Welcome to ‘Marty’s Musings’, my weekly column of numbers summarizing the happenings in the baseball world. I am your guide for taking an analytic look at the news and notes throughout the game, and highlighting this week’s key pitching matchups.
This week we take a look at the teams going opposite directions in the NL East, the continued historic pace of Clayton Kershaw, and the Orioles terrible, horrible, no good, very bad season.
All this news and more in this week’s Musings.
News and Notes
8 - Series wins in the second half of the year by the New York Mets, who only had eight series wins during the entire first half of the season. The Mets are 21-7 since the All Star break, and have been beating up on lousy teams including the White Sox, Marlins, Pirates, Padres, and Giants. Things get real the rest of August, as they play the Braves, Indians, and Cubs.
-35 - Second-half run differential for the Phillies, who have been playing badly, but whose Philadelphia narrative seems even worse. The Phils were expected to make some noise in the division and the wild card race, but they are nine games back in the division and not currently in position for a wild card berth. Needless to say, 2019 has not gone as planned.
10-0 - The Yankees record at Oriole Park at Camden Yards this season. The Yankees have a powerful offense, we all know this, but the way they put an absolute thrashing together day-in-and-day-out against the Orioles in Baltimore just shows how much they can take advantage of bad pitching in a small park. In those ten games, New York hammered 43 home runs. Yikes.
67.2 - Career bWAR for Clayton Kershaw, who passed Don Drysdale for the highest WAR in Dodgers’ history last week. Although Kershaw is not the dominant pitcher he was a few years ago, he continues to be effective and amass Ks and wins with the best of them.
228 - Home runs for the Twins, who set their franchise record in dingers last week. The previous record stood at 225, and with a month and a half to play, is clearly going to be destroyed. The Twins have blown up a double-digit lead in the Central and are now neck-in-neck with the Indians heading into the last six weeks of the season.
1625 - Career strikeouts for Nationals hurler Stephen Strasburg, a franchise record. Last week against the Mets, Stras surpassed Steve Rogers, the Expos starter who previously held the record.
9 - Consecutive games of extra base hits for Blue Jays’ rookie Bo Bichette. In 23 games, Bichette has seven doubles, three homers, and a triple. He’s the first rookie to put together nine consecutive games with an extra base hit since Ted Williams did it in 1939.
Matchups to Watch
Monday, August 12
Eduardo Rodriguez (BOS) v. Zach Plesac (CLE), 7:10 ET
Two teams trending in opposite directions, the Indians have cut through their double-digit deficit against the Twins with whom they now share the same record. The Red Sox meanwhile look more and more like they are going to miss the playoffs thanks in large part to unstead and generally awful starting pitching.
Wednesday, August 14
Trevor Bauer (CIN) v. Stephen Strasburg (WAS), 4:05
The Nationals are still ahead of the Mets in the division, but a series loss over the weekend tightens the wild card race with New York. While it’s unlikely the Reds will make noise in that wild card race (they sit five games back currently), they can play spoiler, and hope to go on a run that throws them into the thick of the race.
Steven Matz (NYM) v. Dallas Keuchel (ATL), 7:20 ET
One it comes to the importance of rotational depth, look no further than this matchup on Wednesday night between the stead first place Braves and the surging Mets. Both Matz and Keuchel have the raw stuff to be impact-starters, but neither has been consistent of late. This series will say more about the Mets chances than the Braves since Atlanta has a comfortable lead in the NL East.
Thursday, August 15
Aaron Sanchez (HOU) v. Mike Fiers (OAK), 10:10 ET
Toronto gifted Sanchez to the Astros for practically nothing a couple weeks ago. Houston made a few tweaks, and now they seemingly has very effective starter on their hands (d’oh!). Since joining Houston’s rotation a couple weeks ago, Sanchez has given up only one run on 11 innings. Oakland is only 1 ½ games out of a wild card spot, with Fiers pitching well in recent starts as well. Will the magic continue against an A’s team that is trying to get into the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Friday, August 16
Aaron Civale (CLE) v. Masahiro Tanaka (NYY), 7:05 ET
In what very well may be an ALDS preview, the Yankees host the Indians in the Bronx this weekend. New York continues to steamroll most of their competition, while the Indians have struggled to keep pace with the powerful Twins. With Tanaka, we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly all season, it will be interesting to see how he does against a good Cleveland lineup.
Saturday, August 17
Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) v. Mike Foltynewicz (ATL), 7:20 ET
Ryu continues to be one of the most dominant starters in baseball in 2019 (check back at the site for a deeper look later this week), while the Braves’ slow-and-steady winning of games and series has positioned them as the best competition for the Dodgers for the NL pennant. This seres could be an NLCS preview.
Sunday, August 18
Martin Perez (MIN) v. Lance Lynn (TEX), 3:05 ET
The Twins blew a huge AL Central lead, and are tied with the Indians with a 71-47 record coming into this week. They play the Rangers, who have fallen out of contention, but face a resurgent Lance Lynn on Sunday. Lynn has been throwing magnificently all season, having already posted 5 ½ wins per FanGraphs, much more than his 2014 career high of 3.6 wins. The Rangers decided not to deal him, so he can play spoiler for a Twins team that is trying to gain the momentum back in the Central.
*All pitching matchups as of Sunday night’s pitching probables