On the 2021 World Series

Well, that was….. a “best of seven” series.

We can’t expect every Fall Classic to be a Fall Classic, but this one was still rather dull. Half the games were pretty much over by the fourth inning. Only two could be considered interesting. Would the Astros ever get a base hit in Game 4, and holy crap did the Astros find their offense in Game 5!

But that was it.

One of the problems was that the announcers continued to include the stats from the earlier playoffs in a “Post-Season” bucket. This made the World Series seem like just another round of playoff games and NOT the Championship Series. I can understand doing it in the first two games, when the players haven’t accumulated enough appearances for any stats to be meaningful, but once Game 3 starts….

It would have also been nice to mention which players were appearing in their first World Series, or who was in their third or more WS.

You want to make the World Series a special event – treat it like something special.

Another problem – that wasn’t anyone’s fault – was the lack of “star power” on the teams. When the biggest names on the teams are Freddie Freeman and Jose Altuve, you’re not going to get much interest from the casual fan.

Much press attention was given to how the Braves added a bunch of outfielders at the trade deadline, and then turned out to have an incredible impact on the team’s playoff run. But isn’t that pretty much the same as “buying” a championship? In past years, we’ve looked down on teams that grab “free agents to be” at the trade deadline in order to secure a playoff spot – why are we giving the Braves a bit of a pass this time?

Speaking of free agents, I don’t recall hearing much about how a good number of prominent Astros will be free agents this year, making it pretty much the end of a dynasty that won three pennants in five years. Well, there was mention of the free agency thing, but not about the dynasty. They’d won four divisional titles in five years, but that’s somehow not a “dynasty”. But the San Francisco Giants, who won three WS in five years, despite having won their division in only two of them, and even having losing records in the non-WS years, ARE a “dynasty”.

Well, that’s all for baseball for this year. The awards will be given out in the next week or so, and then the collective bargaining agreement is going to expire, so that may be all the real baseball for much longer than just the winter.

The Worst World Series

It’s a lot of fun at this time of year to reminisce about the great World Series. The great games, the great players, the upsets…

But not every World Series lives up to the expectations.

Sometimes, one team totally overpowers the other, and the Series is done in four or five games. In the era of divisional play, a team with a poor regular season record can get hot at the right time and sneak into the Series. Sometimes, you just have two uninspiring teams with no one to root for. And sometimes, the games themselves are devoid of any interest or excitement.

Here are some (in chronological order) that were the opposite of a “Fall Classic”.

Continue reading

Astros vs. Nationals

OK, this is it! World Series time! The best team in baseball facing the hottest team. And only the second time ever when both teams were expansion teams (the first was in 2015 when the Royals beat the Mets). The teams are loaded with talent, especially when it comes to starting pitching. Plan for a low-scoring series, but expect something unexpected to happen (naturally).

I’ve read some comments complaining that MLB would have preferred a New York – Los Angeles series, because those are the two biggest TV markets in the country. As it happens, Houston and DC are both in the top ten (at #7 and #6 respectively), so it’s not going to matter much. There are other gripes that starting the WS games at 8 pm means they will end after midnight, much too late for children. That claim betrays the commenter’s East Coast Bias. A game that ends at midnight in New York or DC will end at 11 pm in Chicago, St Louis, and Houston; at 10 pm in Denver and Phoenix; and 9 pm in Los Angeles and Seattle. I think the kids will be fine…

And as far as a “narrative” for FOX Sports to promote? The Astros are by far the best team in the game today; they are working on a dynasty. The Nationals are bringing the World Series to DC for the first time in seven decades. If your Promotions Dept. can’t do anything with that, fire them and get some new people in there.

I’m wondering who the Nationals will pick for “Ceremonial First Pitch” duties. The team doesn’t have enough history in DC to have some legendary players – yet. Perhaps they can hearken back to their Montreal Expo origins and call on Hall of Famer Tim Raines? It’s possible there just might still be someone alive who actually played for the original Washington Senators; if not, Walter Johnson’s grandson is around…. Whatever they do, please do NOT pick a political figure. Keep it baseball-related.

For the Houston Astros, I understand the temptation to ask Nolan Ryan if he’d like to do it. I would call on the “Killer B’s” – Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman, and Craig Biggio – their superstars from their good teams in the late 90s and early 00s. If they need a fourth, then ask Ryan.

Anyway, I’m going to go on record here as hoping that the Astros take it in five games – mostly because I’ll be on vacation next week, and won’t be able to watch Games 6 or 7…

Never Made the World Series

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….

Continue reading

The Greatest World Series Ever

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

The World Series MVP – Before the Award – I

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 1955, 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.

Continue reading

Mets vs. Royals

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…