The Orioles split their double header against the Jays yesterday, lost a half a game against the Yankees but saw no real movement in the wild card. As the season winds down every single game matters with the Rays and Angels knocking on the door of the playoffs with both teams within four games of the Birds with eight games remaining. The Orioles are still in the driver's seat of their playoff destiny but with every game carrying so much weight Baltimore is in a tizzy as it deals with emotions the fans simply haven't had to deal with in a very long time.
The Orioles' loss yesterday, as frustrating as it was, has sent many fans into a bit of a defcon-3 frenzy. The Orioles sit only 1.5 games behind the division-leading Yankees but many fans now see that as an insurmountable feat. Meanwhile, even though the Orioles' playoff cushion is currently three times the size of that gap, scenarios are being devised that see the Orioles missing the playoffs in a sort of 1989 "Why Not?" heartbreak.
As I type this entry the Orioles' bats have been silenced thus far by the Blue Jays, a stark contrast from the last couple of days and an equally stark reminder that on any night anything can happen.
An Orioles' loss tonight could result in their lead in the wild card being reduced to half a game over the A's with the Angels and Rays sitting two and three games back respectively, with seven games left to play. It certainly would make the Orioles' job a bit more difficult and the last week's worth of games would be insanley tense but still in a very solid position.
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For the second straight game, the Baltimore Orioles lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, this time by a score of 4-0.
Overall, the Orioles were held scoreless by Jays pitching, who only allowed six hits on the night. They didn?t have many opportunities to even do much on the scoreboard, and when they did ? nothing much happened.
Joe Saunders was decent on the night on the mound for the Orioles, but obviously didn?t get the help he needed from the bats.
Aaron Laffey ? who started the game for the Jays on the mound ? stifled the Orioles offensively throughout his outing as he induced groundball after groundball, keeping the ball out of the air. Baltimore got a few solid hits off of him, but overall, they were no match for Laffey on the night.
After Laffey left the game in the sixth inning, the Toronto bullpen also kept Baltimore at bay.
Saunders tried to match Laffey on the mound, pitch for pitch, but a few mistakes did him in. He and the Orioles perhaps deserved a better fate on the night, considering they are trying to do their best to keep pace with the Yankees with the number of games dwindling along with maintaining their Wild Card standing.
Saunders lasted 6 1/3 innings on Wednesday, and gave up four runs - three earned.
The first third of the ball game was very well-played by Baltimore; however, the Toronto took a 1-0 lead off Yan Gomes? RBI-single in the first inning and added another in the fourth with Adeiny Hechavarria?s single to left. They added two more in the seventh off runs driven by Colby Rasmus and Edwin Encarnacion.
The Orioles had chances in the first and seventh innings as they had two men on base and could have started a rally, but they could not capitalize.
J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters did have two hits for Baltimore.
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In case you haven't been watching baseball much this year, here's a quick recap of the Twins' season: it's not good. As of yesterday, the Twins were a lowly 64-90, dueling the Cleveland Indians for the title of "Worst AL Central -- and by default, American League -- Team." It's a bad, bad scene in the Twin Cities this year. Would you like to know why it's so bad?
I'll tell you, it's because of their pitching. Twins starters have been good for a shocking 2.3 fWAR on the season. Naturally, this is the worst in the majors. By a fair margin. The Padres starters have a combined fWAR of 3.8, but they also have an ERA of 4.33, nearly a full run lower than the Twins. In practice, they've given up far fewer earned runs per nine innings.
Basically, if you found a bunch of replacement-level starting pitchers in Triple-A, or Japan, or Mexico or pretty much anywhere else, they'd probably be about two wins worse than the guys the Twins ran out there this season. But only two wins.
By the way, that 2.3 fWAR? It comes courtesy of Scott Diamond, who has a 2.4 fWAR on the season. Diamond is responsible for literally all of the surplus fWAR that the team's racked up. That's awful. Their ERA is second-worst to the Rockies' ... and the Rockies pitchers throw half of their games at Coors Field.
Sometimes, words aren't as expressive as the numbers. Here are the woeful, awful numbers.
Twins Starting Pitchers (five or more starts)
* rWAR is for all innings pitched, combined starting and relieving, because I can't find it for just starting sorry everyone
The Twins probably don't have the worst starting rotation of all time. That'd be quite a surprise if they did. I'd be willing to bet that they wouldn't have the worst starting rotation even in the last ten years. (By the way, you should not bet against me. I've run the data.) Sure enough, they aren't the worst in the last ten seasons. They're the third-worst. Only the '09 Brewers and '07 Nationals posted a worse fWAR among their starting pitching staffs since 2003. Ick.
When doing this research, I wanted to reach out and examine how much of the Twins' lack of success might have had something to do with their home stadium: Target Field. After all, if you look at the disparity between ERA and FIP for Twins starters - they at least tend to have an FIP (5.02) that outperforms their ERA (5.52). Perhaps that could have something to do with playing in a hitters' park? Since Target Field only opened in 2010, let's pull what little data we have, based on three different park factors.
Park Factors for Target Field
Well, even I can spot an outlier here. All numbers below 100 (or 1.000 in ESPN's case) mean that a park benefits the pitcher, rather than the hitter. All numbers above 100 (or 1.000) mean that the hitter has the advantage.
By history and by acclimation, Target Field has been considered a slight pitchers' park since it was built. According to Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs, the stats back up that assertion. And prior to 2012, so did ESPN's.
B-R and FG adjust their park factors based on multi-season samples, but ESPN does not. ESPN's park factor is only based on what has happened in 2012.
Simply put, one of two things is likely. The first is that something has changed about Target Field, and it has been transformed from a slight pitchers' park to a heavy hitters' haven. Since there's no record I can find of massive changes to the way the park operates, like adjustments to fences, lighting, etc., I think that's a non-starter.*
* Note: You deserved that bad pun, Minnesota. Step up your game.
The other -- far more likely -- thing that could have happened, is that MInnesota's pitching staff has been so awful this season, that it has skewed the park factor data for Target Field in ESPN's methodology. Things are so bad in Minny, that the Twins' rotation has broken the (already a bit busted) ESPN Park Factors.
By any measurement, the Twins have had a terrible run of starting pitching this season. If they were to keep this up for another season, they may just be better off changing their name to the Tlosses?
Atlanta Braves leadoff hitter and center fielder Michael Bourn jammed his left thumb while sliding head-first into a second base in the fourth inning of Saturday's win over the Phillies in Philadelphia.
He was evaluated by hand specialist, Dr. Gary Lourie, during the off-day yesterday, and no structural damage was found. The hand does remain sore, and kept Bourn out of the lineup during Tuesday's playoff clinching victory against the Marlins.
While he was a late scratch from the lineup on Tuesday, he is expected to be back in the lineup Wednesday, but with the team having clinched a playoff spot there is the possibility that they could hold Bourn out until his hand is closer to 100 percent.
Any chance the Marlins had of ending the season on a quiet note has evaporated. We now have the Heath Bell watch over the next few days. Plus, we have the Ozzie Guillen meter on full blast. The media must feel like the next conversation with Guillen might bring the explosion we have all been waiting for. Nevertheless, the club still has to go out and play the Braves in a three game series starting Tuesday night. Hopefully we can just focus on the actual game and preferably, a Marlins win too.
- As a Marlins fan, we hate to see that it has gotten to this point. But it is getting harder and harder to picture a future with the following three individuals: Larry Beinfest, Guillen, and Bell. The three of them are probably gone in the offseason. All three have been talked about recently in the press, including how bad Guillen might have pushed the Marlins into the 'corner.'
- Fredi Gonzalez has decided to hit the high road when it comes to Jeffrey Loria. The Marlins owner called the Braves manager a failure. However, Fredi did not fire back. He only restated what he said about Loria earlier this week. And in reality, Gonzalez is right.
- Heath Bell got a little of his own medicine today when a few players cranked up the volume of a radio in the club house. On it was Ozzie Guillen during his normal weekly spot. He told the host on AM 790 The Ticket that he still respects Bell as a player, but was not sure as a guy. This comes after the comments Bell made about the manager over the last few days.
Around the League
- Sad news out of Cincinnati. Manager Dusty Baker suffered a "mini-stroke" while he was being discharged from a hospital in Chicago last week. Lucily, and because he was in a hospital setting, he was treated there to minimize the effects. He is doing much better now.
At Fish Stripes
- Mr. Jong refreshes you this week with all of the Miami Marlins draft picks under Larry Beinfest. This has always been a weakness for the potentially soon-to-be former general manager of the Fish, regardless of the few players he actually hit on (Josh Johnson, Giancarlo Stanton).
- Read the following opinion by Ehsan Kassim concerning Heath Bell and the comments he made about manager Ozzie Guillen this week. You will see quickly where the only constant for the Marlins this season has been their tendency to stay in the press, and usually for the wrong reasons.
Last night was as magical as any night in the past two years for the Atlanta Braves. They exorcised the demons of 2011, quieted the skeptics, kept the core of the team together, and earned another spot in the postseason. So what's next? Chipper Jones says the season isn't over yet:
"There was never any doubt. We knew that last year was somewhat of a fluke. We kind of got caught not really knowing what to expect. A lot of these guys they took the attitude of trying to hang on, this year we took the bull by the horns and we were like we were shooting for the stars. We’re still shooting for the division until they close us out. and we’ll let the wild card be a byproduct of finishing second and coming up short. But we’ve still got life."
That's been their mantra the last month -- they're shooting for the division title. With the need to rest players and pitchers, it will be interesting to see if they can keep the same intensity over the last eight games. To win the division, the Braves have to be nearly perfect, while the Nationals have to do what the Braves did last year, and lose nearly all their remaining games. But as we learned last year, anything can happen.
When we watched Freddie Freeman hit a monster home run to straight-away center field last night to clinch a playoff spot for the Atlanta Braves, very few of us were aware that only one other player in history had ever done that. Here's ESPN Stats Info:
Freeman is the seventh player in major league history to hit a walk-off home run to clinch a team’s postseason berth.
He is just the second, however, to hit the game-winning homer with his team trailing in the game. The other was Bobby Thomson’s "Shot Heard 'Round the World" for the 1951 New York Giants.
That's right, Freeman can now be mentioned in the same breath as one of the most iconic plays in the history of the game. Yes, the circumstances are a little different, but the result of a playoff berth is the same.
This is just one more reason that last night's game was so special.
Ron Villone spent 15 years in the Major Leagues, two of those years with the Astros. In his two years with the Astros Villone struck out 156 batters which is why we'll be taking a look at him today in advance of game 156 on the season.
Villone had an interesting two years with the Astros and mostly because they weren't consecutive years. On June 27, 2001, he was acquired from the Colorado Rockies for Jay Powell. He would pitch 68 below average innings for the Astros, while striking out 65. In the offseason he signed with the Pirates.
He was signed as a free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks prior to the 2003 season, but never appeared in a Major League game for them that year. He was released by the Diamondbacks May 15, 2003, and signed with the Astros four days later on the 19th. With the Astros he pitched above average as a starter, striking out 91 batters in 106.2 innings. He would pitch even better the next year, but did so with the Seattle Mariners and primarily as a reliever.
Overall, with Houston, Villone was an average to slightly below average pitcher for the Astros. In fact he did that with 11 other teams in the league as well.
In 1970, the minimum salary in major league baseball was $12,000. In 2009, the minimum had reached $400,000. I don’t know about you, but I would happily play for the minimum today and you would not find a more proud … Continue reading →
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