On the 2017 World Series

Wow.

What a World Series! What can I say? It was an unbelievable set of games, between two amazing teams. All the games were very close and hard-fought. Even the ones that look like blowouts from the final score weren’t. Game 4, that ended with the Dodgers winning 6-2? It was tied at 1 going to the ninth inning. And even Game 7 was tighter than you’d think.

Sure, the Astros scored their five runs early. Yu Darvish is probably already getting blamed for it, but watch the replays. Springer’s leadoff double was fair by inches, and if Cody Bellinger has simply put the ball in his pocket instead of throwing it to El Monte…. Meanwhile, Astros’ starter Lance McCullers must have thought he was playing dodgeball instead of baseball against the Dodgers – he hit four of the thirteen batters he faced. But the Dodgers offense left the population of Burbank on the basepaths, dooming whatever chances they were handed.

Even so, knowing the state of the Astros’ bullpen and the overall strength of the Dodgers’ offense, there was always the hope / worry that Los Angeles would put something together and pull out a win. They didn’t really look dead until the bottom of the ninth.

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Just Checking…

Back at the end of March, in the introduction to an essay on the validity of the “win” as a worthwhile statistic for pitchers, I tossed out my picks for the six division winners this baseball season:

Now I could use this opportunity to discuss my picks for the Divisional Champions (Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, Indians, Astros), but I really haven’t been paying attention to how Spring Training has been going.

https://pureblather.com/2017/03/28/on-pitchers-wins-ii/

Turns out I was right on all six. It’s not really a big deal; it was pretty obvious at the start of the season that they were the strongest teams (at least on paper) in their divisions. But it’s still kind of nice to go 6-0 in my picks.

I’m NOT going to give any predictions for the World Series; I’ll just note that if it’s Cubs and Indians, that will be the first time since 1977-1978 that there’s been a “rematch” in the W.S.; and if it’s Dodgers and Astros, it will be baseball’s best pitching staff (Dodgers) facing baseball’s best offense (Astros).

 

This is Going to be Great!

We’re heading down to the final weekend of the baseball season, and it’s shaping up to be a great batch of playoffs. The division winners are essentially set, and it’s pretty clear who’s going to be facing each other in the wild-card “play-in” game. And they’re all worth rooting for.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have already reached 100 wins. They haven’t done that since 1974. For a while it looked like they were going to set a record for wins, but they stumbled a bit down the stretch. They’ve righted the ship, and it looks like they’ll have home-field advantage all the way through to the World Series. Which, if they make it, will be their first pennant since 1988.

The Cubs want to be the first team to repeat as World Series Champions since the 1999-2000 New York Yankees. The Washington Nationals are (still) going for the first pennant in franchise history (including their tenure in Montreal). I don’t think they’ll settle for just winning more than one playoff game, though. With three of the best pitchers in the NL (Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez), you can’t blame them. And their “window” is closing; Bryce Harper is nearing free agency….

Over in the American League, the Cleveland Indians certainly want another shot at the World Series to end their drought. They’ve been tearing up the joint this month and a half, and should get 100 wins by the time the season ends. The Astros also have a shot at 100, and how can you not root for Houston?

The Boston Red Sox, meanwhile, would like to remind Yankee and Aaron Judge fans that they actually lead the AL East, as well as having Cy Young candidate Chris “300+ strikeouts ought to count for something, right?” Sale.

Speaking of awards, most of these teams have a solid candidate for some serious hardware. Chris Sale and the Indians’ Corey Kluber are the top choices for AL Cy Young, Max Scherzer of the Nationals and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw to worry about. The Astros’ Jose Altuve is the leading AL MVP candidate. The NL MVP Award field is rather crowded; the Cubs’ Kris Bryant has an outside chance at it.

All the division leaders are loaded with talent. Expect a lot of great, exciting games in October! And however it turns out, it’s pretty much guaranteed that a deserving team will win.

When Your Team is Out of the Race

I freely admit to being a Mets fan. This is largely the fault of Howie Rose, their radio play-by-play man. The Mets radio team runs rings around John “Theeeeeeeeeeeee Yankees Win!” Sterling. Anyway, a couple of days ago, with the Mets well out of contention (even getting to .500 is a very long shot), he talked about why you should follow your team anyway. His point was that you’d get to be there when all these new, young players made their debuts (like I was there for Rhys Hoskins’ first game), and you could brag about it later.

This got me to wondering (especially with football stories starting to occupy the sporting press) – what sort of fun and interesting and amazing things happen with teams out of the playoff hunt in late September? Thanks to the “This Day in Baseball History” pages of National Pastime and Baseball Reference, I was able to dig up a lot of interesting things that happened on September 15 or later. The sorts of things that make following baseball worthwhile.

I’ve concentrated on events no more than ten years old, because we all know that if it happened before you were old enough to notice, it didn’t really happen.

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A Trip to Philadelphia – Part 3

As a baseball fan, I’ve been planning my vacations around the schedule so I can take in a game while I’m away. This time, I deliberately chose to go to Philadelphia so I could see the Phillies host the Mets. I hadn’t been to Citizens Bank Ballpark yet, so there was an extra reason for going.

All of Philadelphia’s sporting venues are clustered together at the southern end of the city. Mass transit is pretty good; the Broad Street subway line ends nearby. It’s a couple of minutes to walk to the stadium past acres of parking lots; it seems that’s the best they could do with all the new stadia construction coming after the subway was finished.

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Notes on the 2017 All-Star Game

So, FOX Sports is still using that football robot thing to lead in to a baseball game?

Is it just me, or does Alex Rodriguez sound like he’s reading off a teleprompter during the interview segments?

Nice segment honoring Latin Hall of Fame players. I wonder what an All-Time Latino Team would look like.

Anyone see Mike Trout? I know he’s rehabbing from a thumb injury, but he’s been playing rehab games, is the only representative of his team at the ASG, and was voted to start by the fans. He could have at least showed up in uniform….

Hey, FOX! How about showing the names of the reserves and coaching staff as they are being introduced? It would be a nice courtesy to the fans who haven’t seen these players before (and closed captioning is on too long a delay).

How about announcing the full umpiring crew? Pretty much every broadcast (TV *and* radio) takes a minute to run down the umpires for the game….

Finally gotten rid of that stupid “winning league in the ASG gets home-field advantage in the World Series” thing. I understand why it was felt to be necessary, but it’s should have been retired years ago.

Nice touch to have the gold stars with the number of ASG selections on the sleeves of the players. Did you notice that they were all single digits? Robinson Cano and Yadier Molina led the players with eight each (and given their ages, they’re not going to get many more). Looks like Henry Aaron’s record of 25 ASGs is safe (and not just because they don’t have two ASGs in a year anymore). I’m not sure what it says that we have no veteran players still playing well enough to be an All-Star. You have to wonder if all these young players will still be performing at anywhere near the same level in five years…. And how many of today’s players are “locks” on being chosen for the Hall of Fame?

The “in game” chats were kind of neat, but they will get tired very, very fast. Lucky for everyone that nothing was hit to a player while they were being interviewed….

Were the managers allowed to use the Replay Challenge? There wasn’t anything close enough for one, so we didn’t find out.

I wonder if Nelson Cruz is going to get reprimanded for the photo….

A nicely played, crisp, quick game. And not just because there was little offense. Pitchers were ready to pitch, hitters were ready to hit… And no visits to the mound or mid-inning pitching changes. Do you think Commissioner Manfred was paying attention?

Is it “All-Star” or “All Star”?

It was fun, wasn’t it?

Who Actually IS an All-Star?

Well, the voting has ended, and the teams have been announced – the starters as selected by fan voting, and the remaining rosters as selected by the Commissioner’s Office (taking into account fan voting, the need to have at least one representative from each team, and the need to have a balanced roster). To my dismay, I find that I got the number of players on each team wrong. It’s 32, not 35. That’ll show me….

Anyway, one can see the full rosters in many places. These are all listed by position. But what if they were listed by team? What would they look like? Let’s compare them with my selections, and see how off I was. You will also note that there are only 31 chosen players for each team here. The last spot is chosen in one final round of fan voting. We shall see…..

Don’t forget. The actual rosters are subject to change due to players being injured. Mike Trout will still be rehabbing by the time the game comes around; his starting spot has been given to Boston’s Mookie Betts.

NOTE: Italics indicate the starters as chosen by the fans.

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Who Wants to be an All-Star?

It’s been a fun and exciting first half of the season. Teams expected to be average (Rockies) are suddenly amazing; teams expected to do well are, well…. (Giants). Some players are maintaining their usual level of awesomeness (Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw), others have come out of nowhere (Aaron Judge).

With all that, there’s barely time to consider making an All-Star team.

But we must. Now, a few things have to be kept in mind:

1. The fans pick the starting position players and DH.
2. Each team must have a representative.
3. Each team gets a total of 35 players.

Those are the basics. You’ll want at least three catchers and two or three people for each of the other defensive positions. And with #2, each team has *someone* who is having a good season.

With that in mind, what would my All-Star teams look like?

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On Pitcher’s Wins – II

With baseball season beginning next week, it’s going to be a great relief to have something other than politics to talk about in everyday conversation. Now I could use this opportunity to discuss my picks for the Divisional Champions (Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, Indians, Astros), but I really haven’t been paying attention to how Spring Training has been going. There are a divisions where things should be interesting (AL and NL East, AL West), but it will probably come down to which team stays the healthiest over the season. And of course once the playoffs begin, it’s almost impossible to predict an outcome.

So what else is there to talk about?

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The World Series MVP – Before the Award – II

Going back over all the World Series like this reveals a few fun bits of trivia. For example, from 1919 through 1921, baseball tried out a best-of-seven series. The Cardinals had a pretty good dynasty in the early 40s.

But picking a World Series MVP like this can also be a bit frustrating. Which stats are important? Runs batted in are downplayed these days, as being more the result of opportunity than of talent. But what about the World Series, where every run scoring opportunity takes on vital importance? What do you do when (as in 1950), it’s a short series and no player stands out? How about when the best player is on the losing side? In 1944, George McQuinn led everyone with a .438 average, seven walks, and five runs batted in – but for the losing St Louis Browns….

I guarantee if I do this list again in a few months, I’ll pick an entirely different set of MVPs.
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