Authored by Andrew Perna - 27th June, 2012 - 5:18 pm
Just a few weeks remain before the 2012 All-Star break and division races are forming in both leagues. The Mariners, Astros, Cubs, Rockies and Padres are all more than 10 games out of first place in their respective divisions and may not be playing meaningful games much longer.
A Strange Season In Cleveland
The Indians entered action on Wednesday one game over .500 and within a few games of first place in the American League Central, but have an eye-popping -50 run differential this season. Seattle (31-44) has a -26 run differential. Colorado is 16 games under .500 and they have a -46 run differential.
They are clearly playing above expectations and their own statistics, but is that a good or bad indicator? According to Baseball-Reference.com, they have a Pythagorean W-L of 31-44 and it is safe to say that before long their poor differential will catch up to them.
Manny Acta is managing a team that ranks in the bottom third of most important statistics (offensive and defensive) and Cleveland ranked 23rd in our weekly OPSERA rankings last Friday with a 2.66 rating.
The Indians have won 37 games and 26 of those victories came by three runs or fewer. In comparison, they have lost 36 times and only 19 of those defeats were by three or fewer. Over their last four games, Cleveland has been outscored 28-7. In a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds earlier this month, the Indians were outscored 24-9.
A combination of poor numbers and some ugly losses have the Indians playing winning baseball despite the fifth-worst run differential in the major leagues.
A Call For More Replay
If you are not a proponent of expanded instant replay in baseball, tune into Sportscenter sometime over the next few days and watch the phantom catch Dewayne Wise "made" on the third base line at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night.
Trailing 4-0 with a man on third base, Indians infielder Jack Hannahan hit a pop fly towards third base that appeared destined for the stands. Perhaps inspired by birthday boy Derek Jeter, Wise hustled towards the ball and appeared to catch it as he tumbled into the stands.
Only he did not make the catch.
After the ball hit the webbing of his glove, it popped out and upon viewing from several angles it is clear that it was not in his leather appendage when the third base umpire signaled an out. The umpire never asked to see the baseball as Wise wisely kept his glove closed as he raised his arm in the universal gesture of "I got it."
At the time, the play did not seem all that important. The Indians entered the ninth inning down 6-0, but before long they plated four runs and Joe Girardi had to call on Rafael Soriano to get a one-out save. Hannahan, who was ejected between innings for arguing, could very well have made an out on the next pitch of the at-bat, which should have been extended, but one never knows. If you like the Yankees, this is all amusing. If you are an Indians fan, this is all very frustrating.
I understand the argument that baseball already moves slowly enough and more replays would only make it drag on more, but the integrity of the game could be improved with all the modern technology at our disposal.
Baseball is often slow to adapt, but there is no reason why an official or substitute umpire cannot be used as a consultant behind the scenes to aide the field crew when needed.
The Derby Discussion
It is apparently a story that National League Home Run Derby caption Matt Kemp does not plan to pick Bryce Harper for his squad. Why, I am not sure, but the story was a headline on more than one mainstream sports news site Tuesday night and it will undoubtedly be debated as the event approaches.
Harper, the 19-year-old Washington phenom, has seven home runs in 51 games. Kemp hit 39 homers last season and told USA Today that he already has his four-man team in place. The Dodgers center fielder left the team unnamed, although he confirmed that he will participate despite a hamstring injury that will almost certainly keep him from playing in the Fall Classic itself.
Can you blame Kemp for not selecting Harper?
He is averaging just 27.6 at-bats per home run and if he was a qualifier at this point in the season, Harper would rank 40th in the National League in home run frequency. Sure, having his name in the Home Run Derby would be sexy, but there are dozens of better candidates.
Of course, I just gave the topic another few paragraphs, so I cannot really complain that the "non-story" has become a story.
Hamilton Falls Victim To Gravity
Josh Hamilton put up otherworldly numbers over the first six weeks of the season -- he was hitting .404 on May 16 -- but the Rangers center fielder has come back down to earth in a relatively quiet manner over the last month.
In June, Hamilton is hitting .197/.282/.382 with just two home runs.
Over his last 32 games, the slugger has seen his average decrease from .404 to .318.
Believe it or not, the drop is his average has been precipitous. His power numbers in May disguised that. At the end of April, Hamilton was hitting .395/.438/.744. On May 30, he had a line of .368/.420/.764. Through June 25, his averages were down to .318/.380/.651.
We all knew he was not going to hit .400 with 70 home runs and 170-plus RBI, but Texas has to be at least a little bit concerned about his recent slide.