No surprises in yesterday's games, as the Twins and Red Sox used their pitching advantages, while the Cardinals used their lumber to dispose of Odalis Perez and the Dodgers early.
2004 Playoff Preview
While Ichiro is just one good game away from the single season hits record and the baseball world is finally taking notice, another story that doesn't receive the publicity it should is the resurgence of the Houston Astros. Now leading the wild card by 1/2 game, Houston has hardly backed into contention. With a .500 record as late as August 23, the 'Stros have finished with a flourish, posting a 27-8 record since that fateful day, including 15 straight wins at home (and counting).
The other teams haven't exactly rolled over, as the Cubs are 20-14 and the Giants are 19-13 over the same period. If Houston gets into the playoffs, they will have earned it.
Atlanta will be in an interesting situation this weekend against Chicago. Beating them will mean a more likely matchup against Houston, and from Atlanta's perspective, a first round Chicago matchup appears much more winnable. However, a team doesn't want to engage in a playoff series against a team that just dominated them, so fear not, Houston and San Fran fans, Atlanta will be playing to win. Bobby Cox would have it no other way.
The good, the bad, and the ugly regarding the wild card situation:
Good: The Cubs, a solid club with a good record, would be left for dead but instead control their destiny as they fight for the playoffs.
Bad: What should be a thrilling division race between the BoSox and Yanks is a moot point because they are both playoff bound and they won't be meeting each other in the playoffs until round 2 if necessary.
Ugly: The Marlins, barely above .500, were just knocked out of playoff contention officially last night.
You can't win the World Series without getting there first, and the one thing that helps a team most in achieving that goal is finding high caliber players who stay on the field (don't get injured).
Greg Maddux's string of 17 straight years of 15+ wins is the perfect example of such a trait. By itself in just a one year period, wins tell very little about a pitcher's ability or performance and are often misleading. A middle reliever can have a 10 win season, but that just means he likely blew plenty of leads. Over a longer horizon, however, wins reveal much more. In the case of Maddux, we can assume that he played on good teams most of his career (true), he rarely missed a start (true), and he was (and is) very successful year in and year out (true).
Just like a poor blackjack player might get lucky in the short run, the odds will even out over time, and the poor player will become just that. Any mediocre pitcher can stumble upon the occasional 15-win season, but to do it consistently, without fail, over the span of 3 decades, is no anomaly. Maddux is the real deal, and his plaque will be waiting for him in Cooperstown.