Into the First Turn... (05/23/00)

OK, so I was wrong about Fusaichi Pegasus.  One commentator made an interesting point about the horse: his name was too complicated to be a Triple Crown winner.  I'll buy that.  But he is still a very good horse and I do think he'll win the Belmont.

Anyway, like a horse race, the baseball season is just passing the first turn (one quarter of the way through) and headed for the backstretch of summer.  So, who's in a good position?  One way to look at it is to use Bill James Pythagorean formula, which is the ratio of runs scored squared to the number of runs allowed squared.  This results in a team's probable winning percentage.  Another, perhaps more accurate way is to use runs created instead of just runs, because runs created is a more accurate account of a team's ability to score runs.  Runs created is a significantly more involved formula that accounts for most offensive events (stolen bases, sac flies, etc.) not just the runs scored.  Anyway, here's how the teams break down at the quarter mark, and a few comments.

R=runs, OR=Opponent runs, RC=runs created, ORC=opponent runs created, WP=wins projected, LP=Losses projected

AL East
Team  R    OR    RC   ORC   W  L    WP LP Diff
Bos   216  131   209  144   24-13   25-12  -1
NYY   175  164   176  159   23-14   20-17  +3
Tor   229  258   246  256   22-20   20-22  +2
Bal   214  249   206  258   17-23   16-24  +1
TB    189  244   186  243   13-26   15-24  -2

It's hard to believe but the Red Sox have actually underachieved to this point and the Yankees have significantly overachieved.  All the wailing and gnashing of teeth about a Yankee dynasty may be just noise.  Duquette appears to have built a contender and Joe Kerrigan is made his LIMA plan work.*  Fassero and Schourek have been solid and the BoSox offense is at or near the top, even without Nomar.  The Blue Jays are still in the hunt and if they can get their young pitching straightened out, the Yanks might have trouble even making the playoffs.  The key to watch in this race, especially concerning the Yanks: the Yanks are near the bottom in drawing walks so far this season.  Walks have been a huge part of their offense during their successful run for the last several years.  If they don't pick up their pace, they're done.  The O's and Devil Rays are woeful as predicted.  Food for thought: how good will the Red Sox be next year if Jeff Bagwell tells the Astros to stuff their contract extension this offseason?

* The LIMA plan is a fantasy baseball strategy whereby the owner spends very little money on pitchers, preferring mostly cheap, crappy pitchers and hope they have good years.  The idea being that because pitching is so difficult to predict, why spend a lot of money on it.

AL Central
Team  R    OR    RC   ORC   W  L    WP LP Diff
Cle   226  179   232  186   21-16   22-15  -1
CWS   237  201   227  199   22-17   22-17   0
KC    217  246   220  239   21-19   18-22  +3
Min   204  243   195  247   18-24   16-26  +2
Det   141  223   159  207   12-25   14-23  -2

Cleveland is going to have to wait until July or August to claim their crown this year, rather than their customary June coronation.  Even with most of their top players slumping and several of their starters hurting, they're are still the class of the division.  The White Sox are definitely improved, but they are still not ready to contest the division over a full season.  The Royals and Twins aren't yet equal to the South Siders, but have shown improvement as well.  GM Randy Smith probably won't be around too much longer in Detroit.

AL West
Team  R    OR    RC   ORC   W  L    WP LP Diff
Sea   241  181   228  184   21-17   23-15  -2
Tex   258  248   257  246   21-20   21-20   0
Oak   264  234   238  225   21-21   22-20  -1
Ana   221  231   244  232   20-21   21-20  -1

The Mariners have done just fine without Griffey and their two best starters.  Freddie Garcia will be back in mid June and Jamie Moyer will be back even sooner.  The surprise of the division is Anaheim, which has gotten better pitching than expected.  Oakland's porous defense is keeping the opposition in too many games.  Catcher Pudge Rodriquez is single handedly carrying the Rangers.

NL East
Team  R    OR    RC   ORC   W  L    WP LP Diff
Atl   199  152   210  154   28-12   26-14  +2
Mon   216  210   201  197   21-17   19-19  +2
Fla   191  192   181  196   22-20   19-23  +3
NYM   197  217   216  215   21-20   21-20   0
Phi   158  198   167  196   14-25   17-22  -3

The Braves are on cruise control, even without John Smoltz.  They've had a few nagging injuries but the guys they were most concerned about (Galarraga, Lopez and Chipper Jones) have come through with flying colors.  Still, there's a long way to go.  Pre-season media favorites New York and Philly look pretty ordinary to this point, although Philly has been beset with a lot of injuries.  Montreal has performed about where I thought they would and should be a serious contender for the wild card.  The Marlins have matured faster than expected and could make this a four way race for second.

NL Central
Team  R    OR    RC   ORC   W  L    WP LP Diff
Cin   206  218   217  220   23-17   20-20  +3
StL   258  211   274  204   23-17   25-15  -2
Pit   188  199   197  203   18-21   19-20  -1
Hou   221  221   204  232   15-23   17-21  -2
Mil   176  217   168  235   15-24   13-26  +2
ChC   239  287   244  266   15-27   19-23  -4

Who could have predicted the Astros demise?  This is easily the biggest surprise of the season.  It won't be easy but they can still catch the leaders, as they have the talent.  But can they put aside the sniping?  Cincinnati is like an stock engine that's been running at 6000 rpm for over a year now: even with the best lubricants, it's gonna lock up eventually.  With their pitching, they just aren't made for this kind of performance.  St. Louis has had a soft schedule so far and their pitching, especially the bullpen, remains a question.  Pittsburgh and Milwaukee have performed to expectation.  The good news for the Cubs is that they've underachieved.  The bad news is that's not exactly news.

NL West
Team  R    OR    RC   ORC   W  L    WP LP Diff
Arz   221  168   220  168   27-13   25-15  +2
LA    231  194   221  193   21-17   21-17   0
Col   241  244   223  249   19-19   17-21  +2
SF    224  223   213  225   18-20   18-20   0
SD    193  208   190  193   16-24   20-20  -4

The D-backs soft schedule has mitigated the loss of Matt Williams to this point.  The Dodgers have been better than I thought they'd be and it's no mirage.  Maybe they're finally living up to all that potential so many have been talking about for years.  Dusty Baker's habit of abusive workloads on his starters is starting to take it's toll.  Unfortunately for the Giants, they've almost exhausted their supply of good arms.  The Rockies look like they are headed for another innocuous season.  The Pads have suffered through the toughest schedule in the majors so far, playing over half their games on the road, against last year's playoff teams, without Tony Gwynn and with 6 pitchers on the DL.  And according to this, they've underachieved.  Wow.  Part of the problem has been the bullpen, which has been decimated by injury and over exposed due to some shaky starting pitching.  However, pitching is gonna get a lot healthier very quickly as Woody Williams and Carlton Loewer return within the next month.  It's hard to believe looking at their record now, but these guys might contend for the division.