It's amazing how a few weeks can change so much. After riding high through the majority of August and taking a game and a half lead in the Wild Card race, the Rays have gone 5-5 over their last 10 games and have fallen back into the pack. They're still close to the top -- they're a mere half game behind the Orioles for the second Wild Card slot -- and the division isn't out of the question either (4 games back), but this race is going to come right down to the wire. There are currently five teams within four games of a Wild Card spot, so this is anyone's game.
With Niemann starting this weekend, the Rays have their full team together (well...minus S-Rod, I guess), so the only question is how strong they can finish the year. Will the offense come together enough? Will their pitching continue to carry the team? Here's hoping last night helps kick start them into a good series against the Blue Jays this weekend.
- Joe Maddon is trying to keep people from piling on Carlos Pena and blaming the Rays' offensive struggles on him. It's definitely true that Pena has been a disappointment, but to be fair, we were all banking on a prayer by expecting him to be a big offensive presence. He still has upside and hopefully he can get hot down the stretch, but to those that remember his 2010 season, this isn't that outrageous an outcome. We were hoping that Los had a bit left in the tank, and it looks more and more like that's not true.
- The Orioles are throwing just about everything at the wall to keep themselves in the playoff hunt -- including promoting Manny Machado and signing Randy Wolf -- but they are drawing the line at calling up top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy. He's still only 19 years old and has had some command struggles in Double-A, so kudos to the Orioles for having the restraint to keep him down this September.
- For those of you that missed the news yesterday, there's a bit new stat at FanGraphs: Fielding Dependent Pitching (FDP). In short, FanGraphs is quantifying all the aspects of pitching / run prevention that don't get accounted for under their typical FIP-based WAR, so we can decide exactly how much credit we want to give pitchers for preventing hits and allowing runners to score. There's a good discussion at The Book Blog too, which I'd recommend reading.
- Dioner Navarro has hit two home runs for the Reds in only four starts? What is the world coming to?
- Is Stephen Strasburg wearing down? Dan Brooks looks at the PITCHF/x data and gives his impression.