A series in which the team from New York qualifies as the small-market club.
The Dodgers were the presumptive favorite in the NL West coming into 2015. They boasted a league-high $271 million payroll and two bona fide aces at the top of the their rotation. They spent the offseason making a series of high profile moves to improve the team up the middle of the diamond, and the middle of their lineup already boasted two offensive stars in Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig. While they may not have been as dominant as expected, the Dodgers led the division almost wire-to-wire, despite some injury and underperformance issues in the lineup. So you could say things went more or less as planned on the way to their third consecutive division title.
The two teams that made #process famous square off in a battle of #product.
Last year, while the Royals and Tigers were battling for the AL Central crown, Russell Carleton noted a bit of doublethink that many of us successfully maintain: The veteran Tigers had the advantage because they’d been there, because they had age and wisdom and leadership and experience; or the Royals did, because they were young, loose, didn’t know enough to be scared. The piece got to a truth that is particularly applicable to this series, in which one team hits homers while the other hits singles; in which one avoids whiffs while the other wears them like teardrop tattoos; in which one club is run by unmanned computers while the other is run by a farmer sending his orders in by telegram; in which one platoons and the other hot-glues its players into the lineup; in which one is young and loose and doesn’t know enough to be scared, while the other has been there, has age and wisdom and leadership and experience.
Pittsburgh's worst fears came true: Bud Selig proposed and implemented a one-game playoff between wild card winners.
There were two trillion possible half-versions of you. And your father, he encountered thousands of women in his life, any of whom could have been your mom, bringing us into the quadrillions of possibilities for you. And there were two trillion possible half-versions of him, and there were thousands of women in his life, all of whom had two trillion possible half-versions and thousands of possible mothers who all had two trillion possible half-versions of themselves, besides, of course, having thousands of possible mothers (who each had two trillion possible half-versions of themselves). This sentence stretches back millions of years, every word of it snapping together in just such a way that of those trillions to the power of trillions of possible outcomes one survived and produced you. You are alive because math finally just gave up and guessed an answer, and the answer was you, and the answer was loved, and the answer loved back, because life is good and sweet heavens are we lucky to be part of it.
The two best teams in the second half meet up in a surprisingly lopsided matchup.
Back on July 27th, the Blue Jays and Rangers were both in third place and more than seven games out in their divisions. The following day, the Blue Jays acquired Troy Tulowitzki; a few days later, the Rangers secured Cole Hamels; then, right before the deadline, the Blue Jays struck again, landing David Price. The flurry of big-name additions helped these teams do more than grab headlines. From thereon they compiled the best records in the American League, posting a collective 84-42 mark—equal to a 108-win pace over an entire season. Those runs were good enough for both teams to overcome the odds and steal their divisions. Now they'll match up for the right to advance to the ALCS.
It's hard to imagine a better one-game showdown than these two divsiion rivals and Arrieta vs. Cole.
By winning their final eight games, the Cubs put some pressure on the Pirates in the final week of the season. But Pittsburgh did what they needed to do, defeating the Reds 4-0 on the final day of the season and ensuring that they’d have home-field advantage on Wednesday against Chicago.
The Astros manager makes three big pitching decisions, and they all work out.
Heading into this year's edition of the American League Wild Card Game, you had to appreciate that the upstart Astros' first postseason opponents were the Yankees, the team that for much of the past two decades has served as the American League's gatekeeper; the narratives about new versus old spread themselves. Another contrast you had to appreciate was the out-of-style starting-pitcher matchup. On the eve of Jake Arrieta and Gerrit Cole trading flame-emoji heaters, the Astros and Yankees started two pitchers who in the game combined for one pitch clocked above 95 mph, according to PITCHf/x data.
Putting a big chill on the hot-hand theory of player performance at the plate.
As teams get ready for the postseason, everybody will hope for those three magic words: Hot in October. But what exactly do the hot streaks of today mean for the postseason lineups of tomorrow? Back in the spring of 2010, Russell Carleton took his shot at the Hot Hand theory. The following originally ran on March 8, 2010.
One last look at the decision to hold Alex Gordon, from every angle.
A single play in the 2014 postseason captivated the baseball world: Alex Gordon’s three-quarters trip around the bases as the Giants’ outfield botched Gordon's line-drive single in the last inning of the World Series. And how could it not? Game Seven, two outs in the bottom of the ninth, down by one, and Gordon—the Royals’ best hitter—facing the suddenly untouchable Madison Bumgarner with a ring on the line. Nate Silver, immediately after the play ended, tweeted the following:
A bit more quietly, Jeremy Affeldt is approaching postseason records as impressive as Madison Bumgarner's.
Many pixels will be burned describing Madison Bumgarner’s historic performance in the World Series. Many will be dedicated to the Giants as a group, and about how they came together as a club despite effectively losing much of the rotation that had carried them to two previous championships. Many will be spent describing the Royals’ unexpected run through October. I suspect that precious few pixels will be earmarked for Jeremy Affeldt, one of the unsung heroes of the Giants’ postseason success. I aim to rectify that.
At 35 years old, Affeldt has already had a long and distinguished career. He’s pitched in the major leagues for 13 seasons and has now won three World Series rings. All told he has pitched in four postseasons, including a losing bid in 2007 with the Rockies. He has thrown 31 innings in the postseason, while posting an ERA of 0.86. Needless to say, that’s much better than his regular season performance.