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by Al McMordie - 08/23/2006
After watching the Yankees dismantle the Red Sox this weekend, should we conclude that offense is the key to a pennant run? Nope. The key is still pitching, for September pennant success and eventual October champagne.
Look at the top 7 teams in the American League in ERA: Tigers (3.66 ERA), Athletics (4.11), Angels (4.17), Twins (4.17), Yankees (4.36), Mariners (4.52) and White Sox (4.56). All are in contention for a division title or playoff spot. The Tigers are the top team in the league and have, yes, the best pitching. The faltering Red Sox were bashed by the Yankees and they fell into 11th place in the AL in team ERA. Pitching has been a major problem the last two months for them, which coincided with their slide after a 12-game win streak at the end of June.
You may be surprised to find the Yankees with the 5th best ERA in the league, but the facts don't lie. Another factor tied into successful pitching is free passes. A staff that allows too many walks will not lead to a winning season. The worst 3 teams in the AL in walks allowed: the Royals, Devil Rays and Orioles. They are also three teams going nowhere.
Detroit has the No. 1 pitching and notice they are 71-47 under the total! In fact, the last three weeks the Tigers are 12-3-1 under. They faced the White Sox two weeks ago and all three games went under the total. Good pitching staffs facing each other can mean low scoring games, especially within pennant races. Keep that in mind this week as the Tigers and White Sox square off again this week for a 4-game series. Comerica Park is a pitcher-friendly park, which helps the Tiger pitching staff, and notice Detroit is 35-22 under the total at home.
The National League is a more wide-open race, but the only team that has been very strong is the New York Mets. It should be no surprise that the Mets are first in the NL in pitching. They are also the only team that is a shoe-in to make the postseason! The Mets are currently on a 10-5-1 run under the total.
Oddly, the Colorado Rockies have the second best ERA in the NL, something few of us EVER thought we'd see. It's likely a combination of two factors: Colorado's talented young pitching, plus a humidor that the Rockies use on baseballs before each home game. A humidor is used for cigars to keep them cool and moist. They do the same to baseballs, which explains why home runs are not carrying out of Coors Field as much. Whether you agree or disagree that that should be allowed, the fact is the Rockies are 68-47 under the total and 39-21 under at home!
Finally, the team that has fallen the most is the Atlanta Braves. They will not win the division this season for the first time since 1990, a truly staggering stat. The lack of pitching is the reason, as Atlanta is 11th in the National League in pitching. Which also explains why the Braves are 32-20 over the total at home. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.