Flush Royals, Part II

Kansas_City_Royals_Division_Lead_1995-2015

With Monday’s 9-4 victory at Cleveland, the Royals extended their AL Central lead to eight full games — their largest lead in the three-division era. Kansas City has been as much as 43 games out of first place (in 2005), and has led in the second half only twice in that span (2003, 2014).

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Peak Pedro

Pedro_Martinez_ERAData via Baseball-Reference; shows qualifying pitchers only

Pedro Martinez, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, was unparalleled at his peak. After joining the American League in 1998, Martinez threw enough innings to qualify for the ERA title six times; he finished first in four of those years and second in a fifth. Only twice since 1995 has a pitcher led the field in ERA by at least 1.00: Martinez in 1999 (by 1.37), and Martinez in 2000 (by 1.96).

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A Hall of Fame Class for the Ages

Hall_of_Fame_inductees_JAWS_2015Data via Baseball-Reference.com

Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio will all be inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend, composing one of the most memorable classes of recent years. Per JAWS, a metric that combines career and peak value to measure Hall of Fame worthiness, Johnson and Martinez are the first two players with scores of 70+ to be inducted simultaneously since Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson in 1982. (The average Hall of Fame player generally has a score around 55.) The above chart shows JAWS scores for all players elected by the BBWAA since the modern era of voting began in 1966.

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Vanishing Southpaws

Left_Handed_PitchersData via the Baseball-Reference Play Index

In an insightful analysis today, Matthew Trueblood shows that the share of plate appearances thrown by left-handed pitchers is declining. As seen above, only a quarter of plate appearances have featured a southpaw this year, continuing a three-year downward trend.

The 70s and 80s were the golden age of lefties, who faced at least 30% of batters in every year save for the strike-shortened season of 1981. (Baseball-Reference does not have complete data prior to 1974.) The current rate of 25.1% would be by far the lowest since 1999-2002, when expansion may have made finding quality southpaws difficult.

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One And Done?

 

MLB_Elimination_Bracket

What if the MLB season was a one-and-done tournament, like the NCAA tournament or the FA Cup? The bracket above represents one such scenario based on games actually played to date.

First-round games were based on Opening Day matchups, with teams bracketed by league and roughly by division. Later rounds were decided by the first game after pairings were set. The bracket shows the randomness of baseball (the struggling Red Sox in the semifinals; Atlanta and Philadelphia in the third round), but also strong seasons from the likes of the Royals and Astros.

Based on the remaining schedules, both finalists will be determined by August. The only championship game that could feasibly happen this season, however, is Houston-San Francisco — unless a different pair of finalists happens to meet in the World Series.

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