This week marks a big change in Major League Baseball. On Tuesday (September 1), teams are allowed to expand their rosters from 25 to up to 40 players. For contending teams, this means more arms in the bullpen and fresh legs to play defence or pinch-run late in games. For those clubs who have faded it’s an opportunity to see exciting prospects get their first taste of the Major Leagues. Baseball fans here in Europe may get the opportunity to check out born-and-bred German player Max Kepler, who may very well join the Minnesota Twins’ big league roster for the first time.
Stay tuned to these developments as well as those discussed below in Week 22:
Pitching mismatch: A year ago, pitcher Alfredo Simon was on top of the world. He was chosen for the All Star game as a member of the Cincinnati Reds and compiled a 15-10 record and a 3.44 ERA. What a difference a year makes. Now with the Detroit Tigers, Simon’s ERA so far this year is a weak 4.89, and he has only gotten worse as the year has progressed. He’s failed to throw a quality start (six inning or more pitched; three runs or fewer allowed) in four of his last five starts. What happened? His luck has run out. Despite the great ERA in 2014, his fielding independent pitching (a stat that is a better indicator of performance, but is scaled like ERA) was a less impressive 4.35.
In other words, we’re seeing the real Alfredo Simon this year. Speaking of the real version of a pitcher, we’re currently enjoying the real thing from the reigning American League Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber. After an iffy first half, Kluber has rattled off two straight solid months, posting a 2.91 ERA in July and a 3.32 ERA in August. Most notably, coming into this week, he had a 1.98 ERA in his last two starts. All this means that when Kluber and his Cleveland Indians host Simon and his Tigers on Saturday, the Indians are well-positioned for victory.
Mile high scoring: Runs will be a plenty this week when the Arizona Diamondbacks visit the Colorado Rockies. Neither team are in post-season contention, but both teams definitely swing the bat well. Arizona is currently tops in the National League in runs per game, while the Rockies are second in the circuit. Of course, both teams play in very offensive friendly stadiums and with this series at Coors Field (number one in all of baseball in runs per game), this series will be full of offensive fireworks.
In particular, I’d look for Wednesday’s contest between these two clubs to keep the scoreboard operator very busy. I like this game in particular because you have two young pitchers who are bound to struggle when playing in Denver. The Diamondbacks’ Chase Anderson has already started three games at Coors this year and is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in 16 innings pitched. His Colorado counterpart, Jon Gray is coming off a particularly horrible start at home. On August 21, he was blitzed for eight hits and seven runs in 1 1/3 innings against the New York Mets.
Game score: For our weekly look at Bill James’ Game Score stat, we’ll stay in the National League West. On Wednesday, look for the Los Angeles Dodgers to prevail at home over the San Francisco Giants. This series is a big one for both teams with the Giants narrowly trailing the Dodgers for the top spot in the division. James’ Game Score, which takes recent and historical data to distill the likely performance of a pitcher into a single score, says that the Dodgers should be big favorites here. (Quick refresher: A Game Score greater than 70 suggests a pitcher will have a dominant performance; a total below 50 means don’t expect a quality start).
Not surprisingly, the Dodgers’ ace starter Clayton Kershaw clocks in with a 78. That alone portends well for the Dodgers, but it’s the spread from his opposing starter Mike Leake that should give particular confidence for the Los Angeles faithful. The Giants starter has a 49 Game Score for this game.