When I was a kid, Labor Day meant that school would start later that week and that meant summer was over. The calendar said summer wasn’t over and there was a big part of summer that wasn’t over yet – – the baseball season. I have long since ceased to be concerned with the start of a new school year, but Labor Day remains a good point in the baseball season to see how things stack up for the homestretch.
- The AL East: As expected, the Yankees and the Red Sox have dominated this division from the start. The Red Sox have a comfortable 7.5 game lead this morning. More interestingly, if the Red Sox were to lose every game from here on out, I think they would still be the second wild card team in the AL playoffs. The Red Sox have won 94 games so far; to miss out on the second wild card slot, the Mariners would have to finish the season 19-6. I suspect that neither condition will be met…
- The AL Central: Such a yawn… The Indians lead the Twins by 14 games as of this morning and the Twins are a less-than-impressive 10 games under .500. On the tension/drama scale, this “race” is comparable to a prune smoothie.
- The AL West: The Astros lead the A’s by 2.5 games this morning and the A’s are as hot as any team in MLB. Meanwhile, if the A’s were to “regress to the mean” sharply in September, the Mariners are still within shouting distance. AL fans should focus their attention here…
- The NL East: The Atlanta Braves are on top and they look like the best team in the division – but their lead is only 4 games over a Phillies’ team that continues to win with smoke and mirrors. The “big story” here is the dreadful showing by the Nationals for 2018
- The NL Central: The Cubs are on top today with the Brewers 5 games behind and the Cardinals 5.5 games behind. The Cubs and Brewers play 6 times in September and the Cubs play the Cardinals 3 times between now and the end of the season.
- The NL West: In terms of a division race, this is where the excitement is. As of this morning, the Dodgers lead the Rockies by half-a-game and lead the Diamondbacks by 1 game. The Dodgers play the Rockies 6 times this month and they play the Diamondbacks 3 times. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks and Rockies will face off 7 times in September and the D-Backs also have to play the Cubs and the Astros this month. Stay tuned …
But wait; there’s more … The wild card race in the NL is indeed wild. For the sake of simplicity, I will assume here that the Cubs go on to win their division and that the Braves are the NL East winners. Even eliminating those two teams from any participation in the wild card chase, here is how it looks today:
- Brewers 77 – 61
- Cardinals 76 – 61 0.5 GB
- Dodgers 75 – 62 1.5 GB
- Rockies 74 – 62 2.0 GB
- D-Backs 74 – 63 2.5 GB
- Phillies 72 – 64 4.0 GB
I know the football season is underway – at the college level – and that NFL games start this week. Nonetheless, keep paying attention to the baseball box scores because there is the potential for some interesting fireworks there. With the ascension of advanced analytics in baseball, however, there is one sort of “fireworks” we are not likely to see so long as the computers dictate strategy. In 2018, managers view a stolen base attempt with the sort of disdain shown for someone trying to play Beethoven’s Ode to Joy on a kazoo. The MLB leader in stolen bases in 2018 is Trea Turner; he has 35 steals. Only 3 players – – Turner, Dee Gordon and Starling Marte – – have attempted to steal 40 or more times in the season.
Granted, none of these guys is Rickey Henderson on the bases but just for comparison, consider Henderson’s stats. In 1982, he led MLB in steals with 130 and he attempted 172 steals. Henderson played in 149 games that year, so he attempted 1.15 steals per game. For his career, Henderson attempted 1741 steals and was successful 1406 times. Modern day managers would be horrified with those numbers – – but Henderson scored more runs in his career than anyone else in baseball history (He crossed the plate 2295 times.) and the last time I checked, that was the object of the game.
Bob Molinaro had this item in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week regarding another modern baseball stratagem dictated by analytics:
“One and only: Ted Williams, who would have turned 100 on Friday, batted against infield shifts that were used just for him and still hit better than .300. Today, many of the shifts are employed to stop .200 hitters. I think the Splendid Splinter might have found that funny.”
Finally, let me close with a baseball-themed comment from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:
“Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez says he injured his finger by getting it caught in a suitcase.
“That’s what he gets for not bringing in a closer.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………