We are approaching that time on the sports calendar when just about anything related to college or pro football dominates the newsfeed; and, to be sure, we have news in that quadrant of the sports cosmos today. [I plan to spend plenty of time tomorrow on college football stuff.] Nevertheless, this is still baseball season and we are getting to the point where the pennant races and playoff races are solidifying. So, let’s take a look …
- The American League is not particularly exciting for the moment. It would not be surprising to see 2 AL teams win 100 or more games this year and it would not be surprising to see 3 other AL teams lose 100 or more games this year. The AL is widely dispersed when it comes to the “haves” and “have nots” this year.
- I am ready to call the Red Sox and the Indians as division champions. With a tad less certainty, I will call the Astros the AL West champions.
- The Yankees may win 100 games this year and be a wild-card team; the only real mystery left in the AL is who will be the AL West champ and which team will be the runner-up there to meet the Yankees in a 1-game playoff.
- The National League is far more interesting. No team is in a position where they are comfortably atop their division such that they can coast for a week or so.
- There are 8 teams within 5 games of one another in the three divisions. It looks as if those races will go down to the final week – at least – and maybe the final day of the season. If forced to pick now, I will take the Dodgers, Cubs and Braves to win their divisions with the D-Backs and Brewers as the wild-cards.
The 2018 Yankees suffer from being in the same division as the unbelievably successful Red Sox. As of this weekend, the Yankees merely projected to win 99 games which in most seasons means a division crown. Nonetheless, the Yankees find themselves almost 10 games out of the division race but comfortably in a wild-card seat. The hope for a significant race in the AL East that might come down to the “final days” when the Yankees and Red Sox face each other in a 3-game series is this:
- The Yankees have a pillow-soft schedule between now and the middle of September. They could go on an epic tear…
- The next 20 games for the Yankees are against teams with either a losing record for the season or a team that is 2 games over .500 for the season. It is not unreasonable to expect the Yankees to go 14-6 against that competition.
- Then the Yankees have 6 games against the Mariners and the A’s. Those teams are solid and strong this year; let’s give the Yankees a split there.
- After that 6-game competitive stretch, the Yankees then play 6 more “soft schedule games” before a 3-game set with the Red Sox. Then it is 7 more games against the Orioles and Rays before the final 3-game set with the Red Sox. For these 10 games, assign the Yankees 6 wins.
- By my calculation, the Yankees could enter that final series with the Red Sox with 97 wins (conservatively). So, it is possible the Yankees might win 100 games in 2018 and finish “up the track” in their division. That does not happen very often…
Jayson Werth is not down with what he calls the “super nerds” in baseball. To say that he thinks “Advanced Analytics” have gone too far in the game would be a monumental understatement. If you Google “Jayson Werth baseball nerds”, you will find dozens of links that will lay out his position on this subject – – and other links that will take exception with his position.
In the extreme, I think Werth is correct. Obviously, some managers overuse and overthink the data that is available to them during a game. More malignantly, some managers might ignore reality and just look at “numbers” in key situations. If there is an at-bat with runners on and the game on the line, I don’t really care what the numbers say; if Derek Jeter is the guy scheduled to come to the plate, it does not matter what guy you have on the bench with a better WAR or with a better average against the pitcher on the mound. In that circumstance, you let Jeter hit and go with the result.
Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle seems to have the same respect for advanced analytics that I have. I think they have value for a manager, but I do not think they should be taken as gospel truths. Here are some comments from Scott Ostler on that subject:
“Here’s a serious idea for a cool new baseball stat, because Lord knows we need more: The size of the miss. When a batter swings and misses, by how many inches did he miss?”
“Also, why can’t we get a stat on which umpires are the most/least accurate at calling balls and strikes? So fans can boo intelligently.”
Hey, I grew up going to baseball games in Philly (both the Phillies and the A’s) and the concept of “boo intelligently” is not something that immediately resonates with the core fans there. But now that I am an educated and rational adult, I can get my arms around Professor Ostler’s concept.
Finally, here is another baseball commentary from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle on a totally different aspect of the game:
“The A’s are selling beer for $4. So a family of five Oakland fans can drink for what one person pays at the Giants’ ballpark. Caveat: the Giants’ $19.25 brewski is “craft” beer. Meaning it was not brewed in the training-room whirlpool bath.
“Four bucks for a beer? I’ll go even on days when there’s no game.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………