Thursday, October 16, 2014

Two wild card teams in the World Series

We are a game away from the 2014 World Series being populated by wild card teams. I don't believe this is something that is bad or wrong. I do not write about this because the two teams did not earn or deserve to get as far as they have gotten. There is just an uneasiness about two teams that did not win their respective divisions after 162 games battling for the title.
It's not like it happens often. I don't recall another World Series like it. I do remember the Cardinals winning the World Series as a wild card team in 2011. I do know of some Cardinal fans that were slightly embarrassed about the fact. It doesn't really bother me greatly, but again, there is some uneasiness about those six teams that won divisions sitting at home watching the Series along with the rest of us.
I think part of my problem is the current way in which wild card teams are handled as far as home field advantage goes. In the division series, the wild card faces a 2-2-1 scenario with the middle two games as the only home games. Then in the LCS, the series is handled in a 2-3-2 scenario. My problem is the middle two games.
I believe that the wild card team should have at least one home game in the division series and at least two in the LCS. A team's fans deserve to get to cheer for their team in the post season. I would never advocate taking away home games for wild card teams. But again, there is a problem.
The first problem is if the wild card team wins at least one of the two first two away games in either series. Since most teams have at least one "ace" pitcher, the odds of that happening are pretty strong. And if the wild card team can win one of those first two games, then the series (either one) moves to the wild card city where a series can be put away entirely while in the wild card team's city.
Let's take the current Giants - Cardinals series in the NLCS. The Giants have an ace in Madison Bumgarner. So the team's odds of winning one of the two games in St. Louis is pretty strong. I get that the team still has to win a game and the Cardinals have good pitching least in theory.
So the Giants win one of the two games in St. Louis and then play the next three in San Francisco. Once past the ace, a game can be aided by the home town crowd, a team's comfort level at home, etc. So the Cardinals have a three-game slog through extra adversity just to try to survive to get back to where they would have the advantage at home. I'm not sure that is weighted correctly for a division winner and a team that did not win a division.
If the series goes to the max (five games or seven), then the division winner has the advantage. But how often does that happen? So how would you go about fixing this situation?
One way is to have the opening two games in the wild card team's home stadium. Then the series is finished entirely at the home of the division winner. This reverses the current situation for the better.
Before I support other options, I need to interject a fundamental thought. It is my belief that the wild card team's options should be more difficult than a team that won a division. Basically, what happens now is that once a wild card team gets past the wild card game, the current set up actually favors them and that is not fundamentally correct.
Another option is to cut down the home games for the wild card to one in the division series and two in the LCS. I don't like this as much because fans of any post season team deserve the chance to root for their teams and quite frankly, any post season team deserves to gain the extra revenue from home games.
In the last stated option, the division series would go 2-1-2 and the LCS would go to 2-2-3. Frankly, once a team gets to the World Series, they have earned the right to be there and all bets are off and neither team deserves any breaks.
One last option is the most drastic. It would include adding one more wild card team in each league for a total of three and then you drop the wild card game and have three concurrent division series with the three division winners all facing a wild card team in the first option format.
My conclusion and my contention is that the current format actually favors the wild card team, especially if it can win one of the first two games of either series. And carrying a system that favors a wild card team over a division winner just doesn't seem right from where I sit.

MLB Game Picks - Thursday: October 16, 2014

My post season record got a little better last night as both picks were correct. But it did not take some kind of genius to see what writing has been on the wall in the LCS. Congrats to the fans of the Kansas City Royals who have blown their way into the World Series with eight straight post season wins. A small ball team like the Royals are a perfect exclamation mark on this year the offense died in Major League Baseball.
The Giants' Bruce Bochy manages these playoff games like he has been there before. Mike Matheny manages them like you should be glad his finger is not on the atomic bomb buttons. You can actually see the panic in his moves and it did not take long for Matheny to manage that mess after being staked to a 4-1 lead. Two of the managers that get the most in-game flak in baseball are Ned Yost and Matheny. Yost has written his contract for the next three or four seasons. Matheny could be in a whole lot of trouble.
Will the Giants turn out the switch tonight on the Cardinals' season? It sure looks like they are set up to do so.
The pick:
  • The Giants over the Cardinals: This is a renewal of the Adam Wainwright and Madison Bumgarner match-up. The Giants could not ask for a better setup. Bumgarner has been brilliant and Wainwright has spent most of his last month fighting off speculation that he is injured. When most of the talk is about a pitcher's health instead of his pitching, that is never a good thing. From what I am seeing here in the cheap seats, The Giants look poised to continue their every other year walk to victory.
Yesterday: 2-0, Post season: 10-14, Season: 1375-1104
Tweet of the night:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

BBA General Chapter Official Ballot - Finis

Last week, the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance compiled its official ballot for the Willie Mays Award and Connie Mack Award that goes respectively to the best rookies in each league and the best managers. Today, the chapter finishes the job and selects a ballot for the Goose Gossage Award, the Walter Johnson Award and the Stan Musial Award that goes to the best relievers, best pitchers and the most valuable players respectively in each league. The ballot will then be added to others from around the alliance to come up with the winners of the BBA awards.
This is my third or fourth year compiling these as president of the General Chapter. Our chapter is thus named because our chapter writers cover the sport generally and not just one team or one area of expertise. It's a great group of writers and it has been my honor to read and feature these writers. This ballot will be my last official act as chapter president as I have stepped down. It is time for someone else with fresher ideas and more energy to take over.
All three of these award votes were interesting. Well, they were for the most part. The Stan Musial Award in the American League and the Walter Johnson Award in the National League were duh votes and there was no doubt of the outcome. The rest were like the Wild West with votes all over the place and some real close races.
So let's get to the ballot! The Goose Gossage Award portion of the ballot requires the top three places. The Walter Johnson Award requires five places and the Stan Musial requires ten. Let's start with the Goose Gossage Award:
American League:
  1. Wade Davis - 30 pts
  2. Dellin Betances - 29 pts
  3. Greg Holland - 19 pts
Others in order: Zach Britton (11), Sean Doolittle (8), Jake McGee (5), Andrew Miller (4), Fernando Rodney (3), Huston Street (2)
That was a very close race! Betances had one more first place vote but Davis was on more ballots.
National League:
  1. Craig Kimbrel  - 36 pts.
  2. Aroldis Chapman - 31 pts
  3. Kenley Jansen - 9 pts
Others in order: Tony Watson (8), Jonathan Papelbon (6), Mark Melancon (5), Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard (3), Trevor Rosenthal and Steve Cishek (2) and Hector Rondon (1).
The Walter Johnson Award
National League:
  1. Clayton Kershaw - 83 pts.
  2. Adam Wainwright - 53 pts.
  3. Johnny Cueto - 46 pts.
  4. Jordan Zimmermann - 24 pts.
  5. Stephen Strasburg - 12 pts.
Others in order: Madison Bumgarner (11), Cole Hamels (8), Jake Arrieta (7), Doug Fister (5), Zack Greinke (3).
Clayton Kershaw got a first place vote from every writer except one who voted him third.
American League
  1. Felix Hernandez - 81 pts
  2. Corey Kluber - 79 pts.
  3. Chris Sale - 42 pts
  4. Jon Lester - 21 pts.
  5. David Price - 14 pts.
Others in order: Phil Hughes (12), Max Scherzer (8), Dallas Keuchel (5), Garrett Richards (2), Sonny Gray (1).
Both King Felix and Kluber were on every ballot. Hernandez received more first place votes.
The Stan Musial Award
American League
  1. Mike Trout - 150 pts   Received every first place vote!
  2. Michael Brantley - 91 pts
  3. Jose Bautista - 90 pts
  4. Jose Abreu - 67 pts
  5. Victor Martinez - 66 pts
  6. Jose Altuve - 57 pts
  7. Robinson Cano - 38 pts
  8. Alex Gordon - 33 pts
  9. Miguel Cabrera - 29 pts
  10. Felix Hernandez - 23 pts
National League
  1. Andrew McCutchen - 156 pts
  2. Giancarlo Stanton - 132 pts
  3. Clayton Kershaw - 109 pts
  4. Jonathan Lucroy - 87 pts
  5. Anthony Rendon - 71 pts
  6. Buster Posey - 68 pts
  7. Yasiel Puig - 34 pts
  8. Anthony Rizzo, 29 pts
  9. Carlos Gomez - 29 pts
  10. Josh Harrison - 28 pts
Kershaw received six first place votes but was left off of five ballots.
The Baseball Bloggers Alliance will announce the winners of the Goose Gossage Award on October 20, the Walter Johnson Awards on October 22 and the Stan Musial Awards on October 24.
Much thanks to all of our writers who participated.

Jose Abreu and Jacob deGrom win BBA Willie Mays Awards

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance recently announced the winners of their Willie Mays Awards for 2014. After votes were compiled by alliance members, Jose Abreu was the runaway winner in the American League and Jacob deGrom was the winner in the National League. For full details and the press release, go here.

MLB Game Picks - Wednesday: October 15, 2014

I obviously have no clue this post season. The Royals have me dumbstruck. And it just goes to show you how much of a crap shoot the playoffs are. It just takes a team getting hot at the right time and riding a wave of invincible feelings all the way through. My friend, JD Mathewson has written a series of posts giving day to day odds based on results. And it's great stuff and highly entertaining and useful. The problem is that with a short series, you can throw computer models in the hamper. A hot team is going to do what they are going to do.
So, yeah, the Royals have me dumbstruck. I just finished watching the Orioles bludgeon their way through the American League all season. Nobody could beat them. They won 96 games and were 47-30 against the American League East. But they look like the Royals' chew toy.
At the same time, I am 1-2 picking the NLCS. Wasn't there some point in the season where the SF bullpen was a mess? How does that suddenly fix itself and become this tower of strength? The Giants cannot hit themselves out of a powder egg and have yet won two of three. It's weird. This post season is weird.
Two more games today. Two more attempts to look somewhat less than totally incompetent. The picks:
  • The Royals over the Orioles: Okay, I capitulate. I cannot fight the Royal tide. Finish them off, Royals. Confound me further. There is something fundamentally wrong for me when a wild card team gets to the World Series. It doesn't sit right. But all my silly ideas aside, the Royals are going to the World Series. Jason Vargas over Miguel Gonzalez.
  • The Giants over the Cardinals: I just don't like the Cardinals without Yadier Molina. And I hate saying that out loud because the catcher is one of my least favorite players in baseball. The Cardinals' decision to use A.J. Pierzynski was a joke and a poor one. The guy is well past his prime and still as much of a putz as always. Pitchers lose the most in these situations. Who would you rather have your young pitchers pitch to: Molina or AJP? Exactly. The bottom line here is that Shelby Miller has never won a post season game at 24 years of age and Ryan Vogelsong, aged 37, has never lost one. Saying all that, AJP will probably hit a grand slam or something.
Yesterday: 0-2, Post season: 8-14, Season: 1373-1104

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chip Hale to manage Arizona Diamondbacks

My first reaction upon hearing that Tony La Russa and the Arizona Diamondbacks had hired Chip Hale to manage the team was, "Who?" And yeah, Walter William "Chip" Hale is not a household name. He played parts of seven seasons as a utility guy, Mostly for the Twins and finished up his minor league career with Memphis, the Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate. As such, La Russa would know him and the choice makes more sense.
The hiring of Hale does fly in the face of what has been going on in managerial hires of the past seasons. New managers have either been former players getting their first managerial starts without much experience (Ausmus, Mattingly and even Kirk Gibson) or former catchers as that field position seems to be favored.
Chip Hale is not a guy without experience and he is not a former catcher. He played just about every infield and outfield position, but was never a catcher. And you can certainly tell he paid his dues managing in the minors.
Two years after his playing career ended in 1998, Hale was hired by the Diamondbacks to manage their rookie league team. He moved up to Double-A in 2002 and to the Triple-A Tuscon Sidewinders in 2003. He spent three years there and his 2006 team won 91 games.
Since then, he has coached in the big leagues, a year with the Diamondbacks and then the Mets. When he lost out on the managerial job there to Terry Collins, he moved on to the Oakland A's where he has been the bench coach since.
It is sort of refreshing to see a baseball lifer kind of guy get the chance. There is no telling if this is a good move for the Diamondbacks or not. We can see with the selection that Tony La Russa is going against the current grain here and that makes the hire interesting by itself. After a miserable 2014, any change in Phoenix has to be a good one. Since hearty didn't work, it might as well be Hale.

MLB Game Picks - Tuesday: October 14, 2014

Yesterday was a washout for Major League Baseball as the one playoff game had to be cancelled due to weather. That means we get two games today. The NLCS will start at four o'clock and the ALCS at eight. Despite being rained out, the Royals and Orioles will still feature the same pitching match-up as scheduled yesterday. While in the NLCS, the Cardinals must make do without their fiery leader, Yadier Molina. Come on down, A.J. Pierzynski.
The picks:
  • The Cardinals over the Giants: Despite the absence of Molina, I still think the Cardinals win this game IF John Lackey comes up big. Tim Hudson goes for the Giants and he was brilliant in his one 2014 post season start thus far. But that comes after a sub par season and it is hard to know which one will show up tonight. The same could be said for Lackey. When Lackey is on, he is wicked. If he is not, balls fly all over the ballpark. It will be interesting.
  • The Orioles over the Royals: I'm still going with the same picks as yesterday since the pitching line is supposed to remain the same. I understand why the Royals would pitch Jeremy Guthrie as he deserves the start. He has been with the Royals for two and a half years and always battles hard for them. But on the other hand, the Orioles know him as he pitched for them not long ago and Guthrie is a homer waiting to happen. Wei-Yin Chen is the wild card in all this. Left-handed pitching does not bother the Royals very much. A key match-up for Chen will be Billy Butler who absolutely rakes lefty pitching.
Post Season: 8-12, Season: 1373-1102

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hurdle Wins Second Consecutive Connie Mack Award

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance announced today that Clint Hurdle and Buck Showalter have won the alliance's Connie Mack Awards for their respective leagues.
The final results for the entire BBA membership matches the ballot presented by the General Chapter three days ago. As the heading indicates, the award is Hurdle's second consecutive nod.

The full press release with all the results can be found at the alliance's home site linked above.

MLB Game Picks - Monday: October 13, 2014

Happy Columbus Day to all of you fortunate enough to get the federal holiday off. It would have been nice during the holiday to have a day game to watch in the playoffs. But, heavens, that would be sacrilege.  And so we will wait all the way to eight o'clock tonight to watch the Orioles and Royals resume their series, this time in Kansas City.
The Cardinals evened their series against the Giants with a Kolten Wong walk off laser. It was the fourth homer the Cards hit in the game. Isn't it weird how these teams like the Cards and Royals who hardly hit any homers in the season have hit so many in the post season? Anyway, the homer is the problem you face with Jake Peavy pitching and I kind of called that one yesterday.
The Orioles, of course, are in trouble now having to play in Kansas City down two games to none. They have effectively squandered their home field advantage and the Royals just have to win two of five to head to the World Series. So can the Orioles fight back? Or will they melt away in four? Let's take a look.
The pick:
  • The Orioles over the Royals: The pitching line here seems to favor the Orioles. Wei-Yin Chen, if he is on, is very effective and his winning percentage this year showed how good he can be. Jeremy Guthrie is a smoke and mirrors guy who relies on a good BABIP to win. That means that Guthrie will either be head-scratchingly good or pound-into-submission bad. Even if it is somewhere in between, I think the Orioles win it. You can be sure that the Royals fans will be going crazy some it would be helpful to the Orioles to score early (and often). Let me put it this way: If the Orioles cannot beat Guthrie, then they will be playing golf really soon.

Yesterday: 1-0, Post Season: 8-12, Season: 1373-1102

Sunday, October 12, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Sunday: October 12, 2014

How about those Kansas City Royals? They have blindsided the Orioles, the prognosticators and whatever it is you call what I do. It really is an amazing story and speaks of what can happen when a team gets hot at the right time. Frankly, I did not see this coming and my picks have been based on that. I did not think any team was going to beat the Orioles, but the Royals have beaten the O's in every facet of the game.
I did, however, pick the NLCS game correctly with a great Madison Bumgarner game against the Cardinals. The big lefty showed why he is one of the best pitchers in the game and completely shut down the suspect Cardinal offense. This might be one interesting series for one that most fans outside of those two cities did not want to see happen.
Only the NLCS is in action today. The ALCS is in a travel day to Kansas City.
The pick:
  • The Cardinals over the Giants: Both of these teams have far too much experience in the post season to let one win or one loss rattle them too badly. Now that we have the aces out of the way for each team, the key will be how the rest of the rotations stack up against each other. We have an interesting dynamic going with Lance Lynn today. He has struggled in a small sample size against the Giants in his career and is 0-3 against them. But there is also the fact that Lance Lynn is a much better pitcher at home than he is on the road. In his career, Lynn has almost a .700 winning percentage in St. Louis. So which trend will emerge the stronger today? And then there is Jake Peavy. Peavy's turnaround once he joined the Giants has been a great story. And it has been good to see the old Cy Young Award winner back to having some success. He finished the season strong and then was good against the Nationals in the NLDS. But that "good" was somewhat fortunate as he only struck out three and walked three in 5.2 innings. His overall body of work in the post season is not pretty. I think the Cardinals get to him and we have a 6-4 score or somewhere in that vicinity.
Yesterday: 1-1, Post Season: 7-12, Season: 1372-1102