September 28, 2008
Sunday's Games to Watch
Today's Full Slate of Games
Matchup: Marlins (83-77) at Mets (89-72), 1:10 p.m. ET
Probable Starters: Scott Olsen (195 2/3 IP, 4.78 RA, 1.33 WHIP, 109 K) vs. Oliver Perez (188 2/3, 4.67, 1.40, 174)
Pythagorean Record: Florida, 80-80 (766 RS, 765 RA); New York, 89-72 (797 RS, 711 RA)
Hit List Rankings: Florida, #16; New York, #4
Prospectus: Not only does today's game at Shea Stadium help determine whether or not the Mets season lives on for another day, but it is also the last regular-season contest at the park that was built back in 1964. When the stadium originally opened, it had taken 29 months to build and cost $28.5 million, just a little more than the annual rate Citigroup, Inc. is going to pay for the naming rights on the new Mets' home. Though not as historic a venue as the park of the cross town Yankees, Shea Stadium has hosted three Division Series, seven National League Championship series, and four World Series during its 45 years of operation. If both the Mets and Brewers win or lose today, there will be one more game held at William A. Shea Municipal Stadium to determine which of the two teams is headed for October baseball; after that, the stadium will live on as long as the Mets' possible playoff run does.
According to Clay Davenport's Playoff Odds, the Mets are the favorites to come away as the wild-card victors, though the difference is essentially a coin flip with just one day to go; New York has a 54.7 percent chance, while the Brewers sit at 45.3 percent. Taking on the Mets this time out as proxies for Brewer playoff hopes are the Marlins, a team with a 14-9 record in September and only just recently eliminated from the wild-card race themselves. Although Perez isn't exactly the ace you want on the mound, the Marlins are countering with non-ace Olsen (5.04 FIP, 1.3 HR/9) on the bump today. There might not be a pitcher the Mets would rather face today: in his four starts against New York this year, Olsen has thrown 22 innings while allowing 17 runs and six homers along with a .315/.361/.607 line.
Matchup: Yankees (88-72) at Red Sox (94-66), 1:35 p.m. ET
Probable Starters: Mike Mussina (194 1/3 IP, 3.94 RA, 1.23 WHIP, 147 K) vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka (163 2/3, 3.02, 1.32, 149)
Pythagorean Record: New York, 86-74 (780 RS, 721 RA); Boston, 95-65 (839 RS, 685 RA)
Hit List Rankings: New York, #10; Boston, #1
Prospectus: Not that a 20-win season should mean anything in the context of effective analysis, it's incredible that a pitcher as talented as Mussina has never done it. It isn't like Moose has not pitched for a team capable of getting him 20 wins in a year-he's been with the Yankees since 2001, and this year is the first time they have not fielded a playoff team since 1994, and before that he was with the Orioles, who at that time were a club capable of making the playoffs-so the fact that he hasn't made it there yet is somewhat mysterious. No matter, today Mussina gets his shot at the mark against the Red Sox, and with the Red Sox already assured a spot in October and the Yankees guaranteed to watch the month unfold, Mussina's quest may be the high point in the series.
The best year of Moose's career was his first in New York, when he was worth 10.5 Wins Above Replacement (WARP3), but managed just 17 actual wins against 11 losses. This year, despite being his being 39 years old, has been one of Mussina's best beyond that 2001 season. If you use Jay Jaffe's JAWS system to determine a player's Hall of Fame relevancy, Mussina's 2008 is worthy of being one of his seven "peak" years, and helps give him an overall score of 66, right around the Hall of Fame average of 67.2 quoted during the election season earlier this year. It's not often that a player can help his own Hall of Fame case when he's on the cusp of turning 40, but Mussina has done that in the eyes of both the statistical analysis community and of the media members that will vote for him.
Matchup: Indians (81-80) at White Sox (86-74), 1:05 p.m. CT
Probable Starters: Bryan Bullington (9 2/3 IP, 5.59 RA, 1.14 WHIP, 10 K) vs. Mark Buehrle (211 2/3, 4.46, 1.33, 134)
Pythagorean Record: Cleveland, 85-76 (804 RS, 756 RA); Chicago, 87-73 (797 RS, 726 RA)
Hit List Rankings: Cleveland, #14; Chicago, #7
Prospectus: The one race left in the American League is between the White Sox and the Twins, as they fight for the AL Central division crown. The Sox dropped their fifth straight yesterday to continue their poor September (8-15 overall), and as bad as that has been, the Pale Hose have a tough road ahead of them to try an make good on their since-lost lead in the division: if the Twins win today, the Sox need to win both today against the Indians and tomorrow in a makeup game against the Tigers. Because of this, the odds for the Twins to make the playoffs are better than those of the White Sox; according to the Playoff Odds report, Minnesota has a 66.2 percent chance of heading to October, while the White Sox lag behind at 33.8 percent. At least the White Sox get to throw one of their best on the mound today, as Buehrle will be going against Bullington, a 27-year-old discard who has not done much of anything at three levels for the Pirates and Tribe this year, given his performance this year-a 4.75 ERA in Triple-A in the Indians' organization after a 5.52 mark in the Pirates'. PECOTA didn't expect much from the former Pirate either, as his weighted mean forecast was for a 5.18 ERA over 101 2/3 innings in the majors. At this stage of the game Cleveland may be the team best equipped to handle October baseball, given their turnaround after an awful first half. It's like 2005 all over again, as the Indians are arguably the top team in the division, but are not the team representing come October.
Matchup: Cubs (97-63) at Brewers (89-72), 1:05 p.m. CT
Probable Starters: Angel Guzman (7 2/3 IP, 7.04 RA, 1.70 WHIP, 6 K) vs. CC Sabathia (244, 3.10, 1.14, 244)
Pythagorean Record: Chicago, 98-62 (854 RS, 668 RA); Milwaukee, 87-74 (747 RS, 688 RA)
Hit List Rankings: Chicago, #2; Milwaukee, #9
Prospectus: The Brewers are pulling out all of the stops today, starting off with their using Sabathia on three days' rest yet again. It makes sense, as there won't be any more baseball to play if they don't take home the wild card, and Sabathia has done excellent work on short rest this year. He followed up his seven-inning start against the Cubs on September 16 with another at Cincinnati four days later; though he lasted just 5 2/3 innings, he threw 105 pitches and held the Reds to a single run. On the September 24, Pittsburgh didn't put up much of a fight either, with Sabathia going seven innings while striking out 11 Bucs en route to a 4-2 victory. However, this will be the third time he faces the Cubs this year since his trade from the Indians went through, and he has yet to win against them. With the wild card (or a one-game playoff) on the line today, the Brewers and their fans can agree that now would be a good time for him to change that.
Sabathia may have to go deep into this game as well, as the Brewers bullpen was nearly emptied out in their losing effort yesterday. Starter Ben Sheets once again failed to make it out of the third inning, and skipper Dale Sveum responded by using six pitchers in relief, including Dave Bush and Manny Parra. Salomon Torres did not record an out, but he did manage to give up three runs while he was in the game, continuing his poor September that has seen him go from the lone dependable arm in the bullpen to a dangerous pitcher to lean on: 12 2/3 innings pitched, 10 runs allowed, a pair of homers, and seven strikeouts and walks.
Matchup: Royals (76-86) at Twins (87-74), 1:10 p.m. CT
Probable Starters: Brandon Duckworth (32 IP, 5.06 RA, 1.59 WHIP, 15 K) vs. Scott Baker (165 1/3, 3.59, 1.20, 132)
Pythagorean Record: Kansas City, 72-89 (691 RS, 775 RA); Minnesota, 88-73 (823 RS, 744 RA)
Hit List Rankings: Kansas City, #24; Minnesota, #12
Prospectus: This is the last game of the day with playoff implications. Since the Twins, unlike the rival White Sox, have just one game left on the schedule, they have the better shot at October action, but it won't be easy going. The Royals have gone a surprising 18-7 in September, a record that includes three straight wins against the Twins (3-2 overall). Their reversal of fortune has not all been a product of mere luck either, as they have scored 134 runs against just 91 allowed during September, giving them a +43 run differential, a massive improvement on the -127 mark they posted during the first five months of the season. Duckworth, today's starter, has not been part of the month's good fortune, as he's 1-2 in September with a 5.14 ERA and just 4.7 strikeouts per nine.
The Twins have their best pitcher via SNLVAR on the mound today, defending their chances at a playoff appearance. Scott Baker has been worth 4.9 wins above replacement level, and could boost that over five depending on how his day goes. The 26-year-old has managed to fulfill the expectations laid out by his 90th-percentile PECOTA forecast, as his 3.59 ERA matches up nicely with the projected 3.49 mark, though Baker has been even better according to his peripherals, with 7.2 punchouts per nine and a low 2.1 walks per.