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


Saturday, July 15, 2023

Q: CAN TWO BAD 3-WEEK STRETCHES RUIN YOUR SEASON? A: DUH, YES...

A quick shot for you as we develop more data built around the ongoing HR run of those seemingly invincible Braves...here we look at the disenchanted St. Louis Cardinals and ask the question you see above: can bad play in season "chunks" that amounts to just under 25% of the season take you from contender to "lunch meat"?

AND the answer (as we gave away in the subject line...) is "hell yes," as the table at right demonstrates. What you have here are the weekly results for the Cards this year, showing wins/losses overall and in one-run games (St. Louie is going kerblooie in such games this year...) and color-coded into three-week segments (aw, hell, call 'em "chunks" if you prefer...as Kate sez to Spencer in Adam's Rib: "let's all be manly!") so that we can sum things up tidily in the lower portions (aka "nether regions") of the display...

When we sum things up and re-arrange to see the two 3-week stretches that send the Cards into "crash and burn" mode, that "Bad 6" summary tells a sad (and loud) tale of woe. That 9-27 record compiled in weeks 4-6 and 10-12 is down in A's and Royals territory (.250 WPCT) and is pretty much the death knell of a season. Within that time frame the team also managed to lose 11 of 14 one-run games. 

In the other nine weeks of the season, St. Louis is an OK team, looking a lot like other Cards squads that have had sluggish starts in the first half of the year but have roared back into the thick of things after the ASB. But of course the problem is that the six-week drowning act has put them on the thin edge of little or nothing (which is a very thin edge, indeed). 

We've been suggesting to several of our cronies that the Cards should have engineered a deal for more bullpen help, and should have done so aggressively much earlier in the year. The didn't do that, and they had only one stretch where the pen wasn't an outright liability. It's still a liability, but the ship sailed a long time ago. Odd to see how the Cards' front office was so decisive last July in adding needed pitching, while this year they've been basically asleep at the switch. Stay tuned...

Friday, July 7, 2023

UPDATE: INTERLEAGUE PLAY AS OF 7/6/23

THE folks at Forman et soeur have extended the life of their "Situational Data" module, at least for a little while longer. We hope that this is because they are trying to ensure that all the functionality it contains will still be easily available elsewhere when they finally stick the thing into the oven. (Of course, we really wish they'd leave it alone, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards...and for the sake of Brock Hanke and our other stalwart friends in St. Louis, let's not talk about the Cards!)

We glean our "interleague data" from this module, and it's quick, easy--and it's data that just doesn't seem to be readily available anywhere else. (Small miracles are the ones we most want make sure keep happening--enough small miracles can often compensate for the stubborn lack of larger ones.) And so we again bring you that data, while attempting not to choke on the lump in our throat as we do so...

THIS time we've left out the breakout that reveals quality of play, and are sticking to the basics. We've organized it, as is usually the case, by divisions...what we've added, though is a look at a summary of each division as it's fared in interleague play. 

That includes the percentage differential between the team (and, in the darker yellow summary rows, the division itself) as it's actually played in interleague play (W-L%) and how the Pythagorean Winning Percentage (PWP%) suggests they should have played,

AS you look at those summaries, we remind you that we hinted at a "sea change" in interleague play the last time we provided an update. That change is still in play: after years of taking it on the chin, the NL is out front, leading the AL 206-189. It's not a big lead (.522 WPCT), but the divisional breakout takes us directly to the cause of the turnaround: the teams in the NL East are (for the most part, anyway) ripping up against their interleague opponents (78-56, a .582 WPCT).

That's noticeably better than the performance of the teams in the vaunted AL East. Of course, two of the teams are doing really well in these games (Jays and and Yankees), with the Rays' pace in these games still solid despite some slowdown. (We wish we could easily break this data out by month, but those resources are just not in place at this point in time--and yes, that's a hint to you, Forman et soeur!)

In the NL East, the Phillies have risen up to challenge the Marlins for top spot in overall interleague WPCT--even though their PWP shows that they're getting a lot of luck in order to do so (18.9% "over their heads"). Their good fortune pales against that of the Reds, however, who have a 39.4% "credit" that has garned them five extra wins over the first half of 2023. 

On the opposite side of the coin, those snakebit Padres and star-crossed Angels are underperforming in actual Ws and Ls despite their RS/RA differential in interleague games. 

And according to PWP, the worst team performance in this subset is neither the A's nor the Royals, but the Rockies (.311 PWP)--though their actual won-loss record is merely mediocre. We forgot to color-code the Pirates, who've dropped precipitously in this data subset after a brief early-season surge.

Finally...remember when the Dodgers and Padres hadn't played any interleague games? They've more than made up for that since then; the team with the fewest interleague games played thus far in '23 is now...the White Sox. 

WE'll be back in a couple of weeks with another installment--and hoping that it will still remain easy to provide this data to you...stay tuned!

Monday, July 3, 2023

MONTHLY "RESULT BY PITCHER ROLE" DATA THRU 6/30--PART 2: NATIONAL LEAGUE

IT has been brought to our attention that some folks think that there's not enough "action" here at the blog; as we see it that's really a) a "carry-over metaphor" for the state of baseball itself, or b) an indication that we've gotten into the "hot weather" portion of the year and the red-blooded males who primarily make up our audience would like some titillation to go with their statistical diatribe. 

Never let it be said that we aren't at least occasionally willing to oblige our readership. The young lady in question wishes to remain anonymous, however, preferring only to tell you that the flavor of the featured "fruit treat" is pineapple...

And of course you will forgive us when we segue into the NL data by noting that it is noticeably more "juicy" than yesterday's look at the AL...rim shot, please, and on to the NLC:

We missed a few green color-codes (possibly we were a bit...distracted?) but we trust you will be at least somewhat forgiving. The Reds leaped into first place in this scatter-brained division thanks to hot hitting and a bullpen that "did the right thing" (take a bow, Spike Lee...) at the right time. The chances of them winning at that June pace (18-9, .667) are not high, though, because their starting pitching resembles the still-reeling Cardinals. 

The Cubs actually got 96% of their decisions from their starters this past month, which is clearly the anomaly of all anomalies; but their starting pitching has been consistently the best in the NLC, which might bode well for a surprise run in the second half.

Let's head east before we head west, shall we?


Three hot teams in this division during June: Braves, Phillies and the ever-surprising Marlins. If the Fish could get Sandy Alcantara to pitch the way he did in 2021-22, they could make things really interesting.

The Braves' bats and their bullpen were the key to their hot run (we've covered their hot hitting month elsewhere). They won't have another 13-2 month from their starters with that type of ERA. The Phils had a nice run from their starters in June, but their bullpen has been just under league average for the entire year; they may need the Marlins to take a nosedive to return to the post-season this year.

Just take one quick look at the won-loss record of the Mets' bullpen in June...now, quickly--quickly--avert your eyes!

Unfortunately, the Nationals continue to look for a pitching staff on Hunter Biden's laptop.

OK, enough perfervid humidity, already: leftward ho!


NOTE that the Giants' bullpen has eight more wins (27) than the team's starters (19). We're not sure that something like this has been done over a full season--we'll check into it and get back to you. We'll also check that winning percentage discrepancy (.649 RP/.452 SP). Is any of this sustainable? For now, all we can be somewhat certain of is that Gabe Kapler's yoga mat seems to have burn marks all over it...

The Padres' bullpen is 3-13 since May, which suggests that things in the Border City are just as they've always been: snakebit. 

Starting pitching is what's keeping the Diamondbacks from running away from the other teams in the division, and the Dodgers really need their injured pitchers to return sooner than later before they head into a more permanent form of mediocrity.

And once again, the Rox' bullpen is the only thing keeping them from getting underneath the performance of the AL stalwarts (A's, Royals) that they otherwise resemble.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

MONTHLY "RESULT BY PITCHER ROLE" DATA THRU 6/30--PART 1: AMERICAN LEAGUE

The "double number 1's" really do speak for themselves...
WE didn't whiff on this promise, which doesn't quite explain all the commotion you're hearing around you right now...that popping you hear this evening is even louder than those pickleball paddles adding noise pollution across the overheated American landscape...fueled in large part on the left coast by indomitable goddess Devon ("Not the Dude") Zerebko, who played a mean first base back in the day--before finding a way to be born on third.

And so it's come to pass in these days that we have data for you, a compendium of team pitching stats that show the monthly progress (or its opposite) in the 2023 season. We previewed this a couple of weeks ago with a "proof of principle" display; now that June is in the books, we're going to serve it all up to you in two parts, beginning with the American League. 

We'll begin with the AL Central, the semi-catastrophic division (the color coding really says it all).

Recall that the cells that are colored green are, in this case at least, sickly and bad (and probably riddled with woe as well: but woe was taken away from our beat in the latest downsizing, so we can't say for sure). There's a lot of green in the Royals' data here--it is probably leaping out at you right this minute--three cheers for the power of synchronistic persuasion. That's right: KC's starting pitchers are a combined 11-40 this year. 

We're still not certain that the SP% (percent of innings thrown by starting pitchers) and Dec% (percent of decisions assigned to starters) are numbers that really tell us all that much, but we're going to try to find time to collect more data from previous years to see what we can find out. 

The monthly progressions can tell us a good amount, however--for example, the White Sox are rebounding from their terrible April, thanks in large part to resurgence from their bullpen, which has been the best in the division over the past two months. It's a division that remains up for grabs, thanks in part to the failure of the Twins to capitalize on their solid pitching in May, which was followed by a "June swoon" from their starting pitchers.

On to the AL East, the "behemoth" division, where the "fearsome five" have been regressing to the mean...

The Rays and Jays played well in June, with Toronto getting its starting pitching back in shape after a shaky month of May; Tampa Bay got its bullpen back on track in June, offsetting a decline from their starters (due in part to a continuing skein of injuries). 

The Orioles' starters remain a bit shaky, and their monthly records suggest that they have to address some overall performance issues from their staff lest they drift further downward (they lost 2 1/2 games in the standings to the first-place Rays in June). 

Tampa clearly uses its bullpen much more than most AL teams, and that continues to work for them, as their relievers have racked up a 23-13 record despite pitching less effectively overall than their other big rivals, the New York Yankees, whose hitting woes went viral when Aaron Judge suffered a freak injury early in the month and has been out of the lineup ever since. The Yanks have the best bullpen in the league, but it's only 19-15 on the year due to an offense that has been unable to do its job in those games where the team is tied or a run or two behind. NYY has often vultured a lot of wins via their bullpen, running up .650+ WPCT from their relief staff; they'll have to step up noticeably to keep that pattern intact.

The Red Sox are slowly solving their starting pitcher problem (the emergence of Brayan Bello and the return of James Paxton are the key reasons for that) but the bullpen continues to flounder. 

And now, the wild, wild West:

We have some funny displays in our PNG files...pay no attention to the weird patterns made by the man behind the curtain. The Astros looked to be gaining momentum in May, but things regressed this past month: injuries and inconsistency are a large part of that story. 

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the table (but at the top of the standings...) the Rangers had a chance to run away with the AL West but suffered a downturn from their starters (who were 26-9 in the first two month of the season). 

The Mariners' pitching tanked them in June, particularly an injury-riddled bullpen, while the Angels continue to have problems building a starting rotation around Shohei Ohtani

And then there are those A's, who stunned everyone with a seven-game winning streak, bringing their pitching up from its pervasive rubble-strewn landscape (2-30 from the starters in April/May!) into the realm of the mediocre. (Well, almost mediocre: those OPS+ values are still rather hinky.)

The AL West was 11 games under .500 in June, which is not in the realm of the type of clobbering that the AL Central absorbed (-24), but it's not good. We'll take a look at just how the NL flipped the script in interleague play later in the week; tomorrow, brace yourself for their "monthly pitching role results summary" as you await the next round of popping noises that will continue to pervade a uniquely interminable holiday weekend. Earplugs, anyone?

Saturday, July 1, 2023

BRAVES' BIG MONTH BRINGS 50+ HR CLUB TO THE BRINK OF THE CENTURY MARK

 WE wrote a lot about the 50+ HR club here (and teased poor Sarah Langs for her perkiness prior to the incredible and tragic irony that she subsequently was diagnosed with ALS; our other "disease puns" in that post from March '21 are more or less unfortunate depending on just how you parse your personal judgmentalism) so we'll keep that particular update brief.

The Atlanta Braves just hit 61 HRs in June (we'll focus on their overall performance during the past month at greater length below...) to become the 99th team to hit 50+ HRs in a month. Note that when the St. Louis Cardinals (one of the few teams to have a better hitting month than the June '23 incarnation of the Braves) became the first to hit 50+ HRs in the 21st century, they were only the 29th team to do so in all of baseball history. Sixty-nine more teams have followed in their footsteps over the past 22 years, with nearly a quarter of that total stemming from one year--the freakazoid annum blastum of 2019.

The updated TimeGrid™ for 50+ HRs in a month is shown at right...

The Braves hit 54 HRs in May, which makes them the eighth team in history to hit 50+ HRs in back-to-back months. We didn't cover that in our '21 report, so here's some fresh info: the first team to do so was the 1961 Yankees (natch), with 50+ HR months in June and July. Thirty-five years would pass until the Oakland A's would match the feat, also exceeding 50 HRs in June and July 1996. Twenty-three more years would pass before the Twins set a record for HRs (307) and had five consecutive 50+ HR months in the process. The Yankees and Astros, hot on their heels in the team HR race in 2019, made things close, each turning in 50+ HR months in August and September.

The Dodgers joined the club during 2020, hitting 50+ in the only two full months available to them. Last year the Yankees became the only team with three seasons of back-to-back 50+ HR months (May-June), setting a record for the lowest BA by a team with 50+ HRs (.235). And now, the Braves.

AND it was definitely "Hot-Lanta" last month. The Braves scored seven runs a game, amassing a .943 OPS, which ranks seventh all-time amongst teams with 500+ PAs in a month. (If you adjust that PA requirement up to 900, they rank fifth.) Their slash line: .307/.372/.572. Eight of their regulars had an OPS in excess of .900, led by Eddie Rosario (1.115), Ronald Acuña, Jr. (1.111) and Michael Harris II (1.005). 

So who's ahead of them? Of the teams with 900+ PAs, there are the 2003 Red Sox (.945 OPS), the 2017 Astros (.948 OPS), the previously mentioned 2000 Cardinals (.959 OPS). All of these teams made it into the post-season, but the lone World Series winner has remained tainted by trash cans.

But there's one more team ahead of them, a team that didn't make the post-season in the year it posted the highest monthly OPS in history (1.035!). Of course, they didn't have divisions or wild cards in 1930, so if you finished third--as this team did--you were, as "they" say, SOL. 

And that's what happened to the 1930 Yankees. Even with the greatest hitting month ever (.366 as a team--and that's with pitchers batting!), they still wound up 16 games behind the Philadelphia A's, who were en route to their second consecutive World Series win. (Shockingly, it wasn't the A's they were unable to beat--they went 10-12 in their series against them--it was the Washington Senators, who won 17 of 22 from the Yankees that year and as a result wound up in second place six gams ahead of them at year's end. 

Since Joe the P., who was on a version of this story earlier today, was unwilling/incapable of taking you back to see what the greatest hitting month of all time looked like, we fished the data out of David Pinto's handy Day-By-Day Database and posted it (above). Three .400+ hitters and Babe Ruth--holy moly! And three more guys hitting > .340. (We've been told, of course, that batting average is "meaningless," but it's OK for you to be impressed anyway.) 

The Yankees went 20-8 in June (as opposed to the Braves going 21-4 this past month) to move within two games of the A's at month's end, but their pitching was lousy, and even more so in the second half. And even the Hall of Famers here--Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Earle Combs, Bill Dickey (and don't forget Red Ruffing, who hit .474!)--couldn't score nine runs a game all year long. 

We're not sure about the Braves (and, BTW: why don't they have to change their name if the Indians did?) and their ability to keep things at this level...or, rather, we should say we're certain they won't keep things at this level! At some point later in the year we'll demonstrate what happened to "peak-month" hitting teams in the month after their big uplift. (Hint to all you erstwhile geologists: subsidence!) But we suspect they'll still remain the NL's best team even when the "Hot-Lanta" hitters cool down. 

More June data in upcoming posts...stay tuned.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

OH-OH-OH OHTANI! (aka THE NON-EXISTENT IDES OF JUNE)

YES, it's true, sometimes even we don't know what we mean when it comes to these titles. There's some song that "inspired" the first part, you may be able to dredge it up in your head (and then you'll curse us because you can't get rid of it)...and the second part is a rat's nest of ancient calendrical mishegas that is actually best sidestepped by jumping down a rabbit hole.

But it is still June (just barely) and the next "Ides" (according to the chimps who keep typing the Wikipedia entries hoping to randomly churn out Macbeth...) doesn't occur until well after all those upcoming fireworks add even more air pollution over the Canadian fire-infused skies that continue to linger ominously over the Midwest), so perhaps all of this will tip you off to the fact that we're going to talk about Shohei Ohtani-and-oh!-what-a-month-of-June-he's-had...

...just in case you really have fallen down a rabbit hole and have somehow missed the news, blaring continuously since the location in the month where there's supposed to be==G-D it--an Ides...

SO. Showtime...once an inferior cable supplier to HBO Max, before the klunkhead about to spindle, fold and mutilate TCM "streamlined" it to just Max, which helped 100 million people forget all about it...

(Never fear, the data is coming!)















We sorted this mess of numbers (and, really, you need a mess of help to stand alone with these numbers...) by our old standby OPS+, so what you see in the above is a list of 34 players whose months of June (which has so many possible rhymes we'll only mention the most obvious one applicable here--loon...) produced an OPS+ value of 250 or higher. And, of course, the guy at the top of the list is a complete unknown, the guy Bob Dylan claims he was really writing about in "Like A Rolling Stone": the one and only Phil Weintraub. (As you probably suspected, however, we set a low PA threshold in our search to ensure that ol' Phil would show up here, just to confound everyone.)

THE gist of this (and not a moment too soon!) is that Oh-oh-oh-Ohtani ranks 16th on the list of June uber-performing batsmen. We carefully neglected to embolden the data for the players with the highest SLG, but Ohtani's (.915) is not one to sneeze at, residing as it does in the top ten. (That figure may now actually be a smidge higher, as his stats here are only through June 27: last night he went 3-for-5, collecting five total bases, for a 1.000 SLG on the night.)

There is still much hype about Ohtani having the greatest month of June ever, most of it centered around his parallel pitching performance. His almost-unique two-way performance (paging  Bob Caruthers) does need to be taken into account, but the fact is that Showtime has been a good bit more erratic on the mound since April (3-3, 3.69 in May and June). His most recent start, however, would seem to indicate that he's getting back on track (10 Ks, 1 ER over 6 IP).

Ohtani clearly loves the month of June: all of his monthly OPS values are between .831 and .893, except for June, which stands out like a pink elephant on foie gras (1.137). June (and all those damn rhymes!) just seems to bust out all over him, with 41 HRs in 442 lifetime plate appearances during the ide-less interval.

ALL of this is to say that we might not expect this level of magnificence to continue, given the pattern that the data seems to reveal. Many thought he would be the one to break the AL record in homers in 2021: as it turned out, he didn't come close. 

NONE of this is meant to disparage, demean, or diminish Showtime (though we'd like to speak to him about our exorbitant cable rates...). He is one hell of an entertainment package, and we should savor him, because it really is impossible to know just how long he can keep doing what he's doing. Here's hoping that his service is not interrupted anytime soon. 

And if he keeps up this June thang for a few more years, they may have to make an "Ides of June" no matter what the Romans (or the Wikipedia chimps) say...

[UPDATE 6/30: Ohtani has stayed hot since we wrote this, hitting his 14th HR in June last night, giving him a shot at tying Babe Ruth (1930) and Pedro Guerrero (1985) for the most June HRs for those in the elite OPS+ range. He's also moved up to 11th best OPS+ for June (279) and 51st all-time. We're still not sure that he's had the "greatest June ever," but we are sure that June really is Ohtani's month in a way that doesn't seem to be the case for anyone else. ]

Thursday, June 22, 2023

THE A's JOIN, THEN LEAVE, THE "7 & 7" CLUB...AND WE TAKE LEAVE OF OUR SENSES.

WE'RE now nine days and counting past the Oakland A's seven-game skein of glorious anomaly, capped by the "reverse boycott" that baseball's vodka-in-his-veins commissioner Rob "Mr. Potato Head" Manfred (known in these concentric circles as "Man Rob Fred") attempted to buzz-kill with a blunt instrument (aka the garbled syntax of a mob lawyer), and anything resembling an afterglow is indeed non-existent.

The A's uncanny ability to hang tough in one-run games abandoned them, and when we looked up from our ritual breakfast of bananas and ice cream, our potassium and sugar-glazed eyes dimly made out the fact that the ragamuffs had now dropped seven in a row, the type of symmetrical volte-face that usually occurs only in cartoons. 

And so we were moved to contact the austere but incurably helpful Katie Sharp at Forman et soeur, in hopes of identifying the teams who shared in the A's latest feat (seven-up, seven-down) so that we could isolate this "7 & 7" club, named after the famous drink that TCM's barroom braggadociant Eddie Muller snubbed in his latest book (the almost-charming, never-disarming NOIR BAR). 

Katie, who is very sharp, reminded us that it really wasn't a good idea to put Seagrams & Seven™ together too early in the day because the A's had already "been and gone" as regards the "7 & 7 Club"--in plain fact (plainer than the nose on our face, even if one too many early-afternoon tongue-exercises with ice cubes had made us blearily unaware that our nose was actually semi-existent...) because they'd just lost their eighth game in a row, a 6-1 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

But we were determined to salvage our blog post idea despite barely being able to discern the computer screen in front of us, much less the slippery, uncooperative keyboard (sit still, you beast! Oh, sorry, that's a different set of repetitive numbers, isn't it...). And Katie didn't bar the door, providing us with a list of nineteen teams that kinda-sorta fit into the original concept, which she modified for us, repeating slowly several rimes since it was clear we needed to hear it iteratively in order for it to lodge in our brain long enough to transmit to you, dear reader: the "at least seven wins followed by at least seven losses" club. 

And so the clouds lifted, or at least seemed to move...whatever they were doing, they did it long enough for us to compile this list, and get it into a form where you (not us!) will be able to read it. And here 'tis, over at the left, or maybe above us and to the left...or maybe to the left and above--anyway, you can find it...we're getting a little sleepy even as we look for a pair of scissors with which to cut up another of Eddie Muller's ties.

What may shock you regarding that list (aside from the fact that we actually got it posted...) is the presence on it of so many successful teams. You check our math (please!) but we count fourteen of the nineteen teams on this list with final season records above .500. (The A's clearly are not going to be number fifteen.) Two teams on this list, the 1930 Cards and the 2008 Rays, actually made it into the World Series despite having this careening occurrence in the midst of their season. 

IN fact, the A's are going to trail this pack by so much that they kind of dwarf the concept of anomaly itself, staggering their way (along with us) to the realm of the meta-anomaly (best served chilled, or possibly absorbed directly through the scalp). The team with the worst record on this list, the 2000 Pirates, almost won 70 games, and one of the others, the 1998 Reds, were kind enough to get the 7-7 thang into their volte-face variant (which actually consisted of ten straight wins, followed by eight straight losses). 

Now that the A's have left the actual "7 and 7" club, there are only eight members, half of 'em from the hard-drinking Midwest. All of them actually finished the year over .500, so it would never do for the A's to have stopped there and break up such a splendidly matched set. (There's a salacious reference in there somewhere, but we are doing everything we can to not let it escape.)

When we sober up, we're going to ask Katie if there are any teams that won seven, then lost seven, then won seven, then...well, hell, you can clearly see (we can't!!) where this is going. The perfect Sisyphean (a word hard to pronounce when you're pickled...) team is one that wins four, loses four, and "rinses and repeats" like that ad nauseum (ah, yes, we wondered when that would be coming...) over the course of a full season, all the way to 81-81. Of course, no one has done that, because the 162-game schedule doesn't permit such symmetrical nonsense to occur. And waddya say we raise our glass to that fact as we stagger off into the gloaming...altogether now--"Sisyphus is not symmetrical...Sisyphus is not symmetrical...where the bleep is my designated driver?"