• Wildcard Just As Good As First Place?

    Posted by on September 20th, 2007 · Comments (6)

    Here are the teams who have won Wildcard post-season berths (so far in baseball history) – and how they’ve done each October:

    1995:
    AL: Yankees | NL: Rockies
    Both lost in the LDS

    1996:
    AL: Orioles | NL: Dodgers
    Orioles lost in ALCS, Dodgers lost in NLDS

    1997:
    AL: Yankees | NL: Marlins
    Yankees lost in ALDS, Marlins won World Series

    1998:
    AL: Red Sox | NL: Cubs
    Both lost in the LDS

    1999:
    AL: Red Sox | NL: Mets
    Red Sox lost in ALCS, Mets lost in NLCS

    2000:
    AL: Mariners | NL: Mets
    Mariners lost in ALCS, Mets lost in the World Series

    2001:
    AL: Athletics | NL: Cardinals
    Both lost in the LDS

    2002:
    AL: Angels | NL: Giants
    Angels beat Giants in the World Series

    2003:
    AL: Red Sox | NL: Marlins
    Red Sox lost in ALCS, Marlins won World Series

    2004:
    AL: Red Sox | NL: Astros
    Red Sox won World Series, Astros lost in NLCS

    2005:
    AL: Red Sox | NL: Astros
    Red Sox lost in ALDS, Astros lost in the World Series

    2006:
    AL: Tigers | NL: Dodgers
    Tigers lost in the World Series, Dodgers lost in NLDS

    In total, there are 24 Wildcard teams here. How did they do as a whole, on average?

    41.67% of the time, the Wildcard team lost in the LDS
    25.00% of the time, the Wildcard team lost in the LCS
    16.67% of the time, the Wildcard team lost in the World Series

    83.33% of the time, the Wildcard team lost somewhere in the post-season
    16.67% of the time, the Wildcard team won the World Series

    33.00% of the time, the Wildcard team reached the World Series

    That last line really gets my attention. One-third of the time, the Wildcard team, over the past dozen years, has won the pennant (and made it to the Fall Classic). Which teams did this? They are the:

    1997 Marlins, 2000 Mets, 2002 Angels, 2002 Giants, 2003 Marlins, 2004 Red Sox, 2005 Astros, and 2006 Tigers.

    When I look at these teams, the first thing that comes to my mind are some outstanding post-season pitching performances in recent LCS history: Livan Hernandez in 1997, Mike Hampton in 2000, Francisco Rodriguez and Jason Schmidt in 2002, Josh Beckett in 2003, Keith Foulke in 2004, Roy Oswalt in 2005 and Kenny Rogers in 2006.

    I also see teams who got fairly good pitching performances from their starter in Game 1 or 2 of the LDS that season: Kevin Brown for the Marlins in Game 1 of 1997, Al Leiter for the Mets in Game 2 of 2000, Kevin Appier for the Angels in Game 2 of 2002, Russ Ortiz for the Giants in Game 1 of 2002, Josh Beckett for the Marlins in Game 1 of 2003, Curt Schilling in Game 1 and Pedro Martinez in Game 2 for the Red Sox in 2004, Andy Pettitte for the Astros in Game 1 of 2005, and Justin Verlander for the Tigers in Game 2 of 2006.

    This all in hand, I would suggest, that, for a Wildcard team to reach the World Series, they better have a good effort from their starting pitcher in Game 1 or 2 of their LDS – followed by an outstanding LCS from one (or more) of their pitchers.

    Then again, you could apply that rule to just about any post-season team hoping to reach the World Series.

    This brings us to who’s pitching well now, and who is not. Here are the major league team ERAs for this month (of September) so far:

    RK	TEAM	        GP	ERA
    1	Cleveland	18	3.07
    2	Chisox	        17	3.28
    3	Yankees	        17	3.64
    4	Atlanta	        17	3.80
    5	S.D.	        17	3.83
    6	Milwaukee	17	3.95
    7	Toronto	        18	3.96
    8	Dodgers	        18	4.04
    9	Arizona	        17	4.20
    10	Cubs	        20	4.24
    11	Detroit	        18	4.24
    12	Washington	17	4.37
    13	Mets	        17	4.47
    14	Minnesota	17	4.49
    15	Angels	        18	4.50
    16	Boston	        18	4.61
    17	Tampa	        18	4.77
    18	K.C.	        17	4.80
    19	Colorado	18	4.83
    20	S.F.	        17	4.93
    21	St. Louis	20	5.06
    22	Cincinnati	17	5.08
    23	Phil.	        18	5.25
    24	Texas	        18	5.47
    25	Oakland	        18	5.71
    26	Seattle	        18	5.77
    27	Pittsburgh	18	5.80
    28	Houston	        17	5.80
    29	Florida	        17	6.34
    30	Baltimore	18	7.11

    This suggests that the Yankees, Padres and D-backs could be O.K. this post-season, as a Wildcard team, because their pitching is somewhat hot. On the flip side, it suggests that the Mets, Red Sox, Rockies and Phillies, if the make the post-season as a Wildcard team, may not have the hot pitching that you need to reach the World Series in October.

    Then, again, if you have the pitching, or not, it probably really doesn’t matter if you’re a Wildcard team or not. It’s all about getting into the big dance and then having your pitchers do what’s needed.

    Therefore, when the Boston Red Sox say that it doesn’t matter to them if they lose first place in the A.L. East, as long as they make the post-season and rest their pitchers, it makes sense to think this way…because it is really all about having your pitchers set-up and ready to come through in October.

    And, perhaps the Yankees should look at their “Wildcard” magic number in terms of when to celebrate making the post-season in 2007 – and start to line-up their pitching for October too?

    Ah, ha! Not really. Look at how the Yankees pitchers throw at home, this season, to date:

     I                G   W   L   S   CG SHO   IP     ERA    H    R   ER   HR  BB  IBB  SO  HBP  GF  GS
    +-+------------+----+---+---+---+---+---+------+------+----+----+----+---+----+---+----+---+---+---+------------+
    CWang          15  10   4   0   0   0  104.1   2.85   90   33   33   6   29   1   56   4   0  15 CWang
    APettitte      16   8   3   0   0   0   95.1   4.15  110   47   44  10   30   1   72   0   0  15 APettitte
    MMussina       13   6   5   0   0   0   76     4.97   84   44   42   9   13   0   52   2   0  12 MMussina
    RClemens        9   4   2   0   0   0   52     3.29   57   24   19   4   12   0   37   3   0   9 RClemens
    LVizcaino      35   5   2   0   0   0   34.2   5.71   34   23   22   2   20   5   33   0   8   0 LVizcaino
    MRivera        29   3   2  13   0   0   31.2   3.41   30   12   12   2    5   0   37   2  27   0 MRivera
    PHughes         6   1   2   0   0   0   30     6.00   38   22   20   3   13   0   27   1   0   6 PHughes
    KFarnsworth    28   1   0   0   0   0   27     4.00   25   13   12   4   14   1   23   1   4   0 KFarnsworth
    BBruney        26   0   0   0   0   0   23.1   3.86   17   11   10   2   15   1   21   1   6   0 BBruney
    RVillone       15   0   0   0   0   0   22.2   1.19   14    3    3   2    5   1   17   1   7   0 RVillone
    IKennedy        1   1   0   0   0   0    7     1.29    5    3    1   1    2   0    6   0   0   1 IKennedy   

    Now look at how the Yankees pitchers throw on the road, this season, to date:

     I                G   W   L   S   CG SHO   IP     ERA    H    R   ER   HR  BB  IBB  SO  HBP  GF  GS
    +-+------------+----+---+---+---+---+---+------+------+----+----+----+---+----+---+----+---+---+---+------------+
    APettitte      18   6   5   0   0   0  109     3.47  115   46   42   4   35   0   68   1   0  17 APettitte
    CWang          13   8   3   0   1   0   82     5.05   96   47   46   2   26   0   38   4   0  13 CWang
    MMussina       13   4   5   0   0   0   64     5.06   86   37   36   5   20   2   32   2   0  13 MMussina
    RClemens        9   2   4   0   0   0   47     5.17   42   28   27   5   19   0   31   2   0   8 RClemens
    LVizcaino      38   3   0   0   0   0   37     2.43   23   11   10   2   21   6   25   2   5   0 LVizcaino
    MRivera        34   0   2  17   0   0   35.2   2.52   34   10   10   2    7   2   33   3  31   0 MRivera
    PHughes         5   3   1   0   0   0   30.2   3.52   15   13   12   4   13   0   23   0   0   5 PHughes
    KFarnsworth    31   1   1   0   0   0   28.2   5.02   31   18   16   4   12   1   22   1   6   0 KFarnsworth
    BBruney        30   3   1   0   0   0   25.1   4.26   24   12   12   1   19   1   14   2   9   0 BBruney
    RVillone       18   0   0   0   0   0   15     9.60   21   16   16   2   11   2    8   2   6   0 RVillone
    IKennedy        2   0   0   0   0   0   12     2.25    8    3    3   0    7   0    9   0   0   2 IKennedy  

    Interesting, huh? For the Yankeees, Wang, Clemens, Farnsworth, Bruney, and Villone all pitch better in the Bronx than on the road. Actually, the only Yankees pitchers that get hurt in the Bronx are Hughes and Vizcaino. Mussina is about the same, home and away, as is Rivera. And, while Pettitte has better numbers on the road, it’s not like his Bronx totals are terrible.

    Therefore, if pitching is important in the post-season, regardless of how you get there, and the Yankees pitch better at home – especially Clemens and Wang – then doesn’t it make sense for the Yankees to want that home-field advantage that the Wildcard does not get in the post-season?

    Yesterday, I wrote that the Indians, to date, are 48-28 at home. And, the Angels, to date, are 51-25 at home. These are the teams that they Yankees would face, at least one of them, in the ALDS – regardless of how New York gets there.

    Because of this, yesterday, I said “I’m leaning towards saying the Yankees should go for it…and try and win the East (if that’s what it comes down to this season). If that means you have to start Hughes, Mussina or Kennedy in Game 1 of the ALDS, so be it.”

    Now, when you factor in the home/road splits of Yankees pitchers, on top of the home-field records of the Angels and Indians, there’s little question, in my mind, on what the Yankees need to do here.

    Let the Red Sox punt and back into the post-season. For them, it makes sense. But, just because it makes sense for Boston, it doesn’t make sense for New York.

    Finish first in the East and get that home-field edge. For the Yankees, it matters – and it matters a lot.

    Comments on Wildcard Just As Good As First Place?

    1. dan
      September 20th, 2007 | 11:42 pm

      But the Yankees probably won’t get home field if they win the division anyway; the angels and indians will probably have better records than them, meaning that each gets home field no matter who theyre playing. If the Yankees win the division, they’ll still have the 3rd best record in the league in all likelihood, meaning that they would open the playoffs in either los angeles or cleveland anyway.

    2. mehmattski
      September 21st, 2007 | 12:29 am

      a) Your stats on the Wild Card teams are enough to convince me that there is no reason to fear the Wild Card as a way into the post-season.

      b) There is no evidence that September performance, whether it’s pitching, hitting, or defense, correlates in any way to post-season performance.

      c) The Yankees play in a pitchers’ park- offense is depressed by 5% in Yankee Stadium in 2007. Therefore the home/road splits of most of the Yankees’ pitchers is not surprising.

      d) “If pitching is important in the post-season.” Of course it is, and yes perhaps moreso than hitting. It stands to reason that you would then want your top pitchers going in post-season games, and not having to pitch Kennedy, Hughes, or Mussina in Game 1. As another poster and I have shown this week, the current (six man) rotation doesn’t really need a lot of tweaking to be set up optimally, and without tweaking it puts Yankees’ pitchers in fine shape for the post-season. “Going all out” for it is on the one hand unnecessary and on the other hand counter-productive.

      d) What dan said- the Yanks aren’t likely to get home-field even if they win the AL East.

    3. September 21st, 2007 | 8:23 am

      ~~But the Yankees probably won’t get home field if they win the division anyway; the angels and indians will probably have better records than them, meaning that each gets home field no matter who theyre playing.~~

      I disagree with this.

      Right now, the Yankees have 88 wins, the Angels have 91 and the Indians have 90.

      But, the Angels magic number is 1 and the Indians magic number is 3. Both teams should clinch this weekend. So, the last week of the season is garbage time for them. It’s not a reach to say that the Indians and Angels will wind up with 95 wins at the end of the year.

      To top that, the Yankees would need to go 8-2 in their last 10 games – and lock up the best record in the AL, and home-field through out the post-season.

      It’s not impossible for this to happen.

    4. Joel
      September 21st, 2007 | 9:15 am

      Dan, Pete Abe, ESPN and no doubt many others in RSN are trying to come up with subtle justifications as to why the Yanks should take their foot off the gas pedal: They need to rest up; they can’t get home field anyway, so what’s the difference, etc…

      Bullshit. No Bubba-Sheffield collisions on the road in Game 5. No moronic Gary Sheffield experiments at the end of the season. No Tom Gordon blowing up 8th innings at Fenway. Petal to the metal.

      The Yanks are the best team in baseball and they’re playing like champions. 19-21 wins to first place, home field, and the Canyon of Heroes.

    5. Raf
      September 21st, 2007 | 10:02 am

      Bullshit. No Bubba-Sheffield collisions on the road in Game 5. No moronic Gary Sheffield experiments at the end of the season. No Tom Gordon blowing up 8th innings at Fenway. Petal to the metal.
      ===================
      You can’t assume the collision would not have happened, there are way too many variables to consider.

      Sheffield @ 1b was a way to get his bat in the lineup. Nothing to do with home field advantage.

      Assuming you’re referring to Gordon’s 2004, the Yanks had homefield advantange in that ALCS.

    6. Joel
      September 21st, 2007 | 10:41 am

      Raf–My general point is not that freak things can’t happen in the playoffs or that home field advantage is the be-all, end-all solution to everything.

      The point is that this team is a better ball club than the 2004-2006 teams and there is no reason to mess with anything. The Yanks are more than capable of playing at a torrid pace for the next 25-30 games.

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