The most prominent way Doug differed from the family was in his refusal to root for the Phillies. Based on the first card out of the wrapper of his first pack of baseball cards, Doug took one look at a 1974 Topps card of Steve Garvey and announced that the Los Angeles Dodgers were his favorite team. For the next couple of years it just seemed odd that Doug checked the morning paper for West Coast box scores, covered his room in Dodgers paraphernalia and wore a blue LA baseball cap around the neighborhood. It became downright grating after the Dodgers eliminated the Phillies two years in a row in the NLCS to advance to the World Series. In frustration, after the second defeat in 1978, I defaced something in our house connected to the Dodgers. . . but completely forgot about it shortly thereafter.
There’s an expression in sabermetric circles that sums up a starting pitcher’s erosion in effectiveness the longer he stays in the game: “A team’s worst pitcher is the one who is facing an opposing team’s lineup for the third time.” Unlike some adages this one isn’t exactly true. For one, while he’s a rare exception, Justin Verlander actually does have better results as the game goes on. Even tossing outliers like Verlander aside, the statement itself is a bit of overkill. A team’s ace becomes something like a league-average pitcher the third time through the lineup, the second best pitcher is something like a #4 starter, and so on.
I hope you enjoyed the 2013 season preview over the last six weeks. I thank every one for reading and their comments – even those from fans of the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves who have given me flak for my relatively downbeat previews. The summaries are data-driven, quantitative-based previews and I certainly understand the passion of fans – channeling Charlie Brown – who are more or less ordering me to “tell your statistics to shut up.”
On this, the morning of Houston's inaugural game as an American League team and on the eve of Opening Day, I give you a finalized look at the projected standings for MLB's 2013 season. Thanks to my friends at BeyondTheBets.com and Dave Tuley, a long-time chronicler of the sports betting scene in Las Vegas, the over/under column (below) reflects the current (and presumably final) market as posted at the LVH, the epicenter of baseball betting in Las Vegas. Those with a calculator might note that the sum of the LVH wins totals 2,435. That’s notable because there are only 2,430 games played in an MLB season. The difference is smaller than last year but still, as in the stock market, people are predisposed to be optimistic and they've collectively bid up certain teams.
All of this leads to the following conclusion: Bullpens that post terrible results usually aren’t as bad as the results might indicate. In other words, it’s hard to expect a bullpen to be awful. If a rule is strengthened by the presence of an exception, well then I guess this is the only time anyone is going to refer to the 2012 Chicago Cubs as exceptional.