On Covering the Postseason

As some of you may know, we've started keeping running diaries of late for postseason games over at MLB Notebook. And, really, that's about all the fun there is to be had in writing about the postseason. 

It's weird, since this is often when you see the best baseball, but there just isn't that much to write about. For each round, you can preview the games, and the day after, you can mention some things you thought about from the last game. But though every game is important, there are only so many things one can say about a single game - and that means that, come World Series time, if you're not, say, keeping a live blog of the games, all you can really do is complain about minutiae the next day. And, really, do umpiring failures, a single bad play, or a managerial decision merit so much examination as a full article contains? 

What ends up happening when people write about those minute errors is that they become blown out of proportion - which, we guess, is a crucial part of playoff baseball. Small sample size becomes king; we bow to the heroics of newfound stars, who rise to prominence because they play better than can be expected for awhile, and we behead (figuratively) (we hope) those already anointed stars who fail to live up to our expectations.

We are already staunchly opposed to any small sample-based reaction, but it's impossible to disregard these unimportant-in-the-grand-scale-of-things couple of ABs or IP because, in the postseason, there IS nothing else. There exists no grand scale; there is no statistically significant frame of reference. Such it is that heroes are born, legends are cemented, and otherwise-greats have their names sullied because of perceived failures. Is there something noble and romantic about this process? Sure. Is this the sort of thing that captivates most fans? Sure - and we won't exclude ourselves from that group. But - and maybe this is just us - when we write, we like to look for larger themes or meaningful conclusions. Or, you know, comparisons to popular TV shows. And think about it: what larger theme has there been in these playoffs? There haven't been any - at least any related to on-field performance.  When it comes to actual baseball, you get individual stories - and ones that, really, don't amount to much. Alex Rodriguez shed the "un-clutch" label? Well, that's neat, but it still relies on the fact that in a six-game stretch, he played better than he usully does. And is there any doubt that people will start referring to him as a choker again as soon as he comes up short in another series? It's already started happening in the first two games of this World Series - he's been roundly booed by the Yankee faithful.

No, the only overriding theme we can think of that has come out of this postseason is that the umpiring system needs an overhaul. That's the only thing that's been consistent throughout all the playoff series this year is that the umps have been making bad calls. And is that really what you want to take away from a postseason? We mean, this is the time when we're supposed to be celebrating only the best of baseball, not bemoaning the state of the umpiring.

What we're really getting at here is that in the postseason, we experience a divergence between watching baseball games and writing about them. The great thing - one of the great things - about baseball is the variety. With 30 teams and 162 games, there's plenty of new, interesting things happening every single day that are worth writing about. But in the postseason, there's at most eight teams, and you get a max of 41 games. Everything is magnified, which is great for the legend, the myth, and all that intangible baseball magic. But it's bad for writers looking for something new and interesting to write about. In many ways, we think, this is what creates the magic of the playoffs - yeah, sure, there's the pressure factor that people love to talk about, but how much of it comes from the fact that the media needs something to say before, during, and after every game? And if, like us, you think that it's a lot, then isn't that what really needs to be changed about the playoffs?

Season in Haiku: San Francisco Giants

The Freak pitches great.

Kung Fu Panda sure can hit.

But what else is there?

Season in Haiku: San Diego Padres

Rejoice, Adrian

For Jed Hoyer should trade you.

Just like Jake Peavy.

Season in Haiku: Pittsburgh Pirates

Awful without peer,

Another losing season.

We pity these fans.


Season in Haiku: New York Yankees

Brand new stadium...

Biggest bats in MLB...

Can't blow this now, right?

Season in Haiku: New York Mets

Walking M*A*S*H unit...

If that's not too out of date.

Buy Wright some steroids.

Season in Haiku: Minnesota Twins

Joe Mauer rules all

The Canadian's not bad

The playoffs!...somehow.



Season in Haiku: Detroit Tigers

Oh, man, you blew it.

Like, really, really, badly.

We just...we're sorry.

Season in Haiku: Colorado Rockies

Farewell, Clint Hurdle.

Playoffs? Don't talk bout...playoffs?!

This ain't 07.

Programming Change

Posting's been dead around here because we've moved our act over to www.mlbnotebook.com 

We'll still be writing over here from time to time, including the last Why Your Team Will Blow it, and more Seasons in Haiku.  Because we're nothing if not crowd pleasers.


Why Your Team Will Blow it in the Playoffs: Colorado Rockies

Forget the regular introduction. If you've been reading this series at all, you know that we're previewing this year's playoff teams, and telling you why they're going to fail.  Our target this time?  The Colorado Rockies.

Biggest Strength: The lineup.  This is a very patient team, with only three guys that get regular playing time posting sub-10% walk rates (Carlos Gonzalez, 9.1%, Clint Barmes, 5.1%, Ryan Spilborghs, 8.5%).  Troy Tulowitzki, Todd Helton, Seth Smith, Carlos Gonzalez, and Brad Hawpe have each been studly this year, with the lowest OPS among that group being Gonzalez's .886.  Chris Iannetta has great power for a catcher, and Ian Stewart and Clint Barmes have demonstrated good power despite low batting averages.  Dexter Fowler, the speedy rookie, has shown a plate approach beyond his years, as his OBP is a full 100 points above his BA.  Basically, this is a lineup that's skilled from top to bottom, and boasts great depth throughout all the positions.  Oh, and this is unrelated, but...Ubaldo Jimenez has been pitching like a superstar.  He's the second best pitcher in the NL West (Lincecum, Tim - get familiar), but he's not far behind Carpenter and Wainwright out in St. Louis in terms of performance.

But wait a minute!

Um...well...ok, we're sort of at a loss.  This sort of seems like a team without a chink in the armor.  They're top 10 in MLB in both runs scored and prevented (6th and 8th, respectively), and with good reason: all of their starters has had a very good and - with the exception of Aaron Cook missing some time - very healthy seasons.  This has been a team with amazing continuity among their rotation ranks.  Their lineup has been very good, despite Garrett Atkins' having forgotten how to play baseball effectively.  They've coaxed a banner year out of oft-injured Huston Street, and Franklin Morales has been exceedingly effective in Street's absence.

But hey, we're here to hate on Roxtober.  So let's point out this extreme oddity: only eight (8) pitchers on their entire roster have thrown 40+ innings.  And that includes five (5) starters.  So manager Jim Tracy trusts only three (3) of his relievers: Huston Street, Franklin Morales, and...wait...no...seriously?  Josh Fogg?  You've got to be kidding us.  Josh Fogg, of the 5.05 career ERA?  The guy who's had 1,158 innings to prove that he's a below league-average pitcher?  We demand an invite to the next Rockies tryout.

Speaking of guys who have demonstrated a remarkable turnaround since coming to Coors Field, how about Jason Marquis?  Let us be up front here: we have no good feelings for Jason Marquis.  We wish nothing but ill upon him.  First a petulant prospect for the Braves, then an underperforming, overpaid starter for the Cubs, Marquis has done just about everything he can to win his way out of our hearts. And yet...he comes to the most famous hitters' haven in recent memory, and becomes a stud?  Not on our watch, buddy.  Let us show you why he's going to be a fairly epic failure in October: he can't strike anybody out (4.75 K/9).  He can't control his pitches (3.31 BB/9).  He's stranding a below-league average 70.7% of baserunners.  His FIP this season is .72 runs below his career average.  He's barely approached his 212 IP this season since 2005's 207 IP.  And he posted a 6.02 ERA in 33 starts with the Cardinals!  WHY ISN'T HE REMEMBERING THAT HE'S AN AWFUL PITCHER?!  Our prediction is that he'll do precisely that in the playoffs.  And since he's been among the league leaders in wins, Jim Tracy will likely be only too happy to stick him in the rotation ahead of a more deserving pitcher - any of Aaron Cook, Jorge de la Rosa, or Jason Hammel.  

And for that matter, Aaron Cook could fail just as easily as Marquis.  For a couple years now, he's proven that he can be effective in Coors Field thanks to his extreme groundball tendencies.  But the guy can't stay healthy, and he's gotten in just two starts since a recent shoulder strain.  He's looked sharp in those two starts, but do you trust him in the playoffs?  Can he stay healthy for a prolonged run, especially given that his shoulder's already been weakened? And how about Jason Hammel, a Rays' castoff?  He has been very good this year, though this is the first time he's thrown over 100 IP (174 this year)in his MLB career.  He's been hittable (201 H in 174 IP), though he has demonstrated above-average control (3.12 K:BB).  Unfortunately for him, many of those hits have been dongers - he's got a .88 HR/9 this year, and a career rate of 1.11.  Someone's going to hit a key gopher ball off of him.   And as for Jorge de la Rosa, he's quite adroit at missing bats (9.35 K/9), but he doesn't really have a feel for his command (4.1 BB/9, 1.40 WHIP). 

Honestly, if we didn't dislike them so much for beating out the Braves for the Wild Card (as it was said in Happy Gilmore, you will NOT sweep the Dodgers, ya JACKASSES! Or something like that.  It's been awhile since we've seen it.), we'd be jumping all over this bandwagon.  We can't fathom how their pitchers have managed to be so effective this year, but...they have.  They've got depth in their lineup that no team in the National League can match.  Their rotation has been healthy and effective, which most teams merely dream of.  Their bullpen, though little-used, has enough talent not to squander games.  They...well, they scare us.  We don't know if we're ready for another Roxtober so soon.  So, um, if Jason Marquis, Jason Hammel, and Jorge de la Rosa could go ahead and revert to their old, ineffective forms...well, that'd be just great.




We're never jinxing the Braves' late-season runs again.  


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