Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The 1978 AL East Playoff Game 9/25/18

Hey baseball fans!

We are nearing the end of the 2018 MLB regular season and although the AL seedings have been pretty much decided, the NL is completely crazy. It's so crazy that we could see a four-to-five team tie for the Wild Card spots! That would require a bevy of tiebreakers and although the tiebreaker I'm about to describe wasn't as insane in terms of participating teams, it's much more insane in terms of magnitude.

The year is 1978. The Yankees are coming off a World Series championship in 1977 and are looking to repeat as MLB champs. But the Red Sox have other ideas. Thanks to an MVP season by Hall of Famer Jim Rice and yet another solid campaign from Carlton Fisk, the '78 Sox were in the driver's seat for a majority of the season in the AL East. In fact, in mid-July, the Yankees were 14 games back of Boston for the AL East crown! Why do I sound so worried about my Yanks at this point, you ask? Well, in 1978, Major League Baseball hadn't implemented the Wild Card yet, so it was either a team won the division or didn't make the playoffs.

But New York mounted a furious comeback, going 53-21 in the team's final 74 games, while Boston only went 38-36. The highlight of this comeback was a Yankees four-game sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway late in the season. The Yankees outscored the Red Sox 40-9 over the four contests and the series was dubbed "The Boston Massacre" by the press. By season's end, both rivals were tied for the top position of the AL East, meaning that for the first time since 1948, a playoff game would be played to decide who would make the playoffs.

Game 163 did not start off the way the Yankees had planned, despite having 1978 AL Cy Young award recipient and 24-game winner Ron Guidry on the mound. Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski led off the bottom of the second with a homer and Rice hit an RBI single to center field in the sixth. But in the top of the seventh, things started to look up for the Yankees. With two runners on base, Bucky Dent, a contact-hitting shortstop who had hit only five homers the entire season, smacked a ball over the Green Monster, giving the Yankees a 3-2 advantage! Thurman Munson doubled later in the inning, scoring Mickey Rivers, and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson led off the top of the eighth with a homer to essentially clinch the game for the defending champs. The Red Sox rallied off Goose Gossage in the bottom of the eighth to make it look closer, but the Hall of Fame reliever eventually closed the game for the Yankees, giving them their third consecutive AL East title. The final score was 5-4.

Bucky Dent, who is now referred to as this game's hero, also ended up winning World Series MVP. So indeed, the Yankees did go back-to-back in the Fall Classic. It would be their last championship before an 18-year drought. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Pythagorean Expectation 9/13/18

Hey baseball fans!

The title of this post really sounds like the name of a "Big Bang Theory" episode, right? Correct! Today's blog post is very stat-heavy and mathematical. In other words, it should be pretty fun for me to write! Anyway, while perusing through Baseball Reference and looking at team win-loss records throughout the years, I came across the following stat: the Pythagorean expectation. Basically, this stat tells you how many games a team should've won based on how many runs they scored and gave up in a given season. The actual formula is as follows: runs scored raised to the power of 1.83 divided by the sum of runs scored raised to the power of 1.83 and runs allowed raised to the power of 1.83.

Let's look at the 2017 season as an example for understanding how the stat is actually implemented.  The 2017 Red Sox scored 785 runs and allowed 668 of them. Plug those numbers into the Pythagorean expectation formula and you get a winning percentage of .573. Multiply that by 162, the amount of games in an MLB season, and you get that the BoSox should've won 93 games in 2017, which they actually did. The 2017 Yankees, on the other hand, should've won 100 games according to the formula, but instead only won 91. Now, does this mean that the formula is faulty? Maybe, but it could also mean that the Yankees were just unlucky. The same thing goes for the 2017 Indians, who should've won 108 games in '17 but only won 102. Then you have a team like the 2017 Padres, a team that should've won only 59 games according to the Pythagorean expectation formula, but actually won 71 games.

So, why is this formula good to use in order to judge the prowess of MLB teams? Well, I've always been a big fan of run differential and this statistic uses exactly that to determine how good a team is. This same formula using different exponents is also used in the NFL, NBA, and NHL, so you know it's valid. After all, it was created by the great Bill James (pictured below). In conclusion, I may be old school when it comes to stuff like sabermetrics, but this new way of looking at teams is really quite interesting.

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Baseball with Matt's Top 50 Part 10: The Top 10 9/2/18

Hey baseball fans!

It's time for the epic conclusion to my summer-long series to tell you all my top 50 Hall of Fame hitters in baseball history! And it's also time for the real scrutiny to come my way, so let's get to it!

#10: Rogers Hornsby
The first real National League power hitter is actually on this list for a different reason: his .358 career batting average ranks second all time. In fact, he is only one of three hitters ever with a lifetime batting average above .350. He even batted .424 in 1924, which is the highest single-season batting average of the World Series era!

#9: Jimmie Foxx
"Double-X" sure knew how to hit when power was so primitive in baseball. He represented the AL in the All Star Game in the first nine years of the Midsummer Classic, won three MVPs, and was the second ever member of the 500 home run club. His 534 homers rank 19th on the all-time list and his .325 lifetime batting average and 1,922 career RBIs aren't bad, either.

#8: Lou Gehrig
His career was cut short, but amazing. He averaged 29 homers and a staggering 117 RBIs a season to go along with a .340 lifetime batting average. Gehrig won the AL MVP twice and topped 100 RBIs in 13 consecutive seasons (1926-1938). Oh yeah, and he played in 2,130 consecutive games or whatever.

#7: Honus Wagner
The Flying Dutchman terrified National League pitching at the beginning of the 20th century, batting .328 lifetime to go along with 3,420 career hits. The eight-time batting champ and four-time OBP champ is part of the first ever Hall of Fame class in 1936.

#6: Stan Musial
24 gosh darn All Star Games and the fourth-most hits in baseball history will definitely put you at #6 on this list. Stan the Man batted .331 lifetime and also drove in 1,951 runs during his career, the eighth-highest RBI total in baseball history.

#5: Willie Mays
Just like Musial, Mays was a 24-time All Star. Just like Musial, Mays is one of the most feared hitters in National League history. And just like Musial, Mays is up there with the best of them on the all-time hits list, as his 3,283 career base knocks rank 12th on the all-time list. But unlike Musial, Mays had some power. His 660 career home runs put him in the top ten of the category and his .302 lifetime batting average is pretty impressive as well.

#4: Ted Williams
Let the hate comments roll in! First, let's talk about why Teddy Ballgame was so great and then we can talk about why he isn't "the greatest hitter that ever lived." 19 All Star Games. 1,839 career RBIs. 521 career home runs. A .344 lifetime batting average. The best OBP of all time at .482. 2,021 career walks. The last man to hit over .400 in a season. All of that is great, don't get me wrong, but do you really mean to tell me that the "greatest hitter that ever lived" isn't even in the top ten for career hits or home runs? The Splendid Splinter is definitely great, but he doesn't deserve the number one spot in this countdown.

#3: Ty Cobb
The Georgia Peach may have played in a different era, but his stats are undeniably off the charts. His .366 batting average ranks as the best batting average ever and his 4,189 hits rank number two on the all-time list. From 1907-1919, he won 12 of 13 batting titles, batting over .400 twice. Surprisingly, he also has a high RBI total, as his 1,944 RBIs are ninth all-time.

#2: Hank Aaron
The 25-time All Star is quite simply the best hitter of the second half of the 20th century and for three simple reasons:
  1. Third all time in hits with 3,771.
  2. Second all time in home runs with 755.
  3. First all time in RBIs with 2,297. 
That's all I need to say about Hammerin' Hank. 

#1: Babe Ruth
Honestly, who else? A .342 batting average. 2,214 career RBIs. 714 career dingers. The highest slugging percentage in MLB history at .690. Won the AL home run title 12 times in a 14-year span. Per season with the Yankees, he averaged 44 home runs and 132 RBIs. But most of all, he ushered in the Live Ball era, changing the game forever. His transcendence is the real reason for why he's number one and I will never change my opinion regarding this decision. He's just plain revolutionary. 

The list is finally finished! Thank you to everyone for reading this series throughout the summer, but what did you think of it in its entirety? First of all, do you agree with my picks and second of all, would you like to see another series like this in the future? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below and, as always, check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Friday, August 24, 2018

Steroids 8/24/18

It’s time to talk about something I haven’t ever discussed on Baseball with Matt and for good reason. However, I feel like the following topic is important to address at this moment because of my list of the best Hall of Fame hitters in baseball history and why it’s restricted to only Hall of Famers. That’s right: let’s talk about steroids.

A lot of people have their opinions on steroids, but I find that a lot of people don’t have the information to back their opinions up. So before I tell you what I think about performance-enhancing drugs, here are the facts. From 1962-1994, just three players hit over 50 homers in a single season. But once the late ‘80s and early ‘90s came and went, home run numbers started to skyrocket. MLB executives probably had an idea of what was going on, which is why they banned the use of steroids in 1991. However, drug-testing didn’t start until 2003. So there was a period of 12 years when steroid users could operate above the law, so to speak. Coincidentally, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire had their crazy race towards breaking the single-season home run record in 1998 and these twelve years were also the beginning of the out-of-this-world career of Barry Bonds.

Jose Canseco, a famous steroid user and McGwire’s former teammate on the A’s, stated that 80% of the hitters he played with took steroids, while others claim the numbers are lower but still bad, around 40-50%. From 1998-2009, the 500 home run club got 10 new members, which is insane because between 1987, when Mike Schmidt hit homer number 500, and 1996, when Eddie Murray accomplished the feat, not a single hitter joined the 500 home run club. Seven of those ten hitters have since been accused or proven to be steroid-takers: Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Palmeiro and Gary Sheffield. Even other hitters of the era, like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, had their Hall of Fame election delayed because of steroid skeptics. But, no hitter positively associated with PEDs has been elected into the Hall of Fame, let alone any pitchers. Although some of the all-time greats just based on their numbers may be getting close, as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have seen their Hall of Fame numbers rise ever since they got on the ballots.

The main argument I’ve heard for letting players linked to steroids into the Hall is that because there’s no way to prove that players before steroids were banned actually took steroids, you can’t discriminate against the players who we know took steroids, despite the fact that they took steroids. Although that is true, like I said before, look at the numbers. When guys like McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds joined the league, home run numbers went up so much that rules had to be changed. On top of this, even if someone like Babe Ruth took some sort of performance-enhancing drug, back then, it was legal. It’s not like he was breaking any rules. It’s not like he cheated.

So, how do I feel about steroid users? Because PEDs have been illegal since 1991 and some of the aforementioned members of the 500 home run club have made it an extremely big deal to admit to their use of steroids and have admitted that they used the substances regrettably, steroid users do not belong in the Hall of Fame. They themselves have told the public that they cheated, so that’s what I think of them as well. Even for guys like Andy Pettitte and Robinson Cano, guys who I grew up watching as a die hard Yankees fan, their career stats must be taken with a grain of salt. I hate saying that, but the members of the Hall of Fame who may or may not have used substances legally do not deserve to have their statuses tarnished by a terrible era for the reputation of baseball. This is the stance I’ve always had about steroids and it’s how it will always be. It’s why I’ve never mentioned Barry Bonds’s name in any blog post I’ve ever written and it’s why I never plan to do so after today.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Baseball with Matt's Top 50 Part 9: #15-11 8/13/18

Hey baseball fans!

Welcome to the Top 15! It's such an exciting time during the summer, as we near the end of my top 50 Hall of Fame hitters in baseball history. But anyway, let's get to it!

#15: Wade Boggs
Boggs is the AL hitting machine successor to Rod Carew. Both hitters had crazy batting averages and made a ton of All Star Games. Boggs went to twelve Midsummer Classics from 1985-1996, led the league in batting average in five seasons, and batted a staggering .328 lifetime. It took Boggs 11 years to bat under .300 (.259 in 1992) in a season and he only did that two more times in his entire career. His 3,010 career base hits rank 30th on the all-time list and, overall, he's one of the most heralded hitters in Red Sox history.

#14: Roberto Clemente
Batted .317 lifetime. 3,000 hits on the dot in only 17 years in baseball. Four-time batting champion. Had over 200 hits in a season on four occasions. Won 12 consecutive Gold Gloves for the outfield from 1961-1972. 12-time All Star. Two-time World Series champion. Most beloved hitter in the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates. But most of all, gone too soon, just because he had a charitable soul. Rest in peace, Roberto.

#13: Frank Robinson
There's Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, but there's also Frank Robinson. One of the more unsung power hitters of the 1950s and 1960s, Robinson could slug the baseball with the best of them. His 586 home runs rank tenth on the all-time home runs list and his 1,812 RBIs and .294 career batting average aren't so bad, either. He was the first hitter in baseball history to win the MVP in both leagues (1961 with the Reds and 1966 with the Orioles), even winning the Triple Crown in '66 with Baltimore. He hit 30 or more homers in 11 seasons and led the league in slugging percentage in four seasons. To top it all off, he's the first black manager in baseball history.

#12: Tony Gwynn
Sorry, Wade Boggs, but it's Tony Gwynn who actually owns the highest batting average out of all the ballplayers who debuted after 1950. Gwynn's .338 lifetime batting average is 18th on the all-time list, leading the league in batting eight times, even batting .394 at the age of 34 in 1994. Gwynn led the league in hits seven times and his 3,141 career base knocks rank 19th all time. On top of all of this, "Mr. Padre" is the only member of the franchise to participate in both of the team's World Series appearances, 1984 and 1998.

#11: Cal Ripken Jr.  
Ripken played in 2,632 consecutive games, a record that will most likely never be broken. Don't get me wrong, this is an amazing achievement, but Cal is way more than a games played streak. For example, did you know that he is 15th on the all-time hits list with 3,184 hits? Did you know he hit 431 career home runs? Did you know he made 19 straight All Star Games? Did you know he's a two-time MVP? Did you know he's probably the most celebrated hitter in the history of the Orioles? Maybe you did, maybe you didn't, but either way, what a career for "The Iron Man."

Next post is the top ten! What do you think of the list so far? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Monday, August 6, 2018

Baseball with Matt's Top 50 Part 8: #20-16 8/6/18

Hey baseball fans!

We're getting to the point where the names on this list will be some of the most famous in baseball history! I'm so excited that we've finally reached my top 20 Hall of Fame hitters! Let's get started with this post with #20!

#20: Mickey Mantle
The Commerce Comet is not only my favorite of the Yankees' historical "Big 4," but also the youngest. From 1951-1968, Mantle smacked 536 homers out of the park, good for 18th on the all-time list. The 1956 AL Triple Crown winner and three-time MVP had 30 or more homers in a season nine times, eight of them being consecutive. The most underrated stat about Mantle is his record 18 World Series home runs and his seven World Series rings rank tied for seventh all time.

#19: Ken Griffey Jr.
As good as his dad was, Junior was infinitely better. His 630 home runs puts "The Kid" in seventh place on the all-time home runs list. Yes, he was injury-prone when he went to play for his hometown Reds, but he will always be remembered for his time with the Mariners. Griffey played 11 seasons in Seattle, making ten straight All Star Games from 1990-1999, winning seven Silver Slugger awards and ten straight Gold Gloves. The four-time home run champ wasn't even on Seattle's 116-win team in 2001, but could you imagine if he was?

#18: Mike Piazza
Let this be known to all who choose to argue with me: Mike Piazza is the greatest hitting catcher in baseball history and, to be frank (sorry, Johnny Bench), it's not even close. His 427 homers rank first all-time amongst catchers, his 1,335 RBIs rank second, and his .308 batting average is third all-time for backstops. Sure, Ivan Rodriguez, Mickey Cochrane, and Bill Dickey are also great, but Piazza was a revolutionary talent. Ask anyone from the 1990s to confirm that last statement because I'm sure they will do so gladly.

#17: Tris Speaker
In his 22-year career from 1907-1928, "The Grey Eagle" was one of the best hitters of his era. His 3,514 career hits rank fifth on the all-time list and his 792 career doubles actually rank first all time. It's not a record you think about like other records, but for the Dead Ball era especially, it matters a lot. In fact, Speaker's .500 career slugging percentage is up there with some of the other hitting greats that played during the dawn of the World Series era. Oh, and his .345 lifetime batting average wasn't that bad, either.

#16: Eddie Murray
This is probably a very controversial pick, but let me say this: Eddie Murray is one of the most underrated hitters in baseball history and the reason is quite simple. There are three Hall of Famers with 500+ homers and 3,000+ hits, making them twice as worthy for the Hall of Fame. Two of them are Hank Aaron and Willie Mays and you won't see them on this list for a couple of weeks. The other one, with 504 career homers and 3,255 career hits, is none other than "Steady Eddie" Murray. The eight-time All Star batted .287 lifetime and in the strike-shortened 1981 season, led the AL with 22 homers and 78 RBIs. He's not the best Oriole that will appear on this list, but he is certainly up there.

What do you think of these players' rankings? Let me know in the comments section below. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Monday, July 30, 2018

Baseball with Matt's Top 50 Part 7: #25-21 7/30/18

Hey baseball fans!

Congratulations to the recently-inducted Hall of Fame class! None of you are mentioned in this particular post, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be read, so let's do it!

#25: Carl Yastrzemski
I don't buy the whole "Ted Williams is the best hitter ever" thing (but that doesn't mean he won't be very high on my list). But this guy is one of the most underrated hitters in Red Sox and baseball history. Let me break down Yaz's career for you: 3,419 hits, 452 dingers, 1,844 RBIs, 1,845 walks, and a .285 batting average. Oh yeah, and he single-handedly led the Red Sox to the 1967 World Series by winning the AL Triple Crown and MVP that year.

#24: Mike Schmidt
My favorite player of all time is also one of the most efficient power hitters in baseball history. In his 18-year career with the Phillies, he led the league in homers eight times and slugging percentage five times. His 548 home runs rank 16th on the all-time list. On top of all of this, he's a three-time MVP, 12-time All Star, and helped the Phillies win the franchise's first World Series when he won the 1980 World Series MVP.

#23: Cap Anson
Cap who? The oldest player on this list comes in at #23 and for good reason. In 27 seasons from 1871-1897, Cap collected 2,075 RBIs, the 4th-highest RBI total in history. He also batted .334 lifetime, led the league in batting average four times, and even batted .335 in 1895 at the young age of 43. Sure, it was a different era, but he's a Hall of Famer for a reason. 

#22: Frank Thomas
Let's jump about a century into the future from Anson and look at the Big Hurt! Frank the Tank was a five-time All Star and back-to-back MVP in 1993 and 1994. He hit more than 30 homers in nine seasons and is one of only a few players with 500+ career homers (521 to be exact) and a lifetime batting average better than .300 (.301). From 1991-2007, he averaged a staggering 30 homers and 97 RBIs a season. 

#21: Mel Ott
To keep this one simple, Ott was the National League's Babe Ruth. The first modern premier power hitter of the Senior Circuit made 11 straight All Star Games from 1934-1944 and led the NL in homers six times in his career. The .304 lifetime hitter retired with the most homers in National League history with 511. Today, that mark gives Master Melvin the 25th-most homers in baseball history. 

We're down to the top 20! Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."