BEST MATCHUP (Best combined records with both teams
being over .500)
: Texas Rangers @ New York Yankees (62-41)

Here’s a round-up of Wednesday’s 6-5 victory over the
Orioles in which the Yankees only had three hits, as
brought to you by PESN (Pidgin English Sports

Yanqui gat stick. Nogat paitim. Paitim kam tripela
taim. Wokabaut sikis taim. Gat plet sikis taim. Pisin
losim sikis – faipela.

Taking an all-time great from a team is no guarantee
of immediate success against that team in the ensuing
season. The Yankees lost two of three in their first
meeting with Texas this year in the wake of getting
Alex Rodriguez from the Rangers. Here
is a smattering of similar circumstances involving
seriously exalted players who left clubs through trade
or free agency. Their new team’s record against their
old team follows.

  • Babe Ruth (Yankees) vs. Boston, 1920:
    13-9 (9-10 in 1919)

  • Rogers Hornsby (Giants) vs. St.
    Louis, 1927: 12-10 (10-12 in 1926)

  • Jimmie Foxx (Red Sox) vs.
    Philadelphia, 1936: 13-9 (16-6 in 1935)

  • Alex Rodriguez (Rangers) vs. Seattle,
    2001: 5-15 (5-7 in 2000)

  • Joe Morgan (Reds) vs. Houston, 1972:
    11-6 (5-13 in 1971)

  • Barry Bonds (Giants) vs. Pittsburgh,
    1993: 7-5 (6-6 in 1992)

WORST MATCHUP (worst combined record with both teams
being under .500)
: Tampa Bay Devil Rays @ Baltimore Orioles (44-58)

People–and by “people” I mean people not like you
and me–are fond of saying that statistics are a cold
and unfeeling way to look at baseball, that they have
nothing to do with the human side of the game.
Consider this, though: Not every number we see before
us is a precise calibration of events that actually
transpired. Many cold and hard stats are filtered
through the portal of human infallibility.

Let’s take the triples count for Rays left fielder Carl
. The number before us reads ‘4.’
This is good enough for third in the league behind
Chone Figgins and Carlos
. Here’s an instance where the number
doesn’t tell the story. I was at Tropicana on May 1 to
see the Rays play the A’s. In that game, Crawford hit half of those four triples. Sort of.

The first was a fly ball into the right-center field
gap that Jermaine Dye got to but
couldn’t haul in. It glanced off his glove and the
speedy Crawford arrived on third base. Should it have
been ruled an error? Maybe, maybe not. I realize that
in most cases these days, that play is going to be
ruled a hit, because it is assumed by the scorekeeper
that a major league ballplayer is going to have a
tough time handling a fly ball after a long run.

His second triple of the night came in the ninth
inning. It was a ball that should have been a single
all the way, but left fielder Eric Byrnes overcommitted on it and it skipped
happily past him. Because he never put a glove on it,
the scorekeeper deemed it a clean triple.

So, what’s my point here? I think it has something to
do with the duality of man, sir. Or, perhaps I am
trying to say that nothing is ever as it really seems.
Maybe I might be implying that illusion is reality and
reality illusion. Then again, I might be trying to
justify my trip to that particular game, since I never
wrote about it before. You just never know.

CLOSEST MATCHUP (opponents closest to each other in
won-lost records)
: Houston Astros @ St. Louis Cardinals (St. Louis up by ½ game)

The Astros (or Astors as dyslexic rich folks call
them) have five pitchers whiffing more than a batter per
inning. Starters Roger Clemens and
Andy Pettitte are doing so, as are
relievers Brad Lidge, Octavio
and Dan Miceli. None
of those names should come as a surprise, except for
Pettitte. He has never been anywhere close to this
rate before. Granted, he’s only thrown 37.1 innings
so far. On the whole, Houston leads the league in
team Ks and could challenge the Cubs numbers of the
past three years. Better yet, they are walking fewer
batters than those recent Cub whiff machines:

Yr   Team   K/BB
2004 Astros 1377/518 (projected)
2003 Cubs   1404/615
2002 Cubs   1333/606
2001 Cubs   1344/550

If you could remove the one inning of “work” logged by
Jared Fernandez (five walks, no
strikeouts), the projection would be an even
better 1377/505.

MISMATCHUP (opponents furthest from each other in
won-lost records with the better team over .500 and
the lesser team under)
: Montreal Expos @ Cincinnati Reds (Cincinnati up by 14½ games)

It’s lonely at the bottom–especially when all the
other teams in your division are at .500 or better.
The Expos have a chance to do what very few teams
have done before: be the sole sub-.500 team in their
division. What makes this trick difficult is that it
requires the cooperation of one’s division mates–they
have to do their part by winning at least half their
games. The Pirates are currently in the same situation
as well but would require the Brewers to keep up their
winning ways and have these Reds–Montreal’s weekend
opponent–not fold like they did last year. The
Expos would have to see similar stick-to-itiveness
from the Mets, the most likely of the Eastern teams to
keep them from this dubious distinction.

Here’s the roster of teams that have managed to turn
this nifty feat. Missing are the five clubs who have
done so in four-team divisions. Sorry ’95 A’s, ’96
Giants, ’97 Padres, ’00 and ’02 Rangers–it’s just
too easy when there are only three other teams

  • 1969 Padres (52-112, 29 games out of fifth place):
    The first team to ever pull off the trick. The 1916
    A’s could have done it but for a rainout against the
    Senators. Had they played that game to a victorious
    conclusion for Washington, that would have put them at
    .500 in seventh place in an eight-team league. What is
    interesting about the Pads is that one would assume
    the teams in their own division wailed on them,
    allowing them to all be over 50/50. It wasn’t exactly
    like that, though. Eastern teams–especially the Mets
    and Cubs–beat them unmercifully, to the tune of a
    .722 winning percentage. The five other Western teams
    only spanked them at a .645 clip.

  • 1979 Blue Jays (53-109, 53½ games out of sixth
    place): It’s been 50 years since a team finished in
    single-figures in saves. By 1979, even a number in the
    teens was becoming rare. These Jays, who only had a
    save in about one-fifth of their victories, have the
    lowest team save total since the ’62 Mets, and nobody,
    save for Billy Martin’s armbustin’ A’s the following
    year (with 13), has come close since.

    The 10 lowest team save totals since 1954:

    7:  1954 Senators
    8:  1954 Orioles
    10: 1962 Mets
    11: 1979 Blue Jays
    12: 1955 Tigers
    12: 1963 Mets
    12: 1954 Phillies
    12: 1971 Yankees
    12: 1974 Angels
    12: 1974 Rangers

  • 1988 Braves (54-106, 27 games out of fifth place):
    You’d think having a generous bottom-feeder like this
    at the floor of the lake would mean there would be
    more room at the top. Not necessarily. Only the
    Dodgers finished with more than 90 wins in the West.

  • 2000 Padres (76-86, six games out of fourth place):
    Unlike the rest of these teams, the double-ought Pads
    were nowhere near the worst team in the league. In
    fact, five other clubs had worse records than they
    did. This was the year of the Great Compression Panic,
    in which it was foretold by mindless alarmists that
    parity would eventually drive all teams into a 77-to-85-win zone.

  • 2003 Mets (66-96, 16½ games out of fourth place):
    This is how a true doormat team needs to operate: play
    worse against those teams in their own division. In
    this case, the Mets were .355 against the East and
    .459 versus the rest of the world.
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