The MLB postseason has finished its first round, and already just about every follower, including myself and nearly every MLB analyst out there, has thrown his predictions out the window.
Seriously, the chances that you predicted the outcomes of this postseason correctly so far – only four series and two wild-card games – are probably lower than the chances that you picked Cal and Arizona to have a better record than Stanford football at this point in the season.
The teams with the two best records in baseball and the home-field advantages in their leagues combined to win only a single game between them, losing to the two teams with the worst records in the playoffs. Only one of the four higher-seeded teams advanced. The four teams with arguably the best starting rotations – long considered the key to winning in the playoffs – in all of baseball, the Tigers, the A’s, the Dodgers and the Nationals, were all sent home packing.
The Tigers, a team with the last three A.L. Cy Young winners and the back-to-back A.L. MVP winner, couldn’t even win a game against the Orioles, a team that lacks a starting pitcher with a sub-3.30 ERA and is also missing two of its best hitters in Manny Machado and Chris Davis.
Even though the A’s and Tigers were declared the “winners” of the trade deadline and the midseason World Series favorites after trading for aces Jon Lester and David Price, respectively, neither team won a game in the postseason.
This postseason saw a pitcher surrender seven runs in back-to-back starts for the first time ever (one of those came in 2013, the other in 2014). That pitcher was Clayton Kershaw. Yes, the likely National League Cy Young and National League MVP who posted 41 consecutive scoreless innings at one point this season, went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA and allowed more than three runs only once in all 27 starts this season. Kershaw lost only one start from June onwards, yet he lost two in the span of five days in the playoffs. After surrendering only one home run to a left-handed hitter all season long, he gave up two in the 2014 playoffs, including a game-winner to a player that hadn’t hit a home run off of a left-handed pitcher since July 7.
The player that led the Dodgers in batting average and OPS in the regular season, Yasiel Puig, struck out seven times in a row, one shy of the postseason record, and was benched for the final game of the series.
After leading the league with 773 runs during the regular season, the Angels managed only six over the course of their three-game series with Kansas City. Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols and all $509 million between them combined to go 3-for-37. Ouch.
I don’t know whether to be frustrated or enthralled. That’s the playoffs for you.
In the NBA, the best team from the regular season, or at least one of the top two or three, generally wins the championship. In the NFL, a little more randomness pervades, but as the Seahawks showed last year, a dominant team still tends to come out on top. In the MLB, it’s anybody’s to win come playoff time.
Billy Beane’s had it right all along: The playoffs really are a crapshoot. Records are cast aside, the names on the jerseys are cast aside, home field is cast aside, stats are cast aside and randomness takes center stage. Despite the five- and seven-game series format, the playoffs produce a top-seeded winner about as often as March Madness.
As a disgruntled Angels fan, it’s disheartening to follow a team that performs so well over the course of 162 games only to completely disappear over the course of three games, despite an obvious talent edge on offense and arguably an even matchup on the mound. Just think, how awesome would it have been for Mike Trout to become the first player ever to win the MVP, the All-Star-Game MVP and the World Series MVP in the same season?
But, as a fan of baseball, it’s tough not to sit back and marvel at the events taking place this postseason. Nothing other than college basketball boasts as unpredictable, crazy and intriguing of a playoff than the MLB.
Even if you’re a bitter fan at the moment like me, learn to appreciate the wild nature of the MLB playoffs so that when your team finally comes out on top, it makes it that much more amazing.
Michael Peterson’s “disgruntled” state might be the perfect opportunity for the temptations of Dodger-dom to creep into his psyche. If it’s ridiculous payroll he’s looking for, Ned Colletti and Co. have exactly what he needs! Tell Michael why he should start Thinking Blue at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.