If you want to know what the effects of the expanded playoffs are, why not ask the NBA?
The end of March is a time of great anticipation in the baseball world. Fans are nearly as anxious as the players to see the teams head north and start getting some hard answers to the questions that surround their favorite ball clubs. Since veterans have generally established expected levels of performance, much of the buzz and uncertainty surrounds rookies who have survived the spring sifting.
The phrase “a walk is as good as a hit” has echoed through our noggins since Little League. Though not exactly true, the ability to reach base without putting the ball in play is a valuable offensive weapon; advances in sabermetrics have enabled us to quantify the value of a walk and hit-by-pitch quite precisely.
The phrase “a walk is as good as a hit” has echoed through our noggins since Little League. Though not exactly true, the ability to reach base without putting the ball in play is a valuable offensive weapon; advances in sabermetrics have enabled us to quantify the value of a walk and hit-by-pitch quite precisely. And while the results have elevated the awareness of their importance in putting runs on the scoreboard, there has always been a fundamental understanding of their value. Baseball’s record books are littered with players who wouldn’t have made the majors except for their ability to draw walks and get hit with errant pitches.
Although the specifics haven’t been laid out for public consumption, it is widely assumed that four teams would be added to the post-season mix, raising the number of participants from eight to 12.
Major League Baseball’s recent decision to base home-field advantage in the World Series on the outcome of the All-Star Game runs contrary to the way Commissioner Bud Selig normally operates. Spurred by last year’s All-Star debacle in Milwaukee, the entire process – from concept to approval – took only six months, and failed to employ even one sub-committee of analysts to explore the issue. More typical of Selig’s decision-making process is his announcement of the newly-formed special task force for “The Commissioner’s Initiative: Major League Baseball in the 21st Century.”
This is a match-up of opposites in many ways, not the least being the teams’ post-season histories. The Yankees have won the World Series 26 times, including four of the past six years. To achieve a similar level of dominance, the Angels would have had to win 10 championships in their 41 years of existence. Instead, they enter the playoffs with the most meager post-season tradition of any Divisional Series participant, with three first-round exits in as many tries.
The Texas Rangers selected Travis Hafner of Cowley County Community College (Arkansas City, Kansas) as a draft-and-follow in the 31st round of the June 1996 draft, and got his signature on a contract just before the 1997 deadline. Now 25 years old, the 6’3″, 240-pound Hafner has developed into one of the most feared hitters in the minor leagues. As of this writing, he is hitting .339/.460/.541 with the Oklahoma RedHawks and leads the Pacific Coast League in on-base percentage and major-league EqA (.302). He took time to speak with us before a recent game against the Tacoma Rainiers.
Drafted out of a Baltimore high school in June 1993, Ken Cloude was the Mariners’ top pitching prospect by 1996 and participated in the Mariners’ mound chaos of the late 1990s. Now 27 years old, Cloude is trying to resurrect his career following Tommy John surgery in 2000 and after missing the entire 2001 season with a torn Achilles tendon.