The Brewers are riding a hot streak right now, but will it be anywhere near enough for them to sneak into the playoffs?
The Brewers have won 15 of 20 and, after a two-out, two-run home run from Norichika Aoki to tie the game up in the bottom of the ninth on Sunday, the club was ever-so-close to sweeping the Cardinals and moving to within four games of the Wild Card spot. As it happened, however, St. Louis came through in the bottom of the tenth inning to win the game and keep the Crew six games back and tied with the Phillies for the final spot. In short, Milwaukee has a very long, if not impossible, road to the playoffs. That isn't going to keep Brewers fans from believing, however, especially after the 2011 Cardinals (and 2007 Rockies before them) showed them that a big September might be all it takes. Are they right to believe?
As of Monday morning, Milwaukee was six games out of the final Wild Card spot with two teams—the Dodgers and Pirates—between them and the holder of that spot, the Cards. That's three teams that must somehow flounder in these last three weeks while the Brewers surge. Considering that some of those teams ahead of the Brewers also play each other, the situation is pretty bleak.
This week's mailbag discusses pitchers gobbling up vulture wins, organizational depth as an indicator of spring training performance, and the worst Opening Day lineups ever.
Last week’s discussion of the worst pitchers started by defending World Series champions on Opening Day inspired me to look into the worst Opening Day starters period, regardless of where his team had finished the previous season. Claude Osteen, whom the Dodgers trotted out in Game One of their World Series title defense on April 12, 1966, doesn’t even sniff the title of “worst Opening Day starter ever”:
Worst Opening Day Starters Since 1951
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Which baseball player measures up to the Linsanity sweeping the nation?
Football season is over. Spring training is still a few days away. That means, for multi-sport fans like me, there is little choice but to get immersed in college basketball and the NBA. And doing so during the past week meant going Linsane.
Point guard Jeremy Lin emerged as the New York Knicks’ savior, reviving a team that was struggling to stay afloat in the absence of stars like Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. A Harvard graduate who went undrafted and was rejected by two teams, Lin certainly did not take the beaten path to fame, but that only adds to the intrigue of his timely breakout. Hoops Analyst writer Ed Weiland is one of the few who can claim he saw this coming.
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.
A look at the three most likely playoff series in the National League, all involving teams from the NL East.
There are not many playoff races of interest remaining this season. Despite a tight AL East race between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, both teams are almost a lock to make the playoffs according to Baseball Prospectus's Playoff Odds Report. A similar case has arisen in NL East, and indeed in the National League in general. Aside from the NL West race, the remaining three playoff spots are well in-hand given our expectations of the teams involved. The Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers have all but wrapped up their divisions with 100 and 95.5 percent odds of making it in according to their PECOTA projections. And while the Atlanta Braves may only hold a five-game edge on the San Francisco Giants for the Wild Card, they stand at an 87.8 percent chance to win the fourth playoff spot.
Presuming everyone plays as expected (and the “that's why the play the games” saying appears here as a warning that this does not always happen), the NL East teams have little to look forward to in the regular season; play out their games as expected and they should end up as two of the top contenders to represent the National League in the World Series. What sort of competition are they facing? Let us look ahead to the currently projected potential playoff matchups between the NL East division representatives and their likely opponents.
Oh, the mascot. Love 'em or hate 'em, they are as much a part of today's game as nine-figure contracts, HD ribbon boards, and journalistic digs at Alex Rodriguez.
These costumed, oversized creatures are clearly intended to appeal to the elementary school set, with their bright colors, funny shapes, and/or cartoon influences, but one need not look far to see that they often appeal to much older groups. The Racing Sausages, Mariner Moose, the Phillie Phanatic... people of all ages get excited by these classic mascots on a nightly basis.
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.
A cautionary tale for fans of the early over-achievers who think that their teams may go 159-3.
At this time of year, early hot streaks push unexpected teams up in the standings, like the Marlins, the Blue Jays, and, momentarily, the Orioles. The question then becomes whether or not the good start is legitimate. Should we get excited? Since the Rays advanced from their seemingly permanent spot in the basement to the World Series last year, everyone is on the lookout for the next club to take the Great Leap Forward; if you're going to jump on a bandwagon, it looks better if you get on early. The truth, however, is that teams like the 2008 Rays, the ugly ducklings that become swans, don't come along early, and many a solid early-season record turns out to be little more than a tease.
During my last chat, an innocent question about J.P. Ricciardi's endlessly mediocre tenure as the Toronto Blue Jays' general manager set me to thinking. There has always been something that seemed unusual about Ricciardi's teams, but not in the traditional way that we have of thinking about good teams or bad. The fact is, the Blue Jays have been neither good nor bad for a very long time; they've been treading water for time out of memory. Anyone who has tried treading water knows that there's only so long that you can do it. Even Michael Phelps would get tired bicycling his legs after a few hours, yet the Jays have been doing it for years, neither rising nor falling appreciably, but merely hovering in the same place, season after season.
The legacy of the Dodgers move west, and setting the record straight on Brooklyn's support of the Bums.
Another problem with evaluating O'Malley's legacy is that many revisionists, consciously or unconsciously, make a big deal out of the Dodgers' Brooklyn attendance, then and now. Disparage the Dodgers' support in the 1950s as a way of rationalizing O'Malley's gambit, they write phrases like "the Dodgers barely drew a million fans" in Brooklyn in the 1950s, as if that were some kind of crime. The fact is that both major leagues in the 1950s were in deep trouble, with overall attendance declining for a multitude of reasons. It is neither fair nor instructive to compare today's attendance, when the US population is double what it was in 1950, with five decades ago unless one also puts those numbers in context. Furthermore, the Los Angeles market of the twenty-first century is more than four times the size of Brooklyn's market in 1950.
The myth of weak attendance in Brooklyn undergirds the popular understanding of O'Malley's inspiration to go west. Despite the misconceptions that have obscured the facts since the move, the Dodgers had drawn better than the NL average (excluding Brooklyn) in every season from 1938 through 1956. Only in 1957, the Dodgers' last year in Brooklyn-and a season throughout which rumors swirled that the team was headed west-did O'Malley's team fall a few thousand fans short of the league mean in attendance.