The calendar has turned to June and Major League Baseball has completed the first two months of the 2017 season. The big question is… will the Houston Astros make their first World Series appearance since 2005 and are they primed to win their first World Series title in franchise history?
The Astros have baseball’s best record at 38-16, a .704 winning percentage. But here’s a quick stat that may give Astros’ fans even more reason to think this is their year: In three of the last four seasons, the team with the best record in baseball as of June 1 has made it to the World Series that year, and two of the last three World Series champions (the Cubs last year and the Giants in 2014) had the MLB’s best record on June 1. All good news for the fans in Houston.
Of course two months does not a season make. But let’s take a look at the last five seasons and see how the teams that led their division on the morning of June 1 did that season.
First, a quick look at this year’s standings. The teams leading their division on June 1 in 2017 are the New York Yankees, Houston and a tie between the Indians and Twins in the American League, and Washington, Milwaukee (yes, the Brewers) and the Dodgers in the National League.
Here’s a few stats concerning teams in first place in their division as of June 1:
- There were 32 teams that led or were tied for the division lead from 2012-2016. Of those 32 teams, 13 went on to win the division that season. Of those 32 teams, 20 made the playoffs that year.
- Of those 13 teams that led their division on June 1 and then won the division that year, four of those teams came from the N.L. Central (good news for the Brewers), most of any of the six divisions.
- Of the last 10 World Series teams, four led their division on June 1 that year, six did not.
- Of the last five World Series champs, three led their division on June 1 that year, two did not (Kansas City in 2015 and the Giants in 2012).
- The last season where two teams that led their division on June 1 met in the World Series was in 2013 (Boston versus St. Louis).
Here’s one final stat: As mentioned above, the Astros have a .704 winning percentage here on the morning of June 1. Since 2000, the Astros are only the fourth team to have a winning percentage of .700 or better on June 1. The Cubs last year were at .700 on June 1, while the 2002 Red Sox (.706) and the 2001 Seattle Mariners (.769) are the other teams on the list.
My guess is that baseball fans, whether they are watching a game on TV or in person, like to see action on the field. They enjoy the batter connecting with a pitch and the either a base hit is the end result or a defensive play is made.
Of course, a well-timed walk or strikeout, depending on if your team is at bat or in the field, is always nice. Generally speaking, however, action on the field is what we crave.
Let’s put some numbers to the above musings. Here’s the question: Which batters most often don’t put the bat on the ball in their at-bat? Specifically, which batters have the most strikeouts and walks in their at-bats?
Based on season totals, there have been 15 players in MLB history who have had 120 or more strikeouts and 120 or more walks in a season. No player “accomplished” this feat last season, but in 2015 there were two players who tallied 120 strikeouts and 120 walks. Washington’s Bryce Harper in the ’15 campaign had 131 strikeouts and 124 walks; Cincinnati’s Joey Votto was the other player with 135 strikeouts and 143 walks.
Of these 15 players, six have reached the 120-120 mark in strikeouts and walks multiple times in their careers, led by Jim Thome who did it four times. Here’s a look at the players who have had 120 strikeouts and 120 walks seasons.
4 times: Jim Thome
2 times: Jeff Bagwell, Jack Clark, Adam Dunn, Mark McGwire, Joey Votto
1 time: Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Bryce Harper, Frank Howard, Mickey Mantle, Tony Phillips, Mike Schmidt, Mickey Tettleton, Jim Wynn
Last season (2016) there was six players who had 100 strikeouts and 100 walks: Brandon Belt, Josh Donaldson, Paul Goldschmidt, Harper, Mike Trout and Votto. This season, with about one-quarter of the 2017 season complete, there are five players who are on a pace to reach 120-120: Harper (33 strikeouts, 30 walks), Brad Miller, Tampa Bay (45-30), Matt Carpenter, St. Louis (37-32), Miquel Sano, Minnesota (58-30) and Goldschmidt, Arizona (37-35).
For Brewers fans, here’s a quick stat for you: Only one player in the team’s history has had 100 or more strikeouts and 100 or more walks in a season. Prince Fielder did it three straight years, 2009, 2010 and 2011. He had 138 strikeouts, 110 walks in 2009, 138-114 in 2010 and 106-107 in 2011.
Last Saturday night Atlanta Braves outfielder Matt Kemp slugged three home runs versus the Brewers at Miller Park. It was Kemp’s first multi-HR game against the Brew Crew in his career.
Kemp’s three-homer game was the 10th time in Brewers franchise history that an opposing player had three or more home runs in a game. The last time was almost 15 years ago when Shawn Green slugged four home runs in a game against Milwaukee, the most HRs by an opposing player in a contest.
Here’s a look at the 10 times an opposing players had three or more home runs against the Brewers. (All players listed hit three home runs in a game except for Green who hit four.)
Matt Kemp, April 29, 2017
Shawn Green, May 23, 2002
Sammy Sosa, August 22, 2001
Steve Finley, September 8, 1999
Vinny Castilla, June 5, 1999
Sammy Sosa, June 15, 1998
Matt Williams, April 25, 1997
Willie Horton, June 7, 1970
Reggie Jackson, July 2, 1969
Bill Melton, June 24, 1969
When it comes to multi-HRs, three players have hit two or more HRs against the Brewers in six games. The players with the most multi-HR games (two or more HRs in a game) against the Brewers are:
6: Albert Pujols, Reggie Jackson, Joe Carter
5: Sammy Sosa
4: Graig Nettles, Pedro Alvarez
3: (Accomplished by 20 different players)
All total, there have been 71 opponents who have hit two or more home runs in two or more games against the Brewers.
They say that hope springs eternal in spring training. Each of the 30 MLB teams has a certain degree of optimism and many feel they can not only make the playoffs but also contend for the championship. All too often, however, April brings a dose of reality when the games start to count and losses start to pile up.
Getting off to a good start in April sure helps. Consider this: Only seven of the 30 playoffs teams in the last three MLB seasons played under .500 in the first month of the season. Furthermore, only two playoff teams from 2014-16 played under .400 in the first month of the season.
Take a look at the standings just one week into the 2017 campaign. The team with the worst record in baseball last season, the Minnesota Twins, have gotten off to a great start and are 5-1… their .833 winning percentage is currently the best in baseball.
Let’s take a look at how well each of the 30 teams has played in the first month of the season over the past three years. The New York Mets top the list with a .634 winning percentage in the first month of the season from 2014-16. The Detroit Tigers are the only other team with a winning percentage over .600 in the first month the last three years at .609. The worst team in the first month from 2014-16 were the Arizona Diamondbacks; they had a winning percentage of .397.
Here’s a look at the winning percentage of each team in first month of the baseball season (games played in March and April are included) in the last three campaigns.
New York Mets .634, Detroit .609
Kansas City .577, St. Louis .568, Washington .568, Chicago Cubs .559, Los Angeles Dodgers .548, Baltimore .537, Chicago White Sox .534, Boston .534, Oakland .526, Colorado .521, New York Yankees .514, Pittsburgh .514, San Francisco .507
Los Angeles Angels .493, Texas .493, Seattle .486, Miami .486, Philadelphia .479, Tampa Bay .472, Toronto .453, Milwaukee .452, Atlanta .451, Cincinnati .438, San Diego .434, Houston .419, Minnesota .414, Cleveland .400,
Last season the Atlanta Braves were one of six teams to finish in last place in their division. What makes this all the more interesting is that it was their first year in last place since 1990, a span of 26 years!
The other five teams that finished in last place were Cincinnati, Minnesota, Oakland, San Diego and Tampa Bay. For Oakland and Cincinnati, they also finished in last place in 2015. The Twins last season as a cellar-dweller was in 2014; the Padres last time was in 2011; and the Rays last finished in last place in their division in 2007.
Over the last three seasons, 13 of the 30 MLB teams finished in last place in their division in at least one season. But it’s interesting to note that five MLB teams have not finished in last place in their division this century (since 2000) and two of those five (the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals) have not finished in last place since 1990.
Following is a look at the last season each of the 30 MLB teams finished in last place in their division.
1990: New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals
1992: Los Angeles Dodgers
1999: Los Angeles Angels
2003: New York Mets
2007: San Francisco
2010: Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Washington
2013: Chicago White Sox, Houston, Miami, Toronto
2014: Arizona, Chicago Cubs, Texas
2015: Boston, Colorado, Detroit, Philadelphia
2016: Atlanta, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Oakland, San Diego, Tampa Bay
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