Today’s Trivia: Maybe the most interesting part about the Triple Crown battle going on between Albert Pujols and Joey Votto is that they’re both in the same division and both fighting for playoff spots. It’s more than just a personal duel. Carlos Gonzalez’s competition and Omar Infante’s potential late addition to the pool of candidates notwithstanding, let’s suppose Votto and Pujols finish one-two in batting average this season.
When was the last time two players from the same division finished one-two in the batting average race with BOTH of their teams making the playoffs?
Bill James has developed an interesting baseball idea called the Pythagorean win theorem. It’s not as difficult as it sounds – it takes the total runs you score compared to the total runs you allow and gives you an expected win-loss record based on those totals. Sure, every team will have blowouts and close games over the course of a season, so this theory looks at a larger scale – essentially, the team’s winning margin on a full-season basis.
The thing is, your expected win-loss record doesn’t always equal your true win-loss record. Let’s take a look at some teams who are above or below their expected record:
• The Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees are currently tied for the best record in baseball (78-49), but the Pythagorean win theorem suggests the Yankees should be three games ahead of where they are now (81-46) while the Rays should be one game ahead of where they are now (79-48). That’s because the Yankees have a +164 run margin this season while the Rays are +144.
• In the NL, the St. Louis Cardinals are a whopping six games behind where they should be. They’re at 68-56, but their expected record is 74-50. If they actually WERE 74-50 at this point, they’d be 2½ games up on the Cincinnati Reds instead of 3½ behind.
• Then throw in this factor – the Reds are actually ahead of their expected record. By one game. They’re 73-54, but their expected record is 72-55. That’s because their run margin is +80 this season, compared to +105 for the Cardinals.
• Not many predicted the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres as leaders of their divisions. But would you guess that both teams are actually below their expected records? The Braves are four wins behind, while the Padres are three wins behind. The Padres (+134) and Braves (+112) have the best run margins in the NL.
• Not true for the Philadelphia Phillies, who are actually one game above their expected record. So the Braves and Phils went by their expected record instead of their true record, the Braves would have a 5½-game lead in the division instead of a 2½-game lead.
• Finally, not many people would say the Astros are “good” right now, but they’re still better than they’re expected to be. Their 57-69 record is still a whopping seven games better than their expected record (50-76) thanks to a -111 run margin on the season. Same story for the Pirates, with an unfathomable -246 run margin.
To peruse the numbers yourself, check out this link: http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/rpi
We featured Hiroki Kuroda and his futility at the plate in yesterday’s edition, so it’s only fair that we check out the other end of the spectrum too. Yovani Gallardo, pitching this afternoon for the Milwaukee Brewers, has a whopping .836 OPS in 50 at-bats this season. Of his 12 hits this season, seven have gone for extra bases. His four home runs are by far the most among pitchers this season too. Essentially, he’s been a slugger in the nine-hole whenever he starts.
To further bolster Gallardo’s ego, let’s take a look at some of the regular position players who Gallardo has been better than this season.
Most PA This Season
Players with Lower OPS Than Yovani Gallardo (.836)
• Kevin Correia will see plenty of his usual foes tonight on the Arizona Diamondbacks. The four batters Correia has seen most in his career – Stephen Drew, Chris Young, Mark Reynolds, and Justin Upton – are all Diamondbacks. And they’re all batting under .300 against him, including just .195 by Drew.
• Jordan Zimmerman makes his first start of the season tonight for the Washington Nationals and it shouldn’t come as any surprise that he’s not thrilled to face Albert Pujols. Zimmerman has only faced Pujols and the Cardinals once in his career. But in that game, Pujols went 3-3 off Zimmerman with a solo home run in the first inning.
• There might not be anyone who hates facing Cliff Lee as much as Delmon Young does. Young has just a career .125 BA (3-24) against Lee, with a paltry .125 slugging percentage to match. They’ve met each other once already this season, and Lee got Young to go 0-3 including two foul-out pop flies.
Trivia Answer: If you pulled Ichiro Suzuki and Jason Giambi out of your hat, you win today’s trivia. Ichiro and Giambi finished one-two in 2001, when both Ichiro’s Seattle Mariners and Giambi’s Oakland Athletics made the postseason.
But in the NL, since 1995, also known as the Wild Card era, it has never happened where the players that finished one-two in batting average both played on teams that made the postseason – regardless of division.