How Much Do Stolen Bases Matter?

The New York Yankees are stealing a lot less bases in 2012 than they did in 2011. This year the Yankees are ranked 25th in MLB in stolen bases, while last season they were ranked 4th. A lot of this is due to the Yankees missing their two fastest players in Brett Gardner and Eduardo Nunez. Ichiro now leads the Yankees with 18 stolen bases, but prior to him joining the Yankees Alex Rodriguez led the club with 11. While it would be nice if the Yankees had more speed I don’t think it will make or break them in winning the World Series.

I am a believer in the Oakland A’s moneyball system. Critics will say that the A’s never won in the playoffs, which is true, but what they fail to point out is that other MLB teams took their formula. Teams like the Yankees and Red Sox adopted the moneyball system just with bigger payrolls and have had success with it.  The Yankees love players who hit for power and have a high on base percentage. They also do not like to bunt and give away outs on the bases. While many disagree with the moneyball system, I believe it is a good way to build a team and can be successful combined with good pitching.

The bigger issue with the Yankees lack of speed rather than stole bases is going from 1st to 3rd or from 2nd to home on hits.  According to William Juliano of The Captain’s Blog, when the Yankees get a hit with a RISP they only score a run 79% of the time, which is 2nd worst in MLB.  This is much more of an issue than how many bases the Yankees steal. The Yankees lead MLB in with a .797 team OPS, lead MLB in HR’s with 166, lead MLB with a .344 wOBA, and are 6th in MLB in walks. These are a lot more important than stolen bases. The Yankees are 4th in MLB in runs scored, which is obviously very good, but with the stats I just mentioned you would think they would be even higher. The reason they’re not higher is because they’re not hitting with RISP and not scoring enough when they do get hits with RISP, rather than not stealing enough bases.

Stealing a lot of bases has not necessarily translated into success as a team. This season out of the top 10 teams in stolen bases in MLB only the San Francisco Giants are leading their division. Out of the last 5 World Series champions only the 2008 Phillies were in to the top 10 in MLB in stolen bases by ranking 4th. The 2011 Cardinals were 29th, the 2010 Giants tied for 29th, the 2009 Yankees were 11th, and the 2007 Red Sox were tied for 15th.  Even during their dynasty years from 1996-2000 the Yankees only finished in the top 10 in MLB stolen bases once in 1998, when they finished 4th.  Their average finish in stolen bases during those years was 15th in MLB, so they were not a great stolen base team during their dynasty years either.

Stolen bases are a nice luxury to have, but are not essential in winning championships. If the Yankees do not win the World Series this year it will most likely be because they didn’t pitch well enough or because they did not get key hits when they needed them, not because they didn’t steal enough bases.

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About Matthew B

I am a student at William Paterson University and studying to become a sportswriter. I have a huge passion for the Yankees and love sharing my opinions on them. I can analyze every aspect of the Yankees very well. I am very active on Twitter so feel free to contact me there Twitter: @RAYROBERT9

Posted on August 3, 2012, in Personal Opinion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 81 Comments.

  1. I disagree when plays like this happen. Speed is a good thing to have.

    http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=7113111&topic_id=7223232

  2. I think bunting and stealing bases are a little old school baseball. Sabermetrics have shown that bunting and giving up and out really doesn’t pay off on the major league level. As for stealing bases, if you have a fast runner who can steal at a high percentage then he should be utilized. For the most part in today’s game the good teams have a high OPS as a team and score alot of runs.

  3. Doug – your description of saber metrics view of the game is right on. How does one balance that view and the success Billy Martin had with his Billy Ball strategy ( small ball, bunting, etc.)?

  4. Matt B. – your premise that speed is not essential to win championships is certainly correct based on the number of teams that won championships without using a speed game.

    And the Yankees may win the championship without utilizing a speed game.

    And I don’t think that premise contradicts the fact that it would be advantageous to have a more multi-dimensional offense as it would increase the probability of winning ie: when the HR ball is taken away by the playoff oppositions elite pitching.

    • The HR ball doesn’t get taken away by elite pitching in the playoffs. It is more of a combination of the team that gets hot, and pitchers making bad pitches. The Yanks have hit some elite pitchers pretty good during the season, this year and last. The playoffs are random, only 4 of the teams with the best season records have won the world series since 96. That’s 4 out of 34, years ago it was 100%.

      • I disagree Doug….elite pitching allows less hrs than non elite pitching and there is better pitching in the playoffs. You are better off having a multidimensional offense than a HR only offense.

      • Doug – because the team with the best record does not win the WS ….. Does not mean it’s RANDOM.

        Random would mean each team has an equal probability of winning. Which is incorrect.

        • I would say between us, LA, Texas, and Detroit it is pretty damn even this year.

          • And if those 4 teams were the whole ML ….you could have the opinion that they are evenly matched and say it’s random.

            • well they are the whole playoffs though. Nobody is saying the regular season is random. Over 162 games the best teams will come out on top.

              • Agree ….good point……. Have a hard time saying the playoffs are always random as I believe the teams that make the playoffs each year are not always exactly evenly matched. in fact it’s probably a rarity.

        • Random- proceeding, made, or occurring without definite aim, reason, or pattern. This is exactly what the playoffs are random!

        • twasp, Random- proceeding, made, or occurring without definite aim, reason, or pattern. This is exactly what the playoffs are – random.

          • twasp, when 4 teams out of 32 teams that were the best teams for 162 games win the world series there is no definite aim, reason, or pattern.

            • Doug that is such a cop out and you are only saying it to not hold the Yankees responsible if they lose in the 1st round again. By your definition every single game played is random and if you put the San Diego Padres in the playoffs instead of the Yankees, they’d have the exact same chance to win as the Yankees. That’s totally not the case.

              Having the best record in a 162 game season doesn’t mean a thing in the playoffs because there are different stakes and teams play differently. During a 162 game season the team with the deepest 40-man roster usually comes out on top, the team that overcomes injuries and has a strong bench/minor lg system to provide depth. Phil Hughes & Ivan Nova are better than almost every team’s 4th and 5th starters so they will win the Yankees a lot of games during the reg season. In the playoffs they would be meaningless if CC, Andy & Kuroda were your starters. The Yankees financial advantage and depth help them greatly in the reg season but in the post-season its about who has the best 2 or 3 starters, lineup and 2-3 bullpen guys – not the best 40-man roster.

            • There is a definite ” reason” Doug…..and Fish has done an excellent job explaining.

              PS- you left out the other definition of random ” governed by or involving EQUAL chances”.

              Each on of the playoff teams do not have EQUAL chances. Sporting event contenders do not have equal chances otherwise Las Vegas would go out of business.

      • Doug, the reason why teams with the best record don’t win as much now is bc years ago there were NO playoffs – just a World Series decided by a 7-game series between 2 teams with the best record in the NL & the AL. Nowadays 10 teams make the playoofs and there are 4 rounds of playoffs making up to 20 games. The more games and rounds now should indicate that the better teams win because it is more like the reg season than it was yrs ago with only 1 7 game series. Deciding the Champion with 1 7 game series is a lot more random than today. Also, this yr the Division winners have an advantage over the WC teams by not having to play the preliminary rd game.

        • fishjam, you would make a good politician, nothing you just said makes any sense to me, You are trying to tell me that playing 162 games and coming out on top agains’t all the teams in your league is more random that 4 rounds of playoffs, one one game playoff, one 5 game playoff and 2 seven game playoffs. This year;s winner has to start the playoff on the road and may not know where they are playing until the day before the game if that. Playoffs today are all about TV and the money not getting the real champion.

          • Doug, your reading comprehension needs work. I never mention a 162 game season being random in any post. i will never call a sporting even between competing humans random, coin flips are random. I was replying to this irresponsible statement you made:

            “The playoffs are random, only 4 of the teams with the best season records have won the world series since 96. That’s 4 out of 34, years ago it was 100%.”

            First off your math needs work. Since 96, there have been 16 WS champs so where do you get 34? Secondly, you say years ago the team with the best record won the WS 100% of the time. That is a totally false statement you simply made up. It seems what you are saying is in the old days, the playoffs weren’t random but today they are. How? Years ago, the WS champ was determined by 1 Seven game series between the pennant winner of the AL & NL. Now there are 4 rounds of playoffs with up to 20 games. So if you are saying playoffs are random because of a small sample size you contradict yourself since years ago ther sampe sizes were only a third of what it is now.

            Doug, when you pitched and left one over the middle of the plate and someone took you deep was it because of randomness or because you executed poorly and made a bad pitch? Felix throwing a gem and shutting out the Yanks yesterday was all about a tremendous physical performance and flawless execution. It wasn’t luck or randomness. Sports can NEVER be random. Just because one can’t predict the winner doesn’t mean its random. C’mon, I expect more from someone with your playing experience.

            • Exactly Fish…..and just because one cannot predict the winner does not mean it’s random nor does it mean that each participant has an equal chance of winning (which is what random means).

              An interesting analysis would be to look back at the last 20 AL pennants ,and see if the playoff team with the best record in the AL that season would have a higher rate of winning the pennant, than the playoff team with the worst record that season.

              (WS would not be an apples to apples test as the the teams in the Al do not share equivalent opposition in their schedules/records.)

              • That would be a good experiment Twasp and you and i know what the results would be. The idea of randomness came from die hard sabermetricians who couldn’t explain why playoff stats don’t replicate reg season #s. Obviously its because of the smaller sample size and because the margin between good teams/bad teams, good players/bad players is smaller in baseball than in any other sport. The best team in baseball wins just 60% of its games so the margin for error is slim.

                The playoffs are played with different stakes and with different players….no 4th & 5th starters and not many bench players, long relievers, etc. Playing with lose and go home stakes raises the urgency of every game and causes managers to manage differently. Any team can win it all but they don’t all have equal chances and the games aren’t decided by coin flips or Rock, Paper, Scissors. The team that executes the best and outplays their opponents the most takes home the trophy.

                • Fish – if you get a chance please do the analysis TWASP suggests, TWASP would do it but his head hurts….

                  • Twasp…just did your experiment quickly and here are the results since 1990:

                    The team with the better reg season record won the ALCS 14 times out of 19 with 2 years where the teams had the same record. So the team with the better record has gone 14-5 in the ALCS since 1990.

                    • Ha ha…… Doesn’t sound random to me! Thanks Fish for doing TWASP’s experiment.

                    • fishjam, the team with the better reg season record won the world series 4 out of 34 times since 96. That is the goal not the ALCS. Nobody cares who won the ALCS. The playoffs are set up to make money and for TV, not to get the best teams to play each other. Playing and knowing how hard it is to win a division, I am happy with the Yanks winning the division or just making the playoffs like they do. I understand that you just don’t just turn on or off outstanding play, and can’t always get hot at the right time. It has nothing to do with being clutch. When players don’t play to their card it is usually do to the fact that their is a small sample and better competition. twasp explain to me how only 4 of 34 teams can win the world series since 96, but 14 of 19 teams with the best record win the ALCS since 90. What do you deduce from this?

            • fishjam, sometimes I threw a perfect pitch and a hitter hit a home run. You sound like a hitter who can be successful when hitting a home run when going 1-4. Pitchers can’t make those kind of mistakes. Anyone who knows baseball will agree that the teams that were considered the best the last 2 years didn’t win the world series. If you are going to try and use some mumbo jumbo, use it on someone else. There is no way the Cards were the best team in baseball last year or the Giants the year before, they weren’t even the second best teams. I give them all the credit in the world for winning the series. I don’t think the format that is used today is the best way to get a champion, it occurrs without definite aim, reason, or pattern. While were at it, let’s just add another wild card team and have a one game playoff.

  5. My biggest concerns with a lack of speed in the lineup are not being able to score on singles and doubles, and in the outfield. Stolen bases are nice too, and having the opposing pitchers diverting attention away from the guy at the plate.

    All in all I want to see some balance; speed, power, etc..

    • The other day on the WFAN i believe a caller brought up a point. Would the Yankees use a roster spot for the playoffs for Gardner. (His injury is not with his legs) You then can use Brett as a pinch runner late in the game.

      It was an outside the box question. I kinda like it. But can’t see the Yankees using a roster spot in the playoffs for someone who can’t bat or play the field.

      • It’s not a bad idea; they won’t carry as many pitchers which opens up a space for a pinch runner. Still kinda tough as it’s the only thing he could do.

  6. I agree Jimmy…..you used a good word BALANCE. It’s better to have a balanced team than a one dimensional team.

    • I’m all about balance as long as we have a good amount of power in the lineup.

      We’ve heard a ton of talk about HR’s not coming as easy in the playoffs; my response is no shit…. It’s harder to get hits in general when you aren’t facing #5 pitchers. I’ve yet to see anyone prove it’s easier to string a bunch of bloopers together against a top pitcher than it is to work a walk and send a mistake pitch over the wall.

      Hot teams win the WS, and if the Yanks get hot going into October theyre going to be very tough to send home.

  7. I’m with you JT……TWASP loves power. The Bronx bombers win with the HR!

  8. Stolen bases matter very little in today’s era where every hitter from 1 thru 9 can go deep. However, the ability to steal, move runners, run the bases well, have productive outs, etc. IS important. In close games, they are often the difference between a win and a loss. Also, a game like today….1-0 with Felix mowing people down….the ability to steal a base, start a runner on a hit and run, etc is big.

    Also, the value of a disruptive base stealer on a pitcher’s psyche and concentration can’t be ignored. he slows down a pitcher’s rythm, makes him slide step and will discourage a lot of catcher’s from calling a lot of breaking pitches. A major base stealer like Gardner does make a difference.

    It’s a bit troublesome that the Yanks are near the bottom in all of the fundamental categories and it’s not a coincidence that they are 13-15 in 1-run games. You can be a HR-hitting team and still be solid fundamentally.

    • fishjam, Gardner doesn’t have good baserunning instincts, he steals mostly with his speed. Many times he doesn’t get a good jump when stealing, and for a fast baserunner he doesn’t run the bases that well. It would be foolish to waist a roster spot on him in the playoffs. That being said everything you said is true about a great base stealer like Ricky Henderson. A major base stealer steals a base when you know he is going, Gardner can’t do that!

      • Ken – do you agree that Gardner is not a great base stealer. He’s not Henderson for sure …but is Fish recommending something “foolish” ?

        • Of the two base stealers we have, Brett and Nunez, Nunez is the slower but, gets the better reads/jump!
          Brett, as much as I like him, steals on his speed alone!
          Play-off time, I would have Nunez as my BS this year…need I say again…SPEED KILLS!

          In years gone bye, the Yankees would hit the way a situation demanded. Every time one comes to the plate it calls for one to know what the team needs at that time of the game! They would shorten the swing for a single behind the runners on base, not swing at a low pitch if they needed a SF to score a runner!

          In other words, play baseball the way it was ment to be played.
          FYI, Situational hitting is “CLUTCH HITTING”

          • Ken – if Nunez wasn’t available and Gardner was, would you use Gardner for the playoffs as base stealer as Fish suggests, or would you not “waste” a playoff roster spot on Gardner?

            • I don’t know what fishjam said but he is right, every tool is a weapon!
              I would use him, why not, there will be room for one+ more players. If I remember right, one year a team did that to us in the play-offs. They put the guy in to steal a base and everyone knew it but, he stole the base anyhow also, I believe that one move lost the game for us.
              In every game there is that one move one must have the guts, talent and knowledge to make; either it is a managers move or a players move that one thing can turn the game in your favor.
              Bretts talents could make the difference in a tight one run game.

              • Matt/Ken – read Aug 4th 3:11pm where Fish talks about the effect a major base stealer like Gardner has on a game like the Felix game.

                Doug them commented that everything Fish said is true but doesn’t apply to Gardner because he is not a great base stealer but steals on speed rather than instinct. And would not “waste” a playoff spot on him.

                So what I can gather Fish, Matt and Ken…say use Gardner….Doug says don’t.

                TWASP says use Gardner because SPEED KILLS tm…………SPEED KILLS is trademarked and cannot be used or reproduced without the expressed written consent of TWASP.

                • twasp, you rat…I was the first to use; “Speed Kills” when I first made comments about Brett on the other site back in 2006/7. Remember most everyone was saying Brett would be lucky to be a 4th maybe a 5th OF. I wrote a long post about him in March of 07 and ended with the words, “Speed Kills”!

                  Matt S is in on it along with you and I. Who was first? I don’t care we all think about the same about speed, so let it be.
                  Great minds and mine think the same great thoughts! LOL :)

                  • To oldyankee07:

                    Please refrain from using the term Speed Kills tm ….. On the YFU Internet site. This term was trademarked in 2006 by a certain TWASP. If you use this term again we will consider this an infringement and will press charges.

                    Ted L Nancy
                    NPA Director
                    National Patents Administration

                    • twasp…
                      You are a funny guy, how could you have tm those words in 2006 you were only 3 years old that year. I vote for Matt as the guy owning the TM. lol :)

                • Twasp, Matt mentioned Gardner as a possible pinch runner in the playoffs. I think it’s certainly a possibility although Nunez is nearly as fast and may be a better base runner so maybe you just carry him. he has the added ability to be a bat off the bench or maybe even DH vs a LHP if ARod’s out.

                  Speed is a great weapon to have and saves/creates runs every game. Montero got nabbed at th plate by a poor throw from Swisher today where someone with even moderate speed scores. As Matt B wrote, the Yanks have trouble scoring from 2nd on hits this yr not to mention they are in the bottom of the lg in SBs and OOB (outs on basepaths). Cano is my favorite player but I’m getting tired of him jogging to first and spacing out on the bases. He’s made 8 outs on the basepaths this yr!!!

                  I read a quote yesterday by Terry Francona. They asked him his most memorable moment in his Red Sox managing career and he said it was Dave Roberts pinch-running Stolen base off Mariano in the 2004 ALCS. That SB lead to the winning run and springboarded the Red Sox’ comeback from down 3 games to none to a WS. Speed does indeed kill and is a huge weapon against a great pitcher.

            • I thought i suggested that?

  9. Yankees are terrible fundamentally. And too one dimensional offensively. Today’s game shows there weakness against elite pitching…trying to pull everything…going for the HR….with not enough battersbthat know how to work the pitcher…keep the line moving…grind out runs….

    Your analysis is spot on Fish….and a 101 lesson to Matthew B. nd Jimmy T.

  10. Nobody was going to beat King Felix today!

    • Doug – the 1996-2000 teams would have found a way to beat him….working the count….keeping the line moving….going the other way…..grinding out runs…..

      • twasp…
        I know you loved the 1996-2000 teams but, there is no way of knowing what would have happened!
        Yes, the team did try to do those things and were good at doing them but, some days a pitcher just dominates your team and there is nothing one can do about it! :)

        • Ken- if there is no way you can determine how other teams would have done against Felix….then how can you agree with Doug when he says NOONE would have beaten him? Either you can or cannot determine….you can’t have it both ways.

          • No One would have beatten him that day, is a saying not a fact. Meaning he was in one of those hot games when he could do no wrong.

            • Ken – please stick with facts when supporting your assertions or you lower yourself to the level of irresponsible journalists who dump on Arod.

          • Elite pitching allow less runs whether its home runs or any other kind of runs. It all about the runs not how you get them, unless you can tell me what is going to happen in the game. Who knew Freeze was going to hit like he did last year. It’s not his MO. Did we know that Cody Ross and Renteria were such clutch hitters two years ago. The answer is no. They hit home runs agains’t the elite pitchers and won the series. I could add Boone, Leyritz, and Brosuis.

      • twasp, so would the 27 team with home runs, Ha, Ha!

  11. Doug – Fish would not make a good politician…..he’s too smart and honest!

  12. I agree with Ken – Nunez should be on the playoff roster.

    Girardi should have started runners vs Felix ystrday.

    Yanks had Ichiro and Grandy on 1st vs Felix but didn’t run even though John Jaso is one of the worst catchers in baseball and right-handed groundball hitters were at the plate (Martin & Jeter). Those were the Yanks 2 fastest players/base stealers and 2 best hit and run hitters yet Girardi did nothing……Martin hit into a DP and Jeter grounded out to end inning. I understand being conservative when HR hitters are up but with Jeter & Martin at the plate?

  13. Fish…if Nunez wasn’t available and Gardner was would you use Gardner on the playoff roster?

    • I would definitely consider it. You won’t need to carry 12 pitchers like they do now so I think a weapon like Gardner would be much more valuable than carrying Freddy Garcia or even Cody Eppley considering Hughes and/or Nova will be in the pen.

  14. Fish – what do you think of the view that “Gardner is not a great base stealer and lacks base running instincts” and therefore should not be on the playoff roster.

    • I think I know what Doug means….Gardner isn’t the best at getting reads off the pitcher and getting great jumps. However, with his blazing speed he makes up for it and IS a great base stealer. In today’s game, how many players are better?

      He led the lg in SBs last year and was 3rd in 2010. His career success rate is 83.03 % which is 18th best ALL-TIME. By comparison Rickey henderson had an 80.75% success rate which is 38th best all-time. Clearly Gardner is a great base stealer and will get better when he learns to get better reads and jumps. A weapon like that in the post-season is much more valuable than Sweaty Freddy.

      • I agree Fish….what’s the difference if he steals bases because of good jumps on pitchers or speed…as long as he has a high success rate he’s a great base stealer and should be used as a weapon in the playoffs.

      • fishjam, you can’t compare Gardner to Rickey, Rickey stole alot more bases over many more years. Gardner never steals when you need a big stolen base, Rickey would steal when everyone knew he was going.

  15. Twasp/Doug, another important factor to remember is just bc a team has the best record in the regular season, doesn’t mean they are the best team. All you have to do is win your division then most teams try to set up for the post-season. How many times have teams taken their foot off the pedal in September to rest players bc they have their division in hand. or in past years with the WC, there was no incentive to win your division if you knew you could win the WC. And lastly, with an unbalanced schedule, best record isn’t equal.

    In 2000, the Yanks had a 9 game lead on September 13th but closed the yr going 3-15 to finish with 87 wins. They were clearly the best team that yr and coud have had the best record but there was no need to go for it. They went 11-5 in the post-season to win the WS with just 87 reg season wins. is that random because they had a worse reg season record than the other teams?

    • fishjam, this is all true, but teams play like that because that is the way the playoffs are set up. It doesn’t mean it is the best way to get a champion. The playoff are a crap shoot. What makes baseball so good is you are putting a different team out their every day, you know the saying you are only as good as you next days pitcher. Look at yesterday, Price pitches a gem agains’t the O’s and the O’s win. Felix a #1 pitcher beats Kuroda the Yanks #2, this happens all the time. Baseball is not like the other sports where you are putting your best again’st their best. This will happen more in the playoffs this year because of the one game playoff. Teams will have to decide whether they want to pitch their ace in that game.

  16. Interesting, of the teams that are in the playoffs right now which team has the most elite pitchers. If you take Fangraphs WAR of 3.0+ you have Verlander 4.3, Greinke 4.0, Kershaw 3.9, Sale 3.8, Gio 3.8, Cueto 3.7, Strasburg ? 3.7, Peavy 3.6, and CC 3.2. I would add to that Cain 2.8 and Weaver 2.7. That’s 11 elite pitchers, of those I would say that Verlander, Kershaw, Strasburg, Cain, Weaver, Gio, and CC are the best. The word is that Strasburg will not pitch in the playoffs. Verlander has the potential to dominate the game the most although he wasn’t that good agains’t the Rangers last year and hasn’t pitched as well this year. The other elite pitchers in the AL are Greinke, Sale, Peavy, and Weaver. I would say that after Verlander, Weaver would be the next best pitcher this year. What sticks out to me is that the Angels, WSox, and Nats have two guys on the list. In the next tier you have Harrison, Wilson, and Kuroda. So on paper it appears that the Angels and Nats have the best pitching going into the playoffs with the Giants and White Sox and Yanks next. What surprised me was the fact that some elite pitchers will not be in the playoffs like Lee and Doc, and that the Rangers pitching hasn’t been that good to date. I you are going by the assumption that elite pitching wins in the playoffs the Yanks pitching doesn’t rate that bad.

  17. I left out the Braves, A’s and the Pirates didn’t have anyone on the list, which was strange since the A’s have the best ERA in the AL.

  18. Would you throw your ace like Verlander in the one game playoff?
    Who wins the divisions?
    What teams in the AL would be the best match up for the Yanks?
    Which elite pitcher would shut down the Yanks in the playoffs?
    Do you think the AL East ends up close?

    • I would throw my ace for the one play-off game because everyone is trying to get in the play-offs. It’s crucial. And if the team does get in the play-offs then I would do the 3 man rotation by choosing my 3 best pitchers.

      I say Yankees win AL East, Texas wins AL West and White Sox win AL Central.

      The team in the AL I would want to see for the Yankees is the Oakland Athletics (if they make it by the wildcard). It would be an interesting series.

      The elite pitcher that would shut down the Yankees would be Justin Verlander.

      It all depends on how well the teams play but if the Yankees play well and the other teams begin to struggle down the stretch then it probably won’t even be close.

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