This year’s series wasn’t as exciting as the previous two (or even three), but then it would be hard to come close to the fun and excitement of those two. Of course, there’s always stuff to say about a World Series, no matter how many games it lasts or who wins.
Seems that every time the World Series comes around, there’s always a little talk about the players that are appearing there for the first time. I got to thinking. Really great players are often on great teams; the kind that win pennants on a regular basis. And they have careers that are long enough so that even by chance, they might wind up in the World Series. We even take it as granted that being in a World Series – even if your team doesn’t win – is one of the key factors in being a “great” player.
So I got to wondering. What great players had the bad luck to never be on a pennant winning team, and therefore never appear in a Fall Classic? Heck, you could probably go through the Hall of Famers and put together a full nine-player team….
With Spring Training underway, baseball is back in the news!. One of the many things we’re pondering (Will Mike Trout ever get another MVP award? Are the Rays and Marlins really trying to lose?) is the eternal question: Who is going to win the World Series this year? It’s a teeny bit too early for predictions – so I won’t make any.
Instead, I’ll note that we’ve had some really great series recently. Exciting games, teams ending championship droughts, classic matchups, the works. It leads one to ponder – just which WS was the most exciting of them all?
Seems like one cannot quantify “excitement” in that manner. Surely, it’s an objective matter. But hold on a minute. The huge body of statistical records in baseball, with details down to individual pitch counts, makes it a bit easier than one would expect. There’s something called “Win Probability” which, as it suggests, gives a team’s chance of winning a game at any specific point in any given game. Atfer a play, the difference in Win Probability becomes “Win Probability Added” (WPA). The bigger and more important a play, the greater the WPA. (more on WPA in this post ) In a World Series or other playoff game, one can calculate the odds of a Championship Probability – the chance a team has of winning the actual series – for each situation. The Championship Probability Added (cWPA) is therefore how important a given play was in determining the outcome of a series.
Naturally, people have done this to figure out the biggest and most important plays in World Series history. Over at The Baseball Gauge, Dan Hirsch has crunched all the numbers and made the database.
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.
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.
It’s that time of year. After the Hall of Fame results have been announced, but well before Spring Training begins. There is practically nothing going on in the world of Baseball.
What’s a fan to do?
Back in 1995, SPORT magazine decided to give out an award to the player in the World Series who had the greatest impact on his team’s performance in the series. Johnny Podres won it that year, thanks to complete game wins in Games 2 and 7. It’s now decided by a group of broadcasters, sportswriters, and officials at the end of the last game, and the winner gets a new car in addition to the trophy.
But the World Series started in 1903. What if you went back and chose MVPs for all those earlier championships?
One could, thanks to the wonders of modern statistical analysis, simply choose the player with the greatest Win Probability Added, or some other goofy stat. That’s no fun at all. Here’s my entirely subjective list.
Just a few quick thoughts before the World Series starts….
The Mets completely overwhelmed the Cubs in the LCS. The Royals took care of the Blue Jay’s offense. Now they go head-to-head in the World Series. I wish I could offer a prediction, but it’s too close to call. The Mets have the better starting pitching, but the Royals are better defensively. Other than that, there’s no real significant difference between the teams. Look for it to go the full seven games, with a lot of close, low-scoring contests.
Oh, by the way…. The Baseball Gods have decreed that next April, the Royals will open the season by hosting the Mets for two games…
Back in 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays had a problem. They’d won the pennant, and tradition dictated that they have one of their greatest, most famous, most well-loved players throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the first World Series game in their home stadium.
But there was a bit of a catch. The franchise had only been in existence for ten years. They didn’t have any “famous” players they could call on. Heck, the best players they’d ever had were still playing for them!
What to do?
They went with Bob Stewart, the former Pinellas County Commissioner who was instrumental in bringing Major League Baseball to the Tampa Bay area. A very nice honor for the man.
I’ve wondered on occasion – who decides who gets the honor? It’s usually someone like the Greatest Living Player for the team. But that gets rather predictable after a while. I do know that Major League Baseball has to approve all the “first pitchers”, but they don’t make the selection. If I may, I’d like to make some guesses as to who we might see in the World Series – or some candidates whom it would be awesome to see…..
The Fall Classic. No other team sport has anything like it. The Super Bowl? Started in 1967. Basketball? The NBA didn’t have a championship until 1950. The first World Cup? 1930. While I admit that the Stanley Cup can trace its roots back to the 1890s, the format for determining the championship of professional hockey didn’t take its current form until 1927, after the last rival league to the NHL folded. Baseball’s World Series debuted in 1903 (and if you’re going to be picky about the beginnings of the Stanley Cup, the first baseball “Championship of the United States” was in 1884). There’s well over a century of legends and lore.
The World Series magnifies everything. The great players are greater. Bob Gibson strikes out seventeen Red Sox. Reggie Jackson hits home runs on three straight pitches. The fielding is more amazing: Wille Mays. Ron Swoboda. Al Gionfriddo. Unheralded players turn into heroes: Howard Ehmke. Dusty Rhodes. Edgar Renteria. And the errors and mistakes (Fred Snodgrass, Bill Buckner) are more painful.
There’s been a heck of a lot of drama in the hundreds of World Series games. I’ve got a list of the eight most exciting (in my opinion) games; and it’s not your ordinary list…
While there are still a couple of games left, and the wild card spots are still being decided, it’s pretty well set which teams are going to the playoffs. So very soon, you’ll start seeing odds on the World Series. I’m not so dedicated a fan (or bettor) to really care about that sort of thing. I’ll be watching anyway.
But I am free to muse on which teams I would like to see (anyone but the St. Louis Cardinals, essentially) in the World Series. Rather than run down the various pluses and minuses for each team, I thought I’d instead look at possible W.S. pairings according to what I suspect FOX would like to see.