World Series time! Enjoy Premium-level access to most features through the end of the Series!
July 8, 2008
Tuesday's Games to Watch
Matchup: Rays (55-33) at Yankees (47-42), 7:05 p.m. ET
However, reports of the Yankees demise, if they have been published at all, might be a bit premature. Lest anyone think it it will be easy to end the longest consecutive run of playoff appearances in baseball history, consider that the Yankees have been the best second-half team in baseball since their playoff streak began in 1998, and have stormed back from sizable midseason deficits to take the division in both 2005 and 2006. Now, 8˝ games behind and a 0.8 percent shot at the title is another matter, of course, but New York still possesses one clear advantage that has been present since the beginning of the Yankees' run: closer Mariano Rivera. Rivera just keeps rolling along, and perhaps incredibly is having his best season at age 38, having converted all 23 of his save opportunities and posted a 1.12 RA. With three walks and 46 strikeouts, Rivera has a 15.3 ratio, which is currently the third best in a season of 40 or more innings since 1900, behind Dennis Eckersley in 1989 (18.3, 55 K/3 BB) and 1990 (73 K/4 BB). Rivera's 0.65 WHIP would also rank third behind Eckersley's in those 1989-90 seasons, when he had consecutive marks of 0.61.
Thanks to Jason Paré for database research.
Matchup: Cardinals (50-40) at Phillies (48-42), 7:05 p.m. ET
One of the interesting things about Hamels is that he has virtually no platoon limitation. This season, in fact, right-handers are hitting worse (618 OPS in 395 PA) against him than lefties are (688 in 111), and for his career those numbers are very close to equal (682 for righties, 696 for lefties). Hamels' best pitch-and indeed one of the best in baseball-is his changeup, which he throws 30 percent of the time, and which effectively neuters right-handed swingers, keeping them from sitting on his fastball/curve combination. Pineiro also throws a changeup, and he has also been better against the opposite hand, as lefties have a 735 OPS in 2533 career PA and righties a 778 in 2463. This is very rare over so long a career-PECOTA projected just 11 right-handed pitchers to have a reverse platoon split this season; amongst pitchers currently in the majors, Pineiro is joined by Scott Linebrink, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, and Tim Wakefield.
Thanks to William Burke and Nate Silver for database research
Matchup: Rockies (38-52) at Brewers (49-40), 7:05 p.m. CT
The Sabathia trade calls to mind another that the Indians made with a National League club. On June 13 of 1984, Cleveland sent 28-year-old Rick Sutcliffe-who had struggled to that point in putting up a 5.15 ERA in 94 innings-to Wrigleyville and the Cubs in exchange for Mel Hall, Joe Carter, Don Schulze, and Darryl Banks. Sutcliffe subsequently went on a remarkable run, winning 16 of his 20 starts the rest of the way and putting up a 2.69 ERA in 150 innings to win the NL Cy Young. The Brewers certainly hope that Sabathia can replicate Sutcliffe's success in the 16 or so starts he has remaining, and given that he has transferred to the weaker league and is in line to receive better run support, such a burst of effectiveness is a possibility, even if more hardware probably is not.
Matchup: Reds (43-47) at Cubs (53-36), 7:05 p.m. CT
Harang certainly hasn't had much help from his teammates, either on offense or defense. Cincinnati ranks second to last in Defensive Efficiency, and while it might have the most immobile pair of corner outfielders in the majors in Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr., an even bigger issue is the infield's left side. Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion is probably the worst-fielding glove at third in the bigs-he was last in the third-base rankings with -13.1 Simple Fielding Runs (SFR) two years ago, his sophomore season, and in 2008 finished ahead of only Ryan Braun, who was promptly moved to left field. This year has provided more of the same, for Encarnacion is second-to-last in Range Factor and has a sub-par .933 fielding percentage, as well as a particularly gruesome FRAA total. (Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez is last in range factor this season, and he was ahead of only Encarnacion by SFR amongst third basemen in '06.) Things aren't much better for Cincy at shortstop, where Jeff Keppinger-last in Range Factor amongst those who have played 50 or more innings at the position-is splitting time with Jerry Hairston Jr., who had played just six of his 5,743 major league innings at shortstop before this season, and for a reason. Added together, those three have approximated the negative production of last year's Hanley Ramirez/Miguel Cabrera left-side matador act in South Florida. The good news is that the Reds have received a surprising jolt from the bat of Hairston, whose career-year production has moved him into a tie with Adam Dunn for the team lead in EqA (.309).
Matchup: Braves (42-48) at Dodgers (44-45), 7:10 p.m. PT
The last Braves catcher to go to three straight All-Star games was none other than Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who came up with the Milwaukee Braves in 1960 and made the NL squad five consecutive seasons from 1963-67, the last two after the team moved to Atlanta. Of the 22 backstops who have amassed more than 1000 plate appearances for the Braves, Torre ranks first with an OPS+ of 129, while McCann is second, at 120. McCann is a similar hitter to Torre, in that both hit for power and average, with a decent OBP to boot. Torre's line with the Braves-.294/.356/.462 in 4100 plate appearances-is very close to McCann's current career numbers (.295/.353/.499), which is why Torre shows up at No. 10 on McCann's list of similar batters through the age of 23. The Los Angeles skipper also offers an interesting comparison to his opposing helmsman in the Atlanta dugout: Bobby Cox, who turned 67 in May, and Torre, who will turn 68 on July 18, are the two oldest managers in baseball, and each ranks in the top 10 all-time in victories. Torre's second managerial stint was with the Braves, and he guided them to their first division title in 13 seasons in 1982, his first year in their duguout. Torre left after the 1984 season, and Atlanta ran through four different managers before Cox came back out of their front office midway through the 1990 campaign.
Caleb Peiffer is a contributor to Baseball Prospectus. He can be reached here.