While no one would have predicted it a mere month ago, the Braves have collapsed and hold a single game lead over the Cards.
As sports fans, we all love a good collapse. This may be because inherent to all good collapses are also good comebacks, and everyone loves a good comeback. Combine the nature of these dual concepts with the stakes of making it to the playoffs for a chance at the World Series, and you have an intriguing storyline to follow at the end of an otherwise dull 2011 stretch run. The Atlanta Braves were 8.5 games ahead of their closest Wild Card competitor, the St. Louis Cardinals, at the beginning of September. CoolStandings had them at a 97.8 percent chance of making the playoffs (96.4 percent chance of winning the Wild Card) that day using their “smart” mode assumptions. The Cardinals, on the other hand, had just a 4.3 percent chance of making the postseason. Flash forward to the present time, and the Braves and Cardinals are in drastically different situations. Since September 1, the Braves have gone 8-15 while the Cardinals have gone the opposite direction, posting a 15-7 record. The reversal of fortunes has put the Braves just one game ahead of the Cardinals for the Wild Card lead with only three games remaining.
This drastic change is reflected in the Playoff Odds Report. Through September 24, the Braves had an 88.8 percent chance of moving into the postseason, while the Cardinals were up to 11.2 percent. This change was most drastic during the past week—a week in which the Braves went 2-4 versus the three lower-ranked teams in the NL East while the Cardinals won five of seven games. Atlanta lost almost seven percent on their odds to make the playoffs this past week, while the Cardinals gained eight percentage points in their quest to thwart the previously untouchable Braves.
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B.J. Upton and Colby Rasmus had sky-high ceilings as prospects, but their up-and-down performances in the majors has led them to the trading block.
The July 31 trading deadline traditionally turns the spotlight on pending free agents that can shore up a contender's roster for the stretch run. Carlos Beltran and Hiroki Kuroda are the belles of the quick-fix ball this year, and if they don't sound tremendously enticing, it helps explain why so much talk is focused elsewhere, on younger and more affordable players still under club control. Ubaldo Jimenez and Hunter Pence fit that bill, even if their respective teams' willingness to trade them is something of a head-scratcher. More puzzling is how B.J. Upton and Colby Rasmus have arrived at this juncture, particularly given the big things projected for them just a few years ago. On the other hand, maybe that explains exactly why they're here.
Pegging BP's favorites in both leagues, both in the standings and for the major awards.
Today we reveal the Baseball Prospectus staff predictions for the division standings and the major player awards (MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year) in the American and National Leagues. Each staff member's division standings predictions may be found later in the article. Here, we present a wisdom-of-the-crowds summary of the results. In each table you'll find the average rank of each team in their division with first-place votes in parentheses, plus the results of our pre-season MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year voting.
For the MVP voting, we've slightly amended the traditional points system in place that has been used elsewhere, dropping fourth- and fifth-place votes to make it 10-7-5 for the MVP Award, and the regular 5-3-1 for the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Awards (that's 5 points for a first-place vote, 3 points for a second-place vote, etc.). Next to each of these selections we've listed the total number of ballots, followed by the total number of points, and then the number of first-place votes in parentheses, if any were received.
The Tony La Russa-Albert Pujols era in St. Louis is nearly unprecedented.
It’s the last day of the season at Wrigley Field and I’m determined to wait out Albert Pujols.
I’ve been assigned to cover the Cardinals for the weekend series, the last three games at the antique ballpark in the 2010 season. Before each game, I spend about three hours hanging around the Cardinals in the visiting team clubhouse at Wrigley—a dank, cramped space that isn’t as big as the locker room at the high school I attended in small-town Iowa. It’s an awkward setup, leaving you hovering around 30-35 big-league personnel with no place to stand. On the flip side, there really is no place for them to hide. If you need to interview someone, this is the place to do it. Only the most resolute can avoid the press in there.
Big things were expect of the Birds, but it's time to give them a peck on the beak and say sayonara.
Kiss 'Em Goodbye is a series focusing on MLB teams as their postseason dreams fade—whether in September (or before), the League Division Series, League Championship Series or World Series. It combines a broad overview of this season from Buster Olney, a take from Baseball Prospectus, a look toward an immediate 2011 move courtesy of Rumor Central and Kevin Goldstein's farm system overview. You can find all the teams on one page by going here.
Were the Cardinals playing contender pretender before their collapse?
On August 13, the Cardinals defeated the Cubs, 6-3, improving their record to 65-49. Recently acquired Jake Westbrook scattered two runs over six innings in his third start with the team, Matt Holliday knocked in a run on two doubles, Albert Pujols hit his league-leading 29th home run, and Colby Rasmus showed one of the many facets of his value by walking in all four of his plate appearances. The win kept the Cardinals a game up in the NL Central over the Reds, who had beaten the Marlins. Entering play the next day, our playoff odds report gave the Cardinals a 66 percent chance of winning the division, as well as a 13 percent chance of winning the wild card. Put together, the Cardinals made the playoffs in four out of every five simulations, a very safe position.
Albert Pujols comes out on top of the list of major-leaguers who provide the most bang for the buck.
Two weeks ago, I introduced the new version of our Market Value Over Replacement Player (MORP) statistic. In today’s article, I will discuss the “Most Net Valuable Players” of 2009 according to this metric. These are the players who provided far more than their salary and draft-pick compensation costs in 2009. Unsurprisingly, the majority of players atop this list will not be players with six or more years of service time necessary to become a free agent. Evan Longoria, for example, was one of the most net valuable players in the league last year because the Rays were not required to compete with other teams for his 2009 services. Albert Pujols, on the other hand, has enough service time that he could have been a free agent before 2009 had he elected, so the Cardinals were required to pay more for his services. Therefore, the first table below will only list the most valuable players who would have been free agents before 2009 if they were not already under contract.
Pegging BP's favorites in both leagues, in the standings and for the major awards.
Today we reveal the Baseball Prospectus staff predictions for the division standings and the major player awards (MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year) in the American and National Leagues. Each staff member's division standings predictions may be found later in the article. Here, we present a wisdom-of-the-crowds summary of the results. In each table you'll find the average rank of each team in their division with first-place votes in parentheses, plus the results of our pre-season MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year voting. Picking favorites for the Wild Card for the respective leagues initially might have seemed easy, since the selections universally favored the second-place team in the AL East, while all but two voters picked their second-place teams in the NL East to earn the non-division champ playoff team, but a tie in the rankings had to be broken in favor of the team named the Wild Card winner on the most individual ballots, which is sure to upset some people.
For the MVP voting, we've slightly amended the traditional points system in place that's been used elsewhere, dropping fourth- and fifth-place votes to make it 10-7-5 for the MVP Award, and the regular 5-3-1 for the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Awards (that's 5 points for a first-place vote, 3 points for a second-place vote, etc.). Next to each of these selections we've listed the total number of ballots, followed by the total number of points, and then the number of first-place votes in parentheses, if any were received.
What's left on the market, the Cardinals make news in more ways than one, the vote's in for the Hall of Fame, plus other news.
All the big names are off the free-agent board now that Matt Holliday has re-signed with the Cardinals, Jason Bay pulled a surprise and signed with the Mets, and John Lackey caught many off guard by switching coasts and signing with the Red Sox. Thus, most of the money has been spent. However, there are still quality players on the free-agent market. The chances are also very good that they will be signing at cut-rate prices now that the date for pitchers and catchers reporting no longer seems an eternity away.
Two of the all-time greats in the dugout square off with the benefit of some of two of the most famous sluggers on the field.
Were it not for a 2-8 swoon over the Cardinals' final 10 games, the NL Division Series matchup between the Dodgers and the Cards could lay claim to pitting the team with the hottest first-half record (the blue team) against the one with the hottest second-half record (the red team). As it is, St. Louis still won the Central by the largest margin of any NL division champion (7½ games), turning what was once a crowded four-team race into a laugher thanks to some timely in-season upgrades, most notably the July 24 trade which brought Matt Holliday from Oakland-a point after which the Cards did have the league's best record (39-25).