A recap of the first half's best, worst, and most exciting games.
Today is the stupidest day of the year (and you’re not far behind, tomorrow, so stop looking so smug). The Wednesday after the All-Star Game is the one day on the calendar without any major sports, which makes it extremely stupid. I’m more concerned with the utter lack of baseball games (save your Triple-A All-Star Game, people), and this year is even worse as the break has been extended through Thursday.
I am torn on this change. Usually there are six or seven games on Thursday, which is entirely unfair to the teams who have to play while others get another day of rest. Selfishly, I was always glad to see baseball return, but how was that not an all-or-nothing day? They landed on the side of nothing, so we’re stuck with two baseball-free days. This is like giving Jesse Pinkman a wheelbarrow full of meth for nearly three months and then none for two days. This isn’t going down from wheelbarrow to radio flyer red wagon to a bucket full to a handful; it’s going from wheelbarrow to zero.
Mike continues his investigation of HITf/x data to glean more insights into whether pitchers can prevent hits on balls in play.
In the first part of this study, I used detailed batted ball speed information from HITf/x to examine the degree of skill that batters and pitchers had in quality of contact made or allowed. Here, I will look deeper into the question of why some batted balls fall for hits and others do not.
When pitchers are dubbed "overworked" in the first half, does their performance really drop off in the season's second half?
On Tuesday, Jason Collette penned an article entitled “Kimbrel and Venters: Ticking Time Bombs?” in which he examined two of 2010’s most overworked relief pitchers: the Braves’ dynamic duo of Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters. Everyone knows their story by now: extremely young pitchers, barely 100 major-league innings between them coming into the season, and being ridden incredibly hard by Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. As such, every broadcaster, beat writer, blogger, and fantasy analyst is wondering how the duo will be affected, each postulating their own opinions, opinions that fill the entire spectrum of possible opinions. Those who think modern day pitchers are babied are thrilled to see such a throwback approach. Others believe that such unbridled usage will inevitably lead to injury or collapse. So where does the real answer lie?
While Jason looked at how overworked pitchers fared the following season, I thought I’d use a slightly different approach and examine how pitchers who are overworked in the first half of a season fare in the second half.
Reviewing the best and worst first-half position players on each team.
In the numerical sense, the halfway point of the season arrived about a week ago. However, the All-Star break marks the arbitrary end point of the first half, bringing a few days of festivities and vacations to the forefront. That period of inactivity in games that matter offers a window into the frozen stats for each team, allowing us to see who is leading the charge and who is failing the team so far.
In order to determine who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, I’ll enlist the aid of the Wins Above Replacement metric. Next time, we’ll cover the pitchers, but for today, it’s all about the position players.
Jay looks at Derek Jeter's struggles trying to reach 3,000 hits and the corresponding struggles of his team last night.
It's not easy being Derek Jeter. Fresh off his 37th birthday, he is simultaneously on the precipice of making history—the first player to attain 3,000 hits as a Yankee, the 11th player to do so with a single team, and the 28th player to do so, period—and of being written off. Mere months after signing a three-year, $51 million deal (plus a player option) following a stretch of contentious negotiations, he is in the throes of the worst season of his 17-year career, his contract even more obviously an albatross than it appeared when he signed it. For a player who has always downplayed personal accomplishments in favor of team success, this is an uncomfortable time.
With the All-Star break approaching, it's time to see how teams are faring in a matchup of club WARP leaders versus salary leaders.
With the first half of the season winding down, it is time to award the NL East players their first-half MVP awards. But to make things more interesting, let’s see how these said first-half MVPs match up to their respective contracts and whether some of the higher-priced members of the division are living up their deals. For each organization, the team leader in WARP will be listed along with their WARP total and 2011 salary. The team's highest-paid player in 2011 will also be listed likewise.
The Twins and Yankees meet yet again in the first round of the postseason but Minnesota has home field advantage this time.
As they did last year as well as 2003 and 2004, the Twins run squarely into the Yankee juggernaut in the first round. Unlike those other three meetings, they have home field advantage this time around, as they won the AL Central going away thanks to a league-best 48-26 second-half record. The defending world champion Yankees, who held the majors' best record for most of the season, were forced to settle for the wild card due to a sluggish 13-17 showing against a very tough schedule in September and October. Despite the relative temperatures of the two clubs, it's important to remember that late-season records aren't predictive of October success—or failure.
Do the Rockies have an unearned reputation as a second-half team?
On August 22, the Rockies languished 11 games behind the first-place Padres in the National League West. Tommy Bennettkept the faith despite the team’s predicament, but aside from his beard (whom I’ve anthropomorphized since our first encounter), few observers shared his belief in a rosy denouement in Denver. With a double-digit deficit in the loss column and just 39 games to play, the Rockies appeared to have gotten themselves into another nice mile-high mess.
Of course, we know what happened next: fast-forward less than four weeks, and the standings look quite a bit different: on September 18, the Rockies trailed the Padres by a single game. In retrospect, maybe we should have seen this coming. After all, the Rockies have made a habit of reeling off late-season victories in the last few years. In 2007, they famously won at a .613 clip to force a 163rdgame and earn a spot in the NLDS after a .500 first half. In 2008, the team finished with a losing record, but after going 39-57 before the All-Star break, played at a .530 pace in the second half. And finally, last season’s Rockies finished the first half six games over .500, but played .608 baseball the rest of the way. Earlier this season, the club was even criticized for its apparent unconcern, ostensibly arising from the confidence imparted by its players’ past second-half successes. Case closed, right? The Rockies are a second-half club.
The Yankees' second sacker seems to keep coming and going from great to less so, but is he finally about to settle in as an offensive star?
This is not the first time there has been a Robinson Cano Player Profile at Baseball Prospectus. Given the team we are talking about, consider this the Empire Strikes Back edition of Player Profile; we'll continue the story started a few years back, and take a look at Cano during his peak when the tale was at its most interesting point. I won't be discussing the time he had to cut open his Tauntaun on the ice planet Hoth in order to warm up his bat, though, because some things are better left to the imagination.
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).