Halftime Sports

This Week in Baseball: The Slow March to Chaos

September 3, 2014

Cole Hamels (mostly) threw a no-hitter yesterday and Milwaukee fans are burning their jerseys; it’s time for your weekly roundup of America’s pastime.

The No-hitter

Cole Hamels of the Phillies threw six no-hit innings Monday night, which is usually enough to merit a chance at the next three. But given his pitch count of 108 and his five walks at that point, he was pulled to start the seventh. The Phillies bullpen, currently 19th in the majors with a 3.71 ERA, put together 3 more hitless innings. When Jonathan Papelbon closed the 9th, he wrote baseball’s 11th combined no-hitter into the record books.

Why it matters

Cole Hamels deserves a better year than he’s had; he has an ERA of 2.50 and a Batting Average Against of .232. By rights, he should be in Cy Young contention, but since he’s playing for the last place Phillies, he only has an 8-6 record. In 3 of those 6 losses, he gave up 2 earned runs or fewer. Somewhere in Oakland, Jon Lester is laughing.

Much like the aforementioned Lester, Hamels is looking to and likely to be dealt sometime in the offseason, and stunts like this only increase his market value. The Red Sox have made very public overtures about Hamels, but expect them to have to pony up big time for this one.

The AL West

Since last I wrote about this, the mighty Oakland A’s have been swept by their chief competitors, the Los Angeles Angels, including a shutout game from called-up minor leaguer Yoslan Herrera who was only brought in to replace the injured Garrett Richards. Go figure. The A’s got outscored 18-4 over the series, including 2 shutouts.

Why it matters

The Angels are proving startlingly resistant to injuries and are pulling away with a 4.5 game lead on Oakland. Both teams have very similar schedules- the only team of any difficulty either will face is the Mariners, which they do 12 more times combined- so Oakland will need to play above average in order to stay in contention by the time they play the Angels much later this month.

The AL Wild Card

Whoa boy, this one’s tricky. Five main teams stand in contention at this point: the A’s, who are guaranteed the top spot if they lose the west; Detroit, which is holding a tenuous grasp on the second; Seattle, which is currently cursing Bud Selig and whoever is responsible for making the September schedule; New York, which had a good week but lost their last two; and Cleveland, which refuses to go away. Seattle is every bit as good a team as Detroit (I see your Miggy and raise you a Cano), but it’s just not a good time to be in the West.

Why it matters

One of the principal reasons why the Wild Card format was changed was to stop dominant divisions with two elite teams from just coasting to the finish, not really caring who won the division. The penalties are much higher now, given the immediate prospect of elimination for the wild card team, which also has to burn its ace in the 1-game playoff. At the same time, the second spot allows qualified teams like Detroit and Seattle to contend even in tough divisions. This year is a perfect illustration of one of baseball’s better ideas of late.

The NL Central

A real pity alcohol is flammable; Milwaukee makes lots of it and it probably doesn’t help that the city is on fire. Proverbially. For now. The Brewers six game losing streak has handed the top spot in the Central to a not all that stellar Cardinals team, if only by a game. The two play each other seven more times, so they’ll have time to hash it out. In the meanwhile, the Pirates are somehow only three games back and looking to spoil. It will require an amazing September to do it, but even if the notion of Pittsburgh playing baseball in October is crazy, we’ve still seen crazier. For example: Kansas City playing baseball in October.

Why it matters

With the AL West pulling apart, this is the only close race right now and it happens to be a three-way. The baseball gods apparently haven’t tormented Pittsburgh enough.

That’s all I’ve got this week, so stay tuned as the thin veneer of rules in this game disappears, Lord of the Flies style.


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