BY DEREK BARSNESS, Couchsideshow.com blogger
With the expansion of the MLB playoffs to include an additional wild card team in each league, baseball may finally be relevant to more than the diehard fan.
The wild card was first added in 1995 to expand each division to include 4 playoff teams. This was great for baseball and since its addition we have seen 5 wild card teams go on to win the World Series, most notably the 2004 Boston Red Sox. However, some might argue that what the St. Louis Cardinals did in 2011 (23-9 in their final games and overcoming a 10.5 game deficit to clinch the wild card) may trump the magical run that Boston put together just 7 years before.
By expanding the wild card to include two teams from each division baseball and its fans come out winners. Each wild card race is suddenly expanded to include more teams vying for a playoff spot. And with games happening every day, the races will no doubt play out until the final days of the regular season. Take the current season for example. If the playoffs still included just one wild card team, the Atlanta Braves would have a 6.5 game lead over St. Louis, and the L.A. Dodgers would be 8.5 games out of the lead. Instead, by including a second wild card team, the Dodgers are only 2 games back and have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. Even the Arizona Diamondbacks and Pittsburgh Pirates are still in the playoff chase just 4.5 games back of St. Louis (with only one wild card spot, these teams would be 11 games back and likely playing AAA call-ups to gain experience). With the current playoff format we now have a seven team race for two spots in the NL (6 teams if you consider that Atlanta holds a 8.5 game lead over the Dodgers, the closest team that could threaten their playoff chances) and a five team race in the AL. (more…)
The first half is over. Thankfully. The Phillies have had their worst start since 1997 and nothing this season has really gone to plan. The questions of why have been asked now for 3 months. They’re only intensifying now, after a 9-25 performance in the last 34 games.
Who is to blame? Charlie Manuel? Ruben Amaro? Injuries? The players?
Frankly, I think there’s enough blame to go around. The fact that this team’s talent level is not good enough to win is a function of the person who put the roster together. In this case, it’s Ruben Amaro. By splurging on Jonathan Papelbon, Amaro left himself short of cash for the rest of his bullpen.
Having the best closer in baseball is only effective if you can get the ball into his hands on a regular basis. That hasn’t been the case thus far. Either the Phillies have been behind or too far ahead for Papelbon to see regular work. That has hurt in a couple of instances now, when he was in a save situation but wasn’t sharp. (more…)
BY MICHAEL J. SILVA, Feedcrossing.com syndication
Tom Verducci made this statement yesterday to John Feinstein and Bruce Murray during their mid-day show on Mad Dog Radio. I think Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels have done a fabulous job turning around that ballclub, but they should not be discussed in the same breath as one of the best baseball teams of all-time.
The ’98 Yankees weren’t a collection of All-Stars. Although the Yankees have been a payroll team for the better part of the decade, this was not the case during the late nineties dynasty under Joe Torre. The Yanks were actually number two, behind Baltimore, with their $66 million dollar payroll. There were six other teams that were within $10 million dollars of them, as well.
That ’98 team was a collection of homegrown talent, veteran acquisition and component players that thrived in their roles. That group scored 965 runs, which is the tenth highest in franchise history. Offensively, it was on par with the powerful offenses of the late twenties and thirties. Even more impressive was their pitching. They only allowed 656 runs; on par with the top staffs in the National League despite having to deal with the Designated Hitter. This current Rangers group is on par with that production, but in the depressed post-steriods era. The Yankees output was amazing due to the explosion of offense we saw that season. (more…)
BY ZAC CORDOVA AND JUSTIN MILLAR, Feedcrossing.com syndication
• LA Dodgers: Pretender. Matt Kemp should change his nickname to “Mr. April” because he gets everyone thinking he is the best player in baseball the first month of every season. He is great no doubt, but has little help outside of Clayton Kershaw and Andre Ethier. AJ Ellis will cool off a bit, but they are too top heavy to be considered consistent enough to be a contender.
BY JOE WHITE, Feedcrossing.com syndication
Almost exactly a year ago I wrote this article chronicling the early season struggles of the Detroit Tigers’ bullpen. Well, here we are again. Fresh off of the Twins (the TWINS?!) dropping an 11-spot on the Tigers last night and the bullpen allowing 5 earned runs in their 5 innings of work, fans are rightfully concerned.
The bullpen has been bad but certainly isn’t entirely to blame here. The offense has been suppressed for most of the season and the starting rotation has been decent, but couldn’t be categorized as world-beaters at this point. The defense has been predictably unsuccessful but ranking 21st in fielding % is probably more than what most expected. Although the fact remains that it’s hard to create an error on a ball your range doesn’t allow you to reach.
But man that bullpen is frustrating! By the numbers it might actually be even more troubling.
Senor Slider is making his way back
Across all of Major League Baseball the Tigers’ pen ranks dead last in ERA at 5.17. Worse than even the horror show on the north side of Chicago.
As an entire staff, the Tigers are doing a decent job not walking the opposition, but as a bullpen, only 2 teams have walked more. In 116.2 innings of combined work, the ever rotating 7-man pen has walked 58 hitters. Teams are hitting .270 off of Luke Putkonen and company, which ties them for 4th worst in the bigs.