The world is coming to an end… Orioles, Royals in first on Sept. 1!


It may not be one of the signs of the Apocalypse, but your eyes are not deceiving you… the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals are both in first place in their divisions as of September 1.

September 1 is usually one of the dates in the MLB season that gets a lot of attention. It signals the last month of the season and a time when teams have to make their moves to either challenge for the pennant or get ready for next season.

The Orioles and Royals are two teams that have not typically looked down on the rest of the division when it comes to that last month of the campaign. For the Orioles, the last time they were in first place in their division on September 1 was in 1997. For the Royals, it’s been an even longer wait. The last time Kansas City was in first on Sept. 1 was in 1982; yes, over 30 years ago!

Two franchises, the Colorado Rockies and Miami Marlins, have never led their division on September 1 in a season. Of the remaining MLB teams, only the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays have not been in first place on September 1 in their division this century.

Here’s a look at the last season each of the 30 MLB teams were in first place (or tied for first) in their division on September 1.

Last year they were in first place (or tied) in their division on September 1

Never: Colorado, Miami

1993: Toronto

1999: Houston (as a National League Central team)

2001: Seattle

2006: Oakland

2007: Cleveland

2008: Chicago Cubs, N.Y. Mets, Tampa Bay

2010: Minnesota, San Diego

2011: Arizona, Philadelphia

2012: Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati, N.Y. Yankees, San Francisco

2013: Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Texas,

2014: Baltimore, L.A. Angels, L.A. Dodgers, Kansas City, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Washington

Note: This is the first year since 2009 that a team other than the Texas Rangers have been in first place in the A.L. West on September 1.

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp



Undefeated or winless in the preseason: Does it matter?


Last Thursday saw the final games of the 2014 NFL preseason. Ten-man practice squads are being announced, just a day after teams made decisions on their 53-man rosters. It’s on to the regular season as the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers kick-off the 2014 campaign on Thursday.

Before we leave the ’14 preseason, there’s one question… does having a great (undefeated) preseason give us any insight to how well a team will play when the real games begin? Conversely, if a team goes winless in the preseason will that spell disaster when they play their 16-game schedule?

First, let’s look at this year’s preseason. Three teams went undefeated: Baltimore, Minnesota and the New York Giants. Two teams were winless: Dallas and Indianapolis. Again, is this any precursor to how these team will fare in the regular season? Time will tell.

But take a look at the last five NFL seasons. From 2009-13, 10 teams went undefeated in a preseason. They compiled a collective 70-90 record in the regular season, a .438 winning percentage. In that same timeframe, 13 teams did not win a game in a preseason. Their collective record in the regular season was 99-109, a .476 winning percentage.

In the last five years, four teams that went undefeated in the preseason went on to make the playoffs that year. The last two teams to do so were the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins last season. The ‘Hawks went on to a 13-3 record and won the Super Bowl. The Redskins? A dismal 3-13 record.

Of the 13 teams that were winless in a preseason from 2009-2013, four made the playoffs. The last time was in 2011 when the Atlanta Falcons went 0-4 in the preseason but were 10-6 in the regular season and made the playoffs.

Does the preseason tell us much about what will happen in the regular season? I think we say safely say, “No.” Sure, teams want to win and especially with new head coaches, these first-year coaches are looking to the preseason to help establish a new mindset and winning ways. But the reality is that starters rarely play, and players looking to gain roster spots, many of whom will not make an NFL team, play a majority of the preseason games.

We’ll see how the Ravens, Vikings and Giants use this preseason’s undefeated schedule to parlay success in September and beyond. And, will the Cowboys or Colts find a dreadful 2014 preseason was just the beginning of a dreadful 2014 regular season? It all begins Thursday.

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp


Can rookie starting pitchers help win a pennant?


If you are a baseball fan you know the importance of starting pitching, especially if a team is looking to go deep into the playoffs and potentially win a World Series. But what if I told you that what is also important about starting pitching is having a “veteran” starting staff… not having a dependence on rookie starting pitchers during a pennant drive.

Case in point: Look at the stats for starting pitchers this season (through games of August 26). Of the six teams leading their division (Baltimore, Kansas City, L.A. Angels, Washington, Milwaukee and L.A. Dodgers) these teams have had a combined total of only seven games started by rookie pitchers, an average of 1.2 per team. Of the other 24 teams, there have been 299 games started by rookie pitchers, an average of 12.5 per team.

Let’s look at it another way… Of the 15 teams that have records above .500, those teams have started rookie pitchers in 91 games, about 6.3 starts per team. Of the 15 teams that are at .500 or below, those teams had started 211 rookie hurlers, an average of 14.1 per team. Another way to state this stat is that of the 306 games started by rookie pitchers in 2014 (through August 26), 69% of them were started by teams at .500 or below; 31% were started by teams above .500.

Here’s a look at how many games have been started by rookie pitchers by each of the 30 MLB teams through games of August 26.

0: Baltimore, L.A. Angels, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, San Francisco
1: Kansas City, L.A. Dodgers
2: Boston
3: Houston, St. Louis
5: Washington
9: Detroit, Miami
13: Cleveland
14: Philadelphia
15: Chicago White Sox, Toronto
16: Minnesota
18: Texas, Chicago Cubs
23: N.Y. Mets
24: San Diego
25: Seattle
27: Arizona, Colorado
38: N.Y. Yankees

If we look at the past 10 World Series champs, we see that only three (2006, St. Louis; 2007, Boston and 2010 San Francisco) had 10% or more of their regular season pitching starts during their title season started by rookie pitchers. Five of the 10 had fewer than five starts by rookie pitchers that championship season: 2004, Boston; 208 Philadelphia; 2009 N.Y. Yankees; 2011 St. Louis; and 2012 San Francisco).

Keep an eye on the pennant races during September. How many teams in the thick of the race will have to depend on a rookie pitcher to start a game… or more? And will that dependence hurt or help their pennant chase?

Follow Jerry on twitter @StatsonTapp

Boston Red Sox ’14 collapse not quite the worst ever


Less than a year ago the Boston Red Sox were celebrating their third World Series title in the last 10 years. Now just 10 months removed from that celebration, the Red Sox are looking at one of the worst post-World Series title collapses in major league history. With a record of 57-74 (.435 winning percentage) this year, they will have to win 24 of their last 31 games to avoid a sub-.500 record thus becoming the 17th team in history to win a World Series one year and have a winning percentage under .500 the following year.

One thing is for sure: The Red Sox are glad that the 1998 Florida Marlins had their historic collapse after they won the World Series in 1997. The ’97 Marlins defeated the Cleveland Indians four games to three to win the title that year. The following season the Marlins won only 54 games (and lost 108) for a .333 winning percentage. That is the worst winning percentage of a World Series champion the year following their title.

Note: The Red Sox .435 winning percentage on the morning of August 27 would rank second worst of all-time for a defending World Series champ. The current second-worst winning percentage of a defending World Series champ is .457 by the 1991 Cincinnati Reds who were 74-88 that year. The 2014 Red Sox will need to go 18-13 in their last 31 games to avoid tying the Reds for second place on the list.

Following are the 16 World Series champs that finished below .500 the year after winning the championship.

Team, World Series title year, Winning pct. the following year

Florida Marlins 1997….. .333 in 1998
Cincinnati Reds 1990….. .457 in 1991
Chicago White Sox 1917….. .460 in 1918
St. Louis Cardinals 1931….. .468 in 1932
San Francisco Giants 2012….. .469 in 2013
Kansas City Royals 1985….. .469 in 1986
Baltimore Orioles 1966….. .472 in 1967
Anaheim Angels 2002….. .475 in 2003
Toronto Blue Jays 1993….. .478 in 1994
L.A. Dodgers 1988….. .481 in 1989
St. Louis Cardinals 2006….. .481 in 2007
Boston Red Sox 1918….. .482 in 1919
Pittsburgh Pirates 1960….. .487 in 1961
St. Louis Cardinals 1982….. . 488 in 1983
L.A. Dodgers 1963….. .494 in 1964
St. Louis Cardinals 1964….. .497 in 1965

Did you notice that the Giants in 2013 finished under .500 after their World Series title in 2012? If the Red Sox also finish under .500 this year it will mean the last two World Series champs finished their next seasons under .500. It has never happened three years in a row!

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

AFC West, NFC West teams have tough road with 2014 schedule


The Denver Broncos last year were one of the NFL’s best teams with a 13-3 regular season record and a trip to the Super Bowl. The Oakland Raiders were one of the NFL’s worst teams last year with a 4-12 record. It’s interesting to note that this year these two teams have something in common… both will face nine teams that last year played in the NFL playoffs.

The Raiders have the task of facing their three division opponents that each made the playoffs last season (Denver, Kansas City and San Diego) twice this year and then facing NFC playoff teams Seattle and San Francisco. A game against the New England Patriots gives them their ninth game against 2013 playoff teams.

The Broncos get their nine games versus ’13 playoff teams by facing division foes/playoff teams Kansas City and San Diego twice, contests against the Seahawks and 49ers, and then games against fellow AFC division-winning teams New England, Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

Here’s a look at how many games each team will play this season against 2013 playoff teams.

9: Denver, Oakland

8: Arizona, Seattle, St. Louis

7: Kansas City, San Diego, San Francisco

6: Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New England, N.Y. Jets, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay

5: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Minnesota, New Orleans, N.Y. Giants, Philadelphia, Tennessee, Washington

4: Houston, Indianapolis

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp


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