Edwards Back In Winners Circle
May 28, 2015
You know Carl Edwards had to mouth the word “finally” to himself during his victory lap at the Coca-Cola 600 last weekend. His 31-race winless streak was finally over.
It was not easy as Edwards had to hold off Greg Biffle over the final 20 laps while conserving precious gas to win the longest race of the season. Team owner Joe Gibbs stated after the race that he did not think Edwards had enough fuel. But everything has been going right for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015 as Edwards is the third JGR driver to win a race this season. He will join Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin as likely entrants for the 10-race, end-of-the-season championship chase.
Edwards, who has voiced frustration for his slow start with JGR, had all the typical cliches after posting a fuel mileage win. He spoke of not having the fastest car but being the quickest to go 600 miles.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third, followed by pole sitter Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr., Truex has to be one of the bigger surprises of 2015 as he notched his 11th top-10 finish in 12 events this season.
Jimmie Johnson, the defending Coca-Cola 600 champion was never a factor as he finished 40th after a pair of rare spinouts out of traffic.
Avoiding Indy 500
Last weekend is the weekend we used to watch feature stories of drivers who pulled the ultimate facing doubleheader, race in the INDY 500 early in the day before flying to Charlotte in the early evening for the Coca-Cola 600. Success at either race was a rarity for the likes of John Andretti, Tony Stewart, Robbie Gordon, and others.
Perhaps that is one reason it is not being attempted as much anymore. Or it could be that NASCAR drivers want nothing more to do with Indy cars.
Carl Edwards won the Coca-Cola 600
Danica Patrick has let it be known that she does not see herself racing in the 500 again. Even with the success she has enjoyed in Indy. Few remember her six top-10s in seven Indianapolis 500 starts, including a third-place finish in 2009 that set a new standard for a woman in that race.
Patrick is one of six drivers who competed at the Coca-Cola 600 who also has competed in the Indianapolis 500. Most don’t expect to return to the world’s biggest race. Only one, Kurt Busch, expresses a desire to take a shot at it. The others, all unlike Busch in that they were IndyCar drivers who transitioned to NASCAR, view it as a part of their past.
Busch, who finished sixth in the 2014 event before flying to Charlotte to compete in the Coca-Cola 600, said he loved the experience and would love another chance to make history.
Tony Stewart, whose best finish in five starts at the 500 was fifth in 1997, has repeatedly said that his Indy 500 days are over. His last Indianapolis 500 start was 14 years ago.
Juan Pablo Montoya is the exception to the rule. He returned to Indy cars from NASCAR and won the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.
Baseball Nerd Notes
While taking part in my annual fantasy baseball season, I have started to recognize a trend that offense is down in baseball. The statistical nerd within me decided to do some statistical work to find out if it is true.
It did not take long to confirm my thoughts.
Runs per game in 2014 were the lowest since 1981. The overall league batting average of .251 last season was the lowest since 1972. Therefore, it should not surprise you that the bats are missing the ball more often. I can prove that by sharing with you that the number of 10-strikeout games by pitchers nearly doubled in 2014 compared with 1998.
Batting .300 is an accomplishment again. There were only seventeen .300 hitters last season, the fewest since 1978. Back in 1999, there were fifty-five .300 hitters. And check out this stat. Twenty-two starting pitchers had an ERA of 3.00 or lower in 2014. Just seven years ago in 2007, there was only one pitcher who could claim that mark.
The last time we saw this kind of pitching was 1968, when Bob Gibson had a 1.12 ERA, Denny McLain of my Detroit Tigers won 31 games and the overall MLB ERA was 2.98. That offseason, baseball lowered the mound from 15 inches to 10 and shrunk the strike zone.
I don’t see the game doing anything drastic like that again. Though you know Major League Baseball would like to see more runs. Here are some of my quick thoughts on why pitching is starting to dominate the game again.
I am sure most attribute the high offensive numbers 10-15 years ago to PED usage. Back in 2000, teams scored 5.14 runs a game. Forty-seven players hit at least 30 homeruns that year. Last season, teams averaged just over four runs a game and only 11 players recorded over 30 homeruns. With the game finally taking a stand against PED’s, one has to agree that having PED’s out of the game has cut down on offense. I would like to add another reason. Almost every pitcher out there throws over 90 MPH now with more and more throwing 95 MPH. There is even a stat for that. Did you know that the average fastball velocity has increased a hair under 2.0 MPH since 2009.?Individual pitching stats confirm that increased velocity equals strikeouts. In 2014, 103 pitchers averaged at least one strikeout per inning while throwing at least 40 innings. In 1984, that total was eight. And there are now almost as many strikeouts as hits in a game. Through May 4, teams were averaging 7.5 strikeouts and 8.5 hits.
History has shown that the hitters always adjust. What is not known is just how long a pitcher’s arm can handle throwing a ball nearly 100 MPH. Another thing I have noticed is that it is rare for a starting pitcher to make it through a entire season without an arm injury. But that is another topic for another day.