Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-9-17

9/17/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Top of the 1st
LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE
Anybody who is calling the American League play-off race dull is so far off base they are in serious danger of being picked off. These people are not showing what I like to call “under standings” which is the ability to peek under the covers of the standings and really see what’s going on.

We begin in the East where the Red Sox are staggering through the end of this season. If not for the electric youngster Jacob Ellsbury and the hands-down Rookie of the Year, Dustin Pedroia, who knows what kind of spiral this team would be experiencing.

The weekend series with the Yankees proved one thing for the Sox, their only pitcher absolutely capable of shutting down any team in the league this season is Josh Beckett. Whether Beckett or Cy Cy Sabathia win the Cy Young Award this season remains at the whim of those who can vote, there is no question that Beckett is the only guy on the staff the Sox know can win a game when the ball is in his shoe upon arrival at the ballpark. The rest of the rotation has moved into the highly questionable category:
* Curt Schilling (8-8) is pitching better these days, but just well enough to lose the close ones. He sports an overall 3.97 ERA but his ERA in his last two outings is 3.29…both losses. He dropped a 1-0 decision to Tampa’s Scott Kazmir, who just loves to face the Red Sox, and then fell to Derek Jeter’s three-run killer homer on his 90th and final pitch of the night. From the 76th pitch onward this season, opponents are batting at a .300 clip against the Senator.
* Tim Wakefield posts a 16-10 record but a 4.68 ERA and after missing a start with a balky back (which for a pitcher is as bad as a backy balk) he has given up 13 earned runs in his last two starts to Baltimore and Tampa Bay…and that was in a combined 6.2 innings.
* Then there is Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is being given three extra days of rest before he next pitches, ostensibly to put him in position to pitch Game 2 of the Division Series. But in reality Dice-K has hit the kabe (Japanese for “wall”). Since the All-Star break Matsuzaka’s ERA is 5.37 and in September, it’s as bad as week-old sushi, 11.20.
* The fifth slot falls to Jon Lester (who make not even make the post-season roster), Julian Tavarez, the Professor or Mary-Ann.

Beyond the starters are their exhausted battery mate Jason Varitek who hit .234 in August, .175 in September and is hitting .214 since the All-Star break. And speaking of breaks, the Sox caught a lucky one when Kevin Youkilis was hit by a Chien Ming Wang fastball on the wrist and came away with nothing more than a contusion. Youk could use the rest in any case as he too has been struggling since the All-Star game at a .234 pace. All is far from right in Boston.

The Sox are being relentlessly pursued by the Yanks who won six of the final seven meetings between the teams, after Boston took their first four match-ups, and the Yankees took the season series 10 games to 8. Why does that matter, you ask? Because the first tiebreaker, if the teams finish the year with the same record and both qualify for the playoffs, is the season series. How often does that take place? Well, most recently last year.

If the Yanks and Sox are both making post-season, what difference does it make who finishes first and who is the Wild Card? The difference could be the World Series title, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Let’s move to the AL Central where the difference is 4.5 games, the same amount that separates the Yanks from the Sox, but the Tigers not only trail the Indians in the division (by five in the loss column, the Yanks trail the Sox by three in that category), but the Tigers also trail the Yankees in the Wild Card race by 2.5 (3 in the loss column). So the Tigers/Indians series is a big deal.

It then would make sense for the Yankees to be rooting for the Indians in order to gain some help in pushing the Tigers out of reach. But the Red Sox have some rooting interest here as well, and they are rooting for Detroit, but not just because they would like to stick it to the Yankees.

The reason why the Sox are rooting for the Tigers lies in the American League West, where the Angels are just days away from clinching over the Seattle Mariners (the St. Louis Cardinals of the American League). The Angels may be winning the West but they are tied with the Indians in their overall record.

Again, who cares? Everybody who is in the AL playoffs cares, because nobody wants to face the Angels in the short first round. Here’s the deal:
* In the post-season, the Wild Card team plays the team with the best record, unless, and this is huge, unless the Wild Card team comes from the same division as the team with the best record. That means if the Red Sox take the East and the Yanks are the Wild Card, the Yankees would play the team with the next best record, either Cleveland or Los Angeles of Anaheim, with the Sox playing the other team.
* This matters big time to the Yankees – The Yankees are 6-0 versus Cleveland, but only 3-6 against the Angels.
* It doesn’t matter quite as much to the Red Sox who are 5-2 against Cleveland and 6-4 against the Angels. What does matter to them is that they, like the Yankees, would truly prefer not to have to travel cross-country to face the Angels.
* Now, what would happen if the Indians and Angels finish the regular season as division champions in the AL Central and AL West, respectively, and end with the same record, as they do right now? Who would go where?
* The first tiebreaker is head-to-head games. The only trouble here is that these two teams played 10 games during the regular season, and split them. We then move to the next tiebreaker which is winning percentage in your own division. This is why all the remaining games in this seemingly dull American League race, truly matters. As of the morning of September 17, the Indians vs. the AL Central are 43-23, a .651 winning percentage. The Angels vs. the AL West 28-19, for a.596 winning percentage.

So, here’s what it all means:
* If the Yankees win the wild card and the Red Sox win the AL East with the best record in the league and the Indians have the better record than the Angels by virtue of numbers or tie-breakers, the Yankees would open the division series in Cleveland while the Angels would open their division series in Boston.
* If the Yankees win the wild card and the Red Sox win the AL East with the best record in the league and the Angels have the better record than the Indians by virtue of numbers or tie-breakers, the Yankees would open the division series in Los Angeles while Cleveland would open their division series in Boston.
* If the Tigers win the wild card and the Red Sox win the AL East with the best record in the league and the Indians have the better record than the Angels by virtue of numbers or tie-breakers, the Indians would host the Angels and the Tigers would play Boston.
* If the Tigers win the wild card and the Red Sox win the AL East with the best record in the league and the Angels have the better record than the Indians by virtue of numbers or tie-breakers, the Tigers would open the division series in Los Angeles while Cleveland would open their division series in Boston.
* If Detroit wins the Central substitute the Tigers for the Indians in the above scenarios.
* If the Yankees overtake the Red Sox, take two aspirin and call me in the morning.

Top of the 2nd
POST HASTE
As we hurry to the end of the season, we rush to judgment:

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
TEAM W L PCT GB
Red Sox 90 60 .600 –
Yankees 85 64 .570 4.5
d–Blue Jays 74 75 .497 15.5
e–Orioles 64 84 .432 25
e-Devil Rays 63 87 .420 27

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
TEAM W L PCT GB
Indians 87 62 .584 –
Tigers 83 67 .553 4.5
d–Twins 72 77 .483 15
e–Royals 64 84 .432 22.5
e–White Sox 64 85 .430 23

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
TEAM W L PCT GB
Angels 87 62 .584 –
Mariners 78 70 .527 8.5
d–A’s 74 77 .490 14
e–Rangers 70 79 .470 17

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
TEAM W L PCT GB
Mets 83 65 .561 –
Phillies 80 69 .537 3.5
Braves 76 73 .510 7.5
e–Nationals 66 83 .443 17.5
e–Marlins 65 84 .436 18.5

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
TEAM W L PCT GB
Cubs 78 72 .520 –
Brewers 76 72 .514 1
Cardinals 70 78 .473 7
Reds 68 81 .456 9.5
Pirates 66 83 .443 11.5
Astros 65 84 .436 12.5

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
TEAM W L PCT GB
Diamondbacks 84 66 .560 –
Padres 81 67 .547 2
Dodgers 79 70 .530 4.5
Rockies 77 72 .517 6.5
e–Giants 66 83 .443 17.5

d–mathematically eliminated from winning the division title
e–mathematically eliminated from the postseason

Major League Baseball Wild Card Standings
(Through Sunday, September 16th)
National League
Team W L PCT GB
San Diego 81 67 .547 —
Philadelphia 80 69 .537 1.5
Los Angeles 79 70 .530 2.5
Colorado 77 72 .517 4.5
Milwaukee 76 72 .514 5.0
Atlanta 76 73 .510 5.5
American League
Team W L PCT GB
New York 85 64 .570 —
Detroit 83 67 .553 2.5
Seattle 78 70 .527 6.5
Toronto 74 75 .497 11.0
Oakland 74 77 .490 12.0

The following teams play seven games this week: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago (White Sox), Cincinnati, Colorado, Florida, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles (Angels), Milwaukee, New York (Mets), Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Texas, Washington.

AL EAST
* Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens went mano-a-mano tied 1-1 tie through 6 1/2 innings matching up for the first time since Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Joba Chamberlain relieved Clemens, to start the 7th. As Mariano Rivera was preparing to face David Ortiz in the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded and two outs and the Sox trailing by a run, New York Yankees manager Joe Torre visited the Hall of Fame closer. ”I went out there and said, ‘Get this guy out and we win the game,”’ Torre said. ”I was just trying to break the mood a little – and mine, too. Then, my job was to sit there and get nervous like everybody else.”
* Chamberlain had not allowed an earned run in 17 2-3 innings over 13 appearances before Mike Lowell connected.
* In the 18 games between the Red Sox and the Yankees this season, 17 lasted three hours or longer…the 18th went 2:59. The average time of a game was 3 hours and 35 minutes. The average nine-inning AL game lasted 2:54.
* Derek Jeter is batting .441 with runners in scoring position and two outs, the best in the majors.
* When Jason Giambi homered Friday night against the Red Sox it meant that he had gone deep in consecutive series on for the first time all season. He appears to be getting into a rhythm at the plate.
* The Red Sox have a magic number of nine to clinch their first division title since 1995

AL CENTRAL
* Billy “Hey, I’m not related” Buckner pitched the Royals to a 4-3 victory yesterday over the Cleveland Indians.
* The Indians’ magic number to clinch a playoff berth is 9. Any combination of first-place Tribe victories and Tigers’ defeats totaling 9 would give the Indians the American League Central Division title and an automatic playoff spot.
* The Indians are 11-31 when they score three runs or less.
* Detroit Tigers closer Todd Jones picked up his 300th career save in the Tigers’ 6-4 victory against the Minnesota Twins. The Tigers completed a three-game sweep of the Twins as Jones saved all three games in the series. He is the 21st reliever to achieve 300 saves.
* The Tigers hope to reach the postseason in back-to-back years for the first time since 1934-35.

AL WEST
* Vladimir Guerrero’s homer yesterday gave him 25 home runs for the 10th consecutive season. Only the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez has at least 25 homers in the last 10 seasons. Guerrero also set an Angels record with his 27th intentional walk, breaking the record of 26 he set in 2005.
* This should be a good week for the Angels’ hitters. They face Tampa Bay whose pitchers, prior to yesterday had a 5.63 ERA overall (30th), 6.44 Road ERA (30th), 5.69 Sept. ERA (25th). Then they face Seattle whose pitchers have a 4.82 ERA overall (24th), 4.96 Road ERA (22nd), 6.44 Sept. ERA (29th).
* The Mariners are 6.5 games behind in the Wild Card race.

NL EAST
* Maybe Jimmy Rollins was right after all. Greg Dobbs had a pinch-hit grand slam and Philadelphia beat the sloppy Mets for the eighth straight time, 10-6. New York committed six errors and matched a season high with 11 walks. It was the most errors by the Mets since they had six on Sept. 13, 2002, at Montreal. The Phils won 12 of 18 against the Mets this season, including a franchise-best three series sweeps.
* MVP wannabe David Wright homered to become the third player in Mets franchise history to reach 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season. New York hitting coach Howard Johnson and Darryl Strawberry also accomplished the feat.
* Moises Alou singled to extend his hitting streak to 20 games.
* Jose Reyes made two errors on one play and ended his career-best errorless streak at 43 games.
* Rollins committed an error as well, ending a 54-game errorless streak. It was the longest in the majors this year by a shortstop.
* This should be a good week for the New York Mets who have three games in Washington and then three games in Florida. The Marlins staff has the second-worst ERA in the NL (4.91) and a 5.99 ERA in September (not including yesterday).
* The Phillies have a very good chance to hang tough in both chasing the Mets and chasing the Wild Card. Philadelphia has three games in St. Louis against a team that has a 5.57 September ERA (not including Sunday).

NL CENTRAL
* Matt Murton hit a three-run homer, and Jason Marquis allowed one run and five hits, walking two and striking out four in 6 1/3 innings to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 4-2 win over the Mariner-like St. Louis Cardinals. Ryan Dempster pitched a scoreless 9th for his 28th save in 31 opportunities.
* The Cubbies were 7-4 on their road trip.
* The Cubs finished 11-5 against the Cardinals.
* The Cubs are 39-36 on the road and 39-36 at Wrigley Field.
* Joe Dillon drove in a career-high four runs to double his season RBI total, and Carlos Villanueva pitched seven scoreless innings to lead the Brewers to a 5-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. The Brewers scored all their runs with two outs. Francisco Cordero, struck out four straight earning his 43rd save. It was the first time in Cordero’s career that he got four outs for two consecutive days.
* The Brewers OF Corey Hart and the Reds 2B Brandon Phillips are the first two players to have at least 20 home runs, 20 steals and a 20-game hitting streak in a season since Vladimir Guerrero did it for the Expos in 2002.Milwaukee has won 10 of 15.
* The Brewers (76-72) surpassed their win total from last year.

NL WEST
* Edgar Gonzalez won his seventh straight decision, Chris Snyder hit a three-run homer and the Diamondbacks beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 6-1. The Dodgers took two of three in the series.
* Dodgers’ catcher Russell Martin wasn’t in the starting lineup for only the 15th time in 149 games.
* The Diamondbacks, 46-29 at Chase Field, play their final six home games of the season this week — three against the Giants and three against the Dodgers. Then, they finish with three at Pittsburgh and another three at Colorado.
* Not only is Jake Peavy my National League Cy Young Award winner, he may be my pick as MVP as well. In Peavy’s 5-1 win yesterday over the San Francisco Giants, Peavy lowered his major league-leading ERA to 2.39, struck out 10 to take over the big league lead with 225 picked up his 18th win most in the NL and a personal best. The potential Triple Crown winner allowed four hits in 7 1/3 innings and won for the ninth time in 10 decisions. His only loss in that span was at Arizona on Sept. 5 when he was pitching on three days’ rest. Peavy (18-6) struck out at least 10 for the ninth time this season — again, a big league high — and the 24th time in his career. His 225 strikeouts are a personal best, topping the 216 he had in 2005, when he led the NL. Peavy’s 18 wins are the most by a Padres pitcher since Kevin Brown had 18 in 1998, the last time the Padres made it to the World Series.
* San Diego swept the Giants, winning its eighth straight against San Francisco. The Padres are 12-3 against the Giants this season, with three more games to be played Sept. 24-26 at San Francisco.
* Peavy is in position to become the first Padres pitcher to win 20 games since Gaylord Perry had 21 victories in 1978, when he won the NL Cy Young Award. Two years before that, Randy Jones won 22 games and the franchise’s first Cy Young. Relief man Mark Davis was the last Padres pitcher to win the award, in 1989.
* Todd Helton hit his 300th home run and Chris Iannetta also hit a three-run shot as the Rockies routed the Florida Marlins 13-0 to avoid being swept at home for the first time this year. Helton got four hits for the fourth time this season. Matt Holliday matched his career high with four hits
* The Rockies (77-72) surpassed their win total from last year.
* Colorado has to face the Dodgers for four games in LA. Dodger pitchers have a 4.00 ERA overall (4th), 3.82 Road ERA (4th), 3.62 Sept. ERA (4th). Then they go to the pitcher friendly Petco for three and face the Padres pitchers who have a 3.69 ERA overall (1st), 3.63 Home ERA (3rd), 5.03 Sept. ERA (18th).

Top of the 3rd
NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH MARISA
Jim Thome of the Chicago White Sox hit number 500 yesterday.

Thome, 37, hit a game-ending, two-run homer on a 3-2 pitch from the Angels’ Dustin Moseley to become the 23rd player in major-league history to reach 500 career home runs and the 10th left-handed batter.

Frank Thomas and Alex Rodriguez also hit No. 500 this year. According to our friends at the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time a player hit a game-ending homer for No. 500, and the first time three players reached the plateau in one season. And Thome was the first to reach 500 on the day his bobblehead doll was handed out.

Thome broke in with the Indians in 1991 and spent 12 seasons with Cleveland and three with the Phillies before coming to Chicago last season. He had a special mention for Charlie Manuel, the current Phillies manager, who also managed in Cleveland and was Thome’s early hitting instructor.

Thome made it in 6,809 at-bats, the fourth-fewest among members of the 500-homer club behind Mark McGwire (5,487), Babe Ruth (5,801) and Harmon Killebrew (6,671).

As a new member of the club, Thome will learn the secret handshake which apparently does not involve one hundred high fives.

THE 500-HR CLUB

Player Total

1. a-Barry B*nds 762

2. Hank Aaron 755

3. Babe Ruth 714

4. Willie Mays 660

5 a-Sammy S*sa 608

6 a-Ken Griffey Jr. 593

7. Frank Robinson 586

8. Mark McGw*re 583

9. Harmon Killebrew 573

10. Rafael Palm*iro 569

11. Reggie Jackson 563

12. Mike Schmidt 548

13. Mickey Mantle 536

14. Jimmie Foxx 534

15. Willie McCovey 521

15. Ted Williams 521

17. a-Alex Rodriguez 516

18. Ernie Banks 512

18. Eddie Matthews 512

20. Mel Ott 511

21. a-Frank Thomas 509

22. Eddie Murray 505

23. a-Jim Thome 500

a-Active

Top of the 4th
BIDDING ON B*NDS BALLS
Barry B*nds’ record-breaking 756th home run ball was auctioned Saturday for $752,467, well more than the estimates by memorabilia experts. Home run No. 755 also auctioned for $186,750, including the bid and fee, according to Sotheby’s/SCP Auctions. Both final prices included the winning bid plus a 20% buyer’s fee, according to the auction houses handling the sale.

Top of the 5th
BUY A PIECE OF TIGER STADIUM
The sale of Tiger Stadium seats and other artifacts has begun at www.tigerstadiumsale.com.

Thousands of pairs of seats and about 700 other artifacts are up for sale. The City of Detroit, which owns the ballpark, is holding the sale to raise money to help pay for partial demolition and redevelopment of the site. Seats will be sold at a fixed price of $279 for an attached pair of standard seats and $399 for a pair of Tiger Den seats.

Artifacts to be sold to the highest bidder include:
* World Series banners from 1935, 1945 and 1968.
* Benches from the dugouts.
* Al Kaline’s corner locker.
* The door to the broadcast booth used by Ernie Harwell.
* Thirty-two equipment bags stitched with a player’s number and some with the luggage tags from their last flight home.
* A pitching rubber from a bullpen.
* The Opening Day 1997 mat from the on-deck circle.
* The home dugout urinal.
* Overhead and column section signs.
* Hot dog signs from the refreshment stands.

Top of the 6th
RECORD ATTENDANCE…AGAIN
With less than three weeks remaining in the regular season, Major League Baseball remains on pace for a fourth consecutive year of record attendance.

In 2006, a record total of 76,042,787 fans attended, averaging 31,423 per game. Through Wednesday’s games, 71,015,797 had attended, averaging 32,621 per game.

Minor League Baseball has already set its attendance record for the fourth straight year, attracting 900,000 more fans than during the 2006 campaign. The record run has consisted of 39.9 million fans in 2004, 41.3 million in 2005, 41.7 million in 2006 and 42.6 million in 2007.

Between Major and Minor League Baseball, it is estimated that approximately 121 million fans will have attended games by the end of the 2007 season.

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
I’m 5-2 since I started playing MLB Fantasy Survivor but my streak is 0 since I didn’t play this weekend.

While I always like to go against Byung-Hyun Kim, I’m picking the Brewers tonight for 20 Yovanis.

Here’s where you can play: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/fantasy/index.jsp

AL
Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees, 7:05 pm
(R) Daniel Cabrera (9-16) vs. (R) Phil Hughes (3-3)
Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians, 7:05 pm
(L) Kenny Rogers (3-2) vs. (R) Paul Byrd (15-6)
Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays, 7:07 pm
(R) Tim Wakefield (16-10) vs. (R) Dustin McGowan (10-9)
Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals, 8:10 pm
(R) Javier Vazquez (12-8) vs. (R) Kyle Davies (2-5)
Texas Rangers at Minnesota Twins, 8:10 pm
(R) Edinson Volquez (2-1) vs. (R) Kevin Slowey (3-0)
Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics, 10:05 pm
(R) Miguel Batista (13-11) vs. (R) Dan Haren (14-7)
Tampa Bay Devil Rays at LA Angels of Anaheim, 10:05 pm
(R) Edwin Jackson (4-14) vs. (R) Kelvim Escobar (17-7)

NL
New York Mets at Washington Nationals, 7:05 pm
(R) Brian Lawrence (1-2) vs. (R) Tim Redding (3-5)
Florida Marlins at Atlanta Braves, 7:05 pm
(R) Byung-Hyun Kim (9-6) vs. (R) John Smoltz (13-7)
Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs, 8:05 pm
(R) Bronson Arroyo (9-14) vs. (L) Rich Hill (9-8)
Milwaukee Brewers at Houston Astros, 8:05 pm
(R) Yovani Gallardo (8-4) vs. (R) Matt Albers (4-8)
Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals, 8:10 pm
(R) Kyle Kendrick (8-4) vs. (R) Brad Thompson (6-5)
San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks, 9:40 pm
(R) Kevin Correia (4-6) vs. (R) Brandon Webb (16-10)
Pittsburgh Pirates at San Diego Padres, 10:05 pm
(R) John VanBenschoten (0-5) vs. (R) Jack Cassel (0-0)

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Yesterday in Seattle, the Devil Rays defeated the Mariners, 9-2. The victory improved their record to 63-87 and eliminated the possibility of 100 losses while improving their chances to break the franchise mark of 70 wins.
The Rays’ Carlos Pena hit his 40th home run making him the 110th player to hit at least 40 home runs in a season, and the 54th different AL player.

Alex Rodriguez (52), Prince Fielder (46) and Pena are the only players thus far this season to hit 40+ homers as baseball returns to normalcy. Gee, I wonder what the difference is? It must be the ball. Yeah, that’s it, it’s the ball.

Top of the 9th
LAST LICKS?

Reggie Sanders may be at his final stop after two injury-plagued seasons with the Royals.
Sanders, who reached the majors in 1991, signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Royals in 2006, but Sanders, 39, played in just 88 games last year because of various injuries and this year played in only 24 games because of two different tears in his left hamstring. He is currently on the 60-day disabled list and ineligible to return before the season ends.

Sanders did reach two notable career milestones — 300 homers and 300 stolen bases — while playing for the Royals. He is one of only six players in the 300-300 club. Sanders has career totals of 305 homers and 304 steals.

Sanders flew out to left in his last at bat against Scott Feldman of the Texas Rangers on Sunday, July 29, 2007.

Bottom of the 9th
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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.