Posted on: August 3, 2011 1:11 pm

So you're saying there's a chance?

I understand not giving up hope, especially with two months to go.

I understand that weird things can happen in the final two weeks of a baseball season, let alone the final two months. I saw the 2006 and 2009 Tigers up close, and the 2008 Mets, too. I saw the 2007 Mets from a distance.

But as I sat at Citi Field on Tuesday, listening to the .500 Mets and Marlins talk about their "pennant race," I found myself nodding to keep from laughing.

Pennant race? Mets? Marlins?

So I went to consult the friendly computers at Cool Standings, which look at these things without laughing. They assured me that the Mets have just a 4.8 percent chance of making the playoffs, with the Marlins even further behind, at 2.2 percent.  (You can use the computers at Baseball Prospectus if you prefer, but I use Cool Standings because it's, well, cool -- and besides, BP gives the Mets and Marlins even less chance at the playoffs).

But here's the question: What exactly does that mean? A 4.8 percent chance is just about 1 in 20. Does that mean that if the Mets were in this spot 20 consecutive years -- and sometimes it feels like they have been -- they would make the playoffs one time?

Perhaps that's true, but when I went back through the entire wild-card era (back to 1995), I couldn't find one team that had a 4.8 percent chance on Aug. 3 and made it. The closest was Phil Garner's 2004 Astros, who were at 9.0 percent on Aug. 3.

Those same cool computers say that the Phillies (99.6 percent), the Yankees (97.6) and the Red Sox (97.3) are all virtual locks to be in the postseason (the fourth highest percentage belongs to the Braves, at 66.1). Your eyes probably tell you the same thing.

But 99.6 isn't 100, as anyone who remembers the 1995 Angels could tell you. Cool Standings wasn't around in '95, but when they went back and calculated the Angels' playoff chances as of Aug. 3 that year, they came up with 99.8 -- and the Angels went 22-34 from that point on and missed the playoffs.

So yes, I am saying there's a chance.

But not for the Mets and Marlins.


A couple of other things that surprised or interested me, and may surprise or interest you:

-- The Tigers, according to the computers, now have far and away the best chance of winning the American League Central. Cool Standings put them at 61.3 percent (just about exactly the same as the Rangers' chance of winning the AL West), while Baseball Prospectus says it's 74.5 percent.

-- The computers totally disagree on the National League West. Cool says the Diamondbacks are now favorites, at 55.8 percent. BP still loves the Giants, at 85.8 percent.

-- The computers come up with the percentages by simulating the rest of the season 1 million times. According to the Cool computer, the only teams that didn't make the playoffs in any of those 1 million simulations were the Orioles and Astros.

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 31, 2011 9:52 pm
Edited on: August 1, 2011 5:26 pm

3 to Watch: The rich don't get richer edition

The Yankees always get what they want, right?

The Yankees and Red Sox get everything. The rich get richer.

Except when they don't.

In a week where the Nationals briefly acted as buyers (sending minor leaguers to the Reds for bench player Jonny Gomes), and where the Indians and the Pirates were both buyers, the Yankees were . . . silent?

And the Red Sox were . . . not silent, but they didn't really get what they wanted.

That's not to say that the Yankees are in trouble, or that the Red Sox are. That's not to say that the Yankees have suddenly become cheap, or that the Red Sox have, either.

Just don't say they always get what they want, or even what they need.

The Red Sox came closer, with their deadline-beating three-team deal for Erik Bedard. Bedard was awful in his Friday night showcase, but he was very good earlier in the season.

But with Monday's news about Clay Buchholz -- CSN New England reported that he has a stress fracture in his back, and could be out for the year -- the Sox were more determined to add a starter than the Yankees were. In fact, CSNNE's Sean McAdam wrote, the Sox actually wanted to add two starters, and settled for one possibly healthy one (Bedard).

The Yankees were much more content to stick with what they have. But should they have been.

The Red Sox are at least solid atop their rotation, with Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. The Yankees can rely on CC Sabathia.

And . . .

That's it, really. The Yankees can rely on CC Sabathia.

They don't have a true No. 2. They have Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon as amazing surprises. They have A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes as amazing enigmas. They have Ivan Nova and perhaps Manuel Banuelos as talented but really untested kids.

But who starts Game 2?

Now you understand why Cliff Lee's decision to sign with the Phillies last December was so potentially devastating to the Yankees.

They were left taking a chance that a top starter would be available on the July market. They were left trying to decide if Ubaldo Jimenez or Hiroki Kuroda (who, in the end, refused to consider any trade) would fit.

"If those are the two guys, I would live with what I have," one rival scout said in the middle of last week. "And then hope that A.J. pitches better, which he probably won't."

Did the Yankees go wrong at the deadline? Only if they don't win.

Check back at the end of September, or sometime in October.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Sabathia pitched like a true ace in July (with a 0.92 ERA in five starts). Now that they passed up on trading for help, they sure as heck need him to pitch like an ace the rest of the way, starting in Yankees at White Sox, Monday night (8:10 ET) at U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox have every bit as big a need for Jake Peavy to pitch well, and more than that for him to stay healthy. The White Sox traded away Edwin Jackson, which gave them bullpen help (in Jason Frasor) and some payroll relief, but it left them with little rotation protection, in case the fragile Peavy gets hurt again.

2. The Tigers' acquisition of Doug Fister understandably got far less attention than the Indians' trade for Jimenez. But Fister serves almost as important a role for the Tigers as Jimenez does for the Indians. The Tigers are 4-16 when they've used a fifth starter, which means that even if Fister is decent, starting in Rangers at Tigers, Wednesday night (7:05 ET) at Comerica Park, he'll be a huge improvement. The Rangers explored adding a starter, too, but settled for making significant bullpen upgrades with Mike Adams and Koji Uehara.

3. The Indians announced Monday that Jimenez won't make his Cleveland debut until Friday in Texas. But Bedard will make his Boston debut a night earlier, in Indians at Red Sox, Thursday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. That series, between one of the American League's true powers and a team that wants to be thought of the same way, sure became a lot more interesting with what the Indians did Saturday night. By Thursday, the Red Sox should know for sure about Buchholz, and maybe Thursday's game will give them some idea whether Bedard will really help.

Posted on: July 30, 2011 7:05 pm

Kuroda off the market, won't waive no-trade

The Yankees can cross Hiroki Kuroda off their list.

The Red Sox, too. And the Rangers? Yeah, you too.

According to sources, Kuroda told Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti on Saturday that he would prefer to just stay put, and will not agree to waive his full no-trade clause to accept any deal. Thus, Kuroda will remain a Dodger for the rest of the season.

Posted on: July 30, 2011 7:05 pm
Edited on: July 30, 2011 7:13 pm

Kuroda off the market, won't waive no-trade

The Yankees can cross Hiroki Kuroda off their list.

The Red Sox, too. And the Rangers? Yeah, you too.

According to sources, Kuroda told Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti on Saturday that he would prefer to just stay put, and will not agree to waive his full no-trade clause to accept any deal. Thus, Kuroda will remain a Dodger for the rest of the season.

On a weak market for starting pitching, Kuroda had become one of the most sought-after trade targets. But there was always doubt that he would accept a deal. Kuroda has a house in Los Angeles, and said after his last start that he couldn't imagine wearing a different uniform.

Even so, many teams showed interest, and sources said that the Dodgers narrowed that list to the Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers within the last two days. But Kuroda eventually said no to any deal.

Posted on: July 29, 2011 10:20 pm

Jimenez: Tigers out, at least for now

The Tigers, trying hard to add a starting pitcher before Sunday's non-waiver deadline, circled back late this week to make another run at Ubaldo Jimenez, the Rockies right-hander who is the best starter on the market.

By Friday night, it appeared that attempt had failed.

According to sources, the Tigers were once again basically out of the Jimenez derby, with the door remaining only slightly open for the Tigers to come back for another try. That appears unlikely, and the Rockies were proceeding with the idea that Jimenez likely gets dealt to the Yankees, the Red Sox or to no one. The Indians and other teams have been involved in Jimenez talks, but as of Friday night, those talks seemed to be quiet.

It's not clear how strong the interest is from either New York or Boston, but both teams could use the rotation upgrade that Jimenez would provide. The Rockies have long regarded the Yankees as being the best fit, because of the wealth of prospects they could choose from, but talks between the two teams haven't been that smooth.

The Red Sox could be more motivated, with the news that Clay Buchholz is headed to California for an exam by noted back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins.

The Tigers were in on Jimenez early, but sources said that the Rockies weren't high on the Tiger prospects. It's believed that they insisted that top prospect Jacob Turner be included in any offer, and Jon Heyman of SI.com reported that they at one point asked for Turner and either Rick Porcello or Max Scherzer.

The Tigers could hardly include one of their big-league starters, since their rotation isn't deep enough, as is. The Tigers are just 4-16 when they use their fifth starter.
Posted on: July 29, 2011 11:26 am
Edited on: July 29, 2011 11:27 am

3 to Watch: The trade deadline edition

The starting pitching market is weak, so when news spread that Erik Bedard would come off the disabled list to start for the Mariners Friday night, scouts around baseball started calling their travel agents.

The Yankees and Red Sox are both expected to have scouts at Safeco Field to see Bedard. The Tigers will be there, too.

Scouts who saw Bedard before he got hurt reported that he looked close to his old self. He's been a successful pitcher when healthy, winning 15 games for the Orioles in 2006 and compiling a 3.64 ERA in 159 career games.

And he hasn't started more than 15 games in a season since 2007 (although Friday's start will be his 16th for the Mariners this year).

The good news on Bedard is that he was on the DL because of a knee problem, rather than an arm problem. Then again, Jarrod Washburn only had a leg problem when the Tigers acquired him from the Mariners in 2009, and he was a disaster in Detroit.

The Washburn experience makes the Tigers hesitant on Bedard, but with their desperation to find a starter and with the weak market, they'll have a scout there, anyway.

It should be quite a weekend around the big leagues, with the non-waiver trade deadline arriving at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. The Tigers will also have a scout watching Orioles at Yankees, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium, with Jeremy Guthrie starting for the O's. Guthrie has long been on the Tigers' list of possible targets, but he has rarely pitched well with Tiger scouts in the house. The Orioles have also been asking a high price for Guthrie, but again, on this market, anything's possible. A.J. Burnett starts for the Yankees, who have also been out shopping for starting pitchers. The Yankees keep hoping that Burnett will look like a true No. 2 starter behind CC Sabathia, but they also keep watching Ubaldo Jimenez, who may be better.

2. Bedard is the main attraction in Rays at Mariners, Friday night (10:10 ET) at Safeco Field, but it's worth noting that Jeff Niemann starts for the Rays. The Rays have told teams that they won't move James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson or David Price, but Niemann and Wade Davis are much more available. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the Rays offered Niemann to the Cardinals as part of a package for Colby Rasmus. The Tigers were offered Niemann, as well. They turned him down once, but they'll get another look when he faces Bedard.

3. Jimenez has always been the biggest name on this market. The Rockies claim that they will keep him if they don't get a great offer, but they would claim that no matter what, right? We'll see by Sunday, or maybe even by the time Jimenez is scheduled to start in Rockies at Padres, Saturday night (8:35 ET) at Petco Park. Aaron Harang, the scheduled starter for San Diego, is also available, and has been a possibility for the Tigers, Indians and others.

Posted on: July 29, 2011 10:30 am
Edited on: July 29, 2011 12:31 pm

Tigers try again for Jimenez

With their once-lengthy list of starting pitching targets shrinking, the Tigers are making another longshot run at top choice Ubaldo Jimenez.

The Tigers were considered to be basically out of the Ubaldo derby, because the Rockies valued other teams' prospects more highly.

But the Tigers are increasingly desperate to improve their rotation, fueling one more run at Jimenez, sources confirmed to CBSSports.com Friday morning.

It still seems unlikely that the Tigers could actually get Jimenez. According to one source with knowledge of the talks, a Tiger package would need to start with Jacob Turner and/or Rick Porcello. Turner is the Tigers' top prospect, and has been declared near-untouchable in trade talks. Porcello is their 22-year-old third starter, and while Jimenez would be an upgrade, the Tigers would still have a hole in their rotation.

Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski has been willing to move "untouchable" prospects in the past, if he likes the return enough. Both Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller were considered untouchable when Dombrowski put them together in a package for Miguel Cabrera at the winter meetings in 2007.

And the Tigers really are desperate for a pitcher. So far this season, they have a 41-23 record when they start Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer or Porcello, a 10-11 record with fourth starter Brad Penny, and a 4-16 record with any of the various pitchers they have used as fifth starters.

The Yankees and Red Sox are better positioned than the Tigers to get Jimenez, because of the value the Rockies put on their prospects. But it's possible that neither of the two American League East powers would budge on the players the Rockies covet, and perhaps that could put the Tigers in position to land Jimenez.

The Rockies continue to say that they won't trade Jimenez at all if they don't get the package they're looking for. The Indians, Reds, Rangers and Blue Jays have all been involved in Jimenez talks.

The Tigers remain interested in Hiroki Kuroda, and to some extent in Jeremy Guthrie and Aaron Harang. There was talk in baseball that they might go after Jason Marquis of the Nationals (one source suggested that the Nats like young Tiger reliever Ryan Perry), but that seems to be a lesser possibility at this point.

The Tigers also plan to have a scout watching Erik Bedard when he comes off the disabled list to start for the Mariners Friday night, but a move for Bedard is also considered unlikely.

The Tigers' renewed interest in Jimenez was first reported by Foxsports.com.

Posted on: July 28, 2011 3:43 pm

In weak pitching market, Kuroda is a star

The fact that Hiroki Kuroda has emerged as one of the biggest names on the starting pitching market tells you all you need to know about that market.

Kuroda is 37 years old. He's a free agent at the end of the year, with very little chance of re-signing with any team he is traded to. He has won just six of his 21 starts this year (and none of his last four). The Dodgers won't just give him away; in fact, they're targeting top prospects for him.

Oh, and he has a full no-trade clause, and there's much doubt (and some debate) about where he'd be willing to go -- if anywhere.

"At this point, I can't imagine myself wearing another uniform," Kuroda told reporters after his start Wednesday night.

Sounds like a perfect guy to go get.

But in a marketplace where the Rockies are holding out for a huge return on Ubaldo Jimenez, where the Rays insist to teams that they won't trade James Shields, where the Mariners won't discuss Felix Hernandez and probably won't even trade Doug Fister ("Zero chance they move him," said one official from an interested team), Kuroda has started to look good.

The Tigers seem to have him at the top of their shrinking wish list, which began with dozens of names and now may be down to Kuroda, Jeremy Guthrie and Aaron Harang.

The Yankees, not thrilled about the price on Jimenez, remain involved on Kuroda.

Same goes for the Red Sox, who are telling teams they are focused on getting a right-handed hitting outfielder, but remain active with both Jimenez and Kuroda.

According to sources, the Dodgers continue to believe that Kuroda will eventually agree to go somewhere, with New York and Boston thought to be his top two picks.

"You'd think he'd be glad to go somewhere where they might score him a run," said one interested scout, noting that the Dodgers have scored just 15 runs in his last nine losses.

The Dodgers remain interested enough in the Tigers that they sent a scout to Grand Rapids, Mich., to see 19-year-old third baseman Nick Castellanos. Castellanos is one of the Tigers' top prospects, and many in the organization doubt that they would move him for Kuroda.

The Tigers don't seem terribly interested in Erik Bedard, the Mariners pitcher who will come off the disabled list to start against the Rays Friday night. Both the Yankees and Red Sox have some interest in Bedard, although obviously that depends on how healthy he looks Friday.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com