Thursday, September 14, 2023

BASEBALL'S RACE TO WATCH IS NONE OF THE ONES YOU THINK IT IS...

THE post-season of 2023 is unlikely to have the type of upsets that were so galvanizing in 2022 (at least in Philadelphia). The likely Wild Card teams in the National League are noticeably weaker this year, while the American League will have a strong Wild Card team from the Eastern Division who should have an easier time advancing due to a weak Central Division winner.

Fans in Houston, Dallas, Seattle and Toronto may well sweat things out as the season's final days wind down, but their teams' chances against the Rays and the Orioles look to be slimmer than usual. And rooters for the Phillies, Cubs, Giants, Diamondbacks, Marlins, and Reds will be thrilled if their teams make the post-season, but none of these teams project to get far against the Braves and Dodgers.

And if mediocrity manages to give itself a hot foot, you have the ungainly prospect of a flawed team goose-stepping around in glass slippers. 

SO what to do in light of this looming torpor? Well, of course, there's only one sensible thing available: you need to hunker down and focus on the one truly compelling race going on in baseball at this point.

And what's that? Why, the race for the bottom of the American League, of course...

The A's and the Royals have been locked in a see-saw battle for much of the season, and as we await the Ides of September tomorrow, the two teams are separated by a mere half-game:

OAK 46-100, KCR 46-101

Frankly, the specter of two seriously flawed teams lumbering down the final weeks of the season in what some ways might call "a literal dead heat" is a rare enough occurrence that it should get national coverage along with all the mediocre teams stumbling their way toward the playoffs.

The A's have some intriguing young players (Zack Gelof, Esteury Ruiz, Mason Miller, Tyler Soderstrom) who could form a solid core, but they'll be treading water for a couple more seasons. The Royals continue to be a team that can't draw a walk even if the count on the batter started at 1-0 in every at-bat; their mid-level breakout player Bobby Witt Jr. is another one of these. Whereas the A's have passable pitchers who could form a portion of an acceptable starting rotation behind Miller in Paul Blackburn and J. P. Sears, the Royals' only hope for a bankable starter is lefty Cole Ragans, acquired from the Rangers at the trade deadline. 

Oddly, both of these teams managed seven-game winning streaks during the season: the A's spurt in June caught them up with the Royals, who regained a solid lead over the A's in August with their own streak. Since then, however, the gap has closed, with the A's actually taking the lead again just a few days ago.

What do the remaining dates on the two teams' schedule look like? Glad we asked for you...

ROYALS: Home games vs. HOU (3), CLE (3), NYY (3); Away games vs. HOU (3), DET (4)

A's: Home games vs. SDP (3), SEA (3), DET (4); Away games vs. MIN (3), LAA (3)

The A's would appear to have the slightly easier schedule down the stretch.

WE don't usually have a rooting interest in pennant race matters, as you may recall--there have been exceptions over the years, when certain improbable teams have emerged from obscurity to captivate us in just the right way. Here, however, we're clearly on the side of the A's, for having been one of the early models of "outside the box" thinking in baseball, and for their sustained success in doing so. While we sympathize with Royals players as they endure yet another miserable season, the franchise's stubbornly retrograde approach and their maddeningly flukish success in 2014-15 have always been sore points for us (and, surprisingly, we are not alone in such a perspective, which is a notable rarity when it comes to such matters). 

So we'll just say it once: Go A's.

You should keep an eye on this yourself, just in case the wonky media decides to ignore it all. But, hey, this is a race that could go down to the very final day! (Stay tuned...)

[UPDATE 9/20: Or...not. The A's are trying out more young starting pitchers, and the results have not been good--a five-game losing streak at home (Padres, valiantly trying to sneak into the wild card race, followed by the Mariners, trying to stay afloat in the choppy waters of the AL West and the AL wild card race) and seven overall. Meanwhile, the Royals shocked the staggering Astros by outhitting them and winning two of three, and have caught the floundering Guardians with their offense in the tank. 

So what we appear to be left with are two fumbling Wild Card races that will likely go down to the wire, but somehow manage to seem as though they are occurring in extremely slow motion...]


Monday, September 11, 2023

29-GAME SPANS ≥ TO THE DODGERS' AUGUST: AN EXHAUSTIVE, ELONGATED RUNDOWN...

LAST time we told you about teams that played .800 ball or better over the course of a calendar month (you know: April, May, June, and so on). And we hinted at what's following that up here--a look at all of the instances where teams matched the Los Angeles Dodgers' 24-5 record last month (that's August 2023, in case you're suffering from temporal dislocation).

And so (at left) is the long, exhaustive and elongated answer to a question that none of you (not even Jayson Stark...) had asked.

THESE are all the teams that had a 24-5 (or better) record over a 29-game span (with all of that span occurring during a single season, no "slopovers" from one year to the next). 

There are 116 teams on this list, beginning with the Boston Pilgrims (as the Red Sox were known in 1901) and concluding with the Dodgers 29-game skein (which, unlike most of what you see here, occurred within a calendar month). 

It turns out that there are 191 actual incidences of "24-5 or better" (sounds a bit like an old Chicago song, doesn't it...) because several of these teams had better records during the same year in which they made the list. Many of those "multiple entries" occurred during baseball's early days, when games that ended in a tie were allowed into the official records. But the 2017 Cleveland Indians (you'll find them a good bit further down in the list on the left...) also made the list four times, because they have that many discrete incidences of won-loss records ranging from 24-5 to 27-2--the second-best record ever over a 29-game span, by the way.

For our purposes, however, the 116 teams who did it at least once in a given year is what we really want to know.

AND you're also going to want to know what that darned color-coding means. For once, that's pretty simple:

--Teams shaded in orange are the ones that won the World Series in that year.

--Teams shaded in yellow are the ones that lost the World Series in that year.

--Teams shaded in green are the ones in the divisional era (1969 to the present) who made the post-season but didn't advance to the World Series. 

--And, of course, teams with no shading are teams that didn't make the post-season at all. (Keep in mind that this shouldn't be held against the teams in 1901 and 1902: it's not their fault that the World Series hadn't been invented yet. But the 1904 New York Giants do deserve the blame for not playing in the World Series that year--because they boycotted it!)

As you can see, there have been eleven instances in baseball history where teams with "hot spans" of the type we've defined met in the World Series. But that hasn't happened since 1977.

What seasons produced the greatest number of "hot spans"? The chart gives us the answer: the record for that was set in 1954, when the pennant winners--the Giants and Indians--were joined by the Yankees and Braves as a foursome of "hot span" teams. (The Yankees and Braves would have "hot span" years again in 1957, and that time they did manage to meet in the World Series.)

Years in which three teams had hot span first manifest in 1909, with the Pirates knocking the Cubs out of first place and sending the "hot span" Tigers to their third straight World Series defeat (a feat yet to be replicated, by the way). 

Triple "hot span" teams recur in 1932 (Cubs, Yankees, Senators), 1942 (Yankees, Cardinals, Red Sox), 1951 (Giants, White Sox, Indians), 1953 (Yankees, Dodgers, White Sox), 1977 (Yankees, Dodgers, Royals), and 2002 (Diamondbacks, Braves, and A's).

The summary scorecard for "hot span" teams vis-a-vis the post-season can be seen below at right, where we've broken it down by decade. It's clear that "hot span" teams were more prominent in pre-expansion years, and not just because of the presence of the Yankee dynasty. 

As you can see 72 of the 116 "hot span" teams (62%) occurred prior to expansion (and this is probably our best point for such a comparison historically, since the number of years involved in each time segment is almost the same), with the 1960s proving to be the biggest outlier.

The other strong pre-/post- dichotomy is in the percentage of "hot span" teams making it into the World Series, something that the ever-expanding playoff system will continue to cement in place. 65% of "hot span" teams made it into the World Series in pre-expansion times, as opposed to just 25% since--and that figure is headed sharply downward in the 21st century (3 out of 21, or 14%).

Of course, the silver lining--such as it is--can be found in the number of "hot span" teams that at least reach the post-season. That figure is, as you might expect, climbing in the 21st century--and since expansion the percentage of such teams at least having a shot at the World Series has risen to 82% (11 in World Series + 25 in pre-WS post-season = 36 post-season teams out of 44.

WHICH leaves us (as is so often the case...) on the side of the road, looking at the anomalies: the teams that got hot for awhile, but either couldn't win a pennant or a division--or even miss a wild card slot. Some of these teams are well-known: the 1916 Giants hold the record for consecutive wins, but they finished fourth; the '28 A's couldn't quite stay hot enough to overall the Yankees, but they then reeled off three straight pennants; the '76 Dodgers put a few more pieces together and won two pennants, only to continue their tradition of losing the World Series to the Yanks. 

But there are some truly anonymous teams here as well--ones that never get much attention paid to them because they were also-rans. Who knows anything about the 1916 Browns, or the 1965 Pirates--or even the 2010 White Sox? How about the 1993 Red Sox, who actually finished under .500 (80-82)? Now that we know about these teams, we'll spend some time looking them over; look for a future installment that examines these oddballs...most likely called "Hot Span" Teams As Unreliable Narrators. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

HIGH-FLYING MONTHS: THE DODGERS' AUGUST IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT

SO the Los Angeles Dodgers had that white-hot month: 24-5...a feat already fading into a crevasse with the shocking news of Julio Urias' arrest for domestic violence. It's a safe bet that Los Dodgers will not be duplicating their feat (.828 WPCT) in September.

But it leads to a question we've never seen pursued elsewhere: just how often do teams have such high-flying months? Let's set the bar for high-atmosphere flying at a WPCT of .800 or higher. Just how often do you think that teams manage to sustain such a performance level over any given calendar month? And has anyone actually sustained such a level over two consecutive months?

As always, we have Forman et soeur to thank for having that information stored; we'll now unlock it for you. Our TimeGrid™ chart at right shows you just how often this has happened since 1901.

That's a total of 53 times over that span, and we have some color-coding here that adds a more detail:

--An orange-shaded box shows you where teams had two consecutive .800+ WPCT months. (The two teams in question: the 1906 Cubs and the 1912 Giants. Oddly, both lost the World Series that year.)

--A green-shaded box shows you the years in which the New York Yankees had such a month. (That's right, they haven't done it since 1941.)

--Blue-shaded boxes show you baseball's expansion years, which somewhat surprisingly were not collection points for high-flying monthly performances. 1977 was the only expansion year in which teams flew up and over the monthly .800 WPCT barrier--and one of them was the Dodgers, doing so in a league where there were no expansion clubs ('77 was AL expansion only). 

--When you see a number in red type, it's a high-flying month where the team's ERA was 3.00 or higher. And when you see a number in bold red type, it's because both teams who flew high did so with a 3.00+ ERA.

Note that more of these months occurred in pre-expansion times: 33 in sixty years (1901-60). In the sixty-three seasons since, it's happened only 20 times. 

NOW let's take a look at the actual teams who flew high for a month. We've broken the lists up by pre-expansion and post-expansion just to help you keep your eyes from glazing over...

On this chart, we show you the post-season status of the high-flying team:

--Those with boxes around their team abbreviations were World Series winners.

--Those whose team abbreviations are shown in red are teams that failed to make the World Series.

--Those teams with abbreviations in orange didn't play in the World Series because the World Series hadn't been invented yet!

So just 13 of 33 teams with high-flying months during the pre-expansion era went on to be World Champs. That doesn't sound all that great (39%), but as you'll see, it's a helluva lot better than the post-expansion percentage...

Because of the ever-increasing amount of post-season play, it's become harder and harder for teams with high-flying months to actually win the World Series. In fact, in the past sixty-one years (1961-2022 minus 1994...) it's happened only once: the 1984 Detroit Tigers. Only five of the eighteen teams who've completed a full season and had a chance to make it the World Series have done so (we can't add in the 2023 Dodgers and Braves, whose season isn't over yet). 

Oh, and forget about that extra shading on the 2013 Rays...just another friendly goof!

NOTE that the Dodgers have had high-flying months in consecutive years (2022 and 2023). Only the 1912-13 Giants, the 1938-39 Yankees, and the 1942-44 Cards have managed that. And only those Cardinals have managed to have three consecutive years in which one of their monthly WPCTs exceeded .800. Small solace to those St. Looie fans enduring a dismal year in '23, perhaps, but we should never look askance at a singular achievement. 

The accompanying stats are geared around pitching performance. (Getting the hitter data is a more arduous task, but we'll dip into it when some of our other obligations are less obbligato.) Note that the highest ERA for a high-flying team occurred in 1950 (the Boston Red Sox). Only one other team has had a team ERA over 4.00 and had an .800+ WPCT in a month--the Milwaukee Brewers, in April 1987. Fittingly, neither of these teams made the post-season.

We'll be back with a look at high-flying performances in 29-game spans not strictly tethered to the calendar (in other words, 29-games spans that cross over monthly boundaries). There are lot more of those to sift through, so brace yourselves...

Sunday, September 3, 2023

UPDATED MONTHLY PITCHING SUMMARIES THROUGH AUGUST--NATIONAL LEAGUE

Until the AL had its offensive surge after the All-Star Break, the NL was clearly the "hittin' league" in '23. That's for better and for worse, since we've always associated the league that held out against the DH as being the place where we'd see more pitching. So much nuance lost, so little time: someone really needs to slice up the Tango Love Pie™ and toss it in the trash can...

BUT let's not dwell on that when we can sift through some data, even if it has been somewhat compromised by the specter of 21st century reductio ad absurdum. The numbers, if handled in something more akin to the old-school way, still have some tactility to them, and we've got to protect that at all costs against the blowhards building their "empires of exit velocities." So let's let our fingers do the walking in the agglomeration of monthly pitching data, starting with the NL Central:









The Cubs have manage to overcome their May bullpen disaster and play solid ball for the past three months (47-31 from June 1st to the end of August). Their starting pitching is still a bit suspect, however, and they aren't really ready to go very deep into the post-season even if they make it. 

The same can be said about the Reds, who've brought virtually an entire farm system to the majors in '23. The Pirates and the Cardinals have floundered all year, with the Bucs squandering a promising start (just 41-64 since May 1st) and the Redbirds having both components of their pitching shoved down their throat serially and consecutively.

The Brewers remain the only really solid team in the NLC, but they'll need some breaks to get by the league's big guns in October. Now let's look at the NL East:









The Mets' fire sale produced the expected results in August, and brings their '23 season to its "not with a bang, but a whimper" moment. (Oh, and Tommy Pham DID get dumped: he wound up in Arizona, which is probably not his last stop).

The Fish have flopped themselves out of the water after their glorious June (19-32 in July and August) and have stopped gasping for breath, while the Nationals had a two week hot streak (11-3) against cratering clubs that gives them a better result in August than what is really the case. 

Comparing the Phillies and the Braves from June 1-August 31 is more interesting than one might first think, given how on fire Hotlanta has been: ATL 54-22, PHI 49-29. The Phils' starting pitching is actually better than the Braves' at this point, which could make for some interesting occurrences in the post-season should the two teams ultimately collide.

Now it's flyover time, headed back to the West:









The Diamondbacks' starting pitching failed them first; then the bullpen went kaput as well, making them into pretenders instead of contenders. The Padres' bullpen has a collective 8-25 record since May 1st, which has proven impossible to overcome. 

The Rockies are an ungodly mess, with starting pitching that almost makes Oakland's look "good" by comparison (Rox SPs are 23-59 for the year, 10-32 since June). 

We got a little giddy last time about the Giants and Gabe Kapler's "Tampa Bay tiered" pitching staff, but SF is still in the hunt for the third wild card slot, and if the starters can regroup in September, they just might make it. 

The Dodgers were able to put a bandaid on their pitching staff after a rough July for their starters, and they got an historical performance out of Mookie Betts in August to boot, lifting them to a 24-5 record for the month. (We'll cover "great team months" in more depth later this month...) It would have looked even better if Tony Gonsolin hadn't been left in to shred his ERA and his arm...

That said, their current crop of starters don't really seem likely to stop the Braves should it come down to that matchup in the NLCS. 

We will (of course) wrap up these monthly looks right after the season concludes. Stay tuned...

Saturday, September 2, 2023

UPDATED MONTHLY PITCHING SUMMARIES THROUGH AUGUST--AMERICAN LEAGUE

August continues to be the month within the baseball season that tends to shake out the relevant results in the brand of "post-season baseball" we now experience. 

We see teams rise or fall in more definitive ways during this month, leaving some wiggle room for the cadre of Wild Card contenders; and August 2023 is right in the pocket WRT this, particularly in the American League, where one division (the Central) is so crippled in comparison to the others.

The pitching summaries we've devised from data found a Forman et soeur (aka Baseball Reference) give us a solid suite of relevant info for showing how teams rise to the top--which they do primarily through getting the two segments of their pitching staff in sync. Let's go ahead and move right into a look at those AL summries, beginning with the Central Division:









Our color coding is more robust this time around (though it's doubtless missing something...) and we can see right off that the White Sox' sell-off at the trading deadline cemented in place a totally disappointing season for South Side fans. Three out of five months where starting pitchers have an ERA north of 5.00 is going to produce catastrophic results (and the White Sox' record in those three months was 25-54...not quite the uber-disaster experienced by the A's and Royals, but sufficiently bad for the fan base to spend much of its time at the ballpark holding its collective nose).

Cleveland spent the year with an up-and-down pitching staff racked by injuries--the silver lining might be that they did bring a number of promising young starters up in '23, giving them a solid amount of experience that might serve them well for next year. Their last-gasp waiver wire play brought them three more pitchers for an ostensible September "Hail Mary," but only one of those pitchers was a starter (Lucas Giolito)--and a struggling one at that.

The Tigers settled into a fitful mediocrity after the All-Star break, and their arduous sorting-out process is likely to continue well into 2024; the Royals achieved a lamentable consistency this year, in that in every month thus far the two segments of their pitching staff have had a losing record. Perhaps September will break the spell--but don't hold your breath.

Minnesota continues to lurch toward a division title, but their pitching has gone mediocre since June and it will be a miracle if they win a single playoff game.

On to the AL East:









It's turning into one of those rare-but-blissful years where the customary "big bruisers" in the Eastern Division (Yankees, Red Sox) seem all but certain to miss the playoffs. Bad pitching in July put the Yanks behind the eight-ball in July; then anemic hitting sunk them further in August. The Red Sox' bullpen, which had seemingly rounded into shape in July, cratered this past month, pushing them back down the standings.

The Rays recovered from their swoon in July, thanks in part to a vulturous bullpen (9-1 for August). They were still passed by the Orioles, who are currently the only team in the AL with a winning record in every month. Despite adjustments to their pitcher personnel that paid off handsomely in both July and August, there are still some folks who have their doubts. We're rooting for them, however--despite their medieval team ownership...

The Jays have had solid pitching for three straight months, but they just don't seem to generate sufficient momentum that can get them into the race. They'll have a dogfight on their hands to claim a Wild Card berth...but don't count them out.

And now to the Wild West:









Talk about a dogfight: the two Texas teams and the Mariners are now neck-and-neck, and September head-to-head match-ups will be extremely interesting. The Astros' bullpen seems to be returning to form just in time to help them, but they're going to need more consistent starting pitching. 

Seattle and Texas seem to have their pitching staffs in solid shape heading into the stretch run, though the Rangers have been more up-and-down and still have some bullpen uncertainties.

The Angels simply crashed and burned, so much so that we missed the blue color-coding for their component performances in August (there should be blue--which is the code for the worst; orange--no longer the new black--is the best). Truth told, their pitching was always iffy, and Shohei Ohtani's injury was the poisoned last "flavor straw" that leaves yet another scent of ash in Anaheim.

The A's starting pitching is something not to behold. Add up that won-loss record and you'll be looking for a bed to crawl under: that's right, that end-of-August total was 13-60. But they're playing the Angels this weekend, and their starters are 2-0 in September. Better take a snapshot of that quick...

We'll return with the NL summaries maƱana. Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 31, 2023

LONG-BALL UPTICK IN 2ND HALF TRACED TO STARTING PITCHER DECAY...

Yes, homers are up over the past two months. That has driven a slow, steady improvement in batting average as 2023 has progressed. 

The HR uptick is not a healthy sign, as it suggests that we're still entrenched in the "launch angle" game. Pitcher injuries are up--particularly amongst top-flight starters--and that is also contributing to a measurable decay in pitcher quality during the second half of '23.

Let's go right to the data:














The troublesome areas are marked in yellow and orange; the HR/9 column at far right puts into bold type any monthly average that's above the current MLB HR/G average (1.22).

And as you can see, it's starting pitching that has been decaying over the past two months, in both leagues, as a year with elevated injury issues has taken its toll.

AL relief pitching has also hit the skids in the past two months; the NL, not so much, though there's been an milder uptick during August.

Our guess is that this is a temporary setback for pitching and that a counter-move will come into play early in 2024, but right now the game is showing that the odd-year "launch angle" pattern is still intact.

We'll follow up with a look at team pitching once the final August numbers come in, followed by a look at the Dodgers' run in August (24-5) in historical context. Stay tuned...

Friday, August 11, 2023

OLD RELIABLE (OPS+) STILL NAILS 2023 MLB's TOP HITTERS...


The old-school sabermetric tools still work, thank you very much. And we haven't seen anyone do a list for hitters just based on their hitting for awhile, because the so-called "new school" has rabbit-holed themselves with various forms of defensive data and will overlay that into what they present at the drop of a hat...

...or sometimes even before the hat starts to fall.

Here at BBB--and just like you--we know that a second baseman with an OPS+ of 150 is going to be more valuable than a first baseman with an OPS+ of 150. But sometimes we just want to get the lay of the land, and we don't want to be heavily massaged by Statcast or Phangrafs. We're cool with "old school" because we're there are times when we' re just interested in the hitting numbers. 

So that's what we have for you today: baseball's top hitters, in five tiers. Data is through yesterday (August 10th). Here are your top guys, those with OPS+ of 150 or higher:


Bet you didn't know that Corey Seager was that close to Shohei Ohtani in OPS+, did you? If Seager hadn't missed six weeks early in the year, he'd have a semi-serious shot at the MVP award. (He said, snorting: no way an "old school" stat line that looks like a 1930s player is going to beat out the Fold It Two Ways God with the homer mystique.)

The real pity of 2023 is that Aaron Judge got hurt, as he was on pace to have a season very similar to the one that denied Ohtani the MVP last season. 

Note that players aged 25 and younger have their stats rendered in orange. (We were in an orange mood, like Madge Rapf above, which still doesn't explain to you who she is, despite bearing a striking resemblance to Agnes Moorehead.)

We took the plate appearance threshold down to 90 PA to include a few folk you wouldn't see otherwise who are currently hitting (the banged-up-but-still-great Jose Altuve among them). At this moment, this is looking like Mookie Betts' best season since 2018.

But the big talk in the NL is Ronald Acuna, Jr., still on track to (literally) run away with the MVP award.

And now, the second tier, those hitters with OPS+ of 140-149:


This range is kind of a thin group this year, with only two hitters (Luis Arraez and Kyle Tucker) playing regularly. We're also not entirely sure that the young guys here (Zack Gelof, Matt Wallner, Ryan Jeffers) are really going to hold this level, but they might. 

Cody Bellinger is certainly setting himself up for a big free agent payday this off-season, isn't he?

Let's gear ourselves up for the third tier, all the folk whose OPS+ is between 130 and 139:


We have a more sizable number of youngish hitters in this category, ten in all. Corbin Carroll was flying higher earlier in the season (as were his Diamondbacks--whose dive has been even more precipitous than Madge Rapf's), but he's still having an impressive speed-power year. 

Strange to see Mickey Moniak right next to the ever-injured Mike Trout, whose rate numbers have taken a tumble over the past two years. It's unlikely that Mickey will remain there, however, given that extreme BB/K ratio he's carrying. 

Hidden away from most everyone outside of San Diego is the fine year being turned in by He-Seong Kim, now playing second base for the Padres. 

And it's nice to see Christian Yelich have something like a return to form after his dark passage in the wilderness since the "pandemic season."

Let's continue on to the hitters with OPS+ values between 125 and 129:


We always miss at least one color-coding, and this time it's Adley Rutschman, having a stalwart sophomore season for the Orioles.

This is more of an older guy bracket than what we've seen previously, with J.D. Martinez, Christian Walker, Nolan Arenado, Brandon Belt, the enigmatic Tommy Pham (who wasn't traded away at the deadline for once...) and Jorge Soler all residing here. But there are also plenty of interesting younger folk, many of whom can be expected to improve even more in the future: keep your eye on Lars Nootbaar and Christopher Morel.

And, finally, the fifth tier: those hitters with OPS+ in the 120-124 range:


Here's your bumper crop, with even more older players in tow: interesting to note that the Dodgers and the Red Sox essentially exchanged older players in their lineups this year (Justin Turner to Boston, J.D. Martinez--in the fourth tier with a 128 OPS+--to LA) and both of those oldsters have kept on keeping on.

Boston is still struggling, trapped in the tough AL East, but their patience with Tristan Casas seems to be paying off and they could well be a bigger force in things come next season. 

Note the 60-point range in OPS amongst the hitters with a 124 OPS+. That's because OPS+ is ballpark-adjusted: J.P. Crawford and Brent Rooker play in pitchers' parks (Seattle and Oakland), while Jarren Duran and Joey Votto play in hitters parks (Boston and Cincinnati). 

FROM which side of the plate do the top batters take their swings? Let's break it down in tiers; in the top tier (150+ OPS+), there are five LHB, seven RHB. In the second tier (140-49), there are three LHP, nine RHB. In the third tier (130-39) there are nine LHB, eleven RHB, and two switch-hitters. In the fourth tier (125-29), there are six LHB, eight RHB, and two switch hitters. In the fifth tier (120-24) there are fourteen LHB, twelve RHB and four switch-hitters. 

That adds up to 37 left-handed hitters, 47 right-handed hitters, and eight switch-hitters. 

We'll look at this again after the conclusion of the World Series...stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

UPDATED TEAM MONTHLY PITCHING SUMMARIES THROUGH JULY: NATIONAL LEAGUE

Monthly tracking might get an interesting wrinkle if we bundled the results we have for you (monthly data for April-July) with what then transpires in August-September--in other words, after the trading deadline adjustment. Such data isn't readily available without additional back-end summarizing efforts, but we might have a chance to do some of that in the near future...watch this space, just in case.

Meanwhile, here are the updated monthly 2023 summaries for the National League, presented by division. First, we get flyover country out of the way with the NL Central:

You'll just have to imagine the green-colored squares for the Reds' starters in April, May and June (we'll fix that for the August update). That would make it clearer that Cincy actually got some better work from the rotation in July, which kept their June momentum from fizzling. The bullpen is doing a great deal of heavy lifting for the Reds this year: their relievers are 33-17, as opposed to 26-30 for their starters.

The Cubs survived poor starting pitching in July to post their second winning month in a row: as with the Reds, they got a boost from the bullpen. Meanwhile, the Brewers are 39-40 over the past three months, just treading water. The Pirates (27-49 since May 1st) are back to being a mess, while the Cardinals remain intensely enigmatic: their fire sale at the trading deadline could make for some "interesting" pitching numbers in August...

Now let's head East:


We did a little better with the color-coding here. As we suspected, the Braves cooled off, as their starting pitching remains spotty. The Fish hit an underwater headwind (you figure out what that is...) and are now swimming upstream for a post-season berth. The Phils had a solid follow-up to their hot June, and look poised to make another run, but they need more consistency from their starters. 

The Mets actually had a decent July, but it wasn't good enough to keep management from backing up the truck and unloading a whole lot of merchandise. (That 1-13 record from their relievers in June seems to have the killing blow to Steve Cohen's overwrought pipe dream.) And what can anyone say about the Nats, except how the heck did they go 12-14 last month with such crummy pitching?

Now, the long red-eye haul to the left coast:


Serious rough patches in starting pitcher performance for the two front-running teams (Dodgers and Diamondbacks) might be letting those pesky Giants back into things. SF's manager Gabe Kapler, who's shown some intriguing "retro" sensibilities now and again, might be listening to the Who's venerable rock opera Tommy via his earbuds: that would explain the "pinball wizardry" he's been displaying with his bullpen over the past two months. (Giants' relievers are 24-5 since June 1, and 38-17 for the year.)

By contrast, the Padres bullpen is now 4-18 since May 1, which is one of the key reasons why they're still looking to get some traction vis-a-vis the post-season. They kept their top pitchers for the stretch run, and we might just have a four-team race develop in the NL West.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

UPDATED MONTHLY TEAM PITCHING SUMMARIES THRU JULY: AMERICAN LEAGUE

We've been swamped with non-baseball work for the past few weeks; we've just enough time, however, to update the monthly pitching summaries, which we think give you an excellent "birds-eye" view of the performance ebb and flow for starters and relievers.

Today, the American League:

We start with the "stinky division" (aka the AL Central). You can see the White Sox' fire sale coming in the July numbers, along with the continuing decline of the Twins' starting pitching. Somehow their bullpen managed to go 8-4 in July despite a 5.19 ERA, which saved them from a third consecutive losing month. The smart money (such as it is) is probably on Cleveland...


On to the East, where the Rays slid and the O's flew high in July. Baltimore's relievers have a cumulative 29-14 record, which is bailing out a spotty core of starters. The Jays seem to be gearing up to give chase to the front runners, with their starter/reliever ERAs staying steadily above-average. The Red Sox are probably not going to pull it together, as their starters are still sub-par, but their bullpen had a fine July, helping them to their best month of the year. The Yankees' pitching faded notably this past month, leaving them in danger of becoming AL East cellar-dwellers at season's end for the first time since...*


And the red-eye to the West, which shows those ever-lovin' A's as just a bad team instead of an all-time travesty. The Rangers have been giving ground over the past two months, and that's let the Astros back in the division race despite pitching woes: Houston got away with murder in July, as their bullpen pitched poorl overall but managed to pull it together in key spots and post a 7-2 record anyway. The Mariners got great pitching and their July was the best in the AL West; the Angels continue to float along at just a tad over .500 as they try to gather enough momentum to challenge for a Wild Card slot before they (presumably) lose Shohei Ohtani to the highest bidder. 

Tomorrow, the National League...
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*Since 1990...haven't you kept pace with the "Expansionist Extravaganza," for Crissakes? (Update on that coming up later this month...stay tuned.)