Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
July 27, 2001
BASEBALL: A's Coming On; The K/BB Record For Pitching Staffs

Originally posted on Projo.com

Here are the overall American League standings, from May 2 through this morning:

Mariners 52-22 .703 (20-6)
A’s 46-28 .622 (8-18)
Yankees 44-29 .603 (15-12)
Indians 42-32 .568 (15-9)
White Sox 41-33 .554 (8-16)
Red Sox 40-33 .548 (17-9)
Angels 40-34 .541 (11-15)
Twins 40-35 .533 (18-7)
Tigers 34-39 .466 (9-15)
Orioles 29-43 .403 (13-14)
Rangers 30-42 .408 (11-15)
Blue Jays 30-45 .400 (17-9)
Royals 29-45 .392 (10-16)
Devil Rays 24-49 .329 (8-19)

An object lesson, here, in the importance of April. The A’s and White Sox were 8-18 and 8-16, respectively, on the morning of May 2, and the Angels 11-15, while the Twins were 18-7 and the Red Sox were 17-9. Some other points of note: the Blue Jays’ hot start has masked the complete collapse of the team over the succeeding 77 games. The Orioles have sought out their true level after initial aspirations of mediocrity. And did anyone think the Angels would hang in there to play competitive baseball, despite the loss of Mo, a horrible year by Tim Salmon, the continued offensive black hole that is Garret Anderson (RBI opportunities go in, but they don’t come out), and all manner of other problems? Granted they should be bringing in guys off the street who could out-hit their DHs, but give Mike Scioscia a hand for dealing with a no-win situation in terms of making the most of the available talent.

Anyway, the main point of this chart is to show why the Oakland A’s are probably not going to dump salaries, or shouldn’t. They’ve been the second-best team in the league since their April swoon, playing at the pace of a 98-win club for 76 games now. That’s not a hot streak; it’s a good team. I’ll get into why in a later column, but unless Oakland management decides to cut bait on Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon, this team should prevent the contenders in the East and Central from assuming they have the wild card to safely fall back on.


* * * * *

One of the few causes for optimism in this dismal season for the Mets has been the pitching staff’s control of the (allegedly new) strike zone. Experience teaches us that pitchers who control the strike zone (as measured by K/BB ratio) succeed far more often than not – because it’s a sign that they are staying ahead of the hitters and fooling enough of them to get strikeouts, and simply because strikeouts and walks are the elements of the game a pitcher has the most control over.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:58 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 20, 2001
BASEBALL: The 2001 Mariners at the Midpoint

Originally posted on Projo.com

The Seattle Mariners weren’t supposed to be this good. Not even close. I mean, I remember the preseason in 1998, when everyone was talking about how good the Yankees could be, how deep they were. I remember 1986, when Davey Johnson declared in the spring (after the Mets had won 98 games the year before despite their best hitter missing almost a third of the season) that he didn’t just want to win – he wanted to dominate. The Tigers of 1984 weren’t as heralded, but everyone knew the talent there was superior and they were preceded by years of debate about when they were going to put it all together. Yet, almost nobody picked these Mariners to win more games than it did last season, and few gave them a chance to make a return trip to the ALCS. Good teams often sneak up on you – but great teams rarely do.

And this has been, thus far, a great team. Through 66 games, they had the best record of all time, topping the 1927 Yankees, the 1998 Yankees, the 1906 Cubs, everybody, peaking at a 52-14 record (!!) on June 16. They currently lead the majors in runs scored and are second in the AL in fewest runs allowed. Entering Thursday’s action they were 68-26, on a pace to break the 1906 Cubs’ record of 116 wins in a regular season.

The hot question around the majors is: How did they do it – and can it keep up? More than a few columnists have weighed in on this, so I won’t hit every angle here, and I’m not going to speculate on how they will fare the rest of the season beyond noting some of the things that can’t be expected to continue. But there are a few elements of Seattle’s success worth exploring in some detail.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:20 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)