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.
It's crunch time in Major League Baseball and although most of the playoff spots seem secure, a few teams are fighting for their season. Last week we saw a new team take the driver's seat in the American League West and an aged and injured Yankee team lose more ground to the powerhouse Blue Jays.
It's all in this week's Musings. Here are this week's numbers ‘Beyond the Box Score':
Photo Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
30 - Age of new Brewers' General Manager, David Stearns. Stearns graduated from Harvard in 2007 and is one year younger than Ryan Braun. The Brewers recruited him from the Astros, where he served as Jeff Luhnow's deputy. Stearns is the youngest-ever GM in the game.
4 - Game sweep of the Astros by the Texas Rangers at home. Texas took their playoff future into their own hands last week by outscoring the Astros 33-13 in the four-game set. The Astros are now fighting for their playoff spot; they are 1.5 games behind the Rangers for first in the West and only 2.5 in front of the Angels for the second wild card spot.
73-0 & 0-65 - Until Saturday, the Blue Jays record when leading after eight innings and the Red Sox record when losing after eight innings, respectively. This all came to a head over the weekend, when Toronto took a 4-2 lead into the ninth but allowed 5 runs in the top of the inning. Boston allowed two runs in the bottom of the ninth to make it interesting but held onto the victory 7-6.
7 - Consecutive starts for Jeff Samardzija in which he's allowed at least one home run. The last time he started a game without giving up a dinger was August 8th. In his last 49 ⅔ innings, he has allowed 51 earned runs. Shark isn't doing much to improve his free agent value; he has a 4.29 FIP, 4.31 xFIP, and 5.27 ERA.
42 - Home runs for the Mariners' Nelson Cruz. Cruz set the record for the most single-season home runs for the Ms in the Safeco era. He has a 167 wRC+, his highest adjusted weighted runs created of a non-injury season.
8 - Players in the National League with at least half as many wins above replacement as Bryce Harper. The Nationals are having the most disappointing and underachieving season in recent memory, but Harper currently has a 204 wRC+. Should he finish the year over 200, he would become the 13th player in the history of baseball to finish over 200 and only the fifth in the last 50 years (Bonds four times and Jeff Bagwell / Frank Thomas / Mark McGwire, once each).
1913 - The last time all rookies started a three-game series prior to it happening in the weekend series between the Brewers and Reds. While the series was basically inconsequential to the standings, six rookies took the hill. Friday, the Reds won 5-3 when newly acquired Red Brandon Finnegan (who came to Cincy in the Johnny Cueto trade) took on Zach Davies. Saturday Josh Smith and Taylor Jungmann started the slugfest (the Reds won 9-7). Sunday, the Brewers avoided the sweep with Ariel Pena going up against Anthony DeSclafani.
28 / 1 - MLB rank in runs scored for the Mets in the first half of the season and the second half of the season. Since acquiring Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, and Kelly Johnson and adding them to a healthy lineup with Travis d'Arnaud and David Wright, the Mets have put together the most runs scored in the second half. What a world.
2,604 - Pitches thrown by Dellin Betances (not including Sunday night's game). He leads the league in reliever pitches thrown; the Yankees have Betances and Andrew Miller in their ‘pen, but behind the dynamic duo, it's been a significant struggle. The Yanks will need Betances healthy and effective if they are going to win the Wild Card game (assuming the Jays keep winning) and make an AL pennant run.
What to Watch
Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
This week we get another Yankees / Blue Jays series, and the Pirates face off against the Cubs again. The Astros try to gain some breathing room in the American League West and play a huge series against the Angels. Although it seems like the playoff series are mostly decided at this stage, there are still some matchups worth watching as we've recently seen a Justin Verlander renaissance.
Monday, September 21
Adam Warren (NYY) v. David Price (TOR)
The Blue Jays trade-acquired Ace leads the charge in the first of three games against the chasing Yankees. Price gave up two runs against the Yankees his last time out against New York; this will be his fifth start against them. Adam Warren takes the hill to try to gain some ground on the Jays, who lead the Yankees by 2.5 games in the East. Warren is making only his second start of the season. His first time out, he went four innings and gave up two runs to the Rays.
Wednesday, September 23
Chris Sale (CHW) v. Justin Verlander (DET)
Although the Tigers are primed for their worst season since 2008, Justin Verlander is pitching great. In the second half he has a 2.75 FIP and a 17.8 strikeout minus walk rate. Since the first half he has increased his strikeout rate and cut his walk rate. Sale remains one of the best pitchers in the American League but has been getting rough up a bit since the start of September.
Thursday, September 24
James Paxton (SEA) v. Johnny Cueto (KC)
The Royals are absolutely going to win their division; there's not a whole lot of drama in the Central race. The big question at this stage is how newly acquired ‘ace' Johnny Cueto fits into the rotation. Since joining KC's rotation, Cueto has started ten games, possesses an ERA 26 percent worse than league average, and posted a 5.12 ERA and 4.09 FIP.
Saturday, September 26
Derek Holland (TEX) v. Collin McHugh (HOU)
The Astros got pummelled in Arlington last week and look to rebound at home against the first-place Rangers. McHugh was part of the problem in that four game set; he gave up five runs over 3 ⅔ innings. He'll try to rebound against Derek Holland, who pitched well despite facing 28 Astros before K'ing one.
*All matchups and pitching probables as of Sunday evening