Best National League Matchup (opponents with best combined Prospectus Hit List rankings): Los Angeles Dodgers @ San Diego Padres

How extreme a pitcher’s park is Petco? The Padres team ERA is about half the home average of other National League teams. An average Petco game would result in a 4-2 Padres victory. In other parks, teams are totaling nine runs combined. As lean as this sounds, it’s actually a little less extreme than in Petco’s first two seasons, 2004 and especially 2005. So, for academic and entertainment purposes only, let’s set the over/under on the whole Dodgers-Padres series at 17½.

One of my least favorite bits of baseball slang is the recent tendency to call no-hitters “no-no’s.” I don’t know why this crawls under my skin and makes me itch, but it does. It just sounds like something you would have heard Jo Anne Worley saying on Love, American Style, a lamentable show from television’s fabled Sludge Age. I heard and read it a number of times in conjunction with Derek Lowe‘s bid last night against the Pirates, and I did a mental flinch each time. If “no-hitter” is too ungainly then perhaps it’s time for one of you clever types out there to conjure up something else to slang it with. Perhaps this is just a personal issue, one that I need to work through for myself.

Worst Matchup (opponents with worst combined Prospectus Hit List rankings, provided both are in the lower half): Pittsburgh Pirates @ Washington Nationals

“Pittsburgh at Washington” has such a 19th Century ring to it, doesn’t it? That’s probably because no such games took place in the 20th Century save for the 1925 World Series. Prior to that, the last time the Pirates visited our nation’s capital for a game that counted was on August 18, 1899. Pittsburgh was 29-25 against the first National League Washington incarnation from 1887 to 1889, having joined the league in the second year of that particular Washington franchise’s existence. Pittsburgh was 62-35 against the next Washington outfit, the one that played in the National League from 1892 to 1899 and only once got higher than ninth in a 12-team league.

Being just one of two National League teams to play the 1901-1960 version of the Senators in the World Series (the Giants were the other), the Pirates are one of the only teams that can claim they’ve played four of the five National or American League Washington entries. No American League team can lay claim to more than three. The other surviving National League teams from the 19th Century never played the Senators in the World Series, and no NL team ever played the 1961-1971 D.C. entry.

This discounts the 19th Century American Association as a major league. If you’re somebody who thinks it was major, then the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Reds–all members of that league at one time–add a fourth Washington team to their list of opponents as well. This was the 1884 version of the Nationals, a team that went 12-51 and failed to complete the season. Pittsburgh was in that league as well, though, so they would end up as the team that has visited the most different Washington franchises: five.

Pittsburgh’s all-time record visiting Washington:

1884:       1-1
1886-1889: 10-14
1892-1899: 21-24
1925: 1-2
2005-2006: 1-5
Total: 34-46

Biggest Mismatchup (opponents with greatest difference in Prospectus Hit List rankings): Kansas City Royals @ Cleveland Indians

In C.C. Sabathia and Paul Byrd, Cleveland has two of the best-supported pitchers in the land–both are averaging well over seven runs of support per start. Meanwhile, Byrd’s opponent in the second game of this series, Brian Bannister, has been afforded just three runs’ worth of love in his outings. Are averages the best way to go when looking at support, though? Shouldn’t there be an individual game accounting as well?

I haven’t thought this all the way through because my federal grant to do so ran out after three days–I had to have a party to celebrate getting the grant, and a lot of people brought friends I hadn’t invited, and this one guy ate like four double t-bones, and another guy stole the howitzer from out in front of the VFW hall I rented for the occasion, and they charged me for it… you know how it goes–but there needs to be the offensive equivalent of the Quality Start stat. What would that be?

Right now, there are 134 pitchers in the bigs who have thrown at least 40 innings. The median for their support is around 4.8 runs. Rounding that to five runs would probably work. If a team gives a pitcher five runs, it should be enough to win given a quality start. What should we call this number? How about one of these?

BS: Buddy Support
XS: Excellent Support (or, for the kids, Xtreme Support)
VS: Victory-level Support

This stat would go right next to the Quality Start column, so if you’ve got a pitcher who’s made 12 starts, 10 of which were of the quality variety and you see that his BS (or XS or VS or whatever you want to call it) number is only four–his team has gotten him five runs or more just four times–you’ll know why his won-loss record is only 2-5.

Which leads me to this: none of this would be necessary if we could all just graduate from using won-loss records as a way of judging pitcher effectiveness.

Closest Matchup (opponents closest to one another in the Prospectus Hit List rankings): Chicago Cubs @ Milwaukee Brewers

There was a great moment in the Brewers Monday night telecast. They did one of those “email a question to the booth” things, and the question they chose was this: Why is there only one team above .500 in the National League Central? The announcers hemmed and hawed because you know what they wanted to say but couldn’t: “because if this were English soccer, most of this division would get relegated.”

This notion that the Cubs are doomed because of the events over the weekend is not a sustainable argument. No team looks as bad as one that has just lost six in a row and had a bit of a dust-up among its own personnel, unless it’s a team that’s lost 10 in a row. Appearances might suggest that a team’s battery playing Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots and their manager doing something he’s been doing all his life is some sort of turning point onto the road to oblivion, but it just isn’t. Baseball simply doesn’t work that way. A reminder of the folly of this sort of thinking comes from three years ago when there was a movement to write the Red Sox off as dead after Nomar Garciaparra sat in the dugout resting his sore Achilles heel while the Yankees were beating them on the back of some Derek Jeter heroics. That was July 3, but Boston went on to win the World Series.

Writing the Cubs off at this point because for some outward appearances they are a team in crisis isn’t going to work. While I stand by my preseason prediction and continued protests that the Brewers are the team to beat in the division, Chicago still has the best run differential in the Central and a one-in-four chance of making the playoffs according to BP’s Postseason Odds. I think the numbers point to them having a better record from here on out than they have to this point. The lesson here is not to let the footnotes get in the way of a correct reading of the subtext.

Meanwhile, Lou Piniella looked pretty relaxed up in a booth at last night’s game. Even when the Cubs appeared to be self-destructing, he seemed to be taking it all in stride. Of course, it appeared that Lou was wearing one of those shirts that almost demands you be relaxed. That’s why I don’t wear them–I’m afraid I’d lose my edge.

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