an amazing sign of my promise to get you more material and finally
get this web site back on a regular schedule, I offer you a surprise…
the first time in several years that I’ve managed to complete
reviews for both the 40-game and mid-season marks in baseball.
pretty excited about it too.
of a quick explanation to get started… three things…
– I’ve divided it up into two columns, with one for each league.
I know 100-games isn’t truly mid-season, but between the trade
deadline and a few other little items, it certainly works and
it’s a point of the season I like checking in with more than at
around 80 or so.
– I’ve been meaning to discuss a few things… the inconsistent
Boston Red Sox and their interesting habit of dropping multiple
games… the designated hitter… interleague play and expansion and
contraction and restructuring… the trade deadline… and so on.
I’m sure I’ll end up getting to almost all of this and likely
more as we go through the divisions, though almost definitely
not in the depth I had hoped. To make sure I hit on two things
though, I’ll open this National League effort with some thoughts
on trade possibilities in general, and I’ll use the beginning
of the American League column to hit restructuring of the leagues.
Please keep in mind… July was a crazy month in a line of crazy
months, and I may not be as tuned into some names as I could be.
So trade options could be wild suggestions… or really general
third – If you’re not at an even record or better now, you’re
out. We’ll get into that in a minute, but with very few exceptions
you simply have to be at .500 right now to consider yourself a
set up this review to try and cover all the important points in
each division, from playoffs to trades and on to surprises. Hopefully
it gives you some new stuff to consider.
overview of trades in 2011 (or, I told you so)
is no one available.
did you expect? Someone to suddenly appear? If so… what are you
smoking or drinking? (And why aren’t you sharing?)
reality for 2011 has always been… and this was the case before
a single regular season pitch was thrown… that Sabathia was the
that over for a few seconds. I know he’s under contract. But with
the opt-out potential, there is no way changes aren’t being made
to his deal. Even if they just toss in some dollars so he doesn’t
opt out, that’s still a change… still a negotiation. And since
almost everything is up to him, including hitting the market if
he wishes… presto… it’s free agent in a contract year.
of that though… I know we agree that he’s not getting traded.
no pitching on the market… and then let’s also remember that players
like Adrian Gonzalez already were traded. (And heck, he even signed
and avoided free agent conversations.)
yeah… looking over the pitching and getting something for those
departing free agents… except in some very unusual circumstances,
there really aren’t any teams looking to move what they have.
At least not to move anything that really would make your heart
pound and spirits rise.
at this point… does Vladimir Guerrero impress you? He’s a great
guy. Exciting… yes? Of course not. And that’s what I mean.
we reach a point where any player that could be traded is on the
roster of the New York Mets, and they’re too scared to move most
of them because tickets sales in August and September are really,
really important to the organization. (Read – Jose Reyes)
warning in place… get ready for some fun.
there are some very interesting developments happening behind
the scenes. And they could lead to some great surprises. For example…
don’t know how the 40-man roster works when it comes to how players
in the minor leagues not on that list get treated. And I mean
that while I get how something like the Rule 5 draft becomes involved,
what I don’t get is the particulars at the deepest most detailed
level of Rule 5… or something that isn’t called Rule 5 but might
involve retention rights and stuff like it.
the Boston Red Sox.
on the street is that at the end of the season, the Red Sox have
some significant players in the minors… and not enough room opening
up on the 40-man roster to keep or protect them. (Even if David
Ortiz and J.D. Drew go bye-bye.)
you look at the team, Boston doesn’t need to get into a battle
for Carlos Beltran. They don’t need to overpay for a solid starting
pitcher. Both would be nice… but they don’t need to do it. As
a comparison, the New York Yankees need starting pitching.
said… it might actually benefit Boston to consider getting rid
of a couple of those players they might not be able to protect.
And while they almost certainly aren’t looking for a blockbuster
in general, if they think there’s a chance where it’s trade these
three players or lose them to a Rule 5 situation next year, suddenly
talking to Houston and giving up a bit extra for Hunter Pence
isn’t the worst thing to consider.
the end… I expect a quiet trading period, but not because of any
reason other than there is no one really to trade. It’s not because
so many teams are in it (realistically, as we’ll see in a minute,
there aren’t all that many). It’s because the contracts in place
are set up so that no one needs to move anyone. (Seriously… do
the Rockies need to trade Ubaldo Jimenez? …do the Astros need
to trade Pence? So why would they? I actually think both will
move, because trade deadlines have a way of stirring emotions
and getting teams to overbid a bit. But wow… I would be very cautious
of Jimenez. Clubs don’t give up on pitching, especially clubs
that expected to compete.)
mentioned the playoffs. Let’s keep in mind…
and I have an agreement of sorts in place. It isn’t perfect… we
still disagree all the time… but for our sake, in general, it
works. It’s a theory based on the number of weeks remaining in
it works like this… if the total number of games you trail a playoff
spot by exceeds the number of weeks remaining in the season, you’re
done. There isn’t enough time to make it up. Make up one game
per week… yes, it means playing well, but that feels sensible.
Making up two or three in a quick chunk… sure it happens, but
usually burns up the team doing it so that they end up dropping
back just as quickly the next week.
I type this, there are roughly ten weeks remaining. So by the
theory, if you trail a playoff spot by more than ten games… then
I don’t care about math and probabilities or anything else. You
need an unreal run… and a run the likes of which your losing record
suggests you are not even close to being capable of delivering.
(Florida… Chicago… Houston… Los Angeles… San Diego… buh-bye in
the NL. Apply the same logic to the AL.)
are two corollaries to this theory.
one – Head-to-head contests remaining – Just to give the race
names, and since this is a National League column, let’s say Philadelphia
and Atlanta. As divisional rivals… and I did not check the schedule…
they are likely to be playing each other in September, and probably
have six to nine games against each other remaining from this
point on. So there is a chance that during the last seven to ten
days of the season… the last one or two weeks… they might match
up twice for something like a total of six games. It would be
tough to do, but that’s a direct, game for game, one winner and
one loser, way of moving fast in the standings. Since it’s likely
to finish on divisional notes, in the last nine to ten days, a
two-games-behind Atlanta could catch and pass Philadelphia just
by their own actions. On the other hand, they likely would need
a lot of help in the final days to make up two games on Milwaukee,
St. Louis or Arizona for a wild card slot.
corollary number one… if the lead is more than the number of weeks
remaining, consider an adjustment to elimination prediction based
on whether or not head-to-head contests remaining are less than
two - .500 by 100, or consider the competition – Which is what
I said earlier… if you have a losing record now, I don’t care
how many games are left to play. You have not shown that you are
likely to play at any level that could catch a playoff team. Ahh…
but there is an interesting idea here. Look at Cincinnati. They
were 50-51 as I was proofreading this… and only 3 games behind
Pittsburgh. Yeah… sure… Milwaukee and St. Louis are ahead of them
too… they have teams to jump. But it’s not like they are seven
games back. Even with a losing record to date, I could see them
going about 16-12 in both August and September… winning a couple
to finish July… and landing around 86 wins. That pace won’t take
the wild card… but it darn well could keep them in the fight in
the NL Central.
corollary number two… if the team has a losing record now you
shouldn’t expect them to turn things around and play well in the
final 60-games, but at least look at the competition to see if
those teams are playing that much better.
get back to these with better examples as we go through the divisions.
Atlanta and San Francisco are the three top teams in the NL. Even
if Arizona can keep up the challenge they are presenting, I see
them as a more likely threat for the division title than a wild
York needs ticket sales… so even with a couple of trades, we’re
going to be told that they were cosmetic. For example… the Carlos
Beltran story we’ll be told… Mets get nothing for Beltran if he
leaves after the season, so it made sense to trade him. Which…
yeah… it does. And… yeah… they should. But answer me this… if
Boston, Texas, Philadelphia, San Francisco and so on all feel
that Carlos Beltran could help their playoff chances, then how
does trading him away help the playoff chances this season for
top of that, if we consider the Mets still in it… then don’t we
really need to say the Nationals and the Marlins are in it as
well? Do any of you believe that? (I certainly don’t.)
and Braves are both headed for the playoffs folks… all that matters
here is the tinkering they do to try and be stronger for the playoffs…
and for both of them that means hitting, with eyes also cast on
bench depth and relief pitching. (And get ready… because that
is a constant theme. Everyone is looking for hitting… bench… relief.)
possibilities for the needy: Ok… we’ve heard about Beltran,
and I think the Mets would send him away in the division without
charging any sort of extra for it. They figure he will be a free
agent… so it really doesn’t matter if they send him in the NL
East. He won’t come back and haunt them year after year because
of the trade. Philly is a more likely landing spot for Beltran
out of these two clubs… just so close to New York when it comes
to uprooting what is right now home.
I think Beltran is leaving the NL East. Why? Philly is a good
club that isn’t likely to trade players away for someone that
they lose after the season. If they try to make a splash, look
at Pence or a lost costly option. And I don’t think Atlanta will
put in the best offer for Beltran.
don’t see any of these teams doing anything you haven’t already
heard. For example, neither of these clubs is going to set the
tone by adding starting pitching. And neither will fight Boston…
Texas… San Francisco… in the battle for a bat if a bidding war
an eye on the Nationals for those surprise trades. If there is
a dark horse at all to be created, the best teams to think about
are Washington, Cleveland and Pittsburgh… because all three clubs
could benefit from simply finishing the year with a winning record.
(Which they all have a shot of accomplishing.) Of the three, the
Nationals have shown the most willingness to spend some money
and make some moves. And if they think that next year is the one
where they will begin looking like a playoff contender (or at
least a winning record), they might be willing to explore a difference-making
trade with ramifications in future years. In part for 2011… more
for 2012 and beyond. So we are talking about a young, under contract
or team control player for this scenario. I’ve seen people saying
Upton from Tampa as a possibility. Could be. But I think if Jimenez
really is available… or Pence… you could see Washington bidding
with the big boys.
believe the hype: Easy. The Mets.
will get two draft picks for losing Jose Reyes. So while I think
they’d be better off trading him if they aren’t going to keep
him, they don’t lose him without something in return. (They are
never offering arbitration to Beltran… even if they could… so
absolutely he needs to get traded.)
said… what the organization really needs is money. Think you can
hear echoes at Citi Field now? Trade Reyes and tell me how many
walk up sales they make in August and September.
still in the playoff hunt? Absolutely not. They have a losing
record with the two best teams in the league ahead of them.
I expect: Philly to win the division and Atlanta preparing
to face San Francisco as the wild card.
are two things to consider…
the longer you allow an underdog to hang around, the more dangerous
the underdog becomes. The Pirates no longer have to stick with
the Cardinals or Brewers or Reds for a full season. Now they only
have to do it for two months. Could they get tired and falter?
Sure. And I expect one of the three teams behind them will catch
them. But people are feeling good about the Pirates right now…
and that helps.
if I told you to pick between Milwaukee, Cincinnati and St. Louis
to win the division, who would you pick? Ok… now put them in second,
third and fourth place, separated by a whopping three games with
sixty to play.
games ago… when I did the 40-game review, which look at that equals
a sixty game span of time… Pittsburgh was 5-games below even and
Cincinnati was ahead by a game and a half.
race truly is up for grabs.
possibilities for the needy: Here is a division where
the lack of available players can doom some clubs. Because one
player could make a big difference.
fact… the Brewers already made their trade for a reliever, bringing
in Rodriguez from the Mets. (Effectively striking early before
the Mets got into too many deadline conversations and had five
or more additional games on Rodriguez’s option count.)
of these clubs are in a position to outbid the names we all know
if those teams really want a player. So don’t expect Beltran or
Heath Bell to land in the NL Central.
said… Houston and Chicago could be very active getting rid of
players… and both will likely make more trades than anyone else
in the division.
believe the hype: Not sure there’s a club here to pin
that on. The Pirates have gone 34-24 since mid-May and our last
check. 35 more wins just might be enough to hold on.
me toss this one in… would you believe the Brewers are the scariest
of the four teams in the front of this division? They are 33-14
at home and 21-35 on the road. Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Cincinnati
are all sniffing around even for home and road records. The Brewers
have played significantly more games on the road so far and have
been fantastic at home. That’s either going to even out or be
the huge advantage that separates the clubs at the end of the
I expect: I expect Milwaukee to win this division. The
combination of pitching (Grienke and Marcum) along with hitting/fielding
(Fielder and Weeks and so on) just seems to give them the most
balance right now. And… as just mentioned… they have a more home
games from this point on.
I think St. Louis is ok. And you can’t discount their ability
to bring solid hitters to the plate as well.
Pittsburgh win it? Umm… ok… they have been playing well in this
middle chunk of the season. Thing is…
the 40-game mark, I thought Florida was an interesting team to
watch. They were playing well at home and on the road, and were
winning lots of close games. It seemed a solid representation
of how they were playing. Then they collapsed.
a month later… heck, into July… Seattle was hovering in consideration
territory. Then they tanked for over two weeks.
point is… whether you expect it (Florida to play well) or not
(Seattle to play well), the long season has a way of weeding out
pretenders. And I don’t know if the Pirates are conditioned for
the Giants are doing it again.
home dominance (32-18 by the Bay) with road balance (27-25).
don’t see much to question out here. The Giants are going to the
playoffs… everyone except Arizona has bad marks in all three danger
spots – (1) More games behind than weeks to go. (2) Under .500.
(3) Even the corollaries don’t allow for consideration.
possibilities for the needy: Expect the Giants to do
something. They need a hitter… badly. Trouble is… many other teams
are looking for hitting, and I don’t know if San Francisco will
pay any premium prices. Beltran seems like a perfect fit.
Diego is going to spend lots of time on the phone discussing pitchers
they might be willing to trade, specifically relievers Bell and
the exception of those two items… the Giants bringing in a player
for the bench or to hit, and the Padres to trade at least one
bullpen arm… I think most of these clubs will end up making very
minor moves if they make any at all.
believe the hype: Arizona.
yes, they are playing decent baseball. And the 55-wins to date
places them in the top four in the league so far. Plus… huge surge
since the 40-game mark, where their record was worse than Pittsburgh’s.
That said… gut instincts checked… keep in mind that the last time
a team with numbers suggesting a losing record ended up making
the playoffs, it was the Diamondbacks.
something funny… I was going to talk about San Francisco winning
last year as a reason they might not go overboard to bring in
a good player. Hey… they won it all. No need to get fleeced in
a trade to bring in a big bat or such when you have a title. Obviously
you make your moves when you can… and a championship is nothing
to pass up. But getting ripped off or desperate is something else
entirely. A team with a recent title doesn’t need to go crazy.
Well… that may not be accurate. Because the playoffs this year
appear to be loaded with recent champions.
Chicago (White Sox)… St. Louis… Boston… Philadelphia… New York
(Spankees)… take a look at the roster of other champions since
2004. Now look at the division leaders… wild card teams… clubs
with a shot… and rattle off the names of the annual big spenders.
Suddenly all of them in some way fit the same description as San
Francisco. Don’t count on them to act out of desperation… but
any of them might step in and be willing to spend.
I expect: San Francisco to win it… three teams with losing
I cannot tell you why… but this is actually where I expect Carlos
Beltran to wind up. There is no particular reason for it. Philly
or Boston or a couple of other clubs makes more sense. But I see
the Giants pulling this off. Now… hold on, new paragraph…
Francisco may end up being the most active National League team
when it comes to trades. There are three reasons for this. (1)
Great city, won it last year, and it means players will waive
no trade clauses to head out to play for them. For example, based
on names and no trade clauses rather than specific needs, as great
as the story is, Carlos Beltran is not going to Pittsburgh. (2)
They do have some prospects other teams like. One, Wheeler, is
a pitcher they treasure… don’t want to give up… but might if the
deal looks promising. (3) While I’m not saying it’s a huge amount,
their current payroll combined with income from last year’s title
does put them in a place where they could add dollars. Nice place
to play… a team others are intrigued enough to deal with… dollars
available… that’s nice math for a team that is going to win its
division and is already focused on how to defeat the Phillies,
Red Sox, Rangers and Yankees in the playoffs.