Designated HitterSeptember 30, 2008
Why the Angels Won't Win the World Series
(And the Cubs Will Win it All)
By Ross Roley

As Angels fans across Southern California settle in for a long and exciting playoff run, they’re justifiably hopeful that this year will match their success of 2002 when they won a World Championship. The Halos won 100 games this season, have the best record in baseball, and enjoy home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They acquired Torii Hunter and Mark Teixeira to augment an already potent lineup featuring Vlad Guerrero. Their starting rotation is arguably the best among the playoff participants, while their bullpen sports the all-time single season saves leader in Frankie Rodriguez. The Angels should be the favorites to at least make it to the World Series. Unfortunately, the odds are not in their favor. My opinion is not based on injuries, pitching matchups, rally monkeys, curses, or anything of that nature. It’s based on cold, hard historical data. Reviewing the playoff and World Series results since the current wildcard format began in 1995 reveals some surprising results that would make Gene Autry roll over in his grave.

Consider these facts:

  • The team with the better record has won only 49% of all playoff series since 1995 (43 of 88).
  • In 2001, Lou Piniella’s Seattle Mariners won 116 games and failed to reach the World Series.
  • 12 other teams have won 100 games since 1995 and failed to play in the Fall Classic, including the Braves four times.
  • 5 more 100-win teams played in the World Series and 4 of them lost.
  • From 1995-2007, only the 1998 Yankees became World Series champs with the best record in baseball (Boston tied for the best record last year).
  • A wildcard team has made it to the World Series 9 times in the last 13 years, claiming 4 world championships including 3 of the last 6.
  • In 2006, the Cardinals won the World Series with only 83 regular season wins.

Basically, it appears that anything can happen in the postseason…and usually does. So, let’s break down the Angels’ chances one series at a time. Admittedly, some of the sample sizes used below are not very large, but the data reinforces just how unpredictable baseball has been in the wildcard era.

Division Series – Angels vs. Red Sox

  • Since 1995, the wildcard team has won a startling 58% of their opening series (15 of 26 series) including 55% (6 of 11) against #1 seeds.

    In a format where the #1 seed plays the #4 seed, one would expect the top seed to breeze through this round, when in fact quite the opposite is true. Perhaps it’s because the wildcard winner might be more “battle tested” and have more momentum going into the playoffs due to a hotly contested race against multiple foes, whereas, the top seed typically wraps up a playoff berth much earlier and coasts into the playoffs with less competitive edge. Possibly it’s due to overconfidence by the higher seed, or less pressure on the underdog, or the inherent riskiness of a short series. Or maybe it’s just pure blind luck. Whatever the reason, it’s not good for the Angels. The probability of the Angels advancing out of the first round is at most 45%.

    On the other hand, the Cubs can thank their division rival Brewers for a stroke of good fortune. If the Brewers had lost the wildcard race to the Mets, the Cubs would have faced the wildcard team in this round just like the Angels. Instead, they will play the #3 seeded Dodgers. Historically the #1 seed wins a 1 vs. 3 matchup a whopping 85% of the time (11 of 13). So the Cubs dodge a bullet and their likelihood of advancing out of the first round is 85%.

    League Championship Series

  • Since 1995, the team with the better record has won this round 56% of the time (14 of 25) while the #1 seed has also won 56% of the time (10 of 18) assuming they survive the first round.

    If the Angels get past their first series, things look better for them in the LCS. Interestingly, the results during the modern format (1995 to present) nearly match historical results for the LCS dating back to 1985 when MLB changed from the best of 5 games to 7 games. From 1985 to 2007, the team with the better record won 24 of 42 best of 7 LCS’s, or 57%, with identical records occurring twice. The probability of the Angels winning the ALCS (if they make it that far) is therefore estimated at 56% while the Cubs also would have a 56% chance in the NLCS.

    World Series

  • The team with the better record has won only 38% of the World Series titles since 1995.

    This is another stunner. The reason for this phenomenon could be a case of low sample size or because of overconfidence by the favored team or any other number of human factors, but the recent data is completely counter-intuitive. Nonetheless, it’s bad news for the Angels since they have the best record of all the playoff teams. On the bright side, the AL has won 5 of the last 13 Fall Classics. Also, since 1903 the historical chance of winning the World Series with a better record than one’s opponent is a more realistic 53% with a much larger sample size (54 of 101). Weighting these 3 factors equally, I estimate the Angels’ chances of winning the World Series if they get that far to be around 51%. The Cubs have a better record then everybody except the Angels and they had the same record as the Rays, but they’re in the National League so their chances are a little less at 46%.


    If the Angels have a 45% chance of winning their first round, 56% of winning the second round and 51% chance of winning the final round, then the estimated likelihood that they win it all is only 13% (.45 x .56 x .51). This is only a tad higher than if all 8 playoff teams had an equal shot at the championship which would be 12.5%. Unfortunately, that’s the way the recent history has worked out. Using the same basic methodology, here are the handicaps for all 8 teams.

  • Angels: .45 x .56 x .51 = .13
  • Cubs: .85 x .56 x .46 = .22
  • Rays: .36 x .50 x .53 = .10
  • Phillies: .31 x .46 x .48 = .06
  • AL Central Champ: .64 x .44 x .54 = .15
  • Dodgers: .15 x .44 x .49 = .03
  • Red Sox: .55 x .50 x .53 = .15
  • Brewers: .69 x .46 x .49 = .16

    Cubs fans rejoice! Disregard the last 100 years! The Cubs have the best shot of winning it all this year according to recent playoff data; albeit their odds are only slightly better than 1 in 5 so don’t rejoice just yet. The wildcard Brewers are next at 1 in 6, while their first round opponents, the Phillies have only a 6% chance. This is primarily because the #2 seed has won a paltry 31% of the time (4 of 13) in first round matchups with the wildcard team. Once again, it’s a very small sample size, so it should all be taken with a grain of salt. In the AL, the wildcard Red Sox and whoever comes out of the AL Central have the best chances of becoming world champs but their odds aren’t even 1 in 6. The Cinderella Rays with the second best record in baseball are the underdogs in the AL with only a 10% chance. Meanwhile, the team with the best record in baseball, the Angels, has only the 5th best chance of winning the World Series!

    This methodology can also be used to predict the possibility of cross town rivals meeting in the World Series. There are two such possibilities this year. Citizens of the Windy City are dreaming of an all-Chicago World Series. First, the White Sox need to qualify for the playoffs (still TBD as I’m writing this), but if they do, the likelihood of the Cubs playing the South Siders in the Fall Classic is 13%. Sorry Los Angelenos, but the chance of your ultimate baseball scenario known as a “Freeway Series” in Los Angeles is much lower at only 4%.

    Summary and Conclusion

    Many people call the baseball playoffs a “crapshoot” including Braves skipper Bobby Cox. A’s GM Billy Beane was quoted in Moneyball as saying: “My (expletive) doesn’t work in the playoffs. My job is to get us to the playoffs. What happens after that is (expletive) luck.” The historical data presented in this article absolutely supports those sentiments. Considering that 51% of all playoff series are won by the lesser team indicates that it might as well be a coin flip. The MLB playoffs are indeed a crapshoot. Good luck to the Angels, the Cubs and all the playoff teams…with emphasis on LUCK.

    Ross Roley is a lifelong baseball fan, a baseball analysis hobbyist, and former Professor of Mathematics at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is partially responsible for instant replay in the major leagues this year having highlighted the issue here on Baseball Analysts early in the 2006 season.

  • Baseball BeatSeptember 29, 2008
    Unfinished Business
    By Rich Lederer

    And you thought everything would be settled by Sunday? Well, the National League playoff combatants have been finalized but the American League has yet to determine which team has won the Central and will be joining the Los Angeles Angels, Tampa Bay Rays, and Boston Red Sox in the post-season.

    The Chicago White Sox ended a five-game losing streak yesterday by beating the Cleveland Indians 6-0 to keep the team's hopes alive for at least another day. Gavin Floyd and the Pale Hose will face Freddy Garcia and the Detroit Tigers at home in a makeup game on Monday afternoon. If Chicago wins today, the Sox would host a tiebreaker against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday for the division title and the final playoff spot.

    Over in the NL, the Milwaukee Brewers are in, and the New York Mets are out. Behind C.C. Sabathia's complete-game gem on short rest and Ryan Braun's two-run blast in the eighth, the Brew Crew bested the Chicago Cubs 3-1 to earn the wild card berth in the senior circuit. This year marks the first time since 1982 that Milwaukee finds itself in the playoffs. In addition, as Bob Timmerman points out, "The Brewers are the first team to make the playoffs in both the AL and NL."

    Heading into Monday's action, here is how the playoff picture is shaping up:


    Wednesday, October 1
    NLDS Game 1: Milwaukee at Philadelphia, 3 p.m. ET
    NLDS Game 1: LA Dodgers at Chicago, 6:30 p.m. ET
    ALDS Game 1: Boston at LA Angels, 10 p.m. ET

    Thursday, October 2
    ALDS Game 1: Minnesota/Chicago at Tampa Bay, 2:30 p.m. ET
    NLDS Game 2: Milwaukee at Philadelphia, 6 p.m. ET
    NLDS Game 2: LA Dodgers at Chicago, 9:30 p.m. ET

    Friday, October 3
    ALDS Game 2: Minnesota/Chicago at Tampa Bay, 6 p.m. ET
    ALDS Game 2: Boston at LA Angels, 9:30 p.m. ET

    Saturday, October 4
    NLDS Game 3: Philadelphia at Milwaukee, 6 p.m. ET
    NLDS Game 3: Chicago at LA Dodgers, 10 p.m. ET

    Sunday, October 5
    ALDS Game 3: LA Angels at Boston, TBD
    ALDS Game 3: Tampa Bay at Minnesota/Chicago, TBD
    *NLDS Game 4: Philadelphia at Milwaukee, TBD
    *NLDS Game 4: Chicago at LA Dodgers, TBD

    Monday, October 6
    *ALDS Game 4: LA Angels at Boston, TBD
    *ALDS Game 4: Tampa Bay at Minnesota/Chicago, TBD

    Tuesday, October 7
    *NLDS Game 5: Milwaukee at Philadelphia, TBD
    *NLDS Game 5: LA Dodgers at Chicago, TBD

    Wednesday, October 8
    *ALDS Game 5: Boston at LA Angels, TBD
    *ALDS Game 5: Minnesota/Chicago at Tampa Bay, TBD

    * if necessary

    The National League Championship Series is scheduled to commence on Thursday, October 9. The ALCS will begin on Friday, October 10.

    The World Series starts on Wednesday, October 22. If the series last seven games (and there are no rainouts), the World Champion will be crowned on... Thursday, October 30th!

    You can enjoy Halloween knowing full well that the baseball season is behind us. Kind of frightening, huh?

    * * *

    Following in our tradition of the past several years, we will be reaching out to the baseball blogosphere to assist us in bringing you playoff series previews on Wednesday and Thursday. In addition to these special articles, guest columnist Ross Roley will tell you "Why the Angels Won't Win the World Series (And the Cubs Will Win it All)" on Tuesday.

    Baseball BeatSeptember 29, 2008
    Shea Goodbye
    By Rich Lederer

    New York Mets fans waved goodbye to their stadium and season – and probably the club's bullpen – on Sunday.

    The "celebration" that followed must have been bittersweet for Mets fans. Watching live on TV, I enjoyed the cascade of former players, including many from the 1969 and 1986 World Series championship teams plus all-time New York greats Yogi Berra and Willie Mays, parading around the ballpark in replica jerseys. In a fitting ending, Tom Seaver threw out the *last* pitch to Mike Piazza. Seaver and Piazza walked out to center field – at times, arm and arm – and closed the fence behind them. You didn't have to be a Mets fan to get a little teary-eyed at that moment. has Shea Stadium in pictures, broken down from 1964-1980, 1986-2000, and 2000-2007. The links can be found at the bottom of the sidebar on the right side of this page.

    My one and only photo from Shea Stadium was taken last May when my son Joe and I hooked up with Alex Belth (standing next to me) and Darren Viola (far right) in a game that was postponed due to rain before the first pitch was even thrown.

    While the above visit to Shea Stadium was my most recent, it wasn't my most memorable. Not by a long shot. I wrote about the latter three years ago in Home Runs to Remember.

    Rest in Peace, Shea Stadium and Michael O'Brien.

    Past TimesSeptember 28, 2008
    Yokohama or Omaha in 2009?
    By Al Doyle

    It's that time of year - and I'm not referring to the race for the postseason.

    Conventional baseball wisdom says players on losing teams, journeymen on every roster and AAA call-ups hustle and play hard in September in order to secure next year's contract. Although that line of reasoning makes sense, some players may be hoping for an entirely different kind of deal.

    Japan's Central and Pacific League franchises are allowed to carry four gaijin, or foreign players on their active rosters. Korean and Taiwanese players sometimes get a shot at Japanese baseball, but North Americans and Latin American players with a minimum of some AAA experience (major league credentials are preferred) are the first choice.

    So why would an American or Hispanic player subject himself to one of the world's biggest culture and language barriers instead of staying closer to home? For the AAA veteran or AAAA lifer who lives for brief big league call-ups, it could be their only shot at a big payday.

    A typical first-year Japanese baseball wage of $350,000 to $700,000 plus a free apartment and interpreter may sound like petty cash by current major league standards, but it's a gold mine compared to earning $40,000 to $75,000 in Pawtucket or Memphis. Succeed and stick around a few years, and $2 million to $4 million is definitely within reach.

    At one time, Japanese teams tossed suitcases full of yen at over the hill major eaguers only to see them flop miserably. In many cases, obscure AAA veterans and marginal big leaguers performed much better for lower wages. How did that happen?

    While Japanese players are treated well by normal standards, the constant pampering and luxury found in the Show isn't the norm with the Nippon Ham Fighters or Yakult Swallows. High-maintenance big leaguers may grumble at treatment that a AAA escapee would relish.

    American stars in Japan include a long list of major league benchwarmers, role players and September call-up types. Joe Stanka, Dave Roberts, John Sipin, Charlie Manuel, Randy Bass, Bobby Rose, Boomer Wells, Luis Lopez, Tuffy Rhodes, Alex Cabrera, Alex Ramirez and Greg LaRocca may be all but unknown in the U.S., but they became big names in Japan.

    Which players are high on the list of prospects for a year or two in Nippon? Think in terms of guys who have a ton a AAA experience and limited major league numbers, three-year types who are arbitration eligible for the first time but don't have the stats to warrant a big raise or older big league free agents who may not draw more than an non-guaranteed contract offer on this side of the ocean.

    Most of the demand is for first basemen, third basemen and outfielders with some pop in their bats. Gap power in the U.S. can translate to home runs in Japan, where the fences tend to be shorter. The language barrier closes the door to catchers, and middle infielders are signed when teams believe they can be an important part of the offense. Even though Japanese players are bigger and stronger than they were a generation ago, gaijin are still viewed as a vital source of run production.

    The "grip it and rip it" mentality of American baseball is far different than the one run at a time school of play that is often found in Japan. In some cases, heart of the order hitters are told to lay down sacrifice bunts. Curves and other breaking pitches are a frequent sight, as are submarine-style hurlers.

    As one former American export said, "They play baseball in Japan, but it's a completely different game." Foreign players need to adapt and keep their opinions to themselves, as Japan is a society where conformity and group harmony rules.

    American pitchers are sometimes signed for duty in Japan, but the perpetual shortage of arms in the U.S. means even marginal hurlers can be the undeserving objects of several contract offers that provide a shot at the majors. This report will focus on position players who might appeal to Japan's 12 major league teams.

    So Taguchi is an obvious candidate for Japanese baseball next season. Hitting just .198 (17 for 86) as a backup outfielder for the Phillies, Taguchi left his native land and began his major league career with the Cardinals in 2001.

    A fourth outfielder with the Redbirds, Taguchi was a capable role player in St. Louis. He turns 40 before the start of the 2009 season, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Taguchi finish out his long career in Japan.

    Sticking with the National League, D-backs first baseman and pinch-hitter Tony Clark might get more than a typical offer from Japan based on his 265 career HRs. At 6'7", the 36-year old Clark could have some trouble with Japanese doorways.

    If Greg Norton is ignored by major league organizations, he might be able to prolong his career in Tokyo. The 36-year old journeyman still has some pop in his bat. Cubs 1B/PH Daryle Ward has a decent big league resume, and he is the kind of American player who could put up solid power numbers in Japan.

    Kevin Barker and Rob Macowiak of the Louisville Bats (Reds AAA team) would be wise to take the money if a Japanese team offers a guaranteed one-year deal. If speed is preferred over power, Scott Podsednik of the Rockies might need to take language lessons.

    The Marlins are loaded with potential Japanese signees. At age 38, Jason Wood has spent 13 seasons in AAA and has exactly 200 major league at-bats. John Gall has had three big league cups of coffee, and he is not a hot young prospect. Third basemen Wes Helms and Dallas McPherson are second-tier possibilities.

    Astros utilityman David Newhan has more speed than the average American prospect, and he can play several positions. Dodgers 3B Terry Tiffee tore up the Pacific Coast League with a .378 average in Las Vegas, while OF Jason Repko might find Japan to be his most lucrative option.

    Brewers IF/OF Joe Dillon is a versatile sort with a long AAA record and some major league service time. It took eight seasons in the minors before 1B Brad Nelson got a September call-up. With Prince Fielder ahead of him on the depth chart, Japan might not be the worst choice for Nelson. If the postseason market for his services is weak, Mets OF Marlon Anderson could be a Rakuten Golden Eagle or Orix Buffalo in 2009.

    He doesn't fit the slugging stereotype for the position, but slick-fielding Pirates 1B Doug Mientkiewicz may get noticed by Japanese scouts. The Giants called up 36-year old 1B Scott McClain in September, and he has performed well. With 19 years of minor league and Japanese experience and just 45 big league ABs (6 hits, .133) prior to September, McClain enters the last game of the season hitting .273 (9 for 33) with a pair of homers.

    As a member of the Seibu Lions from 2001 to 2004, McClain was a low-average, all or nothing slugger in the Gorman Thomas mold. Japanese teams are reluctant to give Americans second chances once they have been let go, so that will work against McClain.

    Nationals OF Ryan Langerhans and 3B Pete Orr are spare parts on one of baseball's worst teams. That combination of circumstances could mean a lower-tier 2009 contract in Japan.

    The Pawtucket Red Sox (International League) have a trio of potential Japanese imports. AAA veteran Joe Thurston hit .316 with 19 stolen bases, and he can play second base or the outfield. 1B Jeff Bailey has been in Pawtucket since 2004 and has two brief stretches in Boston to show for it. The 30-year old may not have another shot to go for a paycheck overflowing with yen. 3B Keith Ginter has seen action with the Astros, Brewers and A's.

    The Buffalo Bisons are the top farm club for the Indians, and SS Andy Cannizaro and 2B Tony Graffanino are marginal candidates for Japan. The 36-year old Graffanino bounced back from a serious knee injury to hit .315 in 89 ABs for the Bisons in 2008.

    Japanese teams have been burned more than a few times by all or nothing sluggers such as Rob Deer (.151 with the Yomiuri Giants), which reduces Mike Hessman's chances for a contract. The Tigers 1B/3B has 288 career minor league bombs and a .208 (35 for 168) lifetime major league record with 13 HR, 27 RBI and 56 strikeouts.

    It tooks Twins DH/1B Randy Ruiz a decade to reach the majors, and he hasn't embarrased himself by hitting .274 (17 for 62). Now that he has some major league experience on his record, Japanese teams might be more interested in the burly right-handed hitter. OF Craig Monroe was released earlier in the season, and a job in Japan could keep his career alive.

    After hitting just .159 with the Rangers, OF Ben Broussard found himself with the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees, where he hit .276 with 13 HR and 46 RBI in 239 ABs. 3B Cody Ransom hit 22 HR with 71 RBI in AAA, and he has clubbed 4 HR in just 37 ABs (11 hits, .297) for the Yankees. A mediocre season by Emil Brown means the A's outfielder could have an easier time getting hired in Japan rather than the U.S.

    Could Mariners 1B Bryan LaHair get an offer from a Japanese team in need of a lefty swinger? DH Jose Vidro was released in midseason, and Asia might be the place for him to make a comeback.

    Even with a heroic homer against the Red Sox, September call-up Dan Johnson is going to have a tough time cracking the talented Rays lineup. The first baseman won't be taking Carlos Pena's job. Declining power numbers for Blue Jays OF Kevin Mench could be turned around with shorter Japanese power alleys. Released OF Shannon Stewart might send his resume to the far east.

    With a maximum of 48 available openings (some teams go light on foreigners) and a number of returning players, openings on Japanese rosters are scarce and coveted. For many, it's their first and only opportunity to strike it rich. For others, it's a last chance to stay in baseball while experiencing a unique and fascinating culture.

    Around the MajorsSeptember 26, 2008
    It's a Young Man's World, Part 2
    By Marc Hulet

    The National League teams likely headed for the 2008 playoffs do not feature as many key young players on their rosters as their American League counterparts. That said, there are still a handful of young National League players who could impact the playoffs. Earlier this week, on Wednesday, I took a look at the American League.

    New York Mets

    The New York Mets are a veteran-heavy team thanks to a number of key free agent and trade acquisitions made in the last couple of seasons by general manager Omar Minaya. The young offensive superstars - David Wright and Jose Reyes - currently qualify as "veterans," at least in this instance.

    Mike Pelfrey RHP
    Experience: 1.5 seasons
    Age: 24

    Only Johan Santana has given the Mets more innings or recorded more wins. Mike Pelfrey, whose secondary stuff is still lacking compared to his fastball, will be relied on heavily if the Mets make the playoffs, which is not a sure thing at this point. Of his fellow starters beyond Santana, John Maine has healthy issues, Oliver Perez is continually inconsistent, and Pedro Martinez is... not the Pedro of old. The Mets must be cautious with Pelfrey, though, as his numbers have slipped a bit in September - especially his control (11 walks in 25 innings, and just 10 strikeouts) which could suggest he's a little tired after recording a career high in innings pitched.

    Joe Smith RHP
    Experience: 2 seasons
    Age: 24

    In just his second Major League season, Joe Smith is already an iron man, having appeared in 133 games for the Mets. In 79 games this season, he has thrown just 61.1 innings but wear-and-tear can also come from warming up on multiple occasions before coming in to a game. The Mets will want to watch him carefully, and also avoid the righty-lefty match-ups as left-handed batters are hitting .340/.456/.489 against Smith. He does a nice job of keeping the ball on the ground with a 62.1 GB%.

    Others: Outfielders Nick Evans and Daniel Murphy could see some significant playing time in the outfield, with Murphy currently swinging the hotter stick.

    Chicago Cubs

    The Chicago Cubs, like the Mets, rely heavily on veteran players, with the exception of catcher Geovany Soto, who is very well on his way to winning the National League Rookie of the Year title.

    Jeff Samardzija RHP
    Experience: 0.3 seasons
    Age: 23

    It's hard to know what to expect from Jeff Samardzija. His Major League numbers have been good, but not spectacular enough to guarantee the unproven rookie a spot on the post-season roster. He's limited hitters to a .232 average and has recorded 8.33 K/9. That said, Samardzija has walked five batters per nine innings and has throw just 58 percent of his pitches for strikes. I wouldn't count him out, though, from having an excellent post-season, as the former college football star has a true gamer mentality.

    Geovany Soto C
    Experience: 1.2 season
    Age: 25

    Soto has had a great offensive season for a young backstop but the long year may be catching up to him (pun intended) as his numbers have dipped in September after a monster August. It will be interesting to see if the long season (He's started 130 games behind the dish) takes a toll on the catcher in the playoffs, whose conditioning has been questioned in previous seasons. His power (23 homers, .219 ISO) and run producing ability (86 RBI) will be invaluable for the Cubs this fall.

    Micah Hoffpauir 1B/OF
    Experience: 30 games
    Age: 28

    It has to feel pretty good to finally make the Major Leagues after seven long Minor League seasons at the age of 28. It has to feel even better to have a major impact on a club's late-season playoff hopes and play well enough to earn post-season roster considerations. Micah Hoffpauir has made the most of his chances and is heading into the final weekend of the season hitting .387/.441/.613 with two homers (hit last night) and 13 runs scored in 30 games (62 at-bats). His left-handed bat could be quite valuable coming off the bench for the Cubbies.

    Los Angeles Dodgers

    As our theme continues... the Los Angels Dodgers also have a fairly veteran roster, with few spots open for players with less than two years of Major League experience. However, players like Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin, and James Loney did not miss the cutoff by much.

    Blake DeWitt 3B
    Experience: 1 season
    Age: 23

    Nobody expected Blake DeWitt to play in the Majors in 2008 - at least not for any significant period of time. But due to injuries, he has appeared in 113 games for the Dodgers at both second base and third base, providing solid defence. DeWitt's power is seriously lacking for the hot corner (.116 ISO, .722 OPS) but he is back hitting for average after a terrible June and July. He won't be an impact player in the playoffs, but he'll be solid.

    Clayton Kershaw LHP
    Experience: 0.75
    Age: 20

    Clayton Kershaw has been in the prospect spotlight ever since high school and made it to the Majors in his third pro season. The talent is obvious to everyone who sees him pitch, but there are still a few rough patches, which could get magnified in the playoffs. He has a walk rate of 4.30 BB/9 and has allowed more hits than innings pitched. On the plus side, the Dodgers organization has done a nice job of controlling his innings, which should help keep him fresh and healthy for the playoffs.

    Cory Wade RHP
    Experience: 1 season
    Age: 25

    Who saw this coming? Cory Wade has been brilliant out of the bullpen for the Dodgers after finally settling in the bullpen after years of bouncing around in various roles. His 2.19 ERA looks nice, but the .199 average and 49 hits allowed in 70 innings is even more impressive. He also has a WHIP of 0.90. On the downside, Wade has a strikeout rate of just 6.43 and his BABIP is really low at .222, suggesting some luck has been involved with his numbers.

    Philadelphia Phillies

    Like the Dodgers, the Phillies do not have a lot of inexperienced players on the squad, but they are not an overly old team with young stars such as Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

    Kyle Kendrick RHP
    Experience: 1.75 seasons
    Age: 24

    Kyle Kendrick is definitely not one of the Phillies top starting pitcher options and he could find himself in the bullpen for the playoffs. This season, he has allowed 190 hits in just 151.2 innings. He has also struck out just 3.98 batters per nine innings. Kendrick has also allowed a line drive rate of 27.3 percent. He has been dismal as of late, having posted ERAs of 6.08 in August and 19.89 in September.

    Others: Left-hander J.A. Happ could make the post-season roster due to his ability to throw multiple innings and because he could be thrown up against a difficult left-handed hitter.

    Milwaukee Brewers

    The Brewers' late season fade has been well-documented, but the team still has a chance in the wild card race, and it will rely heavily on the two players listed below.

    Manny Parra LHP
    Experience: 1.2 seasons
    Age: 25

    A former Minor League phenom, Manny Parra has battled back from serious injuries to realize his potential. The 25-year-old lefty allowed a lot of hits (180 in 164 innings) and walks (75, 4.12 BB/9) this season but has shown improvements despite fading late in the season. Parra has also fallen victim to a rather high BABIP at .336. If Parra can learn to limit his walks and improve on his secondary pitches (He has an above-average fastball), he could be a dangerous real weapon.

    Ryan Braun OF
    Experience: 1.8 seasons
    Age: 24

    I'd say this guy is pretty good, wouldn't you? Along with having an outstanding bat, Ryan Braun has also made a successful transition from third base to the outfield. His average has slipped a bit from his breakout rookie season, to no one's surprise, but the rest of his offence has held pretty steady with two straight 30-plus homer seasons (and a .266 ISO in 2008). Braun has also been a major run producer for the club with 104 runs driven in.

    Others: Mark Difelice and Mitch Stetter have both pitched well out of the bullpen for the Brewers, despite possessing average stuff and little hype. Difelice made it to the Majors this season for the first time in his 11th minor league season, and at the age of 31.

    Houston Astros

    Hanging on by a thread, this veteran club has been aided in its late-season push for the playoffs by a couple of young outfielders.

    Hunter Pence OF
    Experience: 1.8 seasons
    Age: 25

    Hunter Pence does a little bit of everything (except perhaps show patience at the plate, with a 6.4 BB%). He has hit 24 homers, driven in 80 runs, stolen 11 bases and plays good defence. If Pence is going to hit for more power, though, he needs to hit some more balls in the air (51.2 GB%). He also has a low line-drive rate at 14.2 percent. If Pence is going to keep the ball on the ground as much as he has, he should improve his base running (10 caught stealing in 21 attempts).

    Michael Bourn OF
    Experience: 2 seasons
    Age: 25

    Michael Bourn is pretty one-dimensional as a player with a great set of wheels. He has hit just .225/.285/.295 in 454 at-bats (His ISO is a paltry 0.70), but with 41 stolen bases in 51 attempts. Bourn could benefit from walking a little more with a 7.5 BB% to help offset the poor batting average.

    OK, so is it time for the playoffs yet?

    Baseball BeatSeptember 25, 2008
    All in the Family
    By Rich Lederer

    Sports columnist Bob Keisser of the Long Beach Press-Telegram called me last week to arrange an interview to discuss the thread between my Dad and Baseball Analysts. We met on Monday afternoon and his article appeared in yesterday's newspaper.

    I took a screen shot of the online edition and embedded it below for your reading pleasure. You might say I wanted to make "Lederer following in dad's footsteps" a Keisser Permanente part of this site.


    * * *

    The baseball blogosphere, including sites such as the Baseball Think Factory and Dodger Thoughts, have been very instrumental in making Baseball Analysts what it is today. My friends Darren Viola (aka Repoz) at BTF and Jon Weisman of DT pointed their readers to yesterday's article by linking to it. Thanks guys! [Update: Hat tip also to Rob McMillin of 6-4-2.]

    Bob Keisser's fellow columnist at the Press-Telegram, Doug Krikorian, wrote a column last Sunday in response to reaching a milestone birthday and mentioned my father when "reflecting on those many people who made a lasting impression on me since I came to Southern California in 1966 who are no longer on the scene."

    I can't believe how many sportswriters I knew around the vicinity who are now gone, people like Bud Furillo, Allan Malamud, Jim Murray, Bob Hunter, Bud Tucker, Jim Mitchell, Bob Tongue, Frank Finch, Bob McGraw, George Lederer, Dan Hafner, Mal Florence, James Melroy, Bill Miller, Don Merry, Hank Hollingworth, Allen Wolfe, Maxwell Stiles and countless others.

    Furillo, along with Melvin Durslag, who just celebrated his 87th birthday and resides in Manhattan Beach, was my journalistic mentor, while Malamud was my closest friend in the business, as we had phone conversations almost every morning till his Sept. 15, 1996 death, which happened to be the same date as the death of my beloved wife Gillian five years later.

    I forever will be grateful to Lederer, who solicitously shepherded me around on a one-week, three-city Dodger road trip to New York, Pittsburgh and Houston in August of 1968, making sure a wide-eyed, young sportswriter making his first major trip outside California wasn't overwhelmed by the circumstances, which he nearly was.

    Although Dad was "only" 6-foot-1, he wore a size 14 shoe. His footsteps, both literally and figuratively, are too big for me to fill. I never set out to compete with him. Instead, I have only tried to uphold his values and work ethic while living the life that I have chosen. I have enjoyed turning his vocation into my avocation and know that he wouldn't want it any other way.

    * * *

    Additional comments and retorts at the Baseball Think Factory.

    Around the MajorsSeptember 24, 2008
    It's a Young Man's World , Part 1
    By Marc Hulet

    The 2008 Major League Baseball playoffs are just around the corner and most of this year's participants are now known, with just a couple playoff races still to be decided. What we also know, is that rookies and other young players will be playing key roles on each and every team that appears in the 2008 playoffs.

    Tampa Bay Rays

    During the 2008 playoffs, the Tampa Bay Rays will go as far as the club's young pitching will take it. The club could feature as many as eight young pitchers on the staff with less than two years of Major League experience. Starter Matt Garza, obtained from the Minnesota Twins last winter for outfielder Delmon Young, will help anchor the starting staff, along with "veterans" James Shields and Scott Kazmir. Evan Longoria, also in the hunt for the Rookie of the Year title, will be making his first playoff appearance in his Major League debut season.

    Matt Garza RHP
    Experience: 2 seasons
    Age: 24

    After spending parts of two seasons with the Minnesota Twins, Garza finally established himself in the Major Leagues. He has worked 179.1 innings this season and has allowed 166 hits and 57 walks. Garza has also fanned 125 batters and done a reasonably good job of keeping the ball in the park with a rate of 0.90 HR/9. Garza has been helped by a low BABIP of .279.

    David Price LHP
    Experience: 3 games
    Age: 23

    David Price could be this year's Francisco Rodriguez (who had a major impact on the 2002 playoffs despite not making his MLB debut until mid-September of that year). After beginning the year in A-ball and zooming through the minors, Price has looked like he belongs in the Major Leagues. In three appearances, he has allowed eight hits and three walks in 11.1 innings of work, including Monday's start against Baltimore when he allowed one earned run in 5.1 innings of work. Of the balls put in play against Price, 58.8 percent have been on the ground.

    Andy Sonnanstine RHP
    Experience: 1.8 seasons
    Age: 25

    Andy Sonnanstine may not have the pure stuff to rival Kazmir, Garza or Price, but he gets by on pure guile and command. He is also tied for the team lead in wins. In 187.2 innings this season, Sonnanstine has allowed 207 hits, but just 34 walks. He has the potential to provide some valuable innings for the club, as more than one historical playoff series has been decided on a long extra inning game.

    Evan Longoria 3B
    Experience: 1 season
    Age: 22

    Longoria began the year in the minor leagues and will end it in the Major League playoffs. The rookie currently has a line of .276/.345/.534 with 25 homers and 82 RBI in 115 games. The right-handed batter has struggled to hit for average against southpaws this season with a line of .243/.328/.532. His lack of patience (9.5 BB%) may be exploited in the playoffs, especially considering the amount of nervous energy that will be flowing.

    Others: Jason Hammel, 26, J.P. Howell, 25, could also play valuable roles out of the bullpen for the Rays, with Hammel coming at hitters from the right side, and Howell coming in from the left.

    Boston Red Sox

    Boston is traditionally known as a veteran club, but the organization has received some outstanding performances from young players this year, and there is no reason to suspect that those contributions will end with the regular season.

    Jon Lester LHP
    Experience: 2 seasons
    Age: 24

    Jon Lester has returned from a battle with cancer to solidify himself as a reliable Major League starter. The lefty has won 15 games in the regular season and allowed 200 hits and 65 walks in 204.1 innings of work. He has also struck out 148 batters. Lester has done a nice job of limiting walks (2.86 BB/9) and keeping the ball in the park (0.62 HR/9). His playoff experience in 2007 (1.93 ERA with six hits allowed in 9.1 innings) should benefit him in 2008.

    Dustin Pedroia 2B
    Experience: 2 seasons
    Age: 25

    Dustin Pedroia has been good enough to earn MVP talk thanks to a ridiculous offensive season that has seen him record more than 200 hits, as well as 52 doubles and 17 homers. The well-rounded hitter has also walked 50 times, equaling his strikeout total. He has also stolen 19 bases. Pedroia, who played in the 2007 playoffs, struggled in the Division Series with a .154 batting average but picks things up with a .345 average in the League Championship Series and a .278 average in the World Series (as well as four RBI and a homer in four games).

    Jacoby Ellsbury OF
    Experience: 1.3 seasons
    Age: 25

    Jacoby Ellsbury has had a bit of an inconsistent season with a slow June and July, but the speedy outfielder has hit .315/.351/.466 in September. His overall season numbers are OK at .274/.332/.381 in 533 at-bats. Ellsbury has also contributed solid defence, as well as 49 stolen bases - and speed can be a valuable tool in the playoffs. The left-handed batter has held his own against southpaws with a .281 average. Ellsbury makes up for his lack of power (.107 ISO) by keeping the ball on the ground (51.5 GB%).

    Others: Jed Lowrie, 24, will offer flexibility at a number of positions for the Red Sox and has looked better at shortstop than many scouts thought he would. Justin Masterson will provide options of Boston has he can start in a pinch or pitch multiple innings out of the pen. The sinker ball specialist could also be called on in a key situation where a fly ball could mean certain doom.

    Chicago White Sox

    The White Sox club will need key contributions from two young starters if it hopes to make it out of the Divisional Series. The club's home run leader, Carlos Quentin, is currently on the disabled list and no one is certain exactly when he'll be able to play again.

    Gavin Floyd RHP
    Experience: 2 seasons
    Age: 25

    Gavin Floyd, a highly-regarded prospect who was drafted out of high school by the Phillies, finally had everything click in 2008. He has pitched in 194.2 innings this seasons, more than his previous four part MLB seasons combined. Chicago must hope that Floyd has something left in the tank after pitching more innings than he ever has before. A couple warning signs for Floyd include a high home runs ratio (1.39 HR/9) and a low BABIP at .257. As well, after posting ERAs in the 3.00s in the first four months, Floyd has posted ERAs of 4.29 in August and 5.20 in September.

    John Danks LHP
    Experience: 1.8 seasons
    Age: 23

    The young lefty, like Floyd, has had a breakout season. John Danks, who was obtained two years ago from pitching-starved Texas, has pitched better against right-handed batters, than left-handers (.240/.370/.296 versus .272/.372/.328). Danks has done a nice job keeping the ball in the park with a HR/9 of 0.64. His innings total is also lower than Floyd's, which could help explain his late-season surge (2.42 ERA in September).

    Carlos Quentin OF
    Experience: 2 seasons
    Age: 26

    It is safe to say Quentin has been a key cog in the White Sox offence this season after he slugged 36 homers, drove in 100 runs and posted a line of .288/.394/.571 in 130 games. Quentin went down with a broken wrist in early September but there is hope that he will be able to return for some or all of the playoffs.

    Los Angeles Angels

    The Angels had a playoff spot wrapped up in the American League before any other club, and the club did it by relying on a solid mix of veterans and young players.

    Joe Saunders LHP
    Experience: 2
    Age: 27

    Joe Saunders is tied for the club lead with 16 wins in just his first full season. Saunders won't overpower anyone (He has just 94 strikeouts in 192 innings, 4.41 K/9) but he knows how to mix his pitches to keep batters off balance and he takes advantage of the defence behind him. After a bumpy August, where he posted an ERA of 6.93, Saunders has turned things around just in time for the post-season, which will be his first.

    Jose Arredondo RHP
    Experience: 1 seasons
    Age: 24

    Jose Arredondo has done a nice job of helping to solidify the Angels bullpen this season, even if all the press goes to Francisco Rodriguez. The 1.54 ERA and nine wins are impressive, but he has also done a nice job of limiting home runs (0.31 HR/9 and a ground ball rate of 51.9%). Arredondo has held batters to a .196 average, thanks in part to a low BABIP at .254. Left-handed batters have a particularly tough time against the right-hander and are hitting just .155 against him.

    Erick Aybar SS
    Experience: 2 seasons
    Age: 24

    Erick Aybar has done a nice job at shortstop for the Angels. He is not flashy with the bat, but his approach is solid and he has batted .276/.314/.382 with three homers and six stolen bases in 330 at-bats. The switch-hitter is equally effective against both right-handed and left-handed pitchers. He may be a little tired right now with both his average and slugging percentage taking a hit in August and September. Aybar could stand to be more patient at the plate as he has walked just 14 times (4.1%) this season.

    Others: Both Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez have a chance of seeing playing time during the playoffs. Neither player has performed overly well with the bat, but both have been highly-thought-of prospects and the potential is there for one or both of them to get on a hot streak.

    Minnesota Twins

    Currently outside looking in, the Minnesota Twins face a bit of an uphill battle to secure a playoff berth, but the club has the talent to do just that. And the young players will be counted on heavily should the club secure a spot in the fall series.

    Nick Blackburn RHP
    Experience: 1
    Age: 26

    With just 11.2 innings of MLB experience under his belt prior to 2008, Nick Blackburn has led the young starting pitching staff with 182 innings. He hasn't overpowered anyone with 212 hits allowed and just 91 strikeouts (4.50 K/9), but Blackburn has been steady up until September. This month, Blackburn has looked tired and has allowed 26 hits in 19 innings of work, with a 7.58 ERA.

    Francisco Liriano LHP
    Experience: 1.8 seasons
    Age: 24

    The promising southpaw is finally looking like the Francisco Liriano of old, post Tommy John surgery. After a horrible beginning to the year (11.32 ERA and three losses in three starts), Liriano has returned from a stint in the minors to post a 1.23 ERA with four wins in August and a 3.28 ERA with two wins in September to help lead the Twins' late-season charge for a post-season berth.

    Carlos Gomez OF
    Experience: 1.4 seasons
    Age: 22

    Part of the reward from the Mets for star pitcher Johan Santana, Carlos Gomez has had a solid first full season in the Majors. His overall approach at the plate needs work (4.3 BB%, 24.5 K%), but he brings an energy to the club that can be absolutely magical in the playoffs. Gomez will keep pitchers on the edge of the rubber after stealing 32 bases in the regular season.

    Others: Control artist Kevin Slowey, and left-hander Glen Perkins could also play big roles in the playoffs for the Twins. Perkins has experience in the bullpen and he could head back there if needed, despite making 25 starts this season. Alexi Casilla should see significant time at second base.

    Up Next on Friday: The NL's young playoff hopefuls

    Change-UpSeptember 23, 2008
    Bob Ryan Prefers His Own Definition of "Great"
    By Patrick Sullivan

    This is Bob Ryan in his column from this morning's edition of The Boston Globe.

    The Red Sox never have been great this year. That just wasn't possible.

    I will present the following without comment and leave it to you to decide whether or not you agree with Ryan.

                         Figure   AL Rank
    OPS+                  109       2 
    OPS Allowed          .711      t3 
    ERA+                  115       3   
    Run Differential      158       1

    On the topic of "greatness", one debate that might be more interesting is whether a guy with an 18-2 record is or is not great because of that record alone. Have a look below at Daisuke Matsuzaka's numbers from 2007 and 2008 (h/t THT).

                 2007     2008
    W-L         15-12     18-2
    ERA          4.40     2.80
    K/G          8.90     8.20
    BB/G         3.50     5.10
    WHIP         1.32     1.32
    HR/G         1.11     0.61 
    LOB%         73.9     80.9
    RISP*        .694     .556 
    DER          .701     .743
    * OPS Allowed
    Reasonable minds can disagree over whether or not Matsuzaka's improved traditional numbers are the result of increased focus or legitimate improvement. Perhaps he has reached a new level of performance. I am unconvinced. The bold numbers above tell the story. He is allowing fewer home runs, stranding more runners and getting better defense behind him.

    Home runs allowed is arguably a repeatable skill and he has improved drastically in that department. At the same time, his strikeout numbers are down and walk numbers up. It has been nice that the Red Sox have managed to win as often as they have with Dice-K, but those who think the Sox have a trio of aces heading into the playoffs might want to reconsider such classification for Matsuzaka.

    Change-UpSeptember 23, 2008
    Generations of Hope
    By Patrick Sullivan

    This past weekend my wife and I were fortunate enough to have my father-in-law in town. While Johanna and her father Erich both grew up in Southern California, Erich's father George was born in Chicago and became a die-hard Cubs fan early on in life. To this day, Erich and his four siblings all continue to root for the Cubs. Johanna, her older sister Caitlin and their nine first cousins on their father's side - George's grandchildren - all bleed Cubbie blue. Here is a story that Erich likes to tell about his father.

    My dad was eleven in 1935, living in Chicago. It was the depression and his father was out of work, but he had been a mechanic and manager of trucking for Standard Oil of Indiana before he got laid off. The Cubs were in the World Series that year. There was a Standard gas station across the street from Wrigley and my grandfather knew the proprietor from his work at Standard. For Game 3, the first at Wrigley, my grandfather took my dad to the station where they sat and watched the fans who could afford it go into Wrigley for the game.

    After the Cubs finished off the rival Cardinals Saturday afternoon to clinch their second consecutive NL Central crown, Caitlin called Johanna from San Diego as the Cubs celebrated their post-season clinching victory on the field at Wrigley. She just assumed we were watching. To Erich's chagrin, Fox was carrying the Rays/Twins game but we were all over the score and well aware of the good news. George called his oldest child, Erich, to share in the moment. Caitlin and Johanna chatted about Chicago's post-season chances. Johanna then called her grandfather to celebrate the NL Central champs. He marveled that all of his descendants, each thousands of miles from the North Side (he lives in Long Beach now), had called him to share in his joy. That evening, before we went to dinner in Boston's South End, Johanna, her father Erich and I toasted the Cubs at City Bar in the Lenox Hotel.

    The Wises of Long Beach are a family of Chicago Cubs fans.


    Sometimes with a team as popular, marketable and seemingly omnipresent as the Cubs, minor successes can become overblown. As this phenomenon relates to the 2008 edition of the Cubs, it seems to have diminished their stature. Story after story about those lovable Cubs fans, the effusiveness emanating from Wrigley, and for one magical night from Miller Park, has overshadowed just how damn good this team is that Chicago has fielded this season.

    They have scored more runs than any National League team. Only the Dodgers, in their spacious confines, have allowed fewer runs. No Cubs regular sports an on-base percentage south of .350. Their 110 OPS+ is their highest total of any Cubs team in 71 seasons. The 118 ERA+ Cubs pitchers boast is second only to the Dodgers. Their 188 run-differential is best in the National League by 72 runs.

    There will be time to dissect the Cubs further when we evaluate their chances vis-a-vis their opposition next week for the NLDS but for now, let us acknowledge a regular season of historic significance for one of Major League Baseball's most beloved franchises. The post-season promises unpredictable twists and turns but there can be no mistaking that this is the best October team Chicago will field in generations. 73 years later, George Wise may be headed back to Wrigley for the Fall Classic.

    September 23, 2008
    New Feature: Link of the Day
    By Rich Lederer

    In our ongoing efforts to improve our site and make it as relevant to our readers as humanly possible, we have added a new feature entitled "Link of the Day" to the top of our sidebar on the left.

    Today's link of the day is Maury Brown's interview with Tracy Ringolsby of the Rocky Mountain News. You can access it at Maury's Biz of Baseball.

    Our intention is to update this feature in the sidebar on a daily basis. Be sure to check back regularly for fresh content.

    Baseball BeatSeptember 22, 2008
    Chicken Soup for the Baseball Soul
    By Rich Lederer

    My longtime friend, Bill Husak, the Athletics Director at Loyola Marymount University, sent me the following email yesterday evening: "This will do your heart good." Dr. Husak included this link after his short message. The link is a video clip that can also be enjoyed at YouTube.

    The following paragraph on the site of the Lexington Herald-Leader adds color to the video:

    Adam Bender, 8, is one of several kids who plays catcher in Southeastern’s rookie league at Veterans Park. What makes Adam stand out is that he plays one of the toughest positions on the field with only one leg. Because of cancer, he had his left leg amputated when he was one. Adam doesn’t use a prosthesis, and only uses crutches when he reaches base for the Astros.

    In addition to the video, be sure to check out Adam Bender at the Reds, a slideshow consisting of 26 photos coupled with an audio from the boy's parents, Michelle and Chris Bender.

    Since the story of 8-year old cancer survivor Adam Bender was published in the Lexington Herald-Leader, and on, on June 1, 2008, the one-legged catcher has been invited to throw out first pitches at a Chicago White Sox game, a Cincinnati Reds game, a Houston Astros game, and has been invited to a Garth Brooks benefit in Las Vegas. He is also being profiled for a story that will air on ESPN. On Sunday June 6, 2008, Adam threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Adam Dunn of the Reds. Because of cancer, Adam Bender had his left leg amputated when he was one but that hasn’t stopped him from playing baseball for the Astros in the Southeastern Rookie League at Veterans Park.

    I'm not the first one to report this story but thought it was inspirational enough to bring it to the attention of readers who, like me, missed out when it was first shared last spring.

    Adam Bender makes the big leagues and the Kid can do it all on one leg are worthwhile reads as well.

    You don't have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this heartwarming story. But it doesn't hurt either. Just ask Adam.

    Baseball BeatSeptember 21, 2008
    The End is Near
    By Rich Lederer

    And now, the end is near,
    And so I face the final curtain.
    My friends, I'll say it clear;
    I'll state my case of which I'm certain.

    I've lived a life that's full -
    I've travelled each and every highway.
    And more, much more than this,
    I did it my way.

    If ballparks could talk, I have no doubt that Yankee Stadium would be singing the above lyrics today. The words from My Way seem even more appropriate than those from New York, New York even though the sounds from the latter are sure to be blaring over the loudspeakers tonight.

    The end is indeed near. After 85 years, Yankee Stadium hosts its final game tonight when the Bronx Bombers face the Baltimore Orioles on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball (8 p.m. ET). has a photo gallery of 28 special memories, including a view of the stadium from the outside, the famous shot of Lou Gehrig pausing and wiping a tear from his eye during his farewell speech, Brooklyn Dodgers left fielder Sandy Amoros making that one-handed grab down the left field line in the 1955 World Series, Jackie Robinson's steal of home in that same World Series, Yogi Berra leaping into Don Larsen's arms after the latter's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Roger Maris' 61st home run, Reggie Jackson's three-HR game in the 1977 World Series, George Brett going ballistic in the Pine Tar Game in 1983, Jeffrey Maier's catch in 1996, David Wells' and David Cone's perfect games, Aaron Boone's walk-off home run in the 11th inning of Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS, Derek Jeter's catch in 2004, Alex Rodriguez's 500th home run in 2007, Josh Hamilton during the Home Run Derby prior to the 2008 All-Star Game, and many, many more non-baseball shots.

    Knowing this was the last opportunity to witness a game at Yankee Stadium, my son Joe and I traveled to New York in May for what was the Baseball Trip of a Lifetime. We went to Yankee Stadium, as well as Fenway Park, Shea Stadium, and the Hall of Fame. We stood next to Cliff Lee on the subway all the way from Central Station to Yankee Stadium, got there early and hung out with the fans, toured Monument Park, took plenty of photos, and watched Lee toss seven shutout innings as the Cleveland Indians beat the not-so Bronx Bombers 3-0.

    079018867final.jpg DSCN0234.jpg
    Roger Maris and Joe standing next to the Babe. Only in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.

    Farewell Yankee Stadium and the memories it provided all of us. You did it your way.

    * * *

    What was your greatest memory of Yankee Stadium?

    Saber TalkSeptember 19, 2008
    A Glance at the MVP Candidates
    By Myron Logan

    Last week we took a look at how we should go about picking the Most Valuable Player in each league. Now, let's take a look at some of the leaders in a few different stats. You may remember that we broke down the selection process into a few different categories; context-neutral stats, context-dependent stats, and contribution to real wins. The third category is largely unexplored, at least in terms of stats we could use, so we'll concentrate on the first two.

    Context-Neutral Leaderboard

    There are plenty of places you can go to find context-neutral stats. They are probably the most popular of the three categories mentioned above. To keep things simple, we'll go with Justin's Total Value Estimates. The great thing about this stat is that it includes virtually everything you'd want to include, like hitting (based on linear weights) and fielding (based on zone rating and revised zone rating). Also, there are adjustments for park, league, position, and players are measured against replacement level. Here are the top 10 players in the American and National League:

    American League

    Sizemore   Cle  76.6
    Rodriguez  NY   63.0
    Pedroia    Bos  53.5
    Granderson Det  53.3
    Roberts    Bal  50.2
    Mauer      Min  49.9
    Hamilton   Tex  49.2
    Beltre     Sea  49.0
    Youkilis   Bos  44.6
    Markakis   Bal  44.0

    National League

    Pujols   Stl  87.3
    Berkman  Hou  75.5
    Jones    Atl  67.4
    Utley    Phi  66.8
    Ramirez  Fla  65.2
    Beltran  NY   56.8
    Holliday Col  56.6
    Wright   NY   53.7
    Giles    SD   52.4
    Braun    Mil  48.4

    (numbers through September 5th)

    As you can see there, Sizemore and Pujols are the clear leaders. There's a similar drop to second place in both leagues and then some bunching up after that.

    Context-Dependent Leaderboard

    Conveniently, Sky Kalkman's taken Win Probability Added and incorporated fielding, position, and replacement level to create a stat similar to Justin's. Here's the NL leaderboard, this time in wins above replacement rather than runs:

    National League

    Berkman  Hou  8.6
    Pujols   Stl  7.9
    Beltran  NY   7.1
    Ramirez  Fla  6.8
    Holliday Col  6.7
    Wright   NY   5.7
    Burrell  Phi  5.2
    Lee      Hou  5.0
    Utley    Phi  4.8

    So, what's happened in the NL as we've switched from straight linear weight to WPA? Well, Lance Berkman has jumped over Albert Pujols to take the top spot. He's been particularly clutch (1.78 clutchiness points), while Pujols has merely been average in the clutch. Chase Utley's dropped from third to tenth thanks to his struggles in clutch situations, as measured again by Fan Graphs' clutchiness (-2.13, last in the NL). Remember, this doesn't mean he isn't clutch; in fact, in his career, he's actually been above average in clutchiness. It just means that if you believe context (i.e., performance with men on base, in late game situations, etc) should be considered in the MVP voting, Chase Utley probably isn't your guy.

    Sky hasn't run the calculations yet in the AL, so here's the poor-man's version (just plain old WPA, without the positional adjustments, fielding, and so on):

    Mauer    Min  4.16
    Morneau  Min  4.14
    Quentin  Chi  3.89
    Hamilton Tex  3.63
    Pena     TB   3.55
    Cabrera  Det  3.53
    Sizemore Cle  3.38
    Pedroia  Bos  3.23
    Huff     Bal  2.64
    Ibanez   Sea  2.55

    Remember, the names aren't that important yet. Heck, we've still got a few crucial weeks left in the season. For now, what's more important is that we understand what everybody is talking about when all of the MVP articles role around. A columnist talking about clutchness in Minnesota ... he's in the context-considered camp. A blogger ridiculing the aforementioned columnist's clutch argument ... he's probably in the context-neutral camp.

    Change-UpSeptember 18, 2008
    Getting it Done, the Pitchers
    By Patrick Sullivan

    And now for those pitchers keeping their teams' hopes alive during the stretch run...

    Pos  Name       Team   IP    H   BB  SO   ERA
    SP   Oswalt     HOU   75.1  49   15  59  1.79
    SP   Sabathia   MIL   69.1  62   11  73  1.82
    SP   Myers      PHI   68.0  56   11  65  1.72
    SP   E Santana  LAA   64.0  58    9  65  2.81
    SP   J Santana  NYM   62.2  52   17  54  2.15
    CL   Valverde   HOU   19.2   9    3  25  0.46   
    RH   Balfour    TBR   24.2  16   10  32  1.82
    LH   Thornton   CHW   19.2  13    7  26  2.75

    Some interesting names on that list for sure.

    Change-UpSeptember 18, 2008
    Getting it Done, Offense Edition
    By Patrick Sullivan

    What follows is my Getting it Done All-Stars; those players playing for contenders doing everything that they can to push their clubs into the post-season. There are many doing their part, but I decided to break it down by position. I will follow up with Pitchers a bit later on. The numbers posted are how these players have performed since August 1st.

    Pos   Name       Team   AVG   OBP   SLG
    C     Soto       CHC   .309  .390  .512
    1B    Pujols     STL   .355  .449  .697
    2B    Pedroia    BOS   .358  .422  .608
    3B    Wigginton  HOU   .331  .361  .710
    SS    Drew       ARI   .320  .348  .550
    OF    Ramirez    LAD   .400  .485  .738
    OF    Ethier     LAD   .366  .431  .697
    OF    Murphy     NYM   .362  .445  .543
    DH    Ortiz      BOS   .263  .388  .506

    I love Manny Ramirez, did not even really begrudge him on the way out and yet I truly cannot believe how ridiculously he has performed in Los Angeles. I did not know he was good enough to put together the stretch he has.

    Around the MinorsSeptember 17, 2008
    Rating the Prospects: The NL East
    By Marc Hulet

    Prospect rating season is upon us with the Minor League Baseball regular season now over. With your help, I have been narrowing down some of the better prospects in each team's system with the final goal of identifying the Top 15 prospects in each organization's stable. Feel free to continue to recommend players that I have overlooked or simply missed. The final division - the NL East - is being reviewed today.

    In the upcoming weeks, this column will be devoted to ranking those prospects that people helped choose in the comments section of the articles, as well as via e-mail. Things to consider when choosing the prospects are 1) tools, 2) statistics, 3) history, and 4) level of competition/age. The players also must still be rookie eligible, which means pitchers cannot have exceed 50 big league innings and hitters cannot have exceeded 130 at-bats at the MLB level.

    Feel free to also comment on who you think is the best prospect in the division, as well as which team has the best minor league system. The players listed below are in no particular order and these are just working/brainstorming lists.

    NL East

    New York Mets
    The Pitchers: Brad Holt (Short season, right-hander), Eddie Kunz (Triple-A, right-hander), Michael Antonini (Double-A, left-hander), Dillon Gee (Double-A, right-hander), Dylan Owen (Double-A, right-hander), Tobi Stoner Double-A, right-hander), Maikel Cleto (A-ball, right-hander), Scott Moviel (A-ball, right-hander), Jonathan Niese (Majors, left-hander), Bobby Parnell (Majors, right-hander), Jose Sanchez (Double-A, right-hander), Chris Schwinden (Short season, right-hander), Scott Shaw (Short season, right-hander), John Holdzkom (Rookie, right-hander), Kyle Allen (Rookie, right-hander), Nathan Vineyard (A-ball, left-hander), Brant Rustich (A-ball, right-hander)

    The Hitters: Reese Havens (Short season, IF/OF/C), Ike Davis (2008 first round pick, 1B/OF), Mike Carp (Double-A, first baseman), Jose Coronado (Double-A, infielder), Emmanuel Garcia (Double-A, infielder), Fernando Martinez (Double-A, outfielder), Josh Thole (High-A, catcher), Ruben Tejeda (High-A, shortstop), Greg Veloz (High-A, second baseman), Francisco Pena (A-ball, catcher), Daniel Murphy (Majors, outfielder), Nick Evans (Majors, outfielder), Lucas Duda (High-A, first baseman), Wilmer Flores (Short season, shortstop), Stefan Welch (Rookie, third baseman), Jefry Marte (Rookie, third baseman), Cesar Puello (Rookie, outfielder), Juan Lagares (Short season, shortstop)

    Comments: OK, so who did I overlook? The Mets have traded away a number of intriguing prospects in the chase for a World Series title, but the organization does an excellent job of mining for talent, especially on the international front. However, much of the front-line talent is at least three or four years away from making an impact.

    Atlanta Braves
    The Pitchers: James Parr (Majors, right-hander), Brett DeVall (2008 first round pick, left-hander), Tyler Stovall (Rookie, left-hander), Zeke Spruill (Rookie, right-hander), Tommy Hanson (Double-A, right-hander), Stephen Marek (Double-A, right-hander), Kris Medlen (Double-A, right-hander), Todd Redmond (Double-A, right-hander), Ryne Reynoso (High-A, right-hander), Scott Diamond (High-A, left-hander), Cole Rohrbough (High-A, left-hander), Jeff Locke (A-ball, left-hander), Edgar Osuna (A-ball, left-hander), Chad Rodgers (A-ball, right-hander), Erik Cordier (A-ball, right-hander), Cody Gearrin (High-A, right-hander), Steve Evarts (A-ball, left-hander), Randall Delgado (Short season, right-hander), David Francis (Short season, right-hander), Julio Teheran (Rookie, right-hander)

    The Hitters: Clint Sammons, (Majors, catcher), Brent Lillibridge (Majors, shortstop), Brandon Jones (Majors, outfielder), Jordan Schafer (Double-A, outfielder), Kala Ka'aihue (Double-A, first baseman), Tyler Flowers (High-A, catcher), Brandon Hicks (High-A, shortstop), Gorkys Hernandez (High-A, outfielder), Jon Owings (High-A, outfielder), Jason Heyward (High-A, outfielder), Concepcion Rodriguez (High-A, outfielder), Ernesto Mejia (High-A, first baseman), Eric Campbell (High-A, third baseman), Frederick Freeman (A-ball, first baseman), Cody Johnson (A-ball, outfielder), Jon Gilmore (Short season, third baseman), Robert Brooks (Rookie, infielder)

    Comments: OK, so who did I overlook? The Braves continue to be the Braves, and stockpile young, raw talent from high schools and Latin America. Like the Mets, though, much of the talent is at A-ball or below, which could suggest a few more rough years for the big league club.

    Florida Marlins
    The Pitchers: Dallas Trahern (Triple-A, right-hander), Rick VandenHurk (Triple-A, right-hander), Ryan Tucker (Majors, right-hander), Brett Sinkbeil (Double-A, right-hander), Aaron Thompson (Double-A, left-hander), Jeff Allison (High-A, right-hander), Sean West (High-A, left-hander), Jesus Delgado (Double-A, right-hander), Hector Correa (A-ball, right-hander), Brad Hand (Rookie, left-hander), Christopher Leroux (High-A, right-hander)

    The Hitters: Cameron Maybin (Double-A, outfielder), Kyle Skipworth (2008 first round pick, catcher), Jai Miller (Triple-A, outfielder), Gaby Sanchez (Triple-A, first baseman), Chris Coghlan (Double-A, second baseman), Scott Cousins (Double-A, outfielder), Logan Morrison (High-A, first baseman), Matt Dominguez (A-ball, third baseman), Michael Stanton (A-ball, outfielder), John Raynor (Double-A, outfielder), Bryan Peterson (Double-A, outfielder), Osvaldo Martinez (A-ball, infielder), Miguel Fermin (Short season, catcher), Isaac Galloway (Rookie, outfielder), Ernesto Manzanillo (Rookie, third baseman)

    Comments: OK, so who did I overlook? The Marlins have some interesting pitchers approaching the Majors, but the overall depth is not impressive. The hitting depth is not deep either with a lot of young, toolsy players having fizzled out in recent seasons. That said, Logan Morrison, Michael Stanton and Matt Dominguez offer huge upsides, but Stanton and Dominguez are probably three years away from helping Florida.

    Philadelphia Phillies
    The Pitchers: Colby Shreve (None, right-hander), Jason Knapp (Rookie, right-hander), Antonio Bastardo (Double-A, left-hander), Edgar Garcia (Double-A, right-hander), Carlos Carrasco (High-A, right-hander), Darren Byrd (High-A, right-hander), Joe Savery (High-A, left-hander), Carlos Monasterios (High-A, right-hander), Drew Naylor (High-A, right-hander), Andrew Carpenter (Double-A, right-hander), Vance Worley (A-ball, right-hander), Kyle Drabek (Short season, right-hander), J.A. Happ (Triple-A, left-hander), Heitor Correa (Injured, right-hander)

    The Hitters: Anthony Hewitt (2008 first round pick, shortstop), Zach Collier (Rookie, outfielder), Anthony Gose (Rookie, outfielder), Sebastian Valle (Rookie, catcher), Jason Donald (Double-A, shortstop), Quintin Berry (High-A, outfielder), Michael Taylor (High-A, outfielder), Travis D'Arnaud (A-ball, catcher), Travis Mattair (A-ball, third baseman), Michael Durant (A-ball, first baseman), Dominic Brown (A-ball, outfielder), Joel Naughton (A-ball, catcher), Freddy Galvis (A-ball, shortstop), Cody Overbeck (Short season, third baseman)

    Comments: OK, so who did I overlook? The Phillies organization does not have the depth that some clubs have, but it has some very high-ceiling players (who are extremely raw), including many of the players in Rookie ball and A-ball. From the hitting side of things, the cupboards are almost bare above A-ball.

    Washington Nationals
    The Pitchers: Jack McGeary (Rookie, left-hander), Adrian Alaniz (Double-A, right-hander), Cory VanAllen (Double-A, left-hander), Jordan Zimmermann (Double-A, right-hander), Luis Atilano (High-A, right-hander), Colton Willems (A-ball, right-hander), Ross Detwiler (High-A, left-hander), Shairon Martis (Triple-A, right-hander), Marco Estrada (Triple-A, right-hander), Craig Stammen (Triple-A, right-hander), Brad Peacock (Short season, right-hander), P.J. Dean (Short season, right-hander), Jack McGeary (Short season, left-hander), Josh Smoker (Rookie, left-hander)

    The Hitters: Destin Hood (Rookie, outfielder), Adrien Nieto (Rookie, catcher), Esmailyn Gonzalez (Rookie, shortstop), Leonard Davis (Triple-A, outfielder), Ian Desmond (Double-A, shortstop), Edgardo Baez (Double-A, outfielder), Marvin Lowrance (Double-A, outfielder), Stephen King (High-A, third baseman), Christopher Marrero (High-A, first baseman), Michael Burgess(A-ball, outfielder), Luke Montz (Triple-A, catcher), Sean Rooney (A-ball, catcher), Jake Smolinski (A-ball, infielder), Derek Norris (Short season, catcher)

    Comments: OK, so who did I overlook? The Nationals system is still not overflowing with prospects but it has come a long way since the days of being run by Major League Baseball and having a strict development budget. There are some interesting pitchers in the low minors and some toolsy hitters sprinkled throughout the system. Failing to sign first round pick Aaron Crow in 2008 really hurts the system.

    Around the MinorsSeptember 16, 2008
    Rating the Prospects: The AL West
    By Marc Hulet

    Prospect rating season is upon us with the Minor League Baseball regular season now over. With your help, I am going to narrow down some of the better prospects in each team's system with the final goal of identifying the Top 15 prospects in each organization's stable. Feel free to recommend players I have overlooked or simply missed. There are two divisions remaining: the AL West (which I'll look at today), the NL East, which I'll wrap up tomorrow.

    After that, the following weeks will be devoted to ranking those prospects that people helped choose in the comments section of the articles. Things to consider when choosing the prospects are 1) tools, 2) statistics, 3) history, and 4) level of competition/age. The players also must still be rookie eligible, which means pitchers cannot have exceed 50 big league innings and hitters cannot have exceeded 130 at-bats at the MLB level.

    Feel free to also comment on who you think is the best prospect in the division, as well as which team has the best minor league system. The players listed below are in no particular order and these are just working/brainstorming lists.

    AL West

    Texas Rangers
    The Pitchers: Eric Hurley (Triple-A, right-hander), Warner Madrigal (Majors, right-hander), Zach Phillips (High-A, left-hander), Neftali Feliz (Double-A, right-hander), Michael Main (A-ball, right-hander), Neil Ramirez (Short season, right-hander), Fabio Castillo (A-ball, right-hander), Tommy Hunter (Triple-A, right-hander), Wilmer Font (Rookie, right-hander), Kasey Kiker (High-A, left-hander), Blake Beavan (A-ball, right-hander), Omar Poveda (High-A, right-hander), Robbie Ross (Rookie, left-hander), Derek Holland (Double-A, left-hander), Beau Jones (Double-A, left-hander), Michael Schlact (Double-A, right-hander), Evan Reed (High-A, right-hander), Jared Hyatt (Double-A, right-hander), Kennil Gomez (A-ball, right-hander), Tim Murphy (A-ball, left-hander), Wilfredo Boscan (Short season, right-hander), Joseph Wieland (Rookie, right-hander)

    The Hitters: Elvis Andrus (Double-A, shortstop), Taylor Teagarden (Majors, catcher), Julio Borbon (Double-A, outfielder), Engle Beltre (A-ball, outfielder), German Duran (Majors, infielder), John Mayberry (Triple-A, outfielder), Carlos Santana (A-ball, outfielder), Johnny Whittleman (Double-A, third baseman), Max Ramirez (Triple-A, catcher), Joaquin Arias (Majors, infielder), Jose Vallejo (Double-A, infielder), Justin Smoak (2008 first round pick, first baseman), Manuel Pina (Double-A, catcher), Chad Tracy, (Double-A, first baseman), Ian Gac (High-A, first baseman), Marcus Lemon (High-A, outfielder), Renny Osuna (High-A, infielder), Clark Murphy (Rookie, first baseman)

    Comments: OK, which prospects did I forget? Texas certainly has one of the better systems in baseball. There is plenty of pitching depth, which is good considering it has been the organization's Achilles' heel in recent years. Interestingly, Texas has achieved an excellent system through a variety of methods including trades (with Boston, Atlanta), the draft (Beavan, Borbon), and the international market (Boscan, Vallejo).

    Seattle Mariners
    The Pitchers: Juan Ramirez (A-ball, right-hander), Edward Paredes (Double-A, left-hander), Justin Thomas (Double-A, left-hander), Robert Rohrbaugh (Triple-A, left-hander), Nick Hill (High-A, left-hander), Eric O'Flaherty (Triple-A, left-hander), Gaby Hernandez (Double-A, right-hander), Phillippe Aumont (A-ball, right-hander), Michael Pineda (A-ball, right-hander), Nathan Adcock (A-ball, right-hander)

    The Hitters: Carlos Triunfel (High-A, shortstop), Michael Saunders (Triple-A, outfielder), Matt Tuiasosopo (Triple-A, infielder), Carlos Peguero (High-A, outfielder), Adam Moore (Double-A, catcher), Greg Halman (Double-A, outfielder), Matt Mangini (Double-A, third baseman), Rob Johnson (Majors, catcher), Yung Chi Chen (Triple-A, infielder), Jharmidy De Jesus (Rookie, shortstop), Danny Carroll (A-ball, outfielder), Mario Martinez (Rookie, third baseman), Denny Almonte (A-ball, outfielder), Alex Liddi (A-ball, third baseman), Dennis Raben (Short season, outfielder), Oswaldo Navarro (Triple-A, infielder), James McOwen (High-A, outfielder), Luis Valbuena (Triple-A, infielder), Michael Wilson (Double-A, outfielder), Edilio Colina (A-ball, second baseman), Tyson Gillies (Short season, outfielder)

    Comments: OK, which prospects did I forget? The Major League club is in disarray and the minor league system is a little bit better off - but not much. The pitching depth is thin and it can be hard to get a good read on the hitting prospects because they have been rushed so much. Regardless, there are some intriguing toolsy players in the system, including Carlos Triunfel and Greg Halman.

    Oakland Athletics
    The Pitchers: Jamie Richmond (A-ball, right-hander), Josh Outman (Majors, left-hander), Trevor Cahill (Double-A, right-hander), James Simmons (Double-A, right-hander), Henry Rodriguez (Triple-A, right-hander), Gio Gonzalez (Majors, left-hander), Andrew Bailey (Double-A, right-hander), Jeremy Blevins (Majors, left-hander), Vince Mazzaro (Triple-A, left-hander), Sam Demel (High-A, right-hander), Andrew Carignan (Double-A, right-hander), Travis Banwart (High-A, right-hander), Craig Italiano (High-A, right-hander), Fautino de los Santos (Injured, right-hander), Brett Anderson (Triple-A, left-hander), Tyson Ross (A-ball, right-hander), Brett Hunter, Jared Lansford (Triple-A, right-hander), Michel Inoa (None, right-hander)

    The Hitters: Matt Spencer (High-A, outfielder), Adrian Cardenas (Double-A, second baseman), Corey Brown (High-A, outfielder), Jermaine Mitchell (High-A, outfielder), Landon Powell (Triple-A, catcher), Javier Herrera (Double-A, outfielder), Sean Doolittle (Double-A, first baseman), Gregorio Petit (Triple-A, shortstop), Justin Sellers (Double-A, shortstop), Matt Sulentic (High-A, outfielder), Jeff Baisley (Majors, third baseman), Josh Horton (High-A, infielder), Cliff Pennington (Majors, infielder), Anthony Recker (Double-A, catcher), Chris Carter (High-A, first baseman), Aaron Cunningham (Majors, outfielder), Eric Patterson (Majors, outfielder), Josh Donaldson (High-A, catcher), Jemile Weeks (2008 first round pick, second baseman), Rashun Dixon (Rookie, outfielder), Wes Bankston (Triple-A, first baseman)

    Comments: OK, which prospects did I forget? Oakland has another strong system in the AL West, thanks in part to a number of trades that netted key prospects. The Dan Haren trade could turn out to be extremely beneficial for the Athletics organization as all six players received in return have looked good, with many exceeding expectations. The organization has done a better job in recent years with drafting pitchers than it has with hitters. After having almost non-existent success on the international front in recent seasons, Oakland made a huge splash by signing top 16-year-old Latin talent Michel Inoa for more than $4 million and has recommitted itself to the market.

    Los Angeles Angels
    The Pitchers: Nick Adenhart (Triple-A, right-hander), Jordan Walden (High-A, right-hander), Sean O'Sullivan (High-A, right-hander), Nick Green (Triple-A, right-hander), Travis Reckling (A-ball, left-hander), Mason Tobin (A-ball, right-hander), Jon Bachanov (Rookie, right-hander), Tyler Chatwood (Rookie, right-hander), Manuarys Correa (Rookie, right-hander), Rich Thompson (Triple-A, right-hander), Kevin Jepsen (Majors, right-hander), Trevor Bell (High-A, right-hander), Bobby Cassevah (High-A, right-hander), Alexander Torres (High-A, left-hander), Robert Fish (A-ball, left-hander), Anthony Ortega (Triple-A, right-hander), William Smith (Short season, left-hander)

    The Hitters: Matt Brown (Majors, third baseman), Freddy Sandoval (Majors, infielder), Hank Conger (High-A, catcher), Pete Bourjos (High-A, outfielder), Hainley Statia (Double-A, infielder), Ryan Mount (High-A, infielder), Matt Sweeney (Injured, first baseman), Andrew Romine (A-ball, infielder), Mark Trumbo (Double-A, first baseman), Terrell Alliman (Rookie, outfielder), Bobby Wilson (Triple-A, catcher), Alexia Amarista (Rookie, infielder), P.J. Phillips (High-A, infielder), Hector Estrella (A-ball, infielder), Luis Jimenez (Short season, third baseman)

    Comments: OK, which prospects did I forget? A former minor league powerhouse, Los Angeles has seen its system slowly erode due to a combination of graduating players, injuries and trades. The system has helped the organization make a number of key trades, with the Mark Teixeira acquisition being the most recent example. Even though the system looks the worse for wear right now, the club always manages to turn sleeper prospects and toolsy players into effective Major League players.

    Up Next: The NL East

    Baseball BeatSeptember 15, 2008
    Dis and Data
    By Rich Lederer

    While the rest of the baseball world is talking about Francisco Rodriguez's saves record, Carlos Zambrano's no-hitter, and the division races in the AL East, AL Central, and NL East, as well as the wild card in the senior circuit, we are going to change it up and discuss some statistical nuggets outside of the main.

  • Roy Oswalt has thrown two consecutive shutouts and has not allowed a run in his last 32 1/3 innings pitched. The 31-year-old righthander has lowered his ERA by 1.50 during the past two months, dropping from 5.04 on June 15 to 3.54. He is 10-2 over this period. The reason for his success? Look no further than the fact that Oswalt has struck out 73 batters while walking only 18 and allowing just four HR over 96 IP. As Peter Gammons pointed out on Baseball Tonight a few days ago, Oswalt has won more games than any other pitcher since he made his MLB debut in 2001.

  • Are you looking for a fantasy sleeper for next year? How about Shin-Soo Choo, who is hitting .340/.426/.605 since the All-Star break? His OPS (1.031) ranks seventh in the majors during this period. The 26-year-old outfielder started the season on the disabled list (recovering from surgery on his left elbow), was sent to the minors for rehabilitation in mid-May, and was recalled at the end of May. He has been playing fairly regularly ever since and recently ended a 12-game hitting streak and run of 28 straight games reaching base safely.

    As detailed below, the lefthanded-hitting Choo has hit ground balls to the right side while lifting fly ball outs to center and left at Progressive Field. However, he has slugged six of his seven home runs to the right of center, including four toward the right field line.


    Born in South Korea, Choo was signed by the Seattle Mariners as a non-drafted free agent in August 2000. Cleveland acquired him for Ben Broussard in July 2006. The latter was released by the Texas Rangers earlier this season and has toiled in the minors for the Yankees and Cubs since last spring. The negative with Choo is that he must serve two years in the Korean military beginning no later than 2010.

  • Speaking of hot players since the All-Star game, Melvin Mora (.389/.433/.704) is first in the majors in AVG, fifth in OBP, and 3rd in SLG and OPS (1.137). Only Manny Ramirez (1.185) and Albert Pujols (1.172) have produced higher on-base plus slugging averages during the second half than Mora. The 36-year-old third baseman recently returned to the Baltimore Orioles lineup after missing 10 games in late August and early September.

    Unlike Choo, Mora has been using the entire field but has been pulling all of his home runs at Camden Yards.


  • From the beginning of the 2005 season through this past weekend, Jason Bay has been successful on 46 of his last 50 stolen base attempts. Yes, the former Pittsburgh Pirates and current Boston Red Sox outfielder has stolen bases at a 92% rate over the past four years, including 10-for-10 this season. Moreover, Bay, who turns 30 on Saturday, has slugged 117 homers (or approximately 30 per season) during this period. Except for an aberration last summer, the NL Rookie of the Year in 2004 has hit between .282-.306 with 26-35 HR for each of the past five campaigns.

  • Vladimir Guerrero (.298/.360/.506 with 24 HR) is on the cusp of tying Lou Gehrig for the all-time record with the most consecutive seasons hitting .300 and 25 home runs. Big Daddy Vladdy, as he is affectionately known in Anaheim, needs to bump up his batting average ever so slightly and crank another home run to become only the second player to put up these numbers 11 times in a row. Gehrig (1927-37) almost did it 12 straight, falling just short of both marks (.295 with 29 HR) in his last full season.

  • Mike Jacobs (32 HR), Dan Uggla (30), Hanley Ramirez (30), and Jorge Cantu (26) became the first infield to slug 25 home runs in the same season. The Marlins accomplished this feat on Friday when Cantu went yard for the 25th time. He jacked another homer the following day and has an outside shot at joining his fellow infielders with 30 dingers.

    Ramirez became the latest member of the 30-30 club when he cranked his 30th four bagger of the season on Saturday. With 90 walks, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound shortstop has taken his game to the next level. He leads the NL in runs (115) and ranks fourth in BB, fifth in OBP (.396) and SB (33), eighth in OPS (.921), and 12th in HR. Did I mention that Ramirez won't turn 25 until December?

  • Saber TalkSeptember 12, 2008
    Putting the V in MVP
    By Myron Logan

    In the next month, there will undoubtedly be a ton of debate surrounding the MVP award, in both leagues. While people will have many angles for their choice, from a sabermetric perspective, we should all be on the same page, or at least understand where each other are coming from.

    In this entry at The Book Blog, there is an in-depth discussion of last year's MVP award, and, more importantly, the process (or processes) one should use to pick the winner. What follows is my attempt to convert that lengthy thread into an article, and hopefully add my own twist. So, thanks in advance to Tango, MGL, and all the commenters over there for their help in shaping my opinion on this matter (of course, if I screw something up, which is almost inevitable, don't blame them!).

    Anyway, let's get back to the discussion. There's one word here that really throws everyone off, and that is value. How do we define value? Well, there isn't a simple answer. If you read the above linked thread, there are three views that come up most often:

    Context-Neutral Stats

    Examples: Batting Runs, VORP, Runs Created, etc.

    If you're in this group, you believe that clutch performance shouldn't be considered in the MVP voting process. A home run in a 10-0 blowout is worth just as much as a walk off homer in the 9th. An example of a context neutral batting stat is Pete Palmer's Batting Runs (which we've discussed here before). As you can see from the formula, each homer (or any event, for that matter) is worth the same (1.4), regardless of when it occurs.

    Context Considered

    Example: Win Probability Added

    Now, we're looking at "clutch" performance or, more generally, context. WPA looks at how much each event changes a team's chance of winning. So, by WPA, a solo homer in a 10-0 blowout may be worth, oh, let's say .01 WPA points (or virtually nothing) and a walk off homer in the 9th might be worth around .5 WPA points. There's a huge difference there. So, if a player does well (or poorly) in clutch situations, it's going to impact his MVP candidacy, under this process. Note that the player's team doesn't necessarily have to win; the team can lose but a player can still gain WPA points, or contribute to a theoretical win.

    Must Contribute to Real Wins

    Example: This may be a good attempt

    Unlike the above process, here you're only counting performance that directly affects the team's win total. If a player hits three home runs in an 8-6 loss, he doesn't get any credit. This is certainly going to favor players on winning teams and players that do good in wins.

    It's important to note that these are just three general groups. There are surely others out there that can be considered, and of course there are sub-groups inside of these groups and so on. The point is, as Tango says, you've got to pick a position and stick with it. There's a good chance that there are three or four reasonable MVP candidates in each league, depending on your stance.

    Fielding and Other Stuff

    As you'll note, we've only talked about offense so far, really. We can't ignore fielding, and base running, and the other facets of the game. At this point with fielding, we're almost always going to have a "context-neutral" stat, whether we use UZR, PMR, THT's stats, or whatever. There's no clutchness factor in any of the fielding metrics (you wonder why Derek Jeter doesn't fare well ; ). Until someone makes a WPA-like fielding stat, we're going to have to use what's available. Also, there are a slew of other things to consider, like, as mentioned, base running, positional adjustments, park adjustments, and so on.

    When a writer talks about a player's huge hits in big wins, you're probably going to be shaking your head, as his overall numbers may not be that great. But, remember, that writer may just be onto something. While that player may not have been the best player in the league, he just may have added the most value.

    Baseball BeatSeptember 11, 2008
    Photos and Finishes
    By Rich Lederer

    I went to the Yankees-Angels games on Tuesday and Wednesday. The teams split those two contests but the Halos captured the series by also beating the Bronx Bombers on Monday in the opener 12-1.

    Picture%201.pngIn downing the Yankees on Wednesday, the Angels won their fourth AL West title in five years and became the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff spot when the Texas Rangers lost to the Seattle Mariners 8-7 in a game that concluded about an hour after Francisco Rodriguez had nailed down his 56th save of the season. Meanwhile, the Yankees are likely to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1993. New York has had one heckuva run during this period, winning four World Series championships, including three in a row from 1998-2000.

    I had the good fortune of sitting in the front row behind the Angels' dugout on Tuesday evening. The adjoining photo was published on the top of the front page of the Long Beach Press-Telegram's sports section yesterday. That's me giving Ervin Santana an appreciative clap of the hands after the Angel starter exited the game in the seventh inning behind 6-1. While Santana drew the loss, the 25-year-old All-Star pitcher is enjoying a breakout season, ranking in the top half dozen in the league in ERA (3.36), WHIP (1.12), SO (197), IP (198.1), wins (15), and WPct (.714).

    While the Angels were celebrating their division title, I had this epiphany and began to wonder on my drive home just how many MLB games I have attended over the course of my lifetime. Without thinking it through, my initial guess was "about a thousand." However, after putting pencil to paper, I believe the real number is somewhere in the low 600s.

    OK, so how did I arrive at that estimate? Let me count the ways (or the games in this case). I've been going to the ballpark on a fairly regular basis since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962 (see linked photo, circa 1961, with brother Tom on the left, sister Janet on the right, and me standing next to her in what would later become the outfield). Roughly speaking, I would venture to say that I have averaged around 15-18 games per year for about half of those 47 years and maybe 8-10 for the other half. That works out to approximately 600. From there, I would add 10 or 20 games from the Coliseum years from 1958-1961 to come up with a grand total of around 615-620.

    My peak years were from 1962-1978 and 2002-2008. The lean years were from 1979-2001. The latter was a combination of Dad's death in 1978 – reducing the number of opportunities to go for free (hey, what can I tell ya?) – and the priorities of adulthood, including family and business. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a youth sports coach from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s, even if it meant watching Kirk Gibson's home run in the 1988 World Series on TV rather than in person.

    RichTomDodgerStadium1962shopped.jpgMy love for baseball has never wavered, except for a brief period in 1994 and early 1995 when I swore off the game on the heels of the player strike that numbed me more than anything else. I had to be talked into our fantasy baseball pool that spring despite being a charter member dating back to the 1970s when I balanced playing fast-pitch softball, fantasy baseball, and APBA in the years leading up to and including the first few years of married life.

    Over the years, I have watched MLB games in a dozen venues, from the Coliseum as a kid to Yankee Stadium as recently as last May when my son Joe and I took the baseball trip of a lifetime. I have also been to dozens of high school, college, minor league, and spring training facilities, and have even attended an NCAA Final Four at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay. But there is no question that I have spent the vast majority of my time watching professional games at Dodger Stadium (left, with Tom in 1962) and Angel Stadium.

    One of the things I haven't had the pleasure of enjoying is a Freeway Series. Maybe this will be the year that the Dodgers and Angels meet for all the marbles. It would only be fitting for me in what is Dad's 80th birthday, the Dodgers' 50th anniversary in L.A., the 40th anniversary since my father left the Dodger beat and went to work for the then California Angels, the 30th anniversary of his death, and the 20th anniversary of Gibson's home run.

    In the meantime, the Yankees head back to New York for the final 10 games in Yankee Stadium. The end of an era in more ways than one.

    * * *

    How many MLB games and stadiums do you suppose you have you been to?

    Around the MinorsSeptember 10, 2008
    Rating the Prospects: The NL Central
    By Marc Hulet

    Prospect rating season is just about upon us with the Minor League Baseball season now over. Over the next few weeks, with your help, I am going to narrow down some of the better prospects in each team's system with the final goal of identifying the Top 15 prospects in each organization's stable. Feel free to recommend players I have overlooked or simply missed. There are three divisions remaining: the NL Central (which I'll look at today), the AL West and the NL East.

    After that, the next few weeks will be devoted to ranking those prospects that people helped choose in the comments section of the articles. Things to consider when choosing the prospects are 1) tools, 2) statistics, 3) history, and 4) level of competition/age. The players also must still be rookie eligible, which means pitchers cannot have exceed 50 big league innings and hitters cannot have exceeded 130 at-bats at the MLB level.

    Feel free to also comment on who you think is the best prospect in the division, as well as which team has the best minor league system. The players listed below are in no particular order and these are just working/brainstorming lists.

    NL Central

    Chicago Cubs
    The Pitchers: Jeff Samardzija (Majors, right-hander), Jose Ceda (Double-A, right-hander), Don Veal (Double-A, left-hander), Chris Huseby (Rookie, right-hander), Larry Suarez (Rookie, right-hander), James Russell (Double-A, left-hander), Alex Maestri (Double-A, right-hander), Andrew Cashner (2008 first round pick, right-hander), Mitch Atkins (Triple-A, right-hander), Marco Carrillo (Double-A, right-hander), Dae-Eun Rhee (A-ball, right-hander), Hung-Wen Chen, (High-A, right-hander)

    The Hitters: Josh Vitters (Short season, third baseman), Tyler Colvin (Double-A, outfielder), Tony Thomas (High-A, second baseman), Welington Castillo (Triple-A, catcher), Ryan Flaherty (Short season, shortstop), Steve Clevenger (High-A, catcher), James Adduci (High-A, outfielder)

    Comments: OK, so who did I overlook? The Cubs have a number of raw, young pitchers coming into the picture, but not a ton of depth in the upper minors. Mitch Atkins has been a nice surprise but his potential does not quite match up with his 2008 numbers. Tyler Colvin has been a bit of a disappointment after his lack of patience caught up with him at Double-A, as many thought it would.

    Cincinnati Reds
    The Pitchers: Josh Roenicke (Triple-A, right-hander), Matt Maloney (Triple-A, left-hander), Kyle Lotzkar (A-ball, right-hander), Pedro Viola (Double-A, left-hander), Sean Watson (Double-A, right-hander), Carlos Fisher (Triple-A, right-hander), Travis Wood (Double-A, left-hander), Daniel Herrera (Triple-A, left-hander), Ben Jukich (Triple-A, left-hander), Daryl Thompson (Triple-A, right-hander), Sam Leclure (Double-A, right-hander), Dallas Buck (High-A, right-hander), Scott Carroll (High-A, right-hander), Zach Stewart (High-A, right-hander), Alexander Smit (High-A, left-hander), Enerio Del Rosario (A-ball, right-hander)

    The Hitters: Drew Stubbs (Triple-A, outfielder), Devin Mesoraco (A-ball, catcher), Todd Frazier (High-A, shortstop), Juan Francisco (High-A, third baseman), Chris Valaika (Double-A, shortstop), Justin Turner (Double-A, second baseman), Neftali Soto (A-ball, third baseman), Craig Tatum (Triple-A, catcher), Zack Cozart (A-ball, shortstop), Paul Janish (Triple-A, shortstop), Adam Rosales (Triple-A, infielder), Brandon Waring (A-ball, third baseman), Daniel Dorn (Double-A, outfielder), Yonder Alonso (2008 first round pick, first baseman), Shaun Cumberland (Triple-A, outfielder), Chris Heisey (Double-A, outfielder), Wilkin Castillo (Majors, catcher)

    Comments: OK, so who did I overlook? The Reds organization has a lot of depth, even with the graduation of Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, etc. Right-hander Scott Carroll, though, was just nabbed for allegedly using illegal substances so he will sit out the first 50 games of next season. The organization is stacked with infield talent, with a wave of players being ready in mid to late 2009, including Chris Valaika, Justin Turner, Juan Francisco, Todd Frazier, and even 2008 first round pick Yonder Alonso.

    Houston Astros
    The Pitchers: Bud Norris (Double-A, right-hander), Felipe Paulino (Triple-A, right-hander), Brad James (Double-A, right-hander), Sergio Perez (Double-A, right-hander), Samuel Gervacio (Triple-A, right-hander), Polin Trinidad (Double-A, left-hander), Jordan Lyles (Short season, right-hander), Ross Seaton (Short season, right-hander), Leandro Cespedes (A-ball, right-hander)

    The Hitters: Eli Iorg (Double-A, outfielder), Josh Flores (High-A, outfielder), Mitch Einertson (Double-A, outfielder), Colin DeLome (High-A, outfielder), Chris Johnson (Triple-A, third baseman), Max Sapp (A-ball, catcher), Jordan Parraz (High-A, outfielder), Brian Bogusevic (Double-A, outfielder), Kolby Clemens (High-A, catcher), Wladimir Sutil (Double-A, infielder), Jason Castro (Short season, catcher)

    Comments: OK, so who did I overlook? Well, one of the game's worst systems still is not much better after a full calendar year. With that said, a few players have resurrected their careers, including Brian Bogusevic - who has switched from pitching to playing the outfield with excellent results - and Kolby Clemens - who is now catching and showing some improvements with the bat.

    Milwaukee Brewers
    The Pitchers: Jeremy Jeffress (Double-A, right-hander), Mark Rogers (High-A, right-hander), R.J. Seidel (A-ball, right-hander), Cody Scarpetta (Rookie, right-hander), Alexandre Periard (Double-A, right-hander), Jake Odorizzi (Rookie, right-hander), Seth Lintz (Rookie, right-hander), Evan Frederickson (A-ball, left-hander), Amaury Rivas (High-A, right-hander), Evan Anundsen (A-ball, right-hander), Efrain Nieves (Rookie, left-hander)

    The Hitters: Alcides Escobar (Majors, shortstop), Mat Gamel (Majors, third baseman), Cole Gillespie (Double-A, outfielder), Brent Brewer (High-A, shortstop), Angel Salome (Majors, catcher), Lorenzo Cain (Double-A, outfielder), Caleb Gindl (A-ball, outfielder), Jonathan Lucroy (High-A, catcher), Taylor Green (High-A, third baseman), Lee Haydel (A-ball, outfielder), Michael Brantley (Double-A, outfielder), Hernan Iribarren (Triple-A, outfielder), Brett Lawrie (2008 first round pick, catcher), Cutter Dykstra (Rookie, outfielder), Eric Farris (A-ball, second baseman), Eric Fryer (A-ball, outfielder), Shawn Zarraga (Rookie, catcher)

    Comments: OK, so who did I overlook? The pitching is a little thin on the farm for the Brewers and there are some intriguing hitters, although not a ton of superstars-in-the-making. Mat Gamel and Angel Salome could be special players, but Alcides Escobar is probably a solid regular. There is not much power amongst the outfield prospects so they'll have to stick in center field or they'll end up as platoon players or fourth outfielders. Brett Lawrie has a chance to be something specially if he can stick behind the dish.

    St. Louis Cardinals
    The Pitchers: Jamie Garcia (Triple-A, left-hander), Adam Ottavino (Double-A, right-hander), Clay Mortenson (Triple-A, right-hander), Mitch Boggs (Triple-A, right-hander), Tyler Herron (High-A, right-hander), Jess Todd (Triple-A, right-hander), Kenny Maiques (A-ball, right-hander), P.J. Walters (Triple-A, right-hander), Jose Martinez, Brad Furnish (Double-A, left-hander), Lance Lynn (A-ball, right-hander), Scott Gorgen (Short season, right-hander), Luis Perdomo (Double-A, right-hander), Fernando Salas (Double-A, right-hander), Nick Addition (A-ball, left-hander), Richard Castillo (A-ball, right-hander), Arquimedes Nieto (Short season, right-hander)

    The Hitters: Brett Wallace (Double-A, third baseman), Colby Rasmus (Triple-A, outfielder), Bryan Anderson (Triple-A, catcher), Peter Kozma (High-A, shortstop), Jon Jay (Triple-A, outfielder), Allen Craig (Double-A, third baseman), Tyler Greene (Triple-A, shortstop), Mark Hamilton (Double-A, first baseman), Shane Robinson (Triple-A, outfielder), Shane Peterson (Short season, outfielder), Daryl Jones (Double-A, outfielder), Jose Martinez (Double-A, second baseman), Jon Edwards (Short season, outfielder)

    Comments: OK, so who did I overlook? The Cardinals organization has some much-needed depth, which has been missing in recent years. There are a number of good pitching prospects and I have always been a fan of Jess Todd. Brett Wallace, Colby Rasmus and Bryan Anderson should all impact the Major League team next season. Shane Robinson and Jon Jay are similar players who could be valuable fourth or fifth outfielders, although the big league team is not hurting from a lack of outfield depth.

    Pittsburgh Pirates
    The Pitchers: Brad Lincoln (High-A, right-hander), Daniel Moskos (High-A, left-hander), Duke Welker (A-ball, right-hander), Mike Felix (A-ball, left-hander), Daniel McCutchen (Triple-A, right-hander), Bryan Morris (A-ball, right-hander), Anthony Watson (High-A, left-hander), Nelson Pereira (Rookie, left-hander)

    The Hitters: Robinzon Diaz (Majors, catcher), Andrew McCutchen (Triple-A, outfielder), Neil Walker (Triple-A, third baseman), Steve Pearce (Majors, outfielder), Shelby Ford (Double-A, second baseman), Jamie Romak (Double-A, first baseman), Brian Bixler (Majors, infielder), Brad Corley (Double-A, outfielder), Brian Friday (High-A, shortstop), Jim Negrych (Double-A, third baseman), Pedro Alvarez (2008 first round pick, third baseman), Jody Mercer (A-ball, shortstop), Robbie Grossman (Rookie, outfielder), Jose Tabata (Double-A, outfielder), Jarek Cunningham (Rookie, third baseman)

    Comments: OK, so who did I overlook? Some late season trades have helped the system a bit, although a number of the young players received are already in the Majors (Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss). There are no pitching prospects that scream "No. 1 starter!" but there are a couple guys who could settle into the middle of the Pirates rotation, including recently-acquired Bryan Morris. Robinzon Diaz was a nice under-the-radar pick-up from Toronto. Andrew McCutchen should have a big impact on Pittsburgh next season.

    Up Next: The AL West

    Change-UpSeptember 09, 2008
    When Narratives Go Wrong: Cinderella Edition
    By Patrick Sullivan

    John Romano's article this morning in the St. Pete Times was titled Rays have lost fighting spirit.

    For much of the year, the Rays looked like improbable contenders. And now, at the most critical moment, they are playing that way.

    They insist it is not the pressure of being in first place that is making them lose.

    We'll soon find out if that is true, because they won't have that pressure much longer.

    Does beating Papelbon at Fenway after an electrifying, dramatic, go-ahead eighth inning home run by Jason Bay count as pressure?

    Let me know, John Romano.

    Change-UpSeptember 09, 2008
    National League Check Up
    By Patrick Sullivan

    And now, the NL:

         RS   RA  DIF   OPS   OPSa  OPS+  ERA+
    NYM 701  618   83  .756  .720   107   104 
    PHI 696  599   97  .761  .741   101   115
    CHC 769  593  176  .806  .715   112   117
    MIL 676  608   68  .765  .726   104   113  
    STL 685  633   52  .781  .768   111   102
    HOU 643  665  -22  .744  .775   101    97 
    LAD 603  581   22  .721  .694    92   118
    ARI 645  637    8  .737  .721    93   111

    The Cubs might be limping to the finish line here but they have shown themselves easily to be the best team in the NL this season.

    Change-UpSeptember 09, 2008
    American League Check Up
    By Patrick Sullivan

    Sometimes it's good (particularly if you are a Red Sox fan in this case) to take a step back and look and see where teams stand vis-a-vis one another in a variety of fundamental categories that, combined, offer a somewhat comprehensive picture.

          RS   RA   DIF   OPS  OPSa   OPS+  ERA+
    BOS  760  602   158  .814  .712   111   115    
    TBR  658  576    82  .759  .709   103   115 
    LAA  669  603    66  .737  .725    94   111
    CHW  719  624    95  .790  .724   105   114 
    MIN  726  652    74  .747  .753   101    99

    Now just a half game out of first place, Boston has really started to assert themselves. I will be back a bit later on with a similar look at the National League.

    Change-UpSeptember 09, 2008
    Interesting Side Story to Playoff Chase
    By Patrick Sullivan

    The Milwaukee Brewers lost to the Cincinnati Reds last night, while the Phillies won to close to within three games of the NL Wild Card lead. Also of note, the Astros are now ten games over .500 and five games back of the Brew Crew for the Wild Card slot. One of the very biggest series remaining this season is set to commence Thursday evening in Philly, where the Brewers will travel for four games that will go a long way in determining their post-season fate.

    There is another interested party, an American League team, who is hoping Milwaukee can remain in the driver's seat. I will let the Cleveland Plain Dealer take it from here.

    If the Brewers make the playoffs, the Indians get to choose the "player to be named" to complete the Sabathia deal. If the Brewers don't make the postseason, they get to choose the player they'll send the Indians....

    ...On July 7, the Indians sent Sabathia to Milwaukee for outfielder Matt LaPorta, left-hander Zach Jackson, right-hander Rob Bryson and the player to be named. The Indians made a point of saying the unnamed player had the talent to reach the big leagues.

    The player to be named could come from a list of four players. Outfielder Michael Brantley and third baseman Taylor Green are the most talented players on the list.

    The Indians started scouting both players after the trade, but an ankle injury to Brantley and a hand injury to Green slowed the process.

    Without much else on these two, here is how they compare this season.

              Age  Level   G    AVG   OBP   SLG
    Brantley  21    AA    106  .319  .395  .398
    Green     21     A    114  .289  .382  .443

    As the article mentions, Green's season was cut short when he was hit in the hand by a pitch on August 12. Still, it looks like the Tribe should have their pick of a couple of promising players should Milwaukee hang on to their lead.

    Baseball BeatSeptember 08, 2008
    Mutual (Option) of Oh-My-Ha
    By Rich Lederer

    Carlos Delgado slugged two home runs off Cole Hamels in the Sunday Night Game of the Week. There have now been 249,996 homers hit during the regular season from 1876 to the end of play yesterday. Who will be the "lucky" player to get credit for the 250,000th four bagger? The Baseball Think Factory has been posting every home run of late and will be tracking tonight's games closely. In the meantime, you can check for a list of all the milestone home runs over the years.

    Speaking of Delgado, the New York Mets first baseman has been on a tear since June 27. He has ripped 22 homers in his past 65 games while nearing or exceeding the magical .300/.400/.600 rate lines (with an OPS of 1.017) during this period. The 36-year old has had three two-HR games in the past two weeks.

    As we pointed out in Sneak Preview of the 2009 Free Agents, which was posted right before his latest hot streak:

    The Mets and Carlos Delgado have a $12M mutual option for 2009 (with a $4M buyout). The 36-year-old slugger got off to a poor start this season (.198/.297/.323 in April) but has hit .314/.407/.594 since July 1. Based on his buyout, the true cost of bringing him back is only $8M. He just may be a bargain at that price. However, Delgado, the team leader of the resurgent Mets, may not give his consent to such a deal. Stay tuned.

    Well, I have no doubt that the Mets will exercise their portion of the option but won't be surprised if Delgado responds with the ol' "Thanks but no thanks" line. Put me in his shoes and I know I would. Delgado should be able to do better, both in terms of years and average annual salary. In fact, the risk of declining his option is next to nil for him as he could land at least an $8M deal with any of a number of teams for 2009. It says here that Delgado will find a suitor willing to give him a three-year contract for north of $30M. That team may, in fact, be none other than the Mets.

    In the meantime, the bigger question for the game is why in the world do teams and players agree to "mutual" options? When you sit back and think about such arrangements, they are really nonsensical. It's kind of like marriage and divorce. While it takes two to get married, it only takes one to demand a divorce. A bilateral agreement in which either side can opt out is really unilateral in nature, at least when it comes to ending matters.

    Look, I realize that a mutual option suggests that both parties are interested enough in the other side to maintain the relationship at a specified price for another year. While that sounds fine and dandy on the surface, the truth of the matter is that such an arrangement has no teeth. Neither party can enforce the extension on the other. If that is indeed the case, then what is the point of a mutual option? When you cut to the chase, the player in question becomes a free agent if either party declines their half of the option. As such, why bother?

    There have been a number of teams and players that have agreed to mutual options during the past year. Oh, it might play well at the time of signing, but a mutual option is basically meaningless. Team options make sense. Player options make sense. Yet mutual options, as in this case, are ineffectual.

    Now, if the Mets agreed to bring back Delgado and he refused, and the club was no longer responsible for the $4M buyout, then I could definitely see the merits of a so-called mutual option like this one.

    Or, let's say the Mets had the right to sign Delgado for one year at $14 million and the latter had the ability to force the Mets to keep him for another season at $10 million, then you would have something that was worthwhile. If Delgado's market value had risen to $14M or more, the Mets might be motivated to bring him back. On the other hand, if Delgado's value had fallen to $10M or less, he may wish to exercise his option and return to the team for one more season.

    Mutual of Omaha may sell a multitude of products, but I would advise Delgado to click on the link to "agents" rather than "long-term care" because one of the hottest hitters in the majors won't be getting much of the latter should he agree to his side of the mutual option.

    But, more to the point: Just as this mutual option fails to make sense for Delgado, the reality is that mutual options, as a whole, are a totally flawed vehicle.

    Change-UpSeptember 05, 2008
    Oh, No
    By Patrick Sullivan

    This sucks.

    Carlos Quentin's season appears to be over as the White Sox left fielder and MVP candidate suffered a fractured right wrist that will require surgery Monday, according to sources.
    Change-UpSeptember 05, 2008
    NL Central - Hitting the Skids
    By Patrick Sullivan

    The once scorching Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers have lost five straight games and four straight games, respectively. The Cubs sit nine games in the clear of a playoff spot, but the Brewers may be in a more tenuous position.

          Wild Card
    MIL      --
    PHI       4
    STL       5
    HOU       6

    Four games may seem like it's plenty but as David Pinto points out, the Brewers have a tough row to hoe coming up.

    Over the next six games, the Brewers play weak opponents. They have three more against the Padres and three against the Reds, all at home. Milwaukee needs to clean up over these six as they then begin a ten game road trip with four at Philadelphia and three at Chicago.

    Outside of this weekend's critical series at Shea and their four-game home set with the Brew Crew, Philadelphia plays exclusively the fading Braves, the sinking Marlins and the Nationals. St. Louis seems like they do not have it in them to mount a charge, but they too have it pretty easy heading into the home stretch. They have the Cubbies six times, but Chicago may be in "get healthy" mode as they prepare for the post-season.

    Finally, the Houston Astros are on fire. Winners of eight straight, they too have an easy slate the rest of the season. While the Cubs are probably in, the Brew Crew will have a fight on its hands. With the NL West and NL East races looking awfully competitive too, we sure seem to be in for a great finish in the Senior Circuit.

    **Update**: Courtesy of Rob Neyer, Tom Hadricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has a beat on why the Brewers might be in trouble.

    Change-UpSeptember 05, 2008
    Prescience, thy name is Sullivan
    By Patrick Sullivan

    A few weeks ago in a post I put up on the Chicago White Sox, I wrote the following:

    The White Sox do it all pretty well, and there are some excellent macro signs for the club as well. Alexei Ramirez, now the team's full-time second baseman, is slugging .515 and shows no signs of slowing down. With Ian Kinsler out for the remainder of the season, no AL team will trot out a better player at the position.

    That was August 19th. Here are Dustin Pedroia's numbers compared to Ramirez's since August 20.

                 AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
    Pedroia     .455  .500  .836  1.336
    A. Ramirez  .280  .288  .540  .828

    Pedroia's unconscious stretch seems to have vaulted him into MVP consideration, and with good reason. Here are the American League VORP leaders (thanks, BP):

    1. A-Rod         63.2
    2. Sizemore      62.2
    3. Huff (Huff!)  59.0
    4. Pedroia       58.5

    This means that Pedroia has been the very best offensive player in the American League on a contending team. And even if you don't like the "contending team" qualifier when it comes to MVP candidacy (I don't, just acknowledging voter reality), his "plus plus" defense may well vault him to the very top of the list anyway.

    With regard to my credibility, looking on the bright side, maybe this absolves me of some of my Red Sox fanboy rep.

    Around the MinorsSeptember 04, 2008
    Rating the Prospects: The AL Central
    By Marc Hulet

    Prospect rating season is just about upon us with the Minor League Baseball season all but over and we are now into playoffs in most leagues. Over the next five weeks (one division a week), with your help, I am going to pick the Top 15 prospects in each organization's stable.

    After that, the next six weeks will be devoted to ranking those prospects that people helped choose in the comments section of the articles. Things to consider when choosing the prospects are 1) tools, 2) statistics, 3) history, and 4) level of competition/age. The players also must still be rookie eligible, which means pitchers cannot have exceed 50 big league innings and hitters cannot have exceeded 130 at-bats at the MLB level.

    Feel free to also comment on who you think is the best prospect in the division, as well as which team has the best minor league system. The players listed below are in no particular order and these are just working/brainstorming lists.

    AL Central

    Minnesota Twins
    The Pitchers: Phillip Humber (Triple-A, right-hander), Tyler Robertson (High-A, left-hander), Anthony Swarzak (Triple-A, right-hander), Brian Duensing (Triple-A, right-hander), Jeff Manship (Double-A, right-hander), Jose Mijares (Double-A, left-hander), David Bromberg (A-ball, right-hander), Ryan Mullins (Double-A, left-hander), Mike McCardell (A-ball, right-hander), Loek Van Mil (A-ball, right-hander), Alex Burnett (High-A, right-hander), Anthony Slama (High-A, right-hander), Carlos Gutierrez (High-A, right-hander), Shooter Hunt (A-ball, right-hander), Kevin Mulvey (Triple-A, right-hander), Deolis Guerra (High-A, right-hander), Andrei Lobanov (Short season, right-hander), Bradley Tippett (Short season, right-hander), Daniel Osterbrock (Short season, left-hander)

    The Hitters: Wilson Ramos (High-A, catcher), Joe Benson (A-ball, outfielder), Ben Revere (A-ball, outfielder), Jason Pridie (Triple-Al, outfielder), Trevor Plouffe (Triple-A, outfielder), Chris Parmalee (A-ball, outfielder), Deibinson Romero (A-ball, outfielder), Aaron Hicks (Rookie, outfielder), Tyler Ladendorf (Rookie, shortstop), Luke Hughes (Triple-A, third baseman), Erik Lis (Double-A, first baseman), Steve Tollenson (Double-A, second baseman), Daniel Valencia (Double-A, infielder), David Winfree (Double-A, outfielder), Steve Singleton (High-A, second baseman), Juan Portes (High-A, outfielder), Rene Tosoni (High-A, outfielder), Angel Morales (Short season, outfielder), Jonathan Waltenbury (Short season, first baseman), Alexander Soto (Short season, catcher),

    Comments: So who did I miss? OK... Wow, there are a lot of intriguing (but VERY raw) players in this system. What a fun system. You do have to worry about how many of the high draft picks from four years or so ago have failed to pan out, such as Trevor Plouffe... who probably should have stuck to pitching. Regardless, it seems to be, at first glance, that Minnesota has the nicest system in the league.

    Chicago White Sox
    The Pitchers: Aaron Poreda (Double-A, left-hander), Lance Broadway (Triple-A, right-hander), Jack Egbert (Triple-A, left-hander), John Ely (High-A, right-hander), Adam Russell (Triple-A, right-hander), Kyle McCulloch (Double-A, right-hander), Nevin Griffith (Rookie, right-hander), Wes Whisler (Triple-A, left-hander), Kanekoa Texeira (Double-A, right-hander), Anthony Carter (High-A, right-hander), Jacob Rasner (High-A, right-hander), Levi Maxwell (A-ball, right-hander), Gregory Infante (Short season, right-hander)

    The Hitters: Chris Getz (Triple-A, second baseman), Jose Martinez (A-ball, outfielder), John Shelby Jr. (High-A, outfielder), Christian Marrero (A-ball, first baseman), Sergio Morales, Sergio Miranda (High-A, shortstop), Francisco Hernandez (High-A, catcher), Gordon Beckham (2008 first round pick, shortstop), Jordan Danks (A-ball, outfielder), Cole Armstrong (Triple-A, catcher), Brandon Allen (Double-A, first baseman), Dale Mollenhauer (High-A, second baseman), Jorge Castillo (A-ball, first baseman)

    Comments: So who did I miss? There aren't many, if any, impact players near the top of this system so Chicago is going to have to work the free agent market for the next few years. Aside from Beckham, there was nothing overly special about the 2008 draft unless your name is Williams.

    Cleveland Indians
    The Pitchers: Adam Miller (Triple-A, right-hander), Chuck Lofgren (Double-A, left-hander), David Huff (Triple-A, left-hander), Tony Sipp (Double-A, left-hander), Ryan Miller (A-ball, left-hander), Hector Rondon (High-A, right-hander), Scott Lewis (Double-A, left-hander), Rob Bryson (A-ball, right-hander), Christopher Archer (A-ball, right-hander), Joey Maholic (A-ball, right-hander), Ryan Morris (A-ball, left-hander)

    The Hitters: Wes Hodges (Double-A, third baseman), Beau Mills (High-A, third baseman), Nick Weglarz (High-A, outfielder), Jordan Brown (Triple-A, first baseman), Matt McBride (A-ball, catcher), Trevor Crowe (Triple-A, outfielder), Josh Rodriguez (Double-A, shortstop), Lonnie Chisenhall (Short season, shortstop), Chris Gimenez (Triple-A, catcher), Carlos Santana (Double-A, catcher), Matt LaPorta (Double-A, outfielder), Ron Rivas (A-ball, infielder), Jared Goedert (High-A, infielder), Matthew Brown (A-ball, outfielder)

    Comments: So who did I miss? Cleveland has traditionally been a team that favors college draft picks but the organization has some interesting young pitchers at A-ball but it's hard to pick exactly who the most promising is out of the group at this point. I personally think Nick Weglarz is a very interesting player and have liked him since he was drafted by Cleveland... His power will play in the majors, but I worry about the batting average.

    Kansas City Royals
    The Pitchers: Daniel Cortes (Double-A, right-hander), Blake Wood (Double-A, right-hander), Danny Duffy (A-ball, left-hander), Matt Mitchell (A-ball, right-hander), Sam Runion (Short season, right-hander), Blake Johnson (Double-A, right-hander), Brent Fisher (A-ball, left-hander), Rowdy Hardy (Double-A, left-hander), Mike Montgomery (Rookie, left-hander), Tyler Sample (Rookie, right-hander), Tim Melville (Rookie, right-hander), Chris Nicoll (Double-A, right-hander), Edward Cegarra (High-A, right-hander), Alexander Caldera (A-ball, right-hander), Daniel Gutierrez (A-ball, right-hander), Leondy Perez (Rookie, right-hander)

    The Hitters: Mike Moustakas (A-ball, third baseman), Derrick Robinson (High-A, outfielder), Jeff Bianchi (High-A, infielder), Kila Kaaihue (Triple-A, first baseman), Eric Hosmer (2008 first round pick, first baseman), Johnny Giavotella (A-ball, second baseman), Joe Dickerson (High-A, outfielder), Adrian Ortiz (High-A, outfielder), Jose Bonilla (Rookie, catcher)

    Comments: So who did I miss? The pitching is much, much deeper than the hitting but Mike Moustakas is a nice hitting prospect, despite his slow start to the 2008 season. Hopefully the Scott Boras contract dispute involving Pedro Alvarez and now Eric Hosmer can get worked out soon. It's not helping either player's career.

    Detroit Tigers
    The Pitchers: Rick Porcello (High-A, right-hander), Brandon Hamilton (A-ball, right-hander), Casey Crosby (Rookie, left-hander), Ryan Perry (High-A, right-hander), Cody Satterwhite (High-A, right-hander), Duane Below (High-A, left-hander), Alfredo Figaro (High-A, right-hander), Jonah Nickerson (High-A, right-hander), Brayan Villareal (A-ball, right-hander), Jon Kibler (A-ball, left-hander)

    The Hitters: Cale Iorg (High-A, shortstop), Scott Sizemore (High-A, second baseman), Mike Hollimon (Triple-A, second baseman), Jeff Larish (Triple-A, first baseman), Matt Joyce (Triple-A, outfielder), Danny Worth (Triple-A, shortstop), Clete Thomas (Triple-A, outfielder), Ryan Strieby (High-A, first baseman), Alex Avila (A-ball, catcher), Will Rhymes (Triple-A, infielder), James Skelton (Double-A, catcher), Wilkin Ramirez (Double-A, outfielder), Justin Henry (A-ball, second baseman), Mike Gosse (Short season, second baseman)

    Comments: So who did I miss? A few players have taken some big steps this season but not nearly large enough to off-set a very poor outlook for this system. There are some interesting young pitchers but they are a ways away, except perhaps for Porcello who could end up in Detroit in 2009. Offensively, though, no one really impresses me much. To make up for a lack of prospects in the system, Detroit has moved (rushed) some players through pretty quickly, such as 2007 draft pick Danny Worth.

    Up Next: The NL Central

    Around the MinorsSeptember 03, 2008
    Rating the Prospects: NL West
    By Marc Hulet

    Prospect rating season is just about upon us with the Minor League Baseball season all but over and we are now into playoffs in most leagues. Over the next five weeks (one division a week), with your help, I am going to pick the Top 15 prospects in each organization's stable.

    After that, the next six weeks will be devoted to ranking those prospects that people helped choose in the comments section of the articles. Things to consider when choosing the prospects are 1) tools, 2) statistics, 3) history, and 4) level of competition/age. The players also must still be rookie eligible, which means pitchers cannot have exceed 50 big league innings and hitters cannot have exceeded 130 at-bats at the MLB level.

    Feel free to also comment on who you think is the best prospect in the division, as well as which team has the best minor league system. The players listed below are in no particular order and these are just working/brainstorming lists.

    NL West

    Arizona Diamondbacks
    The Pitchers: Max Scherzer (Triple-A, right-hander), Jarrod Parker (A-ball, right-hander), Matt Torra (Triple-A, right-hander), Hector Ambriz (Double-A, right-hander), Brooks Brown (Double-A, right-hander), Cesar Valdez (Double-A, right-hander), Barry Enright (High-A, right-hander), Kyler Newby (High-A, right-hander), Wes Roemer, Leyson Septimo (High-A, left-hander), Daniel Stange (High-A, right-hander), Daniel Schlereth (A-ball, right-hander), Wade Miley (Short season, left-hander)

    The Hitters: Gerardo Parra (High-A, outfielder), Reynaldo Navarro (Short season, shortstop), Ed Easley (High-A, catcher), Pedro Ciriaco (High-A, shortstop), Mark Hallberg (High-A, infielder), Pete Clifford (High-A, outfielder), Evan Frey (High-A, outfielder), Collin Cowgill (A-ball, outfielder)

    Comments: I had forgotten how bad the Arizona system has gotten since the organization traded away most of its promising players, albeit to acquire some pretty good players like Adam Dunn and Danny Haren. The pitching certainly looks stronger than the offence, although there are a lot of pitchers that appear to be future No. 4 or 5 starters. There don't seem to be any impact bats anywhere near the top of the system (I still can't believe how badly Arizona gave Carlos Quentin away, but I guess that makes up for stealing Chris Young).

    Los Angeles Dodgers
    The Pitchers: Scott Elbert (Double-A, left-hander), Chris Withrow (High-A, right-hander), James McDonald (Triple-A, right-hander), Josh Wall (High-A, right-hander), James Adkins (Double-A, left-hander), Ethan Martin (Rookie, right-hander), Josh Lindblom (Double-A, right-hander), Travis Schlichting (Double-A, right-hander), Victor Garate (High-A, left-hander), Steve Johnson (High-A, right-hander), Geison Aguasviva (Rookie, left-hander), Cole St. Clair (Rookie, right-hander), Michael Watt (Rookie, left-hander)

    The Hitters: Pedro Baez (A-ball, third baseman), Josh Bell (High-A, third baseman), Ivan DeJesus(Double-A, shortstop), Andrew Lambo (Double-A, outfielder), Lucas May (Double-A, catcher), Xavier Paul (Triple-A, outfielder), Kyle Russell (Rookie, outfielder), Austin Gallagher (High-A, third baseman), Jamie Pedroza (High-A, shortstop), Trayvon Robinson (High-A, outfielder),

    Comments: The Dodgers continue to have a nice collection of raw, toolsy players, although the system is not as deep as it has been in recent years. The organization is not afraid to promote young, promising players, rather than having them sit around dominating inferior leagues all season (San Fran, can you hear me?). It seems that every time a LAD prospect falters, two more sleepers come to the forefront.

    Colorado Rockies
    The Pitchers: Casey Weathers (Double-A, right-hander), Brandon Hynick (Double-A, right-hander), Pedro Strop (Double-A, right-hander), Chaz Roe (Double-A, right-hander), Juan Morillo (Triple-A, right-hander), Jhoulys Chacin (High-A, right-hander), Christian Friedrich (A-ball, right-hander), Xavier Cedeno (Double-A, left-hander), Keith Weiser (Double-A, left-hander), Aneury Rodriguez (High-A, right-hander), Esmil Rogers (High-A, right-hander)

    The Hitters: Dexter Fowler (Double-A, outfielder), Hector Gomez (High-A, shortstop), Chris Nelson (Double-A, shortstop), Michael McKenry (High-A, catcher), Jonathan Herrera (Triple-A, shortstop), Corey Wimberly (Double-A, second baseman), Eric Young Jr. (Double-A, second base), Daniel Carte (Double-A, outfielder), Daniel Mayora (High-A, shortstop),

    Comments: The Rockies have a real glut of prospects at Double-A, both on the mound and in the field. There are some intriguing speedsters in the system but a lot of them appear to be headed to bench roles at the MLB level. Fowler, though, looks like a serious prospect and could be playing full-time in Colorado as soon as 2009. Keep an eye on Jhoulys Chacin and Aneury Rodriguez.

    San Francisco Giants
    The Pitchers: Tim Alderson (High-A, right-hander), Madison Bumgarner (A-ball, left-hander), Henry Sosa (A-ball, right-hander), Clayton Tanner (High-A, right-hander), Kelvin Pichardo (Double-A, right-hander), Ben Snyder (Double-A, left-hander), Jesse English (High-A, left-hander), Waldis Joaquin (High-A, right-hander), Kevin Pucetas (High-A, right-hander)

    The Hitters: Buster Posey (Short season, catcher), Conor Gillaspie (Short season, third baseman), Brandon Crawford (Short season, shortstop), Roger Kieschnick (NA, outfielder), Angel Villalona (High-A, first baseman), Nick Noonan (A-ball, second base), Wendell Fairley (Rookie, outfielder), Brian Horwitz (Triple-A, outfielder), Nate Schierholtz (Triple-A, outfielder),

    Comments: Knowing that they had stolen some amazing pitching prospects during the 2007 draft, the Giants concentrated on nabbing some interesting and advanced college hitters in 2008. The Giants' minor league system was horrible as recently as two years ago and has improved significantly in a short period of time. The depth is still lacking a bit, but there are some stars-in-the-making. I just wish the Giants promoted players a little more aggressively, rather than letting them dominate inferior competition for significant periods of time, which seemingly does nothing for a player's development.

    San Diego Padres
    The Pitchers: Matt Latos (Short season, right-hander), Wade LeBlanc (Triple-A, left-hander), Steve Garrison (Double-A, left-hander), Will Inman (Double-A, eight-hander), Nick Schmidt (Injured, left-hander), Matthew Buschmann (Double-A, right-hander), Ernesto Frieri (Double-A, right-hander), Jeremy Hefner (High-A, right-hander),

    The Hitters: Allan Dykstra (High-A, first baseman), Jaff Decker (Short season, outfielder), James Darnell (Short season, third baseman), Logan Forsythe (Rookie, infielder), Blake Tekotte (Short season, outfielder), Cole Figueroa (Short season, second baseman), Matt Antonelli (Triple-A, second base), Cedric Hunter (High-A, outfielder), Kyle Blanks (Double-A, first baseman), Yefri Carvajal (A-ball, outfielder), Kellen Kulbacki (High-A, outfielder), Will Venable, Drew Cumberland (A-ball, shortstop), Mitch Canham (High-A, catcher), Lance Zawadzki (Double-A, shortstop), Chad Huffman (Double-A, outfielder), Rayner Contreras (High-A, infielder), Eric Sogard (High-A, second baseman)

    Comments: It's been a disappointing season for the San Diego Padres organization from top to bottom. A number of interesting prospects disappointed throughout the season and the club continues to be snake-bitten when it comes to first round draft picks. The organization's impact depth has been hurt by years of drafting "safe" college picks with lower ceilings. The pitching depth is especially sorry, while the hitting is starting to show signs of life.

    Up Next: The AL Central

    Baseball BeatSeptember 02, 2008
    Open Chat: And Down the Stretch They Come!
    By Rich Lederer

    On the heels of Labor Day, here is a snapshot of the standings.

    TEAM         W    L   PCT  GB
    Rays         84   51  .622  -
    Red Sox      80   57  .584   5
    Yankees      73   64  .533  12
    Blue Jays    70   66  .515  14.5
    Orioles      63   74  .460  22
    TEAM         W    L   PCT  GB
    White Sox    77   60  .562  -
    Twins        77   60  .562  -
    Indians      66   70  .485  10.5
    Tigers       66   71  .482  11
    Royals       57   79  .419  19.5
    TEAM         W    L   PCT  GB
    Angels       83   53  .610  -
    Rangers      67   72  .482  17.5
    A's          63   74  .460  20.5
    e-Mariners   54   83  .394  29.5
    TEAM         W    L   PCT  GB
    Mets         77   61  .558  -
    Phillies     75   63  .543   2
    Marlins      70   68  .507   7
    Braves       59   79  .428  18
    e-Nationals  53   85  .384  24
    TEAM         W    L   PCT  GB
    Cubs         85   53  .616  -
    Brewers      80   57  .584   4.5
    Cardinals    74   64  .536  11
    Astros       72   66  .522  13
    Reds         61   76  .445  23.5
    e-Pirates    57   79  .419  27
    TEAM         W    L   PCT  GB
    Diamondbacks 70   67  .511  -
    Dodgers      68   70  .493   2.5
    Rockies      65   74  .468   6
    Giants       59   78  .431  11
    Padres       53   84  .387  17

    e - mathematically eliminated from the postseason

    Which team is best positioned to win the World Series?, the world's leading sports trading exchange, offers the following odds (expressed in terms of percent):

    Symbol          Bid     Ask     Last 
    ANGELS          16.5    17.5    18.2
    CUBS            15.1    18.1    18.5
    REDSOX          14.2    15.4    13.3
    RAYS            12.1    13.9    13.9
    METS             7.2     9.5     9.5
    BREWERS          8.2     9.8     7.1
    WHITESOX         4.8     6.3     5.0
    PHILLIES         3.0     4.2     3.5
    DIAMONDBACKS     4.5     5.7     4.3
    TWINS            4.7     6.5     4.6
    DODGERS          1.6     3.0     1.8
    YANKEES           -      0.5     0.5
    CARDINALS        0.1     0.4     0.9
    MARLINS          0.3     0.5     0.3
    TIGERS            -      0.1     0.1
    ATHLETICS         -      0.1     0.1
    BRAVES            -      0.1     0.1
    BLUEJAYS          -      0.2     0.1
    REDS              -      0.2     0.1
    ROCKIES           -      0.7     0.4
    RANGERS           -      0.1     0.1
    ASTROS            -      0.3     0.1
    PADRES            -      0.1     0.1
    ORIOLES           -      0.1     0.1
    PIRATES           -      0.1     0.1
    GIANTS            -      0.1     0.1
    ROYALS            -      0.1     0.1
    INDIANS           -      0.1     0.1
    NATIONALS         -      0.1     0.1
    MARINERS          Expired at 0.0

    The Rays, a 200:1 choice to win the World Series back in March, are now down to a 7:1 or 8:1 pick. Even though Tampa Bay has the best record in the majors (while competing in perhaps the toughest division in baseball), the betting public ranks the club fourth as far as its chances of winning it all. Division rival Boston, the Angels, and Cubs are all thought to have a better shot at being crowned World Champs.

    Who do you like and why?