Friday, July 20, 2007

Baseball In The Daytime: 7-20-07

First of all, allow me to wish my wife, who never reads this blog, a happy birthday. That way if she does read it I'll score major points, and perhaps get to watch a game this weekend.

It is Friday, and the Cubs are at home, so there's a day game to discuss. But I think we're all sick of digging through the minutiae of the Chicago National League Base Ball Club, so after the jump I'll get into a little math concerning the tightening race between two teams no one is sick of, the Red Sox and the Yankees.

First off, the mandatory Ferris Bueller special from Wrigley. Those wacky Cubs have closed to withing three and a half of the first-placed Brewers and today take on Arizona. At 12:20 Mountain, you can find this Brandon Webb-Jason Marquis showdown on XM 185 and DirecTV 734. Webb, last year's NL Cy Young winner, has a nice 3.42 ERA but only an 8-7 record to show for it. His club is likewise off--after losing 11 of 14 and five straight entering the All-Star break they sit 4 1/2 out of the NL West.

Now, on to the AL East. I watched the Red Sox lose again last night, after a two-hour rain delay. During this downtime, NESN ran a bunch of their canned filler programming, all of which dealt with the "panic" that's supposedly gripping Boston in the midst of the Yankee's surge and Red Sox slump.

The Bombers have closed to within seven games, which is certainly noteworthy if not newsworthy. I mean, the Rockies and D'Backs are fewer games out and almost no one outside their home cities gives either a snowball's chance of making the playoffs. But these are the Yankees, and they've won this division nine years in a row. They have to be taken seriously, so break out the old abacus for some fun with numbers.

The Sox are currently 56-39, while the Yanks sit at 48-45. They have six games remaining against each other, and these games are obviously the Yankees best chance at closing ground (or the Sox best chance to pad their lead). Those head-to-head games don't start until August 28, however.

Now obviously, if the Yankees were to sweep those six games that would all but erase the current spread, but we all know that's not going to happen. Boston will win at least one game. What could get dicey would be if the Bombers take four of the remaining six, which would knot the season series at nine apiece and potentially set up a one-game playoff for the division, a la 1978 and the Bucky Dent fiasco. Bad times.

As Buster Olney pointed out last week in his indispensable blog, the Red Sox and Yankees enjoy the two easiest second-half schedules of any AL contenders, mostly because of the Devil Rays. New York has ten games left with Tampa, starting tonight, while Boston gets the worst team in the bigs a whopping fifteen times. Almost a quarter of the Red Sox remaining games are against the Rays.

If Boston were to play .500 ball following their inevitable easy win over awful Jose Contreras tonight, they'd reach 90 wins. New York would need to go 42-27 (.609) over the same span to tie them, in which case you'd go to the aforementioned head-to-head record. I find it impossible that a team with this much talent could lose half it's games, so let's go ahead and let the Red Sox go 37-30 (.552) from here on out. That forces the Yankees to win 45 more games at a .652 clip to tie, at 93 wins. And 40 Boston wins out of their last 67 games (.597) would mean the Yanks would need to play .696 ball (48-21) just to tie.

Yes, I'm concerned, but there's no way I'll freak unless the lead gets under five. Then the cyanide pills come out--Cheers!

Update: Don't forget to peruse Winning The Turnover Battle's take on this topic.