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.
Baseball Prospectus and the Tampa Bay Rays invite you to join us for a great day of baseball on Saturday, May 5 at Tropicana Field. Thanks to the fine folks in the Rays front office, we are proud to be able to offer our guests the following:
Mix one Hank Steinbrenner comment, the Mets' money woes, and the A's and Rays' stadium situations, and suddenly it's 2001 all over again.
This time, it seems, it started with Ken Rosenthal. Two days after Hank Steinbrenner let fly with an attack on baseball's revenue-sharing plan that concluded, "if you don’t want to worry about teams in minor markets, don’t put teams in minor markets, or don’t leave teams in minor markets if they’re truly minor," Rosenthal penned a Fox Sports Exclusive that significantly upped the ante: "Don't be surprised if the “C” word—contraction—returns to the baseball lexicon soon," he wrote, noting that he'd been "hearing rumblings" that "certain big-market teams" wanted to whack the Rays and A's. In one scenario, wrote Rosenthal, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg would end up buying the Mets from the troubled Wilpons, while A's owner Lew Wolff did the same with the McCourt-wracked Dodgers, before watching their old teams go poof.
From there, it was off to the races, as every sportswriter with a slow news day grabbed Rosenthal's unsourced speculation and ran with it. In the St. Petersburg Times, John Romano wrote a column headlined "Threat to contract Tampa Bay Rays may be gaining credibility," in which he concluded that while the Rays probably wouldn't disappear overnight, "whether you want to acknowledge it or not, Tampa Bay is now on the clock"—one that he insisted could strike midnight in 2017, when Tropicana Field is paid off. CBS Sports' Ray Ratto fired back that contraction was not just a terrible idea, but a sign of America's cultural decline. (So far as I can understand it, this has something to do with bar fights and the CalTech basketball team.) The New York Daily News' Bill Madden, citing "one high-level baseball source," wrote that both A's owner Lew Wolff and Rays owner Stuart Sternberg "told Selig they are not prepared to continue operating under the present circumstances. Translation: 'If we can't get new stadiums, buy us out.'"
An offseason of change awaits but there is still plenty of talent on hand.
Kiss 'Em Goodbye is a series focusing on MLB teams as their postseason dreams fade— whether in September (or before), the League Division Series, League Championship Series or World Series. It combines a broad overview of this season from Buster Olney, a take from Baseball Prospectus, a look toward a potential 2011 move courtesy of Rumor Central and Kevin Goldstein's farm system overview. You can find all the teams on one page by going here.
One of the beasts of the East takes on the Rangers in a first-round clash of division winners.
In hindsight, the titans of the East were what we thought they were, even if a rash of injuries ensured that the Red Sox weren’t always whom we thought they were. As expected, eastern teams have called dibs on two of the AL’s four coveted tickets to the promised land, though no asses were crowned until the season’s final weekend, when the Rays nabbed the title by taking two out of three in Kansas City while the Yankees dropped a pair in Boston. Tampa Bay’s second division championship was won with an even smaller margin of error than the first, but the small-market-team-that-could again proved that it belonged in a bracket formerly dominated by high-payroll organizations—though this year’s Rays had to expend significantly more salary than the 2008 model in the process.
The Phils are in control, and the Rays must fight the power outage to avoid a dark tomorrow.
Matchup: Rays (97-65) at Phillies (92-70), 8:29 p.m. ET, FOX Probable Starters: Andy Sonnanstine (193 1/3IP, 4.89 RA, 1.29 WHIP, 124 K) vs. Joe Blanton (197 2/3, 5.01, 1.40, 111) Pythagorean Record: Tampa Bay, 92-70 (774 RS, 671 RA); Philadelphia, 93-69 (799 RS, 680 RA) Hit List Rankings: Tampa Bay, #3; Philadelphia, #6 Series Favorite: Phillies, 69.4% (Up 2-1) Prospectus: Despite having collected just two hits in 33 at-bats with runners in scoring position through the first three games of the series-both of them dribblers to third base-the Phillies hold a 2-1 advantage heading into Game Four, largely because the second of those infield singles came with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth last night. All of the games in the series thus far have been true Fall Classics, low-scoring and decided by a combined total of four runs. Things could be a good deal more offensive tonight however, with each team's fourth starter on the hill at Citizen's Bank Park, which despite playing as less of a hitter's haven this season is still a favorable run-scoring environment. The Phillies might come out hacking early on, for Sonnanstine works the strike zone more than any other pitcher on either side of the field-he ranked eighth among ERA title qualifiers this season with 67 percent of his pitches tossed for strikes, one spot ahead of Cole Hamels. A self-described behind-the-scenes strike thrower, Sonnanstine blends five pitches in healthy proportion to keep hitters off-kilter. His straight fastball averages a pedestrian 87 mph, but as mentioned yesterday, Sonnanstine mixes in more cutters than all but Jesse Litsch and Roy Halladay. One would expect a pitcher who does not throw hard and is constantly around the zone to give up a good amount of hits, and Sonnanstine did lead the Rays staff with 212 allowed in the regular season, but he walked less than two per nine innings and managed to keep his home-run rate below the one-per-nine benchmark as well.
In tonight's tie-breaker, it's the craft of a Philly veteran versus the power of a Rays youngster.
Matchup: Rays (97-65) at Phillies (92-70), 8:29 p.m. ET, FOX Probable Starters: Matt Garza (184 2/3IP, 4.05 RA, 1.24 WHIP, 128 K) vs. Jamie Moyer (196 1/3, 3.90, 1.33, 123) Pythagorean Record: Tampa Bay, 92-70 (774 RS, 671 RA); Philadelphia, 93-69 (799 RS, 680 RA) Hit List Rankings: Tampa Bay, #3; Philadelphia, #6 Series Favorite: Phillies, 55.6% (Tied 1-1) Prospectus: The Rays and Phillies head to the City of Brotherly Love on track to bring the nation a World Series lasting longer than five games for the first time since 2003. Tonight (or tomorrow night, if the forecasted rain delays proceedings) is the proverbial swing game: after a 1-1 tie, the team that won Game Three went on to take the World Series in 34 out of 51 years, exactly two-thirds of the time. One of those teams that won the critical Game Three and then the series was the 1969 Mets, who claimed four in a row from the heavily-favored Orioles after losing the opener. This year's Rays have often been compared with the Miracle Mets due to their stunning rise from the depths, but Tampa Bay is actually trying to do something that no other team in history has accomplished, including their historical forebear: win the World Series a year after having the worst record in the majors. The 1991 Braves came close, but lost to the Twins in seven games; the Twins themselves had finished last in the AL West the season before. The only other team that made it to the title tilt a year after posting the worst record was the 1890 Louisville Colonels of the American Association, who came back to win 88 games after a horrendous 27-111 finish in '89, and then played the National League champion Brooklyn Bridegrooms to a 3-3-1 tie (though back then the championship series was nothing more than an exhibition).
How will the Rays respond to their October surprise in Game Five at Fenway?
Matchup: Red Sox (95-67) at Rays (97-65), 8:07 p.m. ET, TBS Probable Starters: Josh Beckett (174 1/3IP, 4.13 RA, 1.19 WHIP, 172 K) vs. James Shields (215, 3.93, 1.15, 160) Pythagorean Record: Boston, 95-67 (845 RS, 694 RA); Tampa Bay, 92-70 (774 RS, 671 RA) Hit List Rankings: Boston, #1; Tampa Bay, #3 Series Favorite: Rays, 72.5% (Up 3-2) Prospectus: J.D. Drew's game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth on Thursday night flew over the head of right fielder Gabe Gross at 12:16 AM Friday morning-five years to the very minute after Aaron Boone crushed Red Sox Nation with his walk-off home run to win Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS. Since that loss, the Sox have won two World Series titles, rallying from 3-1 down to take the pennant each time, and they have put themselves in position to do the same thing this year thanks to their mind-boggling comeback in Game Five. Heading into the bottom of the seventh down 7-0, Boston's odds of winning the game had shrunk to 1.16 percent, per the 2008 win expectancy matrix, and after Jason Varitek and Mark Kotsay flied out on the heels of Jed Lowrie's leadoff double, that number had fallen to 0.75 percent; adjust for Tampa Bay's quality of run prevention, and the chance drops to 0.56 percent. But seven hits and eight runs later, Boston had made the greatest post-season comeback since the Philadelphia A's turned around an 8-0 deficit with 10 seventh-inning runs to beat the Cubs in Game Four of the 1929 World Series.
With two wild workers on the mound, tonight's matchup might stretch into the wee hours.
Matchup: Rays (97-65) at Red Sox (95-67), 8:07 p.m. ET, TBS Probable Starters: Scott Kazmir (152 1/3IP, 3.60 RA, 1.27 WHIP, 166 K) vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka (167 2/3, 3.11, 1.32, 154) Pythagorean Record: Tampa Bay, 92-70 (774 RS, 671 RA); Boston, 95-67 (845 RS, 694 RA) Hit List Rankings: Tampa Bay, #3; Boston, #1 Series Favorite: Rays, 87.6% (Up 3-1) Prospectus: Is Tampa Bay getting ready to put the finishing touches on perhaps the most remarkable turnaround in major league history, or are the Red Sox getting ready to strike from behind yet again? On Terry Francona's watch Boston is 7-0 in ALCS elimination games; in each of its last two times playing for the pennant Boston has rallied to overcome being down 3-1. Including their 1986 ALCS comeback against the Angels, the Sox have been on the long end in three of the 11 series where a 3-1 deficit was reversed. Against the Indians last year, Boston also won the first game before dropping the next three, then outscored the Tribe 30-5 in games five, six, and seven. That Sox team had a full assortment of healthy players, however. This October's edition is missing Mike Lowell-forcing the weak bat of Mark Kotsay into the lineup-as well as the power stroke of David Ortiz, who is 5-for-31 without a home run this postseason, results that are hard to not connect with his May wrist injury. J.D. Drew might not be healthy enough to reprise his grand slam heroics from last October, either; since returning from a herniated disk in his back at the end of the regular season he has hit .226/.294/.355 in 34 plate appearances.
After two teams have matched power with power in the first three games, two hurlers with soft-toss arsenals meet up for a critical showdown.
Matchup: Rays (97-65) at Red Sox (95-67), 8:07 p.m. ET, TBS Probable Starters: Andy Sonnanstine (193 1/3IP, 4.89 RA, 1.29 WHIP, 124 K) vs. Tim Wakefield (181, 4.43, 1.18, 117) Pythagorean Record: Tampa Bay, 92-70 (774 RS, 671 RA); Boston, 95-67 (845 RS, 694 RA) Hit List Rankings: Tampa Bay, #3; Boston, #1 Series Favorite: Rays, 68.0% (Up 2-1) Prospectus: B.J. Upton has chosen a dramatic time to bust out with the greatest stretch of power hitting in his career. After seeing his home-run total fall from 24 last season to nine this year in nearly 100 more plate appearances, Upton has now launched five in Tampa Bay's seven playoff games, the latest a mammoth three-run job off Jon Lester yesterday that shot right over the Green Monster, out of the park, and down onto Lansdowne Street. The blast gave the Rays a 4-0 lead in the third inning and essentially ended the game-Tampa Bay, thanks mostly to its remarkable bullpen turnaround (from worst to first in WXRL), did not lose a game in which it had an advantage of four or more runs in any game all season long, one of just two teams (along with the Dodgers) to be so stingy.
Beckett and Kazmir will both need to summon their powers and perform beyond recent levels.
Matchup: Red Sox (95-67) at Rays (97-65), 8:07 p.m. ET, TBS Probable Starters: Josh Beckett (174 1/3IP, 4.13 RA, 1.19 WHIP, 172 K) vs. Scott Kazmir (152 1/3, 3.60, 1.27, 166) Pythagorean Record: Boston, 95-67 (845 RS, 694 RA); Tampa Bay, 92-70 (774 RS, 671 RA) Hit List Rankings: Boston, #1; Tampa Bay, #3 Series Favorite: Red Sox, 72.0% Prospectus: During the regular season, Tampa Bay was 8-0 against Boston in games decided by one or two runs, and the home team in the series won 15 of the 18 games. The Red Sox bucked both of those trends in yesterday's 2-0 decision under the catwalks, starting off this ALCS battle between the two best teams in baseball (per third-order winning percentage) with a tense and well-pitched victory.