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?)
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