Home MLB'Weekly' Hit Ground Ball Weekly Hit Ground Ball: ‘E’ Numbers and Jeter

Weekly Hit Ground Ball: ‘E’ Numbers and Jeter

by Matt Smith

‘E’ numbers provoke much examination, scrutiny, comment and concern.  In Europe, such deliberations revolve around artificial food additives.  Companies are now proudly proclaiming the lack of artificial additives in their products, blind to the fact that their statements make loyal customers question why they weren’t so bold in saying the additives were there in the first place.

Yet in the U.S., concerns over ‘E’ numbers do not relate to food.  It’s far more important than that.  The ‘E’ stands for elimination in sporting competitions and MLB.com’s official standings make fans all too aware of their team’s fate.   

Everyone except for the six current division leaders has an ‘E’ number next to their name.  It tells you how close or far away they are from having no mathematical chance of winning the division they’re in (it doesn’t take the Wild Card into account).  The number is a combination of losses by the team in question and wins by the division leader.  So if a team has an ‘E’ number of 10 at the start of day and they lose their game, it goes down to 9.  If the division leader wins their game, it goes down to 8.  If the team had won and the division leader lost then it would stay at 10 and mentally that’s the toughest part: however hard you try, you never really seem to gain anything.  Twenty-four teams will end with an ‘E’ next to their name and often a good day simply feels like you’re putting off the inevitable.

In the cases of the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals, they wasted little time in getting that inevitable day out of the way.  Both slipped into the ‘E’ category after the games of 1 September.  The Nationals’ 46-87 record left them 32 games behind the Phillies in the NL East.  The Orioles hadn’t yet made sure of compiling a losing season, but their 54-79 record was enough to leave the Yankees out of reach in the seriously tough AL East.

By yesterday, four teams had joined the ‘E’ ranks: Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Toronto.  The Diamondbacks are the biggest surprise of the four considering pre-season expectations in the desert.  Brandon Webb’s injury and step-backs taken by several of their younger players have made this a lost season, although Justin Upton’s 2009 season has raised confidence that he will go on and live up to his outstanding potential.

The A’s and Reds entered yesterday’s games on the dreaded ‘E1’.  Wins over the Twins and Cubs respectively combined with losses by their division leaders (Angels and Cardinals) gave both a stay of execution, but it’s only a matter of time before their seasons are officially over. 

Of course, the division leaders can look at ‘E’ numbers in a much more positive way.  For them, the ‘E’ number of the second-placed team is their ‘magic number’.   The Cardinals need any combination of wins or Cubs losses amounting to eleven for the NL Central to be theirs.  They can count down the number with glee.

Most other teams will probably be better off ignoring it and instead looking forward to Spring Training 2010.

Rockies are rolling again

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Colorado Rockies (‘E’ number of 17) are playing some great baseball right now.  They had won eight in a row before their 3-2 extra innings loss to the Padres last night and are now just three games behind the L.A. Dodgers in the NL West. 

It’s not quite 2007 all over again, we’ll have to wait a long time for another team to go on such an incredible stretch run as the Rockies produced that year, but it’s impressive all the same.  Colorado were 14.5 games behind the hot-starting Dodgers with a 18-28 record when they fired Clint Hurdle and replaced him with former Dodgers and Pirates manager Jim Tracy at the end of May.  I can’t say I’ve ever been a big fan of Tracy, but you can’t argue with the results: the Rockies are 64-33 under his stewardship.

The Dodgers may have won twelve of the fifteen games between the two sides this season, but they know all too well that the Rockies are a big threat to their hopes of retaining their NL West crown.

Jeter: Yankees’ hit king

Another seemingly inevitable feat was achieved this week as Derek Jeter surpassed Lou Gehrig to become the New York Yankees’ all-time hits leader with 2,722.  You don’t need to add much explanation to that sentence to get across the magnitude of the achievement.  Gehrig’s name is one you quickly learn as a newcomer to baseball, not just as a Yankee legend but as a baseball legend. 

It seems incredible that some people were lining up to issue the last rites on Jeter’s career after his 2008 season.  A .300/.363/.408 batting line wasn’t up to his normal standards, but to say that was the beginning of the end was pushing things a bit.  He has truly returned to form this year and it’s not simply been a result of the hitter-friendly new Yankee Stadium.  It may well have added some homers onto his total (twelve of his seventeen so far have come at home), but he’s actually hitting better on the road.

It’s been a memorable season so far for Jeter.  For all his achievements this year, nothing would please him more than earning his fifth World Series ring after nine seasons since his last.  The way the Yankees are playing, you wouldn’t bet against it either.

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Joe Cooter September 13, 2009 - 12:16 pm

What you have to keep in mind is the fact that Gehrig held that record for 72 years. Some of Jeter’s detractors where trying to say that people would claim Jeter was better than Gehrig, which is nonsense since Gehrig and Jeter are two differant types of players that should not be compared. Gehrig was a power hitter while Jeter is a line drive hitter whose job is to get on base. It really isn’t fair to make an apples to oranges comparrison like that.

Joe Cooter September 14, 2009 - 1:55 pm

Well you can add the rays to the ranks of those who have been officially eliminated, atleast ffrom winning their division. With yesterday’s doubleheader loss to the Red Sox the rays were officially eliminated from the division Race. The maximum they can now win is 91 games, which is one less than the Yankees currently have at 92.

Chico September 16, 2009 - 6:08 pm

The Yankees will be eliminated in the playoffs and again prove that just spending money does not even get you into the World Series. This is the Angels year.


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