Does being in first place on Memorial Day matter?

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Memorial Day poppy.jpgQuick answer: If the Braves beat the Phillies today and take first place then, yes, a lead on Memorial Day is the most important thing ever. At least to Bravos Backers like myself.

Answer based on data rather than emotion: It matters about 65.625% of the time.  That’s the number Buster Olney’s research team came up with when asked how often a team makes the playoffs after being in first place on Memorial Day.  That’s based on a sample of 96 first place teams since the advent of the Wild Card, 58 of whom won the division, five of whom won the wild card and 33 of whom stayed home.

How does this year’s crop of firsties shape up?  I like the Rays, Twins, and Phillies to make the playoffs one way or the other. I’m way more skeptical about the Athletics, Reds and Padres.  I think first place in the AL West is going to be a revolving door. I’d like to combine the Reds’ offense and the Padres pitching into a super squad, but I’m skeptical that each team is complete enough to grind it out against their more talented division rivals.

Back to emotion over data:  I’m pretty psyched that no one is running away with their division this year. It’s going to make a for a wonderful summer.

And let’s be clear about something:  The only reason you have the day off today to sit around and think about which front runner will make the playoffs is because soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have died in service to our country. Far be it from me to tell you not to enjoy your baseball and your barbecue today, but before you do, give your thoughts and give your thanks to our nation’s veterans.

Happy Memorial Day everyone.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.