Oct 07

Interesting Start To MLB Playoffs; Intriguing World Series Possibilities

It has been an interesting start to the baseball playoffs. The play-in games put a different spin on things, but I’m hearing a lot of criticism of the single game format and it would be fairer to have best two-or-three. It probably would, but MLB doesn’t want to take the chance of playing in November.

A possible solution would be to incorporate at least one day-night doubleheader during the season among division opponents only. You would still have the same number of games, but a doubleheader a month would eliminate six days from the calendar, which would give MLB a week to tinker with the format.

There are a lot of interesting story lines. The one that stands out for me would be the fallout should the Cardinals run the table again like last season. In 2011, it was a special story because of how they came from behind during the season to make the playoffs and how they rallied in the World Series. This year would be an asterisk because of the “Infield Fly Game,” which will forever be a part of baseball lore.

It was predictable the MLB hid behind the “umpire’s judgment” clause and didn’t comment on whether it was a good call or not. With all this technology that showed it was a blown call, it is a shame a team is home possibly because an umpire made a bad call.

The Cardinals face the Nationals, with the first two games in St. Louis. I don’t like this format. The Nationals had the best record and shouldn’t open on the road. Who can’t see the Cardinals winning at home and stealing one on the road? There should be a reward for having the best record.

At the start of the season I predicted the Yankees and Giants in the Series and it could still happen. The Reds stole one in San Francisco despite losing their ace Johnny Cueto. He’s questionable for the rest of the series, but the Reds accomplished what they needed in getting at least a split.

In the American League, the Tigers and Orioles need to protect their home field and win the first two. Should they sweep the first two, I can see them taking one on the road. However, it is far harder to think they’ll win two on the road.

Just playing out some possible World Series scenarios that would be interesting.

ORIOLES vs, NATIONALS: Two teams horrid for so long are poised for prime time. About 50 miles apart, this has the potential to develop into a real interleague rivalry over time. Washington’s manager, Davey Johnson, used to play for the Orioles. Nobody could have forecast them meeting in the Series. The Nationals have a better rotation, but the Orioles have the better pen. Both hit for power.

ATHLETICS vs. GIANTS: Another potential geographical rivalry. They met before in the Earthquake World Series with the Athletics sweeping. The Giants might have the best rotation in the playoffs, but are already down a game.

YANKEES vs. GIANTS/CARDINALS: The Yankees’ power against the Giants’ pitching would be intriguing. Power vs. power. The New York angle for the Giants is long gone. … A Yankees-Cardinals match-up would feature the two winningest World Series teams in history.

Regardless of the World Series pairings, I’ll watch. I always do. Even when it is the Yankees or Phillies.

Jul 04

Fourth Of July Good Omen For Mets

History dictates that whoever is leading on July 4th will make the playoffs. That’s a good omen for the Mets, who lead in the wild-card chase. By the end of the month, if there are trades, then the Mets will be buyers.

Their top priority is the bullpen as they have enough offense, despite limited power, to get the job done.

Let’s look at the other playoff contenders.

Washington has the best record in the National League and with its pitching could sustain it into the playoffs. The question here is what will happen if, and when, they shut down Stephen Strasburg.

Atlanta could make a run, but the Marlins and Phillies have too many issues.

In the Central, it would be nice to see Pittsburgh hold on, but the Reds, Cardinals and Brewers are still close. This division should be a scramble until the end.

In the West, it is the Dodgers and Giants, with Arizona 5.5 games out.

Things seem more definitive in the American League. I expect the current leaders to hold on, with Tampa Bay, Detroit and the Angels the prime wild card contenders.

Jun 14

Mets Should Not Appeal R.A. Dickey One-Hitter Plus Poll

There shouldn’t be do-overs like this. T.J. Upton bounced a ball slowly to third baseman David Wright last night. Because of Upton’s speed, Wright went to the barehand to speed his thrown and enhance his chances to get Upton.

DICKEY: Missed a no-hitter.

Instead, Wright couldn’t make a clean play and the ball dribbled off his hand. Clearly, a base hit, the official scorer ruled.

If would turn out to be the only hit given up in another R.A. Dickey get, and now the Mets want to appeal the decision so Dickey would have his no-hitter. I would be the Mets’ second of the month after going over 8,000 without one, and it would also be their second tainted if allowed.

Clearly, an umpire ruled Carlos Beltran’s ball was foul instead of a hit in Johan Santana’s no-hitter against the Cardinals.

Sports’ inherent beauty is its unpredictability and to leave matters to chance. If the appeal goes in favor of Dickey, when and where will it stop?

Official scorers are asked to review plays all the time and some of them are reversed. Usually, the procedure is for the scorer to interview all the parties, review the tape and then make a decision.

In this case, we have video of the bobble, but no video of where Upton was at the time. Was he bearing down on the bag or was he loafing? Wright hurrying the play indicates it would have been a close play, increasing the odds of it being ruled a hit.

This whole thing comes off as the Mets begging for a call and they should be above that.

What do you think? Was the play a hit or an error? Voice your comments here and vote in the poll.

 

 

 

Jun 10

Mets, Ike Davis Hitting Skids

It wasn’t that long ago that the Mets were seven games over .500 and a mere half-game out of first place. However, things change quickly when a team loses five of six games.

I mentioned several times during the Mets’ good start that consistency was essential. Get to .500; win series, two of three; avoid losing streaks; keep applying pressure and not getting down when tripped up.

After a good stretch that included winning three straight from St. Louis and getting the franchise’s first no-hitter, the Mets let one get away from the Cardinals, were handled by the Nationals, and lost the first two games of their series against the Yankees.

After Yankee Stadium, it’s three at Tampa Bay and back home to Cincinnati. It’s not getting any easier.

I mention this because every season has its lulls and spurts. Too many times in recent seasons we’ve seen the Mets reel off five, six games in a row. Didn’t they do ten one year? However, because of a lack of pitching or timely hitting they’d turn around and drop five or six. It’s like running in place.

The Mets have made positive strides this season, but to take the next step and make a serious run, they must develop consistency,

A good place to start is always pitching, but for the most part the pitching has been good. Right now, one of their first priorities is to get Ike Davis going. Of all the regular position players in the majors, his average is second worst.

So far, the Mets have eschewed the move of maintenance in the minor leagues. That could change after this road trip.

 

Apr 19

Looking At The Numbers For The Mets, Wright And Others

We’re two weeks into the young season and I’d like to share some of my first impressions and hear yours. The Mets, despite losing three of their last four games, are among the early surprises, as are several of their players.

WRIGHT: Has reason to smile.

They are playing better than anticipated and on pace to win 93 games. I don’t believe they will sustain that, but who wouldn’t take .500 if it were guaranteed? I would because it is the next step in the franchise’s development.

Ever since I was a kid I loved the early season numbers and projections. It was fun to think of all those players breaking Roger Maris’ 61 homers, but knew nobody would come close. When it finally happened and I learned why, it wasn’t fun anymore.

For example, David Wright’s .500 average leads the majors and is one of six players hitting over .400 and 28 over .340. There won’t be a .400 hitter – and maybe never will again – and I’d be willing to bet there won’t be anybody over .340.

Both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are on track to hit 41 homers and drive in 81 and 68 runs, respectively. They have the strength to hit that many homers, but I don’t think either has the plate presence or pitcher knowledge to do so. At least not this year. Their RBI totals are reasonable.

Wright won’t hit .500 or get the 230 hits projected of him, but I’d take the 28 homers and 108 RBI. The latter two should be worthy of a contract extension.

The Mets would gladly take those numbers from Wright, as they would Frank Francisco’s projected 41 saves.

Pitching wise, the Mets’ 3.69 ERA is sixth in the National League, which is a substantial improvement from last year. Also, their 43 walks allowed are 11th in the league, but ten of those came in one game. That needs to get better. They are second in the league with 101 strikeouts, an average of over eight a game that translates into working out of a lot of trouble.

In addition to the Mets, the surprise teams on the positive are Washington, the Dodgers, St. Louis and Baltimore. The Cardinals, minus Albert Pujols, Tony La Russa and Chris Carpenter, just keep rolling.

I thought the Nationals would be better, but not this good. They won’t keep playing at this rate, but their pitching is good enough to keep them contending. Their ERA of 1.92 is first; they are tied for seventh in fewest walks and first in strikeouts.

On the negative, the Phillies will climb in the standings, as will the Angels, Boston and the Yankees.

Individually, four players are on pace to hit over 60 homers, which isn’t supposed to happen in the new steroid-free era. One of those players is Carlos Beltran, who hasn’t made the Cardinals forget Pujols, but has softened the blow.

Speaking of Pujols, he hasn’t homered and is on pace for 54 RBI. He’s also on track for 81 strikeouts, which would be the second highest of his career. His 41 walks would be the lowest of his career.

I don’t believe the Cardinals will regret losing Pujols in the long term. Pujols is a future Hall of Famer and will eventually adjust to the American League and before it is over post impressive numbers. The Cardinals can live with that because even if Pujols plays another ten years, they would have gotten the best years of his career.

The most fun stats to project are the individual player numbers. The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp is on pace to hit .460 with a .500 on-base percentage, 287 hits, 87 homers and 224 RBI.

Incidentally, on the flip side, Jose Reyes is on track to play in 162 games (yeah, as if that will happen), hit .226 with a .276 on-base percentage, with 37 steals, 50 walks and 100 strikeouts.

Neither Kemp’s nor Reyes’ numbers will reach fruition, but on an off day it is fun to tinker with the numbers.