Breaking down the 2013 interleague schedule for all 30 teams. What teams are forced to deviate from their regular roster/lineup construction for the longest stretch of the year?
With the Astros finally moved into the American League, we have a very different interleague schedule this year. Not only does it mean that there is now at least one interleague series happening each day of the season, from April to October, it also means that the "rivalry weekends" that were the highlights of the interleague schedule fifteen years ago have been re-shaped. Additionally, the newly balanced divisions mean that, outside of the rivalry games, all teams in a given division can play the exact same teams as their divisional opponents. No longer do the schedule makers have to worry about a six-team division matching up with a four-team division.
So how did the schedule makers do? Did the schedule turn out as balanced as can be? Were they able to ensure that teams from any one division would have the same opponents as their division-mates? Were all clubs given the same number of interleague matches or did some lucky squad or two end up a series short? One thing to remember here is that, with interleague games happening all year long instead of on two or three specific weekends, clubs are now on unequal footing when it comes to setting their rosters for the change in league rules. If one team, for example, only ever has to worry about forcing their pitchers to hit one weekend a month, they are probably in a better situation than the club forced to suddenly remove their all-star DH for nine straight games. National League clubs playing in American League ballparks will have similar problems in trying to add a DH for extended periods of time.
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.
Pedro Alvarez's big-league career hasn't begun quite as the Pirates hoped it would, but will his future be more like Brad Eldred's or Jose Bautista's?
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Pat Lackey is the writer, editor, chief scientist, and head brewmaster of Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke?, a blog that's been chronicling the peaks and valleys of Pittsburgh Pirate fandom since 2005. He has been a grad student for more than half of that time. You can find him on Twitter @whygavs, where he'll be more than happy to talk about pretty much anything, including, but not limited to: baseball, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh baseball, good science fiction, bad science fiction, just fiction in general, beer, making beer, and comic books. No, he has not set a defense date yet.
Michael looks at Value Picks to be found in the first-base battles in Cleveland and Pittsburgh
Part of the excitement of Spring Training is watching Opening Day rosters take shape—usually, this involves whether a top prospect will start the year in the minors or which utility man grabs the final bench spot. Less often, we get to watch two players compete for the right to start, an especially important choice at the power position of first base. While both Cleveland and Pittsburgh seems to have made their choices at the cold corner, there are still some other options that could rise to the challenge and bring value to their fantasy owners.
The Pirates' continuing struggles at Miller Park might help make the Brewers' season.
On Sunday, the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates for their 70th win of the season. The game dropped the formerly feisty Pirates to 56-63, thirteen games behind the division-leading Brewers. Charlie Morton, Pittsburgh's biggest success story of the season, started the game on Sunday and seemed to have the win in the bank. After extending his scoreless inning streak to 24 with 7.1 innings of four-hit, no-run ball, Morton left the game with a runner on second, one out, and a one-run lead. After Jose Veras got the second out in the inning, closer Joel Hanrahan came in for the four-out save. Hanrahan struck out Nyjer Morgan to end the eighth, but the ball got away from catcher Michael McKenry, and Morgan streaked to first. Ryan Braun made good on the free opportunity two pitches later, and the game was tied. Milwaukee would go on to win it in the tenth inning on a sacrifice fly from Morgan, wasting the great start from Morton and securing the sweep.
The game also marked Pittsburgh's 34th loss in 36 games at Miller Park, a streak dating back to May 2007. At that time, Jason Bay was hitting cleanup in a lineup that featured Jose Bautista as the starting third baseman and a right-field platoon of Xavier Nady and Ryan Doumit. The Pirates had come into Milwaukee for a four-game series sitting on a 12-14 record. Tom Gorzelanny earned the win in the first game, when Bay, Bautista, and others combined for a four-run seventh-inning en route to a 4-2 victory. The next night, the Brewers pounded Pittsburgh's pitching by scoring one run in four of the first five innings before erupting for six more in the sixth and seventh innings. The 10-0 loss was harsh, but no one knew it meant anything more than that. Milwaukee finished out that early-May series with a convincing 6-3 victory on Saturday and a tight 6-4 victory on Sunday, when Pittsburgh tied it up at four in the seventh before giving it up again in the eighth.
The number of games remaining against the division's bottom-dwellers may help determine which Central team goes to the playoffs.
Over the weekend, the Chicago Cubs swept the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field. In the three-game series, Chicago outscored Houston 14-7, as each of the Cubs’ starters went six innings or more. That small stretch of performance was notable because it was the first three-game winning streak the Cubs had had, over 100 games into the season.
Those wins were a nice sign of life from a team some predicted to be the division's dark horse before the season began, but the Cubs are 42-60 even after the series sweep, and no one expects them to roll on to first place or even respectability. They just don't have it in them, and the Astros aren't exactly a team whose defeat inspires celebration. With a .327 winning percentage as the trade deadline approaches, Houston is far-and-away the worst team in baseball.
Should the Pirates keep their team together to flirt with .500 or sell the scraps to improve their future performance?
A report linking the Rangers to Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan made slight waves over the weekend. Folks within the Rangers organization denied the speculation, as team sources are wont to do, and now the talk concerning the deal will permeate not only front offices—assuming there was some form of communication there to begin with—but also the fan and analyst communities. In related news, the July 31 trading deadline is nearing.
By now, most teams know what they need. They also know what they don’t need. The most compelling aspect of the 2011 deadline is the identity of the sellers. Only two teams are more than 10 games under .500; everyone else is either in play or on the bubble, Pittsburgh included. That said, the Pirates are still very unlikely to make the postseason. Entering today, the PECOTA-generated playoff odds have them reaching the tournament less than one percent of the time.
Red Sox minor-league pitching coach Bob Kipper recalls his major-league playing experiences.
Before he became a highly-regarded minor-league pitching coach, Bob Kipper lived the dream that he now helps others pursue. The 46-year-old erstwhile left-hander spent eight seasons in the big leagues, and while his record was humble—27-37 with a 4.34 ERA and 11 saves—he considers himself privileged to have simply earned the opportunity. Taken eighth overall in the 1982 draft by the California Angels, Kipper was traded to Pittsburgh three years later and logged the bulk of his 247 career appearances with the Pirates. He has been a pitching coach in the Red Sox organization since 1999, and he spent the 2010 season mentoring hurlers in Double-A Portland.
With Pedro Alvarez, Mike Stanton and Carlos Santana in the major leagues, what else is in the pipeline for the Pirates, Marlins and Indians?
The month of June has been defined by big-name call-ups, and although none has been bigger than Stephen Strasburg. Let's look at three other teams that have added some prime talent to their roster and see whether there is more coming.
One of relief pitching's pioneers reflects on his career with the Pirates and the way closers are handled today.
Elroy Face is a baseball icon in Pittsburgh. Soon to celebrate his 82nd birthday, Face spent 15 of his 16 big-league seasons in a Pirates uniform, setting a standard for relief pitchers in an era that preceded modern-day usage. The right-handed forkballer threw 1,375 innings over 848 appearances from 1953-69, logging 104 wins and 193 saves. A three-time All-Star, Face played a major role on the 1960 championship club, saved a then-record 28 games in 1962, but is best known for his remarkable 1959 season in which he posted an 18-1 record pitching exclusively out of the bullpen.