The third installment of a five-part series on the pressing questions confronting each team in 2013.
In the week leading up to Opening Day, we're asking and answering three questions about each team in a five-part series ordered by descending Playoff Pct from the Playoff Odds Report. Today, we continue with a look at the group of six teams with the third-highest odds of winning at least a Wild Card. As a reminder, you can find links to our preview podcasts for each team here.
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In all the many media entities based on the Sherlock Holmes character created by Arthur Conan Doyle, there had never before 2012 (to my knowledge) been one in which Holmes applied his deductive skills to baseball. Nor would one expect there to be, since 19th-century London—traditionally Holmes’ home—was not a hotbed of baseball analysis. But since his character was created, Holmes has become an accomplished traveler in both space and time, making it possible to conduct two TV shows and a movie franchise based on his character concurrently. And, thanks to the newest of those shows, also making it possible to expose the world’s most famous fictional detective to baseball.
The CBS procedural Elementary, now approaching the end of its first season, reimagines Holmes as a tattooed modern-day detective, freshly released from rehab and relocated from London, who offers his consulting services to the NYPD. And it takes Elementary all of one episode to bring up baseball, as if to remind the viewer that this is Sherlock Holmes in New York,like you’ve never seen him before. The scene, which I’ve embedded below, comes at the end of the pilot and shows Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) and Watson (Lucy Liu) winding down after a long day of deducing by watching the Mets.
Should Sandy Alderson trade or extend two of the Mets' most valuable assets?
I have two distinct memories of April 29, 2009. One is that Jerry Manuel, then with the Mets, made the single worst managerial decision I’ve ever seen. The other is that what should have been a treat—a Mets fan then living in Boston treated to a rare nationally televised game in resplendent high definition—was somewhat soured by the commentary of then-ESPN analyst and former Mets GM Steve Phillips, whose aesthetically pleasing screen presence was overshadowed by the negative associations of his time with the team.
Late in the game, talk turned to Phillips’ tenure as Mets general manager (which lasted from 1997-2003, or as I like to call it, forever). Phillips said some interesting things about having to learn to run an office and handle a large-market press corps and added a few other nuggets to remind us that being a GM would be much easier if it really were all spreadsheets and video. What he said next, though—a little side comment you’ve surely heard from your favorite team’s general manager, star player, manager, or owner—has stuck with me ever since. This was over three years ago, so allow me to paraphrase somewhat:
R.A. Dickey will make his final start of the season tonight. You know how good he's been at retiring batters, but you might not know about something else he excels at.
R.A. Dickey, who makes his final start of the season this evening in Miami, doesn't lack for résumé bullet points to sway Cy Young voters. Unsatisfied to elevate his career at an age when most pitchers are heading out to pasture, Dickey has also elevated the standard to which knuckleballers can aspire. He leads the National League in strikeouts, innings pitched, complete games and shutouts. He has an ungodly 4.1 K/BB ratio. He’s been one of the few bright spots on a Mets team that might be in last place without him. And fine, I’ll say it: Dickey is the first Met to win 20 games since Frank Viola in 1990. He even offers enough charming human interest angles to fill several episodes of This American Life.
Allow me, then, to toss a molehill on top of that mountain of accomplishment: R.A. Dickey is doing a historically great job of holding runners on base. With agility, poise, and a deep understanding of the fundamentals—as well as some out-and-out flaunting of the rulebook, which we’ll examine later—Dickey has overcome the highest possible degree of difficulty to not only hold his own against the running game, but become one of the very best in baseball at shutting it down. In 2012, only three qualified starters in all of baseball have allowed fewer stolen base attempts per stolen base opportunity than Dickey (defining “stolen base opportunity” as a man on first or second with the next base open). The average qualified starter has allowed 5.81 stolen base attempts per 100 opportunities this season. Dickey has allowed 1.85.