Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-9-28

9/28/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Friday, September 28, 2007

Top of the 1st
LOOKING FOR A HAPPY ENDING
This, most likely, is my final column of the regular season. I say most likely because if there are play-off games to get into the post-season, they count as part of the regular season. So when MLB tries to fool you and talks about Bobby Thomson’s Shot heard `round the world as one of the great moments in post-season history, you can tell them that Billy-Ball says it ain’t so.

I wish there was a little time to take a breath this season but since we are still in full blast let me get a few things out….

To the fans of the teams heading to the post-season, stop and smell the roses. I’m serious. Savor the success. And if you don’t believe me just ask the fans of the Cardinals, Tigers, White Sox, Astros, and Braves.

Treasure being able to be a participant in games in October and if you don’t believe me just ask the fans in Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Baltimore, Toronto, Arlington, Miami, Oakland, and Cincinnati. They haven’t played a meaningful game all season.

“It almost felt like a pennant game out there even though we’re not in it,” Cardinals pitcher Joel Pineiro said after shutting down the Mets. So, thank you to all those teams during the last couple of weeks, like the Nationals, Marlins, Twins, Reds, Pirates, and Cardinals who are playing like it means something.

Way to go Jimmy Rollins! You talked the talk and then walked the walk. You’re an MVP (whether your team wins or not).

Appreciate guys like Joe Torre who can still weep with happiness when their team makes the playoffs. Let’s thank Lou Piniella for his June 2 tirade that turned the Cubs around. Don’t forget Pete Mackanin who made the Reds a competitive team, really.

What about a little love for all the players who tried to help their teams this with varying degrees of success. That is the 13 starting pitchers that Washington, the Rockies and the Phillies had and the 28 pitchers the Yankees sent to the mound and the 54 players who played for the A’s and 53 players who played for the Rockies.

For those players who are going to retire or not be invited back, thank you for another strong effort. I hope you did the best you could, there seemed little doubt that you did. And a special goodbye to Craig Biggio ending his career where he started… I don’t just mean with the Astros, I mean behind the plate. Tomorrow night, Biggio will catch the first two innings. Biggio broke into the big leagues as a catcher, and was an All-Star there before moving to second base, then center field and back to second base. It will be Biggio’s first appearance behind the plate since Oct. 5, 1991.

Thank you to all the teams who have made this season so great and the ending so amazing. I know it can’t happen for all of you, but a blanket wish for a happy ending.

I always thank my readers at the end of the baseball season, so you folks will just have to hang in there another month.

One final thought…Thank you Michael Vick for being a football player and not a baseball player.

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

2007 National League Standings
EAST W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA STRK L10
Philadelphia 87 72 .547 – 45-33 42-39 878 816 Won 2 7-3
NY Mets 87 72 .547 – 40-38 47-34 786 735 Lost 4 4-6
Atlanta 83 76 .522 4 44-37 39-39 801 725 Lost 2 7-3
Washington 72 87 .453 15 40-41 32-46 668 769 Won 4 6-4
Florida 69 90 .434 18 36-45 33-45 775 873 Won 3 4-6
CENTRAL
Chicago Cubs 83 76 .522 – 44-37 39-39 738 682 Lost 3 6-4
Milwaukee 81 78 .509 2 49-29 32-49 783 761 Lost 2 4-6
St. Louis 75 84 .472 8 43-38 32-46 706 820 Won 2 5-5
Houston 71 88 .447 12 40-38 31-50 715 804 Won 3 6-4
Cincinnati 71 88 .447 12 38-40 33-48 775 839 Lost 5 3-7
Pittsburgh 68 91 .428 15 37-41 31-50 715 827 Lost 1 2-8
WEST
Arizona 89 70 .560 – 50-31 39-39 704 715 Won 1 6-4
San Diego 88 71 .553 1 47-34 41-37 718 639 Won 3 6-4
Colorado 87 72 .547 2 48-30 39-42 834 742 Won 11 10-0
LA Dodgers 80 79 .503 9 41-37 39-42 719 708 Lost 3 1-9
San Francisco 70 89 .440 19 39-42 31-47 664 704 Lost 2 4-6

2007 American League Standings
EAST W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA STRK L10
z-Boston 94 65 .591 – 49-29 45-36 854 648 Lost 1 4-6
z-NY Yankees 92 67 .579 2 52-29 40-38 938 753 Won 2 7-3
Toronto 81 78 .509 13 47-31 34-47 738 684 Lost 1 7-3
Baltimore 68 91 .428 26 34-44 34-47 732 838 Won 1 4-6
Tampa Bay 65 94 .409 29 37-44 28-50 767 929 Lost 2 3-7
CENTRAL
x-Cleveland 94 65 .591 – 52-29 42-36 799 695 Lost 2 7-3
Detroit 87 72 .547 7 45-36 42-36 870 786 Won 2 5-5
Minnesota 78 81 .491 16 41-40 37-41 709 712 Won 1 6-4
Chicago Sox 70 89 .440 24 36-42 34-47 682 822 Won 2 6-4
Kansas City 68 91 .428 26 34-44 34-47 697 766 Lost 2 4-6
WEST
x-LA Angels 92 67 .579 – 54-27 38-40 815 726 Lost 3 5-5
Seattle 85 74 .535 7 46-32 39-42 779 806 Won 2 6-4
Oakland 75 84 .472 17 39-39 36-45 736 751 Lost 3 2-8
Texas 75 84 .472 17 47-34 28-50 809 829 Won 4 5-5

NL WILD CARD
W L Pct GB
San Diego 88 71 .553 —
Colorado 87 72 .547 1
New York 87 72 .547 1
Philadelphia 87 72 .547 1

IF THERE IS A TIE:
* If the Rockies tie with Philadelphia or San Diego, Colorado would host a one-game playoff Monday at Coors Field, with the winner advancing to a National League Division Series.
* If the Rockies, Philadelphia and San Diego tie for the wild card, the Phillies, who lost four of seven to the Rockies, would play at San Diego, which went 8-10 against the Rockies, on Monday. The Rockies would play at the home park of the team that wins that game on Tuesday, with the winner advancing.

SOME OF THE GAMES OF THE WEEKEND:

TONIGHT
Washington RHP Tim Redding (3-5, 3.53 ERA) vs. Phillies LHP Cole Hamels (14-5, 3.54).
Marlins (RHP Byung-Hyun Kim, 9-8, 6.11 ERA) at Mets (LHP Oliver Perez, 15-9, 3.32 ERA
Padres (RHP Greg Maddux, 13-11, 4.10 ERA) at Brewers (LHP Chris Capuano, 5-12, 5.09 ERA)
D- backs (RHP Brandon Webb, 17-10, 3.02 ERA) at Rockies (LHP Jeff Francis, 17-8, 4.17 ERA)
Cubs Carlos Zambrano, RHP (17-13, 4.08) vs. Reds Bronson Arroyo, RHP (9-14, 4.22)

TOMORROW
Washington LHP Matt Chico (6-9, 4.75) vs. RHP Adam Eaton (10-9, 6.33).
Cubs Rich Hill, LHP (10-8, 4.05) vs Reds Aaron Harang, RHP (16-5, 3.70)
Padres Chris Young, RHP (9-8, 3.13) vs. Brewers Dave Bush, RHP (12-10, 5.16)
D-backs Edgar Gonzalez, RHP (8-3, 4.73) vs. Rockies Mark Redman, LHP (1-4, 8.67)
Marlins Chris Seddon, LHP (0-1, 6.89) vs. Mets John Maine, RHP (14-10, 4.07)

SUNDAY
Washington RHP Jason Bergmann (6-5, 4.33) vs. LHP Jamie Moyer (13-12, 5.15).
Marlins Dontrelle Willis, LHP (10-15, 5.20) vs. Mets Tom Glavine, LHP (13-7, 4.14)
Cubs Ted Lilly, LHP (15-8, 3.86) vs. Reds Homer Bailey, RHP (3-2, 5.67)
Padres Brett Tomko, RHP (4-11, 5.39) vs. Brewers Jeff Suppan, RHP (11-12, 4.57)
D-backs Doug Davis, LHP (13-12, 4.25) vs. Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP (4-4, 4.52)

THE BILLY-BALL-BIG-PICTURE
* All four AL playoff teams have been determined while no team in the NL has clinched. Seven teams are still in the running for NL playoff berths.
* The Rockies have won 11 straight
* The Mets have lost 10 of 14.
* The Phillies have won 11 of 14.
* The Mets are 10-5 against Florida this season.
* The Rockies started the season, 18-27 start
* The Cubs Carlos Zambrano is 1-4 with a 6.59 ERA against the Reds this season.
* Arizona starter Brandon Webb is 0-3 with a 6.47 ERA against the Rockies.
* The Phillies are 18-9 in starts by Hamels (7-2 with a 3.58 ERA in 11 starts at Citizens Bank Park).
* Greg Maddux is 5-3 with a 3.83 ERA in nine starts at Miller Park.
* Brandon Webb is 0-3 with a 6.47 ERA in five starts this year against the Rockies.
* The Rockies are 22-11 when Jeff Francis pitches and have won 13 of his past 17 starts.
* Byung-Hyun Kim has lost his past two starts, allowing 14 runs and 12 hits in nine innings.
* Oliver Perez is 3-0 with a 2.92 ERA in four starts this month and last lost Aug. 29.
* Padres ace ace Jake Peavy will pitch on three days’ rest Sunday only if the Padres needed a win to clinch a tie for a postseason spot. If San Diego was assured of no worse than a tie, Peavy would be held back for a possible tiebreaker game or the first round of the playoffs.
* The Rockies have only made 65 errors this season.

TIES
* In case the Mets wind up in a tie for the wild-card lead, they would host Arizona and San Diego, and they would play at Colorado. Arizona went 0-4 in wild-card coin flips and would be on the road at Colorado, Philadelphia and San Diego.
* Flips held Sept. 7 determined that the Mets would be at the Phillies if they tie for the NL East.
* In the NL West, Colorado and San Diego would be at Arizona, and Colorado would be at San Diego.
* In the wild-card race, Philadelphia would be at Colorado and San Diego, and the Padres would be at Colorado.
* If there is a tie in the NL Central, Milwaukee would play at the Chicago Cubs.

IF THEY ALL TIE
If the Phillies, the New York Mets, Arizona, Colorado and San Diego finish with the same record.
* That would create ties in the National League East, the NL West and the wild-card race, requiring four days of tiebreaker games to determine postseason berths.
* The NL East: The Phillies would play the Mets on Monday at Citizens Bank Park.
* In the West, the team with the best head-to-head record against the others (because Arizona plays Colorado this weekend that is yet to be determined) gets to choose whether it prefers one tiebreaker road game or two home games. Presumably, the team with the choice would take one road game. Monday’s winner would then host the club with the bye on Tuesday for the NL West title.
* Starting Wednesday, the three teams that failed to win division titles would be involved in a two-day, two-game tiebreaker to determine the wild-card winner.

COMPUTING MAGIC NUMBERS
1. Here’s one way: Take the number of games yet to be played, add one, then subtract the number of games ahead in the loss column of the standings from the closest opponent.
2. Here’s another: Games In A Season plus 1 minus Wins minus Losses by Second-Place Team. Because Games plus 1 should equal 163 in all instances, it can be summed up as:
a. 163 – Wins – Losses By Second-Place Team
3. Before the season starts, every team has a magic number of 163. That would be 162 games plus 1, with 0 wins and 0 losses by the second-place team. When the magic number is 1, it means that the team has clinched at least a tie for the championship. Once it reaches zero, the team has won the title.

AL EAST – x-Red Sox 2
AL CENTRAL – x-Indians Won division
AL WEST – x-Angels Won division
NL EAST – Mets/Phillies 4
NL CENTRAL – Cubs 2
NL WEST – Diamondbacks 3
x-clinched playoff spot

IF THE SEASON ENDED TODAY
AMERICAN LEAGUE
Los Angeles at Boston
New York at Cleveland
NATIONAL LEAGUE
Chicago at Arizona
San Diego at Philadelphia/New York

AL EAST
RED SOX
* The Twins defeated Josh Beckett and the Red Sox, 5-4.
* For the third time in five starts, Beckett allowed a pair of homers,
YANKEES
* Phil Hughes threw seven strong innings and the Yankees #2 or perhaps #3-team defeated Tampa Bay, 3-1.
* Alberto Gonzalez and Bronson Sardinha each got their first major league hits, making this the first time since Oct. 4, 1980, that two Yankees (the immortal Ted Wilborn and Roger Holt – his last and only) accomplished that feat in the same game.

AL CENTRAL
INDIANS
* The Seattle Mariners beat the Indians 4-2 for the second game in a row to deny the Indians sole possession of the best record in the American League. Jose Guillen and Jose Lopez each hit two-run homers to back Cha Seung Baek (4-3).
* Losing pitcher Paul Byrd ended the season pitching 192.1 innings and walking just 28 batters including three intentionally.

NL EAST
PHILS
* Number one on the “To-Do List” is complete – “Catch the New York Mets.” The Phillies have done it and it is now a three game season. Ryan Howard hit his 44th homer, Pat Burrell also homered and John Smoltz proved he was no Kyle Kendrick as the Phils topped the Atlanta Braves, 6-4. Kyle Kendrick (10-4) allowed three runs and six hits in six innings. Tom Gordon escaped a jam in the seventh, J.C. Romero pitches a scoreless eighth and Brett Myers allowed a leadoff homer to Jeff Francoeur in the 9th before getting three outs for his 21st save in 24 chances. Smoltz (14-8) gave up four runs before he recorded an out. Smoltz allowed six runs – five earned – and seven hits, striking out eight in four innings. It was his shortest outing since going 3 1-3 innings on May 29, and only the fourth time in 32 starts he allowed more than three earned runs.
* The Phillies celebrated their 11th win in 14 games, in front of 40,589 fans who waved their white-and-red “Fightin’ Phils” towels.
* Howard also recorded his 196th and 197th strikeouts to set the single-season major league record. He broke the mark established in 2004 by Adam Dunn of the Cincinnati Reds.
* Last season’s NL MVP, Howard has 130 RBIs.
* The fabulous Jimmy Rollins needs two more at-bats to set the single-season major league record. Willie Wilson had 705 at-bats for Kansas City in 1980.
* Chipper Jones and Mark Teixeira hit consecutive homers for the Braves, who were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention for the second straight year after winning 14 straight division titles.

METS
* Last night the Mets played a make-up game from a June 28th rainout against the St. Louis Cardinals. On June 28, they had a record of 43-33 and a three game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies. Today they have a record of 87-72, but there is no lead any more. The Mets found a sub-basement to their despair managing just three hits off Joel Pineiro and Jason Isringhausen in a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. Pineiro struck out six and walked one in a season-high eight innings. Pedro Martinez (3-1) allowed seven hits in seven innings, struck out eight and walked one. He threw a season-high 105 pitches in his first loss in five starts since coming back from shoulder surgery last October.
* The Mets (87-72) were ahead by seven games on Sept. 12 with 17 remaining but have lost 10 of 14 overall and seven straight at home, a monumental tailspin for a team that counted on being in the playoffs. No major-league team has failed to finish first after having at least a seven-game lead with 17 to play.
* Perhaps the Mets are trying emulate the success of last year’s Cardinals who went 12-17 down the stretch last year, squeaked into the playoffs and went on to beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.
* The home losing streak is the Mets’ longest since dropping nine in a row from Aug. 28-Sept. 12, 2004.
* Moises Alou went 0-for-3, ending his hitting streak at 30 games
* “We’re tied now, so now we’ve got three games to get it done,” manager Willie Randolph said. “That’s the way baseball goes and we kind of made our own bed here so we’ve got to fight through this.”

NL CENTRAL
CUBS
* The Cubbies lost again to the Marlins yesterday, 6-4. It was the third time in this series and 10th straight time over the past two seasons. It wasn’t that they weren’t trying. I watched these guys hit the ball hard into fielders gloves and watched them leave 10 runners on base. For the third straight game, Chicago failed to score on the Florida bullpen. Ryan Theriot hit into a double play against Lee Gardner to end the 8th, and closer Kevin Gregg threw eight pitches in a perfect 9th for his 31st save in 35 chances. Hanley Ramirez hit his 29th homer for Florida while Jeremy Hermida had two hits and finished the series 7-for-12. Chicago’s Aramis Ramirez went 4-for-4. Steve Trachsel (1-3), made his first start in two weeks, lasted only 4 1-3 innings and allowed five runs. Scott Olsen (10-15) gave up four runs, two earned, in 5 1-3 innings and won for the first time since Aug. 5.
* Kerry Wood came on to pitch the Cubs out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the sixth. If it wasn’t for his hasty stuff, I wouldn’t have recognized Wood, who physically looks totally different.

NL WEST
DIAMONDBACKS
* How much do we love Micah Owings? I’m saying ” a lot.” Owings found out he was pitching an hour before game time, replacing Brandon Webb. He proceeded to go 4-for-4 with three RBIs to give Arizona the easy win 8-0 over the Bucs. Bob Melvin, making another charge for Manager of the Year, decided less than an hour before game to vie the ball to Owings (8-8) over ace Brandon Webb (17-10) because of an ominous weather forecast. How impressive is that? In 6.1 innings Owings allowed four hits, struck out four and walked none. In his previous start, he beat San Francisco 5-0 on Sept. 18 with a two-hitter.
* Owings is hitting .339 this season with 11 extra-base hits, including four homers
PADRES/BREWERS
* Scott Hairston hit a tiebreaking, three-run double to lead the Padres over Milwaukee 9-5 as the Brewers did little to help their chances of catching the Cubs by making five errors, their most in eight years.
* Third baseman Ryan Braun made three errors while first baseman Prince Fielder and left fielder Geoff Jenkins made one each. Milwaukee, which allowed four unearned runs, hadn’t made five errors in a game since Aug. 1, 1999 against Montreal. Padres starter Jack Cassel was chased after 4 2/3 innings as Milwaukee closed to 5-2. Former Brewer Joe Thatcher (2-1) relieved and picked up the win. Brewers rookie Yovani Gallardo (9-5) gave up five runs — three earned — and five hits in five innings.
* Rickie Weeks homered twice for the Brewers
* Thatcher, who was signed by the Brewers in 2005 while making $800 a month in the independent Frontier League.
ROCKIES
* This getting crazy! Who isn’t rooting for the Colorado Rockies right now? Garrett Atkins had four hits, including a home run, and Brad Hawpe and Todd Helton homered as the Rockies beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 10-4 to sweep the three-game series and extend their franchise-record winning streak to 11 games. Hawpe had three hits and four RBIs for the Rockies. Seven of Colorado’s wins in the streak have come over the Dodgers, who have lost 10 of 11 to fall into oblivion.
* The 11 wins in a row is the longest winning streak in the majors this season.
* The Rockies, a franchise-record 15 games over .500, won as many as nine straight once before, in 1997.
* The Rockies haven’t had a winning record since 2000.

Top of the 3rd
GROUNDHOG DAY
The Cubs lost again yesterday and with pressure mounting on the Chicago Cubs as they struggle to clinch the NL Central, especially after being swept by the Marlins, the Cubs’ No. 1 fan came in to do his part. Actor/comedian Bill Murray hung out with the team during batting practice before yesterday’s game against the Florida Marlins.

“There is no time for being cautiously optimistic,” he said. “That’s for losers. I’m very optimistic. Look at how I’m dressed. Do I look cautious?”

Murray said he may follow the team to Cincinnati today for the season’s final series.
“I’ve never been to Cincinnati, and I was trying to keep that record intact,” Murray said. “But I may have to go.”

“He’s a character,” manager Lou Piniella said. “He’s a big Cubs fan. He’s really rooting for us. He’s here to lend his support. I told him to come on down and talk to the players.”

Maybe what Murray told the players was lost in translation.

Top of the 4th
WHAMMIES
The Mets unveiled an additional seating section and in Chicago, the grounds crew was re-sodding the grass at Wrigley Field, both in preparation for the playoffs.

Idiots.

Top of the 5th
OTHER THAN THAT MR. LINCOLN…
Mariners’ CEO Howard Lincoln addressed the media yesterday and announced “I’m very pleased with having a winning season. On the other hand, I’m very disappointed with what happened in mid-August.” On the other hand (he has two you know), he also told the world that general manager Bill Bavasi and manager John McLaren will return in 2008.

“The two best guys for us right now,” Lincoln said, “are Bill and John.” I thought he meant Bill Chuck and my “19 to 21” colleague, John Shiffert.

The Mariners thought they were going to the postseason when they were 73-53 on Aug. 24. But after beating the Indians on Thursday, they are 12-21 since then.

Lincoln said the club would not be scaling back its payroll, which was $113 million this year, ranking sixth or seventh in baseball, depending on whom is doing the calculating.

Top of the 6th
SHRINKAGE
The largest leads held in September by teams that did not finish in first place in their league (or in division, 1969 and later), as compiled by the Elias Sports Bureau. Date of largest lead is listed:
Date Team Lead
Sept. 1, 1938 Pirates 7
Sept. 6, 1934 NY Giants 7
Sept. 4, 1995 Calif. Angels 6