The "In Case You Missed It" File
by Asher B. Chancey, Baseball Evolution
You heard it here first . . .
It is August 1st. There are four compelling races in the Majors – the AL and NL West divisions, and the AL and NL East divisions.
The St. Louis Cardinals would appear to have the NL Central locked up, playing at 9 and a half games ahead of the Astros, while the White Sox would appear to have the AL Central locked up, up on the Twins and the Indians by an astonishing 14 games.
But, if recent post-season history has taught us anything, it is that come October, the team that wins the World Series will be neither the Cardinals or White Sox. The teams that have had their divisions locked up early have not fared well in the post-season since the advent of the wild card.
You heard it here first.
Signs that things aren't going the Cubs way . . .
During this afternoon's Cubs game, the telecast cut to a graphic of what was going on "down on the farm." They talked about Corey Patterson's progress, Nomar Garciaparra's rehab progress, and mentioned that Kerry Wood would be making a rehab start soon. They also mentioned some other dude.
Kelly turns to me and says, "How come I knew three of the four guys they were talking about just now?"
On a-Chen, On a-Chen
For the second straight day, the Orioles starter failed to make it through 2 innings, and for the second straight day, Bruce Chen came on in relief. Rodrigo Lopez gave up eight earned runs in 1.1 innings of work, and got yanked one night after Daniel Cabrera had to leave after getting injured in the second inning. Last night, Chen gave up two runs, and tonight he has given up a sac fly to score a run which he didn't get credited with. How did the Orioles NOT get a starting pitcher before the deadline?
Just like Ozzie used to
Sportscasters continue to be unable to not compare the 2005 White Sox to Ozzie Guillen the player. Tonight, Steve Stone commented that the White Sox play the game "the way Ozzie used to."
Oh? Are they getting on base at a .287 clip? Are they striking out more than twice as much as they walk? Are they getting caught stealing as much as they successfully steal bases?
Ozzie Guillen's only contribution to his teams were on defense, and he managed all of one gold glove his entire career. Ozzie couldn't hit for average, hit for power, get on base, steal bases consistently, play whole seasons, move runners over, or hit in the clutch. He was a no-tool player.
This season, the White Sox already have nine players with more home runs that Guillen had in his career high season (he hit 4 HR three times), and will probably have two players if not three or four with more home runs than the 28 Ozzie had his entire career.
Guillen's career high on-base percentage was .325, in a season in which he only played 95 games. His full season career high was .312. Nine White Sox will finish the season with OBPs higher than that.
Guillen's career stolen base percentage was 61%. Of the ten players that have stolen a base for the White Sox this year, seven of them have higher stolen base percentages, and the other three have a combined 7 stolen bases.
This White Sox team is very impressive team this year. Ozzie Guillen has proven to be an excellent manager. I have been complaining for years about what under-achievers the White Sox have been, and now they are OVER-achieving. Can we please stop trying to compliment this team by comparing them to the Ozzie Guillen the player?
At 53-48 and 55-50, respectively, the Marlins and Phillies are each 5 and a half games out of first place.
At 45-58, 13 games UNDER .500, the Giants are also 5 and a half games out.
The Padres are now under .500, but still leading their division. If we jump into the way back machine, we can go back to 1994, when every team in the AL West finished (albeit in early August) with records below .500; in case you think they would have rebounded, the Rangers "won" the division with a record of 52-62 – ten games under .500, and a game and a half ahead of the 51-63 Athletics.
The NL East, of course, still featured five teams with winning records. Again, we jump into the way back machine, this time going back to 1991, we will find that, again, the AL West accomplished this feat through 162 games. Remember, in 1991, the AL West featured 7 teams, not four, and yet every team had a winning record, from the 95-67 Twins all the way down to the 81-81 Angels. For what it is worth, the second place team, the White Sox, finished eight games out, and the three through seven teams each finished in one game increments (third was 10 games out, 4th was eleven games out, etc.) And, the fact that the AL East had three 90 game losers, one of which was the 51-105 Cleveland Indians, and the Blue Jays won the division with a less-than-dominant 91-71 record shows how it was that there were so many wins to be had in the AL West.
Still impressive though – the AL only featured three teams with losing records that year.
In just his 97th game of the year, rookie Willy Tavares tied Craig Biggio's team record with his 50th infield single.
A little Did You Know – prior to 1997, there were only two players in the history of Major League Baseball with the last name Cabrera – Francisco Cabrera and Al Cabrera, who played one game in 1913.
But coming into this year, there have been seven additional Cabreras, with the Yankees Melky making eight.
Gary Sheffield, in responding to a question about whether we would participate in the new Baseball world cup thing, had this to say:
"I'm not paid to play those games," Sheffield told a small crowd of five or six reporters in Detroit. "You've got to pay for everything you get from me. Period. I'm not going to go out there and risk injury."
Although the injuries concerns are somewhat legit, I think Gary demonstrated why he has never been a national hero, and why baseball will benefit when his career comes to a close.
July 20, 2005
Pittsburgh's catcher Ryan Doumit, in his first season in the Majors, hit his first career home run against the Astros yesterday, and then for good measure hit his second career home run later in the game. Doumit came in with a .179/.253/.269, for and OPSA (on base plus slugging plus average) of 701.
After yesterday's action, there are 18 out of 30 teams playing .500 ball or better, and three more teams (Detroit, Milwaukee, Toronto) within two games of .500, which means somebody (I'm not naming names) is losing more than their fair share of ball games.
Jason Johnson has been out done at last
Mark Hendricksen, starting for the D-Rays, gave up 6 runs without recording an out before being removed.
His ERA jumped from 6.35 to 6.91.
July 18, 2005
According to my computer, Todd Hollandsworth is currently pitching for the Cubs. Is this possible? They are only up 9-4. But he just got Wily Mo Pena for the first out.
One day after the otherwise struggling Al Leiter handled the Red Sox, Kevin Brown got handled by the Texas Rangers tonight – 6 earned runs in 4.1 innings.
Todd Hollandsworth just got the second out of the ninth inning.
Tonight, with the Rockies in town, the Nationals baseball announcer was talking about the Aaron Miles for Juan Uribe trade of 2003. The announcer mentioned that "the trade has really worked out well for the White Sox," because of Uribe's prowess as an offensive threat.
Hmmm. Prowess, eh? Let's see - .230 average, .262 on base percentage, 6 home runs, 38 RBI, 2/6 stolen bases. Prowess indeed.
Aaron Miles, meanwhile, is hitting .293, with a not-so-fabulous 679 OPS. Still better than Uribe, though.
Todd Hollandsworth just struck out Jacob Cruz for the third out of the ninth! What in the world was going on in Cincinnati tonight?
Just as I wrote dogging Juan Uribe, he hit a home run. Figures.
Okay, now the cbs-sportsline website has Hollandsworth list for 0 innings, and then Todd Coffey listed for 1.2 innings and 1 earned run. Todd Coffey plays for the Reds.
Bernie Williams just dropped an easy fly ball to let the tying run score in the 6th, and then Soriano drove in the go ahead run. THAT is how you lose games with a $200 million payroll.
Who am I? - .279 avg, 906 OPS, 11 HR, 33 RBI . . .
Jason Giambi. Yeah.
July 16, 2005
The Duke's line today – 8IP, 6H, 0R, 2BB, 4K
Duke's season total through three games – 22IP, 17H, 3ER, 4BB, 21K.
"I don't know darling', whaddaya think – should I hate him?"
He's 22, he's good looking, he's a big lefthander from Texas, and he embarrassed the Cubs today.
"Yep, I'm sure of it – I hate him."
The Sosa Trade
All you nay-sayers who thought the Sammy Sosa trade was one sided were absolutely right. Midway through the season, Hairston has more runs scored, is hitting 42 points higher, has an on-base percentage over 50 points higher, and (brace yourself) has a slugging percentage of .404 vs. .382 for Sammy. Boy oh boy.
Curt Schilling is currently coming out of the bullpen for the Red Sox, allegedly because he is not 100%. It kind of looks to me, after watching today's game, that Schilling is more over weight than not 100%, and that may be his main issue.
July 10, 2005
Quick, Who Am I?
I hit my 13th home run of the season tonight. I currently have 13 home runs, 47 RBI, and only 18 runs scored. But that's okay, because in 66 games played, and 173 at-bats, I have an OPS over 950, and I am batting .324. I have hit 30 home runs in a season twice, but no more than 16 since 1999.I have had over 275 at-bats once since 2000, and my average hasn't been over .232 since 2001. I am grateful for my chance with my new team, for whom I have gotten considerable playing time, as I have played for four teams in the last four years, and it was beginning to look like my career had come to a pre-mature end even though I am only 33 years old. I am not Troy O'Leary, but I was once a teammate of Bobby Higginson.
Who am I?
See answer at bottom of July 10, 2005 section
National League Home Run Leaders
Quick, name the top ten NL home run leaders. Let me rattle them off for you:
Andruw Jones, Derrek Lee, Adam Dunn, Morgan Ensberg, Carlos Lee, Cliff Floyd, Albert Pujols, Troy Glaus, Aramis Ramirez, Bobby Abreu (tie), Reggie Sanders (tie).
Quite a list, huh? Seem a little foreign? I mean, Pujols and Dunn are not really surprised, but Floyd? The Lees? Sanders? Ensberg?
What has become of the National League? Where are Todd Helton, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Jim Thome, Jeff Bagwell, and Jim Edmonds?
Remarkably, this will be the first year since 1991 that the NL Top Ten will not feature Sammy Sosa or Barry Bonds. That year, Bonds finished 11th.
Does this represent a changing of the guard? Perhaps. We will have to wait until next year to see what sticks. Nevertheless, it is interesting. Sanders and Floyd are veterans, but their best days seemed behind them. And obviously Dunn and Pujols have been there before, and Carlos Lee and Troy Glaus are first time NLers, but Ensberg?
Just something interesting of note.
Braves and Brewers
Two interesting things from tonight's Brewers Braves game. First, the Brewers outfielders twice robbed Andy Marte of hits – one a home run caught by Brady Clark who reached over fence to take it away, and one a sure extra-base hit that Carlos Lee banged into the wall to catch. Not only is this a demonstration of how things can go wrong when you are slumpin' – Marte went 0-5 and his average is now .159 – but it is also a demonstration of how the cumulative effects of team defense can win games. The Brewers won 8-4 over the Braves with Chris Capuano taking his fifth straight victory.
The second interesting thing that happened was that the Braves used seven different pitchers. This is a very un-Mazzone move, but with this being the last game before the break, the Braves can afford it. Let's just hope this isn't indicative of some larger issue.
Answer to Who Am I? – none other than Tony "Tony the Tiger" Clark!
July 8, 2005
Ken Griffey, Jr.
Ken hit his 17th home run of the year tonight. He currently has 311 at-bats, which is the most he has had since 2001, when he had 364. He is hitting .289, and his OPS is over .850, while his run total is tied with what he had last year. Perhaps most impressive is Ken's 21 doubles, which is one less than he had in all of 2000, when he played in 145 games.
Ken is of course always one trip around the bases away from missing the rest of the year, but the kid is playing well, and as someone who still remembers the great excitement he had opening a Topps Wax Pack to finds a Ken Griffey, Jr. All Star Rookie card in 1990, I am happy to see him healthy and playing well.
Oh by the way, KGJ also got his 1500th RBI tonight. He is currently 43rd all time, and about to pass Mickey Mantle.
Nate Robertson threw one pitch tonight, straight at Carl Crawford, and got tossed from the game. Apparently, Scott Kazmir hit Placido Polanco with the first pitch of the game (which I really hope the announcers referred to as Placido getting Polancked), and so home plate umpire Tim McClelland immediately tossed Robertson after his first pitch "sailed several feet" behind Crawford.
I hope everyone at the ballpark realized they were seeing history. This is like Tony Dorsett's 99 yard touchdown run – it is not possible for a starting pitcher to have a shorter outing than Robertson's last night. Whereas a reliever can come into a game with two outs and then promptly pick off a base runner to end an inning without throwing a pitch, a starter has to throw the first pitch of the game in order for the game to start.
There will never be a shorter outing than Nate Robertson's last night.
Big Frank currently has 18 hits, and 11 of them are home runs. His average coming into tonight was only .250, but his slugging percentage was .736, and he has an even 1100 OPS.
Imagine how deadly the White Sox will be if Big Frank gets back to full speed.
The Houston (f-ing) Astros
The Astros won again tonight, pushing their record to one game under 500. This is the same team that finished the month of May at 19-32. However, the team has gone 23-11 since, and how they have done it is no mystery. Morgan "last regular player in the majors to hit a home runs last season" Ensberg has been absolutely on fire, hitting 13 home runs since June 1, and raising his OPS almost 100 points during that period. Jason Lane has started to come around, and losing Jeff Bagwell for the season has turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the Astros have played Lance Berkman at first since he returned from injury, which allowed a then-struggling Willy Tavares the consistent playing time to find his stroke, which he has to the tune of a .296 average.
The true story, though, is probably the pitching, which has been lights out. Pettitte is back from injury and pitching competently, and Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens have been fantastic. Clemens would have 13 wins by now if his team every supported him with some runs.
The good news is that the Astros are now in second place, having leapt over the Cubs. The bad news is that for the second straight season, it would appear as though the Cards will have the division locked up by the All-Star break, and there are plenty of wild-card candidates in the NL East.
Its still pretty impressive how well the Astros have rebounded for the second straight year now.
The Atlanta Braves
With the Marlins, Mets, and Phillies falling somewhat by the wayside, the Nats really only face one competitor in the NL East. Unfortunately for the Nats, that competitor is the most seasoned division winning machine in sports history – the Atlanta Braves.
As recently as June, the Braves were in fourth place in a tightly packed division. On June 15th, the Braves were 33-32, but they have gone 17-5 since then.
How have they done it? Unlike the Astros, the Braves have not been so obvious. For one thing, they have gotten a remarkable amount of production out of platoon guys like Julio Franco and Ryan Langerhans. They have also managed to survive the youth movement they have had to endure, with first year guys like Pete Orr, Kelly Johnson, and Adam Marte. The have also managed to endure the collapse of Raul Mondesi, the ineffectiveness of Brian Jordan, and the injury to Chipper Jones.
In short, these Braves are about John Smoltz, Bobby Cox, Leo Mazzone, and Andruw Jones coming through and leading a bunch of youngsters to success. About time, Andruw.
Minnesota Twins Pitchers
- Brad Radke has only walked ten batters all year, but has managed to hit five batters.
- Carlos Silva has only walked five batters all year, but still have a huge WHIP because he is giving up a .306 opponents batting average.
- Johann Santana has given up 11 fewer earned runs before the All Star break than he did all of last season, though he has yet to hit a batter and is walking fewer batters per nine innings than he did last season.
- Joe Mays is averaging one strikeout every three innings, and has a strikeout to walk ratio of less than 1.5, but has the second best ERA on the staff and has lower his ERA from last season by 2.50 points.
- Jesse Crain leads the team in wins with 8, despite the fact that he is a reliever that has only pitched 39.2 innings. He K/BB ratio is a meager 1.5 to 1.
The Texas Rangers Offense
The Rangers already have seven players with double digit home runs. I'll give you seven guesses to figure out which of those players leads the team in slugging percentage, and you won't even get it. The team leader in slugging by .003 over Mark Teixeira is none other than Dave Dellucci with a .549.
Interesting note – there are currently two guys in the majors who were born in the Dominican Republic in 1982 with the first name "Robinson," those being Robinson Cano and Robinson Tejeda. Think there is something behind this trend? Like, maybe Jackie Robinson was incredibly popular in 1982 in the DR?
Interestingly, a baseballreference.com search for the name Robinson revealed only two other players with the first name Robinson – Robinson Cancel from Puerto Rico and Robinson Checo Perez from the Domincan Republic – in baseball history.
The San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants are now 36-49 despite all of the nearly hilarious Spring Training "Barry who?" optimism. Pedro "the secret weapon" Feliz,, who had me mildly worried when he got off to a rather quick start, hit his 11th home run last night, which was literally the first time I had thought of him since May. Perhaps that is because the home run was only his third since May.
On May 10th, Pedro was off to a startlingly good start - .325 AVG, .366 OBP, .520 SLG (good for him that is). Through the end of May, he experienced a bit of a free fall, and even though he has kind of evened out, his current .276, .315, .438 is much more along the lines of we would have expected.
Actually, it is along the lines of what Scott expected of Cristian Guzman. But I digress.
Speaking of the San Francisco Giants, I am thinking of creating a companion to the Dave Kingman award called the Alex Sanchez award, given to the player who is of the least value to his team despite his remarkably high average. Sanchez is currently hitting .331, but has somehow managed to be waived twice this season. This guy must be a real asshole, because there are lots of teams that would love a .331 hitter.
Anyway, one of the criteria for the award with definitely be difference between on base percentage and batting average. Remember Dante Bichette 1995, with a .340 average but .364 OBP? After last night, Sanchez's OBP is .359, or 28 points higher than his average.
You know what is easy to loose site of given San Fran's mediocre play? Mike Matheny (yes, Mike Matheny). He is having a fantastic year! He hit is 21st double yesterday, which is one away from his career high. That's the type of thing that makes you think you are seeing a typo. He also has 9 home runs, which IS a career high, and is 8 RBIs away from his career high. AND he is currently slugging .454, which is 92 points higher than he has EVER slugged in his career. He has only played 69 games this season, and has played well over a hundred games eight times in his career.
Frankly, it makes no sense.
Congratulations Are In Order . . .
- Craig Biggio collected HBP number 268. Does this come with an asterisk since Biggio wears protective armor and Don Baylor, the previous record holder, did not? Only if Bud Selig ghost wrote Don Baylor's memoirs.
- Jamie Moyer, at the age of 42, got his 200th victory
- Rafael Palmeiro moved past Reggie Jackson on the career HR list, and is 5 hits away from 3,000.