Bandwagoning Baseball’s Finality

Has your favorite baseball team been eliminated from post-season play? Do you remain reluctant to dive headfirst into football 24/7? Are you willing to set aside your normal allegiance for the next month and a half and bandwagon a contender for the sake of shit-talking and a possible faux championship?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, or preferably to all three, then it’s time for you to hop on the shoulders of a more successful fanbase a la Carlos Mencia’s “comedy” routine (yes, I just Mencia’d a Mencia joke). EJSIC is here to rank the possible teams on a scale of 1 to 10; 10 being fully bandwagon-worthy, 1 meaning we’d rather root for Hitler.

Let’s start with the American League and work our way through the pennant chasers there before exploring the National League.

Note: the author of this post is anti-DH, but in the interest of fairness will attempt to reasonably grade the AL teams instead of giving all of them the 1 they so deserve.

American League

1. New York Yankees: THE EVIL EMPIRE! That should be enough for you to realize that only intolerable douches and fans of the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Lakers, and Duke Blue Devils (sorry, repetitive) “root” for these guys. Seriously, they’ve won more Fall Classics in baseball history than any other team. They also possess the deepest wallet, the NY superiority belief, and include Cleveland native LeBron James as a fan. Do NOT bandwagon under any circumstance. Score – 1

2. Boston Red Sox: The Sox are 2.5 games behind the Yankees for the East crown, but with a comfy 6.5 games up in the Wild Card they’re virtually in. This is the same franchise that defeated an eight-decade curse with two World Series titles since 2004. And when the core of that team aged too much, they went out and splashed Yankee-esque money this off-season. While I find them more root-worthy than their arch-rivals, there’s no need to really bandwagon them for their fans have been treated to championships in all four major sports this decade. Score – 2

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

3. Detroit Tigers: Detroit has slowly put the AL Central away over the second half of the season. Aside from playing in a collapsing shit-hole of a city, what’s not to like? They have a chain-smoking manager who puffs during games, an ace pitcher who could seemingly throw a no-hitter each time out, and an alcoholic first baseman. Sounds like a recipe for bandwagon awesomeness to me. The only downside? They’re in the same league as the Yankees and Red Sox so a championship is unlikely to come this season. Regardless, you’ll have a good time. Score – 8

4. Texas Rangers: The defending AL Champs refueled after losing ace Cliff Lee to free agency, and yet they’re right here again. If you like offensive baseball, the Rangers are your team. They’ve crossed home 737 times this season, third best in baseball behind the Yankees and Sox. They also maintain a relatively unknown squad. Some guys (like Michael Young and Josh Hamilton) are known nationally, but many of their better players have yet to receive a lot of national pub (Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz). So if your choice is the Rangers, it would help to do some research and not unveil yourself as a bandwagoner within the first five minutes. Score – 7

5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Really, these guys should get a one for having the worst name in baseball. Pick a damn city. I could also give them a one for the owner complaining after whiffing on free agent Carl Crawford this season despite the fact that the Angels have plenty of money themselves. You lost out to a better organization, STFU and get over it. However, the Angels assumed an underdog role this season winning ball games with great pitching. Their offensively challenged team has scored 586 runs to date, the worst of any AL challengers. They’re also 2.5 games back of the Rangers so they have some work to do. Score – 4 Continue reading

MLB Second Half

The second half of Major League Baseball’s season begins tonight. I’ve put together some questions for each contender.

American League

New York Yankees – Who do they target for starting pitching help after missing on the Cliff Lee deal? Javy Vazquez and A.J. Burnett have been disappointing to date.

Tampa Bay Rays – Can Tampa Bay regain its early season form and pass the Yankees? An 8-2 record in their last 10 seems to suggest so.

Boston Red Sox – Will Josh Beckett’s return spur the Sox to a late season run for the division crown or wild card? A healthy Red Sox team is a dangerous team.

Chicago White Sox – GM Ken Williams has expressed interest in pursuing Roy Oswalt. Will the South-siders put together enough pieces to grab Oswalt?

Detroit Tigers – The Tiger pitching staff is not overly impressive aside from Justin Verlander. Do they make a deal for another starter?

Minnesota Twins – The Twins looked to be building an insurmountable division lead before stumbling. Do the Twins change history and make a deadline deal, or do they remain as they are and hope for another late season run?

Texas Rangers – They played 12 more home games than road games in the first half. Can Cliff Lee keep them on their current pace, or do the Rangers experience some second half struggles?

National League

Atlanta Braves – The Braves need an outfield bat who can hit for power? Who does GM Frank Wren target after the Yunel Escobar trade?

New York Mets – Their mix-match pitching staff can’t possibly replicate it’s first half, can it? Johan Santana needs some help beside Mike Pelfrey.

Philadelphia Phillies – Will the once-vaunted Philly offense return as we all expect? Chase Utley’s injury is a big blow to the club’s chances.

Cincinnati Reds – Will Joey Votto continue his MVP season and carry the Reds to the division crown? Also, Aroldis Chapman is waiting in the minors for a September call-up a la David Price of the ’08 Rays.

St. Louis Cardinals – Despite not yet matching preseason expectations, the Cardinals are still in the race. Who steps up to help Pujols and Holliday?

San Diego Padres – The best pitching in baseball won’t let them down, will it? Can their youngsters hold on for 162 games?

Colorado Rockies – Can you feel the Rocktober air? Colorado residents can after the Rockies climb to second place before the break.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Cliff Lee is no longer available, but the Dodgers could still use some pitching help. Who do they target?

San Francisco Giants – Like the last few seasons, the pitching is there, but the offense isn’t. A blockbuster trade to look out for could be the Giants acquiring Prince Fielder from the Brewers.

Stephen Strasburg to the All-Star game?

The buzz around Major League Baseball and sports talk radio has been about Stephen Strasburg, not surprisingly. His four starts at the big club have all been spectacular.

The other night, MLB Network poised the question though: Should Stephen Strasburg be an All-Star?

It’s a tough question to answer. You can probably tell from my previous baseball writings that I lean more to the traditionalist side of the game. I hate the DH and expanded use of instant replay. Yeah, I’m that guy ruining it for all of you 21st century folks.

But when it comes to Strasburg pitching in this years All-Star game, I’m surprisingly new age. Let him. In every sense of the word, he’s not an All-Star. Sure, his numbers are good enough, but the body of work isn’t there.

He’s pitched four games and should have about six by the Mid-Summer Classic. We can’t compare that to the pitchers that have been there all season. It’s not fair.

However, the All-Star game has become a popularity contest. Stats and great seasons no longer matter. It’s who the fans want to see. And if they want to see Strasburg, let him in.

Tony Romo started half a season in 2006 for the Cowboys, and he made the Pro Bowl squad. There wasn’t much outrage over that considering there were probably better options.

So, put him on the squad (if he’s voted in, of course). Let him pitch an inning, show the world what he’s got, and let the Nationals actually have some pride in their woeful franchise. Besides, what else does the National League have to lose besides another All-Star game?

Forget the DH Excuse: The American League is Just Better

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Baseball is the ultimate sport for sabermetricians. Statistics drive posturing in arguments, game decisions, and player salaries. Most importantly, they often play a huge factor in historical records and Hall of Fame consideration. In the contemporary game, much of the focus on statistics has surrounded the “steroid factor”, and how to evaluate statistics in the Performance Enhancing Drug and post-steroid eras (are we past it yet?). But there is another qualifier that is skewing stats significantly that needs to be taken into consideration: league affiliation.

Simply put – right now (and for a generation) – the American League is more talented than the National League. It’s not necessarily better at the top, as near-equity in recent World Series results will show (5-5 in last 10), but it is deeper and more talented from top to bottom. The discrepancy is especially noticeable in the talent of the hitters. Hitters in the American League cause pitching statistics to be inflated. The NL turns average pitchers into good pitchers, and good ones into great ones. An aging or declining AL pitcher can make the jump to the NL to resurrect or elongate his career. National League apologists will contend that the discrepancy is due to the American League replacing the pitcher in the lineup with a Designated Hitter. But this isn’t the case.

Of the 10 pitchers who have made the 300 win club in the past 30 years, eight have spent time pitching in the American League. The two who haven’t are Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux. Only 642 of the 2,882 total combined wins for those eight pitchers (Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Tom Seaver, Phil Niekro, Don Sutton, Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry) were earned in the AL: equal to 34.6%.

Along with history’s example, let’s look at some recent cases:

  1. 2009 – John Smoltz and Brad Penny leave the Red Sox for NL teams:
    • Smoltz’s AL ERA: 8.32
    • Smoltz’s NL ERA: 4.26
    • Difference: -4.06
    • Penny’s AL ERA: 5.61
    • Penny’s NL ERA: 2.59
    • Difference: -2.02
  2. 2004 to 2005 – Pedro Martinez signs with the Mets after the Red Sox:
    • Pedro’s 2004 AL ERA: 3.90 ERA
    • Pedro’s 2005 NL ERA: 2.82 ERA
    • Difference: -1.08

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