Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Can the Leader be Caught?

We're down to the homestretch of the season, and for all practical purposes, we're down to three teams with a chance to win it all. Which lends the question, besides why your humble author is guilty of putting up pictures that are relevant only for entertainment purposes: while It's Enrico Palazzo has held the lead for over two months now, does anyone have a realistic chance to catch them? Let's start with the standings as of September 11:

It's Enrico Palazzo-----91.5
Le Dupont Torkies-------85
Hand Banana------------84

To do this somewhat analytically, let's start by looking at each of the two challengers to the top spot and see if they can make up the necessary ground.

Hand Banana: As noted somewhat in my mid-season review, the talent on this squad has pulled through, leaving them in a nice 3rd place spot and in striking distance of the lead. They're currently in first place in R and RBI, making any gains there literally impossible. They're in second place in SBs and about 45 behind the leader, meaning they've maxed out their gain there as well. They're 5 HRs behind Jon for 2nd place in dingers, but only 3 ahead of the 4th place squad. At best this is a wash for also no gain. Which leaves OBP, where they're 0.001 behind two squads tied for 4th place. Seems easy, right? Well, maybe. Given the fact that they're already had roughly 5000 PAs for the season, the team would need to have a collective OBP of .377 for the rest of the season to make a jump of 2 points. That's a lot to ask. So let's split the difference and say they gain 1 spot here. Offensive gain: +1 point.

On the pitching side of the ledger, this squad is pretty much locked into their slots on Saves and ERA. They're only 7 K's behind Sexy Rexy, but he's still throwing heat daily with Oliver!, Snell, Halladay, Zito and some nice relievers. They'll be lucky to make up that point. They're tied with Jon in the Wins department, and his starters have given up on the year, so give them the half point here. The team two wins ahead of them, Tessio's Revenge, just lost Bonderman for the year and has Noah Lowry as their best starter, so let's even say they catch them for 5th place and another gain. Which leaves the amorphous and unpredictable category of WHIP, where we find this squad tied with our Newcomer for 9th and a hundredth of a point behind the next team. To drop that point would require a WHIP of 1.25 for the rest of the season---not impossible, but not exactly something you can bank on the way this team's pitching has been all year. Let's be nice and give them a half point for breaking the tie. Pitching gain: +2 points

Final tally--Hand Banana, 87 points, 89 if everything breaks well.

Le Dupont Torkies: We now come to our defending champs, who have had a rollercoaster year. Have they peaked? Maybe. They have zero shot of gaining a point in runs and are going nowhere in OBP, but are a mere RBI behind Hand Banana for the top spot, that's a placing they could gain. They're 4 SBs from gaining a deuce in steals; if they don't get these, you can point directly to the Utley injury as the straw that ruined this team's year. Still, I like them to make up that ground in the last month. Infinitely more intriguing is the fact that they're a homer behind both IEP! and Tessio, who are tied at 169 dingers. Given they've got the best dinger-ific lineup of the troika, I like them to gain both points here. Offensive gain: +3 points.

That's it for the good news, because if you're inclined, take a look at the pitching side of the ledger. There are NO places for this team to go up, and a small chance they'll lose a point here. We'll just call it a wash and call it a day.

Final tally---Le Dupont Torkies: 88 points, 90 points if all breaks correctly.

Which means that as currently constituted, both squads are going to need IEP to regress a little bit. Can this be done? Let's break it down by each category:

Runs: The team below them trails them by 48 runs. Nope.
HR: As mentioned, they're tied with Ironhead and a dinger ahead of the Torkies. They could lose 1 1/2 points here, they could gain a 1/2 point here. Let's say they lose 1/2 a point to be safe and argumentative.
RBI: Jake could catch them for a spot, as he's only 5 behind. However, he's rightfully celebrating the birth of his beautiful new child, so that's just not gonna happen.
SB: Jose Reyes has a better chance of coughing up his title than IEP.
OBP: Not happening. At worst, we're looking at -1 1/2 on offense, and less is likely.

Wins: Nope.
Saves: Nope.
ERA: Nope.
WHIP: Nope.
K's: There's an outside chance Alex re-rallies from his amazingly disappointing second half and snares a point here. That's wishcasting a bit though. I like no change here either.

Final Tally: 90 points, at worst, we're looking at 88.5 here.

So what's the ultimate conclusion? The leaders are in great shape, but have clinched nothing. The defending champs are still in it, but need some help. Hand Banana (the '05 champs), need double help--not only to have things break well for them, but for both teams in front of them to regress. I'd call it unlikely, but not impossible.

All in all, it actually means for a change we have a September that's meaningful in the league for the race to win it all, which has been a rarity to date. How refreshing.

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