Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Half Way There Folks

We've reached the midway point of the baseball season and, to no one's surprise, there are a few surprises. Sadly, though we have Interleague play again this season, the Houston Astros do not play against the Miami Marlinsso there will be no challenge match between the two titans. The Marlins have won eight of their last ten including three in a row. They are the proud possessors of a 30-51 record and have passed the magic .350 mark. Even better, they have passed the mighty Astros, who have lost their last four to drop to 30-53. Oh, well, maybe we'll see them in the Fall Classic.

On a more serious note, it is no surprise that the Indians and Tigers are battling it out in the AL Central, with the Tribe recently forging ahead with four straight wins. Detroit's winning record is entirely due to Max Scherzer. With him they are 43-38. Without him they are 31-38.  The LA Angels can't win at home and are solidly in third in the West, four games below .500.  Josh Hamilton is hitting a solid .223 with an OBP of less than .300. The A's are once again doing better than they should - though the Rangers have now pulled ahead of them.

Toronto's glad to have Jose Reyes back.

In the AL East, the Blue Jays have risen from the dead and are above .500 thanks to an 11-game winning streak. They are without Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie, but now have Jose Reyes back. It's anyone's title to win, though the Yankees are fading fast.

It seems as though the Rays and the Orioles are winning every time I look. The Oriole staff has the second worst ERA in the AL, ahead only of Houston. Their starters are winning in spite of it. Chris Tillman (10-2) who is carrying on from his successful rookie season and Miguel Gonzalez (6-3) aren't giving up too many of those runs but Jason Hammel (7-4, 5.09) is. Helping everything is their defence, their DER (Defensive Efficiency Rating) is second only to the Athletics.

Chris Davis hits it out or stirkes out.
No team has allowed as many home runs, but no team has hit more. The O's have the best team average and they have five players among the top 14 in runs scored. Chris Davis has the most doubles and home runs and the highest Slugging Average and OPS in the AL. He's second to some guy called Miguel Cabrera in average and RBIs. Third baseman Manny Machado leads the league in doubles and is hitting a robust .321. 

Tampa's DER is third but their ERA (post James Shields) ranks a disappointing 8th. Like Baltimore they have two successful starters, Matt Moore (11-3) and Alex Cobb (6-2), winning the traditional way, by allowing few runs, and another - Jeremy Hellickson (7-3, 4.90) allowing a bunch. Tampa hitters are fifth in average and surprisingly third in home runs. Five guys have nine or more. Evan Longoria leads the way with 17.

But the biggest surprise is baseball is not in the Al, it's in the National League, where the Pittsburgh Pirates have won their last nine straight. Amazingly, they had five sellouts last week. They now have baseball's best record, having overtaken the Cardinals who are the second best team in baseball.. 

The Pirates' staff gives up a lot of home runs but has the best ERA and 
Jeff Locke, one of Pittsburgh's promising young hurlers.
the lowest opposition batting average (a paltry .225) in the majors. They have three lefty starters, Jeff Locke (7-1, 2.06) and Francisco Liriano (7-3, 2.23) and the injured Mandy Rodriguez, who was 6-4. 

With A.J. Burnett (4-6, 3.12) still on the DL, their righty starters are both rookies off to great starts, Justin Wilson is 5-1 and Gerrit Cole is 4-0. Mark Melancon has a 0.89 ERA in 40 innings out of the bullpen and Jason Grilli has 27 saves. It's a young and talented staff.

Offence is a different story. The Pirates are ninth in runs scored, tenth in Slugging and OPS, eleventh in OBP, and twelfth in batting average.Only Pedro Alvarez has more than ten home runs. Their only legitimate star, Andrew McCutchen, has nine along with a .292 average and 50 runs scored.

Bonus (free) Trivia: Though the Pirates have 41 players in the Hall of Fame only 13 had their best years in Pittsburgh. How many can you name? (Eight are fairly easy.) The answer is at the bottom.

The Pirates have the longest losing streak in professional sports (only North America counts of course) at 20 seasons. Will the streak end? They would need to go 29-52 the rest of the way to keep it going. The good news is that the last time the Pirates were the first team to reach 50 wins was 1960. Remember that year, the only time a Series ended with a home run. Interestingly the Pirates have won the series five times - all in seven games like in 1960. 

But wait a minute. Last year they were a whopping sixteen games above .500 on August 6 and still finished below .500. My vote for worst franchise ever? Not the Pirates, not the Cubs, who haven't won a Series in a while. The Phillies get my vote. They went fourteen years without a winning season (1918 to 1931), then were two games above .500 and then went from 1933 to 1948 without a winning records. If it weren't for those couple of wins in '32 they would have gone 31 straight years under .500!

Arky Vaughan lit it up for the Pirates.

Here are the true Pirate HOFs: Honus Wagner, Fred Clarke (playing manager), Max Carey, Barney Dreyfuss (owner), Pie Traynor, Paul Waner and Lloyd Waner, Kiki Cuyler, Arky Vaughan, Ralph Kiner, Bill Mazeroski, Roberto Clemente, and Willie Stargell. How'd you do? How many players from this year's All-Star Game do you think will make it to the Hall? Go Pirates.

1 comment:

Rick Blechta said...

Wait a moment, Braund. "Remember that year, the only time a Series ended with a home run." Excuse me, but it seems that some upstart team called The Toronto Blue Jays had one of their World Series Wins via a home run by a player named Joseph Christopher Carter in the sixth game of the 1993 classic. Ever hear of him?