Articles By Charlie Miller
American League Championship Series – Game 4
Boston at Detroit
8:07 ET Fox
Jake Peavy (12-5, 4.17) vs. Doug Fister (14-9, 3.67)
With a win yesterday, the Red Sox have assured themselves that in order for the Tigers to advance to the World Series, they must take this series back to Boston. The Tigers must feel as if both Games 4 and 5 in Detroit are must-wins. Pitching has certainly ruled the day in this series, and with Doug Fister and Jake Peavy toeing the rubber tonight, that won’t likely change.
Keys for Detroit
Fister must go at least six innings in order to keep the pressure off the bullpen. The Tigers won three of his final five starts, while getting shut out in one loss and scoring just two runs in the other. Run support has been scarce against the Red Sox, so Fister can’t expect much help. For the Tigers, tonight would be a terrific time for Prince Fielder to find his groove. The big first baseman, sandwiched between Miguel Cabrera and the Victor Martinez-Jhonny Peralta combo, may hold the key to Detroit’s offense exploding.
Keys for Boston
Can Boston continue to win with a termite-infested bat rack? At some point, the Red Sox have to start hitting in order to win the series. Peavy must stick with the pitching game plan that has been so successful to this point. Manager John Farrell is confident going to his pen early, so Peavy can attack with his complete arsenal early in the game.
Tigers to Watch
Fister will try to continue the Tigers’ dominance over Boston hitters, and he has had mixed results this season. In a June start at home, the righthander couldn’t get out of the fourth inning before giving up 11 hits and six runs in a loss. Then in September at Fenway Park, he tossed seven shutout innings in a win. Cabrera has three home runs among his 13 hits in 45 at-bats off of Peavy.
Red Sox to Watch
Peavy hasn’t faced the Tigers since he was dealt to Boston, but his final start as a member of the White Sox came against Detroit. He threw seven strong innings allowing just four hits and two walks, but he surrendered four runs all coming off the three home runs he gave up. Cabrera was not in the lineup that day. Jacoby Ellsbury has had good success reaching base off Fister (.545 OBP). Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is 5-for-11 (.455) off of Fister with two doubles and a homer. In an even smaller sample, Shane Victorino is 4-for-5 with a home run, and an HBP, of course.
In the 2000s, the Red Sox are now 16-15 in ALCS games. The Tigers are now 11-6…The Red Sox have yet to score in the first five innings…There have been 35 hits and 68 strikeouts in this series…The Red Sox have 12 hits, 10 walks and 43 punchouts…Detroit’s Peralta and Martinez are batting a combined .391…Their teammates are hitting .177…The Tigers have lost two of Justin Verlander’s three starts this postseason, despite his 0.565 WHIP and 0.39 ERA over 23 innings.
National League Championship Series – Game 5
St. Louis at Los Angeles
3:07 ET TBS
Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69) vs. Zack Greinke (15-4, 2.63)
There’s no question that pitching has outshone hitting in this series. And there’s no reason to believe that trend will not continue in Game 5. Facing elimination, the Dodgers now must win three in a row. But they have to look no further for inspiration than to their fiercest rival, the San Francisco Giants. Last year at this point, the Cardinals led the Giants three-games-to-one, only to see the Giants rally to win three straight. There is one major difference: the Dodgers must win two in St. Louis, while the Giants had the luxury of playing Games 6 and 7 in San Francisco. In tight games, there is no margin for error in the field or on the bases, and both teams have had costly lapses. On the mound, this is a rematch of Game 1. Both Zack Greinke and Joe Kelly gave up three runs in the third inning, but neither figured in the decision in the 13-inning St. Louis win.
Keys for Los Angeles
Aside from the fact that Greinke must continue to pitch well, the Dodgers must replace the production of shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who left last night’s game in the seventh inning with discomfort from a cracked rib. If he plays in Game 5, he will not be 100 percent, so his teammates must take up the slack of not having their cleanup hitter.
Keys for St. Louis
Somehow the Redbirds keep winning despite not getting off the ground offensively. The bats have been silenced by the Dodgers’ pitching staff. The inept offensive stats are staggering. The Cardinals have only 19 hits, 13 walks and have whiffed 35 times. They are batting .148 with a .231 slugging percentage, yet they are up three-games-to-one. There’s no doubt the Cardinals remember the pain of losing three straight to the Giants last season, so that sting should serve as added incentive to end the series quickly. The bullpen continues to perform well and creates a security blanket for the starting pitchers. They know they don’t have to go deep into games and can ramp up their intensity early in the game.
Dodgers to Watch
Greinke must be up to the task of getting this series back to St. Louis for Game 6 so the Dodgers will live to fight another day. Two years ago, he lost Game 5 of the NLCS to the Cardinals as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. This St. Louis lineup is a bit different without Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman.
Cardinals to Watch
Look for manager Mike Matheny to try to jump start his offense with the running game. The Cardinals don’t steal bases, but they have some excellent hit-and-run guys in Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso. Runs will be tough to come by against Greinke, so tonight’s offense could come from unexpected sources like Jay and Descalso.
The Dodgers have outhit the Cardinals 31 to 19. In four games, the Cardinals have outscored the Dodgers just eight to seven…Combined, the teams have attempted just two stolen bases. When these teams met in the 1985 NLCS, they combined for 16 attempts in the six-game series…Shane Robinson, who homered last night, has more RBIs (1) than the Cardinals’ 4-5-6 hitters (Matt Adams, Molina and David Freese) combined…The Dodgers haven’t homered in the first four games. They had only three stretches as long as four games in the regular season without a home run, only once — a six-game stretch — in the second half.
National League Championship Series – Game 4
St. Louis at Los Angeles
7:07 ET TBS
Ricky Nolasco (13-11, 3.70) vs. Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97)
The Cardinals were about to have the Dodgers by the throat on the cusp of a three-games-to-none lead, but Hyun-Jin Ryu was up to the task and the Cardinals weren’t. St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright deserved much better than what his teammates gave him last night. Defensively, the Redbirds didn’t make plays, and offensively they were stymied by Ryu. Ricky Nolasco, the Dodgers’ starter, will be making the first postseason start of his career. His counterpart, Lance Lynn, didn’t fare well in his start against Pittsburgh, but he pitched two scoreless innings to earn the win in Game 1. Through three games, this series has featured an aggregate .176 batting average. Perhaps, with Nolasco and Lynn on the hill, the hitters may have a fighting chance.
Keys for Los Angeles
Dodger pitching must continue to keep the St. Louis hitters off balance. Los Angeles hitting coach Mark McGwire, who spent the past three seasons with the same job in St. Louis, no doubt has offered some insight to the Dodgers’ pitchers as to some Cardinals’ weaknesses. The pitchers must continue to exploit those weaknesses. Good health is a key for the Dodgers as well. Center fielder Andre Ethier continues to be hindered by an ankle problem and shortstop Hanley Ramirez is playing with a cracked rib.
Keys for St. Louis
The bats must get going. It’s difficult to believe that the Cardinals have won two games with a batting average of .134 in this series. But that’s not likely to last. It all starts with Matt Carpenter at the top, and he’s shown a few signs that he may be coming out of his funk. Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina need to start chipping in with some run production as well. Lynn must be sharper than he was in his lone start against Pittsburgh in the NLDS. He gave up five earned runs in 4.1 innings.
Dodgers to Watch
Nolasco made two starts against St. Louis this season, one in Miami as a member of the Marlins and one in St. Louis as a Dodger. Nolasco won both games. The Dodgers won 11 of Nolasco’s 15 starts after they acquired him from Miami. However, in his final three starts, he allowed 17 earned runs in 12 innings (12.75 ERA) and opponents batted .393. That may be why Don Mattingly chose to skip him in the NLDS in favor of bringing Clayton Kershaw back on short rest. J.P. Howell will once again be a key piece of the Dodgers’ bullpen. He’s the lone lefty, and he’ll likely be asked to face the teeth of the Cardinals’ lineup once in the late innings. Offensively, Yasiel Puig has awakened and has been a thorn in the Cardinals’ side in more ways than one.
Cardinals to Watch
David Freese, who injured his calf last night, is questionable. Without him in the lineup, the Cardinals are fine defensively with Daniel Descalso, but Freese has a history of rising in October when the Cardinals need him most. Carlos Beltran and Jon Jay must shore up the Cardinals’ outfield defense. Jay, once regarded as a top center fielder, has struggled recently.
The projected Dodgers’ lineup is batting a combined .216 off Lynn with only two extra-base hits in 37 at-bats…The Cardinals were just 7-10 in Lynn’s 17 road starts this season, but he tossed six shutout innings in a win in May at Dodger Stadium…The projected Cardinals’ lineup is batting .371 off Nolasco…Hanley Ramirez is batting .455 this postseason with seven RBIs in six games…Against Atlanta and St. Louis in October, Dodgers pitchers have 66 strikeouts and have allowed just 41 hits and 21 walks…Yadier Molina (.286) is the only Cardinal regular hitting above .241 this postseason…Four regulars — David Freese (.192), Matt Holliday (.188), Jon Jay (.154) and Matt Carpenter (.100) — are hitting below the Mendoza Line.
American League Championship Series – Game 3
Boston at Detroit
3:07 ET Fox
John Lackey (10-13, 3.52) vs. Justin Verlander (13-12, 3.46)
Just when the Tigers thought they had a firm grip on this series as they were about to take a commanding 2-0 lead back home to Detroit for three games, a typical Red Sox game at Fenway Park broke out. Typical for the 2000s, anyway. Detroit’s pitchers were toying with Boston batters and had a 5-0 lead going into the bottom of the sixth inning. But a double here, a walk there, a pitching change here, a pitching change there, a ground ball single here and a Big Papi grand slam there suddenly turned a dreary old ballpark into a vibrant baseball palace again. So onto Detroit we go with the series knotted at one game apiece.
Keys for Detroit
Forget about Sunday night. Justin Verlander must continue the dominance that the staff has shown over the Red Sox and the success that the righthander has enjoyed this postseason. As good as Verlander has been, the Tigers must be able to close out games when their starting pitching dominates. The Detroit bullpen has been the elephant in the room all season, and has once again become a problem for manager Jim Leyland. Last season, he turned to Phil Coke to close out games. He may resort to the lefty again. Of course, getting the series to Detroit is key in that Boston magic is less likely to happen outside of Fenway.
Keys for Boston
The Red Sox must get their offense going. They have yet to record a hit in the first through fifth innings. Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury and No. 2 hitter Shane Victorino must jump-start this offense. Dustin Pedroia, hitting in front of David Ortiz, is a key to forcing the Tigers to pitch to Boston’s big slugger. If the Tigers are allowed to pitch around Ortiz, it could be another long night for the Boston bats. Starter John Lackey must be up to the task, expecting little run support. Manager John Farrell will be quick to go to the bullpen, but the Red Sox can’t afford to tax the pen too much and leave nothing for Games 4 and 5.
Tigers to Watch
As Leyland searches for answers in the bullpen, Joaquin Benoit may not have many opportunities left. Lefthanders Drew Smyly and Coke will likely get chances in high-leverage situations. Lackey may be able to keep Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter at bay, but expect the righthander to have trouble negotiating the Miguel Cabrera-Prince Fielder-Victor Martinez-Jhonny Peralta gauntlet.
Red Sox to Watch
Big Papi will be the center of attention for the Sox. He is the one hitter the Tigers can’t allow to beat them. Obviously, a key will be getting outs in front him. The big designated hitter has had success against Verlander and he truly loves to hit in the postseason.
Red Sox batters have struck out 32 times in 59 at-bats in the first two games… Ortiz with four RBIs is the only player for either team with more than one…The Tigers were 7-10 in Verlander’s 17 home starts this season; 0-8 when scoring four runs or less…Ortiz has 10 hits, including six for extra bases, in his 27 at-bats off of Verlander… Pedroia is 1-for-18 with a walk against Verlander…The former AL MVP has held Ellsbury to a .269 OBP…The Red Sox were 14-15 in Lackey’s 29 starts this season, but only 5-11 in 16 starts away from Fenway…The projected starting nine for the Tigers carries a .298 aggregate batting average against Lackey.
National League Championship Series – Game 3
St. Louis at Los Angeles
7:07 ET TBS
Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-8, 3.00) vs. Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94)
This series could not be much closer, yet the Cardinals emerged from St. Louis with a two-game lead heading to Los Angeles. The Cardinals won a 13-inning classic, then made an unearned run off Clayton Kershaw stand up for a 1-0 win in Game 2. The 2004 Boston Red Sox proved to us that the Dodgers will indeed have a chance if they lose tonight, but this game is all but an elimination game for Los Angeles. The Dodgers will have to beat the Cardinals’ best in Adam Wainwright in order to avoid a three-games-to-none hole. Rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu will take the hill for the Dodgers.
Keys for Los Angeles
The Dodgers may need a super-human effort from Ryu in order to match Wainwright pitch for pitch. If not, the Dodgers’ lineup must produce more runs than it has to this point, and do that against the Cardinals’ ace.
Keys for St. Louis
The Cardinals still haven’t found their groove with the bats. And left-handed pitching hasn’t been kind to the Redbirds all season, even when they were hitting well. Carlos Beltran, Matt Adams and Jon Jay, in particular, struggle more against lefties than righthanders. So Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and David Freese may have to shoulder the run production tonight.
Dodgers to Watch
Ryu will certainly be watched closely by Don Mattingly. The manager can’t afford for this game to get out of hand. That means Ryu will be on a short leash. With Hanley Ramirez ailing, Andre Ethier and Adrian Gonzalez must carry the offensive load. Ethier has a good history off Wainwright.
Cardinals to Watch
Wainwright has been so good, it’s almost expected that he’ll throw a dud at some point. Or maybe he got that out of his system a few weeks ago against Cincinnati. The Cardinals are 12-5 in his 17 road starts this season, and he has failed to get through the sixth inning just once.
St. Louis is batting just .187 in the postseason…Opponents are batting .196…Los Angeles is 19-11 in Ryu’s 30 starts this season, 10-5 at home…Ethier is 10-for-33 in his career against Wainwright with three home runs and three doubles…Ramirez is batting .208 off the Cardinals’ righthander (5-for-24)…Mark Ellis is 1-for-12 (.083).
American League Championship Series – Game 1
Detroit at Boston
8:30 ET Fox
Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57) vs. Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75)
Jon Lester beat the Tigers twice this season. In one of the games, he was very sharp in a 2-1 win. But in his previous start he was aided with 10 runs of support in the 10-6 win in which he was not on his game. Anibal Sanchez’s only appearance against Boston in his eight-year career came at Dolphin Stadium way back in 2006. It was Sanchez’s second career game and a relief appearance in the first inning. He gave up seven earned runs in 4.1 innings. But that’s old history now. Few of the current Red Sox hitters have faced Sanchez, the American League ERA leader this season, which should be an advantage for the pitcher.
Keys for Detroit
Sanchez has faced the Red Sox just once in his career, and it wasn’t at Fenway Park. Having never pitched in the quirky ballpark can be a bit unsettling initially. Being right-handed certainly helps though. So much hinges on Miguel Cabrera, that the Red Sox may opt to never pitch to him. In order to do that, the Sox must keep runners off base in front of him, and be prepared to deal with Prince Fielder. So if Detroit can get Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter hot at the top of the lineup, it will be difficult to pitch around Cabrera. Since joining the Tigers, Fielder has yet to show what he can do in the postseason. Now would be a good time to break out of that funk.
Keys for Boston
The Red Sox expect to score runs. Offense shouldn’t be the problem. Lester must be sharper than he’s been against this team, and the relievers can’t let this game get away. Boston’s bullpen should be a distinct advantage in this series, so keeping the game close and turning it over to both bullpens is a positive for the Red Sox.
Tigers to Watch
The Tigers can’t win without Cabrera having a good series. Can they win a game or two without a contribution from the best hitter in the game? Sure. But not four. This lineup is deep and has a terrific history against Lester, even though the Sox won his two starts against Detroit this season. Former Red Sox Victor Martinez has been in a groove since the All-Star break. That should continue tonight. If the Tigers are to make any win easy, it must start with Jackson and Hunter at the top of the order. Jackson, in particular, was an easy target for Oakland pitchers.
Red Sox to Watch
Nothing in his history against Detroit suggests that Lester will get deep into this game. Koji Uehara — one Jose Lobaton home run aside — has been nasty this season, especially over the final four months. But to bridge the gap between Lester and Uehara, the Red Sox rely heavily on lefty Craig Breslow and righthander Junichi Tazawa. Breslow should become very well-acquainted with Fielder during this series.
The Tigers held Oakland hitters to .132 average with runners in scoring position…Detroit won four of the seven meetings between the Tigers and Red Sox this season, but only one of three in Boston…Detroit’s projected lineup is batting .383 vs. Lester in 133 at-bats…Cabrera is 2-for-4 with two home runs and a walk in five career plate appearances against Boston closer Uehara…Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks’ only plate appearance against Detroit reliever Al Alburquerque resulted in a grand slam…Detroit was only 7-8 in Sanchez’s 15 road starts this season.
Series Prediction: Boston in 6
National League Championship Series – Game 2
Los Angeles at St. Louis
3:07 ET TBS
Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83) vs. Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78)
The Dodgers and Cardinals played 13 innings for more than five hours before Carlos Beltran lined a shot to right field that scored pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso from second. Now the teams must turn around for a first pitch of Game 2 just 13 and half hours after the final pitch of Game 1. St. Louis Game 2 starter Michael Wacha followed a near no-hitter in his final start of the regular season by allowing just one hit over 7.1 innings to the Pirates. The lone hit was a long home run by Pedro Alvarez. Clayton Kershaw shut down the Braves in both Game 1 and 4. So we have two outstanding pitchers throwing well facing exhausted lineups. Yep, could be another epic, gut-wrenching affair this afternoon.
Keys for Los Angeles
The Dodgers must put last night behind them and quickly. That’s much easier to do with Kershaw on the hill. But Hanley Ramirez, who was hit in the ribs in the first inning, is likely sore, and the Dodgers can’t afford to lose his bat. Closer Kenley Jansen entered the game in the 13th inning and the first batter he faced in the series lined a walk-off single to right. He must forget that and move on to this afternoon.
Keys for St. Louis
Who will close tonight? Trevor Rosenthal threw 33 pitches Friday night. He topped 30 pitches just four times during the regular season and did not pitch the following night on any of those occasions. But this is the postseason. If he isn’t available, Kevin Siegrist or deposed closer Edward Mujica will be called on for the final outs. Even though the Cardinals beat Kershaw twice this season, they are susceptible to lefthanders.
Dodgers to Watch
None of the Dodgers have seen Wacha, so it may take a time through the order for any of the hitters to be comfortable. So much hinges on Kershaw. The lefthander lost two starts to St. Louis this season, and has a spotty postseason record prior to this season. Kershaw must get deep into this game given how taxed the bullpen was last night. In the two losses to the Cardinals, Kershaw wasn’t bad allowing a .265 average with a 4.15 ERA over 13 innings.
Cardinals to Watch
All eyes better be on Beltran. The man is calm and collected in pressure situations in the postseason. After a win in Game 1, there’s slightly less pressure on Wacha, but the Cardinals don’t want to allow Los Angeles to split the first two games. And, realistically, the Cardinals can’t expect too many runs off of Kershaw, so Wacha needs to be sharp. The youngster has been especially good at home and equally tough on lefty and righty hitters. Mike Matheny handed the 22-year-old the ball for one of the most important games of the season on Monday, and responded by taking a no-hitter into the late innings.
Beltran now has nine RBIs in this postseason, as many as his teammates have combined…In his career, Kershaw in 4-5 with a 3.75 ERA against the Cardinals…In 43 plate appearances vs. Kershaw, Matt Holliday is batting .303 with a .465 on-base percentage…Pete Kozma has three doubles and a single in his five plate appearances against Kershaw…Five Dodger regulars are hitting at a .348 clip or better this postseason (Ramirez, Juan Uribe, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig)…Six St. Louis relievers — Rosenthal, Seth Maness, John Axford, Siegrist, Randy Choate and Mujica — have logged 12 innings this postseason with a 1.00 WHIP and 0.00 ERA.
National League Championship Series – Game 1
Los Angeles at St. Louis
8:30 ET TBS
Zack Greinke (15-4, 2.63) vs. Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69)
The Cardinals won a hard-fought battle with NL Central rival Pittsburgh to advance to the NLCS for the third consecutive year. The Dodgers didn’t exactly breeze by the Braves, but there was less resistance from Atlanta than expected. With Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw pitching the first two games in St. Louis, the Dodgers have an excellent opportunity to steal a road game. However, with Adam Wainwright scheduled to pitch Game 3 in Los Angeles, the Cardinals can easily return the favor. This series certainly shapes up for St. Louis to have Wainwright on the hill for game 7.
Keys for Los Angeles
The Dodgers need to get to Game 1 starter Joe Kelly early and not allow him to settle in. That can be said for most starting pitchers, but forcing Mike Matheny’s hand going to the bullpen early is not a good sign for St. Louis. The Cardinals, with Yadier Molina behind the plate, are not friendly toward an offense built around stolen bases. But the Dodgers can take extra bases on the St. Louis outfield. Of course, if they continue to get extra-base hits at a torrid pace, scoring runs will not be a problem.
Keys for St. Louis
Some good news from the NLDS with Pittsburgh is that Cardinals pitchers held the Pirates to a .201 batting average. The bad news? St. Louis hit just .209. Pittsburgh hitters’ primary problems were Wainwright and Michael Wacha. The Cardinals must hit better than .209 in order to win when those two don’t pitch. The Cardinals rolled to 97 wins during the regular season due to their uncanny hitting with runners in scoring position. The .330 average in those situations blew away previous records for any team. But St. Louis hit just .192 (5-for-26) against the Pirates in those situations, which made the Redbirds’ work much more difficult. Without their leading man in that role, Allen Craig, the Cardinals need to find that regular-season magic.
Dodgers to Watch
The Dodgers were wearing their hitting shoes in the series against Atlanta and jumping on Kelly early would set a nice tone for the series for the men in blue. Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez trigger the Dodgers’ offense. The Cardinals will probably find a way to hold Yasiel Puig in check, but getting Crawford on base and Ramirez hitting with runners in scoring position is a nice formula for the Dodgers. Skip Schumaker is a name to remember. The former Cardinal, very popular in St. Louis with many friends on the team, will be in position to haunt the Redbirds. He’ll likely be up to the task.
Cardinals to Watch
Matt Carpenter, who sparked the Cardinals’ offense all season, must be the happiest player in the big leagues right now to see Pittsburgh pitchers leave town. The Pirates kept the NL hits and runs leader off base and made him a non-factor. The Cardinals expect Carlos Beltran and David Freese to come up big this time of year, but producing runs becomes so much easier with Carpenter leading the way.
Greinke has more career wins (8) against the Cardinals than any team other than the Tigers (13)…In two starts vs. St. Louis in the 2011 NLCS while with Milwaukee, Greinke gave up 15 hits and eight earned runs in 11.2 innings…Freese, Matt Holliday and Molina are batting a combined .333 against Greinke with 10 RBIs in 66 at-bats…Six of the Dodgers’ regular eight position players hit .333 or better in the NLDS against Atlanta…The Dodgers had 18 extra-base hits, including seven home runs in the four games…This is the Cardinals’ eighth appearance in the NLCS in the 2000s, more than twice as many as any other National League team. St. Louis has played in 43 NLCS games since 2000, winning 19…This is the Dodgers’ third NLCS appearance since 2008…Los Angeles won just two of eight games vs. the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008-09…The anticipated starting eight for L.A. is batting .278 against Kelly, albeit from a small sample. If Mattingly decides to play Nick Punto, a former Cardinal, at second base rather than Mark Ellis, the average goes up to .418.
Series Prediction: St. Louis in 7
When the American League expanded to 10 teams in 1961, with the National League set to follow the next year, baseball ushered in a new era. With both leagues fully integrated by that time, and many players from Latin America finding their way into the big leagues, this was in many ways the beginning of a Golden Age of baseball. For the first time there was a 162-game schedule. From this Expansion Era, we rank the worst managerial disasters.
1. College of Coaches, Chicago Cubs, 1961-62 123-193 .389
Chicago Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley, who for a while must have thought himself to be P.T. Barnum, instituted an unorthodox College of Coaches to lead the Cubs in 1961-62. The concept called for a group of coaches to lead the team with each one having a turn as manager for a number of games. Wrigley thought that exposing players to multiple ways of thinking would benefit his troops. But the results were disastrous. The Cubs managed to finish seventh in 1961, but lost a franchise-record 103 games in 1962, finishing above only the expansion New York Mets and six games behind the first-year Colt 45’s. Although they were quite young, future Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Ron Santo and Billy Williams joined veteran Ernie Banks in the everyday lineup. George Altman was the leading hitter with a .318 average and second baseman Ken Hubbs was NL Rookie of the Year.
2. Bobby Valentine, Boston, 2012 69-93 .426
As has been the case since the turn of the century, the Red Sox are expected to contend every year. Valentine’s tenure landed the Sox in last place, 26 games out of first place and threatened to cause lasting damage. The .426 winning percentage was the lowest of Bobby V’s managerial career in a full season.
3. Ozzie Guillen, Miami, 2012 69-93 .426
After a term as the White Sox most successful skipper since Al Rosen of the 1950s, Guillen was hand-picked to lead the new-look, newly-named Miami Marlins as they opened a new stadium and were stocked with pricey free agents. The season was a disaster from the beginning. From racial misspeaks to friction with players to mounting losses, Guillen’s time in Miami could not have gone much worse.
4. Bob Geren, Oakland, 2007-11 334-376 .470
He finished one season at an even .500 (2010) followed by three losing years. The A’s won the division under Ken Macha the year prior to Geren’s arrival, and won it again under Bob Melvin the year after his departure.
5. Larry Bowa, San Diego, 1987-88 81-127 .389
The rookie skipper led the Padres to their first last-place finish in six years, and it would be another half dozen seasons before they would finish at the bottom of the NL West again. He began the 1988 season with a 16-30 record, and Jack McKeon ended the campaign with a 67-48 ledger.
6. Jim Davenport, San Francisco, 1985 56-88 .389
The 1985 season is the low-water mark for the franchise between 1944 and the present. Oops. The Giants have had just four managers since Davenport.
7. Don Heffner, Cincinnati, 1966 37-46 .446
Heffner took over a team accustomed to contending and led the Reds to an eighth-place standing before being dismissed midseason.
8. Ted Turner, Atlanta, 1977 0-1 .000
After the Braves dropped 16 straight games, owner Ted Turner told manager Dave Bristol to take some time off and that he would manage the team for what was originally thought to be about 10 days or so. Turner’s one stint in the dugout yielded nothing more than the Braves’ 17th consecutive defeat. The next day, Turner was told by National League President Chub Feeney, backed by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, that anyone with ownership in a team was not allowed to manage. Turner didn’t make a pitching change (Phil Niekro pitched a complete game in a 2-1 loss at Pittsburgh) and used a pinch-runner for his catcher and two pinch-hitters in the ninth inning. Third base coach Vern Benson managed the next game before Bristol returned for the remainder of the season.
9. Vern Rapp, Cincinnati, 1984 51-70 .421
The Reds were on pace for a six-game decline from a disappointing 1983 season when Pete Rose replaced Rapp in August.
10. Moose Stubing, California, 1988 0-8 .000
The tenure was short, but Stubing holds the dubious mark of the most games managed since 1900 without a win. Stubing finished his playing career — which consisted of two weeks in August of 1967 — hitless in five plate appearances with four strikeouts.
11. Alan Trammell, Detroit, 2003-05 186-300 .383
After the 119-loss debacle in 2003, the team slightly improved, but didn’t come within 20 games of first place in the AL Central.
12. Karl Kuehl, Montreal, 1976 43-85 .336
Gene Mauch left an improving expansion franchise on the cusp of a .500 record for the first time in Expos history, but Kuehl wrecked the club. The Expos were on pace for 108 losses when Kuehl was relieved of his only job as manager.
13. Manny Acta, Washington Nationals, 2007-09 158-252 .385
Acta lost 89 games his first season in Washington, followed that with a 102-loss season, and was on pace to lose 114 games when he was fired in 2009.
14. Jim Riggleman, San Diego, 1992-94 112-179 .385
In two seasons at the helm in San Diego, Riggleman oversaw the two worst seasons for the Padres from 1987 until now, finishing last in the seven-team NL West in 1993, and was running in last place in the four-team division when the strike ended the 1994 season.
15. Joe Torre, New York Mets, 1977-81 286-420 .405
Hired as a player-manager in 1977, Torre guided the Mets to four of their 14 worst seasons.
16. John McNamara, California, 1983-84 151-173 .466
Gene Mauch won 93 games the year before McNamara arrived, then 90 and 92 the following two years. Mac topped out at 81.
17. Al Pedrique, Arizona, 2004 22-61 .265
His abysmal winning percentage is easily the worst in franchise history, with the next worst that of A.J. Hinch at .420.
18. Bill Plummer, Seattle, 1992 64-98 .395
Jim Lefebvre managed the Mariners to the first winning season in its 15-year history the year before Plummer was hired. The new manager sent the team down the drain with a decline of 19 wins, matching the team’s 64-98 record as an expansion team in 1977. Lou Piniella brought a winner back in 1993 with a 18-game improvement.
19. Maury Wills, Seattle, 1980-81 26-56 .317
Wills owns the worst winning percentage in Mariners history. And Seattle has had some pretty bad teams, especially in the early years.
20. Eddie Haas, Atlanta, 1985 50-71 .413
The Braves finished first, second and second in three years under Joe Torre. Haas immediately took them to fifth. The Braves lost 12 of the manager’s final 13 games, then immediately launched a five-game win streak under new boss, Bobby Wine.
21. Jeff Torborg, New York Mets, 1992-93 85-115 .425
Expectations were high in New York in 1992, with many experts predicting a division title. Aces David Cone and Dwight Gooden were joined by free agents Bret Saberhagen, Eddie Murray and Bobby Bonilla in a star-studded clubhouse. The Mets finished fifth, 18 games below .500. Torborg began the following season 13-25 and was fired. While the Mets improved after his dismissal, the 1993 season remains the club’s worst season since 1965.
22. A.J. Hinch, Arizona, 2009-10 89-123 .420
His Arizona tenure was bookended by a second-place 2008 team and a division champion in 2011.
23. Terry Francona, Philadelphia, 1997-2000 285-363 .440
The Phillies topped out at eight games below .500 and a third-place finish in 1999 under Francona, who took the experience of some hard lessons to Boston.
24. Bob Boone, Cincinnati, 2001-03 190-238 .444
Boone took over a franchise coming off back-to-back second-place finishes. He proceeded to steer the club to its worst finish between 1982 and the present. He launched what would become nine straight losing seasons.
25. Brad Mills, Houston, 2010-12 171-274 .384
It’s true that the Astros were embarking on a major rebuilding program. But the team regressed from 76 wins to 56 to a pace for 52 when Mills was mercifully relieved of his duties.
26. Dave Bristol, Atlanta, 1976-77 130-192 .404
The 1970s was a bad decade for the Braves. They finished in the upper division just twice and last four times. Bristol oversaw two of the last-place finishes and was replaced by Bobby Cox. Bristol managed for four different franchises and was replaced by Sparky Anderson, Cox, Frank Robinson and Del Crandall.
27. Bucky Dent, New York Yankees, 1989-90 36-53 .404
Winning barely 40 percent of his games, Dent owns the worst winning percentage of any Yankees skipper since 1912. (That’s two years before Babe Ruth debuted with the Red Sox.)
28. Butch Hobson, Boston, 1992-94 207-232 .472
The Red Sox finished first in 1990, then second in 1991. Hobson took over in 1992 and led the Sox to their first last-place finish since 1932, repeated only by Bobby Valentine’s troops in 2012.
29. Ralph Houk, Detroit, 1974-78 363-443 .450
From 1971-88, the Detroit Tigers had just four losing seasons. Houk managed all four, finishing in the lower half of the AL East all five seasons he was at the helm.
30. Charlie Metro, Kansas City Royals, 1970 19-33 .365
After the Royals won 69 games in their inaugural season under Joe Gordon, Metro had the team on pace for just 59 wins when he was replaced by Bob Lemon. The following season Lemon led the team to a winning season and second place in the AL West.
31. Buddy Bell, Detroit, 1996-98 184-277 .399
Bell followed the Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson and led the Tigers to their worst season since 1952. The 109 losses were the most in team history at the time.
32. Dave Trembley, Baltimore, 2008-10 187-283 .398
Although the club was floundering when he was hired, Trembley’s first full season was also the first for the Orioles in last place in the five-team AL East. The situation didn’t improve as Trembley saw nothing but the cellar after that.
33. Russ Nixon, Atlanta, 1988-90 130-216 .376
Of all the Braves’ managers with at least 30 games since 1930, Nixon’s winning percentage ranks last.
34. Jerry Narron, Texas, 2001-02 134-162 .453
How could a team with Ivan Rodriguez, Alex Rodriguez, Michael Young, Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez finish in last place in the AL West? And 21 games behind third-place Seattle.
35. Dave Miley, Cincinnati, 2003-05 125-164 .433
Miley is the only Reds manager since World War II to manage as many as 250 games with a winning percentage below .440.
36. Ken Macha, Milwaukee Brewers, 2009-10 157-167 .485
Macha’s two sub-.500 seasons were sandwiched by the Brewers’ wild-card team in 2008 and the 2011 NL Central division champs.
37. John Russell, Pittsburgh, 2008-10 186-299 .384
Of the 20 years of losing suffered in Pittsburgh, Russell was in charge during the worst and third-worst seasons. His first team was one game worse than the year before and the team proceeded to decline by five games in his next two seasons.
38. Mel McGaha, Kansas City Athletics, 1964-65 45-91 .331
The 13 years the A’s spent in Kansas City were all losers. Eight games below .500 in 1958 was the high-water mark. Two of the three worst seasons involved McGaha, who finished the 1964 season, then started 1965 with a 5-21 mark.
39. Davey Lopes, Milwaukee Brewers, 2000-02 144-195 .425
The former Dodgers’ All-Star second baseman took over a team that had won 74 games, led them to 73 and 68 wins and got off to a 3-12 start in 2002 when he was dismissed in favor of Jerry Royster.
40. Johnny Keane, New York Yankees, 1965-66 81-101 .445
The 1964 American League champs hired Keane away from the 1964 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals after the season. But Keane got just 46 games from Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle batted .255 with 19 home runs and 46 RBIs. The Yankees finished sixth despite Whitey Ford, Mel Stottlemyre and Al Downing combining to start 105 games with a 48-36 record.
41. Don Gutteridge, Chicago White Sox, 1969-70 109-172 .388
From 1949 through 2013, the 1970 season ranks as the low-point in White Sox annals.
42. George Bamberger, New York Mets, 1982-83 81-127 .389
Bamby’s two last-place clubs were followed by Davey Johnson’s six straight seasons of first or second place. His .389 winning percentage is the Mets’ lowest for post-1967 managers.
43. Stump Merrill, New York Yankees, 1990-91 120-155 .436
The two seasons in which Merrill spent time in the Yankees’ dugout just happened to be the two lowest win totals in non-strike seasons for the Yankees between 1967 and, well, now.
44. Joe Adcock, Cleveland, 1967 75-87 .463
The .463 winning percentage was the Indians’ worst since 1946. It followed .537 and .500 seasons, and preceded a .534 season under Al Dark.
45. Billy Herman, Boston, 1964-66 128-182 .413
Herman’s two ninth-place teams morphed into an AL champion the season after he was gone.
46. Jim Lemon, Washington Senators, 1968 65-96 .404
In his only stint as a manager, Lemon’s team was 11 games worse than the year before, and 20 games worse than the following season.
47. Jim Marshall, Oakland, 1979 54-108 .333
The .333 winning percentage remains the franchise’s worst showing since 1954, the club’s final season in Philadelphia before moving to Kansas City.
48. Paul Richards, Chicago White Sox, 1976 64-97 .398
Richards’ second stint as White Sox field boss turned out to be the second-worst season on the South Side between 1950 and today.
49. Frank Howard, San Diego, 1981 41-69 .373
It must have been difficult to manage through the strike-interrupted season of 1981. But the Padres joined the Blue Jays as the only teams to finish in last place in both the first and second halves, going a miserable 18-36 after the strike.
50. Jim Marshall, Chicago Cubs, 1974-76 175-218 .445
This was certainly not a disaster — especially by Cubs standards — but it was the three worst seasons on the North Side from 1967-79.
It’s been a long time since the Pittsburgh Pirates had a winning season. A well-documented long time. My daughter is a junior in college, and the Pirates have not had a season with a winning record in her lifetime.
But, last night, the Pirates won their 82nd game of the season, ensuring themselves of a winning year in 2013.
A few notable events have happened in baseball since the Bucs were winners back in 1992. Here are a few:
The Florida Marlins, now the Miami Marlins, and the Colorado Rockies came into being. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks came into being.
The Marlins won two World Series. The Diamondbacks won a World Series. The Boston Red Sox won two World Series. Even the White Sox won a World Series. In fact, 11 different franchises have won the World Series.
Joe Torre was hired by George Steinbrenner to manage the New York Yankees. Tony La Russa was hired as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Montreal Expos abandoned Canada and moved to Washington to become the Nationals. Postseason baseball was played in our nation’s capital, but not in Pittsburgh.
American League and National League teams began playing each other in the regular season — and the games actually count. Central Divisions were created in both leagues. Wild card teams were introduced.
A new generation of superstars has been introduced to fans since the Pirates were last winners. Chipper Jones made his major league debut. Mariano Rivera made his major league debut. Derek Jeter made his major league debut. Alex Rodriguez made his major league debut.
Cal Ripken was still 396 games away from breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak of 2,130 the last time the Bucs were winners.
And 10 players — Jeter, Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Ichiro Suzuki, Jones, Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Garret Anderson and Todd Helton — all amassed at least 2,500 hits during that time. Ichiro collected 3,983 in Japan and the U.S. during that time.
Former Pirate Barry Bonds hit 586 home runs and has been retired long enough to be on the Hall of Fame ballot. Alex Rodriguez topped that with 651 clouts. A third player, Jim Thome, also hit more than 600 homers. And another three players — Sammy Sosa, Ramirez and Ken Griffey — hit more than 500 home runs.
The single-season 70-home run barrier was broken twice. The single-season 60-home run barrier was broken six times.
There have been 45 no-hitters in the big leagues, including gems by Chris Bosio, Jose Jimenez and Bud Smith, since the Pirates celebrated a winning season, none by Pittsburgh pitchers. The Bucs have been no-hit once during that time.
Greg Maddux, Andy Pettitte and Randy Johnson each won 250 or more games since the Pirates were a .500 team. Mike Mussina missed by two. The only two pitchers with more than 600 saves — Rivera and Trevor Hoffman — did all their closing work since then.
And Sabermetrics were introduced to baseball fans.
There have been more World Series cancellations than Pirates’ winning seasons in the last 20 years. Heck, there has been more cancelled hockey seasons.
A few things have happened in other sports as well.
In the NFL, the Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans came into existence. The Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Titans. The Rams moved to St. Louis from Los Angeles, but not before winning nine games over two seasons as the Los Angeles Rams.
A total of 12 franchises won a Super Bowl. Peyton Manning made his debut — for the University of Tennessee.
Michael Jordan won four NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls. Yep, it’s been a while since the Pirates won as many as 82 games.
LeBron James made his debut — for Saint Vincent-Saint Mary High School in Akron. Chris Webber was drafted No. 1 overall by Orlando and immediately traded to Golden State. Isaiah Rider made his NBA debut. Jason Kidd and Grant Hill were drafted.
Boston has celebrated seven championships among the four major North American sports. And in Pittsburgh, the Steelers won two Super Bowls and the Penguins captured a Stanley Cup.
In college athletics, Chris Webber called timeout. Tommie Frazier led Nebraska to back-to-back national titles. And let’s not forget that Corliss Williamson, Tony Delk and Miles Simon each won the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Award.
Rick Pitino won national championships at both Kentucky and Louisville and dismantled the Boston Celtics in between. Both Tubby Smith and Lon Kruger took four different schools to the NCAA Tournament.
The BCS was invented. The BCS was disposed. And two college football national championships were shared.
Nine non-SEC teams have won undisputed national championships in college football during the Pirates’ Losing Era.
Mack Brown was hired at Texas. Nick Saban was introduced at Michigan State, and the University of Pittsburgh has hired eight head football coaches. Pete Carroll coached the New York Jets.
Penn State gave up its long-standing independent status and joined the Big Ten. Texas A&M won two Southwest Conference championships. Nebraska won three Big Eight Conference championships.
And, oh, by the way, ESPN.com was launched as ESPNet.SportsZone.com and ESPN2 hit the airwaves.
And here’s a little perspective outside the world of sports:
The United Kingdom handed over Hong Kong to China. Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa. And Monica Lewinsky became a White House intern. O.J. Simpson became a criminal.
The Dow Jones topped 5000. GM launched its Saturn Division (“A New Kind of Car Company”). And MP3 players were introduced.
Y2K freaked many people out, needlessly. And the Euro was adopted by the European Union.
“Schindler’s List,” “Forrest Gump” and “Braveheart” debuted on the big screen while “Beavis and Butthead” debuted on MTV.
Bill Clinton was elected President. The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was adopted by the military. Sony’s PlayStation was developed. Taylor Swift celebrated her fourth birthday.
And Bryce Harper was born.
All these memories were created since Atlanta’s Sid Bream scored on a base hit by Francisco Cabrera to end the Pirates’ 1992 season, their last with a winning record.
Maybe the third baseman was rushed through the Pirates’ system, or maybe he’s been a little slow to develop, but the Pirates have been rewarded for their patience with the young slugger. The second overall pick in 2008 is tied for the NL lead in homers and is fourth in RBIs. If the Bucs can hang on and win the NL Central, Alvarez will be a key component.
The Boston righthander was 9-0 through his first 12 starts. But a neck strain and bursa sac inflammation have sidelined him since June 8. Boston’s chances increase dramatically with a healthy Buchholz in the rotation for the playoffs.
The best hitter on the planet in the middle of the lineup for the Tigers is the No. 1 factor in how far Detroit can advance this season. The Tigers need Miggy completely healthy in order to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Drama (lack of)
The only drama in the NL may be which of the three NL Central teams — the Pirates, Cardinals or Reds — will win the division and which two will be left to play in the wild-card game.
There is very little postseason experience — and even less proven success — among NL starting pitchers likely to earn starts this October. A.J. Burnett of the Pirates has the most starts (7, all with the Yankees) and a 5.87 ERA. The Braves’ starters have one start in the postseason combined. The only two starters with postseason success are Adam Wainwright of St. Louis, with four starts and four saves in the playoffs and a 2.48 ERA over 32.2 innings; and the Reds’ Mike Leake, who had a terrific start last season against the Giants.
Opponents may choose to pitch around Cabrera, leaving Fielder as the focal point of Detroit’s lineup. The big man struggled at a .173 clip in the postseason last year with only one extra-base hit. He’s been a valuable protector for Cabrera in the regular season, but how he performs in the playoffs could determine the Tigers’ fate.
The Pirates’ closer was almost perfect for the first three months of the season, but his injury has forced Pittsburgh to shuffle its bullpen. So far, there have been few problems as Mark Melancon, Justin Wilson, Tony Watson and Vin Mazzaro have taken up the slack. But the Pirates have a much better shot at winning the NL Central with their closer healthy. He’s beginning to make a few rehab appearances in the minor leagues, hopeful that he can return to Pittsburgh by mid-September.
The Braves’ offense took off when Heyward was moved to the leadoff spot, and Atlanta has been one of the hottest teams in baseball since. But Heyward was hit in the face with a pitch on Aug. 21, causing him to be out until late in the season. His healthy return will be critical for the Braves once the playoffs begin.
In one of the most significant trades at the deadline, the Tigers acquired Iglesias from the Red Sox anticipating the suspension of shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Iglesias will not provide pop to match Peralta, but his defense is terrific.
The Dodgers’ starting pitching has been terrific, and the lineup has been hitting on all cylinders. If there is an Achilles heel for Los Angeles, it would be the bullpen. Jansen closed just 78 percent of his opportunities last season, and allowed 33 percent of inherited runners to score. He’s been much better this season, however, closing 88 percent of his opportunities and allowing just 14 percent of inherited runners to cross the plate.
The most dominant pitcher in the majors this season must continue to confound hitters in the playoffs. The lefty carries a career 5.87 ERA in the postseason, and he needs to be the shutdown ace in order for the Dodgers to win a series — or more.
Throughout his career, there has been little doubt as to Liriano’s immense talent. But his inconsistency has confounded pitching coaches over the years. Right now, he’s the Pirates’ ace, but if he falters, the Pirates’ dream of postseason success could fade with him.
Myers has anchored the Rays’ lineup from the cleanup spot. Since early July, he’s batting .339, and when he drives in a run, the Rays are 17-5. When he doesn’t have an RBI, the team is 18-22 (in games he plays).
When the Rangers were at their best earlier this season, the bullpen was terrific. The closer didn’t blow his first save until May 26 after he had successfully closed 16. He now has 38 saves in 40 chances. But he’s walked 10 in his last 13 innings and is showing signs of wearing down. Texas doesn’t need a tired Nathan.
Boston’s rebound from last season’s debacle has been remarkable. And Ortiz has been right in the middle of the turnaround. He leads the team in batting average, slugging, on-base percentage, home runs and RBIs. Yeah, he’s sort of a key to the Red Sox hopes.
Puig’s energy and all-out style are fun to watch, yet can be exasperating for his manager because of careless mistakes and spotty concentration. But when he’s on his game, he is a scary figure in the batter’s box. The Dodgers need him to be on.
While the official Quality Start statistic is among the most meaningless, it is critical that teams’ starting pitching get deep into games to save bullpen arms down the stretch. As we saw two years ago in Atlanta, tired bullpens can be disasters late in the season.
Anything baseball can do to ensure that the right calls are made is welcome.
The Rangers’ best run producer (at the time of his suspension), Nelson Cruz, is currently suspended, as is shortstop Jhonny Peralta of Detroit. The Tigers reacted well and added shortstop Jose Iglesias, improving their defense. Texas has managed to improve its offensive numbers without Cruz, but the lineup is not nearly as intimidating with the right fielder missing.
I know the Twins’ elimination number is less than 20 with almost a month to play. But no team will have more say in more pennant races than the Twins. Minnesota has seven games against the A’s and the Rays visit Target Field for three. The Twins will spend the final week hosting the Tigers (3) and the Indians (4).
Since becoming the team’s full-time closer in late June, Boston’s Uehara is 3-0 with 15 saves in 17 chances with an 0.29 ERA. He has 41 Ks and has allowed just 10 hits and two walks. With the health and stability questions surrounding Boston’s rotation, it’s critical that Uehara is sharp at the back end of the bullpen.
Max Scherzer is getting most of the attention in Detroit (and rightfully so) with his 19-1 record. But the horse manager Jim Leyland will lean on in the postseason is Verlander.
He’s been there before. Twice in fact. He’s been to within a strike of winning the World Series. Twice in fact. Last season ended too soon for the Rangers’ manager, and he is determined to have his troops ready for October. Not letting the AL West title slip away like last season is the first order of business.
Boston called up its top prospect in mid-August, and he will be a key for the Red Sox. Shortstop Stephen Drew is batting under .250, and the Sox need an offensive spark from the position. Bogaerts has made three starts at shortstop and two at third. He’s hitting .316 but has just one extra-base hit.
In St. Louis, fans know him by one name. The off-the-charts defensive catcher has proven to be one of the best hitters in the NL this season. Certain to receive serious MVP consideration, Yadier Molina is the most indispensable position player in the pennant race. The Cardinals can ill-afford for him to miss a beat.
One of the best defensive second basemen in the big leagues, Zobrist has also made starts in left, right and short. He’s also hit in each of the first five spots in the batting order. He is the heart and soul of the Rays’ lineup.
The Pirates are over powering the Cardinals, Scherzer can’t finish, but he sure can win, the Rangers are road warriors, the Rays are road weary, the Tigers dominate the Tribe and Craig Kimbrel is good, really good. Explore these facts and more amazing MLB stats from the week of Aug. 26 to Sept. 1.
18 Home runs hit by Pittsburgh off St. Louis pitching this season
In contrast, the Cardinals have taken Pittsburgh pitchers out of the yard just three times in the 16 meetings so far this season.
0 Complete games for Max Scherzer of Detroit this season
With one more win, Scherzer could become just the third pitcher in history to win 20 games in a season without completing a start. The only two pitchers to accomplish that are Mike Mussina in 2008 and Roger Clemens in 2001, both with the Yankees.
0.93 ERA for the Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo in his last three starts
Gallardo, who has struggled most of the season, has risen to the occasion recently. Those three games just happened to have been against Cincinnati (two) and Pittsburgh, two teams battling for a division title.
50-1 Milwaukee’s record when leading after eight innings
A 6-5 loss to the Angels last Saturday was the club’s first such setback when leading after eight innings. Prior to that loss, the Brewers were the only team this season perfect with a lead going into the final frame.
13-3 Texas’ road record in August
The Texas Rangers finished the month of August with 20 wins, which was just the fourth month in franchise history with as many as 20 wins. The club was especially good on the road, including sweeps over the Angels, Astros and Mariners.
1.33 Dodgers’ ERA last week
As impressive as last week was for the Dodgers’ pitching staff, the last five weeks have been even more impressive in that they have been able to sustain such a high level. Since July 26, covering 35 games, the Dodgers are 28-7 with their pitchers carrying a 1.87 ERA. Opponents are batting just .215 during that time. Think any National League team wants to face that staff in the playoffs?
2,500 Career hits for Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies
The total ranks 96th on the all-time list and is the third-most among active players behind Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro Suzuki.
0-9 Tampa Bay record outside the Eastern Time Zone in second half
The Rays just don’t travel well, especially long distances. Since the All-Star break, the Rays are 10-3 on the road when playing on Eastern Time. But they’re 0-1 in the Central Time zone, 0-2 on Mountain Time and 0-6 on the West Coast. Not good if you’re chasing a playoff spot.
18 Runs allowed by the Rockies to the Reds in three games
Giving up six runs a game is not good, but it’s not horrible. So what’s the big deal? The Rockies won two of three.
9 Years since Seattle finished ahead of the Angels
You have to go back to 2003 to find the last time the Mariners were looking down at the Angels in the AL West standings. As of Sunday, the Angels were a game and a half ahead of the Mariners.
15-4 Detroit’s record vs. the Indians
The 15 wins mark the most for the Tigers over the Indians since 1960 when the teams met 22 times. It’s also a far cry from the 12-game Cleveland sweep in 1996.
.218 Philadelphia’s batting average since the All-Star break
The Phillies own the lowest batting average in the majors in the second half, which is directly related to…
-117 Philadelphia’s run differential, worst in the National League
Over the weekend, the Phillies dropped below the Miami Marlins in run differential in the National League. The Phillies entered the All-Star break at an even 48-48, with some thought of climbing into the pennant race. Since then, the team is 14-27 with a -72 run differential.
5.1 Perfect innings for Craig Kimbrel
Last week, the Braves closer tossed 5.1 innings without allowing a hit or walk. He notched three saves and a win along the way. For the season, he has 81 strikeouts and 48 hits and walks combined. His WHIP is an impressive 0.847 to go with his 0.95 ERA.
11/10 RBIs/Runs for Shane Victorino last week
The Boston outfielder began the week with a 3-for-3, four-run, 7-RBI, two-homer performance in a big win over Baltimore. His hot hitting continued as he batted .435 for the week with 11 RBIs, 10 runs and six extra-base hits.
The Cubs are wishing they had moved to the American League instead of the Astros, Koji has been unhittable, Texas and Detroit haven’t missed a beat since a couple of players were suspended, and will the Braves’ lack of postseason experience hurt their pitchers in the playoffs? It isn’t too early to ask that question and explore these and more meaningful stats from the week of August 19-25.
.167 Opponents batting average vs. Boston last week
The Boston pitchers were especially stingy last week, and it wasn’t like they were facing struggling offenses. Well, maybe half of the time they were. Boston squared off with the Dodgers and Giants on the West Coast last week and quieted the bats for both teams.
6.1 Runs per game the Rangers have averaged since losing Nelson Cruz
It was reasonable to assume that the Rangers’ production would suffer when their top run producer was suspended. But, perhaps, this incident has galvanized the clubhouse and inspired players to step up. In the 112 games prior to the right fielder’s suspension, the Rangers averaged 4.3 runs per game and batted .261. In the 18 games since the suspension, Texas is scoring 6.1 runs a game and batting .270.
.341 Tigers batting average over last eight games
Much like the Rangers with Nelson Cruz, the Detroit Tigers haven’t missed a beat offensively with the suspension of shortstop Jhonny Peralta. And with Jose Iglesias now patrolling shortstop, the Tigers are much better defensively. Over the past eight games, Detroit is batting .341 as a team with 11 home runs and 48 runs.
7 Runs scored by San Diego in Tyson Ross’s last six starts
The Padres’ young starter has been pitching well, but hasn’t received very much support. Since joining the rotation July 23, Ross has made seven starts going 3-3 with a 2.53 ERA. Opponents are batting just .189, yet to figure out his devastating slider. However, the Padres’ batters aren’t exactly doing much better. After scoring six runs in Ross’s start on July 23, the team has scored a total of seven runs in his last six outings.
0.32 Koji Uehara’s ERA since becoming Boston’s closer
The hard-throwing Uehara became the team’s full-time closer in late June, and since then, Uehara is 3-0 with 12 saves in 14 chances with an 0.32 ERA. He has 37 Ks and has allowed just 10 hits and two walks. With the health and stability questions surrounding Boston’s rotation, it’s critical that Uehara is sharp at the back end of the bullpen.
29 Runs allowed by the White Sox over their last nine games
Fortunately for the White Sox the Astros joined the American League this season, because that’s the only team keeping Chicago from being the worst club in the league. But over the past nine games, the pitching staff has been stellar, giving up a total of only 29 runs. Consequently, the team won eight of nine.
.529 Batting average for Houston catcher Jason Castro last week
The All-Star catcher swung a torrid bat last week, hitting .529 with a 1.913 OPS. He reached base safely in all six games, including a walk on Sunday in his only appearance. He was 3-for-3 on Saturday and had six extra-base hits for the week.
0.69 ERA for Miami’s Jose Fernandez last week
While the Marlins continue to scuffle through a rough season, Fernandez remains one of the few bright spots on the team. The young righthander won both of his starts last week. In 13 innings, he gave up eight hits, three walks and struck out 16 to finish the week with a 0.85 WHIP and 0.69 ERA.
1 Career postseason start combined for the Atlanta pitching staff
Kris Medlen started for Atlanta in last year’s wild card game with St. Louis. That is the lone postseason start that any of the current Braves’ starters can claim. Injured veteran Tim Hudson is no stranger to the playoffs, but he is out for the season with a broken ankle.
17-5 Rays record when Wil Myers drives in a run
In games the young outfielder starts, the Rays fare much better when the leading AL Rookie of the Year candidate has at least one RBI. When he drives in a run, the Rays are 17-5. When he starts and doesn’t drive home a run, the Rays are 17-16.
9 Walks for Joe Nathan in his last 11 innings
When the Rangers were at their best earlier this season, the bullpen was terrific. The Texas closer didn’t blow his first save until May 26 after he had successfully closed 16. He now has 37 saves in 39 chances. But he’s walked nine in his last 11 innings and is showing signs of wearing down. Texas doesn’t need a tired Nathan.
85 Total bases for Will Venable since the All-Star break
The San Diego outfielder is leading the majors with 85 total bases since the break. Last season, Venable’s teammate Chase Headley won the National League RBI crown with a torrid second half for the Padres.
13 Wins for the Cubs in interleague play
Chicago leads the NL with 13 wins against American Leaguers, and is done with interleague play with just seven losses. With a record of 12-5, the Pirates are second and have three interleague games remaining at Texas.
11 Extra-base hits for the Braves in their last seven games
After a hot August, the Braves’ bats are beginning to cool down a bit, especially in the power department. The lack of production is putting more pressure on the pitching staff, which has up until this point, pretty much delivered.
40 Stolen bases for Rajai Davis of Toronto
He doesn’t lead the majors, but with only 256 at-bats, Davis could become just the eighth player in history to finish a season with 40 or more stolen bases in fewer than 300 at-bats. Otis Nixon and Alex Cole were the last men to do it, both in 1990.
.186 Dan Uggla’s batting average this season
The Braves’ second baseman recently underwent Lasik surgery to improve his vision. Apparently, the Braves suggested the procedure back in spring training, but Uggla refused. Both the player and the team believe his batting average should improve along with his vision. He’s the only player with enough qualifying at-bats hitting below .210.
13 Consecutive games the Cardinals play the Pirates and Reds
This is certainly a critical stretch for the Redbirds. St. Louis entered the 13-game slate tied with Pittsburgh and 2.5 games ahead of the Reds. All three NL Central contenders have an opportunity to separate themselves from the pack over the next two weeks.
20 Magic number for the Atlanta Braves
The Braves’ magic number continues to creep down, and we’re guessing they’ll clinch the NL East on Sept. 14 at home against San Diego.
No matter where you stand on the issue of counting Ichiro’s 4,000 hits, it’s difficult not to be impressed by the man’s talent and accomplishments. With an approach that makes hitting coaches across the country cringe, the hitting machine is blessed with incredible hand-eye coordination and athletic ability.
He swings at pitches that seem unhittable — even pitches that bounce — and yet he owns more hits during his time in America than anyone, and it’s not even close.
Ichiro is not only a hitter, but a complete player. He’s won 10 Gold gloves, has 10 years of 30 or more stolen bases and few runners dare test his throwing arm from right field. He will be a member of the Hall of Fame one day, most certainly on the first ballot.
Here are a few Ichiro numbers to chew on:
Ichiro By the Numbers
4,000 Total number of hits combined in his 22-year career in Japan and the U.S.
375 More hits for Ichiro than any other major league player during his tenure in the big leagues. Albert Pujols is second with 2,347.
10 200-hit seasons in the majors for Ichiro, tied with Pete Rose for most all-time.
1 Rank all-time in hits for any player for any 13-year period with 2,722. That is 64 more than Pete Rose had from 1968-80, which ranks second.
262 Most hits in any season in the majors, accomplished by Ichiro in 2004.
1, 252 Runs scored in Ichiro’s career, which ranks fourth among all players from 2001-13.
4,922 Combined hits and walks for Ichiro in Japan and the United States. That would rank ninth all-time behind Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb, Carl Yastrzemski, Rickey Henderson, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. Pretty good company.
.320 Ichiro’s career batting average, which ranks third during his career among players with 7,000 plate appearances behind Miguel Cabrera and Pujols.
470 Stolen bases for Ichiro, which is second behind only Juan Pierre during Ichiro’s career.
7 Offensive categories in which Ichiro ranks first in Seattle Mariners history, including: batting average, at-bats, hits, stolen bases, triples, singles and intentional walks. He ranks second in runs, third in total bases and doubles.
1,278 Hits over nine seasons in Japan.
2,722 Hits in the Major Leagues in the U.S., which ranks No. 59 all-time.
Clayton Kershaw continues to dominate, the Dodgers are good, the Astros are bad and Alfonso Soriano has been really hot. These facts and more amazing stats from last week in baseball.
1.23 Clayton Kershaw’s ERA in August
The Dodgers’ lefty was sporting an ERA below 2.00 heading into the month and has improved his ERA from 1.87 to 1.80 in three starts this month.
42 Wins for the Los Angeles Dodgers since June 21
The Dodgers continue to run roughshod over the National League. The hottest team in baseball has but nine losses against 42 wins since June 21.
41 Wins for the Houston Astros all season
Houston fans can take solace that as of Sunday, the Astros were 1.5 games ahead of last season’s pace on August 18.
10 Winless starts for Cole Hamels of six or more innings and two runs or less
This hasn’t exactly been a memorable season for Hamels or the Philadelphia Phillies. The lefthander has pitched in some tough luck and suffered through some paltry run support.
0.24 ERA for Craig Kimbrel over his last 37 appearances
During that time, the Atlanta Braves’ closer is 29-for-29 in saves with 56 strikeouts and 33 hits and walks combined. Opponents are batting .150 with a .431 OPS.
0.658 Career WHIP for Andrew Albers
The Minnesota rookie has plowed through major league hitters like Little Leaguers since his recent call-up. In three career starts, the 27-year-old Canadian is 2-1 with a 1.85 ERA. In 24.1 innings, he’s allowed just 14 hits and two walks.
15-13 San Diego’s record against best NL teams
The Padres seem to play their best against the best. The five National League teams in line for playoff spots — Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Cincinnati — have had trouble shaking the Padres, who have a cumulative winning mark vs. those five opponents.
.682 Alfonso Soriano’s batting average over five-game span last week
The prodigal Yankee began the week 0-for-3 and ended with an 0-for-6, but in between he smashed AL pitching at a 15-for-22 (.682) clip with five home runs and 18 RBIs over a five-game span. In only 21 games in pinstripes this season, Soriano is tied for fifth on the team in homers and seventh in RBIs.
3 Players in history with 10 hits, four homers and 14 RBIs in three games
Last week Soriano was otherworldly hot for the Yankees. Among his recent accomplishments was becoming just the third player in history with 10 or more hits, four or more home runs and 14-plus RBIs in a three-game span. You may remember that Shawn Green did that with the Dodgers in May 2002. But kudos if you knew that Hal Trosky pulled that off with the Indians in September 1936, a year in which he led the AL with 162 RBIs.
3 Teams with losing records to all four division rivals
For just about every team in the majors fans can point to some positive silver lining with a winning record over some other team. Yes, Miami has whipped up on the Mets and Houston seems to own the Angels this season. But three teams — both Chicago clubs and the Los Angeles Angels — own losing records to all four division rivals so far this season. Two other teams are perilously close to joining this club. The Mets somehow have managed to split their 14 games with the NL-best Atlanta Braves, while the Dodgers, of all teams, have losing records to three of the their four division foes and a 6-6 mark against their most hated rival, the San Francisco Giants.
12 Consecutive winless starts for Jerome Williams
Very little has gone right for manager Mike Scioscia and the Los Angeles Angels this season. After underachieving last year, the Halos are 7.5 games worse at the same point this season. Among the notable troubles have been a potential season-ending injury to Albert Pujols last month and Mike Trout’s recent hamstring injury. Starter Jerome Williams now owns the longest string of games started without a win — now at 12 starts. His last win came on June 12 in Baltimore.
.395 Batting average of Tampa Bay’s left side last week
Shorstop Yunel Escobar and third baseman Evan Longoria were raking last week. The left side of the Rays’ infield combined to bat .395 with eight extra-base hits.
56.2 Innings since Hiroki Kuroda has allowed a home run
That is the longest current streak of any starting pitcher.
56.0 Innings since Luis Avilan has allowed a home run
That is the longest current streak of any relief pitcher.
12 Games ahead of last year’s pace for Boston
The Red Sox suffered through a dismal season in 2012 finishing in last place in the American League East. This summer has been a breath of fresh air in Beantown with the Sox 12 games better than at this point last year.
17.5 Games behind last year’s pace for the White Sox
Robins Ventura’s team probably overachieved last season, leading the American League Central late in the season. The pendulum has swung in the opposite direction this season on the South Side in Chicago. The White Sox are 17.5 gmaes worse than at this time last year.
24 Braves Magic Number
It doesn’t happen often that you can start talking about magic numbers in mid-August, but the Braves could be closing in on clinching by Labor Day.
Oakland’s Josh Reddick goes on a binge in Toronto, Mo blows up, the Brewers can’t win on Thursdays and Clayton Kershaw can’t lose when he gets four runs. These numbers and more, in this edition of amazing MLB stats for the week of August 5-11.
5 Home runs for Josh Reddick in two days
Prior traveling to Toronto last weekend, Josh Reddick of the A’s had just five home runs in 276 at-bats this season. It’s also the number of home runs he hit over the course of eight plate appearances on Friday and Saturday. He came into the series with the Blue Jays batting .203 with a .326 slugging percentage. He hit three homers on Friday and two on Saturday.
.182 Braves’ opponents’ batting average last week
Atlanta pitching limited the Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins to an average of 5.7 hits and 2.3 runs per game. The Braves scored one run total in their two losses.
.299 Boston’s opponents’ batting average last week
The Red Sox pitchers were considerably easier to solve than Atlanta’s last week. The Astros and Royals enjoyed batting against the Sox to the tune of a .299 average. Boston lost four of seven games on the road trip to Houston and Kansas City. The Astros plated 10 runs in a game won by Boston, and the Royals socked 16 hits in a Kansas City win.
21 Years since the Royals or the Tigers had a better record than the Yankees
You have to go all the way back to 1991 to find a season in which Detroit or Kansas City finished with a better record than the Yankees. The string ties the Braves, who have finished better than the Pirates for 21 years as well. As of Sunday, the Braves were a game ahead of the Pirates, but the Yankees trailed the Tigers by seven games and the Royals by 2.5.
27-29 Cardinals’ record since June 7
Since early June, the Redbirds have been terribly mediocre. With a 27-29 record over that span, the Cardinals have seen a four-game lead in the tough NL Central turn into a three-game deficit.
3 Consecutive blown saves by Mariano Rivera
The best closer the game has ever seen finally blew three consecutive games. The first on Wednesday at Chicago when he coughed up a one-run lead after allowing a double to Gordon Beckham and single to Adam Dunn in a game the White Sox would eventually win in 12 innings. On Friday in the Bronx, a two-out, two-run homer by Miguel Cabrera cost Rivera the save, but at least the Yankees won in the 10th on a Brett Gardner single. On Sunday, it was Cabrera again who victimized the closer. Rivera gave up solo shots to Cabrera and Victor Martinez to tie the game. Again, it was Gardner who bailed out Rivera with his second walk-off hit, this one a home run, in three days.
6-7 Blue Jays’ record when scoring five or more runs since the break
The Toronto offense has not been the Blue Jays’ problem since the All-Star break. In 13 games the Jays have plated five runs, usually enough to win for most teams. But in those games, the Jays have won six and lost seven.
18-33 Angels’ record vs. AL West teams
The Angels haven’t competed well within their own division this season, and that can’t make owner Arte Moreno very happy. Outside the AL West, the Angels are 35-31, but can’t seem to shake their closest rivals. Los Angeles has lost the last nine games within its division.
32 Days since the Phillies had a save
The last save for the Philadelphia Phillies came on July 11, the week before the All-Star Game. The Phillies are 7-18 during that stretch and produced just two save opportunities during that time, both resulting in blown saves by Jonathan Papelbon.
1-10 Record for the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday
While there is really no explanation, the Brewers own the worst record on any single day in the majors this season.
49-0 Clayton Kershaw’s career record with four runs of support
The Dodgers’ ace recently lowered his major league-best ERA to 1.88. And you would think with that miniscule number, his win-loss mark would be a bit better than 11-7. But he doesn’t exactly receive the best run support in the league, and it doesn’t take much. When he gets four or more runs in his career, he’s 49-0.
1 Game in the standings gained by St. Louis over the weekend
While the Redbirds were losing two of three at home to the rival Chicago Cubs, the NL Central-leading Pirates were getting swept at Colorado. So there was a little silver lining under the arch.
Mike Trout continues to wow fans in Anaheim, the Braves are once again the hottest team in baseball, J-Hey sparks Atlanta, lefties can't beat the Indians, Pedro Alvarez kills the Cardinals and A-Rod's financial loss. These and other fantastic facts are part of our amazing baseball stats for the week of July 29-August 4.
.719 Mike Trout OBP last week
Opponents could not kept the Angels’ All-Star outfielder off base last week. Trout batted .500 and drew 13 walks.
2 10-game winning streaks for Atlanta this season
The Atlanta Braves ended the weekend with a 10-game winning streak, their second this season. During the first streak in April, pitching ruled the day. The Braves batted .270 and scored 52 runs during that streak and the Braves’ staff posted a 1.48 ERA. During the most recent streak, the hitters posted a .299 average and scored 66 runs while the pitchers’ ERA rose to 2.30.
11 Consecutive wins for Cleveland when opposing a lefty
The Indians are 23-14 this season in games started by an opposing lefthander. The Tribe have won the last 11 games with the last loss coming on June 23 when Pedro Hernandez of Minnesota beat Cleveland 5-3.
8 Consecutive losses for St. Louis when the Cardinals don’t score 13
It’s been all-or-nothing for the Cardinals’ hitters of late. The Redbirds have lost eight of their last 11 and scored three runs just once in those eight losses. The three wins were courtesy of 13, 13 and 15 runs.
.217 Oakland batting average vs. Texas over the weekend
Just as the two teams battled down the stretch last season, the Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers are locked in a tight fight for the AL West title this season. The A’s ended the weekend three games up on the Rangers, but the Texas pitchers quieted the Oakland lineup during the three-game series over the weekend, holding the A’s hitters to a .217 average.
0 Games gained by Kansas City after winning nine of 10
The Royals have been red hot lately, winning nine of 10 games. The problem for manager Ned Yost and his troops is that both teams the Royals are chasing in the AL Central — the Tigers and Indians — have also won nine of 10.
10 Games changed in the NL West since July 7
On July 7, the Diamondbacks held a 4.5-game lead over the surging Dodgers in the NL West. Since then, Arizona hitters have struggled, batting just .237. The D-backs ended Sunday 5.5 games behind the Dodgers and fading fast. Going back to June 22, the difference is 15 games.
12 Runs scored by Jason Heyward last week
The Braves’ outfielder was moved to the top of the batting order prior to last week, and immediately began producing dividends. He parlayed a .469 OBP into 12 runs last week to lead the majors and spark the Braves’ offense during their current double-digit winning streak.
32 RBIs for Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates against St. Louis over the last two seasons
Since the beginning of last season, the Pirates’ third baseman has torched St. Louis pitching like no one else. No other player has more than 13 during that time. Considering his struggles to find consistency, it’s arguable that the St. Louis pitching staff is solely responsible for keeping the 2013 All-Star in the big leagues.
.171 Opponents batting average against the Pirates with the bases loaded
The Pirates’ pitchers have allowed just 13 hits — 10 singles and three doubles — with the bases loaded this season in 76 at-bats. The .171 average with the bases full is the lowest in the majors this season.
.363 Opponents batting average against the Giants with the bases loaded
On the opposite end, the Giants’ pitchers have given up 33 hits in 91 at-bats, including eight doubles, a triple and three grand slams.
2.46 Atlanta’s bullpen ERA this season
Led by closer Craig Kimbrel, the Braves’ bullpen has been the best in the majors this season.
10-15 Cincinnati’s record vs. Pittsburgh and St. Louis
The NL Central will most likely be determined by head-to-head games among the three contenders, which is as it should be. The Reds are trailing in that category with just 10 wins against 15 losses to their rivals. The Cardinals are an even 11-11 while the division-leading Pirates are 14-9.
5 Home runs by Kansas City clean-up hitters this season
With only five long balls from the clean-up spot, the Royals own the lowest total in the majors. The Royals’ No. 4 batters also have the fewest RBIs with 44.
33.5 Million dollars Alex Rodriguez stands to lose during his suspension
If Alex Rodriguez’s 211-game suspension holds up, the Yankees’ infielder will lose his $25 million salary for 2014 and almost $8.5 million for the 49 games he will miss this season. A-Rod is scheduled to begin serving his suspension on Thursday, August 8, but all signs indicate that he will appeal and continue to play during that process.
3.8 Million dollars Ryan Braun stands to lose during his suspension
By accepting a 65-game suspension this season, the Milwaukee outfielder will forfeit close to four million dollars in salary this season. If his suspension had carried into next season, his forfeiture would have been much greater due to his higher salary.
5 Times Josh Hamilton has driven in Albert Pujols this season
Certainly, the Angels envisioned much more production from their two superstars when Hamilton was signed over the winter. The plan was to bat Hamilton fourth behind Pujols. Now with the first baseman/designated hitter injured and likely out for the season, the total may not improve.
30-59 Miami Marlins record when Jose Fernandez doesn’t start
The worst team in the National League is really bad when their ace, Jose Fernandez, doesn’t take the hill. The young righthander is supposedly on an innings limit, so he has a limited number of starts left this season. When he starts, the Marlins are 13-8 (.619), which is the equivalent of a 100-win season. In games started by everyone else, the Marlins are 30-59 (.337), or the equivalent of a 107-loss season.
Last season the most impactful trades didn’t seem that impressive when they were announced. But the additions of Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro by San Francisco shifted the balance of power toward the Giants in the NL West and eventually led to a World Series championship. Often it’s the little things that seem to matter most, like solid defense, eating innings and clubhouse unity.
The frenzy at the trade deadline last Wednesday never really materialized, but there were a handful of significant trades over the past few weeks that could affect the 2013 pennant races.
Boston Red Sox
The Sox weren’t shy about giving up some prospects, but were steadfast in holding on to rising star Xander Bogaerts, a 20-year-old shortstop expected to contribute next season. Boston acquired a major addition to the rotation with Jake Peavy. The former Cy Young winner usually keeps his teams in games and logs innings, taking pressure off the bullpen. He has some health questions, and the likelihood that he could miss some starts is higher than the Sox would like. But if he makes 10 starts for Boston, the Red Sox are much more likely to fend off Tampa Bay and Baltimore. Matt Thornton, acquired from the Chicago White Sox in a separate deal, deepens the Red Sox bullpen.
With the impending suspension of shortstop Jhonny Peralta, the Tigers took a preemptive strike in trading for Jose Iglesias from Boston. The defensive whiz will immediately upgrade the Tigers’ defense up the middle, and the former Cuban star hasn’t been too shabby with the bat. Detroit has enough offense to withstand the loss of Peralta’s bat, and Iglesias improves the defense. Avisail Garcia is a rising star, but the Tigers need to ensure their position in the playoffs this season, so this deal makes a ton of sense. Other than the Peralta potential situation, the Tigers’ glaring need all season has been bullpen help. Problem solved with the addition of Jose Veras from Houston. Veras has been the lone bright spot in Houston this season with 19 saves.
Like their brethren on the South Side, the Cubs aren’t expecting to seriously contend this season or next. So the Cubs are building their farm system with an eye toward sustaining success through the second half of this decade. The Cubs’ return for Scott Feldman and Matt Garza brought good value for the future, and they were able to unload Carlos Marmol and Alfonso Soriano.
Chicago White Sox
Clearly the White Sox are not going anywhere in 2013, and with an aging roster and the rise of Cleveland and Kansas City, even 2014 may not hold high hopes. So stocking the system with players like Garcia, who should be immediately useful in the big leagues, and prospects Francelis Montas, a 20-year-old flamethrower, J.B. Wendelken, another highly touted pitcher, and infielder Cleuluis Rondon, the White Sox have a brighter future than they did a few days ago. Brandon Jacobs was acquired from Boston in the Thornton deal earlier.
The season is quickly slipping away from the D-Men. I had the Diamondbacks in the Jake Peavy pool, so that didn’t work out too well. The pitching staff is not too bad, especially if Trevor Cahill can come back and be productive soon. Left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher was acquired from San Diego along with minor leaguer Matt Stites, a closer at Double-A, for Ian Kennedy. While this helps the bullpen, offensively the D-backs need lots of help. Paul Goldschmidt has twice as many homers and RBIs as any teammate. He must have some help. Arizona did not improve its roster enough to come back and catch the Dodgers.
The acquisitions of Scott Feldman and Bud Norris boost the rotation, and Francisco Rodriguez adds experienced depth to the bullpen, but the club really could use some pop at DH and protection for Chris Davis. The Orioles are 0-for-11 after an intentional walk to Davis, and don’t think teams don’t notice trends like that. The slugger will be avoided more and more as the season goes along. If rookie Henry Urrutia can fill that role as DH/Davis protector, then the Orioles will have played their hand well. If not, Buck Showlater will be left wishing he had a few more weapons in his arsenal.
Reports that the Rangers were willing to listen on any player speak to how desperate the team is to improve its offense, especially in light of the impending suspension of right fielder and best run producer Nelson Cruz. The team's slugging percentage dropped to .362 in June. The acquisition of Matt Garza gives the Rangers a respectable 1-2-3 punch with Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Garza. But the Rangers need offense badly, and that’s with Cruz in the lineup.
With Andrew McCutchen warming up and Pedro Alvarez finally becoming the power threat the Pirates envisioned when they made him the No. 2 overall selection in 2006, the offense is not bad. But for the season the Bucs are batting just .243 with a .390 slugging percentage. A hitter like Justin Morneau or even Marlon Byrd could have been helpful. But the biggest problem could be the bullpen. Clint Hurdle’s plan was working perfectly with Mark Melancon setting up closer Jason Grilli, who was near perfect. But with Grilli out for what could be an extended time, all the roles have shifted and Pittsburgh may begin to let a few close games slip away without additional help.
New York Yankees
With the Orioles adding two starting pitchers and Francisco Rodriguez, the Red Sox bolstering their rotation and even the Rays strengthening their bullpen, the Yankees didn’t do much to address some dire needs. Yes, bringing Alfonso Soriano back was a positive step, but there was nothing done to beef up the pitching staff or find a right-handed hitting first baseman, to say nothing of the gaping hole at third base. The Yankees have gotten just five home runs from the hot corner this season, or the same number the Cubs have gotten from their pitching staff.
The Cardinals’ bats go silent in Atlanta, Jeter returns with a homer, Chris Sale’s tough luck continues and Colorado just can’t win three in a row. These fantastic figures and more amazing MLB stats for the week of July 22-28.
1-8 Record for Chris Sale since the beginning of June
During that time, the tough-luck lefty of the White Sox owns a 2.84 ERA, 1.096 WHIP and opponents are batting just .232.
66 Shutouts by lefthanders against the Red Sox at Fenway Park
In the 102-year history of Fenway Park, there have been just 66 complete game shutouts by left-handed pitchers against the Sox. Matt Moore of the Rays is the latest lefty to shut down the Sox in Boston after his gem last Monday night.
7 Remaining games for Atlanta against winning teams
The Atlanta Braves have 57 games remianing this season, but only seven of them will be against teams that currently have a winning record. The Braves will face the Cardinals — a team they just swept — four times in St. Louis, and Cleveland three times at home.
10 RBIs for Michael Bourn over his last four games
Batting in the leadoff spot for Cleveland, Michael Bourn has been an RBI machine recently.
28 Games the New York Yankees went without a right-handed home run
From June 26-July 27, the Bronx Bombers hit a scant 10 home runs, all of them by left-handed hitters. Robinson Cano led the charge with five, Lyle Overbay hit three and Ichiro Suzuki connected twice. On Sunday, right-handed batters Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano both swatted long balls to break the month-long drought.
13:0 Jose Fernandez’s strikeout:walk ratio vs. Pirates
Last week, the Marlins’ young ace won two games and was devastating to Pittsburgh hitters. In eight innings against the Bucs, he whiffed 13 without walking a batter.
5 Saves for Steve Cishek
Last week, the Miami Marlins closer was busy holding leads for the Fish, something of a rarity this season. Not that Cishek hasn’t been able to hold leads, it’s just that his teammates have given him so few leads to hold. Going into last week the closer had 17 saves. In five appearances last week, he added five to his total.
.154 Cardinals’ batting average in weekend series at Atlanta
St. Louis brought the league’s best offense into Atlanta over the weekend and left with a bat rack full of termites. Atlanta pitchers held St. Louis hitters to a .154 average and just three runs in the three games. Cardinals batters whiffed 22 times and walked three times, grounding into as many double plays (3) as runs.
0.36 Max Scherzer’s WHIP last week
The big righthander tossed two gems last week logging 14 innings and allowing just five hits and no walks for a 0.36 WHIP. He struck out 12 batters and is now 15-1 on the season with a 3.01 ERA.
.196 Indians’ opponents’ batting average last week
The Cleveland pitching staff held opponents to a .196 average and .289 slugging last week, which included two shutouts over Texas.
48 Games since Colorado won three in a row
The Rockies haven’t managed to win three games in succession since way back in May. Tyler Chatwood pitched six shutout innings and the Rockies roughed up Tim Lincecum to win three in a row to improve to 27-21 on the season. Since then, the Rox have won back-to-back games seven times, yet failed to win a third. The drought is the longest current stretch in the majors.
.199 Phillies’ batting average last week
The Philadelphia hitters struggled mightily last week during the trip to St. Louis and Detroit. They batted just .199 with only eight extra-base hits and 10 runs in the six games, all losses.
Erik Bedard willingly leaves a no-hitter, the Marlins can’t score and Brandon Phillips emerges as the best lineup protection in the game. These stats and more in this edition of Amazing MLB Stats for the week of July 15-21.
0 Hits allowed by Erik Bedard in 6.1 innings against the Mariners
Houston Manager Bo Porter lifted Bedard after issuing a walk in the seventh inning. Few pitchers are removed in the midst of a no-hitter, but Porter’s explanation was simple: “He told me too.” It seems that Bedard didn’t have a hankering to top 110 pitches, no matter the situation. At the time he left the game, he had thrown 109 pitches.
.857 Brandon Phillips’ batting average following an intentional walk to Joey Votto
It seems the best personal protector in the majors resides in Cincinnati, not Detroit. The Tigers’ Prince Fielder is 5-for-11 with nine RBIs and an intentional walk following an intentional pass to Miguel Cabrera, but that isn’t in Phillips’ territory. Phillips is 6-for-7 with a walk, HBP, three sacrifice flies and 11 RBIs, including two walk-offs.
.000 Batting average of the Orioles following an intentional pass to Chris Davis
On the other hand, Davis gets no protection in Baltimore. He’s received 10 intentional walks this season, and Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy have combined to go 0-for-9 with a walk. That would make Davis’ assault on the all-time American League season home run record a bit tough if teams continue to pitch around the slugger.
37 Consecutive innings in which the Marlins have been shut out
The Miami Marlins’ offense has been non-existent since before the All-Star break. The Nationals held the Fish scoreless in the final six innings prior to the break. Over the weekend, the Brewers’ staff shut out the Marlins three times, the finale going 13 innings.
250 Wins for Buck Showalter as manager for each of four different teams
Recently, Showalter became just the fourth manager to win as many 250 games with a quartet of teams. He won 319 games as the manager at Texas, 313 as the Yankees’ skipper, 250 with Arizona, and now 252 with Baltimore. He joins Joe Torre, Gene Mauch and Dick Williams in the select group. Torre accomplished that with five different teams.
96 RBIs for the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera
Through Detroit’s first 97 games, Cabrera has averaged close to an RBI per game. With four more RBIs, Cabrera will become the 17th player in history with 10 100-RBI seasons. Alex Rodriguez owns the record with 14.
3 No-hitters at the hands of the Lansing Lugnuts
The Lugnuts, the Single-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, have been the victims of three no-hitters this season. The most recent came at the hands of Victor Sanchez of Clinton (Mariners affiliate) in a 1-0 loss. On April 14, Kyle Schepel of South Bend (Diamondbacks) blanked the Lugnuts over seven innings as part of a doubleheader. Four Bowling Green (Rays) pitchers combined to hold the Lugnuts hitless on June 21 at Bowling Green.
17 Runs allowed by Atlanta in three games to AL’s worst offense
One would think that the lowest-scoring team in the American League would be a happy sight for the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves. Well, not so fast. The Sox torched Atlanta pitching for 17 runs over the weekend, taking two of three in the interleague series.
1 Hit needed to plate four runs and win by Seattle
After Bedard was lifted in the tilt with Seattle, the Mariners tallied just one hit but managed four runs in the win over Houston.
As news broke yesterday of Ryan Braun’s suspension, I am reminded that when cheating and performance-enhancing drugs are involved, there are many more losers than winners. The fans, the Brewers’ organization, MLB, the Players Association, Braun’s teammates, his opponents, Braun and his family — and even Aaron Rodgers — are all losers in this scenario.
While this is a step in the right direction, and potentially a sizeable step, this is not a win for Major League Baseball. Just as pennant fever is beginning to catch on in cities around the country, fans are reminded of a sordid underbelly of professional sports. And now fans must question how rampant PED use is in MLB. Fans have been told that the game is cleaner than it has been since the 1980s, and we want to believe that, but now there is doubt.
I do believe the game is much cleaner now, and that a vast majority of players want to continue vigorous efforts to rid the sport of PEDs. I believe the process is working. But as we’ve seen from this entire Biogenesis affair, there is still much work to do. As has always been the case — and will unfortunately always be the case — there’s more money in cheating than there is in testing, so for MLB, like the Olympics, cycling, the NFL and other governing bodies, the chase will never end.
I don’t think Braun received due punishment. I think he got off light. However, I understand why MLB is interested in quickly resolving this latest PED issue.
Neither MLB nor Braun has presented any evidence to me (shocker). So any evaluation on my part is a bit presumptive. Having said that, if Braun is guilty of PED use — and by accepting this penalty it is reasonable to assume that he is indeed guilty — a 65-game suspension right now is letting him off too easy.
So why would MLB agree to such a light sentence?
A quick and absolute resolution is good for MLB. Lingering questions and doubt cloud an already murky issue. MLB is likely willing to shorten suspensions in exchange for speedy resolutions.
This first domino in the Biogenesis case will be the standard for the remainder of MLB’s cases against other players. From the physical evidence collected from Biogenesis and, perhaps, the information provided by Tony Bosch, a former employee, MLB had enough to convince Braun that the situation could be worse. Now Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera, Bartolo Colon and others face similar dilemmas. How hard do they fight these allegations?
So, with one suspension in the books, MLB can move quickly to close this ugly chapter before the 2013 pennant races heat up, which is what this time of year should be about.
But here’s why this punishment is not enough. Here’s why I don’t feel sorry for Ryan Braun.
Braun will lose close to $3.5 million, a little more than a third of a season’s worth of stats, the trust of the fans, his reputation, and likely any chance of a legacy as one of the great hitters in the game. But let’s take a look at what Braun has left in his wake along the way.
With what will be a 65-game suspension, Braun will forfeit close to $3.5 million, which is his salary for 65 games. That’s not a small sum. However, he cheated and lied his way into a long-term contract that guarantees him close to $120 million through 2020. No suspension for drug use can void that deal. So, $3.5 million is a pittance to pay. A few years ago, the Brewers’ organization with limited resources, could not afford to pay two superstars like Braun and Prince Fielder. The Brewers chose Braun and this is the thanks they get?
So, why would Braun accept a suspension without a fight that costs him more than $3 million? Because it could be that he doesn’t want to fight a losing battle. Or it could be that risking a longer suspension that would drag into next season would cost him even more. This season, Braun loses about $52,400 per game. Beginning next season the tab grows to about $61,700 per game. Besides, aside from the money, this season is a loss already for the Brewers, and with a nagging wrist injury, Braun would be able to return healthy, rested and fresh for spring training. So the time and money lost could be much worse.
He has tarnished his reputation. But if we remember his last altercation with MLB over illicit substance use, Braun’s defense was based on the handling of his specimen. The outfielder and his camp called into question the integrity of the collector Dino Laurenzi, Jr., attempting to tarnish his reputation. There is no sympathy here for anyone who chooses to unfairly question another’s integrity merely in the name of self-preservation.
Braun has lost the trust of baseball fans in Milwaukee and across the country. Poor guy. Again, it’s difficult to feel bad for a guy who accepted the 2011 NL MVP award at the BBWAA dinner with the following statements: “I’ve always believed that a person’s character is revealed through the way they deal with those moments of adversity. I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball. Everything I’ve done in my career has been done with that respect and appreciation in mind. And that is why I’m so grateful and humbled to accept this award tonight.”
And what about that 2011 MVP award? How would you expect Matt Kemp to react? Braun is not being asked to give that trophy back. And how do the members of the Arizona Diamondbacks that season feel? Braun, after testing positive to grossly inflated testosterone levels at the end of the season, was allowed to play in the postseason and batted .500 in the five games vs. Arizona. Do any of those guys feel cheated? You bet they do.
So, 65 games during a season going nowhere in Milwaukee and $3.5 million just doesn’t seem like much to pay for robbing baseball, lying to teammates and fans, challenging an innocent man’s integrity and building a career based on a lie.