Some baseball teams love the hot, sticky days of July – it’s when they are at their best. Others play like they would rather be off at the beach or on the golf course or anywhere other than at the ballpark. There are of course many factors that go into how a team plays at a certain time, and you can get in trouble with broad assumptions. There are some teams, though, that consistently exhibit the same behavior in July. that doesn’t mean that you should be those teams blindly this year, but it does mean that you could keep an eye on them, and if they look like they are going to repeat their past performances then you could climb on board for the ride. Here’s a look at six teams that have shown particular love or hate for July in recent years. I’ll ignore teams like the Royals, Nationals and Orioles – they have been lousy in July, but they’ve been lousy every other month as well:
New York Yankees – The evil empire loves July. Over each of the last three years they have gone on a tear during the month (they have actually been successful in July for longer than that, but we’ll limit it to three years for this article to keep things relevant). Last year they were 18-9 in July, and lost just three of 16 home games. The year before they were 15-10, and 12-6 at home. In 2007 they were 19-9, and 12-5 at home. A couple things stand out when you look at that – they have played an unbalanced schedule favoring home games over that stretch, and the have done much better at home than on the road. That could be a problem for them this year – they play 13 road games in July and just 12 at home. Working in their favor in July now, though, is that CC Sabathia, their ace, is traditionally a slow starter who finds his groove in July, and he’s showing that same trend this year.
L.A. Angels – Last year the Angels had the best July record in the American League. In 2008 they topped all of baseball in July. Unlike the Yankees they don’t really care where they are playing, either – they have been a combined 17-6 on the road over that stretch. The Angels don’t have the talent or depth that they have had in recent years, but they know how to turn it on in the summer, and they are still very much in the division title picture – just 3.5 games behind the Rangers. Mike Scioscia obviously knows what buttons to push in July, and there’s a fair chance that he’ll succeed in pushing them again here.
Philadelphia Phillies – The Phillies have been the most consistent National League squad in July in the last three years. Last year they had the best July record in baseball at 20-7, and they were a solid 15-10 each of the two years previous. they haven’t been quite as bad as the Yankees on the road, but they haven’t been dominant, either, s the fact that half of their games in July are on the road won’t help. They could certainly use a big month – they are three games out in a division race that they really should be running away with if they were playing anywhere near their potential.
Colorado Rockies – The story has been familiar over the last three years – the Rockies don’t get a fast start, but they sure close strong. July definitely has been when they have been in their strong play mode. They were a solid 15-11 last year en route to a wild card berth. The two years before that they had the third best record in baseball each time. The Rockies seem to be like a race horse that needs to settle off the pace early on so that he has something to chase down the stretch. They are reasonably well positioned for a stretch drive here as well – they are in third in the NL West, but just five games out of first, and no team in the division has been dominant. Last year they were 7.5 games out of the lead.
Texas Rangers – The Rangers have been above .500 in July each of the last three years, and last year they were a very impressive 17-8. Another strong July would be very helpful for them – they have the lead in the AL West, but the Angels are chasing them and we’ve already talked about them.
Tampa Bay Rays – The Rays should love the hot weather since they are in Florida, but they don’t seem to. In 2007 their 7-20 record was the low point of a lousy season. In 2008 they were barely better than .500 at 13-12, and last year they were stuck right at even at 12-12. In all three of those years they have struggled away from home. Tampa Bay is already showing more than a few signs of real struggle, so another rough July could be a death blow for their already challenged chances of winning the AL East.