Cleveland and Baltimore are playoff contenders, but not because of their men on the mound.
The Thursday Takeaway
If there is one thing that stands between the 2013 Indians and the organization’s first postseason berth since 2007, it is a lack of dependable pitching.
The Tribe entered play on Thursday ranked fifth in the majors in runs scored and sixth in True Average, a considerable improvement from last year, when Cleveland placed 22nd and 18th, respectively, in those categories. The Indians’ fielding also has been markedly better this year than it was in 2012, enough to bump their park-adjusted defensive efficiency up from 24th to 12th in the league. Unfortunately, while the pitching is on the right track—with the team’s ERA down from 4.78 to 4.38—it still ranks near the bottom of the pack (27th).
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
The Dodgers are poised on the precipice of a winning record for the first time since April.
The Wednesday Takeaways
With 30 teams in the major leagues, there are 435 possible matchups, and—since there are no ties in baseball—870 possible results. Entering play on Wednesday night, 869 of those outcomes had, at some point in history, been recorded. But the Pirates had never beaten the Athletics. They had played 11 times, including twice earlier this week, and the A’s had won each one.
Finally, in their 12th crack at the green and gold since 2002, the Buccos came out on top. Clint Hurdle’s club, which—now just 28 wins shy of the franchise’s first winning season in two decades—is well on its way to a more significant bit of history, rode the left shoulder of Francisco Liriano to a 5-0 shutout in the series finale.
The Giants try to clinch their second championship in three years, while the Tigers hope to live to play another day.
Before San Francisco’s 2-0 victory in Game Three, no team had logged back-to-back shutout victories in the World Series since the 1966 Orioles. The 2012 Tigers were held scoreless only twice during the regular season. So, naturally, the Giants blanked the Tigers in Games Two and Three to take a commanding, 3-0 lead in the Fall Classic. Can Detroit bounce back and avoid a sweep, or will the 2012 season end tonight, with San Francisco celebrating for the second time in three years? To answer those questions, here is a closer look at Game Four:
The Brewers seemed to wave the white flag in July. Ever since they've been white hot.
In the days leading up to July 27th, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin weighed his options regarding free-agent-to-be Zack Greinke. He could keep Greinke, gamble on overcoming bleak playoff odds, and recoup draft picks during the offseason; or, trade Greinke before the deadline and jumpstart the rebuilding process. Melvin chose to send Greinke to the Angels for a trio of prospects. Days later, on July 31th, the Brewers improved their record to 47-56; the nearest wild card team sat 12 wins ahead. Given their team’s positions in the standings and on the trade market, you could excuse Brewers fans for checking out. After all, the 2012 season appeared to be another disappointment in a string of them, dating back to the club’s loss in the 2011 National League Championship Series.
Over the ensuing months, Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder would leave via free agency. A case of broken protocol entangled newly minted NL MVP Ryan Braun in a messy controversy, if not a 50-game suspension. Factor in Greinke speculation, and Milwaukee fans were eager to get the season underway, with the drama of a pennant chase being a preferable alternative to the malaise of their offseason. The good feelings didn’t last long. Milwaukee spent April bobbing over and under the .500 mark, finishing the month at 11-12. By the time August arrived, the Brewers’ rounded playoff odds were zero percent.
Inspired by the top-heavy Tigers and Dodgers, Brad investigates how well NBA-style roster construction works in MLB.
Since the NBA playoffs are currently going full throttle, this seems as apt a time as any to explore a basic concept of roster construction from that league to big-league baseball. Of course, many of you will disagree with this necessity of this because you don't like the NBA. Some of you will deny the very existence of professional basketball. That's okay. Trust me, this is a baseball article.
The Inside the Park series is about stories, but sometimes there in no particular story angle to what otherwise seems like a fun idea for an article. That's the case here. During the offseason, and after the Prince Fielder signing, I read a number of analyses of the Detroit Tigers that described their roster as top-heavy. Insofar in that there is criticism in that observation, the issue is that such a team is going to be more vulnerable to an injury to a key player. When Victor Martinez was injured, Detroit was able to throw the GDP of a good-sized nation Fielder's way, but such an option doesn't exist once the season begins. If Fielder or Miguel Cabrera or Justin Verlander were to go down, the Tigers would be perhaps be sunk even give their tepid competition in the AL Central. They would likewise be more exposed in the event of less-than-elite performances by any of the aforementioned trio. In fact, that may be happening already.
It's a folly to suggest that the 2012 Tigers--or any other team--will be able to score 1,000 runs.
During the first series of the season, the Tigers rolled up 26 runs while sweeping a three-game series from the Red Sox, after which Boston Globe columnist Nick Cafardo dropped an item in his Sunday notes column about the high-powered offense driven by Miguel Cabrera and newcomer Prince Fielder. "Some baseball people believe the Tigers could score close to 1,000 runs with these two hitting back to back," wrote Cafardo, never elaborating as to who those baseball people might be.