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Thanks to the good folks over at Cool Standings, we have another update on how the 2012 MLB draft might look. Here's the top five order right now, with their projected wins listed beside their name:
1) Minnesota Twins - 64.3
2) Baltimore Orioles - 66.6
3) Seattle Mariners - 67.9
4) Houston Astros - 69.7
5) Chicago Cubs - 70.1
The Astros are still a few losses away from getting that first overall pick, and they're going to have to get Minnesota winning some games to catch them. The funny thing is the Twins are actually not in last place in the AL Central. That honor goes to the Chicago White Sox at 13-22, though they're still supposed to win 73 games.
Baltimore has quickly nose-dived from the top of the division early in the season down to the dregs. The Orioles have had a top 5 pick in each of the past four seasons, but haven't selected in the top 2 since 1989. The Twins haven't had the first overall since 2001 when they tabbed Joe Mauer, but they've selected at the top spot twice as an organization, getting Tim Belcher back in 1983.
Seattle has picked in the top 3 nine times in franchise history, including this season when they have the No. 2 overall selection. Baltimore picks at No. 4 and the Cubs are at No. 9.
Part of the reason why Minnesota is ticketed to lose the most games in the majors is that no team has scored as few runs as they have (102) and only the Astros have given up more runs than their 166. If run differential were the deciding factor in who would lose the most games, Houston and Minnesota would be the front-runners for the first two picks in next year's draft.
It also should be noted that just four teams are headed for less than 70 wins this season. Last year, there were seven teams who finished below that mark, so the league may be a bit stronger on the whole.
Last week, we looked at a straight-up MLB standings update. Today, we're going a little deeper and looking at the chances each team has of making the playoffs a month into the season. Thanks to Cool Standings, we have a list of all the probable playoff scenarios for every team in the majors. As a refresher, this site runs simulations on every team's remaining schedule and calculates the odds of each team winning enough games to get into the playoffs.
The team with the best shot at going to the postseason is none other than the Cleveland Indians at 73.5 percent. I guess leading a division for the entire month tends to improve your odds. Well, and the fact that their biggest rival for the AL Central crown, the Minnesota Twins, are sitting at 9-18 and have just a 2 percent chance of going to the Big Dance.
The Texas Rangers haven't suffered too much without Josh Hamilton. Even though they are tied with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for first at 16-12, the Rangers have a 54.5 percent chance of making the postseason, compared to the Angels' 40.9 percent.
The Yankees have the second-best odds in the American League at 68 percent, holding a comfortable 2 1/2 game lead over Tampa Bay, who's odds are down to 37.1 percent. That's the highest percentage for a team not in first place in the American League, so it looks like there's a good chance the wild card comes out of the AL East again this season.
On the National League side, the St. Louis Cardinals have the best odds in the Central at 62.8 percent. That beats out Cincinnati at 36 percent and Milwaukee at 20.5 percent. The other three teams in this division each have less than 4 percent chance of making the postseason, but more on that later.
The Philadelphia Phillies and their super rotation have the best postseason odds in the NL at 65.3 percent. Even though the Florida Marlins are just a half game back of Philly, they actually have worse odds (35.3 percent) than the third-place Atlanta Braves (37.1 percent), who currently sit a game under .500 at 14-15.
The NL West is a similar mess of probabilities. The Colorado Rockies lead the way at 54.5 percent, but the second-place Los Angeles Dodgers have the worst chances in the division at 9.2 percent. Third-place San Francisco has the second-best odds in the division at 30.8 percent, while last-place San Diego has the third-best odds at 13.8 percent. Arizona sits a game back of both Los Angeles and San Francisco, but only has a one percent better chance than the Dodgers of making the postseason.
In the race for the first pick in the 2012 draft, the Minnesota Twins have caught the Seattle Mariners. Minnesota is expected to win just 63 games, which is four less than Seattle's 67 wins. Pittsburgh, Chicago and Houston round out the bottom five, each being projected for 68-69 wins. Houston is the closest to breaking out of this group at 69.7 wins, but still has just a 3.8 percent chance of taking the NL Central.
After looking at a few less traditional forms of standings, today's look will be a straight-up update on how the league is sitting right now. First up, the NL Central.
After taking two out of three from Houston this week, the St. Louis Cardinals remain in first place in the Central at 14-11. Cincinnati and Milwaukee aren't far behind at 13-12 and 12-12 respectively. Plus, the Brew Crew get to face off with Houston this weekend to pad that win column a little. Both Pittsburgh and Chicago are falling a bit off the pace and are both under .500 now. Houston is bringing up the rear at 9-16 and is now five games out of first place.
The Colorado Rockies hold the National League's best record at 16-7. They're currently atop the NL West, 4 1/2 games better than the Los Angeles Dodgers, who sit at 13-13. San Francisco has made a furious charge from the bottom of that division to .500 and is also 4 1/2 games behind Colorado at 12-12. Arizona sits in fourth place at 11-13 while San Diego has nose-dived into last place at 9-16. They're currently tied with Houston for the worst record in the league.
Philadelphia has the same number of wins as Colorado, but one more loss puts them a half-game back for the NL lead. A half-game is also all that stands between the Phillies and a hard-charging Florida Marlins team who's at 15-8. The Phish are talented, but it remains to be seen whether they can run with the big boys all season. Atlanta sits in the weeds, four games back of Philly at 13-13 while both Washington and the Mets bring up the rear at 11-13 and 11-14 respectively.
On the American League side of things, the Texas Rangers got knocked off their perch with the best record in the league going to Cleveland at 16-8. The surprising Indians have taken control of the AL Central and have a 4 1/2 game lead over Detroit at 12-13 and Kansas City at 12-13. Chicago and Minnesota are still struggling mightily at 10-16 and 9-15, respectively.
Texas has hit a rough patch without Josh Hamilton, going 5-5 in their last 10 games. That's still good enough to keep the best record in the AL West at 15-10, a game ahead of the Angels at 14-11. Oakland is also just three games back at 12-13 while Seattle rallied with a strong week to move to 11-15.
In everyone's favorite overhyped division, the New York Yankees have taken over the AL East with a 14-8 record. That puts them a game and a half ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays and their 14-11 record. Toronto sits in third place at 11-13, while the Boston Red Sox are finally showing signs of life, passing Baltimore for fourth place at 11-13. The Orioles led this division very early in this process, but now sit at 10-13.
In the race for the first overall draft pick, Houston and San Diego are tied for the worst records, followed by Minnesota, Baltimore, Chicago and the Mets.
One of the things Bill James popularized years ago was the idea that a team's run differential could be a great predictor of a team's record. By looking at the number of runs scored and runs allowed, plugged into the Pythagorean Theorem, you can come up with an approximate number of wins a team should have.
He called this new record third-order wins, but it's been simplified to Pythagorean Record by sites like Baseball Reference. BBRef even has a handy section on its standings page, tracking runs scored, runs allowed, pythag record and the difference between it and the team's real record.
Why is that important? If we look at a team's pythag record as its expected record, we can easily tell how lucky or unlucky a team has been. Some teams can consistently outperform their pythag record. The Angels, for instance, were semi-famous for doing just that for three or four seasons. Houston did the same thing last season, which is pretty sad considering how bad the Astros record was.
Let's look at the National League right now to see which teams are outperforming their pythag records and who is struggling there. Here's a link to the standings page at BBRef.
The luckiest teams right now are all outperforming their expected records by a game. Colorado, Philadelphia, Florida, Chicago, Pittsburgh and the Dodgers are all one game better than they would be expected. That's a pretty small number compared to how many teams are underperforming.
The team with the worst luck so far is St. Louis, the current NL Central leaders. The Cardinals are three games below their expected record. They're also the only division leader in the National League to have a negative differential there.
Atlanta, New York, Cincinnati and San Diego are all two games worse than expected. The Padres and Mets sit at the bottom of their divisions while Atlanta is next-to-last in the NL East. Cincinnati is only a game back of St. Louis in the Central, but with the Cards expected record, it's going to be hard for Cincy to catch them any time soon.
The only team who's performing as expected to this point is Washington, who is 10-10 and sits in third place in the East. Washington hasn't had a .500 record since 2005, the first year in Washington after the franchise moved from Montreal.
It's still very early to put much stock in these expected records, but we can definitely get a sense of which teams are for real and which are not. It appears that St. Louis falls into the former category, which doesn't bode well for Houston's upcoming series against the Red Birds.
(Sports Network) - Lefty J.A. Happ returns to the rotation following an opening weekend scratch when the Houston Astros visit Great American Ball Park for the opener of a three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds.
He threw a bullpen session later Sunday and was re-slotted to face the Reds, against whom he allowed six hits and three runs in seven innings of a no- decision in the Phillies' 4-3 loss on July 7, 2009 in Philadelphia.
Happ won a career-high 12 games with the Phillies in 2009 and made three starts with them - going 1-0 with a 1.76 earned run average - last season before the deadline trade.
In 13 subsequent starts with the Astros, he was 5-4 with one complete game and a 3.75 ERA in 72 innings.
Over 289 career big-league innings, Happ has allowed a .241 batting average.
The Reds counter with 23-year-old righty Mike Leake, who'll face Houston for the fourth time to start his second major league season.
The eighth overall pick of the 2009 draft made headlines last year by becoming one of the few pitchers in history to go from college to the majors with no minor-league appearances. Leake ended his rookie season with an 8-4 record and a 4.23 ERA in 138 1/3 innings and allowed a .292 batting average with 91 strikeouts.
Leake was 1-1 with a 2.33 ERA against the Astros, allowing 19 hits and five runs in 19 1/3 innings.
On Sunday in Cincinnati, Ryan Hanigan tied a career-high with four hits, including a pair of homers and four runs batted in, as the Reds routed the Milwaukee Brewers, 12-3, to complete the three-game sweep.
Hanigan hit a three-run and a solo homer, while Brandon Phillips added three hits, including a three-run shot for Cincinnati, which is off to a 3-0 for the first time since 2005.
Bronson Arroyo (1-0) went seven strong innings, yielding three runs on six hits with five strikeouts. He also went 1-for-2 with a double. The 34-year-old right-hander went 17-10 with a 3.88 earned run average in 33 starts over 215 2/3 innings last season.
In Philadelphia, Ryan Howard drove in four runs and Oswalt tossed six solid innings in his first start against his former team, as the Phillies beat the Astros, 7-3, to complete an opening three-game sweep at Citizens Bank Park.
Houston's Bud Norris (0-1) replaced Happ and allowed five runs on six hits over four innings.
Cincinnati was 10-5 last season against the Astros.
The season is just a week old, but it's not too late to start thinking about divisional races and the wild card, is it? Here's the standings after the season's first week. Let's look at how each division is faring so far.
Six games into the 2011 season and the NL Central race is already on its ear. Cincinnati won its first five games, but lost Thursday to drop to 5-1. That's good enough for a 1 1/2 game lead over the second-place Pittsburgh Pirates, who lost to Colorado Thursday, dropping to 4-3.
Both the Cubs and the Cardinals were off Thursday, which was a blessing for Chicago, as they managed to hold onto third place at 3-3. After being swept by the Reds to open the season, Milwaukee took three of four from the Braves to hold sole possession of fourth place at 3-4. St. Louis has been without star slugger Matt Holliday, who missed time due to an emergency appendectomy, but the Cards are still in fifth place at 2-4.
Finally, the hapless Astros broke their scoreless drought to open the season, beating the Reds to move within a game of St. Louis for fifth place at 1-5.
In the NL East, the prohibitive favorite Philadelphia Phillies got a big 11-0 victory over the Mets to tie the Reds for the best record in the National League at 5-1. Two other teams sit at 3-3 as the Florida Marlins and the New York Mets share second place with the Atlanta Braves a half game back at 3-4. The Washington Nationals sit just behind those three at 2-4.
The NL West looks like it could be a dogfight all season again. The reigning World Series champion San Francisco Giants lost three of four to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Opening Weekend, but rebounded to split a two-game set with the San Diego Padres. The Giants are still in last place in the division at 2-4. The Colorado Rockies have jumped out to an early 4-1 record and currently lead the division. San Diego sits in second place at 3-2 while the Dodgers are a half-game behind at 3-3. Arizona is tied with San Francisco at 2-4.
On the American League side, the Texas Rangers may have lost the World Series last season and then lost ace Cliff Lee to the Phillies, but they're sitting with the best record in the majors at 6-0 heading into Friday's matchup with the surprising Orioles. Texas has swept both the Boston Red Sox and the Seattle Mariners to begin the season and holds a three-game lead over the second place Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (3-3). Oakland got a come-from-behind victory for their own ace Trevor Cahill on Thursday to tie Seattle at 2-4 for third place in the division.
One of the league's laughingstocks for the past couple of seasons, the Kansas City Royals are enjoying the view from the top of the AL Central, as they've gone 4-2 to open the season. They're currently tied with Chicago, after the White Sox got a 5-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Thursday. The Cleveland Indians have also struggled recently, but also joined the fray of Central leaders after a 1-0 victory over Boston jumped them up to 4-2 this season.
Last season's divisional champs, the Minnesota Twins have gotten off to a rough start without slugger Justin Morneau, falling to last place at 2-4. Six of the Twins regulars were batting at or under .200 heading into Friday's action. They also lost starting second baseman and Japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka to a broken fibula Thursday, further hurting a struggling offense. The Twins are joined in the Central's basement by the Detroit Tigers, who fell to 2-4 with a loss to the Orioles Thursday.
Those same Orioles have shocked the normal hierarchy of the AL East by taking first place at 5-1. The Toronto Blue Jays sit a game off the lead at 4-2 and are now tied with the perennial powerhouse New York Yankees. At the bottom of this division lie the only two teams in the majors without a victory. Both the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays sit at 0-6. Tampa Bay was swept by Baltimore in a three game series and the Angels in a two-game series while Boston has been swept by Texas and Cleveland.
For more great baseball coverage, check out the gang over at Baseball Nation.
After leaving Wednesday night’s game with groin tightness, Astros center fielder Michael Bourn did not play in Thursday afternoon’s game. The injury isn’t expected to sideline Bourn much longer, as both Astros manager Brad Mills and Bourn himself seemed to think that Bourn would be back sooner rather than later. Here are some pertinent quotes as gathered by Brian McTaggart at MLB.com:
“It feels better today,” Bourn said. “It’s not too bad. There’s a chance I could go tomorrow, but I won’t rush it. Obviously, I want to be ready to go for the first home game.”
“I could see it in his face last night that he was a little bit nervous,” said Astros manager Brad Mills. “I think he was surprised how good he felt today. We’ll get him back in the lineup very soon, tomorrow or the next day.”
Looks like the timetable will indeed be very short. The Astros started Jason Bourgeois in center field for today’s game, and he went 1-5 with a run, a stolen base, and three strikeouts.
The Astros committed no errors and won their first game of the season in Cincinnati this afternoon, improving to 1-5. Matt Downs’ RBI double in the top of the ninth was the difference maker, and though Brandon Lyon made it interesting by giving up back-to-back hits in the ninth, he was able to get out of the jam by getting Ramon Hernandez to ground out weakly to second base.
Brett Myers had his second straight strong start, throwing six and a third innings and allowing two runs on six hits and three walks. Edgar Renteria went 3-3 with an RBI double, and Scott Rolen launched a solo homer in the seventh to tie the game. The Reds got a decent pitching performance out of Sam LeCure, who allowed just two runs in six innings, but somehow their outfield allowed a triple to Carlos Lee, which is never a good sign for your defense.
Timely hitting was the Astros key in this one, and they’ll head to Houston for Friday’s home opener against the Marlins with the knowledge that it only took them six games to win their first this year, rather than the nine it took them last season.
(Sports Network) – The last time the Cincinnati Reds began a season with this kind of success, they ended it as a world champion.
The National League’s lone remaining unbeaten team will try to extend its record to 6-0 in this afternoon’s finale of a three-game series with a Houston Astros team that’s still in search of its first victory of 2011.
The Reds kept up their early-season exploits with a 12-4 pounding of the struggling Astros on Wednesday, a game in which the defending NL Central champions spotted their opponent a 4-0 lead after one inning. Cincinnati dominated afterward, pounding out a total of 14 hits on the night and keeping Houston off the scoreboard the rest of the way.
Cincinnati scored five times in the bottom of the third to take a 6-4 lead, with Scott Rolen beginning the rally with a two-run double. The Reds got two more runs as a result of a pair of Astros’ errors, and Houston committed five miscues for the game.
“For them that has to be tough for us to come right back at them,” said Reds shortstop Paul Janish. “It was big for us to get out there and have tough at- bats.”
Rolen finished with three RBI, while Janish collected three hits and knocked in a pair of runs to help Cincinnati to its first 5-0 beginning since 1990, a year in which the franchise won its first nine contests en route to a World Series title. Brandon Phillips went 3-for-4 with three runs scored in the rout.
Reds starter Edison Volquez was roughed up for four runs on four hits in the top of the first, but settled down and picked up his first win of the season after lasting five innings. The right-hander gave up just one more hit after the opening frame and struck out eight.
“We couldn’t get anything going after the first,” said Astros outfielder Michael Bourn. “We got to them early, but couldn’t stay on them. That’s the name of the game.”
Nelson Figueroa worked the first 5 1/3 innings for Houston and was tagged for 10 runs, six of which were earned, on 11 hits.
The Astros, who lost three times in Philadelphia to begin the season, have now been outscored by a 41-17 margin during their five-game slide and are off to a brutal start for the second consecutive year. The club dropped its first eight tilts of the 2010 campaign.
Houston will turn to ace Brett Myers in hopes of breaking into the win column this afternoon. The right-hander was outstanding in his season debut, limiting the Phillies to two runs — one earned — and just three hits over seven innings last Friday. He was in line for the victory, but Philadelphia scored three times against the Astros’ bullpen in the bottom of the ninth to pull out a 5-4 decision.
Myers hasn’t had much success pitching at Great American Ball Park, though, having compiled a 1-2 record with a 5.40 earned run average in seven career appearances (five starts) at the venue. In his lone outing there last season, he was rocked for eight runs and 10 hits — including three homers — over 5 2/3 innings of his team’s 9-1 loss.
In 11 lifetime games (nine starts) against the Reds, Myers is 3-3 with a 4.14 ERA.
Cincinnati will hand the ball in the finale to Sam LeCure for the young hurler’s first start of 2011. He pitched a scoreless inning in the Reds’ 7-6 comeback win over Milwaukee on Opening Day, and is filling in the fifth starter’s spot until Homer Bailey recovers from a shoulder injury.
LeCure made six starts and nine relief appearances for the Reds as a rookie last season and went 2-5 with a 4.50 ERA. One of those wins came against the Astros in Cincinnati last May, with the 26-year-old tossing six innings of two- run ball in his major league debut that night.
The Reds have now prevailed in 21 of their 27 most recent meetings with Houston, which is now 2-13 in its last 15 visits to Great American Ball Park.
Astros center fielder Michael Bourn left the Astros fifth straight loss after he felt tightness in his groin in the seventh inning. He was replaced by Jason Bourgeois in center field. The Reds went on to win the game 12-4.
After the game, Bourn told the Houston Chronicle’s Zachary Levine that he would play tomorrow if it felt better, but Levine speculated that the Astros may hold him back since it’s a day game after a night game.
Groin injuries can be a very big deal for basestealing threats, so Bourn’s fantasy owners should keep an eye on his running stats over the next week or so if he has avoided a long-term injury. Should Bourn be forced out of the lineup, the Astros would likely have to turn to Bourgeois in center field, although Jason Michaels has played a few spare innings a year there. The Astros would lose a lot of defense with that switch.
Keep it right here, as well as at The Crawfish Boxes, for more on Bourn’s status.
Cincinnati, OH (Sports Network) – The Cincinnati Reds spotted Houston four first-inning runs, but then rallied with a vengeance and stayed unbeaten with a 12-4 triumph over the winless Astros at Great American Ball Park.
Scott Rolen drove in three runs, while Brandon Phillips went 3-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored. Paul Janish also had three hits with a pair of RBI for Cincinnati, which is off to a 5-0 start for the first time since 1990. That team won its first nine games, on its way to a wire-to-wire World Series title.
The Astros, who were swept in their opening series at Philadelphia, committed five errors.
The Reds followed up a weekend sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers and improved to 4-0 on Tuesday with an 8-2 win in the opener of this set. The last time Cincinnati began a season with four straight wins was in 1990 – the year of the team’s last World Series appearance.
On Tuesday, Mike Leake threw six solid innings and Chris Heisey drove in three for the Reds. Leake (1-0) began his second major league season by limiting Houston to two runs on three hits and two walks. He also struck out four.
The hosts took advantage of ineffective Houston starter J.A. Happ (0-1), who lasted only four innings, giving up seven hits and seven runs. He threw only 52 of his 91 pitches for strikes while walking five and hitting a batter.
Angel Sanchez hit a two-run double for Houston, which was swept by Philadelphia in its season-opening series.
Getting the call for the Reds tonight will be Opening Day starter Edinson Volquez, who was touched for seven hits and five runs in six innings against Milwaukee, in a game Cincinnati came back to win on a Ramon Hernandez home run in the ninth inning.
Volquez is still recovering from ligament replacement surgery in his right elbow, which, after he won 17 games in 2008, has limited him to just eight wins in 23 big-league appearances since.
He was 4-3 in 12 starts last season with a 4.31 earned run average in 62 2/3 innings.
In five career starts against the Astros, Volquez is 4-0 with a 1.34 ERA in 33 2/3 innings, striking out 35 batters and allowing just 24 hits.
Houston counters with journeyman righty Nelson Figueroa, who broke training came in a major-league starting rotation for the first time since initially reaching the big leagues in 2000.
He made three starts with Arizona that year and has since played for Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, the New York Mets and the Astros, making 60 starts in 137 appearances and chalking up 20 wins and a save along with 32 losses.
He’s 2-1 with a 3.55 ERA in 13 career appearances against the Reds, including a Sept. 29 win at Cincinnati in which he allowing six hits and struck out five in six scoreless innings.
Cincinnati was 10-5 last season against the Astros.
Cincinnati, OH (Sports Network) – Mike Leake threw six solid innings and Chris Heisey drove in three, as the Cincinnati Reds remained unbeaten with an 8-2 win over the Houston Astros in the opener of a three-game series.
Leake (1-0) began his second major league season by limiting Houston to two runs on three hits and two walks. He also struck out four for Cincinnati, which is 4-0 for the first time since 1990, when the Reds won the World Series.
They took advantage of an ineffective J.A. Happ to get the win Tuesday. The Astros left-hander lasted only four innings, giving up seven hits and seven runs. He struggled with control, throwing only 52 of his 91 pitches for strikes, walking five and hitting a batter.
The Astros will try to get back on the horse tomorrow as they throw RHP Nelson Figueroa up against the Reds' Edison Volquez, who was torched on Opening Day against the Brewers.
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