Septembers to Remember

This month began with all three NL races hotly contested, as no division leader held more than a 3½ game lead, with 8 of the 15 teams within 4 games in their division and two more within 7½ games. With two wildcard spots up for grabs, there should be many twists and turns before the five post-season berths are finally determined on or about September 30th.

This post takes a look back at some similar Septembers since the three division league alignment was introduced in 1994. Specifically, I’ll be looking at seasons when a league’s three division leaders all had no more than a 5 game lead as September play began. More after the jump.

2012 AL

This was the first season with two wild-card spots, so stakes were even higher as only division winners were assured a spot in the best-of-five LDS, with the last LDS spot going to the winner of a one-game crap shoot between the two wildcard qualifiers.

In the East, the Yankees were looking for redemption after being ousted by the Tigers in the previous year’s LDS, despite outscoring Detroit 28-17 in the series. The Tigers had the same aspirations after bowing out to the Rangers in a 2011 ALCS decided by a pair of extra-inning wins by Texas. The two-time defending AL champion Rangers completed the redemption seekers after an epic 2011 World Series that saw Texas twice come within a strike of a series win before falling to the Cardinals in 7 games.

The Yankees managed to hold onto at least a share of the division lead for the rest of the season, though that lead was never more than 3 games, and the Bombers were tied with Baltimore as late as Sep 30 with just three games to play. New York clinched the division on the last day of the season with a win over Boston and an Oriole loss to the Rays, but the game before held plenty of drama as Baltimore moved to within half a game of the lead after a 1-0 win (finishing the year 29-9 in one-run games), pending the result of the Red Sox-Yankees game that turned in New York’s favor after Raul Ibanez crushed a 9th inning pinch-HR to tie the game and then delivered a walk-off RBI single in the 12th to preserve the Yankees’ slender division lead.

Chicago and Detroit met 5 times early in the month with the Tigers taking four of those games to pull within a game of the White Sox. That lead was stretched out to three games after the Sox ran off five straight W’s, but Chicago’s offense went dry after that, scoring 3 runs or less in 10 of their last 15 games in a 4-11 finish that gave the division title to Detroit (who benefited from a favorable schedule, finishing 9-4 with all of those games against the also-ran Twins and Royals).

Texas looked like winners for most of the month, holding a 4 game lead on Sep 27 after splitting four against the pursuing A’s. But, that lead had been cut in half by the time the two contenders met in a rematch in Oakland to close out the season. The first two were tight, low-scoring affairs won by the A’s as their bullpen preserved slender late inning leads to move into a tie with Texas. The final game, though, was a blowout as Oakland dethroned the defending champs to claim the division title. The Rangers had to settle for a spot in the wildcard game, which they lost to the Orioles.

2008 NL

The East featured a chase between the division champions of the two previous seasons. In the Central the Cubs were trying to make it back to the post-season after getting swept in the LDS the year before, while the Brewers were looking for their first post-season appearance in more than a quarter century, since falling to the Cardinals in the 1982 WS. In the West, the Dodgers were looking to win a post-season series for the first time since their WS win twenty years before, while the D-Backs and Rockies were looking to return to the post-season after both were swept out of the tournament the year before, the Snakes in the NLCS and Colorado in the WS.

The Phillies and Mets met just once in September, with Philadelphia taking two of three early in the month. New York had built up a 3½ game lead by September 10th, but a 7-10 finish was no match for the hard-charging Phils who closed the season 13-3 (with 13 of those 16 games against the division’s also-ran teams in Atlanta, Miami and Washington).

The Cubs and Brewers were scheduled to meet twice during the last two weeks of the season, but the division race was already decided before then, as the Brewers collapsed over the first half of the month with a 3-11 record that saw them fall 8 games behind the front-running Cubbies. Milwaukee righted the ship somewhat after that, finishing 7-5 to secure the wildcard berth by one game over the faltering Mets.

Out west, the defending champion Rox fell out of contention early, dropping seven straight to stand 10½ games back on Sep 15th. The D-Backs were swept in LA early in the month to drop out of the division lead, but Arizona hung tough after that, getting within two games after beating the Cards on Sep 22. But, losses to the Redbirds in the next three games gave the division title to the Dodgers, whose 10-1 run to start the month ultimately proved to be the difference in the race.

2007 NL

There were no dominant teams in the NL this season, with no team more than 14 games over .500 as September play began. Three teams were in contention in the East, four in the West and all six in the Central held some hope as even the bottom-dwelling Pirates were still within 10 games of the lead. The front-running Mets and Padres were looking to defend their division titles of the year before, while the defending league champion Cardinals stood just two games back in the Central.

The Mets, division leaders since May 16th, extended their lead to four games by sweeping the Braves to start the month, and then to 7 games on Sep 12 after taking two of three from Atlanta. The Phillies swept the Mets to get within 3½ on Sep 16, but were only a game closer nine days later with just six left to play. Philadelphia completed the comeback with a 4-2 finish while New York stumbled to 1-6, including dropping three at home to the lowly Nats (and allowing 32 runs in the process).

The turtle derby that was the NL Central race saw the Cubs and Brewers tied on Sep 6 with the Cards just a game back. But, after St. Louis dropped nine in a row, it was a two-team race the rest of the way. After again pulling even with Chicago on Sep 18, the Brewers dropped three of four to the Braves while the Cubs swept the Pirates, giving Chicago a 3½ game lead on Sep 23 that Milwaukee couldn’t overcome (the schedule makers didn’t help the Brewers as they did not face the Cubs at all in September).

The four team race in the West turned into a three team hunt after the Rockies dropped 6½ back on Sep 15, and then a two team chase after the Dodgers dropped 7 in a row to fall 9 back on Sep 22. But, it was back to a three team race after Colorado reeled off 11 straight wins to stand two back of the D-Backs on Sep 27 with the Padres just a game out. Arizona and Colorado closed the season against each other while San Diego faced the Brewers. The D-Backs and Padres won the first games of their series (knocking the Rox out of the division hunt), then remained in lock step as both dropped the next two to clinch the division title for Arizona and leave the Padres and Rockies tied for second (a tie that was broken when Colorado won game 163 to claim the wildcard berth and ultimately the league championship).

2001 NL

The Braves, league champions two years before, were looking to come back from being swept by the Cards in the previous season’s LDS, while the Phillies were still looking for their first post-season appearance since falling to the Blue Jays in the 1993 WS. The Astros, division champions for three years running to close out the ’90s were looking to make it back to the post-season after a sub-par 2000 campaign, while St. Louis was looking for a return to the post-season after their NLCS appearance the year before, and the Cubs were looking for their first post-season series win in more than 90 years. The surprising D-Backs, in only their fourth season, were contending for a second time after taking the division crown two years earlier, while the Dodgers and Giants were both looking to win their first post-season series since their WS appearances in 1988 and 1989.

After leading the East division for most of the first half of the season, the Phillies were swept by the Braves late in June to fall a half game back. Since then, neither team had fallen more than  three games behind the other. The Phillies took three of four from the Braves to close within 1½ games on Sep 20, and were two games back when the two teams met again starting on Oct 2. Randy Wolf beat Greg Maddux in the opener to draw Philadelphia within one, but Atlanta won the next two to pull three games ahead with three to play, clinching the division crown the next night with a 20-3 win over Florida.

The Cubs had been leading the Central for the most of the first half of the season, and still held the division lead as late as Aug 17, before slipping back in the wake of the Astros’ 12-2 run to close out that month. The Astros stayed hot, starting September 11-5, while a 4-10 slide by Chicago left them 9 back on Sep 25 and out of contention for good. Houston looked to be in good shape after winning 7 of 8 to stand 5½ games up with twelve to play. But, it was the Cardinals who then won 7 of 8 to move a game ahead of Houston as the two teams met to close out the season in St. Louis. In the opener, Houston rallied with runs in the 8th and 9th to win 2-1 and move back into a tie. But, St. Louis moved ahead again with a comeback win in game two, as closer Steve Kline collected a 6 out save. The Astros prevailed in the finale as the two teams finished the season in a tie, with Houston awarded the division title on the strength of winning the season series between the clubs, and St. Louis taking the wildcard berth.

The three team race in the West tightened up in the first week of September as the front-running D-Backs dropped two of three to the Giants to leave the three contenders all within 1½ games on Sep 7. But the Dodgers then dropped 5 of the next 6 to fall three games back, and would get no closer the rest of the way. The Giants stayed in it but could never pull even with Arizona (whom they didn’t play the rest of the way), before finally get knocked out after dropping a wild game 160 to LA by the score of 11-10 (the Giants came back from 5-0 down to tie the game 10-10),

1997 NL


The two-time defending NL champion Braves were looking for the three-peat, while the upstart Marlins, playing in just their fifth season, were contending for the first time. Houston had come close the year before, and were looking to make their first post-season appearance in 11 years. St. Louis were the defending Central champs, while Pittsburgh was contending for the first time since starting the decade with three straight East division titles. The Dodgers had taken the wildcard berth the year before while the Giants were making a huge turnaround from a 94 loss season in 1996.

The Marlins started the month by sweeping the Orioles while Atlanta dropped two of three to Detroit, and the Braves’ lead closed to 2½ games. But, Florida then lost 6 of 7 while Atlanta won 5 of 6, and the Braves were never threatened after that, cruising to the division title on the strength of a 10-4 finish, while Florida took the wildcard spot and ultimately the world championship.

The Astros (5-8) and Pirates (4-9) hit the skids as September began, giving hope to the Reds (10-5) who pulled within 6 games on Sep 15. But, Houston righted the ship to finish 9-4 and were never headed the rest of the way.

Out west, the Dodgers and Giants stayed on each other’s heels right to the end of the season, with no more than 2½ games ever separating the teams. The race would have been even more compelling had the two teams faced each other more than their brief two game set in the middle of the month, won by the Giants to pull even with LA. The Dodgers then dropped three straight at home to the Rockies to fall two games back, and were never able to make up the ground.

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Dr. Doom
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In a move that will surprise NO ONE around here, I want to talk about the Milwaukee Brewers. Through 2006, if you were asked to name the “Brewers All-Time Team,” you would’ve been naming the 1982 Brewers plus Teddy Higuera. Partly, this goes to show how cool and special Harvey’s Wallbangers were. Mostly… it tells you the state of the franchise. In the mid-aughts, suddenly an avalanche of talent appeared: Rickie Weeks! Corey Hart! JJ Hardy! Prince Fielder! Ryan Braun! Yovani Gallardo! No, those are not the greatest players in the history of baseball. Braun, were it not for being… Read more »
Mike L
Guest

Doom, you took me back when you started on the Brewers–especially the comment about Braun. Didn’t we have a commenter years ago (Name Redacted but not Doom) who was a deeply committed Braun fan, all through the steroid scandal? He would lurk, waiting for a negative posting….

Dr. Doom
Guest
Yeah, that could be right. Honestly, that was long enough ago now (5 years, right? Didn’t we find out in ’13?) that it’s hard to remember back that far. I personally always liked Braun; he was a really fun hitter in his prime and more than held his own once he switched to the outfield, as I mentioned above. Even this year, he’s made a few really nice catches. I was definitely on the side of WANTING to believe him… but it pretty quickly became apparent that he wasn’t to be believed (which, I think, will ultimately hurt him more… Read more »
Mike L
Guest

Not to revisit this topic too much, but there’s a more than occasional disconnect between the amount of time that not just stat-geeks but just ordinary fans spend pouring over numbers and the veracity of those numbers. Braun and Pettitte are actually very good comps. Without help, probably not quite enough, but could at least get in the discussion. With it (or at least, the public knowing it) no chance.

Dr. Doom
Guest
Even in the UN-interesting race in 2008, there was actually a lot more going on than Doug hinted at. In 2008, the Brewers received a bit of a makeover. They upgraded in several really important ways. Longtime Brewer Geoff Jenkins, the last vestige of the late-nineties/early-aughts team that I suffered through, signed with the Phillies (where he would go on to win the World Series that year, managing a pinch-hit double and scoring a run in the Phillies’ 4-3 victory in the Series-clinching game 5. But as for the Brewers, first, they signed Free Agent catcher Jason Kendall in November,… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
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Most HR, ages 33-37:

254 … McG
239 … Barry
236 … Babe
219 … Palmeiro
202 … Nelson Cruz (with 2 more weeks)
197 … Aaron

Sacrifice hits for the above named players during that time:

42 … Babe
1 … Barry
0 … Everyone else

Richard Chester
Guest

During Ruth’s age 33-35 seasons, 1928-1930, a fly ball that advanced a runner to any base was counted as a SH. After 1930 Ruth had 0 SH.

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest

Nice catch, Richard, although it’s too bad it spoils Voomo’s point, since it was nice to imagine the Babe laying one down every couple of weeks. Do you have a comprehensive source for baseball rule changes?

Richard Chester
Guest

I stumbled across that fact by browsing through various baseball web-sites. That particular rule was in effect from 1926-1930, thereby inflating everybody’s BA during that time.

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest

Well, it was impressive.

Doug
Guest

Shohei Ohtani tonight joins Babe Ruth as only players having a season with 10+ pitching games and 20+ home runs.

Only one other player has a season with 10 pitching games and 10 home runs (or 30 XBH), and he was another Angel – Willie Smith in 1964 (Smith played 556 games after the 1964 season, but only 3 were pitching appearances).

no statistician but
Guest
Bill James goes on at length somewhere about the tendency of players like Ruth and George Sisler (but there are others) who came up as pitching prospects but swung mean bats and were converted to position players. Still other pitchers who wore out their arms—John Montgomery Ward, Smokey Joe Wood, Rick Ankiel, the Kid from Tomkinsville—switched successfully as well. The only prominent player I can think of who took the reverse course is Bob Lemon, but I haven’t investigated the issue, so there may be one or two others. The point I want to raise is this: I’d guess that… Read more »
Bob Eno (epm)
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Nice comment, nsb, and welcome back. Hope your time away was good. You mentioned Bob Lemon. A closely comparable example was Bucky Walters (Lemon and Walters ought to have pretty comparable nWAR figures, and, like you, I haven’t investigated and there may be others). In the other direction, don’t forget CoG perennial candidate Bobby Wallace and especially Cy Seymour, who led the Majors in strikeouts two years and in BA and SLG another. This may be what you meant by “training and development,” but I think one reason it’s harder for pitchers to double as position players, rather than as… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest
Bob: At that point in my comment I was just stringing together a variety of obstacles. Sorry to be unclear. As for “the economics of modern pitching development,” in so phrasing the idea I was being vague, partially on purpose, since I have no facts to back up my view that the connection between timorousness and beancounting exists to a greater degree now than ever at the corporate level in pro sports. I can say this: today in sixteen NFL locations all players on the field will NOT kneel during the playing of an Eighteenth Century English drinking tune upon… Read more »
Mike L
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NSB, I know we’ve always tried to keep politics out of HHS, but I don’t have a problem with athletes expressing free speech, regardless of whether I agree with it. Personally, I wouldn’t kneel. That being said. objections to it seemed to be based on marketing considerations and not real principles.

no statistician but
Guest

Mike L:

“Marketing considerations”—yes, in the NFL context that’ll do as an approximate synonym for the combination of timorousness and beancounting I was thinking about.

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest
The timorousness of beancounting has always been part of professional baseball, which is a business. Businesses are generally timorous in this sense, because their mission is to make money, and if daring seems likely to lose money, it doesn’t fit the mission. When it does (e.g., Bill Veeck, Charlie O., Nike) it’s easy to lose track of the business impulse behind it because we like daring for its own sake. Businesses taking political stances, whatever one’s politics, is, I think, a bad development. While there may be political sentiments behind the choice, it is ultimately business exploiting the political loyalties… Read more »
Mike L
Guest
I agree that sports and politics don’t mix particularly well, although sports and a routinized patriotism often go hand in hand–you perform the rituals, and then get on with the game. But, given the climate, I think it’s inevitable that pressure to take sides is going to increase, and it’s going to spread to baseball. Baseball owners benefit hugely from public assistance, and elected officials have increasingly used their power to mete out punishment and spoils. The interesting thing is that most fans and most stakeholders in sports have exactly the same goals—to play/see the games. But there’s no way… Read more »
Doug
Guest

Kenley Jansen is another position player who switched to being a pitcher. Was a catcher for four seasons, then one season split between the mound and behind the plate, then a full-time pitcher starting in his 6th professional season (and first with MLB time).

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest

Well, if we get into the Minor Leagues, I think we’ll have a long list. For example, Stan Musial won 18 games pitching in the Minors in 1940, but by 1941 he was batting .426 as a September call-up in the Cardinals’ outfield.

Richard Chester
Guest

Johnny Lindell pitched in the minors and broke in with the Yankees as a pitcher but was soon converted into an outfielder. He resumed pitching a number of years later

Richard Chester
Guest

Here are some of the better known players who played pro baseball and pro football in the same year:
Jim Thorpe
Charlie Berry
George (Papa Bear) Halas
Vic Janowicz
Pete Layden
Christy Mathewson
Ernie Nevers
Ace Parker
Rube Waddell

Dr. Doom
Guest
Surely, Brian Jordan merits some consideration as an NFL/MLB player. He was, in many ways, the reverse-Deion. Both were drafted twice in MLB, both in ’85 and ’88. They both came into the NFL in 1989. They both broke in as defensive backs, Jordan as a safety, Sanders as a corner. They both played for the Atlanta Falcons. They had a lot of opposites, though, too. Sanders was the better football player, Jordan the better baseball player (though, weirdly, Jordan has no black ink, while Sanders led the league once each in CS and 3B). Each one was drafted low… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

a little off the beaten path, but i do recall Ryan Minor being an excellent D-1 hooper (to the tune of 22.5 ppg 8. rpg in junior & senior years) at Oklahoma but unable to hit ML pitching. He may have tried out for or been drafted by the Sixers?

Paul E
Guest

Sorry for piling on here but, yes, Ryan Minor was drafted by the Sixers and, in that same year they took Mark Hendrickson who played in the NBA and ML.
Allen Iverson, of course, was All State, perhaps even player of the year in high school in Virginia in hoops and football (QB) before being jailed for inciting a bowling alley riot

Dr. Doom
Guest
Basketball is so much less likely to have overlap with the other sports, largely because of body-type issues. You really don’t see too many 6’8″+ athletes in other sports (yes, there ARE some… Randy Johnson, Too Tall Jones, etc. But they’re the exception, not the rule). I suppose linemen in football have an even MORE unusual body type for other sports, so you see even less of that (Julius Peppers notwithstanding, and Michael Carter excepted… and even HE found the other sport for “big-boned” guys). Danny Ainge, Charlie Ward, and the aforementioned Julius Peppers are the most successful crossover athletes… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

Gene Conley and Ron Reed come to mind as NBA guys…..Reed, while with a talented group of Phillies, single-handedly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in this one:

https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CIN/CIN197610120.shtml

THAT, was, as they say, a doozy

Richard Chester
Guest

Other 2 sport players were Snuffy Stirnweiss, Sam Chapman and Paul Giel who were outstanding college football players. Giel was Heisman trophy runner-up in 1953. Sammy Byrd became a excellent pro golfer after his retirement from the ML. He is the only person to have participated in a ML WS and also compete in golf’s Masters Tournament.

CursedClevelander
Guest
There are a decent number of guys who got converted in the minors like Lemon. Trevor Hoffman was a minor league shortstop. So was Rafael Betancourt. Tony Pena Jr tried to make the position player to pitcher conversion but it didn’t quite work. Jason Lane managed to do it for a very successful cup of coffe at Age 37. Had he been younger, I think he might have stuck as a reliever. The great Christian Bethancourt catcher/pitcher hybrid experiment flamed out wonderously. Adam Loewen went from pitcher to hitter and then back to pitcher. And of course there’s Brooks Kieschnick… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
I’ve always been a little sad that Kieschnick is forgotten in these debates. I was a Sports Illustrated subscriber while Kieschnick was with the Brewers, and SI had a little graphic for a while that kind of kept track of how he was doing in his dual-roles. I think the reality of Kieschnick says a lot more about the state of the Brewers in 2003-04 than it does about his abilities, unfortunately. I also thought it was really weird that they didn’t try him as a starter. I mean, after all, doesn’t the BIGGEST advantage come with a guy like… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest
Doom: Somehow I can’t see a Zambrano patrolling right field, and Kieschnick’s .903 OF fielding percentage makes one wonder if he was reverting to the gloveless days of yore. It looks like Owings was given a chance as an outfielder in the minors in 2013, where he fielded better than Kieschnick at .923, but I’d say for all three, DH or nothing. There have been some great hitting pitchers, of course, the most notable being COG electee Wes Ferrell, who started 13 games in the outfield for the Tribe in 1933, his mid career off season as a pitcher that… Read more »
CursedClevelander
Guest
Kieschnick came up as an OF in 1996 and had mediocre but not abysmal fielding stats, so I think over the long run he’d have probably shown a decent glove if he was used more. As a swiss-army player, he only got 3 defensive chances in the OF and made one error. His range was very poor, but I wonder if that’s partially due to discretionary plays – I assume the CF would have tried for every ball he could possibly get to to protect Brooks from needing to make too many plays. The real disappointing thing to me is… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

i believe Bob Forsch was a minor league 3b ?

Paul E
Guest

Smith, IIRC, was a decent pinch hitter and a ‘threat”….he, sure enough, hit 7 pinch homers AND went 14-2 with a 2.11 era for Syracuse in the Tigers organization with 14 CG’s and 4 shutouts in 17 starts
Remember him as a Cub on those Durocher teams. And, IIRC, was a big fan favorite in Chicago. Maybe someone can verify as it was a black and white TV and I was like 10 years old

no statistician but
Guest

Paul E:

Smith’s SABR bio confirms your view.

no statistician but
Guest
Billy O’Dell passed away on September 12th, a two-time All-Star early in his career with the Orioles and later a 19-game winner for the Giant pennant winners of 1962. His seven-inning 1-run outing in the last game of the regular season helped clinched a tie with the Dodgers, leading to an old-style 3-game playoff which the Giants won. I tend to confuse Billy O’Dell with Billy Loes, a pitcher usually associated with the Dodger dynasty of the early Fifties where Loes was second, probably, to Erskine on a middling staff that was carried by the offense. Purchased by the Orioles… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

Concerning the 1957 O’s, Frank Zupo and Jerry Walker formed a battery on 9/18. Their combined ages of 36.238 may be the youngest ever for a battery,

Doug
Guest

Even younger was Milt Pappas and Frank Zupo on 9/11/57, at 36.136. In that same game, the 18 year-old Zupo also caught Dizzy Trout in his final appearance at age 42.074; it didn’t go well for Dizzy, double-single-triple-single and the showers.

Greatest age difference in a battery was, of course, Satchel Paige and 26 year-old Billy Bryan on 9/25/65. Other than that, it’s probably Hoyt Wilhelm and Bob Didier with the 1969-71 Braves, at 26 years, 205 days.

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest

On Loes, he was number two on the Dodger staff while Newk was in the Army. But Newk and Oisk were the pivots of the staff. Somehow, the best two years of those Dodger teams were ’52-’53, when Newk was away. (Tangentially, Loes was considered a huge flake.)

Doug
Guest

Zuverink is the last pitcher to lead the AL in appearances with a SO/BB ratio under one, doing so in ’56 and ’57 (Dale Murray in 1976 is the last to do it in the NL). Add to that averaging 2+ IP per appearance with no starts, and the list shrinks to only Zuverink (1957) and Hoyt Wilhelm (1953).

Richard Chester
Guest

Several years ago I posted that Zupo and Zuverink have formed the only “Z” battery. Don’t know if it’s still true.

Richard Chester
Guest

Turns out that Tony Zych and Mike Zunino also have done it.

Doug
Guest

Christian Yelich tonight becomes just the third searchable player to hit for the cycle twice in one season, following Babe Herman (1931) and Aaron Hill (2012). Hill did it twice in 10 games.

Dr. Doom
Guest

First player to do so twice versus the same opponent.

Paul E
Guest

From CBS Sports
Here are the five players with multiple cycles in a season:

Christian Yelich, 2018 Brewers
Aaron Hill, 2012 Diamondback
Babe Herman, 1931 Brooklyn Robins
Tip O’Neill, 1887 St. Louis Browns
John Reilly, 1883 Cincinnati Red Stockings

no statistician but
Guest
How good are the Red Sox—really? At this point in the season they’re on track to win around 110 games, true, but somehow their eminence rings a little hollow to me, and after some investigation, I decided that their record reminded me of another AL team that put up big win figures—not the 116-win 2001 Mariners, who dominated everybody during the regular season (except the 102-win As, where they had a 10 games to 9 advantage)—but the renowned Cleveland team of 1954 that set the pre-expansion record for AL wins in a season at 111. The Tribe that year played… Read more »
Doug
Guest

Good observations on the Sox.

The champs are still the team to beat, in my view. LA is so deep, it’s hard to tell the starters from the reserves. Like you, I see those two as favorites to repeat (which hasn’t happened in 40 years, so maybe we’re due).

Richard Chester
Guest

In 1954 the top 3 AL teams, the Indians, the Yankees and the White Sox each had a W-L percentage of more than .599 and the 4th place Red Sox were at .448. In other words there were no teams with a percentage from .500 to .599. My search shows only 1 other such AL season, 1920.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Who has the edge?

Top three starters for each playoff team:

BOSTON
Sale
Price
Rodriguez

YANX
Severino
Tanaka
Happ

ASTROS
Verlander
Cole
Morton

NAPS
Kluber
Bauer
Clevinger (with a fantastic 4th in Carrasco)

OAKLAND
Edwin Jackson
Cahill
Fiers ?

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

I’d put Boston 4th out of 5 here.

CursedClevelander
Guest

As a Tribe fan, I’d give Carrasco a slight edge over Clevinger. He’s better at striking guys out and walks less hitters – Clev is stingier with hits. It’s an amazingly deep rotation though, as most teams would be happy with either of them as a #2 starter.

CursedClevelander
Guest

And both seasons had the Indians winning the pennant. Potentially bodes well for this year – it’s not as pronounced as in 54 but there’s a huge gap between the.haves and have nots in the AL this year.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Who has the edge?

Top Three Starters for Each Playoff Team:

CUBS
Lester
Hamels
Hendricks

DODGERS
Kershaw
Buehler
Stripling

ATLANTA
Foltyniewicz
Sanchez
Gausman

DENVER
Freeland
Marquez
Anderson

ST. LOUIS
Mikolas
Flaherty
Martinez

BREWERS
Miley
Gio Gon
Chacin

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

I’d give the Dodgers the edge, in terms of this-year’s numbers.
But those Cubbies have some experience in the big games.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

nsb, good analysis. I think, though, that the playoff format was revised so that the top seed plays the wildcard winner, even if it comes from the same division. So Boston will get NYY or OAK.

Mike L
Guest

The truth is you need to have both an exceptional regular season and win the World Series to get into that inner circle of possible “greatness”. Red Sox are certainly very good, and I think, given the way the ball has bounced this year, have an excellent chance of winning it all. This, along with the midterms, is what will keep me up in late October and early November

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Yankees’ Home Run Totals, by position:

28 … C
29 … 1B
23 … 2B
25 … 3B
31 … SS
16 … LF
27 … CF
37 … RF
28 … DH

Doug
Guest

So, the A’s score 21 runs tonight, including a 5, 6 and 7 spot on the line score (maybe Richard can tell us if any other team has put up 18 runs in a game the same way). Very much a team effort as 8 starters had 2+ runs, 8 had 2+ hits, and 7 had both.

Other crazy game was in Toronto, where the Blue Jays scored 7 in the 9th to walk off the Rays 9-8, homering three times in the inning, including the final two batters.

Richard Chester
Guest

The Reds did it on 8/22/1943. That’s the only other such game I could find. I found it by searching a spreadsheet I created which lists every retrosheet gamelog from 1901-2017. 195000+ rows and 162 columns.

Richard Chester
Guest

That spreadsheet came in handy today. One of the commenters that I follow on Twitter pointed out that the Blue Jays, who won a game recently by scoring 7 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning, also did it last year. He questioned if any other team had done that in consecutive years. By manipulating the spreadsheet I was able to determine that there were 18 other games, from 1901-2017, in which a team won the game in the bottom of the 9th by scoring exactly 7 runs. None of them did it in consecutive years.

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest
Richard, Your spreadsheet seems like a treasure to me. The Blue Jay win the other night was dramatic, but very little actually hung on the game outcome, except theoretically for the Rays. Among those other 18 games with exactly 7 runs to the walk-off, I wonder whether there were any that were season-critical or had some other feature that marked them as especially worthy of attention. (And, of course, that would be an interesting question for walk-offs involving >7 runs; I don’t suppose there are any extra inning affairs involving this magnitude of comeback.) Special features that made a game… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest
Here’s a list of those 18 games. 9/15/1623 Senators over Tigers 9-8 7/19/1927 Tigers over A’s 10-9 5/2/1940 Phils over Pirates 8-7 8/22/1947 Tigers over Senators 7-6 5/15/1949 A’s over Yankees 7-6 5/1/1973 Giants over Pirates 8-7 8/22/1977 Cards over Dodgers 8-6 4/10/1998 Red Sox over Mariners 9-7 6/16/1998 Phils over Pirates 8-7 7/28/2001 Pirates over Astros 9-8 9/29/2001 Braves over Mets 8-5 10/2/2004 Dodgers over Giants 7-3 5/25/2009 Indians over Rays 11-10 5/20/2010 Braves over Reds 10-9 7/10/2015 Twins over Tigers 8-6 5/28/2016 Royals over White Sox 8-7 4/9/2017 Angels over Mariners 9-7 7/30/2017 Jays over Angeld 11-10 A… Read more »
Doug
Guest
That 9/29/2001 game also had post-season significance. If the Mets win, they move just 3 back of the leading Braves with 7 to play, with a chance to make it 2 back with another win the next day (the Mets did win the next day but, of course, that moved them to 4 back instead of only 2). The Braves lost the next game as well, falling to the Phils who moved to within a game of the lead with the win. Absent the comeback against the Mets, it would have been the Braves and Phils tied for the lead,… Read more »
Bob Eno (epm)
Guest
Wow! That 1901 game was the debut of both franchises. Not the most auspicious start for the Brewers: so depressing that it’s no wonder they turned into the St. Louis Browns a year later. Of course, not all omens are equally compelling. In 1969 the Seattle Pilots debuted by putting their first four men on to start their first game, taking a 4-0 lead that held up for a one-run win over the Angels. But a year later they nevertheless turned into the Milwaukee Brewers. None of the 7-run 9ths seem more dramatic than they appear on the surface. The… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

There have been two 9-run walkoffs. Unbelievingly one of them occurred just a few weeks after the Tigers 10-run 9th inning in 1901 as the Indians scored 9 in the 9th to overtake the Senators on 5/24/1901by the same 14-13 score. The other game occurred on 7/6/2010 as the Rockies defeated the Cards 12-9. Seth Smith ended the game with a 3-run HR.

I’ll do 8-run walkoffs later today.

Richard Chester
Guest

Here are the 8-run walkoffs.

9/27/1912 Red Sox over Yankees 15-12
9/8/1937 Yankees over Red Sox 9-6
6/18/1961 Red Sox over Senators 13-12
8/29/1986 Angels over Tigers 13-12

There is also a game from the Federal League. A team identified as SLF defeated a team identified as BRF 13-12 on 6/16/1914. BRF scored 7 runs in the top of the 12th inning and SLF scored 8 in the bottom of the inning.

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest
Sloufeds and Brookfeds, otherwise known as the St. Louis Terriers and Brooklyn Tip-Tops. Tip-Top was the name of a bread brand owned by the Brooklyn Federal League franchise owner. The same company gave us Wonder Bread, which built strong bodies twelve ways, and the Twinkie, which bloated those strong bodies even more effectively. That game on 6/16/14 was distinguished by the role of Terrier manager Mordecai Brown, who came on in the 10th and pitched through that eventful 12th inning, surrendering all 7 (earned) Brooklyn runs in the top of the inning, while walking away the winning pitcher at the… Read more »
Mike L
Guest

Bob, I was a Silvercup fan myself. Better than Wonderbread, which was made with too much air, the company also sponsored the radio version of The Lone Ranger, and the 1963 Cubs pocket baseball schedule. It truly was “The World’s Finest Bread”. Building turned into Silvercup Studios.

Richard Chester
Guest

And I was all set to tell Bob that I also was a Silvercup fan.

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest

Both breads found a home in our cupboard, and were so basic to my diet that I lived in idyllic childhood ignorance that bread could have flavor.

Paul E
Guest

In Philadelphia, we had Bond and Stroehman’s Breads.
Our delivery guy, “Stan the Sealtest Milkman”, switched his route sales mid-career from milk to Stroehman bread. Absolutely courageous.

Apparently, MLK suggested boycotting Sealtest milk in one of his speeches

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Miguel Almonte gave up 5 runs without recording an out.
Not sure how he got a call-up.
At AAA he had a 10.18 ERA and 2.410 WHIP

Richard Chester
Guest

Victor Martinez’s career ended today, 9/22/2018. His 3 career triples are the fewest for a player with 5000+ PA.

Mike L
Guest

And 7 stollen bases, with 7 caught stealing. Ernie Lombardi had 8.

Dr. Doom
Guest
Was 2014 really so long ago? Victor Martinez was the MVP runner-up that season. To be out of baseball… wow. As for other slow players… Mark McGwire had 4 triples in his rookie year (the 49-HR year). Hit only hit two the rest of his career. Kendrys Morales has 6 3B and 6 SB, for a total of 12. Not quite at the level of Martinez (10 total), but awfully close. Of course, Morales may get more. In the SB+3B category, I believe the low for any serious career belongs to Cecil Fielder, though, who added only 2 SB to… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

Aguilar can’t be slower than Wilson Ramos……or present-day Kendry Morales.
Maybe they should bat him 5th or 6th? You know, behind Moose and Shaw:

CF Cain
RF Grandy Man
LF Yelich
2B Shaw
3B Moose (a la 1960’s lingo, “Speed Merchant”)
1B Aguilar
catcher ? No recollection off the top of my head
SS Villar

Supposedly, Bill Giles would write on cocktail napkins like the above and trade away minor league talent to make his dreams come true. This sort of resulted in a “dry spell” from 1984 -1992.

Doug
Guest

Justin Smoak is just as slow as his teammate Morales, and could threaten Martinez’s totals by the end of his career. Has two triples and three stolen bases in more than 1100 career games thru age 31.

CursedClevelander
Guest

Doom, did you see much of Johnny Estrada as a Brewer? He’s my pick for slowest based purely on stats

No steals, no steal attempts, no triples, never thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple. So bonus points for being self aware.

Dr. Doom
Guest

Some, but he was only there for a year. I honestly don’t think he was any slower than late-career, busted-kneed Jason Kendall, who became our catcher a bit later. Kendall was VERY slow back then, too, but I kind of feel bad for all these catchers, and I’m not really sure it’s fair to compare them. I mean, surely Bartolo Colon is slower than all of them…

CursedClevelander
Guest

Oh for sure Colon is slower but usually the discussion is restricted to position players.

I sort of agree, it’s hard to seperate a bunch of old catchers with shredded knees, which is why I like the statistical case for Estrada. We’ve all seen guys slower than molasses but most of them aren’t being timed on a stopwatch. I enjoy that Estrada not only never hit a triple, he never even tried for one.

Richard Chester
Guest
I took Dr. Doom’s formula and calculated that runs scored percentage for all players with 5000+ PA from 1901-2017. Here are the top 5: .469……Red Rolfe .459……Jack Smith .452……Earle Combs .443……Otis Nixon .441……Tommy Leach Here are the bottom 5: .214……Ken Reitz .213……Smoky Burgess .213……Gus Mancuso .200……Mike Scioscia .198…..Ernie Lombardi No surprise to see Rolfe, Combs and Lombardi on those lists. There are missing factors which have not been taken into account. 1) The number times a batter reached base as a result of a forceout or a baserunner being out on a non-forceout. 2) The number of times a batter… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
I’m shocked at how high some of those percentages are. I wouldn’t have guessed that guys scored 40+% of the time they reached base. If we were really going to be good about this, we’d adjust for era and such, but it’s not that big of a deal. Thanks for doing the work, Richard! (If items 1&2 don’t cancel one another out, I would bet that leadoff hitters probably hit into fewer forceouts in which they reach base, due simply to the fact that, each game, they know they have a PA in which there won’t be a lead runner… Read more »
CursedClevelander
Guest

I remember Bill James once saying something like “don’t trust a formula that never surprises you, and don’t trust a formula that always surprises you.”

So on that note, good to see some results that match preconceptions – a couple career long Yankees who batted near the top of the order for high octane offenses at the top, the guy whose lack of speed is the most talked about in the oral histories smack at the bottom.

no statistician but
Guest
Jack Smith? Someone who has hitherto flown below my radar. Turns out he was a platooned outfielder for the good-hit, no-pitch Cards in the Hornsby monster era, when Austin McHenry and Jack Fournier were also bashing. Smith, a lefty, batted first or second when in the lineup, and obviously benefited from the big bats. An interesting trivia point I noticed by accident: he’s buried in the Forest Home (or Waldheim) Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois. Those who have lived in the Chicago area know that Forest Park is approximately half given over to cemeteries. Many are attached to small Jewish… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

I also ran the calculation for qualified seasons per Fangraph data.

Here are the top 5 by pct., year and player:

.599…..1935…..Pepper Martin
.558…..1909…..Tommy Leach
.552…..1927…..Mark Koenig
.549…..1924…..Jack Smith
.546…..1929…..Woody English

And the bottom 5:

.141…..2007…..Bengie Molina
.140…..1997…..Mark McGwire
.138…..1981…..Milt May
.134…..2014…..David Ortiz
.123…..1972…..Leo Cardenas

Mike L
Guest

1981 was a shortened season, but what’s interesting about May, if I’ve done my math correctly, is that his career mark is .173 (only 4075 PA) which is lower than Ernie Lombardi.

Richard Chester
Guest

That list of mine is for 5000 PA minimum.

Mike L
Guest

That’s why I noted the lower PA amount

no statistician but
Guest

The Red Sox finished the season 3-4, 3-4 and 2-4 against the Tribe, Astros, and A’s. They’re 9-7 so far vs. the Yanks, with three left at Fenway where NY has stunk, so it’s not hard to figure who Betts and Co will be rooting for in the wildcard.

In the NL, against all reason the Braves keep up their winning ways, but outside their own division the picture isn’t pretty. Combined season record vs likely playoff opponents: 10-16. The Cubs are 21-17, Dodgers 24-16, Rockies 17-22, Brewers 20-20.

CursedClevelander
Guest

Would be a neat bit of synchronicity if the Red Sox finish with 111 wins – they’d be one game above .500 against the other playoff teams, much like the 54 Indians were .500 against the only other winning teams in the league. And if they get knocked off by the Indians? Priceless.

Mike L
Guest

Go, Tribe!

no statistician but
Guest

Tonight, Tuesday, Houston hit the 100-win mark, and the Yankees gained their 97th. Unlikely scenario, but—if Oakland runs the table and the Yanks can manage 3 out of five to close, the AL will finish with four 100-game winners.

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