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Only a Few Races Left!  Share

10 September 2010

The baseball season is often referred to as a horse race.  If this were a horse race, the excited announcer who yelled, “and down the stretch they come!” would now be yelling, “stay with me, we’re almost there!”

With 3 weeks to go, only two races in baseball are still close, and they are in the National League.  Since the last time I covered this topic, the Braves lost their grip on the lead in the last few weeks and the Padres have all but collapsed, allowing the San Francisco Giants to close to within two games. 

On August 22nd, I mentioned that the San Diego Padres were probably the biggest story of the year.  Well, now they’re definitely the story.  Since then, the somehow-still-first place Padres lost 10 in a row to make it a race in the National League West.  They appear to have righted the ship and are currently on a 3 game winning streak.  Based on the quality of their pitching, they should be able to hold off the red hot San Francisco Giants. 

In the National League East, the Braves only trail the Phillies by 1 game, but they seem to be two teams moving in different directions.  The Phillies appear to have returned to where they belong, while the Braves have slowed down a bit, allowing the Phillies to catch them and pass them. 

Over the next three weeks, these races will likely remain very close.  The losers of these two races are not completely out of it, as one of them will likely earn the Wild Card.  The Braves (and their fans: probably thought that even if the Philadelphia Phillies caught them that they’d be a shoe-in for the wild card.  Now that the San Francisco Giants are back in it, though, even that is not assured.  The Braves are up 1.5 games in the Wild Card.  With three weeks still to play, that race becomes a virtual coin flip.  The Giants don’t have much to lose, which could help them down the stretch.  The Braves will be a major disappointment if they miss the playoffs this year.  If things go ugly in the next week or so, watch out for them to completely self-destruct. 
Over in the American League the playoff picture is virtually locked in.  The Rays and the Yankees play each other another seven meaningless games.  The only thing that is at all in question is whether the Rays will catch the Yankees, but either way, both teams are going to the playoffs.  It helps to win the division, but plenty of wild card teams have had success in the postseason.  This means neither team will likely lay it all on the line over these seven games.    
One liner:  "Of the 32 MLB teams, really it comes down to this: one of these four teams will not make the playoffs:  Braves, Phillies, Padres, or Giants.  Everyone else knows whether they’ll be playoff teams."

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The Basics

Baseball is  has been labeled "America's Pastime" because during the late 19th and early 20th century it was the most widely played sport in the country. More...


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.

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