Saturday, October 27, 2012

Friday Baseball Post

Well, I don't know about the rest of you, much less the players, but I'm certainly happy for the travel day today.

I can't quite get my mind around the idea that the Giants have been in the WS three times over eleven years. For that matter, I think it's surprising how few teams have made it since they put in the extra round (and of course they expanded again this year, but ignoring that):

Giants, Cardinals, Braves 3
Phillies, Fish 2
Rockies, Astros, DBacks, Mets, Padres

Yankees 7
Rangers, Red Sox, Tigers, Indians 2
White Sox, Angels, Rays

So 10 NL teams, 8 AL teams; 3 NL teams have 9 of the 18 pennants, and of course the Yankees have 7 of the AL flags all by themselves.

I would have guessed - I did guess - that no team would dominate a three-tiered set of playoffs the way the Yankees have. And that back-to-back pennants would be very rare. Let's see...we've had six defending pennant winners repeat over 1996-2012. In the 1976-1993 (free agency, LCS only except for a goofy 1981), I count eight. So that's not all that different, if my count is correct.

Some of it is that I suspect is if competitive balance has deteriorated as a consequence of the post-1994 collective bargaining agreement (although I don't know if that's true -- I don't keep up enough with sabermetric stuff these days to know who studies it and what they've found. Just my impression). Some of it might be luck. Some might be Mariano Rivera, all by himself, I suppose.

Not that I'm complaining about anything these days, of course.

I also can't quite get my mind around the idea that the Giants have been in the WS four times since the last time the Dodgers were there...that the Dodgers have won exactly two LCS games during that time. Indeed: when I consider the possibility that things could go terribly wrong over the next several days, that's a great comfort to me.

Okay, now I'm ready for Game 3 tomorrow night.


  1. Just to pile on the Dodgers a bit more, the Dodgers have only won three playoff games—of any type—since their last World Series win in 1988. In addition to the two LCS games you mentioned, they also won a single LDS game in 2004.

    I grew up in SF during a time when the Dodgers were perennial penant contenders while the Giants consistently lost 80-95 games a year. It is indeed difficult to get one's mind around how the dynamic has changed over the past 23 years.

  2. ^ You're forgetting, the Dodgers had to win the LDS to reach the LCS in consecutive years (08-09). Putting those together with the other victories, they've won 9 playoff games since their last Series win.

    Still an abysmal record for such a well-financed team. But then, I'm a Mets fan, so who am I to judge? :p

  3. A mild whimper from a Dodgers fan: they were hardly well-financed during the McCourt era. They mostly were as successful as they were due to some good young players and a lot of chewing gum and baling wire.

    That said, I agree it's astonishing they've not been to the World Series since 1988 and the Giants have several times. I'd go further. It's disturbing.

  4. You Dodger fans shouldn't fret. Magic Johnson is spending big on Names. Think about all the money he spent this year on Names. Worked out pretty well. They were only two days from making the playoffs!

  5. Watching Drew Smyly prepare to face Brandon Belt the other night, it occurred to me that, while Smyly had a respectable 1.5 WAR in 2012, his laborious breathing indicated that for last night - at least at first - his WAR might have been about -30. That's why we love the postseason and pennant race, right? When an otherworldly 8-WAR Verlander allows three bombs to a relatively power-free panda, maybe we're witnessing an outlier, but more likely the Verlander we saw the other night is not who we think he is, at least nothing like what an 8-WAR starter should be.

    Smyly's struggle with the game 2 moment probably goes a long way to explaining why certain franchises go mini-dynasty in an era otherwise of parity. Remember that quote from Aaron Boone after he won game 7 of the 2003 ALCS? The Yanks were trailing by three late, and just before Pedro imploded, new-Yankee Boone expressed his concern to Jeter, who confidently said that the ghosts were going to wake up any minute...not being overwhelmed by the moment is worth a lot, if you can be the player you're supposed to be in clutch situations.

    Going back to Jeter, at the height of that dynasty Jeter was about an 8-WAR guy. If he's facing an opponent in the WS, a Padre or Brave or other intimidated soul, Jeter may be significantly better than the opposing SS or pitcher in circumstances that create much more anxiety in his opponent than in him. Jeter might be about the same player as in the regular season, while his opponent drops 8 or 10 from his war total by virtue of intimidation, the upshot of which is 8 WAR Jeter becomes something like 18 WAR Jeter in the series.

    Even at the height of his powers, Bonds was never more than an 11.6 WAR guy. It seems entirely plausible to me that Jeter, and several other Yanks, by virtue of handling the moment, effectively became 11.6 (or greater) WAR guys during those postseasons. I think for guys like Posey and the Panda and the rest, something similar is going on this year. Experience + confidence is probably worth serious WAR upside in a high-pressure situation.

  6. One other thing, before I forget: if you're my age (early 40s), the Giants coaching staff, with Bochy as manager, Tim Flannery as 3B coach, Joe Lefebvre as a hitting coach and Dave Righetti as a pitching coach, is like a living reminiscence of every (unwelcome) baseball card pack I purchased in 1984, wondering, as always, when I was finally gonna get a Mattingly rookie card...


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