Around The Bases Vol VXI: Divisions in Flux; Wild Wild Card Races; Cliff Lee Continues Where CC Left Off

rockiesDivisions on both sides of the continent going crazy; Wild Card races in both leagues at full force and it’s only the end of August; the Cleveland Indians trade away yet another Cy Young Award winner who has an immediate impact on an NL team. All this and more in this week’s edition of Around the Bases.

There has been a great deal of focus in the past few weeks on the American League East. The New York Yankees have all but sewn up the division at this point, after sweeping the Red Sox a few weeks ago, then taking two out of three this past weekend to maintain a 7.5 game lead. At the time of this writing, the Yankees are enjoying a comfortable 6 game lead over the 2nd place Red Sox.

The Wild Card race in the American League has been just as crazy. There has been a back and forth battle between the Red Sox and the Texas Rangers for two weeks now. They have been neck and neck, one day tied, the next day one of them is a game up, the next day they’re tied again.

The Rangers have had great hitting all season, but now they’re staying in it with great pitching and very good fielding as well, two things they have been lacking for some time. Since the All-Star Game, they have the lowest ERA in the AL (3.62), as well as the lowest batters average against (.248). They also have the 2nd lowest WHIP (1.29), only .001 higher than Tampa.

Two of their starters, Scott Feldman and Tommy Hunter, are a combined 10-3 since the break. In that time frame, Hunter is 8th in the AL in ERA (3.12) while another starter, Derek Holland, is 5th (2.95). This is exactly what the Rangers have needed, even last season when they had great offensive stats and were amongst the worst pitching in baseball.

The Red Sox better be watching their backs because the way they’ve been playing, the Rangers really have a chance to knock them out of the Wild Card spot. I don’t think anyone was saying that two months ago.

With all of the Red Sox-Yankees hype over the past couple of weeks, and all of the madness going on in the American League East Wild Card scenario between the Rangers and the Red Sox, it’s very easy to miss what has been going on the National League West, both the division and the National League Wildcard.

Just a couple of short months ago, the LA Dodgers were well in control of the NL West division. On June 3rd, they were 15.5 games ahead of 2nd place Colorado Rockies, who, with new manager Jim Tracy, were trying to work out their bugs. Now, after going a balls-to-the-wall 54-26 since then, the Rockies find themselves only 2 games back.

The Rockies have really pulled it together and it has shown in the last couple of games. On Monday night, they won a crazy 14 inning game on a walk off grand slam by Ryan Spilborghs against the San Francisco Giants, then on Tuesday night, they won in the bottom of the tenth on a walk off single by Troy Tulowitzki against the Dodgers for their 4th consecutive come from behind win in a row.

The Rockies now have a solid 4 game lead over San Francisco in the NL Wild Card race and show no signs of slowing down.

They’ve done it with hitting: 2nd in NL in runs (643), HR, (149), RBI (609), and OPS (.787). Stalwart Todd Helton is leading the charge batting .322 (4th in NL).

While they have no pitcher in the top ten of any category, with the exception of Ubaldo Jimenez coming in 6th in strikeouts (154), their starting pitching has been solid (6th in NL, 4.07 ERA).

For the second consecutive season, the Cleveland Indians traded away a Cy Young Award winner to a National League team who immediately had an enormous impact on that team. Last season it was C.C. Sabathia who went to Milwaukee and single handedly turned them into a playoff contender.

This season’s Cleveland Indians Reclamation Project is Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee, who was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies at the trading deadline. While the reigning World Champions were already leading the division by a very healthy 6 games when they picked up Lee, the acquisition only made them stronger as Cole Hamels has not been the staff ace they had hoped for this year.

Here’s a little comparison of Sabathia and Lee’s first 5 games with their new National League teams:

4 WINS 5
1.82 ERA 0.68
.209 OPP BAT AVG .175
10 WALKS 6

Sabathia finished the season with a record of 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and 7 complete games with 3 shutouts. Can’t wait to see how Lee finishes off the season.