Saturday, October 08, 2011

Baseball is Poop - Division Series

162 Games and It All Comes Down to This
The Yankees and the Phillies were the best teams on paper going into the season, and on grass during the season. And then in 5 games, poof, it's gone. The Yankees had a glaring hole in their rotation, exacerbated when CC Sabathia could really only pitch one game. But then again, AJ Burnett gave them much more than expected in Game 4. The Phillies rotation almost lived up to expectations in the series, but their offense completely deserted them. These are the two teams in the league I hate most, so I don't feel sad at all, but I do think it is kind of unfair that the best record over 162 games seems to matter so little in a 5 or 7 game series.

Numbers Don't Lie
There is always a big debate among statistically-inclined fans (of which I am one) and those who believe in "clutch" performances (I'm in that camp too). The statheads say a player who gets hits or home runs at a certain rate during the regular season, will eventually revert to that same pace in the postseason (with a minor adjustment for facing better pitchers. But this game is played by human beings not robots. And it's clear whenever Alex Rodriguez gets up in a key spot his brain prevents his body from performing at its normal level. A-Rod had two more big strikeouts in Game 5 against the Detroit, the killer in the 7th with one out and the bases loaded and the formality to end the game. If you look at his total postseason record it actually isn't terrible, 884 OPS in 299 plate appearances (better than Jeter, btw). But he has had some really awesome series (all 3 in 2009, and the ones he played in before becoming a Yankee) and some terrible ones (the two against Detroit come to mind). But he has struck out 64 times in 299 PAs, a very high rate, which occasionally leads to him walking off the field sullenly while someone celebrates behind him.

A Tiger Triple is Possible
Justin Verlander is a lock to win the AL Cy Young and a near-lock to win the MVP as well. With only 4 teams left he has a roughly 25% chance of winning the World Series too. The last two times a pitcher won a World Series, the Cy Young and the MVP in the same series they were both Tigers. Gulliermo Hernandez in 1984 and Denny McLain in 1968.

No One Ever Uses Magnificent in Front of Allen Craig's Name
In Game 3 of the Phillies-Cardinals series, the Cardinals loaded the bases with one out in the 8th inning. They were trailing 3-1 with Allen Craig up and The Magnificent Pooh Holes on deck. This was not second-guessing, I said before the at bat, Craig should have struck out on purpose. It seems crazy but I really liked their chances better with Pooh Holes up and two outs. Craig grounded into a double play and Pooh Holes led off the next inning with a double. But the Cardinals lost 3-2.

Revisiting The Last Night of the Regular Season
There has been a lot of talk about expanding the playoffs, maybe by one more team in each league and having the two wild card teams play a one-game "series" to strengthen the advantage of winning your division (would certainly give a rotational advantage). At first I was in favor, but now I have changed my mind. That great final night of the season would have been meaningless because Boston, Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Atlanta would have all sewn up spots. And I know an exciting race could still happen between the 5th and 6th teams in each league, but I think that is watering it down a little too much. You'd have barely adequate teams competing for final playoff spots, like in hockey and basketball. Better to keep it to only the very best teams, so we can continue to get exciting well-played playoff series.

Can't Buy Me Love
With the elimination of the Phillies and Yankees, none of the four remaining teams is in the top 9 highest payrolls. The Tigers are 10th, Cardinals 11th, Rangers 13th and the small-market Brewers are 17th. It will be interesting to see if that changes next year as both NL teams have free agent first basemen who will surely get $20m per year contracts. I expect Pooh Holes to stay with St. Louis, but Fielder is almost certainly a goner.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Have an Easy Fast Everyone

A very observant Jew in Philadelphia went to his rabbi to complain that he wouldn't be able to watch the Phillies game tonight:
"Rabbi, why does God do this to us. All my gentile friends get to watch the game and I have to be at Kol Nidre and I can't watch the game."
The rabbi said "don't worry, this is why God created the DVR."
"You mean I can DVR Kol Nidre?"

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Song of the Week

"How Bout Us" - Champaign
"Some people are made for each other
Some can love one another for life
How bout us"
One of the best songs of 1981

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The NFL is Poop - Week 4

Roaring Back
The Lions have to stop doing this to their poor fans. They are going to be responsible for an increase in heart attacks in Michigan. For the second straight week the Lions fell behind by 20+ points, and for the second straight week they won the game. This is a double-edged sword. Sure it's great that Matthew Stafford keeps bringing them back and Calvin Johnson keeps catching touchdowns like Noah (in 2s, get it?) but they can't keep coming back like this. Can they?

Many Happy Returns
The Jets and Ravens combined to put up 51 points, while their quarterbacks each had ratings in the 30s. So how did they put up so many points? Return TDs. 5 of the 6 TDs in the game were returns. 2 interceptions, 2 fumbles and a kickoff. Amazing performance by the defense and special teams (can't totally blame the QBs when Sanchez is getting smashed in the back by Ed Reed), but a mostly shitty one by Flacco and Sanchez.

Many Happy Returns Part II
Devin Hester aka Windy City Flyer set the NFL record with his 11th career punt return for a touchdown. He also had a 73-yard kickoff return to set up a touchdown. He has 4 kickoff return TDs, giving him a record 15 combined kick return TDs.

A Giant Break
The Giants got a huge break when the referees ruled Victor Cruz down, having given himself up, instead of ruling it a fumble. Everyone is debating whether it was the right call, but no one is answering the key question: when did the whistle blow? If the whistle blew when he was on the ground then the refs made the right call, regardless of whether they actually should have ruled him down as the rule dictates, if they blew the whistle, then Cruz was right to lay the ball down. If they never blew the whistle, then the play was not over and should have been ruled a fumble.

Admiral Ackbar Tried to Warn Them
Often times teams coming off big wins over quality opponents will then suffer an embarrassing defeat to an inferior opponent the very next game. This is commonly known as a "Trap Game." The Buffalo Bills fell into that trap, losing to the Bengals 23-20. The letdown was even worse considering they had a 17-3 lead. With the Eagles, Giants, Redskins and Jets in the next four game we will soon know whether the Bills are for real.

Picture of the Week
A game-torn jersey? This one actually held up pretty well as the Texans tried to rip it off Ben Roethlisberger's body.

Brief Rant About the Redskins
The Redskins should be 4-0 right now and the toast of the league. But I have to be satisfied with 3-1, considering my expectations going into this season. Rex Grossman has done a decent job of building leads and not blowing them. Well, maybe the defense deserves more credit for not blowing these games. Against Arizona and now St. Louis, the D had to hold off a furious comeback. And with the next 7 games against very beatable teams, I think the Redskins have good chance to be 7-4 or maybe even 8-3 going into Decemeber.

If the NFC Championship Game Were Played Today
Green Bay Packers 35 Detroit Lions 34
The only two unbeaten teams in the league are both in the NFC. They are both very exciting. And if they both keep this up they could well meet for the third time this season in the NFC title game.