Eureeka Uribe!

Very fitting that Juan Uribe powers Dodgers to NLCS. He’s got to be the most underrated guy on the team this season.

I remember watching a Dodgers game on the final weekend of the season and there was this poll – who was the best Dodger of the year? They gave three choices & you could text in your answer. The choices were Clayton Kershaw, Adrian Gonzalez, & Hanley Ramirez.

That was pretty surprising to me at the time, ’cause all season long, I’d kept noticing that Uribe and Yasiel Puig were two of the reasons the team was doing so well and yet they weren’t even included. In fact, the team leaders in WAR are:

2013 Dodgers WAR Leaders
Player fWAR rWAR
Clayton Kershaw 6.5 7.9
Juan Uribe 5.1 4.1
Hanley Ramirez 5.1 5.4
Yasiel Puig 4.0 5.0
Adrian Gonzalez 2.8 3.9

Versus The > .500 Clubs

A good article over at Fangraphs, A First Last Word on Strengths of Schedules, is worth checking out & gives some good insight on the upcoming playoffs. It got me thinking of something more straight forward though, like, when it comes down to it, how do these clubs do when they’re facing other clubs that are over .500.

2013 Playoff Teams Vs. Teams Over .500
Team W L %
Braves 39 24 .619
Red Sox 53 43 .552
Tigers 48 40 .545
A’s 40 34 .541
Pirates 40 34 .541
Dodgers 34 31 .523
Cardinals 39 36 .520
Rays 47 49 .490
Rangers 38 40 .487
Reds 35 42 .455
Indians 36 52 .409

It’s Been Awhile…

Last time the Royals and Pirates both had winning seasons in the same year, was 1991. KC was just 82-80, while the Pittsburgh went 98-64 and pushed the NLCS to 7 games.

Last time the Indians and Pirates both had winning seasons in the same year, was 1979. Cleveland was lucky, being just 81-80, while the Pittsburgh won the World Series in 7 games over Baltimore. If you want to go back to the last time the Indians & Pirates both won 82+ games, then we’re talkin’ about 1965.

Ten of our current MLB teams didn’t even exist yet, including the Royals. Everyone born in that year, already had their major league career come and go.

Houston Joins The Club

With the Astros 100th loss of the season, they’re guaranteed to be the 21st team to finish the season under .383 for 3 straight seasons. In fact, they’re on pace to be the worst team over a 3 years stretch since the late 70′s Blue Jays. They could wind up being worse in the past 50 years than anybody besides the early 60′s Mets. Like those Mets and Blue Jays tho, The Astros franchise has a bright future with lots of good minor league talent.

3+ Straight Seasons Below A .383 WP
Team W L % Note
2011-2013/9/17 Astros 162 313 .341 still have 11 games to play
2004-2006 Royals 176 310 .362
1977-1979 Blue Jays 166 318 .343
1962-1965 Mets 194 452 .300 4 straight seasons
1961-1964 Senators 239 407 .370 4 straight seasons
1955-1957 Senators 167 295 .361
1953-1955 Browns/Orioles 165 297 .357
1952-1954 Pirates 145 317 .314
1949-1951 Browns 163 299 .353
1938-1942 Phillies 225 534 .296 5 straight seasons
1936-1940 A’s 269 493 .353 5 straight seasons
1936-1939 Browns 201 411 .328 4 straight seasons
1925-1930 Red Sox 268 609 .306 6 straight seasons
1922-1924 Braves 160 300 .348
1921-1924 Phillies 213 399 .348 4 straight seasons
1919-1921 A’s 137 310 .306
1915-1917 A’s 134 324 .293
1910-1913 Browns 202 411 .330 4 straight seasons
1909-1912 Doves/Rustlers/Braves 194 416 .318 4 straight seasons
1905-1909 Cardinals 265 498 .347 5 straight seasons
1895-1898 Browns 147 395 .271 4 straight seasons

Pirates Attendance

The Pirates recently broke the 2,000,000 mark in attendance for the season. Shockingly, it’s only the 5th time they’ve reached that mark in franchise history.

  • 2,464,870 in 2001
  • 2,091,918 in 2012
  • 2,065,302 in 1991
  • 2,049,908 in 1990
  • 2,043,763 in 2013 (with 7 more home games to play)

It’s not too surprising that the top season was their first in a new ballpark, or seeing a pair of those early 1990′s teams when the Killer B’s ruled the NL East from the Alleghany. Surprisingly though, none of these seasons are in any of their championship seasons or a season following a championship. I really expected to see 1960, 1971, 1979 or 1980 in here too.

This year’s team is actually about to have the 2nd most attendance for any Pirates team in history. They’re averaging 27,618 per game, and they only need 24,078 for tonight & tomorrow’s games, to be 2nd on this list.

Cabrera’s Never Been Better Than Trout

I just noticed that Mike Trout has 7.8 rWAR this season, after earning 10.7 rWAR last year. Miguel Cabrera’s highest rWAR in any season of his career, was 7.6 (in 2011). Right now, Cabrera has 7.0, so he has a chance to have a Mike Trout type season with 1 month to go. Although, it’s doubtful that he can make up 0.8 rWAR and whatever extra he needs to match whatever Trout earns this month.

Looking at fWAR, there’s a similar story. Trout’s earned fWAR’s of 10 in 2012 and 8.8 so far this season. Cabrera has never done better than 7.7 fWAR, which is this season, with a month still left to go.

No matter how you look at it, according to WAR, Trout’s already had 2 better seasons than any season Miguel Cabrera has ever managed.

Can Houston Win 55 Games?

After this afternoon’s loss to the Rangers, the Astros are 37-80 (.316), with 45 games left on their schedule. Back in May, I said they look like they’re on their way to a 3rd consecutive 100-loss season, which would be only the 21st time any team was that bad for (at least) that long. To avoid that, they’ll need to turn into a .577 team (like the Rangers are) and go 26-19 to finish the year.

Obviously, that’s not going to happen even if they improve the team with some of their fine young minor leaguers in September. So the real question about the Astros is — can they win more than 54 games?

Since MLB instituted the free agent amateur draft in 1965, few teams have been so bad as to win only 1/3 of their games in a season. In the 20 seasons previous to that draft, 11 clubs failed to win more than one-third of their games in a season. Even if you discount those horrible early-60′s Mets teams, there were still 7 other teams this bad (’46 A’s, ’49 Senators, ’52 Tigers, ’52 Pirates, ’53 Pirates, 1954 A’s, & the ’61 Phillies). In the 47 years since that first draft, only 8 clubs have been that bad.

Worst Teams Since The Draft (ordered by WP)
Club W L %
2003 Tigers 41 119 .265
2004 Diamondbacks 51 111 .315
1969 Expos & 1969 Padres 52 110 .321
1996 Tigers & 1979 Blue Jays 53 109 .327
1979 A’s & 1998 Marlins 54 108 .333

If Houston’s going to avoid joining that small list, they must go 18-27 (.400) for the rest of this year. That might sound easy, but, this is a team that’s been playing .222 baseball since June 17th, good for a 10-35 record in their last 45 games.

The Astros are packed with minor league talent though, which could help the team reach 55+ W’s once the September call-ups arrive in Houston. The organization’s got teams in 1st place right now in AAA, AA, advanced A, A, and short season A. That’s really pretty incredible, and gives fans a lot of hope no matter what happens in Houston right now.

I’m guessing the September call-ups are the only way Houston could do better than a .333 season. Still, that only works if they’re major league ready, and we just don’t know how far along in their development they are. So, we’ll have to wait and see, but I think they’ll come in at 53 or 54 wins.

Cabrera vs Trout

Dave Cameron has an interesting article at Fangraphs, Trout and Cabrera: Here We Go Again, which is well worth the read. He concludes that Trout’s the better player, but, I think the stats make a strong argument for Cabrera as the slightly more valuable player so far—

2013 Season, Through August 4th
Player fWAR rWAR RE24 WPA RBI% BA OBP SLG
Miguel Cabrera 6.9 5.9 56.54 4.22 21.47 .360 .455 .668
Mike Trout 6.4 5.6 51.84 3.19 17.01 .329 .419 .568

I’m a big fan of RE24 & WPA. If you’re not familiar with those stats, you should read Get To Know: RE24 and Get to Know: WPA. I believe they are two of the most telling statistics. I don’t believe RBI totals say much about a batter, but that their RBI % actually tells us something.

64 Down, 17 To Go

July 30: Top 5 Teams in MLB
Team W L % GB Last 10
Pirates 64 42 .604 7-3
Rays 64 43 .598 0.5 8-2
Red Sox 64 44 .593 1.0 5-5
Cardinals 62 43 .590 1.5 4-6
A’s 63 44 .589 1.5 7-3

That’s the standings after last night; After the Pirates swept a doubleheader from the Cardinals. If somebody had told me in march that the Pirates would have the best record in baseball at the end of July 30th, and be in the middle of making the Cardinals look bad…. I never would’ve believed it.

This is just about the time of year when Pittsburgh’s supposed to pull off their sudden collapse trick, and wind up under .500 yet again. Now though, they look like they’re making it clear they’re as good as anybody.

St Louis will probably beat ‘em tonight, ’cause Wainwright’s scheduled to start. But even if they do, the Pirates will still be 1/2 game up in the division when August begins.

So the Pirates might actually be a contender when September begins. There’s an entire generation of baseball fans who’ve never seen that. Before the team gets that far though, they’ll reach 81 W’s.

The Pirates have 28 games on the schedule in August, and need just 17 W’s to reach the 81 mark for the season. So if they still need 17 wins when the month begins, then they can reach 81 if they go 17-11 (.607) or better in August. That wouldn’t be beyond them either, as they went 19-9 (.679) in May and 17-9 (.659) in June. Also, they’ll be facing a number of teams they should be able to handle.—

  1. 6-2 against the Cardinals (3 home, 3 away)
  2. 0-0 against the Rockies (3 home, 3 away)
  3. 1-2 against the Marlins (3 home)
  4. 2-1 against the Diamondbacks (3 home)
  5. 0-0 against the Padres (3 away)
  6. 2-1 against the Giants (4 away)
  7. 9-4 against the Brewers (3 home)

The NL West is weak this year, so I think Pittsburgh won’t have much problem with the Rockies, Padres, and Giants. The Diamondbacks might give ‘em a series loss tho. I doubt the Marlins will win the season series against the Pirates. The Brewers and Cardinals seem to be no match for the Pirates.

Fans should start lining up for tickets to the Pirates homestand at the end of the month (Aug 27 – Sep 1). It’ll be 6 games against the Brewers and Cardinals. Sometime during that homestand, is when I think they’ll secure a .500 season for the first time since 1992. It’s too soon to tell which game it’ll likely be.

The Rays Are Shining

You’ve probably noticed by now that the Rays are 21-4 (.840) in the past month. They catapulted from observers to contenders, even reaching 1st place in the AL East for a day before their loss in New York yesterday. We all know Tampa’s good, but how have they just suddenly turned it up a notch?

If you’re like me, you probably figure the offense caught fire by way of an Evan Longoria spark. Yet, that couldn’t be more wrong. The Rays are pulling this hot streak off, with a slumping Longoria. He’s batting .200/.299/.365 during these last 25 games.

That should probably scare fans in New York, Boston, and Baltimore. After all, Tampa’s usually good, but now it seems like they’ve learned how to win without relying on Longoria to carry the offense.

The guys leading the team through this, are an aging Luke Scott (.324/.405/.632), James Loney (.361/.389/.458), and rookie Wil Myers (.348/.378/.551). Kind of a weird mix, but it kind of makes sense too. Those three lead the team in OBP during the team’s heat wave.

On the pitching side of things, guys like David Price, Matt Moore, and Fernando Rodney, are doing their jobs as we’d expect. Then there’s some unknowns who are stepping it up alongside them. Middle reliever Alex Torres hasn’t allowed any runs, earned or unearned, in his past 10 1/3. You should also note that he’s striking out 8.71 batters per 9 IP. Starter Chris Archer, is 4-0 with 2 shutouts, on the strength of a 1.29 ERA.

Tonight, the Rays are in Boston, to play the division leading Red Sox. There’s only a half game difference between them right now. This should be good.