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Re: 2018 Baseball Post-Season

Posted: Sun Oct 21, 2018 1:35 pm
by Mister Tee
"Game of inches" is the great cliche of baseball, and last night, within the span of an inning, we saw it determine the World Series match-up.

Bottom of the 5th: Brewers trailing 2-1, Cody Bellinger's 2-run homer at that point having topped Yelich's solo shot. Brewers with a man on second, two out. Yelich lines a shot seemingly headed for the gap -- sure to tie the game -- on which Chris Taylor makes a terrific, Benintendi-like catch.

This sort of deflating moment has a way of altering game outcomes, and the reversal was underscored minutes later, again by inches. Top of the 6th: Bellinger barely beats out what would have been a inning-ending double play ball. Next batter, Puig, demolishes the ball for a three-run homer that effectively ended the Brewers' season -- though it took three more innings for that to become official.

So, the Dodgers become the third team this decade to play in back-to-back Series, and hope they follow the path of the Royals rather than the Rangers. This is pretty much my nightmare Series: the Red Sox are my permanent thirtieth choice for World Champion, and the Dodgers twenty-ninth -- though most of that latter loathing goes back to the LaSorda years, and I don't feel it as intensely these days. In any case, I'll be watching the Series more out of duty than for pleasure.

At least it's something to distract, over the next 10 days, from the altogether more important issues we'll be facing on November 6th.

Re: 2018 Baseball Post-Season

Posted: Sat Oct 20, 2018 1:41 pm
by Mister Tee
Life developments have interfered with my promised updates; I'm not sure anyone misses them, anyway. But, for the record:

Houston seemed utterly beaten by the turns of fate in Game 4, and barely seemed to show up for Game 5. David Price -- who the Yankees would face in a pivotal game any day of the year -- threw 7 shutout innings against the limp Stros, and Jason Verlander, ace of aces, surrendered 4 runs by middle innings (3 on a Devers home run) that essentially ended the Houston season. So...once again, we will not have a repeat champion.

Over in the NL, Milwaukee won the first game back in LA. Game 4 was a lengthy affair (13 innings) that was never truly interesting, because neither team could seem to muster anything like a rally most of the way. Until, of course, the 13th, when Bellinger poked a two-out single that scored a runner from second and tied the series. The following night, Kershaw was back in Dr. Jekyll mode, throwing 7 innings of 1-run ball that put the Dodgers up 3 games to 2. The Brewers countered that last night, scoring early and often en route to a 7-2 win.

Which means, yes, Game 7 tonight, which offers pleasures even in a year when apathy is high. I'm rooting for the Brewers, simply for the new-face aspect, but also for the historical oddity: if they should face the Red Sox in the Series, it'd be the second year in a row the World Series consisted of two teams who for years played in the same division of the same league.

Re: 2018 Baseball Post-Season

Posted: Thu Oct 18, 2018 6:41 pm
by Mister Tee
I'd planned to delay my next update till after both series had finished their middle-three, and will mostly do that. But last night's Sox/Stro game merits a little comment on its own.

It was another epic affair -- a 9-inning game finishing barely under the five-hour mark. It started with a massively disputed call (a potential Altuve HR turned into an out for questionable fan interference). It continued with scoring by one team or another in each of the first eight innings, with tie-ing, re-tie-ing and lead changes galore. And it ended with a blistering line drive caught by Benintendi that was maybe two inches from being a bases-clearing game-flipping hit. And oh, yeah: Kimbrel was the barely-bailed-out pitcher at the end. He'd already given up a run in the 8th, keeping his record pristine: runs surrendered in every post-season game -- yet somehow he's perfect in save opportunities. What was that about damn lies and statistics?

The result gives Boston a 3-1 lead in the series, and dark suspicion they've made a deal with the devil this season. Verlander attempts to keep Houston alive or the year (if the Stros can't beat Price with their ace aboard, they don't deserve to win), but even with that it'd be back to Fenway for two. Looking very Sox-y.

More on this, and Dodgers/Brewers, on travel day.

Re: 2018 Baseball Post-Season

Posted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 4:02 pm
by Mister Tee
Not much enthusiasm for this thread, with all our teams sitting home, but, for the record, at this interim moment:

On Friday, the Brewers dealt Kershaw yet another post-season failure -- the key hit a three-run homer by a left-handed relief pitcher, apparently a post-season first -- then barely held on to win Game 1, 6-5. They failed to hold their lead the following afternoon -- Justin Turner hit a two-run gamer in the 8th -- significantly because their best reliever, Bad Tweeter Josh Hader, had pitched three innings on Friday and was unavailable.

In the AL, Astros/Red Sox had a truly ugly, endless Game 1 (4-5 hours long, filled with walks, errors and hit batsmen) which stayed close most of the way, till the Stros piled on Boston relievers in the 9th to achieve a 7-2 win. Boston responded on Sunday by punishing previously untouchable Gerrit Cole, offsetting another mediocre-to-poor David Price start; this game, too, was made easier via bullpen failure (Boston padded a 1-run lead late) -- though the Astros managed a decent-enough rally against Kimbrel in the 9th to make things interesting. (Kimbrel has now given up runs in all three post-season appearances, not an auspicious sign for Boston.)

That's where we stand, each series knotted 1-1. Westward ho!

Re: 2018 Baseball Post-Season

Posted: Fri Oct 12, 2018 1:14 pm
by Mister Tee
And then there were four, not including the team I care about.

To rewind briefly:

Cleveland carried a 2-1 home-park lead into the 7th inning, and watched their bullpen collapse utterly: the Astros scored 10 runs over the final three innings, and only allowed 1 meaningless bottom-nine counter. The Astros move on with the ease suggested by the regular-season disparity between the two teams.

It looked like the Dodgers were poised to do the same -- offsetting a slim Braves lead in middle innings -- but the Braves' bullpen performed less hopelessly than Cleveland's, holding the Dodgers to a (comparatively) respectable 6-2 victory. Which of course produced the same result: the Dodgers moving on, the young Braves sent home with the message they won't climb the full mountain in one year.

Finally, to my disappointed squad: I noted last post that starting pitching could well decide the series and, sadly, it did. Luis Severino, after a spectacular April-July run, had had a long stretch of ineffectiveness in the second half and, though he recovered for some excellence in the deep stretch, came into Game 3 a questionable quantity. He from the start showed it was not to be his night, and was gone after three already-dismal innings. There was strong questioning of Aaron Boone's bullpen strategy -- why did he go to Lance Lynn before Chad Green? -- but such matters are rather moot when the offense couldn't muster anything against former teammate Nate Eovaldi. The game ended an embarrassing blowout.

The following/crucial game looked for a moment like it would be more of the same, when the Sox ran up an early 4-0 lead, but this time the bullpen did its lockdown job, keeping the Yanks within striking distance for a 9th inning rally that fell JUST short -- the tying and winning runs were on base, but first Gary Sanchez's would-be homer faded at the warning track and then Gleyber Torres was nipped at first. This, on top of Aaron Hicks' just-foul potential two-run homer earlier, made it feel like it was just not quite the Yankees' night -- and, as it turned out, year.

I honestly never quite felt the team was going to go all the way this year -- throughout this whole wild card era, they've only ever won as division champions. But it's of course a letdown to go less far than they did a year ago; baseball doesn't distribute its good fortune in predictable patterns. I still feel good about the team's chances at a -- if not multiple -- championships over the coming decade. But it always sucks to lose, especially to the severest rival.

Speaking of: the most interesting aspect off the coming ALCS is that both teams involved seem to think they're the hottest thing going, and one of them is about to find out otherwise. The standings (and thus home field) say Boston is best, but the underlying numbers say Houston prevails. It should be an epic battle.

Either AL team should knock off whoever survives Milwaukee/LA, except for the youneverknow factor. The NL face-off offers a dichotomy similar to the AL's -- Milwaukee has the better record, but the run-differential says LA is stronger by a fair bit.

Hopefully, this leads to two engaging series, which is all I'm left with at this point.

Re: 2018 Baseball Post-Season

Posted: Mon Oct 08, 2018 2:05 pm
by Mister Tee
Away for two days as advertised, and for a bit there it looked like half the four series might be over before I could weigh in again. That could still be the case by end of day -- in fact, 3 of 4 match-ups could be decided. But, for the moment, three series still live.

To deal with the past-tense series first: Milwaukee/Colorado looked like a potentially fun encounter in the first meeting, when Colorado -- 1-hit through 8 innings -- managed a 2-run game-tying rally in the 9th. What we didn't know then was that it would be the Rockies' last time scoring -- the Brewers walked off Game One in the 10th, then shut out Colorado 4-0 and 6-0. (This last was at Coors, where shutting out the home team has to be a real rarity.) I said I thought the Brewers were clearly superior, so this hardly comes as surprise. But sweeps are always disappointing.

The Dodgers similarly stymied the young Braves with two shutouts at Chavez Ravine (Kershaw delivering one of them, maybe his best post-season effort to date) . It looked like the series relocation to Atlanta was going to lead the Braves to an easy win when they took a 5-0 lead in Game 3 (thanks largely to an Acuna grand-slam)...but the Dodgers tied it up in middle innings, and were hitting such rockets just after that it seemed only a matter of time till they retired the fledgling Atlanta line-up for winter. But Freddie Freeman hit a retake-the-lead home run, and the late Atlanta relief corps made it hold up (despite a white-knuckle 9th inning). So, the series continues today.

My weekend engagements prevented my seeing either of the first two Houston/Clevelad games, but the story, no surprise, appears to be Astro pitching, holding the Indians' line-up to 2 runs in Game one (vis a vis 7 for Houson) and 1 in Game 2 (with the Astros at 3). They're in middle innings of Game 3 as I type, with Cleveland clinging to a 1-0 lead. Even should they extend the series, I'm dubious the Indians have enough to prevail over the defending champs.

The closest series so far is Yankees/Red Sox -- tied at 1-1, with neither team seeming to have any decisive advantage. I missed most of game 1, so was perhaps overly encouraged by the Yanks' rally from an early 0-5 hole to a mere 1-run loss. Game 2 had David Price doing what David Price does: surrendering home runs to the Yankees. Judge and Sanchez both seem on fire, hitting balls phenomenal distances; it underlines how diminished the team was for that 45-game stretch when both were on he DL. The Red Sox non-Kimbrel relief corps looks just as wobbly as I'd expected, while the Yanks' bullpen has been mostly stellar. But much will depend on the performance of the remaining starters, beginning with Eovaldoi/Severino tonight. Still no prediction.

Re: 2018 Baseball Post-Season

Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 3:01 pm
by Mister Tee
Alert: I'll be out of town for the aforementioned family event from tomorrow through Sunday, so it's likely I won't have opportunity to post during that stretch.

As to the upcoming series:

The Rockies are, per Pythagoras, a less-good team than their record, while the Brewers line up pretty well with theirs. So, Milwaukee seems the stronger team in this match-up.

The Dodgers, per the numbers, way under-performed this season, which may be indicative of bad luck or of some inner flaw. I'd say they ought to prevail over the still-maturing Braves, but of course I thought the exact same vis a vis Indians/Yankees last year. Sometimes, the young bunch can surprise.

Houston/Cleveland, the match we never got to see last year, seems to have tilted the Astros' way: last year, the teams were close in quality; this year, Houston seems to have pulled away. (So, watch the Indians win.)

As for Boston/New York -- I don't know and wouldn't tempt fate by predicting. The Yankees are certainly way better than they were during the fateful August meeting -- Judge, Sanchez and Happ were all absent then -- so the teams are as closely matched as they have been at any point in the season. Whether that matters more than overall record/home field advantage will be played out over the week ahead.

Re: 2018 Baseball Post-Season

Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2018 11:33 pm
by Mister Tee
I can exhale, at least for a day or so, as the Yanks prevailed, to move on to face Boston.

Severino -- who, we may recall, was knocked out in the first inning of last year's Wild Card -- came out smoking, and, while he only lasted into the 5th (thanks to a lot of grinding at-bats by the A's), he kept the A's off the scoreboard with 7 Ks. The Yanks had a thin 2-0 lead at that point (courtesy of a very Judge-ian home run in the first), and Dellin Bettances -- a surprise choice for middle innings -- kept it that way with two perfect innings. Tension finally broke when the Yanks scored four additional runs in the 6th, the key hit a 2-run Luke Voit triple, on the 9th pitch of an epic at bat against Oakland's premier closer Treinen. (Who's Luke Voit, you ask? A late season acquisition who couldn't crack the Cardinals' line-up, but has been hitting out of his mind for the last month-plus. He may be just another Shane Spencer -- who hit ten home runs in September 1998, but never did anything special after -- but for right now, we're loving him.)

The TBS announcers think all the pressure is on Boston for the coming series, given their 108 wins, but I think pressure is always equal in a NY/Boston series. (Especially for me this weekend, as I'll be at a family gathering with lots of Boston cousins.) I'll venture some thoughts about that tomorrow.

Re: 2018 Baseball Post-Season

Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2018 2:31 pm
by FilmFan720
Mister Tee wrote:So, if you had the Cubs as first team to be bounced from the post-season...your predictive powers are way better than mine.

It was an absorbing game, gripping if you had a rooting interest. A danfrank kind of game, I assume -- low-scoring, no home runs, the ultimate rally built on three weakish two-out singles.

The Cubs started September with a 4 1/2 game division lead. It's harder to blow something like that than you might think -- a less than 10% proposition. So they stumbled into the playoffs, and managed only 1 run in each of its two games this week. The ESPN guys said a full 40 of their 162 games, they scored either 0 or 1 run, which is hard to believe with that line-up.

On to the A.L.


Re: 2018 Baseball Post-Season

Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2018 2:03 pm
by Mister Tee
So, if you had the Cubs as first team to be bounced from the post-season...your predictive powers are way better than mine.

It was an absorbing game, gripping if you had a rooting interest. A danfrank kind of game, I assume -- low-scoring, no home runs, the ultimate rally built on three weakish two-out singles.

The Cubs started September with a 4 1/2 game division lead. It's harder to blow something like that than you might think -- a less than 10% proposition. So they stumbled into the playoffs, and managed only 1 run in each of its two games this week. The ESPN guys said a full 40 of their 162 games, they scored either 0 or 1 run, which is hard to believe with that line-up.

On to the A.L.

2018 Baseball Post-Season

Posted: Tue Oct 02, 2018 5:45 pm
by Mister Tee
It required an extra day, but we finally have our post-season qualifiers in position.

We had a tale of two leagues this year. The AL was a metaphor for our income inequality-riven society. For the first time, three teams in one league won 100 games or more. This was possible largely because three teams also lost 100 (with two more losing 98 and 95). The strategy of the latter teams seems to be to follow the Astros’ method: tank disastrously for several years, rebuild on the cheap with first-round draft picks. Only problem: can that work when multiple teams are going the same route? It might be like that part of Bruce Almighty, where Carrey answers so many people’s wish to win the lottery that their prizes only amount to a few dollars. We’ll see how this plays out.

Meantime, the NL was a paradigm of parity. While one team (the revived Braves) won its division easily, four other teams ended in flat ties for the other two, occasioning yesterday’s unprecedented double-playoff. It made for an entertaining enough day, but you can’t say the stakes were too high – both losing teams knew the worst they could expect was a shot at the Wild Card game today. (Not that anyone craves the elimination nature of the Wild Card, but it sure beat being sent home yesterday.) The low intensity reminded me of Bob Costas’ argument against the Wild Card 20 years ago – he noted that the most famous call in baseball history would now be revised to “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Dodgers win the Wild Card! The Dodgers win the Wild Card!”

Invoking author’s rights, I’ll begin my overview with the American League.

The Red Sox ended with the best record in their history, and, I’ll be honest, I couldn’t understand this for most of the season, and even, really, at the end. They had a few players with clear landmark seasons (Betts, Martinez, Bogaerts, maybe Benintendi), one spectacular starter in Sales, a great closer in Kimbrel, and almost no injury issues (they lost Sale for a while toward the end, but that’s when he historically dips in quality, so it may not have meant much). However, the back-end four of their line-up were substandard, their starters beyond Sale unreliable, and their middle relief a clear vulnerability. I’m not quite sure how all that led to 108 wins – and the Pythagorean numbers suggest they over-performed by 5 games. They are where they are – best record in baseball – but I’m still wondering if they can live up to that status in post-season.

That same Pythagorean system says the Astros under-performed by 6 games – meaning, according to analytics, THEY should be viewed as baseball’s best. The Stros were hurt by a stretch where Altuve, Springer and Bregman were all DL-ed at the same time…but maybe even more by their inability to find a reliable closer. An indelible image from early season was Ken Giles punching himself in the face after giving up a three-run homer to Gary Sanchez. Giles was subsequently traded, but the team never really found a Kimbrel-like replacement. It may be they’ll repeat last year’s stratagem – having their 4th-5th starters handle bullpen chores in playoff games. And, of course, in other respects they’ll be the same team that won the Series last year, so they have to be considered a solid prospect to go all the way.

Then there’s Cleveland, which had the worst record of any of the league’s post-season qualifiers, and would have finished 17 games behind the Red Sox, but coasted to a 13-game lead in their too-often moribund division. Cleveland has some excellent players, a core rotation that could get hot at any time, and much recent post-season experience, so you can’t rule them out from going far. But the numbers say, this year, they’ve mostly been lucky.

My Yankees expected to be better than last year, and were, to the tune of 100 wins – which granted them a finish 8 games behind the Red Sox, once again subject to the whimsy of a 1-game Wild Card face-off. The team had a few these-things-happen occurrences hurt them: Sonny Gray melting down utterly, Greg Bird falling off a cliff in early August, Gary Sanchez having a (by his standard) poor year. But they were more hurt by injury: losing Jordan Montgomery to Tommy John, having Tanaka miss 5 weeks after a base-running fluke, and, most emphatically, losing Judge and Sanchez for roughly the same 45-game period in August/September (I know: I said Sanchez was having a bad year – but, even with that, he’s one of the best hitting catchers in the league, well superior to his replacements). The team went 25-20 during that absence (including the 4-game Sox sweep at Fenway that put the division away), but 75-42 the rest of the way. The team now, finally, has the full line-up they envisioned (but rarely had) for the whole year – not only Judge and Sanchez back, but super rookie tandem Gleyber Torres/Miguel Andujar (who, matched with Judge/Sanchez/Severino, account for as fine a crop of young players as the team has ever produced), and high-performing Aaron Hicks/Didi Gregorius/Giancarlo Stanton. Whether all that gets them past the Oakland A’s tomorrow night remains to be seen.

Oakland is (apologies to Eric, if he still looks in here) not comparable to last year’s Twins, who were clearly a division down in talent from the Yanks. Oakland has an excellent, power-hitting line-up (led by Khris Davis) and a great bullpen; they strongly challenged the Astros well into September, and made the Yanks fight for home field advantage in the Wild Card. They could easily win Wednesday night’s contest, and make themselves far better known to the baseball world at large.

To the National League:

I assume I wasn’t alone in expecting the rejuvenated Atlanta Braves to falter at some point in the season. They have a spectacular collection of young players, who should make them contenders for years to come, but one kept expecting their just-getting-their-bearings status to trip them up at some point. This didn’t happen because the Washington Nationals unaccountably collapsed (usually, they wait till post-season for that) and the Mets suffered enough injuries to neuter their often-stellar pitching (they certainly refuted the old saw that pitching is 75% of the game). This left only the also-green Phillies as prime competition, and those Phillies DID succumb to young-team pressure, giving the Braves a fairly easy ride of it. I guess the same caveat about youth applies to the post-season: you’d expect the Braves to fall before a more experienced team. But maybe, like the Yankees last year, they’ll surprise us.

Again in terms of what many of us expected this season: I presumed that once the Cubs (in mid-summer) and Dodgers (in September) overtook their upstart competition (Brewers and Rockies, respectively) that they’d hold on solidly to the division. But this didn’t happen: both newbie teams managed to tie their division defending rivals, and the Brewers actually managed to top the Cubs at Wrigley yesterday to take the crown, and force the Cubs into a Wild Card showdown with the Rockies.

My die-hard Cubs fan friend regales me with the same injury woes as I feed him about the Yanks, and there’s certainly truth to it. But my from-the-outside take is that the Cubs have not ever really solved their three-year-old lack-of-closer issue. In retrospect, I understand Maddon overusing Chapman in 2016 – and the organization’s willingness to trade blue-chip Gleyber Torres to get him; everyone else they’ve tried in the role has gone bust (including yesterday). The Cubs are still that dynamic line-up we saw capture the crown two years ago, and they can’t be ruled out. But they’re not having the kind of lead-in to post-season that normally prefigures success.

The Dodgers also had injury issues – ones that had them in danger of falling out of the race at certain points in mid-summer – but the talent that got to Game 7 last year finally asserted itself and won the division (albeit a day late). We’ve seen this team so many times in recent post-seasons that they don’t need a whole lot of introduction. As usual, their fate will depend on whether super-performers like Kershaw play up to their abilities.

Since I don’t spend much time watching the NL, I have to confess the Brewers are pretty much a mystery to me. I’m familiar with many of their players, but from other teams (Christian Yelich, Gio Gonzalez, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain) or from scandal (Ryan Braun steroids, Josh Hader bad tweets uncovered at the All-Star game). I look forward to watching them over at least the next week. Were they to go all the way, they’d be yet another team to finally reach the promised land after a lo-o-o-ng wait: this is their 50th season, and they’ve only ever played in one (losing) World Series. (It’d also be piquant for them to win the year after the Astros, since they’re the two teams that essentially traded leagues this decade.)

And as little as I know about the Brewers, I’m expert there compared to how even less I know about the Rockies (apart from the fact that Nolan Arenado is a frickin’ great player). Colorado, being two time zones away and playing in a notoriously ridiculous ballpark, has never really got much national attention and, except for the one Series appearance, I’ve not had much occasion to observe them. Should they prevail in the Wild Card game, I’ll have a chance to learn a lot more.

I have no particular prediction for the Wild Card games -- Well, that's not really true: I'm just too superstitious to say anything about Yanks/As. I guess I would find it unlikely a team as good as the Cubs could lose two consecutive elimination games at Wrigley.

I might hazard some guesses when we get to the actual Division Series match-ups.