We’re now in the final week of the 2012 season, which is hard to believe because it seems like just yesterday that the Yankees opened Yankee Stadium on a balmy April Friday, But, alas, there are just three road and three home dates left for the Yankees, and with six days to go, there are still four divisions and six playoff spots to be locked up…and a lot of other things going on that might make you say hmm over the final week.
Six observations for you to watch over the last six days:
-Looking at the playoff picture, there’s a bizarre symmetry. In the AL, the three 2011 division winners (Yankees, Rangers, Tigers) all lead their divisions with six days left, and the Rays are once again making a late surge out of a seemingly hopeless hole…but in the NL, none of the three 2011 division winners will repeat, and the only “holdover” at the moment is St. Louis – who would be eliminated if not for the second wild card and still has to hold off late surges from Milwaukee or the Dodgers.
-Derek Jeter still has a chance to set a new career high in hits (he needs 11 to tie and 12 to break his mark of 219 in 1999), is four runs shy of his 14th 100-run season, and his 15 homers is one shy of what he hit in 2010 and 2011 combined. He likely won’t pass anyone else on the hits list this year, but there’s still a lot of fun to chase for The Captain in the final six.
-Ichiro has played 156 games this season, and if he doesn’t take a day off the rest of the way, he will finish with 162 games played for the fourth time in his career. Sure, 11 of the 61 games he’s played in New York so far have been games where he came in as a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement, but as you can ask Cal Ripken, the record books don’t count that. Technically, because the Yankees had played less games than the Mariners when he was traded, Ichiro could have played in 164 games this year…and given that he’s played 156 or more in 11 of his 12 MLB seasons now, that really doesn’t even look weird.
-The record for strikeouts in a season is 223 (Mark Reynolds, 2009), and the record for combined strikeouts by a pair is 410 (Reynolds and Adam Dunn in 2010). As of Friday, the duo of Dunn (212) and Curtis Granderson (189) has 401 with each having six games left to play, meaning both “records” are within reach. Fun strikeout fact: Bobby Bonds set a Major League record in 1969 by whiffing 187 times. He broke that record by fanning 189 times in 1970, and that mark stood until Adam Dunn struck out 195 times in 2004. Today, the former total is 16th all-time, and Granderson’s next K will push the latter to 14th. Who says this is the live ball era?
-Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown chase has been in the headlines for a couple weeks now, and as of Friday morning, he leads the AL in both batting and RBI and is just one home run behind Josh Hamilton. But has anyone noticed that Ryan Braun is right there with him? Braun leads the NL in homers (41) and RBI (110), and while he is .014 behind Buster Posey in batting average (.333 to .319), that’s certainly not insurmountable. His numbers will end up better than those of his 2011 MVP season, and if Milwaukee surges into the playoffs somehow, don’t be surprised if he ends up as the MVP again.
-Speaking of NL MVP, Braun’s potential aside, could there be a more wide-open race? Of the four major MLB awards, probably seven of the eight races are likely between two or three men tops, but NL MVP could be anyone. The frontrunners are Braun and Posey, whose .333-23-100 line paces the Giants in all three categories by a wide margin, but you have Andrew McCutchen ( .332-30-93, 19 SB), a couple of Cardinals, maybe a Jay Bruce or Ryan Zimmerman type right behind…oh, and although most don’t like to vote for pitchers, you have Craig Kimbrel putting up ridiculous video game numbers in Atlanta and R.A. Dickey with 28 percent of the Mets’ wins and numbers that have him at or near the top of every major pitching category. I’d love to see all the ballots for that one.