I swap sports magazines with my friend Z-bo. He subscribes to Sports Illustrated, while I get ESPN: The Magazine, just because it comes free with my online Insider sub. We save them up for 3-4 months and then trade, so by the time I get around to reading SI, it’s old news — which can be interesting in its own way.
From the “Hot/Not” box in SI’s June 11 issue:
“Oakland is laughably bad, having lost 10 of 11 and ranking 28th or worse in every major offensive statistic except HRs.”
When that was written, the A’s were 23-31. As of June 11, the date on the magazine, they were 26-35, a season-worst 9 games under .500; they were last in the division, 9 games behind Texas.
Flash forward: Starting June 12, they won 5 in a row, sparking a 27-9 run that led to a 68-33 close-out. They never lost 4 straight the rest of the way, and they averaged 5 runs per game for those last 101 contests.
Now, nobody foresaw such a turnaround. Still, whoever dubbed them “laughably bad” deserves a rookie hazing. Anyone who’s followed the big leagues closely for even a few years knows that neither a 23-31 record nor losing 10 of 11 is unusual. The record projects to 69-93; worse marks are posted every single year — five teams in 2012, three in 2011. And even a good team can lose 10 of 11: The Dodgers closed June on a 1-11 skid, blowing a 5-game division lead and falling to 43-36; they finished 86-76. Baltimore lost 9 of 11 from May into June, dropping from 1st place.
In a more personal vein, here’s the wrap to Joe Sheehan’s coverage of Johan‘s no-hitter:
“Santana has come through surgery with both the physical ability and the skill adjustments to be the Mets’ ace for the rest of his time in New York.”
Flash forward: [Sigh…] Johan made 10 starts after the no-no, going 3-7 with a [gulp] 8.27 ERA and .964 OPS. He went out for the year in August with back inflammation, leaving a trail of five straight starts yielding 6+ runs. Just once before had he ever given 6+ runs in even two straight starts.
I’m not really poking fun at Joe Sheehan; I’m sure my own remarks at the time were even more optimistic. But the lesson is: If a pitcher’s been out for a year after surgery, give him a full season before you predict his future.
Our last one is kind of intriguing. A poll of MLB players published in that June 11 issue asked:
“Who is the most overrated pitcher in the game?”
— The winner: C.J. Wilson.
I don’t know when the poll was done, but at press time Wilson had a 2.54 ERA, which he trimmed to 2.43 by the All-Star break. In 2011, he had a 2.94 ERA, 150 ERA+ and 206 strikeouts. And in 2010, his first year as a starter, he went 15-8, 3.35.
True, it only took 14% of the vote to “win” that survey, but it still surprised me.
Flash forward: Score one for the electorate. Wilson’s second half saw a 4-5 record and 5.54 ERA.
I’m just guessing, but maybe the voters were reacting to his new Angels contract (5 years, $75 million) — which some folks thought excessive at the time, though you’d hardly think so now — and/or his 2011 postseason (0-3 with a 5.79 ERA and no Quality Starts in 5 tries).