I’ve said it
before… and I’ll likely say it again… there are two times during
the baseball season when looking things over makes a bit of sense.
(There really is a third time as well. More on that in a second.)
me the first marker is around the point when teams have played
40-games. I like it because it tends to take away the impact of
some hot streaks that may be involved. For instance…
three games, Vernon Wells was on pace to hit 216 home runs. Ok,
sure… we agree… that’s not impossible. Four home runs in three
games… so that was his pace. But chances are it wasn’t going to
happen. He’s settled down since then. He now has 11 and is on
pace for about 42. Still not likely if you ask me, even though
he is having a tremendous season, but it’s definitely more realistic.
has struggled without Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury. Back when
troubles first hit this pair, they were day-to-day and not even
headed for the disabled list. As of preparing this column, they’ve
both been out for about a month. If they had come back right away,
as hoped, the 40 games removes the 4… 5… 6 games they each missed.
Now, Boston has crossed the 40-game mark, both players are in
the minors on assignment, and when two-thirds of their starting
outfield is gone for this length of time the injuries have to
be considered at least a small factor in where Boston is.
I firmly believe is simple… hit the 40-game mark with an even
record or suffer the consequences, because you’re likely done.
And yes, it can be that simple as having a 20-20 mark. Seriously…
do you know what clearing 90 wins is? Ok… let’s say a team goes
on 4 different runs of 5 straight wins during the season. Not
unlikely for a playoff team, right? That’s just one time through
the rotation, and we hear all the time of a few teams running
off 8… 9… 12 wins in a row. So, 4 runs of 5 victories, and we
start our addition with 20-0 there. In the other 142 games, the
club breaks even and goes 71 and 71. Nothing special there either.
But the total is 91 wins. How about a second scenario? Break the
season down into 6 months, and for our purposes we’ll say each
month evenly contains 27 games. In four of those months, the club
does nothing more than .500 ball. That gives us a 54-54 record.
In the other two months they go 18-9… taking 2 out of every 3.
That’s 36-18… and yes… 90-72 just by having two good months and
four purely average ones.
it is much better to be 25-15 at this point, or leading your division…
we agree on that. Yes… much better to have players looking good
and consistent (and healthy)… we agree on that. But my simple
concept is this… if you can at least get out of the first stretch
of the 162-game marathon without having destroyed your hopes,
there’s still plenty of time to run off multiple strings of 4…
5… 8 wins in a row and get right back into the playoff hunt. I
think that’s fair to say.
other time I like to gauge things is around mid-season. I say
“around” because we’re really looking at a point that approaches
90 to 100 games played, but arrives before the end of July and
the more-or-less unconditional trading deadline. And I like that
one because, by that point you really do have a gauge on the vast
majority of buyers and sellers.
barely needing to take off a shoe to count their total of 2010
victories, the Baltimore Orioles are still hoping to put together
a couple of stretches that will allow them to reach the upper
70s of victories (or even clear 80). I don’t think it’s happening…
you don’t think it’s happening… but 120-plus to go says it could
happen. They could go 65-55 over the remaining games and reach
78 wins. (Oh yes they could.) But if they hit the 100-game mark
with less than 40 wins, then I think we can even more safely say
it isn’t happening.
as of today… the San Diego Padres have a legitimate shot at the
division crown, and that makes it likely they won’t be moving
Adrian Gonzalez. (Who saw that one coming? I thought they’d be
better than people thought… but not at an even-record or better
level, and certainly not a 90-plus win pace.) If they are still
leading the NL West in July, the phone calls may not be what everyone
imagined in southern California.
that third marker I mentioned comes into play for the playoff
race and the beginning of September. The trick with that is… it
doesn’t matter to most of the teams. By that point we know the
five or six clubs that are likely fighting for a division or wild
card slot… we know which ones are just finishing out the year…
and with the August absolute playoff-roster trading deadline gone,
not much is happening.
so here we are… the 2010 season and roughly 40-games played for
each team. Let’s take a look at there things stand.
That’s a good word. And for those of you that don’t believe Tampa
Bay is a force to be reckoned with, think they will slow way…
way… way down, and New York and Boston are a given to catch them,
I want you to consider something. Ready? Ok… when I started this,
they were 12-1 on the road.
that kind of a record shows exactly what I mean about letting
some streaks cool off. Heck, Toronto… on that same day… was 10-3
on the road. Toronto will… in my humble opinion… be under .500
on the road when we finish up September. So why the love for Tampa
and the appreciation for that stat?
it shows exactly how much things are clicking for the Rays right
don’t expect them to finish 30 or 40 games over .500 on the road
when the regular season is done. (Heck, at one time when I was
beginning some editing this, they had lost three in a row on the
road, including being shut down by a perfect game.) But it sure
as hell feels like every time they come up on the scoreboard,
they’re winning… doesn’t it? And that my friends is exactly what
happened in 2008, when the Rays started rolling and just didn’t
brings me to an interesting idea. And yes… they limped to 20-20
before hitting this column at 21-20. Remember all of those fancy
examples I gave just a few seconds ago about how to get to 90
wins? Ok… 6 months… 162 games… averages out to 27 games a month.
If you go 15-12… which I believe we would all agree is hardly
stellar for a really good team… you would finish the year at 90-72.
On the same day we measured Tampa and Toronto for the examples
in this division, Boston was 15-14, while going through a ton
of troubles. I’m not saying they will or won’t, should or shouldn’t,
catch Tampa and New York… what I am saying is put down the shovels
concerns me. And I’m tempted to tell you that they aren’t making
the playoffs. Why? Because they just seem so out of it. And by
that I’m looking at three factors.
– To make the playoffs, they must catch either New York or Tampa…
no more than two teams go from any division… and that’s saying
that no one in another division will have a better record and
steal the wild card. (That definitely won’t happen… the best three
teams in baseball play in the American league East. Two of them
are going to the playoffs.) That in mind… Boston isn’t just trying
to rebound from a slow start and clear 90 wins. 90 wins won’t
do it. They need to pass two clubs that are cruising toward 100-plus
wins! And that’s an entirely different challenge. Will New York
and Tampa slow down? Yeah… that’s likely. One of them may cross
the 100-win mark, but both will not. Still, this brings us to
the second factor…
– Uh-oh, the Yankees and Rays are both in the AL East. Let’s say
95 wins is the mark we’re targeting for wild card consideration.
That seems fair. All of that means Boston needs to go something
like 74-47 to get to 95, but won’t be doing so with Cleveland,
Kansas City and Chicago heavily on the upcoming schedule. It means…
without looking it up… that roughly 20 of their remaining games
still involve New York and Tampa. And even if we give them a split
in those games, they go 10-10, they now need to go 64-37. We’re
starting to ask them to go from blah to stellar really quickly.
– Everything about their locker room makes it sound like this
team can’t stand each other, and has no clue what upper management
was thinking by putting them together. Winning cures alot of problems…
and it could cure this one very quickly… but that’s just it. They
aren’t winning right now. They’re surviving.
rest of the division…
will play worse. Baltimore will play better. And… hold on…
New York could get themselves into trouble, but it might only
be Minnesota and Detroit that cares. As of right now, your playoff
race in the American League is Tampa, New York, Minnesota, Detroit,
and Texas. That’s accomplished by removing teams under .500 and
saying that Boston and Toronto need to do more to be taken seriously.
With the Yankees facing injuries and a few questions… even while
winning… they may find the challenges don’t come from the AL East.
And that my friends, is a surprise.
amazing here except that Minnesota and Detroit are both playing
90-plus win baseball. I felt the other three clubs were below
average, and all of them have been.
funny thing with what I am about to say is to remember this: The
Mariners are in better playoff position right now than the Boston
Red Sox. (Ok… not completely true with both 8½ out… but
would you rather be chasing Texas or Tampa right now?)
So are you ready for my observation?
Mariners right now are playing badly enough to completely change
the trade deadline. For instance…
went out and got Cliff Lee. Chances are the hope was to win in
2010, try to convince him to stay for a reasonable but solid contract,
and take the draft picks only if forced to after the season. Well…
what we’ve seen is simple. They aren’t winning. The wild card
is gone. And with Oakland playing well and California 4 games
ahead of them, their playoff hurdles are immense without even
mentioning Texas. Lee has already issued the universally understood
quote that means he’s planning on bolting Seattle as soon as he
can empty out his locker without it looking too suspicious.
summary… trading these guys may be something to consider. Think
Minnesota wouldn’t love to add Cliff Lee to their playoff run?
Definitely an unexpected name hitting the market as ones like
Adrian Gonzelez appear to possibly be off of it.
any team exemplify what I am talking about when it comes to waiting
until mid-May than the Mets? They were looking to fire their manager
in the early days of the season… then went on a run that elevated
them to the top of the division… and now as we reach 40-games
we find them looking to fire their manager.
fine… we find them playing below average baseball, more in the
hunt than Boston, but pulling up in last place of the division.
And honestly, I don’t think they can beat either Philly or Florida
right now in a series.
the way… kicking the tires on heading to Philadelphia or Washington
for a game or two this summer, and I noticed something very strange
when looking at the schedule. The Phillies are going to slam the
door shut on the division this August. How do I know? Would you
believe they have a 20-day, 19-game home stand? Three weeks at
home. It’s kind of a lie… because they do play 3 road games. But…
(1) Beginning on August 6th, the Phillies will play 16 home games
and 3 road games. (2) The 3 road games are weekend series against
the Mets. So… Philadelphia to New York… not exactly massive travel.
(3) The final 7 games of the home stand are against Washington
is still worthy of watching. They were having some troubles, but
have managed to elevate themselves to that .500 mark at 40-games
that I like to keep in mind. Even with Philly a solid favorite
to take the division, the Braves are now positioned back in the
wild card race.
doesn’t take long to see that Cincinnati is causing some raised
eyebrows out here.
general, it shouldn’t. While they are on pace to clear 90 wins…
I feel safe saying that they won’t be within 5 games of that when
the season ends.
but just the simple idea that I think a winning record is possible
should be news. The thing is… hold on… let’s start fresh with
a three paragraph summary…
one – Don’t peek. If I told you that three teams in the AL East
would be heading toward 95-win seasons, who would you have picked?
Well… Boston is a wrong answer. Go ahead, scroll back up, and
take a look at the AL East. Toronto is sailing along to 96 wins.
The thing is… it’s not going to happen. Unless you have three
teams combining an amazing amount of talent and resources, it
just isn’t feasible to get three teams across the 95-win plateau.
Think about it… even with Tampa winning at a ridiculous rate while
carrying an unproductive DH (which they are in the process of
replacing with the recent release of Pat Burrell), the American
League East is likely looking at only two teams over 90 wins.
(That being my expectations of Boston passing Toronto and finishing
with 86-88 wins in the end. And actually… Tampa wasn’t just surviving
a weak DH, they are clobbering people even with a weak DH.)
two – The unbalanced schedule means that teams end up playing
roughly… quite roughly… half of their season in the division.
So if you’ve got several high-quality clubs in the division, you’re
going to be bashing each other silly… if you’ve got several mediocre
teams in the division, you’re going to be bashing each other silly…
and if you’re a good club in a division with several lousy teams
in the division, you’ve got the potential to look amazing while
cakewalking to a good record.
three – Two of these NL Central clubs, including Milwaukee… a
preseason wild card candidate, might not clear 65 victories. The
Reds have a chance to clean up while several division rivals struggle.
not trying to lesson the accomplishments here. The Reds are playing
well. What I mean to point out is that like Toronto playing to
a 96-win level, I think there’s a wall out there with their name
on it. I expect St. Louis to win the division. I expect Cincy
to drop back. And I expect the wild card to now come from the
East or West, but not the NL Central.
this is where the real story is… isn’t it? Regardless of what
you believe will or won’t happen at the trade deadline and any
surprises that might be possible, the only true questions surround
Adrian Gonzalez. And if the Padres are playing like this… currently
leading the division, and considering where second place is in
the other divisions definitely a threat to be the wild card team…
his chances of moving go way down.
the Padres did do very well in trading Jake Peavy.
But before you wonder why they wouldn’t then continue to try and
build amazing depth by sending off a great player that should
bring back an even bigger haul of potential talent, the trick
is… sort of noted in the article I linked to… they traded him
while he was injured. Gonzalez isn’t injured. He’s on the field…
you know… contributing. Add that to the idea that now the club
is winning… and we arrive at a problem spot for trade deadline
isn’t going any place. Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt are the big trade
fish in the pond.
expect San Francisco to outlast San Diego. The high end of their
pitching staff is just too good compared to San Diego’s. But with
an offense that is winning games and a bullpen that has a tendency
to be reliable, the Padres could be sitting there when September
Angeles has survived some early struggles. If they can get healthy,
I could see them passing San Diego quite easily. Colorado has
this habit of turning on the jets at some point… but I don’t see
it this year. It’s more like Kansas City… when most of the stars
are producing and you still aren’t winning, there really isn’t
much of a spark you can expect to find.