Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Quiz: Every Yankee to Appear in the Postseason since 1995

With the season approaching, let's step into the way-back machine for a moment. The Yankees have enjoyed an incredible run of success that has resulted in 17 playoff berths in 19 years. Since 1995, there have been 96 position players and 80 pitchers that have appeared in a postseason game for the Yankees. How many can you name? Will we be adding any names to this list in October?

This was made on the great quiz website Sporcle. Here's the non-embedded version of the quiz.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Making the Opening Day Start with Three Different Teams

David Branson, the man behind the terrific baseball Twitter account @obxleatherman, dropped this interesting note on Nolan Ryan today.

Ryan is the only pitcher to make three Opening Day starts for three different franchises. Tom Seaver and Dennis Martinez almost did it, but Seaver needed to make a third opening start for the White Sox and El Presidente needed to do the same with Baltimore.

Who has opened a team's campaign on the mound for the most franchises? Hall of Famers Bert Blyleven and Gaylord Perry both did it with five teams.

Over last 100 years there have been 41 pitchers to make at least one Opening Day start for at least three different franchises The Baseball-Reference Play Index box score data goes back to 1914, but it's hard to imagine someone from way back then getting the nod for three different teams anyway.

Pitcher Opening Day GS
Tom Seaver 16 11 Mets 3 Reds 2 White Sox
Jack Morris 14 11 Tigers 1 Twins 2 Blue Jays
Randy Johnson 14 6 Mariners 6 Diamondbacks 2 Yanks
Roger Clemens 13 8 Red Sox 1 Blue Jays 4 Yanks
Bert Blyleven 12 6 Twins 1 Rangers 2 Pirates 2 Indians 1 Angels
Dennis Martinez 11 2 Orioles 6 Expos 3 Indians
Fergie Jenkins 11 7 Cubs 2 Rangers 2 Red Sox
Pete Alexander 11 4 Phillies 5 Cubs 2 Cardinals
Rick Sutcliffe 9 2 Indians 5 Cubs 2 Orioles
Nolan Ryan 9 3 Angels 3 Astros 3 Rangers
Gaylord Perry 9 1 Giants 4 Indians 1 Rangers 2 Padres 1 Mariners
Livan Hernandez 9 1 Marlins 3 Giants 1 Expos/3 Nats 1 Twins
Rick Reuschel 7 4 Cubs 1 Pirates 2 Giants
Bobo Newsom 7 3 Browns 1 Senators 2 Tigers 1 Athletics
Kevin Millwood 7 2 Phillies 4 Rangers 1 Orioles
Jon Lieber 7 2 Pirates 3 Cubs 2 Phillies
Jimmy Key 7 3 Blue Jays 3 Yanks 1 Orioles
Ned Garver 7 4 Browns 2 Tigers 1 Athletics
Kevin Brown 7 1 Rangers 2 Marlins 1 Padres 3 Dodgers
Early Wynn 6 2 Senators 2 Indians 2 White Sox
Dennis Leonard 6 4 Senators 1 Phillies 1 Cubs
Sad Sam Jones 6 1 Red Sox 1 Yanks 1 Senators 3 White Sox
Wes Ferrell 6 2 Indians 3 Red Sox 1 Senators
John Burkett 6 3 Giants 1 Marlins 1 Rangers 1 Braves
Mike Torrez 5 1 Expos 2 Athletics 1 Red Sox 1 Mets
Terry Mulholland 5 3 Phillies 1 Giants 1 Cubs
Pete Harnisch 5 2 Astros 1 Mets 2 Reds
Curt Davis 5 2 Phillies 1 Cardinals 2 Dodgers
Andy Benes 5 3 Padres 1 Cardinals 1 Diamondbacks
Jerry Reuss 4 2 Pirates 1 Dodgers 1 White Sox
Jack Quinn 4 2 Orioles 1 Red Sox 1 Dodgers
Jerry Koosman 4 1 Mets 2 Twins 1 White Sox
Ken Hill 4 1 Cardinals 2 Rangers 1 Angels
Mudcat Grant 4 2 Indians 1 Twins 1 Expos
David Cone 4 1 Mets 1 Blue Jays 2 Yankees
Tim Belcher 4 2 Dodgers 1 Royals 1 Angels
Bill Wight 3 1 White Sox 1 Red Sox 1 Orioles
David Wells 3 1 Blue Jays 1 White Sox 1 Red Sox
Danny Jackson 3 1 Royals 1 Reds 1 Cubs
Waite Hoyt 3 1 Yankees 1 Dodgers 1 Pirates
Erik Bedard 3 1 Orioles 1 Mariners 1 Pirates

Bartolo Colon (Indians/Angels) would make this list in a few weeks, but Jon Niese is slated to open the season for the Mets with Colon behind him in the two spot. Tim Hudson (A's/Braves) is new to the Giants, but Madison Bumgarner is lined up for their opener. Perhaps Johan Santana (Twins/Mets) can pull a miracle and not only make the Orioles out of spring training, but be tabbed as the ace.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Dodgers, PECOTA, and Leading the Majors in Wins by A Lot

The Baseball Prospectus PECOTA projected standings are out and the system really loves the Los Angeles Dodgers. These projection systems are typically pretty conservative, but this has the Dodgers finishing 98-64, nine games better than the majors' second-best team, the Tampa Bay Rays (89-73).

It would be quite unusual for only one team to reach the 90-win mark. We haven't seen a full season with even three or fewer 90-win teams since 1968. 11 teams got there last year so you can count on at least a few of the eight teams projected to win 87-89 to tack on some more W's.

The last time a team lead the majors by nine or more games was 2001, when the Mariners broke the A.L. wins record with 116. The A's were a distant second with 102 victories, and since they were also in the A.L. West, they were merely a wild-card playoff entrant.

The majors' best team has led the field by nine or more games 18 times, but it's only happened six times since World War II.

Year MLB Leader Wins 2nd in MLB Wins GB MLB Leader Finish
2001 Mariners 116 Athletics 102 14 Lost ALCS
1995 Indians 100 Braves 90 10 Lost World Series
1986 Mets 108 Astros 96 12 Won World Series
1975 Reds 108 Athletics 98 10 Won World Series
1969 Orioles 109 Mets 100 9 Lost World Series
1967 Cardinals 101 Red Sox 92 9.5 Won World Series
1944 Cardinals 105 Pirates 90 14.5 Won World Series
1940 Reds 100 Tigers 90 10.5 Won World Series
1939 Yankees 106 Reds 97 10.5 Won World Series
1938 Yankees 99 Cubs 89 10 Won World Series
1936 Yankees 102 Giants 92 10.5 Won World Series
1932 Yankees 107 Athletics 94 13 Won World Series
1927 Yankees 110 Pirates 94 16 Won World Series
1907 Cubs 107 Tigers 92 14 Won World Series
1906 Cubs 116 Giants 96 20 Lost World Series
1905 Giants 105 Pirates 96 9 Won World Series
1904 Giants 106 Americans 95 11.5 No World Series
1902 Pirates 103 Athletics 83 18.5 No World Series

The 1995 strike-shortened season was only 144 games, so the 100-win Indians were on pace to win 112.5 games over a full season. The Braves were on pace to reach the century mark as well, but 11 games behind Cleveland. Over 162 games, the Indians' gap grows by one game.

**A short-season honorable mention goes to the 1919 Reds. Cincy's win total outpaced the White Sox 96-88, just missing this list. But a 140-game slate due to World War I meant that over a full season, the Reds were on pace to pick up an extra game in Chicago. The Reds are slept on as a historically great team because of the Black Sox scandal, but maybe they would have won fair and square anyway. Over a 154-game season, the Reds win 105 or 106 games (to the White Sox 96 or 97). Cincinnati even had a better run differential than the Pale Hose (+176 to +133).

With 98 wins, the Dodgers are projected to lead the National League by ten games. The Cardinals and Nationals are slated to take the other two divisions, but way behind L.A. at 88-74. How often has a team won its league by double digits? Much more often. 48 times, including five teams that also appear in the above list (1906 Cubs, 1932 Yanks, 1944 Cards, 1986 Mets, 2001 M's).

Year AL/NL Leader Wins 2nd in League Wins GB Playoffs
2005 Cardinals 100 Braves 90 10 Lost in NLCS
2001 Mariners 116 Athletics 102 14 Lost in ALCS
1998 Yankees 114 Red Sox 92 22 Won World Series
1995 Indians 100 Red Sox 86 14 Lost World Series
1988 Athletics 104 Twins 91 13 Lost World Series
1986 Mets 108 Astros 96 12 Won World Series
1984 Tigers 104 Blue Jays 89 15 Won World Series
1975 Reds 108 Pirates 92 15.5 Won World Series
1970 Orioles 108 Twins 98 10 Won World Series
1970 Reds 102 Pirates 89 13 Lost World Series
1969 Orioles 109 Twins 97 12 Lost World Series
1968 Tigers 103 Orioles 91 12 Won World Series
1967 Cardinals 101 Giants 91 10.5 Won World Series
1958 Yankees 92 White Sox 82 10 Won World Series
1955 Dodgers 98 Braves 85 13.5 Won World Series
1953 Dodgers 105 Braves 92 13 Lost World Series
1947 Yankees 97 Tigers 85 12 Won World Series
1946 Red Sox 104 Tigers 92 12 Lost World Series
1944 Cardinals 105 Pirates 90 14.5 Won World Series
1943 Yankees 98 Senators 84 13.5 Won World Series
1943 Cardinals 105 Reds 87 18 Lost World Series
1941 Yankees 101 Red Sox 84 17 Won World Series
1940 Reds 100 Dodgers 88 12 Won World Series
1939 Yankees 106 Red Sox 89 17 Won World Series
1937 Yankees 102 Tigers 89 13 Won World Series
1936 Yankees 102 Tigers 83 19.5 Won World Series
1932 Yankees 107 Athletics 94 13 Won World Series
1931 Athletics 107 Yankees 94 13.5 Lost World Series
1931 Cardinals 101 Giants 87 13 Won World Series
1929 Athletics 104 Yankees 88 18 Won World Series
1929 Cubs 98 Pirates 88 10.5 Lost World Series
1927 Yankees 110 Athletics 91 19 Won World Series
1923 Yankees 98 Tigers 83 16 Won World Series
1918 Cubs 84 Giants 71 10.5 Lost World Series
1917 Giants 98 Phillies 87 10 Lost World Series
1914 Braves 94 Giants 84 10.5 Won World Series
1913 Giants 101 Phillies 88 12.5 Lost World Series
1912 Red Sox 105 Senators 91 14 Won World Series
1912 Giants 103 Pirates 93 10 Lost World Series
1911 Athletics 101 Tigers 89 13.5 Won World Series
1910 Athletics 102 Highlanders 88 14.5 Won World Series
1910 Cubs 104 Giants 91 13 Lost World Series
1907 Cubs 107 Pirates 91 17 Won World Series
1906 Cubs 116 Giants 96 20 Lost World Series
1904 Giants 106 Cubs 93 13 No World Series
1903 Americans 91 Athletics 75 14.5 Won World Series
1902 Pirates 103 Superbas 75 27.5 No World Series

We'll likely see several teams win 90+ games so perhaps the Dodgers won't run away and hide. But there's also a chance that L.A. could outperform their projection and go north of 100 wins. It's something to keep an eye on as we go through the season.

By the way, here are the projected postseason matchups based on the PECOTA standings:

American League
Wild Card: Los Angeles Angels (87-75) at Boston Red Sox (88-74)
ALDS: Winner plays Tampa Bay Rays (89-73)
ALDS: Detroit Tigers (88-74) vs. Oakland Athletics (88-74)

National League
Wild Card: Atlanta Braves (84-78) at San Francisco Giants (87-75)
NLDS: Winner plays Los Angeles Dodgers (98-64)
NLDS: Washington Nationals (88-74) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (88-74)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Seattle vs. Denver in the Postseason

Super Bowl XLVIII should be fantastic as the Broncos and Seahawks will meet in the fifth post-merger Super Bowl between the league's top scoring offense and top scoring defense.

SB (Year) #1 Offense #1 Defense Result
1978 (XIII) Cowboys Steelers Steelers 35-31
1984 (XIX) Dolphins 49ers 49ers 38-16
1989 (XXIV) 49ers Broncos 49ers 55-10
1990 (XXV) Bills Giants Giants 20-19
2013 (XLVIII) Broncos Seahawks ???

It's worth noting that the first Super Bowl featured the NFL's top defense (Packers) and the AFL's top offense (Chiefs). Super Bowl IV saw the AFL's top defense (Chiefs) take on the NFL's best offense and defense (Vikings).

This will be the second Super Bowl between the top offense and top defense in yards allowed. The Bucs (top D) rocked the Raiders (top O) in Super Bowl XXXVII. 

This year's Super Bowl participants were longtime division rivals. The expansion Seahawks joined the AFC West in 1976, but switched to the NFC after the 2001 season. We've had one Seattle-Denver meeting in the NFL postseason, and when we look at other sports there are also three meetings from the NBA.

Year Round Seattle Denver Result
1983 Wild Card Seahawks Broncos 31-7 Seahawks
Year Round Seattle Denver Result
1978 West Finals SuperSonics Nuggets 4-2 SuperSonics
1988 First Round SuperSonics Nuggets 3-2 Nuggets
1994 First Round SuperSonics Nuggets 3-2 Nuggets

1983 Wild Card

With new head coach Chuck Knox, the Seahawks went 9-7 to reach the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The team was buoyed by a midseason quarterback switch from Jim Zorn to Dave Krieg. The Broncos, with rookie QB John Elway, also went 9-7 to sneak into the postseason as well. The AFC Wild Card game would be on Christmas Eve at the Kingdome.

Seattle got on the board first in the opening quarter with Krieg's 17-yard touchdown pass to Steve Largent. Running back Curt Warner (not to be confused with Kurt Warner) carried the load though, running the ball on six of the drive's eight plays. Denver started Steve DeBerg at quarterback, and he tied the game with a 13-yard strike to Jesse Myles.

In the second quarter, DeBerg threw a pick deep in Seattle territory. Cornerback Kerry Justin's long return led to the period's only score, Norm Johnson's 37-yard field goal. Down 10-7 right before halftime, Denver missed another chance to take the lead when Gerald Willhite fumbled at the 5-yard line. The second half was all Seahawks.

On Seattle's first drive after the break, two deep passes by Krieg set up his 5-yard touchdown throw to Pete Metzelaars that made it 17-7. The host's next drive resulted in another score, this one on Krieg's 18-yard pass to Paul Johns on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Elway relieved DeBerg in the final stanza and played well, (10-for-15, 123 yards) but it was too late. David Hughes wrapped up the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown run to close out a 31-7 Seahawks victory.

Krieg was 12-for-13 for 200 yards passing. Excluding those that threw only one pass, he is one of four players to achieve a perfect 158.3 passer rating in a postseason game.

Player Age Date ▴ Tm Opp Result Round Day Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A
Don Meredith 29-258 1967-12-24 DAL CLE W 52-14 Divisional Sun 11 13 84.62% 212 2 0 158.3 16.31 19.38
Terry Bradshaw* 28-108 1976-12-19 PIT @ BAL W 40-14 Divisional Sun 14 18 77.78% 264 3 0 158.3 14.67 18.00
Dave Krieg 25-065 1983-12-24 SEA DEN W 31-7 Wild Card Sat 12 13 92.31% 200 3 0 158.3 15.38 20.00
Peyton Manning 27-286 2004-01-04 IND DEN W 41-10 Wild Card Sun 22 26 84.62% 377 5 0 158.3 14.50 18.35
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/20/2014.

In the divisional round, the Seahawks traveled to Miami and pulled out a fourth-quarter comeback against rookie Dan Marino and the Dolphins. Seattle reached the AFC title game, but they were blitzed by the eventual champion Raiders in Los Angeles, 30-14.

With playoff games against fellow AFC West teams Denver and L.A., those Seahawks are one of four teams to play two division rivals in one postseason. The full list:

1982 Dolphins - beat Patriots in Wild Card, beat Jets in AFC Championship
1983 Seahawks - beat Broncos in Wild Card, lost to Raiders in AFC Championship
1985 Patriots - beat Jets in Wild Card, beat Dolphins in AFC Championship
1997 Buccaneers - beat Lions in Wild Card, lost to Packers in Divisional


1978 West Finals

With stars David Thompson and Dan Issel, Larry Brown guided the Nuggets to 48 wins and the Midwest Division crown. The SuperSonics got off to a 5-17 start, axed coach Bob Hopkins, replaced him with Lenny Wilkens and went 42-18 the rest of the way. Denver edged the Bucks in seven games to reach the West Finals. Their opponent would be the Sonics, who beat the Lakers in the first round before upsetting top-seeded defending-champion Portland.

Denver opened the series with a home victory, but Seattle took Game Two on the road to even the set. The Sonics took control on home court, using fourth-quarter surges to earn wins in the next two games and hold a 3-1 advantage. They missed an opportunity to clinch in Denver in the fifth game when Thompson scored 35 points and Issel added 27 to keep the Nuggets alive. But Game Six back in Seattle was a blowout, with Downtown Freddie Brown scoring 26 and Gus Williams scoring 24 in the Sonics' 123-108 win.

It was on to the NBA Finals, where they played another upstart squad, Wes Unseld's Washington Bullets. The two sides traded wins through the first six contests, setting up a winner-take-all seventh game in Seattle. The Bullets held off a late Sonics comeback and won 105-99. It's the last time a road team won Game Seven of the NBA Finals. The Sonics would get their revenge a year later, winning an NBA Finals rematch, 4-1.

1988 First Round

Alex English led the league's highest-scoring offense as the Nuggets won 54 games and earned the two seed in the West. The Sonics reached the playoffs as the seven seed, but despite being ten games worse in the standings, they gave Denver a scare in the first round.

Denver used a 42-point fourth quarter to earn a narrow victory in the opener, but Seattle took back home-court advantage with a blowout win two nights later. Tom Chambers scored a game-high 34 points in Game Three, but his Sonics fell by 11 at home. All-Star Xavier McDaniel scored 27 for Seattle in Game Four to tie up the series.

Game Five belonged to the Nuggets. English, Fat Lever, Danny Schayes and Michael Adams all scored more than 20 points in Denver's 115-96 win.

In the next round against third-seeded Dallas, the Nuggets were tied 2-2 after four games, but the Mavericks won the next two to reach the West Finals for the first time in franchise history.

1994 First Round

This was the first time in NBA history that an eight seed knocked off a one seed in the first round of the playoffs. The Gary Payton-Shawn Kemp-Detlef Schrempf SuperSonics went 63-19 and became the 15th team to win 63 games in a season (it's been done 12 times since). The Nuggets barely tallied a winning record, going 42-40.

It looked as if Seattle would make quick work of the Nuggets, blowing out Denver by 24 in the first game and winning by double digits again in the second. The Nuggets avoided a sweep with an easy win in Game Three, thanks in part to 31 points from Reggie Williams and Dikembe Mutombo's 19-point, 13-rebound effort. LaPhonso Ellis posted a 27-17 line in Game Four as the Nuggets outscored the Sonics 12-3 in overtime force a deciding fifth game back in Seattle. Denver showed heart in hanging with the league's best, but they were going back to Key Arena, where the Sonics went 37-4 during the regular season, plus the two easy wins to start this series.

Behold, NBC's open for Game Five, featuring Dick Enberg and Roundball Rock.

After more than 47 minutes, the Nuggets and Sonics were all even. In the final moments, LaPhonso Ellis pushed visiting Denver into the lead.

The Sonics needed some last-second heroics to force overtime. Kendall Gill grabbed Gary Payton's air ball and tied the game at 88 with 0.5 left. Dikembe Mutombo's final shot was too late and five more minutes were required.

That seemed to be Denver's best chance. Seattle looked in control in the extra period, forcing 24-second violations on the first two Nuggets possessions and leading 92-90 two minutes in. 

After Shawn Kemp set up Payton for a go-ahead bucket, Reggie Williams gave Denver the lead with a three-pointer, only for Kemp to score to put Seattle in front again, 94-93. But despite committing yet another shot-clock violation, the Nuggets recovered on defense, shutting out the Sonics for the rest of the game.

Ellis' three-point play made it 96-94 Nuggets. Mutombo followed with a block of Detlef Schrempf and Williams stole it from Payton on the next Seattle set. Still, a fourth 24-second violation gave the Sonics the ball back with 32 seconds left.

Mutombo made his eighth block of the game, this one of Kemp, to preserve the two-point lead. Two Robert Pack free throws later, it was 98-94 and the Nuggets closed out the shocking upset.

The image of an ecstatic Mutombo laying on the court with the ball is the indelible image of this series. It surely is the biggest Denver-Seattle sports moment, at least until Sunday night.