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Some Old, Some New in MLB 2010 Season

02 June 2010    Share

Most fans do not pay much attention to baseball in June—the NBA and NHL playoffs are in full swing, and most people care more about planning their Memorial Day or July 4th vacations than tuning into the first half of the marathon that is the 162 game baseball season.  There have been some notable stories as of late, however, that have caught the attention of many sports fans and would be worth bringing up around the water cooler.
In the National League, the eastern division has been fun for fans to watch.  The Braves had a 9 game losing streak to close out the month of April in which they found themselves in last place behind the first place Philadelphia Phillies.  The teams moved in opposite directions, though, at the end of May and into early June as the Braves have recently won 8 straight including a three game sweep over the Philadelphia Phillies, moving 2.5 games ahead of the Phillies in the National League East standings (the .5 of a game comes from the fact that the Braves have played one more game than the Phillies and won that game).  Over the past 9 games, the Phillies have hit only .187 as a team, so it’s pretty hard to win when you are not scoring runs.  One of their wins last Saturday occurred when their star pitcher, Roy Halladay, threw a perfect game over the Florida Marlins.  They won the game 1-0 and it took an error by the Marlins for the Phillies to even get that run. 
Usually only true baseball die hards pay much attention to the standings this early in the season, but the streaky nature of the teams in the National League East foreshadow an exciting season.  Elsewhere in the National League, the Cincinnati Reds are surprisingly in first place in the Central Division, just one game ahead of a playoff team from last year, the Saint Louis Cardinals.  In the west, the San Diego Padres have a slim lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers. 
An exciting storyline in the national league this year has been the rise of Colorado Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jiminez.  In only his fourth year in the league, Jiminez ranks first in the National League in wins (10) and ERA (0.78).  At this point in the season, he holds the record for the lowest ERA through his first 11 starts.  The guy could walk into any McDonald’s in the country and no one would know who he is, but right now his is baseball’s best player by far.
Over in the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays are surprisingly in first place in the Eastern Division with a 2.5 game lead over the defending World Series Champion New York Yankees.  No one really expected the Rays to do this well after their playoff run of last year as they did not make any major off-season moves to improve their roster, but they are playing well and have the best record in baseball.  The Minnesota Twins were in the playoffs last year and are again at the top of the Central Division by 4.5 games while in the Western Division, the Texas Rangers and Oakland A’s are tied for first place.

One-liner: “Even if the Braves stay in first place, does anyone really think they will win the World Series?”  (The Braves went to the World Series five times in the 1990s but only won one of the series).

Send comments to: Leroy@notasportsguy.com

The Basics

Baseball Regular Season:
Major League Baseball (MLB) is divided into two leagues, the American League (AL) and the National League (NL).  Each league is further divided into three divisions, west, central, and east.  The regular season lasts from early April through early October.  While NL teams mostly play other NL teams and vice versa with the AL, there are occasional times in the regular season that NL teams will play AL teams.  During the regular season, each team plays 162 games.   These games determine who will go to the playoffs—each division winner and one “wild card” team from each league.   
Baseball is a statistics crazy game—true fans will quote batting averages, fielding percentages, slugging percentages, and just about any stat that you could think of for their favorite teams or players.  We’ll explain the ones that you need to know throughout the season. 

Terminology:

Win (for a pitcher):  A pitcher must complete five innings of pitching and his team must be leading when he exits for him to get a win.  A pitcher with 15 wins in a season is doing well; 20 wins is the recognized plateau of excellence.

ERA:  Earned Run Average.  A statistic which measures how many runs a pitcher averages surrendering to opposing teams based on pitching nine innings.  For instance, a pitcher with an ERA of 2.00 would on average give up 2 runs over the course of 9 innings.  ERA’s are always measured to the hundredths.  An ERA of under 3.00 is considered good.  An ERA under 2.00 is excellent and only a handful of pitchers are able to sustain an ERA under 2.00 for an entire season.

Pinch Hit:  when a player that did not start the game comes in to bat for a player that did start the game. 

Batting Average:   How often a player gets a hit.  Batting average is calculated by dividing the number of hits by total chances to hit.   If a player walks or is hit by a pitch, such actions are not counted as a chance to hit in calculating the batting average.  A .300 batting average (getting a hit 30% of the time) is considered to be above average for a MLB player.

Mendoza Line:  A euphemism for a .200 batting average.  The term came from a reference to Mario Mendoza, a light hitting infielder in the 1970s that usually batted around .200.  A player that is hitting around the Mendoza Line is lucky to still have a job in the Major Leagues.