Baltimore Orioles (93-69) at New York Yankees (95-67)
The two teams that battled for the AL East over 162 games now face each other for five to see who advances to the ALCS. Because that’s fair. The teams split the season series 9-9, with Baltimore outscoring New York by two in those games (the Orioles did end the season with a positive run differential, for those of you keeping track). The Orioles are this year’s Cinderella team, making the postseason for the first time since 1997, which was also the last time they had a winning record. The Yankees, meanwhile, are in their 28th postseason series since that year.
Baltimore’s offense this year was all about the home run. The Orioles don’t walk much—11th in the league in OBP—or hit for a very high average—10th. They are last in stolen bases and 10th in hits. On top of that, their best contact hitter, Nick Markakis, broke his thumb in a totally innocent and not at all suspicious accident and is still out for a few more weeks. But the Orioles were second in the league in home runs, and there are power threats littered throughout the lineup. From Mark Reynolds to Matt Wieters to J.J. Hardy to Chris Davis to Adam Jones—who had a breakout season this year—nearly everyone is a threat to hit it out. Facing the Yankees, who play in a home run haven and trot out pitchers with a tendency to give up the long ball, that will obviously come up. Continue reading »
Are starting pitchers valuable?
First off, I should say that I am not against starting pitchers winning the MVP award. In fact, I think Pedro Martinez’s loss in the 1999 race is one of the award’s greatest tragedies. With that said, I would very rarely vote for a starting pitcher to win the award, and I would not have voted for Justin Verlander this season.
Nevertheless, it’s strange to me that there is such a bias against starting pitchers winning the MVP. The logic generally used against them—that starters only affect one-fifth as many games as position players—seems wrong to me. To make a point Tim has made before: Starting pitchers affect fewer games, but their impact on those games is far greater than any one position player. In other words, starting pitchers affect far more at-bats than everyday players: In 2011 Verlander faced 969 batters this season—no position player has ever had more than 778 plate appearances in a single season.
So the reason I’m usually against voting for pitchers is the opposite of the normal logic; to me, if you treated starters and everyday players equally in MVP voting, a pitcher would win the award every year. After all, if you were building a team from scratch, wouldn’t your first pick be a starting pitcher almost every time? Continue reading »
New York Yankees (95-67) at Minnesota Twins (94-68)
In many ways, this is a rematch of last year’s Division Series—the main way being that these same two teams played each other in last year’s Division Series. But things are much different now. The Twins are no longer the underdogs that snuck into the playoffs at the last minute, and the Yankees are no longer the dominant force in the AL. The Twins went 48-26 after the All-Star Break, essentially wrapping up the AL Central with a month to go. The Yankees, on the other hand, stumbled down the stretch, losing the AL East to Tampa Bay and settling for the Wild Card thanks to a 13-17 record in September/October. In other words, do not expect a repeat of last year’s one-sided Yankees sweep.
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With the MLB All-Star Game come and gone, it’s time for John S and Tim to look back at their pre-season (well, more like 5 days into the season) predictions and see where they stand now. Here’s John S looking back on what he got right and what he got dead wrong.
What I Got Right
We should start in the AL West, where I made probably my best call in picking Texas to beat LA for the division title. As I expected, the Angels have taken a big step backwards—they are only three games above .500, and their run differential is -24. A lot of that is due to a rough patch the team hit shortly after the devastating injury to Kendry Morales, but a lot of it also has to do with a mediocre rotation. Joe Saunders and Scott Kazmir, the two veterans of the staff, have turned in lousy seasons, and the team is 11th in the AL in runs allowed.
Meanwhile, Texas has been even better than I anticipated. They have the biggest divisional lead of any first place team in the majors, and their run differential is better than every non-AL East team in baseball. And the only glaring weakness of the Rangers—the lack of a real ace—was addressed by trading a package centered on Justin Smoak for Cliff Lee. The Rangers won’t be able to resign Lee, but he makes them a legitimate pennant contender this year. Continue reading »
Well, we’ve reached the big boys of the American League, which, despite what Tim might tell you, means we’ve reached the big boys of MLB. Each of the last three AL Champions, and two of the last three World Series winners, have been from the AL East, and it’s been a different team each time. You can make a very reasonable argument that three of the six best teams in baseball are in the AL East, which means one of them is going to get left out of the playoffs. There’s also the fact that—allegedly—the Baltimore Orioles are getting better, meaning the 19 “easy” games in the division won’t be as easy anymore. Even so, the Wild Card will almost certainly come out of this division. After all, it has every year since 2006. Continue reading »
This was probably the most exciting division last year, if only because it gave us that thrilling Wild Card Playoff (you may remember it as Game 163, because Chip Caray called it that approximately 162,886 times during the game) that cracked Tim’s top five games of the decade. A lot of that was due to Detroit falling off dramatically as the season went on, and the Tigers are still trending downwards. They lost Placido Polanco and Curtis Granderson in the off-season, and Magglio Ordonez got another year older. The big news out of this division, though, is that the Twins just signed Joe Mauer to an eight-year extension, meaning that, at the very least, they have the MVP front-runner for the next nine years. Continue reading »