Another perfect game, postseason scheduling lunacy, Orioles defying the odds, and more as the 2012 MLB season is now three-quarters of the way home.
For the first time in MLB history, three perfect games have been hurled in one season. On Wednesday afternoon Seattle’s Felix Hernandez pitched the 23rd perfect game in MLB history, retiring all 27 Tampa Bay hitters he faced. Hernandez joined Phil Humber and Matt Cain, who had both previously thrown perfect games in the 2012 MLB season. Hernandez’s perfect game marked the first time that three perfect games had been thrown in one MLB season.
Hernandez’ quote after the game of “The fans deserved this. I deserved this” may have sounded a bit Ricky Henderson-like but in fact was a sentiment shared by many. The Mariners haven’t been to the postseason in ten years, ironically the year that King Felix was signed as a sixteen-year-old. Hernandez has been the lone bright spot in the organization for quite some time and his starts still excite his fans in Seattle regardless of where Seattle sits in the division.
Theoretical King Felix trades have almost become a standard part of passing the winter months. While none has become reality yet, Cole Hamels monster extension(6 years, 144 million dollars) can be viewed as a sign of what is to come when King Felix’s next contract is negotiated for the 2015 season. It is very unlikely that the Mariners will pony up what could amount to over 200 million dollars to keep Hernandez after the 2014 season and there is no chance that they will just let Hernandez walk away for what amounts to a draft pick. As popular as Hernandez is in Seattle, he represents the best chance to rebuild the franchise in the form of a massive return from a trade.
One of Hernandez most remarkable statistics lies in the numbers of innings he has already pitched. At the age of only 26, Hernandez has pitched 1568 1/3 innings, good for 41st place among active MLB pitchers. None of the 40 active pitchers currently ahead of Hernandez on the innings pitched list is in his 20’s. As good as Hernandez has been, 1568 innings is a lot of innings to have on a 26 year-old arm. It’s prudent to wonder when the Mariners will attempt to convert their star and his drawing power into a multiple prospect deal designed to turn the fortunes of the club around. The “what would it take to get King Felix” discussions should be alive and well again this coming winter.
This Is Not Supposed To Happen!
Another week has gone by, only 25% of the 2012 MLB season remains and the Baltimore Orioles are still in wildcard contention. The Orioles would be in possession of the 5th and last playoff slot in the AL if the season were to end today. For a franchise that has struggled for so long, that in itself is amazing enough. What’s more incredible is the way that Baltimore has gotten to this point in the season.
There are currently fourteen teams in MLB who have been outscored by their opponents this year. Thirteen of those fourteen teams who have been outscored by their opponents this year have losing records. The Royals, Indians, Twins, Mariners, Blue Jays, Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Brewers, Cubs, Astros, Padres, and Rockies are a combined 214 games below .500. The sixteen teams in MLB who have outscored their rivals this season all have winning records.
The Orioles have been outscored by their opponents 552-509 this season yet incredibly are 11 games over .500. This past weekend the Orioles went into Detroit and took two of three from the Tigers including a 3-2 victory on Saturday that ran the Orioles MLB leading record in one run games to 23-6. The Orioles are a walking statistical anomaly but in the end all that matters are wins, not how you get them.
The Orioles are truly a team that doesn’t over think things and understands who and what they are. They seem to let their games flow, not trying to force an identity upon themselves that doesn’t fit, appreciating every win with passion and joy.
Playoff Scheduling Insanity
To many of us the addition of another wild card in each league by MLB was both irrational and unnecessary. A 162 game season is more than enough time to determine who the best teams in each league are and who is worthy for a trip to the postseason. A week and a half ago, MLB announced its postseason schedule and the only way it can accurately be described is insane.
The regular season is scheduled to end on Wednesday, October 3rd. Thursday, October 4th has been left open on the calendar in case of makeup games cancelled due to weather or playoff games needed to determine who the five postseason teams are in each league. As tight as the wildcard races are right now, it is VERY conceivable that playoff games will be needed to determine who the wildcard teams will be, and perhaps more than one of those games will be necessary. The single game eliminations that compose the new first round of the playoffs will be played on Friday October 5th.
Because of the late implementation of the additional wild card team in each league, for the 2012 season only, the best-of-five round will be played in a 2-3 format this year, with the lower seed hosting the first two games. That’s right, the LOWER SEEDED TEAM will be hosting the first two games. In addition to that irrational decision, the best-of-five round will start the day after the single game playoffs, on Saturday October 6th. The implications of this scheduling insanity could be severe. The best-of-five format was used from 1969-1984 in League Championship Series, the 1981 Division Series (due to that year’s strike that changed the format), and in the Divisional Series since 1995 when the first wildcard team was added. There have been a total of 104 postseason series played under the best-of-five format. In those 104 series, the winner of the first game of the series has gone on to win the series 73 times, or about 70 percent of the time. In those 104 best-of-five series, the winner of game two has gone on to win the series 78 times, or exactly 75 percent of the time. So the “reward” for being one of the top two teams in each league is a plane ride to another team’s stadium to start a series.
Being mindful of last year’s epic collapses by the Red Sox and Braves, with about 25% of the season left to play, the Yankees and Rangers look to be in very good position to nab the first two seeds in the AL. In the NL the Nationals and Reds look to be in similar shape as the Yankees and Rangers. It’s bad enough that these four teams will be underdogs to win their first round series no matter who they play. After all, home winning percentage in the history of MLB is .544(723-605). Since the lower seeds will be starting their series at home, where 70% and 75% respectively of game one and game two winners of best-of-five series have gone on to win those series, it is going to make it very hard for the higher seed to win those series.
This is the most illogical, irrational, insane idea in the history of the game and absolutely epitomizes the decisions made under the Selig regime that have helped knock MLB’s ratings to new lows and light years behind the NFL.
The three of five itself is a mistake, one that has led to fluke outcomes which make a mockery of playing 162 games over six months to determine playoff teams. A child could see that extending the best of five series to the more legitimate best-of-seven series has been long overdue. MLB’s explanation for its failure to extend these series has been a lack of time. The addition of the extra playoff teams requires two extra days in scheduling to play these one game eliminations. Those two days would have been better used in keeping with a four teams in each league format, extending the first round to a best-of-seven.
While every team in MLB playoff contention certainly is well motivated to win their division and avoid the single game elimination round, the three seed obviously will have the best chance to move on to the League Championship series. Not only will the three seed know its opponent upon completion of the regular season, but will host the first two games of its best-of-five series without any travel whatsoever preceding that series. Only in MLB under the Selig regime would a three seed be given a clear-cut advantage in the postseason over the first two seeds.
If The Playoffs Started Today
In the American League:
The Tampa Bay Rays would host the Baltimore Orioles in a one game playoff to determine who would host the first two games of a best-of-five series against the Yankees.
The White Sox would host the first two games of a best-of-five series against the Rangers.
In the National League:
The Atlanta Braves would host the Pittsburgh Pirates in a one game playoff to determine who would host the first two games of a best-of-five series with the Washington Nationals.
The Los Angeles Dodgers would host the first two games of a best-of-five series with the Cincinnati Reds.