Strength Of Schedule

It was nearly three weeks ago when we were gearing up for the most important stretch run of the year. At that point, the Yankees were just coming to the realization that their 10 game lead wasn’t going to hold up in September. The 16 game streak, which included 7 games against the Orioles and 6 games against the Rays, had major playoff implications for all teams involved. With an injury dissolved team at the time, I warned that any sustained losing streak would result in a panic. So how did it all play out? It started with the team Continue reading Strength Of Schedule

The rule of run differential

It is no secret that baseball is a game of numbers. No other sport is as enthralled with the numbers game as the American pastime. The key statistic of course when evaluating the success of a team is wins and losses. Most coaches often give the “Ra-Ra” speech that if the team plays hard and leaves it all on the field, they will end up as winners. But the truth of the matter is that win/loss record is the key in all sports across the board. The Yankees have only missed the playoffs one time (2008) since the infamous 1994 strike that supposedly killed baseball as we know it. Making the playoffs is the bare minimum in the Bronx, anything short of a World Series is considered a failure. In Baltimore, expectations are a little different.

The second statistic that I always look at when evaluating a team is run differential. Sure, numbers such as VORP, OPS+, RCAA, and WAR are fun and hold significance, but there is only one number on ESPN.com within the MLB standings page that uses colors. That would of course be none other than run differential. A positive run differential is represented in green, while a negative one is shown in red. You better believe that there is a definite reason for this.

Just two teams have qualified for the postseason in the past decade with a negative run differential: The 2005 San Diego Padres and the 2007 Arizona Diamondbacks. San Diego limped into the playoffs back in 2005 with a very mediocre 82-80 record, and was promptly swept in the NLDS by the St. Louis Cardinals. The 2007 version of the Arizona Diamondbacks somehow managed to post the best record in the National League (90-72), despite their -20 run differential. The Diamondbacks were swept in the NLCS by divisional foe Colorado.

Heading into play today, 15 of the 30 MLB teams had negative run differentials. Only one of them would be in the postseason if the regular season ended today. That would of course be none other than the team who has finished in the AL East cellar four consecutive years. Baltimore somehow enters play today in position to capture a wild-card spot and just one game behind the New York Yankees (+97 run differential) in the AL East, despite a -24 run differential. A commonly used expression these days in sports is “Numbers never lie.” The Orioles may hold the best record in games decided by one-run in baseball, but numbers never lie.

The past decade has embodied the rule of run differential. A positive run differential is basically mandatory when looking to play in the postseason. Only two of the eighty teams to qualify for postseason baseball in the past decade have posted negative run differentials during the course of the 162 game journey that we like to call the regular season. No American League team has overcome the rule of run differential to qualify for the postseason during the course of the past ten years Nearly 145 games into the 2012 season, the numbers don’t lie. Baltimore has made a heck of a run, but lady luck eventually runs out. Though it will be heartbreaking for Orioles fans to fail to win the AL East and possibly come up short in ending their 15-year playoff drought, the rule of run differential is against the O’s and on the side of the Yankees. Continue reading The rule of run differential

With Moore walks than hits, Yankees win, 6-4

The New York Yankees walked six times in the first five innings, Eduardo Nunez stole three bases and scored two runs and Russell Martin had a three run homer to put the Yankees in the driver’s seat to help Hiroki Kuroda win his fourteenth decision against ten losses. Matt Moore (10-11) allowed more walks than hits and only lasted three innings and the Yankees also took advantage of some sloppy Rays’ defense to help build a five game lead on the Rays in the standings. The Rays, coming off a disastrous sweep at the hands of the Orioles, desperately needed to win this series and fired a dud in this one. The Rays made two errors, struck out thirteen times and lost two out of three to dig themselves a deep hole not only for the division but also for the second wild card spot. The Yankees, on the other hand, have put themselves in the driver’s seat again and no matter what happens in Oakland between the Orioles and the A’s, the Yankees will wake up tomorrow in sole possession of first place.

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Yankees, Kuroda, hang on, beat Rays 6-4

This one wasn’t as close as the score suggests. The Yankees took a five to nothing lead in the bottom of the third inning, which would prove to be the ball game. Derek Jeter got the party started, knocking in Eduardo Nunez on a single after Nunez swiped second to put himself into scoring position. (Nunez stole three bases on the day, reminding us all that the Yankees have sorely lacked speed on the bases this year.) Alex Rodriguez then singled up the middle to score Jeter. Robinson Cano walked and then Russell Martin, who’s been red hot lately, hit Continue reading Yankees, Kuroda, hang on, beat Rays 6-4

Game 146: All Alone In First Again

The Yankees are alone if first place again, much thanks to the Athletics. Winning today, might help separate themselves with the Orioles, who are starting Randy Wolf, but it would more importantly knock the Rays back to 5 games. The O’s have been on an incredible hot streak, but I’m still convinced the Rays are the better team. If Hiroki Kuroda can pick up his 14th win, Tampa’s elimination number falls to 12. Derek Jeter DH Nick Swisher RF Alex Rodriguez 3B Robinson Cano 2B Russell Martin C Andruw Jones LF Curtis Granderson CF Steve Pearce 1B Eduardo Nunez SS Continue reading Game 146: All Alone In First Again

Game 146: All tee’d up

The Yankees take on the Rays this afternoon in a matinee showdown (1:05 PM EST first pitch), with their most consistent starter (Hiroki Kuroda) on the mound. As William said, with the O’s forced to start Randy Wolf against the shockingly good Oakland A’s, the Yanks are in a good position to make a move on the field with a win today.

But for that to happen, they need to, you know, win.

On the other side of the hill, the Rays will turn to enigmatic youngster Matt Moore, who last started in the Bronx in September of 2011, when he shut out the Yankees in his first ever major league start, striking out 11 in only five innings. Moore has had an up and down season, disappointing many analysts who expected him to produce a Strasburg-level rookie campaign (you know, aside from the whole elbow thing). But there’s no question that when he’s on he can be one of the most devastating pitchers in the league.

Rays (78-67)
D. Jennings, LF
B. Zobrist, SS
E. Longoria, 3B
M. Joyce, DH
B. Upton, CF
L. Scott, 1B
J. Keppinger, 2B
S. Fuld, RF
J. Lobaton, C

Yankees (82-63)
D. Jeter, DH
N. Swisher, RF
A. Rodriguez, 3B
R. Cano, 2B
R. Martin, C
A. Jones, LF
C. Granderson, CF
S. Pearce, 1B
E. Nunez, SS Continue reading Game 146: All tee’d up

The Yankees are set up nicely

The welcome surprise of a great outing from Ivan Nova yesterday sets up the New York Yankees very nicely for their Sunday match up against the Tampa Bay Rays. They have their most reliable starter on the mound for a day game at Yankee Stadium III. The Rays start their latest phenom pitcher which can be troublesome. A win today could push the Rays all the way back to five games off the pace. Add to the nice story lines the fact that the Orioles have lost two in a row to the A’s out in Oakland and are forced to start Randy Wolf today against that same club. Yes, the Yankees have set themselves up nicely. All they have to do is win.

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Trenton loses the EL Championship to Akron

Akron won the 2012 Eastern League Championship tonight, beating Trenton 6-1 in Game 4 to take the series 3-1. Strong pitching propelled the Aeros to the playoffs and sure enough, that was what helped them capture the trophy, as the Thunder struggled to put up much offense.

The Aeros got on the board in the top of the second. Matt Lawson drew a base on balls and Adam Abraham lined a triple to center. A sac fly by Ryan Rohlinger plated Abraham and Akron led 2-0. JR Murphy knocked a solo homer to left in the bottom of the second, cutting the lead in half. Akron added some insurance in the fifth, as Abraham started the inning with a single. Rohlinger grounded an infield single, but Abraham was thrown out at third. A double by Roberto Perez scored Rohlinger and the Aeros were up 3-1.

Trenton rarely had a chance to threaten as the game headed into the late innings. A one out single by Addison Maruszak in the seventh was wasted as Murphy and Kevin Mahoney struck out. Akron put the game virtually out of reach for the struggling Thunder, as they added some more runs in the top of the ninth. Rohlinger drew a one-out walk and Davis Stoneburner lined a single to left. Perez drew a walk, loading the bases and Jordan Henry ripped a single to left, where Ramon Flores had trouble handling the ball as three runs scored.

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Nova, Yankees down Rays 5-3

Ivan Nova tossed six strong innings, and the Yankee offense took down James Shields in a 5-3 win over the Rays Saturday afternoon. Nova, who has become a fixture in the rotation over the past year, made a strong impression on his return to starting after missing about a month with a shoulder injury:  he gave up only two hits in his first five innings of work, mixing his strong fastball sitting in the low to mid 90’s with a devastating slider and curve. After Desmond Jenning’s first-pitch single, Nova didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning. He struck out 8 on the afternoon, reminding Yankee fans of the poise he showed last year in important games.

Nova’s counterpart, Tampa Bay’s James Shields, didn’t fare as well–he gave up four earned runs in six and one-thirds innings, surrendering most of the damage on back-to-back home runs by Curtis Granderson (two runs) and Eduardo Nunez in the second inning. Ironically (at least for this writer, as I chose to mention this in my preview), Granderson came in batting .107 (6-for-56 with 14 K’s) against Shields.

The win lets the Yankees open up a half-game lead on the Baltimore Orioles atop the AL East; the O’s play later tonight (9:05 PM EST) against the Oakland Athletics.

Bullets and commentary after the jump.

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