Welcome to another edition of ‘Marty's Musings,' my weekly column of numbers summarizing the past week in Major League Baseball. I am your guide for taking an analytic look at the prior week and the upcoming matchups to watch, identifying numbers that are generally not found in a standard box score.
The Mets positioned themselves for an NL East pennant, the Jays and Yankees continued to battle, and the Cardinals have hit their first rough patch of the season, opening the door for the Pirates or Cubs. Somehow the Phillies no longer look like a shoo-in for the number one pick in the 2016 draft (yikes, Braves).
It's all in this week's Musings.
Here are this week's numbers ‘Beyond the Box Score':
Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
2008 - Last time the Mets finished the season above .500. New York clinched a winning season, and pretty much put the nail in the proverbial coffin against the Nationals in DC last week. The Mets swept the Nats and then swept four against Atlanta ---- the first four game Atlanta sweep for the Mets since 1985.
12 - Earned runs given up by the Nationals bullpen during the three game set with the Mets. Last week I discussed a lack of positional player depth as part of the reason the Nationals have struggled, but another large issue is their disastrous bullpen. In the three games versus New York, the ‘pen went eight innings, gave up 12 runs on 11 hits, walked eight batters, and only struck out five.
27 - Members of the 500 home run club, now that David Ortiz has joined. Big Papi hit his 499th and 500th home runs against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. Off an 80 MPH Matt Moore breaking ball, Ortiz' blast left the yard traveling 105.6 MPH. Alex Rodriguez (685) and Albert Pujols (555) are the only other active members of the club.
30 - Consecutive scoreless innings for Bartolo Colon, which is first among pitchers 42 years of age of older. He passed some of the greats on this journey including Cy Young and Warren Spahn (27 innings each). The streak began with seven shutout frames against Philadelphia and included a relief appearance against Boston. Bartolo also had an RBI hit in the game, because he's Bartolo flippin' Colon!
2,477,700 - Previous attendance record for the Kansas City Royals, who passed that number last week. The first place Royals are going to waltz to their first AL Central title ever (since the current three divisions structure was put into place in 1994).
4 - Home runs given up by Johnny Cueto in his start against the Orioles Sunday night. It's the most home runs he's allowed in a start in over five years. Since joining KC, he has gone 50 innings and has given up 27 earned runs. The Royals may have a problem on their hands if he doesn't improve because if Cueto is pitching like this much longer, he might not deserve a playoff start in the LDS.
.233 - Braves winning percentage since the All Star break. Put aside this is an arbitrary construct of the MLB season and consider how bad the Braves have played. They have a 78 wRC+ in the second half which is the worst in baseball. Although they have received some decent pitching, their team ERA is 27th since the break (4.57) and their collective FIP is 25th (4.36). It is looking more and more like the Braves may end up with the worst record at the end of the year.
5 - Number of times opposing pitchers have shut out the Blue Jays this season. Masahiro Tanaka went seven innings of scoreless ball, striking out seven and walking zero. Sunday was an important game for the Yanks as they lost both games of a doubleheader at home on Saturday. Although the weekend series win gave the Jays a 3.5 game cushion in the East, Saturday's doubleheader sweep came with a major cost as it looks like they could potentially be without star Troy Tulowitzki for the remainder of the season.
162 - wRC+ for Twins DH Miguel Sano. Sano is a major reason the Twins are still in wild card contention. Since being called up from the minors, Sano has hit for average (.272), taken plenty of walks (.387 OBP) and hit for power (16 home runs). The Twins remain only one game behind the Rangers for the second wild card spot in the American League.
What to Watch
Credit: Jeff Hanisch - USA Today Sports
It's the home stretch and there are still plenty of pennant races to be decided. The Cubs play two pivotal series with the Pirates and Cardinals this week. The Astros and Rangers play a divisional showdown that will help shape the American League West. Fasten your seat belts, we're getting into the thick of pennant races now.
Tuesday, September 15
Doubleheader Game 1: Jon Lester (CHC) v. Gerrit Cole (PIT)
Doubleheader Game 2: Jason Hammel (CHC) v. J.A. Happ (PIT)
A key showdown in the NL Central, the Cubbies trail the Pirates by four games in the wild card race, and it looks like Chicago will be traveling to Pittsburgh for the wildcard game. Cole went seven strong shutout innings against St. Louis the last time out, but these last few starts will be key, as he's never thrown more than 140 professional innings; he is currently at 180.2 IP.
In game two, an unlikely integral addition to the Pirates takes the hill against Jason Hammel. Spencer Bingol chronicled some of the adjustments Happ has made since joining the Pirates. Pittsburgh can resign the Cubs to the second WC if they manage to play well this series; they still have their sights set on the division.
Wednesday, September 16
Dallas Keuchel (HOU) v. Colby Lewis (TEX)
The Astros have a 1.5 game lead over the Rangers in the West with the loser likely destined for the wild card game. Dallas Keuchel hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in a start since July; the last time he went up against Texas, he went seven shutout innings and K'ed 13. Lewis, meanwhile, threw a Maddux (complete game shutout in under 100 pitches) against the Athletics last Friday night.
Thursday, September 17
Jose Fernandez (MIA) v. Tanner Roark (WAS)
The Nationals look done, but let's not let September go by without highlighting Jose Fernandez. In his return from the disabled list over the weekend, Fernandez went five innings with seven strikeouts. He has not gone deep into games this season, but still possesses a 2.06 ERA and 1.66 FIP.
Thursday, September 17
Hector Santiago (LAA) v. Tommy Milone (MIN)
Not a sexy pitching matchup per se, but the Angels and Twins are by no means out of the playoff hunt. The Angels are three games behind the second position and the Twins are knocking on the Rangers door, only one game behind. On a light Thursday slate, this game will be fun to watch (as will the rest of this series).
Saturday September 19
There are a number of games to highlight Saturday, including an NL Central divisional rivalry (which we'll see a bunch of over the next few weeks). Michael Wacha is facing the Cubs, who have not decided who will pitch; similarly with the Dodgers / Pirates, Zack Greinke will take the hill Saturday against a to be determined Pirates starter. Greinke tossed another gem his last time out, and currently has a 1.61 ERA. In nine of his 20 starts, he has not given up a run.
Sunday, September 20
Gerrit Cole (PIT) v. Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
A Sunday matinee with two of the best pitchers in the National League. Kershaw has a 2.15 ERA and a 2.08 xFIP. He remains one of the best pitchers in the game, and is taking on a hot Pirates team that is still within striking distance of the NL Central.
*All matchups and pitching probables as of Sunday evening