With the playoffs right around the corner, there were a few baseball things I wanted to point out, to those of you who still consider yourselves baseball fans.
1. Baseball has become as unpredictable as football. I know that the Yankees made a run there where they were in the World Series about every year, and it seems like ever since then people just assume the rich teams are going to win. Well, when you look at Tampa and Minnesota, no one, and I mean NO ONE thought these two teams would compete, let alone win. Everyone has talked about the Rays, but as far as the Twins go, think about this. Last winter, the Twins were dangling Johan to the Yankees. When the Yankees didn’t want to part with their prized prospects, that allowed the Mets to offer a much lesser trade and land the perennial Cy Young candidate. When this was going on, who would have thought that as September would turn to October, the Twins might still be playing while both the Yankees and Mets were at home? No one, that’s who.
2. After Hurricane Ike threw a wrench into Houston’s improbable run, and now another “weather system” may have the Mets playing back to back doubleheaders to close the season, I think it’s safe to say that God is rooting for Milwaukee.
3. When looking at the stat leaders, there are a few things that jumped out at me.
a. Joe Mauer, so lauded for being the first AL catcher ever to win a batting title in 2006, is leading that race again with only four days to go.
b. In the doubles column (a stat which I think has long been underrated) the Orioles have players that rank second, third, and third (there’s a tie). That’s one for the Elias Sports Bureau, but I can’t believe that any team lately has had three of the top four in that category.
c. When Kevin Slowey (who, you ask) pitches tonight for the Twins, he will have more riding than just his team’s playoff hopes. In his first full season in the Big Leagues, this 24-year-old has turned in a very solid year in several categories, including WHIP, K/BB, and BB/9 innings. However, much like a hitter must reach the minimum number of plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, so must a pitcher reach the minimum innings. The innings total is one inning per team game, which almost always ends up being 162, since almost all rainouts are eventually made up. Tonight, Slowey needs to go 5 1/3 innings to get to 162. I know it’s not the batting title or the ERA crown, but for a guy who’s basically a rookie to finish in the top two or three in any statistical category would be a heck of an accomplishment. Unless he ends up coming out the pen on Sunday in what might turn out to be an “all hands on deck” game for the Twins, Slowey needs to get sixteen outs tonight to make his impressive year “official.”
4. I have finally decided that Ichiro is the most overrated, offensive player in baseball. His defense is great. He’s got fantastic range and a cannon for an arm, but this thing about him getting 200 hits every year is extremely overblown. Do you know why he gets so many hits? It’s because he never walks. OK, maybe never is an exaggeration, but he does have 668 official at bats! He should have 200 hits. When a leadoff hitter is 7th in batting he should be higher than 29th in on base percentage. Also, his slugging percentage is a joke. Out of 68 qualified hitters in the AL, Ichiro ranks 55th. Every time I see him play, the announcers talk about what a power display he puts on in BP, and if he wanted to hit more home runs, he could. Forget about home runs! How about any extra base hit? He has 19 doubles in 668 at bats. Jose Molina (he of the .219 batting average) has 17 doubles in 265 at bats. Heck, Jose Reyes, who is an underrated leadoff hitter, has 19 triples! That is to go along with 36 doubles and 16 home runs. Hey, all you have to do is look out your own front door. Brian Roberts is a SIGNIFANTLY better offensive player than Ichiro. Again, if I had to pick a player for my team, I might pick Ichiro because he is so good defensively, but if I had to just pick a leadoff hitter, I’d take Roberts or Reyes…or Damon, or Sizemore, or Granderson, or…I guess you get the point?
All right, I’ve ranted enough for now. While you’re enjoying your football weekend, keep an eye on the upper mid-west. Minnesota and Milwaukee are both great baseball stories whether they get in or not.