Yes, the Team Health Reports are back for the postseason, morphed a little bit to fit the format. In each of the four Division Series, we’ll address the key questions and concerns each team has. We’ll break down how injuries or good health will affect who might win and who might lose. While some have said that their bleep doesn’t work in the playoffs, injuries are even more important. A talented team can be decimated by one flukish injury. Just last season, a well-positioned Cardinals team fell short of where their talent projected to take them when Scott Rolen injured his shoulder. Worse, the Cardinals made bad decisions based on Rolen’s injury (keeping him active and playing with a short bench) that also contributed to their downfall.
Just to remind everyone, we’ll use the stoplight metaphor to give warnings about health. Instead of breaking it down by player, this time we’ll do it by the four major positional breakdowns. Green means that there’s no discernible injury risk above average. Yellow means that there are significant concerns that could lead to a foreseeable injury. Red means you’d better know what you’re getting into by sending the guy out on the field. This isn’t to say that your “red” player can’t be effective or even injury-free, but in baseball–like most things in life–you’d better know the risks.
After the 2003 regular season ended, the time before the divisional series was filled by “experts” forecasting the outcome of the four divisional series. This phenomenon will be repeated before the League Championship Series, and again before the World Series. These same pundits will look back after each series to pat themselves on the back, make excuses or explain how they went wrong. They believe, or at least pretend, that postseason results can be accurately predicted. Others believe that the postseason is essentially a crapshoot, that any club can win a succession of short series among eight clubs which all finished within 10-15 games of one another during the regular season. This group includes Billy Beane, quoted in Moneyball as saying: “My s*** doesn’t work in the playoffs. My job is to get us to the playoffs. What happens after that is f****** luck.” Those in the first group have criticized Beane’s Oakland A’s and Bobby Cox’s Atlanta Braves as teams that “can’t win the big ones”; those in the second think “clutch postseason performance” is as real as “clutch hitting,” or the Easter Bunny. Who’s right? Let’s look at the past century of postseason play. Since 1903, there have been exactly 200 postseason championship series of best-of-five or longer. This includes 94 best-of-seven World Series, four best-of-nine World Series (1903, 1919-21), 34 best-of-seven League Championship Series (LCS), 32 best-of-five LCS, 32 best-of-five divisional series, and four best-of-five divisional playoff series following the 1981 strike-induced split season. That’s a sizable data set.
Joe Sheehan offers up his picks for NL and AL MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year and sounds the call to vote in the Internet Baseball Awards (coming soon). Delve into the Monday edition of Prospectus Today for more.