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October 12, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Divisional series are over in a flash

On both the American and National League sides, the divisional series came and went almost before you knew it. Whereas last year, two of the four such series went a full five games and only one involved a three-game sweep, this year no series went beyond four games, and two of them involved sweeps. Not good news for the TV networks that depend on advertising revenues from MLB postseason games: TBS and Fox Sports. The last time that only 14 games were played in the first round was 2014, and the last time that fewer games was played was in 2009: 13 games. Since my records begin (2002), the average number of games in divisional series is just a tad under four, i.e., 16 games total.

Another peculiarity of this year's divisional series (and also those of last year) is that in all four cases, the deciding game was won by the visiting team. Given the fact that they all ended after Game 3 or Game 4, that's just another way of saying that the team with the initial home field advantage ended up winning, as expected. Besides 2017 and 2018, the only other year in this century in which the visiting team's clubhouse was the one that got the ritual soaking in beer and champagne in all four cases was 2009. That happened three times in Nationals Park: 2012, 2016, and 2017.

Red Sox thrash the Yankees

Where were we? Oh yes, the Yankees forced David Price into an early exit in ALDS Game 2 last Saturday, thereby splitting the first two games in Boston. Two years ago I wrote "David Price['s] performances in recent postseasons (Detroit 2014 and Toronto 2015) have not exactly lived up to the expectations he set during his earlier years with the Tampa Bay Rays." Well, you cou can add Boston 2016 and 2018 to that list. Price was replaced during the second inning after giving up three runs (a home run by Aaron Judge and one by Gary Sanchez), and that was all the Yankees needed in a 6-2 win.

It seemed the Yankees had the momentum heading back to New York, but then the Red Sox came back with a vengeance, trouncing the Bronx Bombers on Sunday night by a score of 16-1. Amazingly, there was only one home run, by Brock Holt, but more importantly, Holt completed the very first cycle (single, double, triple, homer) in the history of MLB postseason games. That was the most runs scored by a team in any postseason game since the Cardinals beat the Rangers 16-7 in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series. Wanna guess the last time a team scored more than 16 in the postseason? ALCS Game 3 in 2004, when the Yankees beat the Red Sox 19-8! I think we all remember what happened next...

But anyway, the Red Sox took an early lead in ALDS Game 4, as Rick Porcello outdueled the Gentle Giant C.C. Sabathia, and were ahead 4-1 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. For some reason their closer Craig Kimbrel got all jittery, walking two batters, hitting another one, and giving up a hit to make it a 4-3 game. I expected Boston's rookie manager Alex Cora to take him out, but Kimbrel stayed and got the job done, barely. And so the Red Sox advanced to the ALCS for the first time since 2013, when they won the World Series.

Dodgers overcome the Braves

After the Dodgers shut out the Braves in the first two games of the NLDS, there wasn't much the Braves could hope for as the series shifted to Atlanta on Sunday. But the Dodgers' pitcher Walker Buehler gave up three walks (one intentional) and a single in the second inning, and then rookie phenom Ronald Acuñ hit a grand slam to give the Braves a sudden 5-0 lead. That changed the whole atmosphere of the series, and fans in Atlanta (or the suburbs thereof) could finally enjoy themselves. The Dodgers came back with two runs in the third and three in the fifth to tie the game, but then Freddie Freeman hit a solo homer in the sixth, and the score stayed 6-5 until the end of the game.

But the elation in Atlanta didn't last long. The Dodgers score a run in the first inning, and only a clutch pinch-hit two-run single by Kurt Suzuki (a former Washington National) kept the crowd animated, as the Braves briefly took a 2-1 lead. But the Dodgers scored two more in the sixth, and three more in the seventh (on a home run by former Oriole Manny Machado), and they held on to win, 6-2. Having won the National League West Division for the sixth year in a row, and making it to the the NL Championship series for the third year in a row, the Los Angeles Dodgers are favored to win their second straight pennant as the next phase begins in Milwaukee tonight.

Brewers sweep the Rockies

Having lost to the L.A. Dodgers in the playoff game to decide the NL West championship, the Colorado Rockies bounced right back and paid the same "favor" to the dazed and confused Chicago Cubs, who expected to cruise through at least the early phase of the postseason. As the NL Divisional Series began in Milwaukee, the home team had a 2-0 lead going into the ninth inning, whereupon the Rockies staged a late rally to send it into extra innings. But in the tenth inning, a single by former Royal Mike Moustakas scored former Marlin Christian Yelich, as the Brew Crew triumphed 3-2. In Game 2 they won 4-0, and in a big embarrassment for fans at Coors Field in Denver, they beat the Rockies 6-0 on Sunday. Yet another quick exit for a team with high hopes and not much else.

FUN FACT: In both of their recent postseason appearances, the Brewers were eliminated by the eventual World Series champions: in the 2008 Divisional series, when the Philadelphia Phillies went on to beat the Dodgers and then the Rays, and in the 2011 League Championship series, when the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Texas Rangers.

Astros sweep the Indians

The Astros dominated the Indians in the first two games of the ALDS in Houston, and things only got worse as the series shifted to Cleveland for Game 3. George Springer hit two home runs in Progressive Field, with his team piling on with six more runs in the eighth inning and one in the ninth. Final score: 11-3. So the Astros are in a good position to defend their American League pennant, and perhaps their World Series title as well. Before last year, they were a wild card team in both 2005 and 2015. In the former year they made it all the way to the World Series, ultimately getting swept by the Chicago White Sox, and in the ALDS of the latter year they lost to the eventual world champion Kansas City Royals.

NL & AL Championship Series begin

Tonight the National League Championship Series got underway in Miller Park, in beautiful Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sheltered from the frigid air outside. Gio Gonzalez, who was pitching for the Nationals just two months ago, faced the Dodgers' ace Clayton Kershaw. Remarkably, neither pitcher lasted even four innings. The Brewers are ahead 5-1 in the top of the fifth... Gio's record in postseason games is spotty (see October 13, 2017, for example), but maybe with a new team he'll do better. I hope so!

Riverfront Stadium fix

Riverfront Stadium

I made a few more tweaks to the Riverfront Stadium diagrams (which had just been updated on August 17), most obvious of which is that the Ohio River is now shown in the upper right corner. The lower-deck diagram now has more detail in the concourse area, showing the inclination of the access ramps. In the 2001 diagram, the location of Great American Ballpark (under construction) is more accurate, the grandstand in right center field extends for one more section (about 20 feet), and the fence in front of the bullpens in right field now has a slight bend; previously, it was straight.

Finally, there is a new diagram, labeled "the site today," showing the street layout where Riverfront Stadium used to stand. Eventually, I plan to do likewise for all other MLB stadiums that have been demolished.

New Rays ballpark?

Courtesy of Mike Zurawski, here is an article about the possibility of a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays in the Ybor City section of Tampa. (That would be across the bay from their current home in St. Petersburg.) One of the main concerns (aside from who's going to pay for it) is making sure that the roof is high enough to avoid awkward bounces by balls hit at a high trajectory. See tampabay.com.

October 3, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Shocker in Wrigley: Cubs are OUT!

Given their large lead in the NL East for most of the season, with the league-best winning percentage until the end, it was surprising enough that the Chicago Cubs had to endure a tie-breaking playoff game against the visiting (upstart) Milwaukee Brewers on Monday. But even with having to play in the National League wild card game against the Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field last night, you would think their home field advantage would count for a little more. Yet somehow the Rockies' Lyle Freeland outdueled Cubs ace Jon Lester, who walked the very first batter he faced and then gave up a double and an RBI sacrifice fly hit by Nolan Arenado. The score remained 1-0 until the eighth inning, when Javier Baez hit a clutch two-out RBI double to tie the game. And the crowd went wild! The game dragged on until after midnight (1:00 AM here in the east, past my bedtime), and with two outs in the top of the 13th inning the Rockies got three straight hits to retake the lead, 2-1. In the bottom of the 13th, all three Cubs batters struck out, and that is how their season ended, on a most abrupt and terribly disappointing note.

Editorial comment: The idea that a team with the best regular season record in their league (tied in this case) could get knocked out in a single postseason game is just one more reason why they really ought to get rid of the second wild card team and go back to the postseason format that existed prior to 2012.

So after playing in different cities (Denver, L.A., Chicago) for three consecutive days, the Rockies get a day of rest and will take on the Brewers in Milwaukee tomorrow night as the National League Divisional Series begin, while the Braves take on the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Tonight the Oakland Athletics take on the heavily favored Yankees in New York, in the American League wild card game. Friendly reminder: In postseason baseball, absolutely anything can happen!

Stadium capacities, 2018

Just like last year (August 20, 2017), I have compiled the current-year seating capacity figures for each of the 30 MLB stadiums and calculated changes in capacity compared to 2017. Changes greater than 1,000 are highlighted in yellow. The fact that six stadiums had large increases without any apparent construction going on suggests that there was some kind of agreement among MLB franchises to include normally closed seating sections in the official numbers, to show the real effective capacity. Oakland Coliseum and Tropicana Field are the two most obvious examples of this. But the big puzzler is Yankee Stadium II, which had 53,345 seats when it first opened in 2009, but now has just 47,309, ranking a paltry seventh among MLB stadiums. This raises the question: Where did those 6,036 missing seats go???

Stadium name2018
Dodger Stadium56,0000
Rogers Centre53,5064,224
Coors Field50,3980
Globe Life Park *49,1151,001
Chase Field48,519-114
Safeco Field47,943467
Yankee Stadium II47,309-2,333
Oakland Coliseum46,7659,675
Oriole Park at Camden Yards45,9710
Busch Stadium III45,5381,563
Angel Stadium *45,0501,800
Citizens Bank Park43,647-4
Tropicana Field42,73511,693
PETCO Park42,445143
Great American Ballpark42,3190
Citi FIeld41,9220
AT&T Park41,9150
Miller Park41,9000
Wrigley Field41,649577
Nationals Park41,313-95
Comerica Park41,297-384
Minute Maid Park41,168-892
SunTrust Park41,149-351
Guaranteed Rate Field *40,6150
Target Field38,649-372
PNC Park38,3620
Kauffman Stadium37,9030
Fenway Park37,731232
Marlins Park36,7420
Progressive Field *35,225174

SOURCE: Box scores published in the Washington Post
* : Name has changed in recent years.

Along with my updated estimates of fair and foul territory (mentioned on Monday), the above data revisions will soon be incorporated into the Stadium statistics page.

October 1, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Wild & crazy end of the 2018 regular season

There were some big surprises toward the end of the 2018 regular season, such as the late charge by the Colorado Rockies and the Milwaukee Brewers into a tie for first place. The L.A. Dodgers had seemed almost unstoppable since August, with the acquisition of Manny Machado (from the Baltimore Orioles) and some of their other stars back from the disabled list. But the Rockies (which had held first place for much of the summer) weren't daunted and forced their back to the top. Likewise, the Milwaukee Brewers somehow caught up to the Chicago Cubs, winning the last seven games of the regular season (not including today). For a while it seemed possible that the Oakland A's could overtake the Yankees in the quest for home field advantage in the wild card game, but the Yankees pulled out of a September slump and almost swept the Red Sox in Fenway Park during the final weekend of regular play.

As befitting the extremely tense final day of the season, all four teams that were contending for a division title (Rockies, Dodgers, Brewers, and Cubs) not only won their games on Sunday, but racked up double-digit run totals. (See the paragraph on the Nats' 12-0 loss to the Rockies below.)

And, as usual, I have prepared a table that will show all the scores of the postseason games, displayed at the bottom of my Baseball blog page. Note that it only appears in full when viewed in normal "desktop" display mode, not in "mobile" display mode, suitable for cell phones. You can also see that table, along with similar ones for the years going back to 2002 (when I started doing this), on the Postseason scores page.

Playoff games in NL West & Central

The upshot of the division races was that both the National League West and Central divisions were tied, requiring playoff games to decide the division champions: the Rockies facing the Dodgers, and the Brewers facing the Cubs.

Today was the first time that two playoff games had to be played to decided who would win the divisions, and it so happened that in both cases the loser automatically gained a postseason berth as a wild card team. The stakes were perhaps low, since the losers would later get another chance, and the play seemed to reflect that. In the early afternoon game, the Brewers and Cubs were tied 1-1 until the eighth inning, when the Brewers rallied for two more, and that proved to be the difference in their 3-1 win. After that, the Rockies played the Dodgers in Los Angeles, and the visitors just couldn't get their bats to connect. The Dodgers took a 5-0 lead into the ninth inning, whereupon their closer Kenley Jansen gave up home runs to the first two batters he faced. But then he got things under control and finished the game (not a save situation) in the 5-0 victory. (Jansen has missed a number of games since August due to a strange heart condition, and did not even travel with his team to Denver when the played the Rockies last month.) So tomorrow, the Rockies and the Cubs will play each other in a genuine elimination game, on the north side of Chicago in beautiful Wrigley Field.

I noticed that former National Daniel Murphy had one hit in four at bats for the Cubs, ending the season with a .299 batting average. Just one more hit and he would reached the .300 mark -- sort of like Max Scherzer did! It was such a tragedy that his knee took so long to heal this year, so that he didn't even start to play with the Nationals until June, and even then he was taking it easy to prevent a re-injury. Who will he sign with next year? What team needs an aging (and expensive) top-notch veteran slugger with perhaps three high-quality years left in him?

The playoff games are considered regular-season games, so each team could use the expanded 40-man roster, whereas once the actual postseason games begin, their rosters will have to go back down to the normal 25 players.

Nats rock the Rockies, then exit quietly

The Washington Nationals headed west for their final series of the 2018 season, landing in the Mile High City of Denver to face the Colorado Rockies. Joe Ross pitched on Friday night, and he lasted five innings, but the four runs he gave up were too much. In the sixth inning, Dave Martinez took a chance on the often shaky pitcher Sammy Solis, who promptly gave up a home run to the only batter he faced, David Dahl. Next! In a disgusting display of wasted chances that was sadly typical of this year as a whole, the Nationals only scored two runs even though they got 12 hits; a two-run triple by Trea Turner accounted for all the Nats' scoring. So would the Nats end this disappointing season with a lame whimper?

Absolutely not! On Saturday they came out blazing, as Juan Soto hit a two-run double in the first inning and Trea Turner hit a two-run homer after Adam Eaton singled in a run in the second inning, giving the Nats a nice 5-0 lead. Stephen Strasburg was pitching, and he was his old masterful self, giving up just two runs over six innings, while striking out seven. He finished the year with 156 strikeouts, and a 10-7 record thanks to this game. The Nats kept piling on more runs in the late innings (they seem to hit better when they don't really need to), and won by a lopsided score of 12-2. That was their 82nd win of the 2018 season, assuring them of a record over .500 for the year.

Having clinched a winning record for the season on Saturday, there really wasn't much left to play for on Sunday. That being the case, Max Scherzer sat it out, contrary to my supposition that he would seize the opportunity try to beat Walter Johnson's record of 305 strikeouts in a season. Instead, the 25-year old Erick Fedde took the mound, and once again was battered and bruised. He impressed me in some games during the summer, but lately he's just not getting it done. The Rockies hit home runs in every odd-numbered inning, five altogether since Nolan Arenado hit two four-baggers. Well, it was Coors Field... So why couldn't Bryce Harper get at least one home run while in Denver?? Before the series began, he had 34 homers, only two behind the league leader -- Nolan Arenado. To Bryce's credit, he did hit two doubles, including one in his last at-bat of the game, which may just be the final time he plays in a Nationals uniform. frown Anyway, the final score was Rockies 12, Nationals 0 -- the biggest margin of defeat they have suffered this whole painful year! Going from a 10-run victory one day to a 12-run defeat the next day just makes your head spin.

Coming out on top in four of their last six games gave the Nationals a record of 15-12 for September, their first winning month since May, when they went 19-7. Their 2018 record of 82-80 (.506) is the lowest they have achieved since 2011, when they went 80-81 (.497). But on the bright side, finishing with winning records in seven consecutive years is nothing to sneeze at. See the Washington Nationals page, which now has Nationals' head-to-head matchups, best batting and pitching records, and batting averages for their regular starting position players and ERAs for their starting pitchers. Lest you think that 2018 was all about Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer, please note that Anthony Rendon had a team-best batting average of .308, tied with the Brewers' Lorenzo Cain for fourth place in the National League. Not bad at all! Juan Soto faltered a little toward the end of September, but he still had a batting average of .292, with 22 home runs (third among the Nats) and 70 RBIs (fourth). Pretty darned good for a rookie who didn't even start to play until May 15! FUN FACT: Soto wears the number 22 jersey, matching his home run total! We'll just have to wait until November to see whether the experts pick him or Ronald Acuña for Rookie of the Year.

Marlins Park MAJOR update

Marlins Park

Some time after returning from Miami (and Latin America) last year, I realized that the soil in Miami was unsuitable for excavating below-ground playing fields, obliging me to do a quick fix of the profiles in my Marlins Park diagrams. But as so often happens, "one thing led to another," and before you knew it I was ripping out huge portions of the old diagrams and reorienting everything outside the playing field. Accordingly, this update to the Marlins Park diagrams is a fairly big deal.

Among the new details depicted in those diagrams are the retractable windows that provide fans with a view of the downtown Miami skyline, a few miles to the east-southeast. (Note that center field is oriented toward the southeast, a characteristic that is (I believe) shared only by Guaranteed Rate Field (as U.S. Cellular Field is now called) and Great American Ballpark. The windows are open in the 2012 diagram (among others), and closed in the 2016 diagram. (That is when they shorted some of the fences and reduced the distance to center field.) Other details are the long escalator at the end of the grandstand near the left field foul pole, the huge pillars that support the fixed-position roof that hangs slightly over left field, and the concourse area in the lower deck diagram.

To see exactly what changed since the last diagram update in 2016, just click on the diagram image. One of the changes resulted in my estimate of foul territory being reduced from 21,000 square feet to just 19,100 square feet. That and other such data revisions will soon be incorporated into the Stadium statistics page.

On September 17, the other promising rookie with the Nationals this year, Victor Robles, hit a monster home run to left field in Marlins Park. Amazingly, it was his very first home run in the big leagues! The ball sailed over "The Clevelander" club area and into a long balcony in front of a large bar in front of the huge retractable windows, landing right where there is a marker that reads "427." But is it really that far? After considerable effort, I think the distance to that spot is more like 420 feet. But since it is at least 20 feet above the field level, a ball on a normal home run trajectory would probably go another 15-20 feet, so a fair estimate would be 435 feet.

Sadly, attendance at Marlins games plummeted this year, as the loss of Giancarlo Stanton and others left fans with little to hope for. When the Nationals played two games there two weeks ago, fewer than 10,000 people showed up. After all the money spent by taxpayers to bring Marlins fans a long-awaited first class home, it would be a shame if the new ownership group (fronted by Derek Jeter) couldn't invest enough money to build a competitive roster.

One thing you will notice on the Marlins Park page is that all of the photos are high-resolution, showing many intricate details barely hinted at before. During the offseason, I plan to incorporate many more high-res photos on stadium pages...

Marlins Park ext SW

Marlins Park, with the roof open, from the southwest. (March 5, 2017)

September 26, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Nationals sweep the Marlins

The game began under blue skies, but it started to rain after seven innings and after waiting for about an hour, it was called by the umpires, thus depriving Washington fans of the chance to see Bryce Harper at bat for perhaps the last time in a Nationals uniform. Victor Robles was the undisputed star of the game, getting four hits in five at-bats, including his third career home run. Adrian Sanchez, playing at second base, went three for four, and Spencer Kieboom got three RBIs with his two hits. In his very first MLB outing, Kyle McGowin retired the first 11 batters he faced but was replaced after walking the first two batters in the fifth inning, due a blister. It was an impressive display by the rookies, while veterans Harper, Rendon, and Turner all went hitless. Final score: Nats 9, Marlins 3.

After the game, the Nationals players tossed goodies to the fans who remained for the hour or so after play was suspended. Then Bryce Harper came out of the dugout, and cheers erupted. Today's Washington Post column by Barry Svrluga suggests that Bryce is feeling melancholy about his impending free agent status:

I've always said: If I'm in those plans, I'd absolutely love to be here. ... But if I'm not, there's nothing I can do about it. There's nothing I can do. I would love to play next to Robles or Soto or [Adam] Eaton. I'd love to. But am I in those plans? I have no idea.

Scherzer gets strikeout #300

In one of the few truly uplifting moments in Nationals Park this year, Max Scherzer got his 300th strikeout of the season last night. It came in the seventh inning, as the Marlins' Austin Dean became Mad Max's tenth strikeout victim of the night. It was quite an emotional moment, and I made a point to record it as it was happening for posterity. Anthony Rendon led the offensive charge, with a three-run homer in the first inning and an RBI single later in the game. Final score: Nats 9, Marlins 4. Will Max pitch against the Rockies in the final game of the season on Sunday? The franchise record for strikeouts is 305 (by Pedro Martinez of the Expos in 1997), but the Washington record is 313 (by Walter Johnson in 1910), and that is probably out of reach. But you never know! Max himself holds the Nationals' season strikeout record: 284, in 2016.

In the first game of the series, referred to briefly on Monday, the Nationals beat the Marlins 7-3. Stephen Strasburg struggled mightily in the first inning, throwing over 20 pitches, and was lucky that the Marlins only scored one run. He came out after four innings, having thrown 100 pitches. Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, and Matt Wieters all hit home runs. That victory put the Nats back at an even 78-78 record, but more importantly thrust them into second place for the first time since June 20! The Phillies have been losing so often lately that the Nationals really should have taken second place several days ago.

Astros clinch AL West

In a testament to how fiercely competitive their rivals the Oakland A's (95-63) have been this year, the Houston Astros (100-58) weren't able to clinch the American League West division title until they had won 100 games! That means the slate of AL postseason qualifying teams has already been set, and all that remains is to see whether the Yankees (97-61) or the A's will host the wild card game. (Ordinarily, I oppose having two wild card teams, but this year illustrates why it can sometimes serve a purpose.)

In the National League, meanwhile, the Milwaukee Brewers beat the St. Louis Cardinals tonight, thus earning at least a wild card slot in the postseason. It also means that the Chicago Cubs are guaranteed a postseason berth. If the Cubs manage to beat the Pirates tonight (they just lost their lead in the ninth inning, and it's now tied 6-6), they will remain a half game ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central. Otherwise...

September 24, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Braves & Red Sox clinch*; Nats are eliminated

It was in both cases a forgone conclusion, but the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox both clinched their respective division titles over the weekend, enjoying large leads over the second place teams with one week of play left to go. The Red Sox have become a virtual dynasty over the past 15 years, winning three World Series and five divisional titles (including the three most recent), whereas the Braves have only won a single divisional title (2013) since 2005, the final year of their prolonged "dynasty." It occurs to me that a Braves vs. Red Sox World Series matchup would be interesting from a historical standpoint, since both franchises originated in Boston. Whereas the Red Sox have had the same home stadium for over a century (106 years), the Braves have moved into new stadiums five (5) times since Fenway Park was built: in 1915, 1953, 1966, 1997, and 2016!

But the Washington Nationals were eliminated from the divisional race on Friday night, and from the astronomically-improbable wild card race the next night. That somber milestone was a long time coming. It so happens that I was there on Friday night as the Nationals played the Mets for the second game of a four-game series, the one and only Nationals game I saw in person this year. Even though the end result was rather disappointing, there were a few exciting moments. It was the first time I had seen the Nats' red-hot Rookie of the Year contender, Juan Soto, and the first time I had seen their closing pitcher, "Doctor" Sean Doolittle. (Since the Nationals were behind in the ninth inning, however, he did not pitch.)

One of the most exciting moments came two hours before the game, when I went to the "Top of the Yard" bar situated on the roof of the Hampton Inn, across the street to the northeast from the Nationals Park parking garage. The skies were overcast, detracting from the visibility, but I was still happy to get a "birds-eye" look. As you can see in this photo, the perch is at least 10-20 feet higher than the roof of Nationals Park, so you can see the Potomac River, National Airport, and even the city of Alexandria, Virginia.

Montage 21 Sep 2018

TOP: View of Nationals Park from the "Top of the Yard" bar on the roof of the nearby Hampton Inn.
BOTTOM, FROM THE LEFT: Juan Soto, Jacob deGrom, Victor Robles, Sean Doolittle (with Sammy Solis in back), Bryce Harper, and the recently-placed tribute to Jayson Werth on the "Ring of Honor" near the right field corner.

Construction north of Nationals Park

Construction on the north side of Nationals Park, showing the crowd waiting for the main gate to open at 5:00. Note the rooftop banner on the right: "#JuanPursuit" -- a reference to the Nats' 2017 (or 2016?) marketing theme of "One Pursuit."

In that Friday game, my old friend Dave Givens and I were fortunate, in an ironic sense, to see the leading candidate for the 2018 National League Cy Young Award, Jacob deGrom. Over and over, he kept shutting down potential Nats rallies, and went seven innings while only giving up one earned run. Joe Ross was pitching for the Nationals, in his second start after returning from surgery more than a year ago. The game didn't start well, as Amed Rosario swung at the very first pitch and hit a double. He soon scored and the Mets came close to adding on more runs. The Nats evened the score in the bottom of the second inning on a walk, a hard-hit single to right field by Juan Soto, and then a sac fly to deep center field hit by Ryan Zimmerman. (From where I was sitting under the scoreboard in right center field, I couldn't see where the ball came down.) But in the third inning it all went bad for Ross, who gave up three doubles (including a second one to the Mets' catcher Devon Mescoraco), and the Mets scored three runs. Todd Frazier was thrown out at the plate to end the inning, on a great throw by left fielder Juan Soto. Not much happened for the next five innings, just a lot of groundouts and a few strikeouts. In the bottom of the fifth, Spencer Kieboom singled and I was shocked when manager Dave Martinez let Joe Ross bat rather than put in a pinch hitter. Ross was called out on strikes. The Nats staged s small rally in the bottom of the ninth inning, when Trea Turner hit a leadoff double and then scored on a single by Anthony Rendon. But then Juan Soto struck out and Ryan Zimmerman flew out to the right field corner, and the Mets held on to win, 4-2.

Anthony Rendon RBI single 2018

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Anthony Rendon hit a clutch RBI single (note the streak above the letters "OR"), but the Mets' closer Robert Gsellman didn't buckle as the next two batters failed to reach base, and the game ended with the score 4-2.

I took a lot of photos of players, some of which will be posted soon; I'll post some new stadium photos on the Nationals Park page soon.

On Saturday afternoon, Austin Voth was called to start in place of Tanner Roark, who is on paternity leave. Voth had one previous major league start, on July 14 (also against the Mets), and he gave up seven runs without even finishing the fifth inning. Prospects did not bode well for the Nats, but somehow they sprang into action. As if by miracle, Voth went five full innings only giving up a single hit, and that one didn't even reach the outfield grass! More amazingly, the four Nats relievers didn't allow any hits! Trea Turner hit a two-run homer in the third inning, and after a long count in the sixth inning, Matt Wieters hit a three-run homer to make it a 5-0 game. Bryce Harper later batted in his 98th run on a double, and the Nats won, 6-0.

On Sunday it rained or drizzled the whole game, and the quality of play matched the bleak weather. The Nats took a 3-1 lead in the third inning, after a home run by Victor Robles (the second of his career), an RBI double by Bryce Harper, and a bases-loaded walk by Spencer Kieboom. But starting pitcher Eric Fedde had no better luck than in his previous outing, and was replaced in the fourth inning after loading the bases. Wander Suero gave up a triple hit by Michael Conforto, and the Mets were on top, 5-3. Suero gave up two more runs in the fifth inning, and once again I was surprised that Dave Martinez didn't take him out sooner. In the eighth inning, Victor Robles hit a two-run triple and then scored after Trea Turner hit a double. With nobody out, the Nats were in excellent position to tie the game or retake the lead, but it didn't happen. Final score: Mets 8, Nats 6.

And thus the Nationals finished the season series versus the Mets with an 8-11 record, which is not very impressive. The Nats were 9-11 versus the Braves this year, and 11-8 with the Phillies. Tonight they began their final home series of the year by defeating the Miami Marlins, with whom they now have a 11-6 record this year. (I'll discuss that game later on, but for now suffice it to say that for the first time since June 20, the Nationals have surged into second place! Whoopee.) On Thursday they travel west for the final three games of the year in Denver (against a highly motivated Rockies team, scrambling for a postseason berth), and that's it.

* Evidently I failed to call attention to the fact that the Cleveland Indians clinched the AL Central Division title over a week ago. After beating the Boston Red Sox in extra innings last night (averting being swept at home), they now have a 15 1/2-game lead over the Minnesota Twins.

The end is near here

No doubt, Washington Nationals fans have been spoiled by the success of the past several years, coming to expect division titles almost as an entitlement. In 2013, the Nats were eliminated on September 24, with four games left to play in the season, and in 2015, they were eliminated on September 26, with eight games left to play in the season. (Coincidentally, I had seen games in Nationals Park three days before and one day before those respective elimination dates.) Anyway, this got me to do a year-by-year compilation of the late-season performances of the Nationals, including their good years and their bad years. I'll post that table in the next few days...

What is FedEx Field's capacity?

Several miles to the east on Sunday, the the Washington Redskins hosted the Green Bay Packers in what seemed like a mismatch. I overheard somebody at the Nats game on Friday night say the Redskins would win because they always do the opposite of what you expect -- and he was right! They beat the Packers easily, 31-17.

That game came on the heels of a flat performance by the Redskins in their home opener against the Colts at FedEx Field one week before, and two weeks after a surprisingly lopsided season-opening win in Phoenix against the Cardinals. Perhaps it was fitting that in their home opener they drew only 57,013 fans -- the smallest crowd since their stadium opened (as "Jack Kent Cooke Stadium") in 1997. The rains associated with Hurricane Florence probably depressed numbers by a few thousand. But even yesterday's game, attendance was only 59,837 -- far below the stadium's capacity.

But that raises the mysterious question of how many seats are there in FedEx Field??? I guarantee, you won't get accurate numbers by checking Wikipedia (which says 82,000) or the Redskins' official releases. At least three times since 2011 they have either demolished large portions of the upper deck or have covered up empty seating sections with various signs and canvasses. With that in mind, I thought I should lay down estimates of the seating capacity numbers of FedEx Field. My previous blog posts about the capacity of FedEx Field include December 7, 2011, July 17, 2012, July 18, 2015, and September 10, 2017. After reviewing those blog posts, and the sources listed below, I believe there are about 75,000 seats at FedEx Field. The following table shows my estimates for each year in which major changes took place:

Year Estimated
new capacity
1997 -- 80,116
2000 +4,000 84,200
2004 +5,000 89,000
2005 +3,000 91,704
2011 -8,000 83,000
2012 -4,000 79,000
2015 -4,000 75,000

SOURCES: Washington Post April 2, 2012, June 1, 2015, and September 16, 2018. Note, however, that the most recent article is not consistent with the earlier ones.

FedEx Field south

FedEx Field, seen from the south. The bare steel girders on either end used to support many extra rows of seats. This photo was taken September 28, 2014, and 4,000 additional seats were removed from the upper deck in the following year.

Archival photos: found!

For many months I have been searching for photos I knew I had taken of various stadiums in the 1990s and early 2000s, and recently I finally found where they had been stashed away: Eureka! Stay tuned for some nice views of Tiger Stadium, Citizens Bank Park, Turner Field, and others...

Coming Attractions

(Includes major revisions, minor revisions, pages with additional diagrams, and future stadiums that are under construction. This is only a rough guide; the sequence is subject to change.)

Stadium construction

Between March 2012, when Marlins Park was completed, and September 2014, there were no major league baseball stadiums under construction. It was the first time since September 1986 that this situation existed. But in light of the recent groundbreaking on the future home of the Braves, the table that had been removed from this space is being restored.

Clem's Baseball ~ Stadium construction

Stadium construction
Chronology of the contemporary era: 1986 - present

1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 2020s
1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020 2022 2024
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
UC 1989: Skydome (Rogers Centre) (construction finished in early June)
plan. UC 1990: Florida Suncoast Dome (Tropicana Field)
planning UC 1991: Comiskey Park II (U.S. Cellular Field, Guaranteed Rate Field)
- planning UC 1992: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
- planning UC 1994: Jacobs Field (Progressive Field)
- planning UC 1994: Ballpark in Arlington (Globe Life Park, etc.)
- planning UC 1995: Coors Field
- planning UC 1996: (Olympic Stadium) 1997: Turner Field
- planning UC 1998: Chase Field (Bank One Ballpark)
- planning UC 1999: AT&T Park (Pac Bell Park)
- planning UC 1999: Safeco Field
- planning UC 2000: Comerica Park
- planning UC 2000: Minute Maid Park
- planning UC 2001: Miller Park
- planning UC 2001: PNC Park
- planning UC 2003: Great American Ballpark
- planning UC 2004: Citizens Bank Park
- planning UC 2006: Busch Stadium III (construction finished in late May)
- planning UC 2008: Nationals Park
- planning UC 2009: Yankee Stadium II
- planning UC 2009: Citi Field
- planning UC 2010: Target Field
- planning UC 2012: Marlins Park
- planning UC 2017: SunTrust Park
Texas Rangers: Globe Life Park II   UC 2020 opening?
STILL WAITING ... Oakland (San Jose?) Athletics: Cisco Field (?)  
STILL WAITING ... Tampa Bay Rays: Rays Stadium (?)  
1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020 2022 2024
NOTE: For most stadiums, groundbreaking years are mere estimates. For most stadiums, construction continued through March of the year in which they opened. Two exceptions are Skydome / Rogers Centre (construction finished in early June 1989) and Busch Stadium III (construction finished in late May 2006).

Stadium construction montage

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: PNC Park (Pittsburgh, Aug. 2000), Citi Field (Queens, NY, Oct. 2008), Nationals Park (Washington, DC, Aug. 2007)

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Research department:

Postseason scores, 2018

Major League Baseball championship series, 2018
World Champions: TBA
Wild Card Games / Divisional series
Oct. 2 - 3 / Oct. 4 - 11
League Championship series
Oct. 12 - 21
World Series
Oct. 23 - 31
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
NL-E: Atlanta Braves (.556) 0 0 6 2 X    
NL-W: Los Angeles Dodgers (.564) ** 6 3 5 6 X    
    Los Angeles Dodgers 5 4  
    Milwaukee Brewers 6 3  
NL-wc: Chicago Cubs (.583) ** ^ 1  
NL-wc: Colorado Rockies (.558) ** ^ 2   2 0 0 X X
NL-C: Milwaukee Brewers (.589) ** 3 4 6 X X    
AL-C: Cleveland Indians (.562) 2 1 3 X X    
AL-W: Houston Astros (.636) 7 3 11 X X    
    Houston Astros 7 5  
    Boston Red Sox 2 7  
AL-wc: Oakland Athletics (.599) ^ 2  
AL-wc: New York Yankees (.617) ^ 7   4 6 1 3 X   Extra-inning game (underlined): X
AL-E: Boston Red Sox (.667) 5 2 16 4 X   Win by visiting team (shaded): X

See explanatory notes at bottom.
** TWO tie-breaking playoff games were held on Oct. 1: @ LAD 5, COL 2 (both had been 91-71), and MIL 3, @ CHC 1 (both had been 95-67).
^ : The visiting NL wild card team won on Oct. 2 (MIL 2, @ CHC 1; 13 inn.), so the row positions were switched so as to properly align in the subsequent divisional series.

Explanatory notes

(Regular season winning percentages in parentheses.) Boldfaced scores indicate the winning team. Underlined scores denote extra-inning games. Olive-shaded score boxes denote games won by the VISITING team. Higher-seeded teams (those with the initial home field advantage) are shown on the BOTTOM side in each matchup. However, beginning with 2012, each league has TWO wild card teams, competing in a one-game "play-in," and whichever of those two teams that wins in each league is displayed below (after the outcome is known), so as to properly align with the subsequent divisional series scores. Beginning in 2003 and continuing through 2016, the league that won the All Star Game got the initial home field advantage in the World Series; prior to 2003, initial home field advantage in the World Series alternated from year to year. Except for 2002 (the infamous tie), the American League won the All Star Game every year between 1997 and 2009. Beginning in 2017, home field advantage in the World Series goes to the team with the higher regular season winning percentage.

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