 1900)
1975-77 Frank Tanana
2010-11 Gio Gonzalez
1955-56 Herb Score
2004-05 Johan Santana

Gio Gonzalez, who was recently aquired by the Nationals from the A's, is clearly a talented young pitcher.  This indicates that he's even more special than I had realized.  The Nationals had to give up a lot to get him, but it will be worth it if he keeps producing like he has the last few years.  If he had pitched the same on the Rangers or Yankees or Tigers, he might have won 20 games each year. 

Which right handed pitchers have had multiple seasons like that before age 26? Roger Clemens, Jim Maloney, Tim Lincecum, Jake Peavy, Pedro Martinez, Dwight Gooden, Tom Seaver, Fergie Jenkins, Denny McLain.  If Gonzalez performs like he's capable, the Nationals could be a scary team in 2012.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Why can't Cole Hamels win more than 15 games?


31+ Starts, 15 wins or fewer, 3.10 ERA or lower, W-L% .580+ (2+ seasons, since 1900)
Bert Blyleven (1975, 78)
Jose Rijo (1992-93)
Tom Glavine (1996-97)
Kevin Brown (2000, 03)
Cole Hamels (2008, 11)

Cole Hamels is having an excellent career and is considered one of the best young pitchers in the game.  He is one of only 3 pitchers under 30 (and 6 overall) who has an ERA under 3.40 and 180 career starts (the other pitchers under 30 are Felix Hernandez and Matt Cain; pitchers over 30 are Roy Halladay, Johan Santana and Roy Oswalt).  He has won a LCS and WS MVP and came in 5 in Cy Young voting this year.

The only problem is that he hasn't won over 15 games in a season despite having a low ERA almost every year and routinely starting over 30 games.  He pitches for a team that has won 5 consecutive division titles.

What's the problem?  One issue is that he doesn't get enough decisions.  It's tough to win over 15 games when you are averaging about 23 decisions a year.  In contrast, Roy Halladay has been averaging nearly 29 decisions a year. 

In 2010, they both had 33 starts, but Halladay had over 40 more innings, and 8 more decisions (and 9 more wins).  In 2010, Hamels had a solid 33 starts (only a handful of pitchers went over 33), but finished 30th in innings pitched.  He did better in 2011, with 8 more innings despite 2 fewer starts.

If Hamels stays healthy, he appears ready to have his best season yet.  Last year was his best year for ERA, WHIP, SO/BB, H/9 and BB/9, and 2012 should be his best for wins.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Darren Oliver


4+ SO/BB, 50+ IP, 7.5+ SO/9 (2010 & 2011)
J.J. Putz (Career: 3.2 SO/BB, 9.3 SO/9)
Roy Halladay (3.7, 6.9)
Rafael Betancourt (4.6, 9.6)
Cliff Lee (3.4, 7.3)
Darren Oliver (1.7, 5.8)

He wasn't able to close out Game 6, but what Darren Oliver has done over the last few years is remarkable.  It makes you wonder what his career numbers would be if he had been in the bullpen his entire career (his ERA this year was 2.29, his career ERA is 4.60).  Oliver is a free agent and apparently wants to return for at least another year.  He shouldn't have too much trouble finding a team considering he has been one of the best left-handed middle relievers over the past few years.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How great were Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp in 2011?


.324 BA, 33 HR, 33 SB, 111 RBI, 109 R (since 1900)
1922 Ken Williams (Browns)
1997 Larry Walker (Rockies)
2011 Ryan Braun (Brewers)
2011 Matt Kemp (Dodgers)

Did Matt Kemp deserve to win the MVP? Maybe.  Probably.  But, we all know that when the numbers are close enough the guy on the playoff team always wins.  The AL may as well enshrine it in writing, having only given one (!) MVP award to a player who didn't go to the playoffs (in a non-strike year) since Cal Ripken in 1991 (A-Rod in 2003).  If Kemp keeps playing this way, it could play to his advantage in the future, although that's not much of a consolation right now. 

Regardless, they both had incredible seasons that stack up very well if measured historically.  Kemp bested Braun in most of the stats measured by sheer volume (playing in 11 more games than Braun helped) and Braun edged Kemp with some percentages (BA, OPS, SLG). 

As shown above, the only 2 players in history that could equal the worst numbers either Braun or Kemp had in these 5 categories  (Braun's output except for BA) were Larry Walker and Ken Williams.  To be fair to Walker, he was great on the road in 1997 (.346, 29 HR, 62 RBI), but it didn't hurt that he was playing at Coors where he hit .384 (he hit a staggering .381 at Coors for his career, covering nearly 600 games). 

Ken Williams was the first 30/30 players, and the only 30/30 player until Willie Mays in 1956.  He was a fine player (.319 career), but it was the only time he had 30 HR or 30 SB.  It was such a great year, he received except 0 votes for MVP , despite leading the league in HR and RBI.

This probably won't be the last time that the NL MVP will come down to Braun and Kemp, although it's hard to imagine both of them having this type of season again in the same year again. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Top Relievers through 27


2.15 ERA or lower, 150+ Games in Relief, through age 27 (since 1900)
1963-68 Frank Linzy (Giants) 2.15 ERA, 230 G
2005-08 Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox): 1.84, 202
2009-11 Andrew Bailey (A's) 2.07, 157
2010-11 Jonny Venters (Braves) 1.89, 164

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Guest Post - The UK League Needs US Help

The UK League Needs US Help

Although the Brits claim to have invented baseball, they are still in need of further US assistance if they’re to bring the leagues up to US standards. With just 35 clubs and 51 league teams in a population of 65 million people, few towns have a representative team.

Jane Austen and Baseball

Jane Austen mentions baseball in her novel Northanger Abbey, written around 1798-99, some 43 years after the English first started playing the sport. The game came back to England – Derby to be precise – in 1890, after Francis Ley discovered the game in the US. This led to the first baseball club in the town and although survived for just eight years, the stadium was called the Baseball Ground which became home of the local soccer (football in the UK) team, Derby County FC who remained there until 1997.

Local pressure, which didn’t agree with the number of Americans in the Derby team, forced them out of the first league after just one season. Now teams are calling out for more American experience to bring the quality of the games and therefore the numbers of spectators up to acceptable levels.

The peak of interest in baseball in the UK was in the years just before the Second World War. Professional standards were attained and as many as 10,000 people attended matches. The year before the war the Brits managed to beat the US to win the first World Cup of baseball – so what happened after that? Well, the British are still playing baseball, but not to US standard.

The British Baseball Federation

The British Baseball Federation (BBF) governs the game in the UK. All teams have to be members of the BBF to be able to compete in the national league and the three AAA, AA and A tier leagues below. A full program of young and junior leagues hopes to bring players to the forefront in years to come.

The national league consists of just ten teams. The AAA league has 4 teams in the north and 6 in the south. The AA is set into three zones; 5 north, 5 midlands and 13 south. The A league has all 8 teams in the south.

The national league, AAA and AA compete in a four team finals tournament at the end of the season. The top 2 from the Southern Conference and the top two from the Northern Conference play knock out matches with the tournament winner going through to the Championship series. The championship series of the National league is a best of 3, while the AAA and AA matches are just single games.

The Dominant Teams

Four teams have dominated over recent years. The Richmond Flamers, London Mets, Croydon Pirates and Bracknell Blazers give the league a very southern, almost London only feeling. If the game is going to expand you will need to see teams from major towns competing in the highest leagues.

Another International Team Due For 2012

The British national baseball team is currently ranked 23rd in the world. Players consist almost entirely of British born players who have lived most of their lives in either Canada or the US, with two South African born members. There are 40 teams on the list so there are plenty below, although it must be galling for the British team to see many smaller nations ahead of them in the rankings.

The national team set up will be expanded in 2012 with the introduction of an under 23 team. This will hopefully allow players to play in international matches helping the individuals’ progress through to the full national team.

The national junior team is at a major dilemma stage. Six of the team will reach the maximum age of 18 this coming year and won’t be able to play for the team any more. This means they won’t be able to play internationally unless they achieve selection to the senior national team. With the introduction of the under 23 team, more players will continue to compete internationally with a more gradual feed through to the senior squad. It’s the senior team that battles with local games in the European Championship and internationally in the World Baseball classic.

If British baseball is to expand, more Americans and Canadians currently living in the UK need to get involved in the game at all levels. Only then will the experience of the few help the many who need to learn from experienced players, for the long term stability of the game.


-----

Izzy Woods is a travel writer and sports fan. Since moving to London, she has written on behalf of numerous clients (including a cruise deals company) in between keeping up on Britain's progress in lesser-played, American sports.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Walks in 2011



Average Walks Issued by Team
2011 - 501
2010 - 526
2009 - 554
2008 - 545
2007 - 536
2006 - 528
2005 - 507
2004 - 541
2003 - 530
2002 - 542
2001 - 527
2000 - 608

The number of players with 100+ walks in 2011 (5) was much lower than just a few years ago (11 in 2007).  That number is more similar to the 80's and early 90's than the late 90's or early 00's.  It makes sense, because pitchers are probably more likely to go after hitters now than in the steroid era.  Walks did go down in 2005 only to bounce back, so it's not a given than it will go under 500 per team in 2012, but it is a possibility.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Team Offense: 2010 vs. 2011


Team Runs, Change in Rank (2010 to 2011)
+13 Orioles (#27, 14)
+12 Mets (24, 12)
+10 Indians (26, 16)
+10 Royals (20, 10)
+9 Cardinals (14, 5)
+7 Tigers (11, 4)
+7 D-Backs (16, 9)
+3 Blue Jays (9, 6)
+3 A's (23, 20)
+2 Rangers (5, 3)
+2 Astros (28, 26)
+2 Angels (19, 17)
+2 Pirates (29, 27)
+1 Red Sox (2, 1)
+1 Brewers (12, 11)
+1 Nationals (25, 24)
0 Dodgers (21, 21)
0 Rockies (8, 8)
0 Mariners (30, 30)
-1 Cubs (18, 19)
-1 Yankees (1, 2)
-3 Reds (4, 7)
-6 Phillies (7, 13)
-6 Padres (22, 28)
-8 Marlins (15, 23)
-8 White Sox (10, 18)
-9 Braves (13, 22)
-12 Rays (3, 15)
-12 Giants (17, 29)
-19 Twins (6, 25)

This is interesting, but needs to be viewed cautiously.  Some teams will be hit harder by free agent losses than others.  For instance, the Mets could lose Jose Reyes, which would have a huge effect on their offense going into next season.  The same obviously goes for teams like the Brewers and Cardinals too, with Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols testing the market. 

Some teams could bounce back quickly if their key players stay healthy, like the Twins.  It's one part of the equation, but the teams that fell the furthest will be looking for offense.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Game 5

Lost Game 5 at home, fell behind 3-2

World Series, Best of 7 format
1997 Indians (Lost in 7)
1980 Royals (Lost in 6)
1953 Dodgers (Lost in 6)
1952 Yankees (Won in 7)
1951 Giants (Lost in 6)
1944 Browns (Lost in 6)
1934 Cardinals (Won in 7)
1931 A's (Lost in 7)
1930 Cardinals (Lost in 6)
1926 Cardinals (Won in 7)
1906 Cubs (Lost in 6)

LCS
1998 Indians (Lost in 6)
1993 Braves (Lost in 6)
1991 Braves (Won in 7)

It's pretty much all or nothing when losing 5 at home in a tie series, and usually nothing.  It's probably better to fall behind 3-1, then win Game 5 to create momentum going back on the road (2003 Marlins, 1985 Royals).  It's not a surprise that history would show the importance of not going back on the road down 3-2, but it is a little surprising how rare it's been lately.  If the Rangers do lose Game 5 and win the final 2 in St. Louis, it would be truly history.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Yikes! Game 1 Road Losses


Road Team Loses Game 1 since 1982 (1-15)

Won World Series
1992 Blue Jays

Lost World Series
1987 Cardinals
1988 A's
1989 Giants
1990 A's
1991 Braves
1993 Phillies
1995 Indians
1997 Indians
1998 Padres
2000 Mets
2001 Yankees
2004 Cardinals
2005 Astros
2007 Rockies
2010 Rangers

Update: The Rangers might just pull this off, after a thrilling Game 2 victory where they came from behind in the 9th innings to win (first time that's happened since Game 7 of the 2001 World Series).  At the very least, it appears that this World Series has a good shot at going at least 6 (and hopefully 7) games.

How many of the teams that lost game 1 came back to win Game 2?
1993 Phillies
1997 Marlins

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rangers/Cardinals, Home and Road


Team OPS - Regular Season (2011)

Cardinals
Home: .745 (#10)
Away: .785 (#1)

Rangers
Home: .860 (#1)
Away: .740 (#7)

The Rangers are an exceptional offensive team at home, but that advantage could be blunted because they will be facing the best road hitting team in baseball.  The Cardinals demonstrated that in scoring 30 runs in 3 games in Milwaukee, against another team that had been great at home all year.  There could be some high scoring games in Texas if the starting pitching doesn't improve dramatically (it is 0-0 through 3 innings, so maybe it will be).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Guest Post

World Series Baseball Betting Odds

The best time of the baseball season is here with the Texas Rangers playing the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Baseball betting odds favor the Rangers in the 7-game series which features a 2-3-2 format. Since the National League won the All-Star game, it is the Cardinals who have home field advantage but the oddsmakers are still favoring the Rangers in the series.

Cardinals Favored in Game 1

Even though the Rangers are favored to win the series, the Cardinals are favored in Game 1. St. Louis sends Chris Carpenter to the mound while the Rangers counter with C.J. Wilson. You rarely see a series where one team is favored yet they are underdogs in the first game.

MVPs

This year’s World Series doesn’t have the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox but that doesn’t mean it won’t have star power. The Cardinals have former MVP Albert Pujols while the Rangers have former MVP Josh Hamilton.

Series Notes

This is a really an intriguing series for a number of reasons. Did you know that the Cardinals and Rangers very rarely play each other? They have met just three times in history and that was back in 2004. The Cardinals have a rich baseball history and a strong following while the Rangers are in the World Series for the second straight season.

Matchups

The Rangers are the better hitting team and they might also be the team that has stronger pitching. The Rangers were 3rd best in runs scored per game but the Cardinals were not that far behind at 5th. The Cardinals were 12th in the league in team ERA while the Rangers were 13th. You have to adjust those numbers somewhat though as Texas had a better bullpen in the second half of the season after acquiring super set-up man Mike Adams.

Over the Total

With these two offenses you can probably expect games to go over the odds on a regular basis. The Rangers starters, C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison have a combined 5.62 ERA in 10 postseason games. The Cardinals are not much better at an ERA of 5.43 so runs should be plentiful. The total on Game 1 is low at 7.5 with both teams starting their aces but neither Wilson nor Carpenter has been that good so Game 1 could still end up going over the total.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Missing: Game 7


It's been a long time since the World Series went 7 games (2002).  The last Game 7 was 9 years ago, and too many of the World Series since then have been forgettable.  Sure, there have been some memorable individual moments, but there has been something missing without a Game 7.  This is very unusual from a historical perspective:

7 Game Series
2001, 2002, 2011?
1991, 1997
1982, 1985, 1986, 1987
1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1979
1960, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968
1952, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958
1940, 1945, 1946, 1947
1931, 1934
1924, 1925, 1926

The current 8 year drought is by far the longest stretch without a Game 7 since the World Series reverted back to the best of 7 format in 1922.  The longest previous drought was 5 years, from 1935-1939 (the final four were all Yankee wins).  This may be wishful thinking, but this seems like one that has a good shot at going 7. 

I'm not sure who the experts will be picking as the favorite, but the Rangers and Cardinals seem pretty evenly balanced right now.  They both have mediocre (at least by World Series standards) starting pitching, but quality bullpens.  Even if the Rangers do have the edge, the fact that the NL has finally been winning the All Star Game helps to negate that a bit by giving the Cardinals home field advantage.

Milwaukee Brewers - Team OPS, Home vs. Away


2011 Milwaukee Brewers

Team OPS

Regular Season
Home: .805 (5th of 30)
Away: .698 (16th)

Postseason
Home: .847 (2nd of 8)
Away: .648 (7th)

The Brewers are probably going to need a decent number of runs because their starter (Shaun Marcum) has an ERA over 10.00 over his last three starts going back to his last start of the regular season.  They haven't had a huge offensive explosion at home yet, but they might be due for one just like the Rangers were last night.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

What should the Tigers do about Nelson Cruz?


Through 5 games, Nelson Cruz is carrying the Rangers to a remarkable extent. 

HR, RBI - Texas Rangers
Nelson Cruz - 5, 11
Rest of Team - 0, 13

Nelson Cruz is a very good hitter, but he's not this good.  He's also only been walked one time in the entire series.  That makes sense because he's not an especially patient hitter.  He only walked 33 times in 513 PA while striking out 116 times. 

The Tigers would probably do better to pitch around Cruz or treat him like Barry Bonds circa-2004 than pitching to him like they have been so far in the series.  The Rangers have plenty of excellent hitters (Hamilton, Beltre, Young, Napoli), but they've been relatively quiet in the series.  Cruz is in a zone, and he's probably too dangerous to pitch to right now.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

ALCS - Game 3

Colby Lewis vs. Detroit (2011)
6/6 - L (home): 3.1 IP, 10 H, 9 ER, 4 HR, 3 SO, 1 BB
8/2 - ND (road): 4.0 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 HR, 3 SO, 3BB

Lewis is lucky because one of the players he had the most trouble with was Brennan Boesch (2 HR on 6/6), and he's on the disabled list.  Lewis pitched better on the road this year (9-5, 3.43 ERA vs. 5-5, 5.54), and he was good in the ALDS against the Rays (6 IP, 1 H, 1 ER).

Doug Fister, who was great down the stretch (5-0, 0.53 ERA in September) was good against the Rangers this year (1-1, 3.68).

This could end up being another close game between these two teams, but those numbers (20 H in 7.1 IP) must be worrying the Rangers and give the Tigers their best shot to get back in the series.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sunday's Starters


Sunday's Starters, Post All Star Break + (Postseason)
Chris Carpenter (Cardinals) 7-2, 2.98 ERA (5-2, 2.93)
Cliff Lee (Phillies) 8-2, 1.79 (7-2, 2.13)

Daniel Hudson (D-Backs) 7-7, 3.15 (1st time in playoffs)
Zack Greinke (Brewers) 9-3, 2.59 (1st time in playoffs)

Max Scherzer (Tigers) 5-5, 4.09 (1st time in playoffs)
Freddy Garcia (Yankees) 5-2, 4.45 (6-2, 3.11)

It's an interesting mix of playoff newcomers and veterans.  It will be a big test for Cliff Lee, who was being hailed as invincible in the postseason last year until the World Series, where he went 0-2 with a 7.23 ERA (after going 3-0 with a .75 ERA in the NLDS and NLCS, and 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in 2009). 

Chris Carpenter has had one bad start in the postseason since his shutting down the Tigers over 8 innings in Game 3 of the 2006 World Series).  Freddy Garcia last pitched in the postseason way back in the 2005 World Series for the White Sox.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Yankees in the ALDS


Yankees vs. Twins (4-0)
2003 Defeated Twins (3-1)
2004 Defeated Twins (3-1)
2009 Defeated Twins (3-0)
2010 Defeated Twins (3-0)

Yankees vs. Teams other than the Twins (0-4)
2002 Lost to Angels (3-1)
2005 Lost to Angels (3-2)
2006 Lost to Tigers (3-1)
2007 Lost to Indians (3-1)

Does this mean anything?  This encompasses two different managers over a long period of time.  Joe Girardi has not lost in the first round, and Joe Torre only started in in his last few seasons with the Yankees.  Maybe they would have lost to the Twins if they played them in 2005-2007, or maybe not. 

This probably won't be weighing on the Yankees like the Curse of the Billy Goat might on the Cubs, but they are surely aware that the Yankees haven't beaten anyone in the first round other than the Twins since 2001.  The 2001 team that beat the A's had Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius, and was the last hurrah of the dynasty that had won the previous three World Series. 

This team is obviously very talented and dangerous, but they are relying to some extent on pitchers that have seen better days (Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, A.J. Burnett).  Will they be able to hit Verlander, Fister and Scherzer?  They might, although they've been shut down before (they scored only 13 runs over the final 5 games of the 2010 ALCS against the Rangers, with 7 coming in one game). 

The Tigers are likely to be a good matchup for the Yankees, who will try to win an ALDS against someone other than the Twins for the first time in 10 years.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

One-Game Playoffs


One Game Playoff Games since 1995 (winners in bold)
1995 AL West: Angels @ Mariners (9-1)
1998 NL Wild Card: Giants @ Cubs (5-3)
1999 NL Wild Card: Mets (5-0) @ Reds
2007 NL West: Padres @ Rockies (9-8; 13 inn)
2008 AL Central: Twins @ White Sox (1-0)
2009 AL Central: Tigers @ Twins (6-5; 12 inn)

As of right now, there still could be two one game playoffs (Braves need to win in extra innings; Red Sox and Rays still playing), which would be a first (Rays and Cardinals would host if the games are played).  The Braves have an extremely difficult game ahead of them in St. Louis if they should force it.  Both teams will be under extreme pressure, but it will be like playing game 7 of the World Series (or the LCS) on the road, which teams almost never win. 

To be fair, the last three, which have all been won by the home team, have all been one run games and two have gone to extra innings.  They tend to be close, but it will be an uphill battle for the Braves or Red Sox if the games are played.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Are Michael Young and Victor Martinez starting a trend?


13 or fewer HR, 100+ RBI (since 1939)
4 1945 (Bob Elliott, Luis Olmo, Andy Pafko, Dixie Walker)
2 2011 (Michael Young, Victor Martinez)
2 1948 (Hoot Evers, Frank McCormick)
2 1944 (Bob Elliott, Ray Sanders)

This might change if Young (11 HR, 105 RBI) or Martinez (11 HR, 102 RBI) hit a bunch of home runs over the final couple of games, but it is true for now.  They'll be only the 3rd and 4th hitters since 1988 to accomplish this, with Paul Molitor (1996) and Jeff Cirillo (2000) being the others. 

It might be the beginning of a trend, but it's difficult to say.  They are both on excellent offensive teams and hit nearly .400 with RISP, which probably means this will continue to be a rare event.  It is a welcome development in the context of home runs going down throughout baseball, and to see these two both hitting clean up on top flight offenses.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dominant NL Starting Pitching


75+ IP, 2.50 ERA or lower (Post All Star Break)
2.43, 8-3 Madison Bumgarner (Giants)
1.23, 10-1 Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
2.39, 3-5 Matt Cain (Giants)
1.64, 7-1 Cliff Lee (Phillies)
1.87, 6-5 Tim Lincecum (Giants)
2.35, 6-3 Javier Vasquez (Marlins)
2.26, 10-1 Ian Kennedy (D-Backs)
2.38, 7-3 Zack Greinke (Brewers)
2.12, 7-2 Roy Halladay (Phillies)

It's interesting that there are not any AL pitchers on the list, not even Justin Verlander (who is 11-1 since the All Star Game).  Of course, the AL pitchers have to face a DH, but it's still striking that all of these pitchers are from the NL. 

The Giants still have a shot at the playoffs, but it's likely that only 4 of them will be pitching in the postseason (Halladay, Lee, Greinke, Kennedy), but it is a good sign for the NL in trying to win another World Series (they've won 2 of the last 3 and have home field advantage again).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Guest Post: MLB Realignment - Five scenarios that can create balance

This is a guest post submitted by Jeff Herbst. Jeff has had a passion for sports ever since he could first walk and enjoys writing in his spare time. He works with Phoenix Bats, a company that creates world-class maple wood bats and other styles of wood bats for amateur and professional ball players around the world.

Major League Baseball has enjoyed some quiet times in recent years, with the MLBPA and the owners appearing to play nice and get along. While there has been some noise regarding performance enhancing drugs and ownership issues (LA Dodgers, NY Mets), all is quiet on the baseball front.

However, one issue that is currently on the table is realignment. While MLB and the player’s union have had some discussions regarding realignment, nothing is yet set in stone. MLB commissioner Bud Selig has made no secret of his desire to see realignment rather quickly.

Here are five realignment scenarios that can help to create balance and also help create excitement as well.

1. Move the Houston Astros from the NL Central to the AL West

This appears to be the most likely scenario, although with MLB as of yet not approving potential owner Jim Crane, this too could be put on the back burner.

Moving Houston to the AL West would not only even off every division in each league to five teams apiece, but would also help to create a natural Texas rivalry between the Astros and Rangers in the AL West.

2. Have Tampa Bay and Washington switch divisions to create regional rivalry along with Astros move to AL West

MLB, much like other professional sports, love their regional rivalries. Moving the Tampa Bay Rays to the NL East would create a natural rivalry with the Florida Marlins, and also would create a regional three-way rivalry with the Atlanta Braves. The move would also cut down on additional travel time with the weighted schedule.

Ditto with the Washington Nationals. A natural rivalry would be created with the Baltimore Orioles, and being only several miles away from each other, would also seriously cut down on travel time as well.

3. Move the Milwaukee Brewers back to the American League, eliminate divisions entirely, shorten regular season schedule to 154 games.

There has been some talk about the idea of eliminating divisions completely, with 15 teams in each league vying for five available playoff spots. This version of that idea would move the Milwaukee Brewers back to the American League, where they originally started as the Seattle Pilots back in 1969. Next, shorten the regular season schedule to 154 games, ending the regular season no later than Sept. 25.

In the playoffs, the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds would play each other in a three-game series to determine who moves on to the semi-finals in each league. The winner would take on the No. 1 overall seed in a seven-game series, with the No. 2 and No. 3 matching up as well. This would be followed by the League Championship Series in each league before the World Series.

4. Keep 162 game schedule, move Brewers to American League, eliminate divisions with four playoff teams in each league

Under this scenario, the Milwaukee Brewers would be the team moving to the American League, and after a 162-game schedule, each league would feature all 15 teams vying for four playoff spots.

In the league semifinals, under a seven-game matchup, the No. 1 seed would play the No. 4 seed, the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds would match up. The winners would move on to a seven-game League Championship Series for the right to move on to the World Series.

5. Move Arizona Diamondbacks to AL in division-less leagues

Earlier in the season, when realignment talk heated up a bit, the Arizona Diamondbacks were mentioned as a team that could possibly move to the American League, along with the elimination of divisions.

The Diamondbacks could help create a rivalry in the southwest with the Los Angeles Angels, so this move could make some sense. However, it would only be a likely scenario if in fact MLB decides to eliminate divisions altogether.

Do you think one of these five scenarios work? Have other ideas?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

How clutch are the Tigers?


BA with Runners in Scoring Position, 2011 (150+ PA)
.402 Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)
.394 Victor Martinez (Tigers)
.387 Joey Votto (Reds)
.374 Michael Young (Rangers)
.338 Jhonny Peralta (Tigers)
.
There are a lot of reasons why the Tigers might be a tough draw in the playoffs right now.  Beyond having to face Justin Verlander at least once and seeing their ability to come back from a deficit almost at will, this stat should worry any pitching staff.  This is not some fluke over a month, it is for the entire season.  They have three of the top five in hitting with RISP, with Martinez and Cabrera also the top 2 with runners on (Peralta only hits .306 with runners on).  As a team, they're 2nd in hitting with RISP to the Cardinals (.284 vs. .286).

The biggest thing holding them back from consistently being a top flight offense is that guys at the top of the lineup aren't very patient and don't get on base enough (although Austin Jackson is hitting .361 in September).

The Yankees and Red Sox both have some excellent pitchers, but they have struggled recently (Yankees are 15th in team ERA since the All Star Break, and the Red Sox are 20th).  They won't be able to pitch around Miguel Cabrera or Victor Martinez (and they'll have to watch out for newly acquired Delmon Young too), so it could be a tough matchup for either of them

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Will Roy Halladay win another Cy Young award?


Roy Halladay (16-5, 2.47, Phillies) is in contention for the NL Cy Young Award again (he won it last year by a huge margin).  Ian Kennedy (18-4, 2.96, D-Backs) and Clayton Kershaw (17-5, 2.45, 212 SO, Dodgers) are the other top competitors.  

Some of Kennedy's numbers (WHIP, SO), don't quite match up, but that might not matter if he ends up something like 22-4.  One area where Halladay is excelling, as always, is K/BB, where he ranks #1 in the ML (7.64, 195 SO, 25 BB). 

7.5 K/BB, 8.5 K/9, 2.50 ERA or lower, 150+ IP (since 1900) 
1999 Pedro Martinez (8.46, 13.20, 2.07)
2000 Pedro Martinez (8.88, 11.78, 1.74)
2011 Roy Halladay (7.64, 8.74, 2.47)

There's enough time left and it's close enough for Kennedy, Kershaw or Halladay (or Cliff Lee, who would need a great September to get into it), but Halladay is having his best season, and putting up some historic numbers in the process.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Johnny Cueto's ERA

One storyline to watch in the final month is whether Johnny Cueto can get his ERA back under 2.00.  He started the season on the DL and didn't have his first start until May 8th.  That probably cost him a shot at the NL Cy Young Award because he's currently only 9-5 (although Felix Hernandez won the AL Cy Young award last year going 13-13). 

He had his worst outing of the season in early August (5 ER in 3.1 IP vs. Cubs on August 6), and some mediocre start recently (5 ER over 12 IP) have pushed his ERA up to 2.05.  If he can get it back under 2.00, he'll be in some select company among pitchers with over 20 starts in a season:

2.00 ERA or lower, 20+ Starts (since 1986)
Roger Clemens (1990)
Greg Maddux (1994)
Greg Maddux (1995)
Kevin Brown (1996)
Pedro Martinez (1997)
Pedro Martinez (2000)
Roger Clemens (2005)
Johnny Cueto (2011?)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Can Justin Verlander win 30 games this year?


Wins, postseason included (since 1975)
28 Bob Welch (A's, 1990)
28 John Smoltz (Braves, 1996)
27 Frank Viola (Twins, 1988)
27 Ron Guidry (Yankees, 1978)
27 Steve Carlton (Phillies, 1980)
26 Orel Hersheiser (Dodgers, 1988)
26 Curt Schilling (D-Backs, 2001)
26 Randy Johnson (D-Backs, 2001)

Justin Verlander has 20 wins going into September and is probably going to be pitching in the postseason (although the Tigers certainly know how to blow a big September lead).  If the Tigers run away with the division, he might get rested a little more, but he'll still get at least 5 starts.  He could easily join this list and move to the top if he continues his run (8 wins in his last 8 starts; 18-2 since May 1). 

It's hard to imagine the Tigers doing well in the postseason without Verlander pitching well, so 30 wins, while unlikely, isn't out of the realm of possibility.  He might have to carry the Tigers, 1988 Hersheiser-style, to the World Series, but he might be up to it this year.

Does anyone else have shot at 26 wins this year?  Probably not.  The only other possibility would be CC Sabathia, who is #2 in wins with 17 and is likely heading to the postseason.  He would need an extraordinary run in September in October to get 9 more wins, but it is possible with 3 rounds of postseason. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Michael Young


Michael Young: ML Rank (2003-present)
#1 30+ 2B (9)
#2 H (1775)
#2 200+ H (5)
#2 PA (6200)
#2 2B (339)
#3 G (1373)
#9 R (848)

.310, 800+ R, 100+ HR (2003-present)
Albert Pujols
Miguel Cabrera
Michael Young
Derek Jeter

Hits (Age 26-34)
1833 Paul Waner
1824 Pete Rose
1805 Ichiro Suzuki
1794 Lou Gehrig
1785 Stan Musial
1775 Michael Young

Seasons w/ 200+ H (since 1935)
10 Ichiro Suzuki
10 Pete Rose
7 Wade Boggs
7 Derek Jeter
6 Steve Garvey
6 Stan Musial
5 Michael Young
5 Kirby Puckett
5 Tony Gwynn

Michael Young is quietly having another excellent season, and has a decent shot at his 2nd batting title if Adrian Gonzalez falters down the stretch.  He has been a hit machine for nearly a decade, and has over 2000 hits to show for it. 

For most players, having 2000 hits at age 34 would not bode well for reaching 3000, but Michael Young has shown no signs of slowing down, having one of his best seasons this year.  The only other active player under 35 with 2000 hits is Albert Pujols.  If he doesn't get 3000 hits, he's probably not going to the Hall of Fame, but it is striking to see some of the company he is in even today.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mike Flanagan's Cy Young Season

Mike Flanagan, a fine pitcher and broadcaster who unfortunately passed away yesterday, reached the pinnacle of his career when he won the Cy Young Award in 1979 with the Orioles.  It was by far his best season, and the only season he received a Cy Young vote.  Looking back now, it might look like a typical Cy Young season (23-9, 3.08 ERA, 190 SO), but that might be because that type of season has become more common in recent years. 

23+ W, 3.10 ERA or lower, 190+ SO, .715 W-L%

1913-1984
1963 Jim Maloney
1968 Denny McLain
1971 Vida Blue
1978 Ron Guidry
1979 Mike Flanagan

1985-2010
1985 Dwight Gooden
1986 Roger Clemens
1988 Frank Viola
1989 Bret Saberhagen
1996 John Smoltz
1999 Pedro Martinez
2002 Randy Johnson

The main reason that the 1913-1984 list is so small is that so few pitchers reached 190 strikeouts.  If it had been 100 strikeouts instead of 190, the list would have increased from 5 to 18 pitchers.  Flanagan was not a big strikeout pitcher (1491 SO in 2770 IP), but he did strike out significantly more hitters than other pitchers had in similar seasons from the era. 

It's unlikely that a pitcher like Flanagan could put up those kind of numbers today without being incredible dominant (like Pedro or Randy), because pitchers don't start 38 games a year like Flanagan did in 1979 (no pitcher has started over 37 games since 1987).  His 1979 Cy Young season might not generally be considered one of the greatest ever, but it was somewhat unique and ahead of its time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Red Sox Dominance


3 pitchers with 50+ IP, .97 WHIP or lower (since 1900)
2011 Red Sox (Josh Beckett, Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon)
2001 Mariners (Joel Piniero, Arthur Rhodes, Kaz Sasaki)
1964 White Sox (Eddie Fisher, Joe Horlen, Hoyt Wilhelm)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Who will win the NL West?


August team ERA
#1-4: .500 or above
#5: under .500 (Giants: 6-13)
#6-19: .500 or above
#20-30: under .500

The reason for the Giants problems is, of course, that they have scored the fewest runs of any team in August.  They were 4 games in front of the division in late July and now they're down by 2.5 games.  They have blown a golden opportunity to gain ground by losing their last two games against the Astros while the D-Backs have lost 4 in a row. 

It seems clear what the division will come down to in the final month: The Giants will pitch very well.  The D-Backs will play solid ball but probably won't be spectacular in any particular area.  If the Giants continue to hit like this, they will not make the playoffs.  If they can hit a little better (though still pretty bad, like 22nd as opposed to 30th), they might be able to eek it out. 

They've done it before (they were 25th in runs scored in July), so this will be what we need to watch in the coming weeks.  If the D-Backs can get back to playing decent baseball and the Giants don't start hitting soon, they could be out of it in a few weeks.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Why are the Brewers pulling away in the NL Central?



2011 Milwaukee Brewers

Overall: 69-51
Home: 43-15 (#1 in ML)
Road: 26-36 (#22)

April
Home: 8-5 (#7)
Road: 5-7 (#23)

May
Home: 13-2 (#1)
Road: 4-10 (#26)

June
Home: 8-4 (#6)
Road: 6-9 (#22)

July
Home: 10-3 (#3)
Road: 6-8 (#16)

August
Home: 4-1 (#t-1)
Road: 5-1 (#4)

The Brewers have a solid lead in the NL Central (5 games over Cardinals) and are on the verge of running away with the division.  If the Cards can hang around a few more weeks, they'll get 6 more games against the Brewers over 9 days (August 30-September 7th). 

For most of the season, they were stuck barely over .500 despite their incredible play at home.  On June 30th, they had the best home record (29-11) and the 2nd worst road record (15-27).  If that had continued, they probably would have stayed in the race in a weak division but ended up not making the playoffs. 

Since the All Star Break, they played much better on the road, going 5-6 on a brutal 11 game road trip after the All Star Game and 5-1 on a recent trip (it should be noted that 3 were in Houston).

For the rest of the season, they have 23 home games vs. 19 on the road and many of the road games appear to be winnable (13 against Mets, Pirates, Astros, Cubs).  One good road trip could be a fluke, so it will be important see how they do on their next trip (Aug 19-24; 3 @ Mets, 4 @ Pirates). 

For most of the year, they loved hitting at home (#6 in runs) and hated hitting on the road (#24), but they did score 34 runs in 6 games on their last road trip (again, most against the Astros).  It will also be very important to see how Zack Greinke does on the road, because he struggled for most of the year but has been great in his last 3 road starts (2 ER in 20 IP).  The Brewers have a great shot at making the playoffs, and one of the main reasons is that they've finally become respectable on the road.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Verlander Show




Top 5, OPS Allowed (2011, 80+ IP)
.529 Justin Verlander (Tigers)
.536 Jered Weaver (Angels)
.547 Josh Beckett (Red Sox)
.565 Johnny Cueto (Reds)
.569 Cory Luebke (Padres)

Top 5, OPS Allowed (Post All Star Break, 2011, 20+ IP)
.514 Justin Verlander (Tigers)
.518 Erviin Santana (Angels)
.521 Tim Lincecum (Giants)
.541 Ricky Romero (Blue Jays)
.544 Matt Cain (Giants)
.568 Johnny Cueto (#10)
.585 Josh Beckett (#16)
.607 Jered Weaver (#19)
.683 Cory Luebke (#52)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Double Trouble


Years where no player had 50+ 2B (since 1954)
2010
1994
1990-92
1987-88
1979-85
1963-77
1954-61

Ben Zobrist is leading the ML with 36 2B.  With the Rays having 47 games left, he is on pace to barely reach 50 2B.  There are other players right behind him that could catch fire too,with Adrian Gonzalez and Alex Gordon at 35.  If they don't, this could be the first time with back to back years without anyone having 50 2B since 1991 and 1992.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Award Winners, as of today


NL MVP
1. Ryan Braun
2. Lance Berkman
3. Matt Kemp

AL MVP
1. Curtis Granderson
2. Adrian Gonzalez
3. Miguel Cabrera

NL Cy Young
1. Roy Halladay
2. Clayton Kershaw
3. Ryan Vogelsong

AL Cy Young
1. Jared Weaver
2. Justin Verlander
3. C.C. Sabathia

These are as of today, and obviously subject to the change.  If Jared Weaver allows 10 ER in 2 IP in his next start, he'll drop precipitously on all lists.  These picks are who I think would win it if the season ended today.  It's also mostly who I think should win it, although I followed the patterns the awards have followed, such as the fact that it's nearly impossible for a player on a non-playoff team to win the AL MVP Award (A-Rod in 2003 is the only exception since Cal Ripken in 1991).  

These will change, because some players are coming on fast (including some not on the list like Justin Upton), and others might be falling (like Adrian Gonzalez).  There are some very tough calls (like leaving off Jose Bautista), but it's a snapshot that will need to be revisited.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Albert Pujols: HR and SO


300+ PA, 32 SO or less (2011)
Juan Pierre (1 HR)
Jose Reyes (4)
Albert Pujols (22)
Ryan Theriot (1)
Placido Polanco (4)
A.J. Pierzynski (4)
Yadier Molina (8)
Miguel Tejada (4)
Angel Pagan (4)

Pujols has been doing this his entire career (a Musial-esque 430 HR and 676 SO), and he's continuing it even in a down year.  It continues to be one of the most impressive things to watch year after year in major league baseball.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How are the Pirates succeeding?


Pirates Pitching
3B: 3rd (11)
2B: 5th (138)
ERA: 8th (3.47)
SLG: 11th (.386)
HR: 12th (77)
OPS: 13th (.709)
H: 15th (779)
BB: 16th (282)
BA: 19th (.257)
OBP: 20th (.323)
WHIP: 22nd (1.33)
K/9: 27th (6.19)
K/BB: 27th (1.19)
SO: 28th (548)

The Pirates are going into the Break within a game of 1st place in the NL Central after having their worst season (57-105) since 1954.  Astonishingly, they're over .500 on the road (24-21) after having one the worst road records in ML history in 2010 (17-64).  Their offense has improved a bit, going from 29th in runs to 24th.  The real reason for the improvement, though, is the pitching, going from 30th to 8th. 

What's interesting is that they appear to be struggling in a number of key areas, including strikeouts, WHIP and batting average.  They are maintaining an excellent team ERA despite allowing a lot of baserunners and not striking out many hitters. 

Based on these numbers, it looks like a lot of their team success is riding on the pitchers continuing to not allow extra base hits.  They've kept it up this long, so it does not look like a fluke, but it's not a lot to hang a playoff run on.  In their last 18 games, they have improved their offense (12-6, 5 r/g), which shows that they might be on the right track (35-37, 3.66 r/g in their first 72 games).

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Who else can reach 3000 hits in the next few years?


Derek Jeter reached 3000 hits at age 37, which gives him the opportunity to keep racking up hits for a few years and get into the upper reaches of 3000 hit territory.  He's the 28th player with 3000 hits, but there are only 8 with 3400 (Rose, Cobb, Aaron, Musial, Speaker, Anson, Wagner, Yaz).  Even if he's done hitting .300 every year, he has a good shot at getting another 515 hits,w hich would make him 5th all time.

What other active players have a realistic chance at reaching 3000 hits in the next few years?  
Active players with at least 2500 hits:
Ivan Rodriguez (2842)
Omar Vizquel (2831)
Alex Rodriguez (2762)
Johnny Damon (2662)
Chipper Jones (2562)
Vladimir Guerrero (2513)

Of these players, A-Rod is the only one that seems like a lock.  I-Rod is close, but he's hitting .214 this year, has only 25 hits, is going to be 40 later this year and was just placed on the DL today.  Vizquel is 44 and is not an everyday player anymore.  It looks like the only way for him to get 3000 is to be play into his late 40's like Julio Franco or Jamie Moyer.  He is hitting .269, so he can still hit, but it seems like a longshot.

Damon is an interesting case.  He's only 37 (putting him ahead of Biggio's pace at a similar age, as he didn't reach 3000 until he was 41), and only needs 338 hits.  He's hitting .279 this year and has only missed 6 games.  If he has a strong finish in 2011 and has a typical Damon season next year (about 150 hits these days, he could be about 100 hits away by the beginning of 2013 (when he'll be 39).  It's beginning to look very doable if he stays relatively healthy and doesn't have a huge fall off in production.

Chipper is going to be 40 before the beginning the beginning of next season and there were plenty of reports that he would retire last year.  He's hasn't missed a lot of games this season, but he's only hitting .259 and doesn't seem like a good candidate to get another 438 hits.

Vlad is only 36 and has stayed productive, although he might never again hit .330 with nearly 40 home runs.  If he just keeps cranking out hits at a decent pace, he could easily be withing shouting distance of 2900 by the beginning of 2014 (when he would be 39). 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Do the Twins have a chance in the AL Central?


Twins: 2nd Half (since 2002)
2002: 44-28
2003: 46-23
2004: 45-30
2005: 35-41
2006: 49-27
2007: 34-40
2008: 35-33
2009: 42-32
2010: 48-26
Average: 42-31

The Twins are winning right tonight, so they have a shot at being 42-47 going into the break.  They have gone 22-11 since the beginning of June, salvaging a miserable season in the process.  If they follow their 2nd half average since 2002 (and win out until the break), they would finish 84-78.  That would be a remarkable turnaround for a team that was 12-27 and 17-37 at various points this season. 

Unfortunately, that would probably not be quite enough to win the AL Central.  Even in a weak division, the winner usually has over 84 wins.  If they go 45-28, though, that would give them 87 wins (I'm assuming they'll sweep the White Sox, but they would need an even better 2nd half if they don't).

If the Indians or Tigers can win 90 games, it's going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible for the Twins to pull off another stunning comeback this season and make the playoffs.  The Indians have shown enough flashes of brilliance this season that they probably should be able to win 90 games.  The Tigers also have plenty of talent, but they have a history of falling off in the 2nd half.

The Twins were 7 games out on September 6, 2009 (26 games to go), and still ended up in the playoffs (with 87 wins).  Considering their recent history in the 2nd half (and the fact that they finally have Joe Mauer back and hitting), the Twins do have a shot at the playoffs, although they'll need a lot of help from the Indians and Tigers.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Josh Tomlin's Unusual ERA

Highest ERA: 85+ IP, 1.075 WHIP or lower (1900-2011)
Josh Tomlin (Indians, 2011) 3.95 ERA, 1.056 WHIP
Phil Ortega (Senators, 1966) 3.92, 1.07
Don Mossi (Tigers, 1963) 3.74, 1.035
Ralph Terry (Indians, 1965) 3.69, 1.07, 1.07
LaMarr Hoyt (White Sox, 1983) 3.66, 1.024
Rollie Shelton (Yankees, 1964) 3.61, 1.075
Orlando Pena (Tigers/Indians, 1967) 3.59, 1.04
Curt Schilling (Phillies, 1995) 3.57, 1.052
Bill Faul (Cubs, 1965) 3.54, 1.045

The good news for Josh Tomlin is that most of his ERA troubles stem from 3 starts at the beginning of June, where he allowed 18 ER over 17 IP, and he's has improved since then.  Over his last 2 starts, he's 2-0 with 4 ER over 13 IP.  Even with a 6.60 ERA in June, he's only allowed 2 BB with 20 ER.  It seems likely that his ERA will continue to come down (it was 3.27 after 10 starts, and it's already come down from 4.14 to 3.95).

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Big 3 in DC?


ERA, June, NL (20+ IP)
0.27 Cliff Lee (Phillies)
0.65 Jeff Karstens (Pirates)
0.96 Johnny Cueto (Reds)
1.01 Jhoulys Chacin (Rockies)
1.23 Cole Hamels (Phillies)
1.32 Jordan Zimmerman (Nationals)
1.44 John Lannan (Nationals)
1.82 Jason Marquis (Nationals)
1.82 Hiroki Kuroda (Dodgers)

The 3 starters from the Nationals are a combined 7-0.  In May, they were not nearly as good:

Zimmerman: 1-2, 3.23
Marquis: 3-2, 5.60
Lannan: 0-2, 5.14

In May, Lannan and Marquis had worse numbers than Livan Hernandez and Tom Gorzelanny.  This is an unlikely trio to propel the Nationals over .500 and potentially into a playoff race (4.5 games out of the Wild Card).  If these three keep pitching like this, they might be able to keep on rolling even with the shakeup at manager.

Friday, June 17, 2011

How many runs will the Angels score in June?


Fewest Runs scored in a month, since 2000 (24+ games):
45 April 2004 (Expos)
64 September 2002 (Tigers)
66 (Projected) June 2011 Angels
72 April 2011 (Padres)
74 September 2003 (Mets)
75 July 2010 (Mariners)
76 July 2001 (Mets); June 2003 (Dodgers)
78 September 2010 (Dodgers, Mariners)

79 August 2010 (Mets)
The dismal month the Angels are having offensively is odd not only because they've usually been solid over the last 10 years (especially in 2009, when they ranked 2nd in runs).  They were scoring runs just a month ago, ranking 11th in runs scored in May.  In May, they hit a respectable 22 HR, but they've only hit 3 through 16 games in June.  That means that 24 players have outhomered them so far this month. 

A lot of players have struggled, and Torii Hunter was probably having the worst month of all (.137, 0 HR, 3 RBI in June).  He did go 3-4 tonight with an RBI in their 4-3 victory over the Mets, which is a good sign.  They've been scoring more runs of late too(15 R in their last 4 games after 15 in their first 8 games of June).

Update (6/21): They've now scored 47 runs through 17 games, and they have 8 more games in June.  After a (relatively) huge offensive game on Sunday (7 R), they're now on pace to score 69 runs.  They're final 8 games are against the Marlins (2), Dodgers (3) and Nationals (3). 

The Marlins are reeling.  The usually strong Dodger pitching is off this season, and they're ranked 22nd in ERA (and 19th at home).  The Nationals are 10th in ERA, and 3rd best in June.  They've hit better of late, but it's going to take a big offensive surge to avoid having on the worst months in recent memory.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shaun Marcum


3.5+ K/BB, 1.05 WHIP or lower, 50+ IP (2011)
David Price (Rays)
Dan Haren (Angels)
Cole Hamels (Phillies)
Jered Weaver (Angels)
Justin Verlander (Tigers)
Shaun Marcum (Brewers)

The only pitcher on this list that's a surprise is Shaun Marcum (7-2, 2.68 ERA), who is in his first season with the Brewers.  After missing 2009 with Tommy John surgery, he had a quality 2010 with the Blue Jays (13-8, 3.64 ERA), and was traded in December for a minor league prospect. 

He is a big reason with the Brewers are surprisingly in first place in the NL Central right now.  Marcum has also not gone less than 6 innings in any start since his first of the year on April 2nd (4 IP, 3 ER).  There is no reason to think he'll let up either, considering that he's only allowed 69 hits and 23 walks in 90.2 innings, along with 83 SO.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Watch out for the Twins?


Twins Offense
April: 82 R (#29 in ML)
May: 105 (#26)
June: 28 (#T-1)

Twins Pitching
April: 4.88 ERA (#27)
May: 4.87 (#29)
June: 2.05 (#3)

The Twins have won 4 in a row and they still have the worst record in baseball.  They're 12.5 games out, which is tied for the most of any team.  Still, you can never count the Twins out because they usually find a way to get back in the race (in 2009, they were 7 games out on September 7th and still won the division).

The Twins have been besieged by injuries, especially Joe Mauer, who has not played since April 12th.  Mauer is on his way back, though, and is rehabbing in the minors right now.  Can they make it back from 12.5 games?  It will be extremely tough, but I don't think fans in Cleveland, Detroit or Chicago will feel very good if the Twins are only 7 or 8 games out at the All-Star break.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

More dominant pitching, 2011


20+ IP, 10+ K/9, 1.05 WHIP or lower (2011)
Carlos Marmol (Cubs)
Koji Uehara (O's)
Tyler Clippard (Nationals)
Sergio Santos (White Sox)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Oakland A's Starting Rotation: Unstoppable


Top ERA (Starters)
2000 Braves (4.06)
2001 Braves (3.54)
2002 Braves (3.42)
2003 Dodgers (3.49)
2004 Cubs (3.72)
2005 Astros (3.46)
2006 Tigers (4.00)
2007 Padres (4.11)
2008 Blue Jays (3.72)
2009 Braves (3.52)
2010 A's (3.47)
2011 A's (2.56)

Top ERA (Starters), 2011
1. A's: 2.56
2. Mariners: 3.14
3. Giants: 3.16

The A's have the lowest team ERA despite having the 19th best bullpen ERA because their starting pitching is so much better than any other team.  They might have trouble keeping up this prodigous pace, though, because Dallas Braden and Brandon McCarthy are both on the DL.  That means that two of the current spots in the rotation go to Guillermo Moscaso (1 career start) and Josh Outman (missed 2010 with Tommy John surgery). 

The top of their rotation is extremely good, but they will probably come back to earth too (Trevor Cahill, 2.02; Gio Gonzalez, 2.20; Brett Anderson, 2.84).  The A's are 3 games under .500, but only 2.5 games out because no one is running away with the AL West.  If they keep this up all year (a big if), it could be the most impressive performance for a starting rotation since the Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz Braves in the 1990's.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Michael Pineda's Incredible Start


2.50 ERA or lower, 4+ SO/BB, 1.00 WHIP or lower, 8+ SO/9, 30+ IP (2011)
Michael Pineda (Mariners)
Roy Halladay (Phillies)
Jered Weaver (Angels)
Dan Haren (Angels)

Pineda is a 22 year old rookie who has been dominating, especially in his last few starts.  His ERA went all the way up to 2.84 after his May 10th outing against the Orioles (6 IP, 3 ER), but his been lowered to 2.16 after his last two starts (2-0, 14 IP, 0 ER, 16 SO, 1 BB, 5 H).  Of this impressive group, he is tied for the more wins (6), has the highest W-L% (.750) and has the highest SO/9 (9.51).

2.50 ERA or lower, 4+ SO/BB, 1.00 WHIP or lower, 8+ SO/9, 125+ IP (1900-2010)
1965 Sonny Siebert (Indians)
1963-1966 Sandy Koufax (Dodgers)
1971 Tom Seaver (Mets)
1986 Mike Scott (Astros)
1997, 1999, 2000, 2002 Pedro Martinez (Red Sox)
2003 Jason Schmidt (Giants)

Sonny Siebert had a solid ML career (140-114, 3.21 ERA, 2 All-Star appearances, 307 starts), but his 1965 season was an abberation for him.  He followed up his stellar 1965 season (16-8, 2.43 ERA, 9.1 SO/9, 4.15 SO/BB) with an other gem in 1966 (16-8, 2.80 ERA), but he never replicated the strikeouts, dropping down to 6.1 SO/9 in 1966 and never went over 7 SO/9 in a full season. 

It's too bad that he had his best season in 1965, because there was still only 1 Cy Young Award for the entire league in 1965, and he couldn't compete with Sandy Koufax (Cy Young Awards for each league did not start until 1967).  He might have received some votes for an AL Cy Young award, although he probably wouldn't have won (it likely would have gone to Mudcat Grant, Mel Stottlemyre or Sam McDowell).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Johnny Damon Hall of Fame Watch


I wrote about this prior to the 2010 season, and it's a good time to look at it again.  In 2010, Damon had a mediocre season, but not completely unexpected considering his age.  He hit .271 with only 8 HR (compared to 24 in 2009), but he did have a somewhat respectable 81 runs in his only season with the Tigers. In the offseason, he signed a 1 year deal with the Rays and he's been even worse this season (.248, 18 R), although his 7 HR is impressive.

He appears to be on the decline, but he's still only 37 (although with 2300+ G and 10000+ PA, that is a lot of wear and tear).  He has over 2600 H, which is great, but not even close to the magical 3000 number.  He has a lot of impressive stats: 222 HR, 390 SB, .287 BA.  On the other hand, he's only been an All-Star twice and has never finished higher than 13th in MVP balloting.  You can easily look at that and conclude that he's not a Hall of Famer. 

There is one stat, though, where he shines a little brighter than you might expect: runs scored.  With his 1582 runs scored, he's 49th on the all time list and moving up the list quickly.  Almost everyone he passes on the way up the list now is in the Hall of Fame (he just passed Rogers Hornsby). 

The next 11 on the list? George Brett, Bill Dahlen, Ed Delahanty, Jake Beckley, Lou Brock, Roger Connor, Al Kaline, Fred Clarke, Paul Waner, Eddie Murray and Robin Yount.  All Hall of Famers, except for Bill Dahlen.  If Damon reached 1651 Runs scored (a realistic possibility if he plays next year), he would become 33rd on the all time list (right ahead of Joe Morgan). 

Out of the 32 that would be ahead of him, here is how is breaks down: 25 in HOF; 3 retired, not yet eligible (Biggio, Bonds, Griffey Jr.); 2 active (A-Rod, Jeter); Pete Rose; Rafael Palmeiro.  He couldn't do much better than that, but it still feels like he wouldn't get in.  That result might make sense in light of him never finishing higher than 13th in an MVP vote, but it doesn't make a lot of sense why everything would change if he had 3000 hits as opposed to 1650 runs scored.

There are 27 (soon to be 28 with Jeter at 2965 hits) players with 3000 hits and they're all in except for Biggio, Rose and Palmeiro.  Players have been getting into the HOF for accumulating huge amounts of some stats (wins, HR, hits) since it started.  It only makes sense than runs (which is ultimately what teams are trying to achieve) becomes a part of that too.  If he makes it to 1700 runs (a long way to go, but manageable), he'll be the 27th player into that group, and that should be enough. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Which teams are hitting better (or worse) in May?


Team OPS, Ranking (April, May)

Up (10 or more spots)
25 Padres (30, 5)
20 Braves (22, 2)
18 White Sox (25, 7)
14 Rays (20, 6)
12 Tigers (16, 4)
12 Red Sox (15, 3)

Down (10 or more spots)
22 D-Backs (7, 29)
21 Rangers (3, 24)
21 Indians (4, 25)
20 Brewers (5, 25)
14 Dodgers (13, 27)
11 Yankees (2, 13)
11 Cardinals (1, 12)

On May 3rd, the Tigers were 8 games behind the Indians and now they're only 3.5 games out after winning 9 of their last 10.  Surprisingly, Miguel Cabrera hasn't been a big factor in May after a big April.  It's been Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta leading the way, each with an OPS in May over 1.200.

Meanwhile, the Indians have stopped hitting, especially Grady Sizemore (he's also been hurt the last few days) and Shin-Soo Choo.  If they don't start hitting soon, they'll find themselves in 2nd place.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The top hitter with RISP is...Matt Wieters?


BA, 20+ AB (Runners in Scoring Position)
.545 Matt Wieters (Orioles)
.528 Michael Young (Rangers)
.500 Brian McCann (Braves)
.484 Jason Kubel (Twins)
.472 Matt Holliday (Cardinals)
.467 Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)
.458 Travis Hafner (Indians)
.458 Adam Jones (Orioles)
.433 Chipper Jones (Braves)
.433 Lance Berkman (Cardinals)
.433 Martin Prado (Braves)

An impressive list, and it's not a surprise that a list of the best hitters with RISP would be some of the best hitters in baseball.  Last year's list (min. 125 AB) was equally strong: Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton, Joey Votto, Carl Crawford, Delmon Young, Carlos Gonzalez, Elvis Andrus, Albert Pujols, Nick Markakis, Jonny Gomes.  That list includes the AL and NL MVP (as well as the players that finished 2nd and 3rd in the NL too).

The player that jumps out of the most is Matt Wieters, who is only hitting .245 overall this year (although he has 7 hits in his last 4 games).  After a promising first season in 2009 (.288 in 96 games), he only hit .249 last year. 

He's been hitting at the bottom of the Orioles' order (mostly 8th), and while the Orioles probably are not expecting him to carry them offensively right now, he is an important part of their future.  While it's risky to go too much off of 22 AB at the beginning of the season, the fact that he is hitting .545 with RISP is a good sign. 

The Orioles are attempting to get some production out of newcomers like Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero, but it hasn't worked out very well.  Even if it did, it's a short term fix.  If they want to compete, they need Wieters to become a solid run producer that can hit in the middle of the lineup.  It's a small sample size, and it might be fleeting, but his early success with RISP shows that might happen soon.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What's wrong with Texas?


The Rangers were, at various points, 6-0, 9-1 and 14-7 before starting their decline which has resulted in them being 18-18 as of today.  They were 16-11 in April and are 2-7 in May.  They also lost 4 of their final 6 games in April.  What happened?

Offense (runs)
April: 140 (3rd)
May: 30 (15th)

Pitching (ERA)
April: 3.89 (17th) 
May: 4.76 (29th)

They've fallen 12 slots in each category, but it's the pitching that is most worrisome because they're not going to the playoffs if their team ERA is one of the worst in the league.  The offense is likely to bounce back because some of their best hitters (Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre) are mired in slumps that they'll probably be out of soon.  Offense will still be an issue if Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz don't come back and produce, but it should improve.

Some of their pitchers have been good in May (Alexi Ogando, C.J. Wilson, Dave Bush) and some have been dreadful (Cody Eppley, Ryan Tucker, Pedro Strop, Arthur Rhodes).  These four relievers have combined to for a 13.09 ERA over 12 appearances and 9 IP.  

The rest of the staff has a respectable ERA of 3.63.  Eppley made his major league debut on April 23rd and he allowed all of his runs in May in one disastrous outing against the Yankees (6 ER, .1 IP).  Tucker has been allowed runs consistently and he probably needs to improve quickly.

So, it might not be as bad as it looks, although they're a different team without Hamilton and Cruz.  They're fortunate to be in what might be a relatively weak division (although watch out for the Angels if they can get their rotation going behind Haren and Weaver). 

Their offense is still good (somewhere between 3rd and 15th without Hamilton and Cruz), and their pitching is serviceable, although they need to figure out the bullpen quickly.  It would help if they had another phenom come up from the minors like they did last year with Alexi Ogando, who debuted on June 15th and had an ERA of 1.30 over 42 IP the rest of the way.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Santana and Floyd

Gavin Floyd

4.00+ ERA, 25+ IP, 3+ SO/BB, 8+ SO/9
Ervin Santana (Angels)
Gavin Floyd (White Sox)

In his last start, Santana tossed 4 no-hit innings against the Red Sox before a rain delay that ended his day.  Floyd has had a couple of bad starts, including his last one (6 ER, 6 IP vs. Baltimore).  He's also had some excellent starts, including his second-to-last start (2 ER, 8 IP, 10 SO, 1 BB at Yankee Stadium.

Floyd has only finished with an ERA under 4.00 once (2008: 17-8, 3.84), but he has improved on his strikeouts, walks and hits allowed over previous years so far in 2011.  Santana has been inconsistent throughout his career, usually underperforming just when it looks like he's about to break out and become a top-line pitcher. 

That might happen again this year, but he is clearly better than a 4.43 ERA and maybe his last start was the first step in getting on track.  The pressure should be off a little bit this year too, with Haren and Weaver leading the Angels rotation.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Top Control Pitchers of 2011


Fewest BB/9 (20+ IP) (2011, 2010 or last season played, Career)
Brandon McCarthy, A's (1.02, 3.3, 3.2)
Jeff Francis, Royals (1.06, 2, 2.9)
Ricky Nolasco, Marlins (1.12, 1.9, 2.1)
Jeremy Guthrie, O's (1.13, 2.1, 2.6)
Kyle Lohse, Cardinals (1.17, 3.4, 2.7)
Jason Marquis, Nationals (1.31, 3.7, 3.5)
Roy Halladay, Phillies (1.36, 1.1, 1.9)
Cliff Lee, Phillies (1.37, 0.8, 2.2)
Dan Haren, Angels (1.43, 2.1, 2.0)
Tim Hudson, Braves (1.52, 2.9, 2.8)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Will the Orioles offense ever get better?


Like many people, I expected the Orioles to have a much better offense this year than they have had in previous years.  They added Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds, among others, to a lineup with Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Luke Scott and Brian Roberts.  They weren't going to be the Yankees, but the new lineup was expected to improve on 613 runs they scored in 2010 (#27 in ML).

The team started strong (6-1 to start the season) because of strong pitching and the offense never took off.  They are currently, you guessed it, #27 in runs scored again.  They don't have anyone having a great offensive season, although Vlad, Brian Roberts and Matt Wieters aren't embarrassing themselves. 

The blame lies mostly with a group of players with good track records: Adam Jones, Derrek Lee, Nick Markakis and Mark Reynolds.  They're all struggling at the same time, but it's unlikely that they'll all keep it up for too long.  They were all much better than this just a year ago, let along over the course of their career.  While the Orioles might not be a top-tier offense, they should end up much better than 27th again.

OPS (2011, 2010, Career)
Nick Markakis (.580, .805, .824)
Derrek Lee (.584, .774, .862)
Mark Reynolds (.620, .753, .810)
Adam Jones (.674, .767, .743)

Update: The Orioles won 5-4 tonight, with 10 hits and 2 HR.  Markakis, Lee and Jones combined to go 6-12 with 3 R and a HR (Jones).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Will the Indians hit enough?


The Indians are one of the biggest surprises of the 2011 season, going 13-6 after losing over 90 games each of the last two seasons.  Both their hitting and pitching are much improved, but the hitting seems especially likely to fall a bit.  Last year, they were ranked 26th in runs scored, and this year they're 3rd.

The ranking might be a little high because they've played 19 games while other teams have played less (Yankees at #8 have only played 16 and have scored 11 fewer runs), but their offense is doing very well even taking that into account.

They've gotten a boost from the return of Grady Sizemore who made his season debut (he had been on the DL) just last week and is hitting over .400.  They have some quality hitters (especially Shin-Soo Choo), but you have to wonder how long a lineup with Carlos Santana (.215, 2 HR, 10 RBI) hitting cleanup can remain at the top.  The bottom of their lineup is unimposing (Matt Laporta, Adam Everett, Michael Brantley, Jack Hannahan).

That is going to end up putting a lot of pressure on Travis Hafner to produce at a high level (which is fair since he's making $13 million this year).  If he hits like the perennial MVP candidate of 2004-2006, the Indians might have no trouble scoring enough runs.  If he hits gets hurt and struggles like he did from 2007-2010, then it's hard to see them having enough firepower to compete unless they have lights-out pitching all year.

If Sizemore and Hafner hit like it's 2006, the rest of the lineup can be decent complementary players and they can win.  If they get hurt or struggle, the rest of the lineup is almost certain have difficulty scoring enough runs to remain competitive.
 
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