Earlier this week the New York Yankees signed Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year contract worth $153 million. Several media outlets and baseball pundits questioned whether or not it was a good move on the part of the Yankees. Many questioned either the length or value of the contract, while others opined that Ellsbury was just not the type of player that deserved that type of free-agent contract.
In defense of Ellsbury, he played a major role in the Red Sox winning the championship last year. He led the majors with 52 stolen bases and batted .298 while playing a solid center field. He has stolen 50 or more base in three of his seven seasons. But his speed on the basepaths was a bone of contention for some people who see Ellsbury as too one-dimensional of a player.
Maybe, however, the Yankees decision was a simple response to a need that has plagued the team for almost 25 years.
As mentioned above, Ellsbury led the majors last season with 52 stolen bases. He was the only player to steal 50 or more last season. Do you know the last Yankees player to steal 50 or more bases in a season? It happened in 1988. Rickey Henderson stole 93 in that season, the last time the Yanks had a player reach the 50-steal mark in a season.
Here’s a look at the last time each of the major league teams had a player who stole 50 or more bases in a season.
American League teams
1988: New York Yankees (Rickey Henderson, 93)
1995: Texas (Otis Nixon, 50)
1996: Kansas City (Tom Goodwin, 66)
1997: Minnesota (Chuck Knoblauch, 62)
1998: Cleveland (Kenny Lofton, 54)
1998: Toronto (Shannon Stewart, 51)
2001: Detroit (Roger Cedeno, 55)
2001: Seattle (Ichiro Suzuki, 56)
2006: L.A. Angels (Chone Figgins, 52)
2007: Baltimore (Brian Roberts, 50)
2009: Tampa Bay (Carl Crawford, 60)
2010: Chicago White Sox (Juan Pierre, 68)
2010: Houston (Michael Bourne, 52)
2010: Oakland (Rajai Davis, 50)
2013: Boston (Jacoby Ellsbury, 52)
National League teams
1985: Philadelphia (Juan Samuel, 53)
1987: San Diego (Tony Gwynn, 56)
1990: San Francisco (Brett Butler, 51)
1991: Atlanta (Otis Nixon, 72)
1993: Washington (Marquis Grissom, 53)
1997: Cincinnati (Deion Sanders, 56)
1997: St. Louis (Delino DeShields, 55)
1998: Pittsburgh (Tony Womack, 58)
2004: Milwaukee (Scott Podsednik, 70)
2006: Chicago Cubs (Juan Pierre, 58)
2007: Arizona (Eric Byrnes, 50)
2007: Los Angeles Dodgers (Juan Pierre, 64)
2007: Miami (Hanley Ramirez, 51)
2008: Colorado (Willy Taveras, 68)
2008: New York Mets (Jose Reyes, 56)
* Note: Did you notice that one player, Juan Pierre, is the last player to steal 50 or more bases for three different teams (Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs and L.A. Dodgers), and Otis Nixon is the last player to steal 50-plus bases for two teams (Texas and Atlanta).
Will a full season of Ellsbury stealing bases lead the Yankees to a World Championship? We’ll have a few months to see how well this free agent signing plays out. No doubt the Bronx Bombers are hoping Ellsbury’s stolen base skill will be a catalyst in that journey back to the World Series.
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Not only did the Boston Red Sox give their hometown fans a gift by allowing them to celebrate a World Series title in Fenway (a 95-year wait), but their victory over the St. Louis Cardinals has given the Angels, Blue Jays, Brewers, Giants, Mariners, Mets, Padres, Phillies and Rockies a glimmer of hope as these teams approach the 2014 MLB season. (The glimmer may be somewhat smaller for the Astros, Cubs, Marlins, Twins and White Sox.)
The Red Sox became the 14th team in MLB history to win the World Series a year after finishing with a winning percentage under .500. In 2012, the Red Sox were 69-93 (a .426 winning percentage). Their .426 winning percentage the year prior to their World Series title is the lowest in major league history.
Here’s a rundown of the teams that won World Series the year following a sub .500 season.
World Series champion year, Team (previous season winning percentage)
2013: Boston Red Sox (.426 in 2012)
2002: Florida Marlins (.488)
2001: Anaheim Angels (.463)
1996: Florida Marlins (.494)
1990: Minnesota Twins (.457)
1989: Cincinnati Reds (.463)
1987: Los Angeles Dodgers (.451)
1986: Minnesota Twins (.438)
1968: New York Mets (.451)
1964: Los Angeles Dodgers (.494)
1958: Los Angeles Dodgers (.461)
1953: New York Giants (.455)
1932: New York Giants (.468)
1913: Boston Braves (.457)
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The Boston Red Sox are one win away from winning the 2013 World Series. They won last night 3-1 and now go back home to try to end the series in front of their hometown fans. The series continues on Wednesday night.
So, can the Cardinals win two games on the road to steal the series from the BoSox? Or, are the Red Sox about ready to celebrate? Let’s try to put some numbers to the crystal ball. The Red Sox and Cardinals were tied at 2-2 after four games. It was the 21st time since 1960 that the World Series was tied at two games apiece. So how did the previous 20 series end after Game 5?
In the previous 20 series tied at 2-2, five ended with the team winning Game 5 and Game 6. In seven of the series, the team that won Game 5, lost Game 6, but won Game 7 to clinch the series. In eight of the series, the team that lost Game 5 went on to win Games 6 and 7 to win the World Series. Bottom line: The team that won Game 5 after the series was tied at 2-2 won the World Series 12 times and lost eight. While this bottom line stat favors the Red Sox, the most frequent scenario in the past 20 series tied at 2-2 was that the team that lost Game 5 won the next two games and the series (that happened eight times of the 20).
But let’s dig a little deeper and look at what has happened since 1990. There were seven World series since 1990 where the two teams were tied at two games apiece going into Game 5. Four times (1991, 2001, 2002 and 2011) the team that lost Game 5 went on to win the next two games and the series. Twice (1996 and 2003) the team that won Game 5 also won Game 6 and won the World Series. The only time since 1990 that the team that won Game 5, lost Game 6 and then came back to win Game 7 was in 1997.
The above stat seems to favor the possibility of the Cardinals coming back to win Games 6 and 7. One problem… In those four games above where the team that lost Game 5 went on to win Games 6 and 7 to clinch the world championship, the team that won Game 5 was the home team. The Cards were the home team last night and lost Game 5. In the two cases where the road team won Game 5 in a World Series tied 2-2 since 1990, both times the away team that won Game 5 (which the Red Sox were last night) went on to win the World Series (once the series went six games; the other time the road team won Game 6 but the home team rebounded with a Game 7 victory).
That’s a lot of numbers and scenarios. Is it possible for the Cardinals to win two games on the road to win the series? There is a glimmer of hope because it has been done before. The last time it happened was in 1979 when the Pittsburgh Pirates, down 3-2 in the World Series, had to win Games 6 and 7 in the Baltimore Orioles ballpark to win the championship. They won Game 6 by a score of 4-0 and won Game 7 and the World Series with a 4-1 win in the finale.
Can the Cardinals take a piece of history and repeat the Pirates 1979 World Series comeback?
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Seeing a Game One blowout in the World Series is a fairly rare site. In fact, prior to last night’s 8-1 win by the Red Sox over the Cardinals, there had been only 10 World Series Game Ones that were decided by seven runs or more.
Here’s a look at those 10 seven runs or more blowouts in previous World Series Game Ones.
2007: Boston over Colorado 13-1 (largest margin of victory in Game One of a World Series)
2001: Arizona over NY Yankees 9-1
1996: Atlanta over NY Yankees 12-1
1980: Cincinnati over Oakland 7-0
1987: Minnesota over St. Louis 10-1
1982: Milwaukee over St. Louis 10-0
1959: Chicago White Sox over LA Dodgers 10-0
1945: Chicago Cubs over Detroit 9-0
1937: NY Yankees over NY Giants 8-1
1919: Cincinnati over Chicago White Sox 9-1
Notice that getting blown out in Game One has happened before to the Cards; they have now lost three Game Ones in the World Series by seven runs or more (most in World Series history).
In the 109-year history of the Fall Classic, Game One has traditionally been a close game. Thirty-eight times (34.9%) the first game of the World Series ended in a one-run game. In just over 51% of the World Series Game Ones, the margin of victory was either one of two runs.
Finally, how will the Cardinals rebound from last night’s drubbing? If the past is any indication, it might not be very well. In the previous 10 blowouts in Game One, the team that won Game One also won Game Two seven times. The 1937 NY Yankees were the only World Series team to win both the first and second games of the World Series by seven runs or more. We can probably expect a closer game in Game Two, but you have to go back to 1982 to see a team rebound from a Game One blowout and win Game Two… in ’82 the Milwaukee Brewers won Game One 10-0. Their opponents, the Cardinals, took Game Two with a 5-4 victory.
Can the Cardinals of 2013 repeat what happened in the 1982 World Series?
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With the World Series getting started tonight in Boston, here are a couple of interesting stats to ponder before the first pitch. Depending on your team allegiance in the series, you may be happy (or sad) to read these facts.
Same record. The World Series this year features two teams that had the same regular season record, 97-65. This is the first World Series in over a half-century where the opposing teams had the same regular season record. Last time it happened was in 1958 when the 92-62 New York Yankees faced the 92-62 Milwaukee Braves. This is also only the fifth time it has happened in the 108-year history of the Fall Classic. It also happened in 1951, 1949 and 1903. Think about this: In the previous four times it occurred, the American League won the World Series. Good omen for the Red Sox?
Question: Does it really matter which World Series team had a better record in the regular season? The World Series team with the better record has won 24 of the 52 World Series dating back to 1960.
Best record in league. Back in 1995 MLB went to the current format of three divisions in each league. Since 1995, this is only the third time that the team with the best record in the American League will face the team with the best record in the National League in the World Series. Both St. Louis and Boston had the best regular season records in their respective league. The other times it happened: 1999 World Series (Atlanta versus the New York Yankees) and 1995 (Cleveland versus Atlanta). In 2007, World Series foes Boston and Colorado tied for the best record in their leagues.
From last to the World Series: The Red Sox this year become the sixth team in MLB history to go from last place to the World Series in the following season. In 2012, Boston finished fifth in the five-team A.L. East, 26 games out of first place. Here’s a look at the teams that went from last place to the World Series in consecutive years.
Atlanta, 1990: Finished sixth in six-team division, 26 games out of first. Lost the World Series in 1991.
Minnesota, 1990: Finished fifth in five-team division, 29 games out of first. Won the World Series in 1991.
Philadelphia, 1992: Finished sixth in six-team division, 26 games out of first. Lost the World Series in 1993.
San Diego, 1997: Finished fourth in four-team division, 14 games out of first. Lost World Series in 1998.
Tampa Bay, 2007: Finished fifth in five-team division, 30 games out of first. Lost World Series in 2008.
Boston, 2012: Finished fifth in five-team division, 26 games out of first. ????????????????????????
You noticed that only one team (of the five) above won the World Series after being in last place the previous year, right? Bad omen for the Red Sox?
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