With all of the playoff excitement, let's not overlook the impressive individual achievements occurring in September:
Jimmy Rollins is sitting on a 33-game hitting streak.
Michael Young is sitting on a 24-game hitting streak.
Chase Utley surpassed 100 RBI - not bad for a young 2B.
Matt Holliday has 30 RBI (and counting) in September.
San Diego, with a record of 79-79, became the NL West Champs last night with a win over San Francisco. They may be the worst playoff team, but in a five game series, anything can happen.
It's late September, so the Atlanta Braves must be clinching a division somewhere. Their fearless leader, Bobby Cox, is featured in a top notch article by Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. Check it out here.
The Angels are smiling now as the only playoff team in the AL able to relax for the rest of the week. IF Cleveland and Chicago enter their series one game apart and Boston and New York do the same, the possibility exists for a FOUR way tie for the remaining THREE spots. I assume that would result in one game playoffs for the Divisions on Monday with the losers playing again for the Wild Card on Tuesday, leaving the Angels the only fresh AL team in October.
Embrace the races! A couple days ago, it was a ninth inning fly ball ricocheting off the temporarily blinded CF Grady Sizemore, costing the Indians an all important game against Kansas City. Last night, a walk off home run in Detroit stunned the White Sox, while a 2-run ninth for San Fran in San Diego took everyone by surprise, including the fireworks starter, who prematurely set off a couple "sonic booms" when he thought Brian Giles made an over-the-fence catch on Randy Winn's drive to end the game. Instead, Giles dropped the ball which led to a game tying triple, and Winn scored shortly after to give the Giants a late 3-2 lead and the eventual victory. What's next? I'll be tuning in...
I guess this is what Bud Selig had in mind about 10 years ago. With only one week to go, almost everything is up for grabs in the major leagues. Oakland and Anaheim square off in a series which will be a last ditch attempt for the A's to steal the division, Houston and Philadelphia are still tangled in an NL Wild Card tussle which might come down to the last game, and San Francisco still has a couple breaths of life left as they head into San Diego for a 4-game series down only 4 games.
Elsewhere, Boston and New York are tied for the division lead and will finish the season in Boston, trying to beat each and hold off Cleveland, who is currently ahead of those two teams for the Wild Card but desperately trying to stay within 3 games of the White Sox so their final 3-game set against each other could have a division championship on the line.
Gotta give Bud credit - September suddenly matters.
Once again, the division leaders are not exactly taking the world by storm as the season winds down. With a week and a half to go, the two teams holding claim to the Wild Card, Cleveland and Houston, just might be the most dangerous teams in the playoffs. The Yankees are also surging, 9-1 in their last 10 games, but will still have to fight off Boston just to get in. Don't be surprised if 2005 is the 4th consecutive year a Wild Card team wins the World Series.
While everyone is focusing on the fall of the White Sox, the Sox of Another Color have managed to play themselves out of the playoffs as of today. Lo and behold, is that the New York Yankees atop the division? Aaron Small for President!
It's back-to-back Hot Corners, as The Commish responds to some reader mail regarding the Chicago White Sox and their attempts to hold off the surging Cleveland Indians.
Wednesday's Hot Corner article prompted some readers to offer what they believed were overrated stats. Tops among them were Saves and clutch hitting numbers (BA after the 6th inning, etc. etc.). I would like to add Fielding Percentage to the mix. Just because a guy can stand in one spot and make a play doesn't make him a good fielder. Total Chances and Range Factor have helped compare fielders a little better, but nothing can replace a set of eyeballs as the best way to judge a fielder.
Sacrifices are important, but if the guy at the plate were a better hitter, he wouldn't be trying to sacrifice. It's a good statistic for bad players.
One statistic I believe is becoming MORE valuable is Wins. Before the days of relievers, when starting pitchers assumed they were going to throw 9 innings, win or lose, a Win was a relatively useless stat because it didn't really describe how well a pitcher pitched: it merely explained if the pitcher pitched better than the opposition. The act of pitching better than your opponent was (and still is) certainly important, but over the course of a season, a 15 Win pitcher could have pitched better than a 25 Win pitcher.
Because so much depended on the pitcher's offense, Win Totals didn't tell us much. Thinking this way, ignoring the teams' records and offensive stats, if both pitchers averaged almost 9 IP/game and the 15 Win pitcher had an ERA of 2.10 while the 25 Win pitcher had an ERA of 3.30, the 15 Win pitcher would certainly be more desirable because his team's lack of runs is the only thing keeping his Win Total down. NOW, however, a Win gives us a little more information because starting pitchers struggle to finish even 5 or 6 innings. It is less likely (though not impossible) for the above scenario to occur today because the pitchers aren't throwing 9 IP/game. When a pitcher earns a Win today, it means he stayed in the game long enough to earn the victory. Mediocre starting pitchers are less likely to earn "cheap" Wins because they are out of the game at the first sign of trouble. In other words, a 20 game winner in 2005 will likely have the other stats to back up his victory total.
Late season fantasy tip: if you are in the hunt, stop looking at YTD numbers and instead focus on the remaining schedule. Need wins? Hunt for those 2 start pitchers - if your ERA and WHIP can't suffer much, it's okay to sit a star for a player who might contribute to your team more in the short run.
With Cleveland leading the wild card race by 1/2 game and 10 games left against the Royals and Devil Rays, suddenly they become the favorite and the Yankees are on the outside looking in.
Elsewhere, one player became the youngest in history to have consecutive 30 HR, 100 RBI seasons. Pujols? No. Jason Bay? Nope. The answer is the quiet yet dangerous Miguel Cabrera, the outfielder's answer to Alex Rodriguez.
Doing so much with so little: in less than 300 ABs this year, Arizona first baseman Tony Clark has amassed 25 HR, 74 RBI, and a .308 average. Not bad for a guy who they won't let into the lineup every day.
Ever wonder what the actual rule is to determine a check swing? Well, read this link from DetNews.com anyway. It's mildly interesting.
Childish humor alert: the pronunciation guide on ESPN for Albert Pujols makes me chuckle. Check it out here.
You may have noticed in my last post that I failed to include Washington's odds to make the playoffs. That was not a misprint. With their offense so anemic lately, I cannot foresee any way they can pass Philly, New York, Florida AND Houston in one month, so I give them a 0% chance in '05.