This much we know, Tuesday will be a pretty magical night in Cleveland. Not only will the World Series start on the banks of Lake Erie, but the Cavaliers will raise their championship banner when they open the NBA season against the New York Knickerbockers.
But which NL team will be there as an opponent? Before last night I think the smart money was on LA. Now it has shifted to Chicago, but should it have?
Jon Lester is a wonderful pitcher, especially in the postseason, but Kenta Maeda has had a great “rookie” year. And the Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw looming for a Game 6 start and you can bet a Game 7 relief appearance.
So don’t punch that Cubs World Series ticket just yet. But one thing is for sure, the next two or three games of the NLCS should be a lot of fun.
If you are going to evaluate the Yankees’ season, you have to divide it into two parts. The first part is everything that happened before August 1st, and the second part is everything that happened from that point forward. Some will quibble that July 25th, the day they traded Chapman, should be the line. But I would argue that the team didn’t embrace a full rebuild until the 1st when they traded Miller and Beltran. By sending those two away for prospects, the Yankees truly committed to a new way of doing business.
Now if you compare the two “halves” you will find the Yankees actually did better once they started their rebuild. They went 52-52 before it with an offense scoring 4.03 runs per game and a pitching staff/defense allowing 4.35. Afterwards they went 32-26 with an offense scoring 4.83 runs per game and a pitching staff/defense allowing 4.63.
So, you could say the offense got better while the pitching got worse and the overall result was better. If you think about what happened, that makes sense. The Yankees found a hotter hitter than Beltran. Lost a terrible hitter in A-Rod and added some sparks here and there throughout the lineup. On the pitching side they subtracted two huge bullpen pieces, lost Eovaldi to injury, and had to start rookies a lot over the final few weeks.
Now if the Yankees could play next year at the same clip they played since August 1st, they would win 89 games, putting them right in the thick of the playoff race. (It would have earned them the top wild card this year) But of course you can’t just extrapolate things like that. Furthermore, the Yankees have a lot of more work to do if they are going to take this team and turn it into a perennial contender again. Let’s talk more about that tomorrow.
Every April I make my baseball predictions, every October I sort through the rubble of those predictions. This year I wasn’t terrible.
My worst prediction was picking Baltimore for last in the AL East-whoops! I got half the AL playoff field correct, but none of the division winners I had picked Toronto, KC, and Houston to win their divisions with Cleveland and Texas as the wild cards. I also picked Houston to make the World Series.
My NL picks were much better. I struggled again picking division winners, only correctly identifying the Cubs, but I picked every NL playoff team except for the Dodgers. I also had the Cubs going to, and winning, the World Series. As someone who comes from a family filled with Cubs fans, that’s where my loyalties will lie this October.
As for the real playoffs, the fields are set. Baltimore heads to Toronto on Tuesday with the winner going to Texas. The Mets host the Giants on Wednesday with the winner headed to Chicago. Boston travels to Cleveland and LA travels to Washington in the other two series. (Sidebar- what would have happened if Boston won today because they would have been tied in the win column with Cleveland, but 1/2 a game behind because of the Cleveland rain out Thursday. Would MLB have made Cleveland and Detroit make that game up since home field would have gone to Boston if the two teams were tied?)
I will have a review of the Yankees season tomorrow.
Cleveland and Detroit waited over four hours today, in miserable conditions, before finally canceling a game that should have been postponed from the start. Why did they wait so long? Because the Tigers are part of baseball’s nightmare scenario- a five-way tie for the final wild card spot. The odds are tiny, estimated at 0.04%, but the possibility exists. Even without that, we have the possibility for a tie with a smaller number of teams and that is why today’s Cleveland-Detroit game was so important. At 85 wins, Detroit is currently 1/2-a-game behind Baltimore for that final spot. Depending on how the weekend shakes out, today’s game will need to be played if Detroit is within a 1/2-game, ahead or behind, of the final wild card spot. That make-up game would happen on Monday. And if, two or more teams were still tied after it, not a remote possibility, they would need to have a playoff Tuesday- the day the AL Wild Card game is already scheduled for.
Try this scenario on for size. Detroit finishes half a game ahead of Baltimore and Seattle for the final wild card. They have to make up their game on Monday and lose, creating a three-way tie for the final spot. That creates a two-day tournament between the three teams, which means you can’t have a wild card game until Thursday, or the day the ALDS is supposed to start. So then you face the prospect of starting the ALDS, or at least half of it, one-day late and with a team that played at possible three-or-four-consecutive games already. And all of this assumes you don’t have another rain out along the way.
So, expect MLB to wait forever to play any other game that could matter this weekend. That means the Yankees and Red Sox will probably play through the rain drops tonight and the Yankees and Baltimore, with even more rain on the way this weekend, should expect their series to be a lengthy affair. Fun fun!
If the Red Sox were going to clinch the AL East at Yankee Stadium, you could not come up with a better way for that to happen than tonight’s events.
And for Mark Teixira I wonder if that will be it for him? That was the first time he ever hit a walk off in the regular season (I was there when he did it in the 2009 ALDS) A walk-off grand slam is a pretty good way to end a career
And best of all, we still could have a five-way tie for the last wild card. Dare to dream folks.
Reading the news this morning of Jose Fernandez’s death brought me instantly back to August 2nd, 1979. Then it was Thurman Munson, taken far too soon in a plane crash. Today it is Fernandez, taken even sooner in a boat crash. Somewhere in Florida there are plenty of six-year olds who feel the way I did so long ago and my heart goes out to them and everyone affected by this tragedy- especially Fernandez’s unborn child.
The loss of Fernandez seems harsher because of his personality and his potential. Here was someone who risked his life to get to this country and played the game with a certain kind of joy that you don’t often see.
And he was so good at it! Among starting pitchers, only Randy Johnson (twice), Pedro Martinez and Kerry Wood, have ever had a higher K/9 rate than the 12.5 Jose put up this year. He was 38-17 in his career for a team that only won 45% of their games over the same period. He had a career ERA of 2.53 and an ERA+ of 150 (The average is 100) He was 24, and about to hit arbitration and provide financial security for his family for a long time.
What a sad day.
People keep mentioning how the Yankees are “only” three games out of a wild card spot. That statement is factually true, but it ignores two important details. 1- There are only ten games left in the season. 2- There are three teams closer to that wild card spot than the Yankees right now. So, the Yankees have to play incredibly well over these final ten games and hope that multiple teams stumble. And don’t forget their one good starting pitcher is missing his next start. There is a chance it could happen, but I wouldn’t expect it. So, here are the things I would like to see over the final 10 games out of the Yankees and MLB in general.
1- Two more wins. Two more wins gets them to .500 and means they haven’t had a losing season since 1992. That’s an impressive streak.
2- A couple of home runs from Mark Teixeira and 3 additional hits beyond that. It’s been an awful season for Tex, but I would like to see him end his career on a good note. Those homers and hits would get him to 15 for the year and should squeak his average up to the Mendoza Line.
3- More of Gary Sanchez. Really doing anything at this point because it is fun to watch.
4- Applause for David Ortiz on Thursday. I still think Ortiz got off lightly for failing that drug test, and he takes way too long to run around the bases, but he is the last guy standing from when this rivalry was an amazing spectacle and he is one of the greatest clutch players I have ever seen. The fans should show him some respect in his final game at the Stadium. Cheryl Miller’s little brother got cheered at MSG in his final game there. Ortiz deserves a similar reception.
5- A start for Sevrino this week in place of Tanaka. The Yankees have a rotation hole and Severino has been touted as a rotation solution. Let’s give him one last chance in 2016 to show that because I fear the Yankees are going to Joba Rule him to death next year.
6- Some good wild card races. I’m afraid the division races are settled. The Cubs have clinched. The Rangers and Nationals can clinch tonight. The closest division race is the AL East where Boston has a 5.5-game lead. If there is going to be excitement over the final week, it is going to have to come from the wild card. Greg posted a comment with some crazy tie scenarios for the wild card, I’m rooting for those.
7-Labor peace- Ok this doesn’t have to happen now. It doesn’t even have to happen in October. But being a child of the 80’s, I always get twitchy when MLB’s CBA is expiring like it will in December. I hope we hear an announcement of a new deal very soon.
thats all I have to say abou that.
The Yankees and Red Sox are about to play some meaningful games late in the season for the first time in a number of years. You probably have to go all the way back to 2007 to find a series this late in the season with these implications. That’s because the Yankees find themselves four games out of first with four games against the first-place Red Sox. Now, I am not suggesting that the Yankees are going to sweep this series. Considering the state of their starting pitching, and the fact that they signed Billy Butler yesterday because they think he can help, indicate how long a shot this is. But, if the Yankees somehow take 3-of-4, they will remain in the think of the playoff race- something inconceivable on August 1st.
Again, I don’t think it will happen, I would actually be pretty happy getting out of town with a split. But as a Yankees’ fan I am playing with the house’s money over these final 17 games so I can dare to dream.
Sorry for not posting in awhile, but I went on vacation and took a break. But not all of my vacation was devoid of baseball, among the good books I read while away, “The Arm” by Jeff Passan definitely made an impression.
If you have a child who is thinking of pitching, I strongly encourage you to read it. Passan does an amazing job of looking into arm injuries and trying to find the smoking gun behind all of the Tommy John surgeries that are plaguing major league baseball. He doesn’t come up with a definitive answer, but his data on kids who throw more than 8 months a year is eye-opening. (Synopsis- don’t let your kids do that) He travels to Japan and tries to understand their pitching culture and also presents the history of TJ surgery. He details the Red Sox negotiations with Jon Lester, and explains how MLB is trying to stem the flood of injuries. Part of it is a system-wide computer database of every injury across all levels, to get an idea of the scope of the problem and look for patterns. And part is an organizational study of a few systems, the Yankees included, focusing on the pitchers and analyzing not only their pitch counts and usage patters, but also their biomechanics. It will be interesting to see what results all of this study provides, but the conclusion I drew from the book is that the seeds of these injuries are planted long before a player even gets to college. Youth baseball is poisoning the health of future pitchers. Again, if you are a parent with a kid pitching, read this, but even if you are just a fan, it is worth your time.
I find myself back in NYC and surprisingly back in a pennant race. Let’s face it, the Yankees making any playoff push is the cherry on top of the sundae this year and if they actually made it- wow. I don’t think they will. For one thing, they are still only given about a 10% chance from the sites that forecast these things. For another, they have a ridiculously hard schedule, especially after they finish with Tampa this weekend. But they are playing meaningful games in September and that is great for not only this year, but for the development of all the young guys on the team. I think Joe Girardi deserves a lot of credit for keeping everyone focused when it would have been easier to just throw in the towel and focus on 2017.