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.
J.A. Happ vs. Josh Tomlin in Cleveland and Kenta Maeda vs. Jon Lester in Chicago.
After being dominated by Corey Kluber and the Indians' devastating duo of relievers in Game 1, Toronto looks to even the best-of-seven ALCS behind J.A. Happ. Cleveland counters with Josh Tomlin and looks to take a 2-0 lead in an ALCS for the first time in franchise history.
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I’m going to show you two graphs, and then another graph. But first, I’m going to tell you a story.
The 1941 season was a famous one in baseball. There are books written about it. Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 straight games, a record that remains unassailable. Ted Williams hit .406, the last .400 season. (DiMaggio won the MVP over the irascible Williams even though Williams out-hit him by far, .406/.553/.735—I typed those correctly—compared to .357/.440/.643.)
Must-win home games for the Dodgers and the Giants.
The Nationals moved up 2-1 on the Dodgers with Monday’s decisive 8-3 victory. To celebrate, both teams have decided to make my life a living hell and put off announcing their Game 4 starters until well after my deadline. Seriously, we don’t know which of Best Pitcher in the World Clayton Kershaw or Wunderkind Julio Urias will be taking the ball for Game 4, nor do we know if Dusty Baker will line up Joe Ross or Reynaldo Lopez to face L.A. We don’t know anything, other than that the Dodgers are in the hot seat.
Gio Gonzalez vs. Kenta Maeda in Los Angeles, Josh Tomlin vs. Clay Buchholz in Boston, and Jake Arrieta vs. Madison Bumgarner in San Francisco.
The first two games of this series have been long and somewhat messy, but they’ve both been close and competitive. The starting pitchers haven’t been so dominant as to choke off the action of the game. Neither game has seemed to get away from either team. The depth of each team, in the lineup and on the mound, has been on display. That’s why this series is tighter than any of the other three Division Series have been through two games. Now both sides will have their depth tested even further, having traveled across the country without a day off, and having used six pitchers apiece on Sunday.
The Prospect Team checks in with a look at the best tool they saw this year.
Javier Guerra, SS, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore): Glove
Guerra’s prospect stock took a hit this year after a tough campaign in the Cal League, but his glove certainly wasn’t the culprit. In my looks Guerra showed as a heads-and-shoulders defender at the six spot, and the class of the league. He leverages lateral agility and quickness to offset notably unimpressive foot speed, and his range is an above-average asset in spite of the fringy speed tool. The hands are exquisitely soft, and the actions are as fluid as they get, highlighted by a quick and controlled transfer from tough body angles on the move. That transfer helps his plus arm strength play up even higher, and solidifies the profile as that of a potentially plus-plus defender at shortstop. —Wilson Karaman
Michael Gettys, OF, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore): Arm
I find that recalibrating my eye and taking in some higher-level minor league or major-league games in person really helps my evaluations for Low-A. It's important to see players at all stages of development and it helps keep the mind sharp. One of the main differences that stands out is what the warm up procedure looks like in the majors versus what it looks like at Low-A. In the majors the throws are crisp, the actions are sharp, and it looks like a polished and finished product. Low-A provides a rawer look at defensive actions and tools, so when a major-league double-plus arm comes across during infield/outfield, it has a tendency to stand out. A lot. Gettys has a special arm, the kind of arm you share videos of on YouTube if you can find a good angle, the kind of arm that makes you twist in your seat in excitement as the complete story of the individual throw, from gather to release to carry to glove to tag, is played out in front of you. It's the kind of arm whose gif or video could end up as a twitter bio one day. It's a damn good arm and it helps complete a profile which, if the hit tool gains he showed throughout the year are real, can be a really fun and special player with power, speed, defensive chops and a damn cannon for an arm. —Mauricio Rubio Jr.