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Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

In 2012, Major League Baseball added a second wild card team to each league. This means there would now be five teams in each league that make the playoffs. Under this format the team with the second-highest win total in each league among non-division winners would be the second wild card team. The two wild card teams in each league will play a one-game playoff after the end of the regular season, with the winner advancing to the Division Series. The divisional champions qualify for the Division Series just as in the previous format; however, under the expanded wild card format the winner of the one-game wild card playoff faces the top-seeded divisional champion in the Division Series, regardless of whether the two teams are in the same division, while the second- and third-seeded divisional champions play each other in the other Division Series. The format for placement in the League Championship Series and World Series remains the same.

Clearly, the goal of adding the second wild card team and having the two wild card teams play a one-game playoff is to increase the importance of winning the division. No team wants their playoff life depending on just one game. In the past whether you won the division or made the playoffs as a wild card you would play the same best-of-five playoff series. In that way it really didn’t matter how you reached the playoffs just reach the playoffs. Now it clearly matters.

With approximately 30 games left in the 162-game grueling marathon baseball season, it is time to look at which teams will likely be in the playoffs according to the current playoff rules and which teams would be in the dreaded one-game playoff.

Clearly, the goal of any playoff rules is to get the best teams into the playoffs and reward the teams with the best records. With this in mind you should expect the two playoff teams with the worst records to meet in the one-game wild card playoff. If the season ended today, by the current playoff rules the National League matchups would be the Mets vs the Dodgers in a best-of-five series, the Pirates vs the Cubs in the one-game wild-card match with the winner going on to meet the Cardinals in a best-of-five series. For the American League, the Blue Jays would play the Astros in a best-of-five series, the Yankees would play the Rangers or Twins or Orioles or Rays or Angels in the one-game wild-card match with the winner going on to play the Athletics in a best-of-five series.

If we went back in time to when there were no divisions and only two leagues there would be 15 teams in each league. As of August 30, the top five teams by record in the AL would be 1. Athletics 2. Blue Jays 3. Yankees 4. Astros 5. Rangers. Thus, by the current playoff rules the third and fifth best teams by record would be in the sudden death one-game playoff with the winner advancing to play the best team, the Athletics, in a best-of-five series. Because of the closeness in records this could easily change by the end of the season.

However, we get a different result for the NL. Currently the top five teams by record in the NL are 1. Cardinals 2. Pirates 3. Cubs 4. Dodgers 5. Mets. Thus, in the NL by the current playoff rules the second and third best teams by record would be in the sudden death one-game playoff with the winner advancing to play the best team, the Cardinals, in a best-of-five series while the fourth and fifth best teams would matchup in a best-of-five series. Clearly this would be unfair to both the Pirates and Cubs. It could even get worse for the NL in that the Giants, the second-place team in the NL West currently two games behind the NL East leading Mets, could overtake the Mets but miss the playoffs. We all understand no selection system is perfect.

However, should MLB change the current playoff selection process? What do you think?


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Since 2000 when the Yankees beat the Mets in the World Series, the Yankees have only missed the playoffs in 2008, 2013 and 2014. However, their only WS win occurred in 2009.  Heading into the 2015 season, the Yankees had many question marks.

  1. Could A-Rod and Teixeira at the ages of 39 and 36 respectively return to their All-Star form? Answer: Yes, these two veterans so far have exceeded the best expectations for them. At their current pace A-Rod should reach 30 home runs and Tex should reach 40 home runs.
  2. Could Didi Gregorious replace Derek at shortstop? Answer: Yes, after a very slow start Didi has played solid defense and has upper his BA from .200 to .260.
  3. Would their aging starting pitchers stay healthy? Answer: Yes and No, whereas CC has stayed healthy he is not the CC of old, Pineda is currently on the DL, Tanaka is getting stronger with each start, Eovaldi has been fine, and Nova has successfully returned from the DL. Their rookie Luis Severino has been excellent with a 2.45 ERA in his first two starts.
  4. Could Andrew Miller successfully replace Robertson as the closer?Answer: Yes, he has only blown one save out of 27 chances.
  5. Could Betances repeat his sensational 2014 eighth inning role? Answer: Yes

Other concerns included could the aged Beltran still produce and could McCann be himself after a below-average 2014 season. Both these concerns are no longer concerns. Added to all these positives is the success of Ellsbury and Gardiner at the top of the batting order. With everything going right for the Yankees, they won 7 of their last 10 before the All-Star break, opening up a 4.5-game lead in the AL East.

But the dynamics of the race changed considerably before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, with the Jays acquiring shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies and pitcher David Price from the Tigers. And it’s not like they only upgraded the top of the lineup and rotation: Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins strengthen the bullpen, while Ben Revere is a solid on-base guy to plug in left field. While the Jays were doing all this the only Yankee acquisition was left fielder Dustin Ackley a 10 HR  50 RBI.250 hitter for a season. George must be turning over in his grave seeing the Blue Jays make big trades for big names while his Yankees more or less stood pat.

Since that low point on July 28 heading into a three-game series with the Yankees (Aug. 14-16), the Jays have won 14 of 15 games, including 11 in a row, overtaking the slumping Yankees. Included in the 14 wins was a sweep of the Yankees (Aug.7-9) at Yankee Stadium. In that three-game series the Yankees scored just one run, ending the series with 26 consecutive scoreless innings.

This brings us to the just finished series with the Jays at Toronto which opened on August 14. In game 1 the Yankee scoreless inning string reached 33 before Beltran hit a pinch-hit 3-run home run leading the Yankees to a 4-3 win. In fact, this was the second longest scoreless inning streak in Yankees’ history. But the win was not easy. In the ninth inning against closer Miller the Jays had runners on second and third with one out. Miller then struck out Revere and got Bautista to pop out to secure the victory. That win ended the Jays 11 game win-streak. The next day with both Beltran and Teixeira hitting home runs and Tanaka pitching a complete game 5-hitter striking out eight the Yankees went on to win 4-1. This was the first Yankee pitched complete game in 2015. The final game of the series saw a 3-1 Jays win in spite of another solid Severino performance. After this loss the Yankees still had a 1/2 game lead on the Jays and a 4-game lead on the Orioles.

Clearly, it will be a dogfight between these three teams before the finish line is reached. However, the second place team will likely be a wild-card team. Could we again see a Yankees vs. Mets in the 2015 WS?


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

The last time the Mets were in the World Series was in 2000 when they were defeated by the Yankees in the Subway Series. Since 2000 the Mets fans have suffered. In fact, their only playoff appearance since 2000 was in 2006. In the 2006 playoffs they beat the Dodgers but then lost to the Cardinals. Thus 2006 marked the last time the Yankees and Mets both made the playoffs. Can 2015 be the year when both teams make the playoffs again?  

The Washington Nationals were heavy pre-season favorites to win the NL East this year. However, the Nationals got off to a slow start and at the end of April trailed the Mets by as many as eight games. But going into the All-Star break the Nationals won 14 of 20 games and pulled ahead of the Mets by two games.

General Manager Sandy Alderson, like all Mets fans, realized the Mets with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, John Niese, Steven Matz and the ageless Bartolo Colon sported one of the best starting rotations. Unfortunately, they also had one of the worst offenses. Fielding constant criticism from Mets fans for not upgrading the offense, Alderson went into trade action eight days before the trading deadline. First he acquired by way of trade with Atlanta Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. Uribe a 15 year veteran can play second base, third base, or shortstop. He was batting .285 in 46 games with Atlanta. Johnson is a 10 year veteran who can play second base, third base and left field. This year in 62 games with Atlanta he was batting .275 with 9 home runs. Both these players are winning veterans. At the same time he promoted outfielder Michael Conforto to the parent club.

However, the New York Mets were still missing the big bat. Then just minutes before baseball’s non-waivers trade deadline the Mets silenced their critics with the acquisition from the Detroit Tigers of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes,is a power-hitting strong-armed outfielder. At the time of the trade Cespedes had hit 18 home runs driving in 61 runs for the Tigers with a career high .506 slugging percentage..Cespedes hit a career-high 26 home runs in just 135 games in 2013 for the Athletics. The combination of great starting pitching with strong closing pitching (Familia, Parnell and newly acquired Tyler Clippard) and a resurgence in hitting with the help of the newcomers has led the Mets to an 8-2 record over their last 10 games and a comfortable 4.5 game lead over the sagging Nationals (4-6 over their last 10 games).

Hats off also to the Mets manager Terry Collins. Every day the Mets seem to have a different starting lineup. Murphy can play second, third and first. Johnson and Uribe can play either second or third. Adding Tejeda and Flores to the mix, Collins can go with any of these players in the infield, He also has the same flexibility in the outfield with Granderson, Conforto, Cuddyer, Cespedes, Lagares and Johnson. Allowing all these players to rotate keeps them from becoming rusty and at the same time keeps them well-rested. This allows him to either go with the strongest offensive or the strongest defensive players depending on the score and inning of the game. He also is using his two catchers’ d’Arnaud and Plawecki effectively by rotating them. Since all these players are active it also supplies him with capable pinch-hitters. Every player on the 25-man roster is being used and contributing to the resurgence of the Mets. Clearly, the expected return of David Wright will reignite the offense further.

Of course loyal Mets fans always expect the worst to happen. Be optimistic Mets fans the talent is there for the Mets to win the NL East and maybe due to their phenomenal pitching make it to the World Series.

Going into the weekend series of Aug. 14-16, The Mets, sporting a seven game winning streak, are home against the tough Pirates. Let’s see how the rest of the season plays out.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

My previous two blog postings were about the 996 Major League players who appeared in just one Major League game in their careers. I called this special group of players The Cup of Coffee Club (The CCC). It only seems fitting to go to the other extreme, that is, to present the players who were active in at least four decades. I called this club The Four Decade Club (The FDC). To be a member of the FDC you must have played in at least one game in four different decades. The 29 current members of this club are listed below sorted on their number of seasons. The players with an asterisk are also members of the Hall of Fame.

4decadeclub
 

Two players Minnie Minoso and Nick Altrock played games in five different decades. There is a good chance these two men have accomplished something we will never see again. Minoso died on March 1 of this year. He was the first African-American player for the White Sox when he played his first game in 1949. His nine All-Star appearances earned him the title of Mr. White Sox. In three of the five decades he only played in one season, which accounts for his low total of only 17 seasons. His last game was in 1980 when he was 54 years-old. Altrock had two decades where he only appeared in one season and one decade where he appeared in two seasons. His last game was at the age of 47 in 1924.

Jim O’Rourke and Dan Brouthers, both Hall of Fame players, played all their seasons except for one season in the 1800s. What is interesting to me is that both players only season in the 1900s was in 1904 with the NY Giants. O’Rourke played in one game that season at the age of 54 and Brouthers played in two games in that season at the age of 46. It was that 1904 season that enabled both men to join the FDC. O’Rourke was out of baseball for 11 years before 1904 and Brouthers was out of baseball for 8 years before 1904. There must be a story behind why these two men returned to baseball with the same team in 1904.

The most recent additions to the FDC came in 2010 when Omar Vizquel, Ken Griffey Jr. and Jamie Moyer all joined the FDC.  Of the 29 players in the FDC, Moyer is one of just six whose first year in the majors did not come in one of the final two years of a given decade. Four of those six came prior to 1910, with Nolan Ryan (1966-1993) and Moyer (1986-2012) being the only exceptions since 1910.

Ted Williams is the only member of the FDC to play his entire career for one franchise. On the other hand, Mike Morgan played for the most franchises 12 (1978-2002). Can you imagine moving 12 times in 22 seasons? Sharing a locker room with so many different teammates during the steroid era, he could write a very interesting book.

Here is a statistical breakdown for the 29 FDC members. Of the 29 FDC members nine are in the Hall of Fame. By position we have 11 pitchers, 6 catchers, 4 first baseman, 1 second baseman, 1 shortstop, 0 third baseman and 6 outfielders. What surprised me was in spite of the wear and tear of the catcher position the six catchers represented the second most represented position in the FDC.

Omar Vizquel and Ken Griffey Jr. should both eventually make it into the Hall of Fame. Tim Raines’ voting percentages for the Hall of Fame has been rising steadily from 2008 (24%) to 2015 (55%). Tim is a borderline Hall of Famer.

My All-Star team from the FDC consists of Nolan Ryan pitching, Carlton Fisk catching, Willie McCovey at 1B, Eddie Collins at 2B, Omar Vizquel at SS, no one at 3B, Ted Williams in leftfield, Ken Griffey Jr. in centerfield and Rickey Henderson in rightfield.

In the future l will examine the only 17 active players who debuted during the 1990s, meaning they could join the FDC if they continue playing into 2020.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

If you tried to email me at stan@sandlotstats.com in the last few months, I just discovered that it has not been working.  

All is fixed now so if I didn't answer you, please resend your email.

I look forward to hearing from you and answering you promptly!


 


 
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