Saturday, September 29, 2012

Baseball Streaks in Regular Season's Final Days

With only five days left (including today) in Major League Baseball's regular season, a number of hot and cold streaky performances are adding to the excitement down the stretch.

The Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera is threatening to become the first Triple Crown winner in either league since 1967. As of Saturday morning, he leads the American League in batting average (.327, to .322 for his nearest competitor) and runs batted in (133, with his closest rival at 125). Cabrera's 42 home runs put him one behind the leader, Texas's Josh Hamilton. However, Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion also has 42 homers and there are players with 41 and 40. Thus, a homer outburst by any of Cabrera's rivals could sink his Triple Crown hopes. Here's a link to's baseball statistics page, for monitoring the situation. As can be seen on this page of Cabrera's personal statistics, he has raised his performance in some categories from before the All-Star break (taken as a rough marker of the season's halfway point) to after. Before the break, he had 18 homers in 343 at-bats; after the break, he's hit 24 round-trippers in only 262 AB. His batting average is also somewhat higher post- than pre-All Star break (.332 to .324). However, in the past seven days, he has hit only .226 and homered only once. He had a recent 0-for-8 slump that he ended on Thursday. Stay tuned!

The Pittsburgh Pirates, whose bid to end their streak of 19 straight seasons with a losing (sub-.500) record we've been following, are now 76-81. The best they can do is finish 81-81. It wouldn't be a winning record, but it would be a non-losing mark. Honestly, though, it seems highly unlikely the Pirates can win out the rest of the way, so their streak of losing seasons is almost certain to reach 20.

Last night's opener of a series between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Chicago White Sox featured teams going in the opposite direction. The White Sox had lost 8 of their last 9 to fall behind Detroit in the AL Central standings (with virtually no hope for a wild-card path to the playoffs), whereas the Rays had won 8 straight to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Sox won last night's game, however, by a 3-1 score. The win keeps Chicago in contention for the division title, 1 game behind the Tigers.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are keeping the pressure on the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland A's, the teams currently positioned for the AL's two wild-card slots. The Angels, having won 25 of their last 35, are only 2 games behind the O's and A's in the wild-card standings. The Angels' talent -- free-agent superstar acquisition Albert Pujols, top youngsters Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout, and stellar pitchers Jered Weaver and Zack Greinke (a late-season acquisition) -- make them a team no one wants (potentially) to face in the playoffs.

The Chicago Cubs are ending a dismal season in a dismal way, dropping 10 of their last 11 games. One small measure of glory for the Cubs was the immaculate fielding of second-baseman Darwin Barney, who had a major streak going for consecutive error-free games. However, after tying the record for his position at 141 straight games without an error, he made one last night!

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