June 22, 2004
Best Matchup (Best combined record with both teams being over .500): Minnesota @ Boston
As we all know by now, the Red Sox of 2003 set the all-time team record for slugging average with a .491 mark. What you might not remember is that the Toronto Blue Jays were challenging the record right along with them before fading late. The Sox are down in 2004, but nearly as much as the Jays. Neither has fallen as far as the Braves:
Biggest declines in team slugging, 2003-2004:
Braves: -64 Blue Jays: -58 Red Sox: -43 Expos: -37 Mariners: -31
How do these 2004 entries stack up historically? None are very close to being the most significant drops of all time, I'm afraid:
Largest team slugging average decreases, all time:
Year Team Drop 1931 Pirates -.089 1903 Senators -.084 1902 Browns -.077 1933 Athletics -.073 1988 Tigers -.073
I would have bet real, actual cash money that more 1931 teams would have made the top 10 given that the entire league fell off by 61 points from 1930, but only the Pirates made the cut. Every National League team dropped by at least 44 points. Four Pirate regulars slugged over .500 in 1930; the high man the next year was Hall of Famer Paul Waner, at .453.
On the other hand, we have the Tigers, a team that finished 116 points behind the Red Sox last year in slugging. They have closed that gap to just 11 points through this juncture of the season.
Largest improvements in team slugging, 2003-2004:
Tigers: +62 Dodgers: +60 Cubs: +40 White Sox: +32 Reds: +27
At 62 points, they are still a piece from the all-time top 10, which caps at 70. Still, both Detroit and Los Angeles, the other hitless wonder team of '03, have come up greatly in this regard. They'd have to really bust out the bats the rest of the way to land with this company, though:
Largest team slugging average increases, all time:
Year Team Increase 1977 White Sox .095 1911 White Sox .089 1929 Phillies .084 1947 Giants .080 2000 Angels .077
Worst Matchup (Worst combined record with both teams being below .500): Detroit @ Kansas City
There he is.
...Carlos Guillen, the man the Seattle Mariners were ready to throw away in deference to Omar Vizquel, was 10th in all of baseball in VORP heading into Monday night's games. He was even ahead of Ivan Rodriguez, the other new Tiger who is getting a lot of the credit for revitalizing the team. I would have to say Guillen's presence in the top 10 is even more surprising than that of Sean Casey and Melvin Mora, the other two unlikelies, because Mora was getting there last year before being felled by an injury and Casey once had the goods, back when Bill Clinton was president.
If he keeps this up, Guillen had better make the All-Star team--or else. Or else what, I'm not saying. I'm just saying, "or else."
Biggest Mismatchup (Largest disparity in records with one team over .500 and the other under .500): New York @ Baltimore (Yankees up by 14 games)
The Orioles have suffered the indignity of being passed by the Devil Rays in the midst of the latter team's 11-game winning streak. Can you name another seventh-year franchise that turned its existence around with an 11-game winning streak? That's right--the 1969 Mets. On May 28 of that year, the Mets' record stood at 18-23 (which, as mediocre as it sounds, was still tied for the best Mets record ever through 41 games at that point). They then tore off 11 consecutive victories to put themselves on the way to a 100-win season. The Rays have had to win 11 in a row just to get to within hailing distance of .500. Furthermore, the '69 Mets later had winning streaks of 10 and nine. They also had a seven-gamer and two sixes interrupted by a loss.
In addition to having gotten some seriously woeful starting pitching, the Orioles are not chipping in with the gloves. Here are the five-worst team Defensive Efficiency ratings for 2004, heading into Monday's games:
Twins: .6718 Braves: .6719 Pirates: .6721 ORIOLES: .6762 Rockies: .6777
Closest Matchup (Teams with records that most resemble one another at press time): Oakland @ Anaheim
If one were to guess, one would assume that positions 1-16 in the greatest number of team sacs in the majors would be held down by National League teams while positions 17-30 would be in the hands of American League teams. Given the DH situation, this would stand to reason, even with the presence of interleague games on the schedule. Does it actually shake out like that?
Almost. There are a few overlap teams. They are:
White Sox: Tied for 12th with the Reds and Phillies
It is good for a National League team to be in the overlap, bad for the American. The White Sox have the best team slugging average in baseball and don't need to be screwing around with trading outs for single bases. Somebody needs to whisper that into the ear of manager Ozzie Guillen--or maybe scream it right into his face. The Mets are nearly an overlap team, too. Combine that with having the best stolen base percentage in the majors, and they're not chewing up very many baserunners voluntarily.
A total of 403 men have hit major league home runs this season. Ten have logged at least 100 at-bats without joining that list. It so happens that three of them are Angels.
Most at bats without a home run:
202: David Eckstein, Anaheim
What this means is that Anaheim has yet to get a single home run out of a first baseman this year. Their first basemen are slugging a combined .319. Let's put that into some perspective. In 1968, the Year of the Pitcher on your Chinese calendar, Wes Parker of the Dodgers slugged .314 while playing a full year at first for the Dodgers. Among full-time first basemen that year, he was the worst. Here we are in an age of offensive wonder, and the Angels are settling for a performance equivalent to that of a first baseman who played his ball in an all-time pitcher's park in an all-time pitcher's year. That's a hell of a handicap to give your opponents in a playoff race.