Corey Kluber vs. Aaron Sanchez in Toronto and Jake Arrieta vs. Rich Hill in Los Angeles.
Despite having to dip into the bullpen after just 21 pitches and two outs, the Indians rode their relievers to a gutty--perhaps “gory” is a better word--4-2 victory on Monday night. Trevor Bauer left the game in the first inning after his drone-related lacerated pinky turned the game into something out of a Saw movie, but the combined efforts of Dan Otero, Jeff Manship, Zach McAllister, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, and Andrew Miller held the vaunted Jays offense to just two runs. Seriously, at what point do we consider giving the ALCS MVP award to the entire Indians bullpen?
Cleveland refuses to lose, putting Toronto on the brink.
There’s not really a test case that can be done for “postseason magic” and for good reason: postseason magic doesn’t exist. Or, at least, it probably doesn’t exist. It 99.99 percent does not exist. There’s some strange world that it does exist in, according to Infinite Universe Theory, but that world is almost certainly not ours. And even if it were ours, even if that were at all possible, how would we prove it one way or the other? What, in the absence of empirical evidence, could we use to posit the existence or, better, non-existence of postseason magic?
What does StatCast's latest offering tell us about the hitters who launch bombs and the pitchers who serve them up?
The fruit is beginning to ripen on the StatCast vine. Today’s secret word is “barrel.” Not the wooden vessel suitable for storing wine, but a well-struck batted ball. Think, “he barreled that one up.” The nice thing about StatCast is that we now have data on how hard a player actually hit a ball, which solves for one of the great laments of batting stats throughout history. Sometimes you hit the ball dead on the nose and the shortstop makes an amazing catch. The batter did everything right and, for his efforts, he's now 0-for-1. (Worse, the guy after you dinks a little dying quail that just happens to go over the second baseman’s head and gets a hit.)
Notes on Bradley Zimmer, Ryan McBroom, Austin Voth, and more.
Hitter of the Day:
Ryan McBroom, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays (Mesa Solar Sox): 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI, K. More like Ryan Mc-Boom, amiright? Eh? Eh? Eh. McBroom was one of just three hitters to cross the 20-homer threshold in the notoriously stingy Florida State League this year. That production’s a good and necessary thing for his big-league aspirations, as his well-below-average speed and outfield instincts leave him pinned to first, where his questionable hit tool makes him a fringier prospect.
After the Indians took the first two games of the series in Cleveland, the Blue Jays turn to Opening Day starter Marcus Stroman to avoid falling behind 3-0. The Indians, meanwhile, will start Trevor Bauer as they look to continue their loss-free postseason.
October baseball makes new heroes every year, but what exactly is a baseball hero?
I’ll admit it: I struggle with the postseason. As undeniable as the drama and the excitement of do-or-die baseball are, and the unforgettable moments that arise from it, I seem to be lacking some genetic predisposition the rest of the world shares toward October. All playoffs are, to some degree, a balance between measuring greatness and maximizing spectacle. The trouble is the sport itself: the unpredictability embedded into the game―the same force that allows even unwatchable teams to win a third of the time―prevents a single championship game or even a dozen from being conclusive. We have to sacrifice that, give up the notion that our champions are fully proven, for the thrill of the playoffs and their heroic moments.
If sports are our ultimate realization of reality television, of unscripted drama, the playoffs are where this theme meets resistance. Thirty years ago Bill James beat back against the narratives that dominated not just the sport itself but how we understood it. But in October, when the stakes are high, those forces return and overwhelm us. Baseball reveals itself to be, at least for one city each year, a perfect story with heroes and happy endings, predestination writ large. But to accept the narrative arc and its climax, we also make a deal, and that deal requires some cognitive dissonance.
Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen shut down the Cubs, tying the NLCS at 1-1 heading to Los Angeles.
The last time two starting pitchers with ERAs this low faced off in a postseason game, New Coke was still but a twinkle in Don Draper’s eye, and Bobby Kennedy had been dead less than four months. That matchup, as it turned out—St. Louis’ Bob Gibson (1.12) versus Detroit’s Denny McLain (1.96) in the 1968 World Series—wasn’t quite as good as the one we saw last night. Clayton Kershaw (1.69) and Kyle Hendricks (2.13) both acquitted themselves admirably under Wrigley Field’s bright October lights, allowing just a run between them, and together kept this joyful run of remarkable postseason games alive.
If found, please call the Cardinals, Mariners, Astros, and Tigers.
The 2016 regular season is deader than the late-90s swing revival. We’re careening through the Championship Series, and ready to write the stories of success for these remaining playoff teams. It is one of the most exciting times of the baseball season, but punctuated by the relative silence and disappointment from those teams that just missed out on playing at least one extra game in October.
No team lives and dies by the success of one player, but occasionally we can point to a disappointing performance that our projection systems didn’t exactly forecast. When you pair that with a team that just barely missed out on the playoffs, you can--if one is so inclined--start to draw a line. “If only Player X had lived up to his expectations, we’d be in the Wild Card game.”
Dave Roberts and Joe Maddon went move for move in Game 1, and then Miguel Montero made Wrigley Field explode.
The Cubs and Dodgers kicked off the NLCS last night, and be honest, you thought the Cubs would win. You might be a Dodgers fan, and you might be riding high from Clayton Kershaw in relief, or think Corey Seager has prettier eyes than Kris Bryant. But you read the previews and remembered the Dodgers slashed just .213/.290/.332 in the regular season vs. left-handed pitching, and further remembered Jon Lester on the mound, and got a little sick to your stomach.