Billy-Ball Daily: 2008-9-8

Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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By Baseball Newstalgist, Bill Chuck

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Monday, September 8, 2008

Top of the 1st
Every Monday we’ll take a big picture look at what’s going in the baseball races. Let’s start today by looking at the biggest deficits teams that reached the postseason have faced heading into September:
1964 Cardinals: Fourth place, 7 1/2 games behind Phillies.
1995 Mariners: Second place, 7 1/2 games behind Angels.
1938 Cubs: Fourth place, 7 games behind Pirates.
1951 Giants: Second place, 7 games behind Dodgers.
1930 Cardinals: Fourth place, 6 1/2 games behind Cubs.
1978 Yankees: Second place, 6 1/2 games behind Red Sox.
2007 Rockies: Fourth place, 6 games back behind the Padres.

The number one contender for this group again is in the National League with the red-hot Astros who are 6 games back in the Wild Card trailing the Cards and Phillies, all of whom are trailing the Brewers. The Astros have won 10 of 11 while the three teams above them have played no better than .500 over the last 10 games. The Astros have a very favorable schedule with seven games against Pittsburgh, three each against Cincy, Atlanta, and Florida, and only one tough series remaining, next weekend, at home, against the Cubs. Every NL Wild Card wannabe should be watching this team on their out-of-town scoreboards.

The Cardinals are five back of the Brewers but show no signs of getting ready to make a move. St. Louis has won only three of its last nine with 19 to go. They have a huge three-game set with the Cubs coming up before they hit the road to face the Pirates and Reds before they head for another set against the Cubs, this time in Wrigley. They end their season at home with Arizona for four and the Reds for three. They need to make their move very soon, as in tomorrow.

Continuing in the National League, the Phils are trailing the Brewers by four and, in their division, the Mets by two. Had they won the second half of their twin bill yesterday at Shea, they would have been tied for first. We cannot forget that last September, the Mets blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play and lost the division crown to the Phillies. The Phils have four big games this week with the Brewers and face the Marlins, Braves, and Nats in the rest of their games, which puts them in good shape.

Baseball Prospectus reports that the Mets have a 77.3 percent chance to win the East, a 2.9 percent chance to win the wild card and an 80.2 percent chance to make the postseason overall. The Phillies have a 22.5 percent chance to win the East, a 5.3 percent chance to win the wild card and a 27.8 percent chance to make the playoffs overall. The Phils could use more than a Mike Schmidt e-mail, they could use Schmidt leading the team on the field.

Their NL East opponents, the NY Mets face the same intra-divisional group but instead of the Brewers, the Mets, face the Cubs. The Mets will seemingly make the stretch run without injured closer Billy Wagner who felt pain while testing his damaged elbow. Wagner will be re-examined today but is probably out for the rest of the season, manager Jerry Manuel said. They do have a re-energized Carlos Delgado who, since June 27, leads the majors with 22 homers and the NL with 65 RBI. “We think we’re the team to beat. We think that what happened last year is not going to happen again and we’re very confident that we can get this done,” Delgado said. “It’s definitely a different atmosphere here, a different feeling than what it was last year.” That’s the Jerry Manuel difference.

The NL Central has the stumbling Cubs holding a four game lead over the struggling Milwaukee for the top slot. The Cubs have lost six of seven and are hurting with Carlos Zambrano’s hurting right shoulder which has inflammation and it may be as much as 11 days between mound appearances and Rich Harden missing a week as well. Add to that Chad Gaudin returning to Chicago today for tests on his sore back and Kosuke Fukudome hitting just .193 in August and is just 1-for-9 in September and the Cubs and their fans are anxious.

Their only reassurance is that the Brewers remain four games behind and have lost five of seven in its chase to make the postseason for the first time since 1982. The word around the Brewers’ clubhouse is don’t worry about Mike Cameron and his sore left knee, so should they worry that after Ben Sheets hit a roller off the end of the bat the vibration caused him to lose the feeling in his fingers for a while? Maybe they should worry that CC Sabathia might actually lose a game and where would that leave this team? What worries me the most is that while Ned Yost’s bullpen is still September fresh, Eric Gagne is still out there and that sends a shiver down my spine.

Then there’s NL West. The Dodgers are now in first thanks to D-Back sweep and they are now a robust three games over .500. The Dodgers have a 1