A series that will feature spectacular pitching may come down to the tiniest advantages to decide the winner.
So, let's see, for an initial checklist for maximum LCS entertainment potential, is there anything missing? Record-wise, the two best teams in National League? Check, even if we allow for the fact that the Giants weren't one of the top two teams in Clay Davenport's adjusted standings. The two best rotations in baseball? Check. Heck, it even features two of the three best defensive units in the league (via PADE), with only the already-vanquished Reds separating the Giants and Phillies. And the offenses are... well, OK, this whole clash of the titans thing only goes so far, because they're not both among the best in the league. The Phillies are, tying for third in the league in team-level True Average, but the Giants finished back in ninth place, even with Brian Sabean's ticky-tack trades to accrue incremental improvements.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
The Yankees look to get back to yet another World Series while the Rangers are in uncharted territory.
From 1996 through 1999, the Joe Torre-led Yankees and the Johnny Oates-piloted Rangers faced off in three American League Division Series, the first three times the latter franchise had ever reached the postseason. The Yankees won nine of those 10 games, holding the Rangers to a lone run apiece in their 1998 and 1999 sweeps. Times have changed, however, and while the Yankee machine has simply kept rolling, racking up four pennants and two world championships while missing the playoffs just once since their last meeting, the Rangers endured a dark decade before reemerging as AL West champions thanks to the shrewd deal making of general manager Jon Daniels and the fruits of their well-stocked farm system.
The Twins and Yankees meet yet again in the first round of the postseason but Minnesota has home field advantage this time.
As they did last year as well as 2003 and 2004, the Twins run squarely into the Yankee juggernaut in the first round. Unlike those other three meetings, they have home field advantage this time around, as they won the AL Central going away thanks to a league-best 48-26 second-half record. The defending world champion Yankees, who held the majors' best record for most of the season, were forced to settle for the wild card due to a sluggish 13-17 showing against a very tough schedule in September and October. Despite the relative temperatures of the two clubs, it's important to remember that late-season records aren't predictive of October success—or failure.
Selecting the four starters for the nine possible playoff teams is easier in some instances than others.
Last Friday, I brought up the Reds' rotation situation as they gear up for their first post-season series since 1995. We can't peg everyone's rotations perfectly just yet, of course, because there are still a few issues to resolve—which two teams from among the Braves, Giants, and Padres will join the Reds and Phillies in next week's action, for example, set against the much less exciting proposition over who is going to win home-field advantage in the AL.
A look at which clubs should be dealing for immediate help and which ones should be offloading players with the trading deadline eight days away.
Adding players halfway through a season is worth far more to a contender than half of their full-season value. Those players can make in a difference in a situation where a couple of games could make or break a team's season. The Mariners traded for Cliff Lee in December 2009 with the expectation that he would help them contend for the American League West title in 2010, but it turns out that an underperforming offense rendered his wins useless towards that goal and they traded him to the Rangers two weeks ago. However, any team competing for the National League wild card knows that it will probably be decided by a couple games and that one big acquisition can make the difference. Sometimes adding two wins in a half season from a four-win player does more for a team's playoff odds than adding four wins for a full season. As an extreme example, consider two teams who are tied for the division lead with one game left to play against each other. How much would they pay for an ace? Certainly more than 1/162 of his value because the odds of that pitcher pushing a team over the top are very high.
How Jamie Moyer learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.
On May 6, Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Robertspassed away. Many nice things were said upon his shuffling off this mortal coil—staff leader of the 1950 "Whiz Kids," active in the formation of the players' union, all-around stand-up guy. But the most distinctive number attached to his 19-year big-league career was his 505 home runs allowed, the all-time record. Those dingers didn't stop Roberts from racking up 286 wins with a 3.41 ERA, a 113 ERA+, and 82.0 WARP, good enough to earn him a bronze plaque in Cooperstown in relatively short order.
A look at the eight-team field set to play in Rosenblatt Stadium's final CWS.
Over the past few years much discussion centered around the future site of the College World Series, with the tournament outgrowing aging Rosenblatt Stadium. Omaha will continue to host the tournament into the foreseeable future, but it will move out of Rosenblatt next season and to the new, $128 million TD Ameritrade Park. Although neither Texas—winner of the first CWS at Rosenblatt in 1950 (as well as the last held at another site, 1949 at Wichita)—nor its coach Augie Garrido, who has won more CWS games at Rosenblatt than anyone--won’t be present, traditional powers, Florida State, Arizona State, Clemson, and South Carolina will be. TCU, UCLA, Florida, and Oklahoma round out the field.
While 14 of the 16 top seeds made the super-regional round, only three of the top eight national seeds will be making the trip to Omaha. Most notably, two of the nation’s top three teams throughout the regular season—Texas and Virginia—lost their super-regionals to underdogs TCU and Clemson.
A look at the four best-of-three series in the NCAA Tournament that begin Saturday.
The first three days of the NCAA Tournament went largely as planned, with nine top seeds advancing and five of the seven regional finales featuring the top two seeded teams. St. John’s and Minnesota were the only three and four seeds to finish the weekend 2-1 and force their regional hosts—Virginia and Cal State Fullerton—to play on Monday. Moreover, all of the top seeds made it past the first weekend, and only one national seed dropped one of their first two games, thereby having to win twice Sunday, and it wasn’t much of a test for Coastal Carolina as it drubbed Stony Brook 25-6. Two other hosts dropped their opening games and were forced to play sudden death doubleheaders Sunday as Auburn ousted Southern Mississippi and Cal State Fullerton finished of New Mexico in their respective first matchups of the day. Then, Auburn, Fullerton, and Coastal Carolina all won their nightcaps against rested foes, each forcing decisive Monday finales for their respective regions. Louisville, Miami, Arkansas, Virginia, and Georgia Tech each failed to win their only games on Sunday that could have punched their tickets to a super regional. While Coastal Carolina and Virginia managed to return to form on Monday and advance, regional host Auburn, as well as national seeds Louisville and Georgia Tech lost again Monday. Arkansas’ loss doesn’t change any travel plans, but with the brackets established to result in the winners of the Auburn and Atlanta regional meeting in the second round, No. 2 seed Clemson will host fellow 2 seed Alabama, despite not hosting a regional.
Here is the look at the four best-of-three super regionals that will be played Saturday-Monday.
A look at the four best-of-three series that begin Friday.
Friday's four super regional matchups in the NCAA Tournament feature seven of the eight regional top seeds, and the eighth team—No. 2-seeded Vanderbilt—upset Louisville by the narrowest of margins, a 3-2 victory in the decisive seventh game of the regional. Overall, this year has been as expected—no three or four seeds advanced, only one second seed is hosting a super regional, and six of the eight national seeds are, as expected, hosting a super regional. Today, I’ll break down Friday’s super regionals in Austin, Tallahassee, Los Angeles, and Gainesville. Tomorrow the Tempe, Clemson, Myrtle Beach, and Charlottesville super regionals, which start on Saturday, will be previewed.
To win one of the 16 four-team regional tournaments and thereby progress to a best-of-three super regional, a team must win three games—either finishing 3-0 and wrapping up its business on Sunday evening, or 3-1 and winning a single winner-take-all Monday matchup against a team to which it has already lost. This year, eight teams (Oklahoma, Arizona State, South Carolina, TCU, Texas, Florida State, UCLA, and Florida) all top seeds—finished their regional undefeated.