Pinpointing the positions with the worst projections on this season's likely contending clubs.
Every year, several teams finish out of the playoffs by a handful of games, close enough to taste October but just as ineligible for post-season play as the lowliest of last-place finishers. Last season, the Red Sox and Braves were both eliminated on the season’s final day after watching what had seemed to be safe leads evaporate. Since a one-game swing for either team would have meant a much different outcome, it was tempting to look back and wonder where in the lineup they could have eked out an extra victory.
As Jay Jaffenoted in January, right field proved to be a particular weak point for both teams. Braves right fielder Jason Heyward slumped to a .254 True Average (TAv) in an injury-plagued sophomore season, and his replacements—primarily Eric Hinske, Joe Mather, and Jose Constanza—hit only .252/.294/.346 in his absence. In Boston, J.D. Drew added a 60-day DL stint for a left shoulder impingement to his lengthy injury history and hit just .222/.315/.302 when active. His replacements—mainly Josh Reddick, Darnell McDonald, and Mike Cameron—made Heyward’s look good, mustering only a .234/.282/.377 line. As a result, Braves right fielders accumulated 0.6 WARP, and Red Sox right fielders checked in at 1.3 WARP. It’s reasonable to wonder whether both teams would have made the playoffs with even average (roughly 2.0 WARP) production in right.
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A series that will feature spectacular pitching may come down to the tiniest advantages to decide the winner.
So, let's see, for an initial checklist for maximum LCS entertainment potential, is there anything missing? Record-wise, the two best teams in National League? Check, even if we allow for the fact that the Giants weren't one of the top two teams in Clay Davenport's adjusted standings. The two best rotations in baseball? Check. Heck, it even features two of the three best defensive units in the league (via PADE), with only the already-vanquished Reds separating the Giants and Phillies. And the offenses are... well, OK, this whole clash of the titans thing only goes so far, because they're not both among the best in the league. The Phillies are, tying for third in the league in team-level True Average, but the Giants finished back in ninth place, even with Brian Sabean's ticky-tack trades to accrue incremental improvements.
Admit it, you've always wondered about the answer.
Question 4: Would a major league batting champion dominate in wiffle ball?
"Wiffle ball is like fight club." Yes, except with Wiffle balls and no fighting, but the point Tom Lynch, a sports marketing consultant who has played in leagues all over the country, is trying to make is that there are some parallels in the underground, word-of-mouth nature of both. There are hundreds of Wiffle ball communities throughout the country, filled with thousands of men who do battle against one another every weekend with plastic bats and plastic balls.
While some candidates are shying away from the mess in Pittsburgh, the open General Manager position is much more desirable than it appears.
In his most recent BP chat, Pirates beat writer John Perrotto noted that White Sox executive Rick Hahn opted against interviewing with the Pirates. I would guess Hahn is not alone in expressing this sentiment, and while we can't know any one person's reasons for passing on a job opportunity, it's impossible to imagine that the depressed health of baseball in Pittsburgh didn't have anything to do with Hahn's decision.
Pujols being Pujols makes this edition of Game of the Week a must-read.
That's what makes today's game so important for the Cards. Knowing that they will be without Mulder, and holding no illusions about their remaining starters, it is vital to the team that rookie Anthony Reyes step up and claim Mulder's place in the rotation. Reyes was sent down in mid-August, because after a fine start to the season (1-2, 2.16 ERA in his first four starts), he'd gotten roughed up a bit in July (1-3, 6.84 ERA) and August (2-1, 5.40 ERA). But in two Triple-A starts after being sent down, Reyes didn't allow a single run; meanwhile, Mulder's physical problems and general ineffectiveness (his -15.1 VORP is the lowest pitcher VORP in the NL this season) meant that there was an opening in the rotation. Reyes has a month in which to prove he can provide the kind of pitching the rotation needs.
Transactions galore: the Yankees practice running in place; the Red Sox beef up their bullpen; the Giants aquire a starter for the postseason; the A's add a little power to their outfield; and the Reds throw up the white flag, but get some pretty good arms in return. All this and much more news from around the league in your post-Trading Deadline edition of Transaction Analysis.