Fall Baseball War on Labor Day, 2014

There is something disquieting about Labor Day.  It is the end of Summer, leaves turn color and die, the frost will finish off what’s left, even the daylight diminishes, and sun will be setting later until it is the shortest day and it is Winter.  Baseball is born in the spring when all teams have hope, flourishes in the Summer as teams figure out how good or bad they are,  then it is Fall and we race against the sun to see who wins it all before the game hibernates for the Winter. At this point, the teams know how good they are and how bad. The good ones now focus on the last 28 games and the ultimate, short course, pennant race. It is a no holds barred, free for all to see who will prevail.

Today we know who is really good, just good, could be good and bad. The really good are Kansas City and Detroit, Baltimore, Angels and A’s in the AL and Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh,  Washington, LA Dodgers and SF in the National.
 
The good team is Cleveland that just misses. The “could (will) be good” teams are Miami and Seattle, maybe next year, especially for Miami. The rest of them have serious work to do and only a few show any inclination to do it wisely. (By wisely, I mean.doing smart stuff,  not just stuff to appease the fans mid-winter like signing a bad pitcher, now 5-10, 5.96, to a multiyear contract that simply shows why they are bad.)
 
Kansas CIty leads Detroit by 1/2 game in the AL Central, with Cleveland 3 behind. In the AL East, Baltimore leads by 9. In the AL west, the Angels just crushed the A’s four straigth to lead by 5. The only drama is in the Central.

In the National League, Milwaukee and St. Louis are tied and Pittsburgh is two behind. Definte drama here. Washington leads Atlanta by six so its really over.  and LA.  leads SF by 2 1/2. But LA is going to win there.

The only drama is the race for the second wild-card. (DId I really say that?) In the AL, Seattle has a chance and Atlanta and Pittsburgh have a chance in the NL.We’ll see.

What does the lack of drama mean? It means that the playoffs will supply the drama the season fails to provide. More on that in a few weeks, but I’m betting on a Baltimore-Washington World Series. Both of these teams can hit, field, throw, hit with power and pitch!  See you in Baltimore in October. 

MLB Playoffs: Tampa Bay at Texas, Winner to Cleveland and Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

The convoluted American League playoff scheme that could have occured had Cleveland lost yesterday did not occur as the Twins gave it to the Indians. However, Tampa Bay and Texas both won. They play one game to settle the issue today in Texas. Both teams will start left handers, David Price (9-8, 3.39) for the Rays and Martin Perez (10-5, 3.55) for Texas. “We’ll have to watch this one to see who wins,” said Nancy Pelosi, while lamenting the Giants (76-86) poor season.  Of course, the issue that will be settled today is just about who plays in the real Wild Card game in Cleveland on Wednesday.

If I were to hazard a opinion, I would give the edge to the Rangers based entirely on Joe Nathan, its closer. We’ll see.

The Pirates play the Reds tomorrow in Pittsburgh. The Reds will start Johnny Cueto (5-2, 2.82) and the Pirates will start Francisco Liriano (16-8, 3.02). Again, if I were going to hazard a guess here, I would flip a coin. (The flip just said Pittsburgh)

Where I have been focused on these wild card games,  the real fun starts with the Divisional Series, schedule here.

Some years ago, I was involved in discussions of playoff formats as the expansion of the major leagues would cause a change in league alignments and the force the creation of divisions. This is so no team would finish 12th (or now 15th) in the standings and more pennant races equals more local interest.

The creation of divisions, first East and West and then to East, West, Central, created the need for a WIld Card. or the non winning team with the highest winning percentage, so that two series could be played. That lead to the creation of a second wild card because Fox wanted another game.

The discussion I was involved in focused on who should play in the World Series. Some thought that the true league champions should play there and those were the two teams at the top of each league. The creation of divisions ended that argument, but now we have second wild cards eligible for the World Series. Maybe we have gone too far, but the money generated by broadcasts of extra games means this is permanent. The problem is that the extra games pushes the World Series into the second half of October. It is scheduled to end on October 31 this year and that is too far into the Fall to hold national interest as each sports league has its natural season and baseball games in late October just don’t work as well. World Series TV ratings illustrate this fact.

Nevertheless, I will watch them all as it is the greatest championship series of all, even though it may not reward the True league champions

MLB Wild Card: The Final Weekend

Wednesday night was the final curtain for several teams with playoff hopes. The Yankees lost to Tampa Bay 8-3 and, when coupled with the Indians’ win over Chicago, were eliminated from post season play for only the second time in nineteen years. This also signaled the end of the Mariano Rivera era and his significant contribution to success over his career. Kansas City lost and its hopes ended as well. We will see more of this fine, young team next year. Both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati lost, setting the stage for the three games they play each other in Cincinnati this weekend. Pittsburgh has a one game lead over Cincinnati, so, if Cincinnati wins the series, it has home field advantage based on the record between the two teams this season where they are tied 8-8 at this time. Regardless, these two teams will play for the wild card on October 1.

In the American League, Texas remains one game behind Cleveland for the second wild card slot. Tampa Bay leads Cleveland by one as well. An interesting note here is that the inter-league, unbalanced schedule means that Texas has played seventy-eight games against +.500 teams and the Rays have played 100+.500 teams. A large part of the difference is that Texas is 17-2 against Houston. That is reality. Cleveland plays at Minnesota and the Twins play well at home and have played well there against Cleveland, Texas plays at home against the Angels who need two wins to finish at  .500, a significant achievement for them, and Tampa Bay plays at Toronto. What this means is that these three teams will play intensely to finish and win. Just think that if Toronto sweeps Tampa Bay, the Rangers win two of three with the Angels and Cleveland loses two of three in Minnesota, all teams will be at 89-72, a three team tie. This is highly unlikely, but it is baseball, so is possible. We will worry about that on Sunday.

The wild card games will be played October 1 for the NL and October 2 for the AL. The games will be played, if I am to hazard a guess, in Cincinnati and Tampa Bay. We’ll see.

MLB Wild Card:The Final Week, update

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds both won last night, the Reds in 10 innings over the Mets, to clinch a playoff berth. They have identical records and the three game series between the two teams this weekend will settle the home field advantage, if they remain tied going into that series. They are only two game behind St. Louis, but the Cardinals show no sign of losing the division lead.

In the American League, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Texas all won last night, so Texas remains one game in back of Cleveland. As pointed out before, Cleveland has the easier schedule and should win. That “easier schedule” does include Minnesota this weekend and the Twins are showing some late season energy in that they beat the Tigers in 11 innings last night on a single by Josmil Pinto. This catcher played in AA baseball this summer until he was called up to the Majors this month. He is batting. 359 so far. is he for real or just a September wonder? What all of that means is that Cleveland will have to play well until their Wild Card berth is settled, one way or another and the Twins will not give in. This is typical of baseball teams, by the way. 

Next week we will be dealing with a new set of facts, equally engaging, and set to determine participation in the World Series. “Fall Baseball is War,” here  and these are continuing battles.

Wild Card Race on September 16; Yankees Falter

The AL Wild Card race is becoming clearer. In two weeks the regular season will be over, and,we will know more, and may even have a playoff for the playoffs, an interesting scenario.  This morning finds Texas and Tampa Bay tied at 81-67 for the two Wild Card slots. Cleveland is now only  .5 games behind, with Baltimore  2.5 back and New York 3 back. On August 23 Here that the Yankees, due to the easy schedule in the last twelve games had a real chance to make the Wild Card, however, the Yankees have faltered. Where they had to win half the games against the better teams, Baltimore and Boston, they have lost 8 of 12, and dominate the lesser teams, they beat Chicago times. The poor showing against Boston, especially, where they lost 7 of 8, is the reason they remain 3 games back. The Red Sox, I am certain, regale in their role in the Yankees apparent demise. 

The Orioles likewise, lost 6 of 8 against NY and Cleveland. They did win 5 of 8 against Toronto and the White Sox. They remain 2.5 games behind.

The team that has won according to the dominate/breakeven rule is the Cleveland Indians. They won 6 of 7 against the Mets and White Sox in September, and won 4 of 7 against KC, Balitmore and Detroit. They are  .5 games behind. If any of the three teams are to make the Wild Card, it seems the Indians are the team.  They will  have to pass Tampa or Texas to do that.

Texas has only won 1 of 10 recently and play Tampa Bay and KC 7 times this week.  They finish with Houston and LAA. Tampa Bay, of course, has the 4 against Texas at home this week and then play 7 against NYY and Baltimore before the final three in Toronto.

Tampa Bay and Cleveland are the probable winners here. However, baseball has strange twists. Yesterday, trying to win its twelth in a row against Minnesota, ran into a Twins team that hadn’t scored in 25 innings only to have the Twins score twice in the 7th on a single by Chris Parmelee, BA  .223 and four times in the 8th, three runs coming on a homerun by Josimil Pinto, a catcher who spent the Summer in AA, to win the game. Tampa Bay will remember that piitch to Pinto if they fail to make the playoffs. That final three in Toronto are critical.

There is another race worth noting and that is to avoid the Igniminy and the MLB Cellar Dweller, Here.  In the NL West, San Francisco, San Diego are tied and Colorado 1 game down for last place. Maybe they will all tie for last, or, as they would describe it, fourth, place and all will avoid the Ignominy of the Cellar Dweller.

The last two weeks of the regular season, like all of September is War, after that we have the playoffs and then the long, cold Winterl

MLB Playoffs 2013- updated September 12.

MLB’s playoff format was changed for 2012 by adding a one game playoff between the teams with the second highest winning percentage among non-division winners. Previously, the team with the highest winning percentage was the wild card and played the winningest team, if that team was not in its division, for the Division Championship, prelude to the League Championship Series.

What this means is that contenders in August and September are focusing on that second wild card position and that creates some interesting scenarios. In the National League, the scenario is who plays whom with five teams all but guaranteed playoff positions. The second highest winning percentage is Cincinnati’s  .556. 65 wins v. 52 losses. No one else is close. The only question is whether the wild cards, all from the NL Central,  will include èittsburgh or St. Louis, depending on whether the Pirates can hold its 3 game lead over St. Louis. That will be close, but this one game playoff, Cincinnati v. either St. Louis or PIttsburgh, will be very competitive.

In the American League, the situation is not so clear as there are three teams Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Baltimore, that will make up the two teams that playoff for the Wild Card position in the Division Series. If Oakland beats Texas or Tampa beats Boston and wins the Division, make the changes that implies. It will be interesting.

The determining factor will be the teams’ ability to win under pressure. See here The games will be largely determined by the ability to catch the ball and make plays in the field, the most rudimentary of baseball actions.

UPDATE- I now include Kansas City and New York in the Wild Card Race as both teams have played very well. There will be two wild cards this year, so pay attention.