Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gearing Up For Another World Series...and the Inevitable Result

Soooo...my predictions were just a bit off. I did all right predicting the early rounds, but I got both pennant winners wrong. I sure underestimated the Giants and Royals.

I'm not going to waste my time doing much analysis of this World Series, since it's a given that the Giants are going to win. I predict five games tops. The Royals have been a streaky team all year, so they're due to cool off soon. They have the look of one of those fun, memorable teams that doesn't quite win it all, while the Giants are a member of the Oligopoly, so the end result is a foregone conclusion. Still, I'll tune in, just to say I've seen the Royals play in the World Series. Given the size of their market, and how much broke right just for them to get this far, it's possible we won't see them here again for another 29 years.

Hats off to you, Royals. I've enjoyed watching your run, and the fans in Kansas City should always cherish this. It's just not destiny, because you're not one of the privileged big-ticket franchises that gets to win the World Series. I would love to be wrong on this, but I don't think I am. Take comfort in knowing that in the future, this one will be just another Giants title, while it'll be a legendary season in Royals lore. That has to count for something.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Playoff Predictions 2014

All righty then. Tomorrow the postseason officially begins with the stupid Wild Card Game That Nobody Wanted. Before I make any predictions though, I'd like to rank the teams in order of my preference to see them win the World Series:

1. Washington Nationals. I've been following this team all season, and besides that, they've never won a World Series, even when they were the Expos. I always had a soft spot for the Expos, as they were the first team I considered my own (long story), and now I live in an area where their games are broadcast. Nothing could be more awesome than to see them claim their first World Series trophy.

2. Baltimore Orioles. Here in the Mid-Atlantic region, I've had access to their games all year too, and they've given me plenty of exciting moments. I feel a special connection to this year's Oriole team.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates. A small market team that's been waiting a long time, and has a lot of uncertainty going forward. Their window to win might not be that large.

4. Kansas City Royals. Pretty much the same as what I said about the Pirates. It's exciting to see them in the playoffs for the first time in my fandom.

5. Detroit Tigers. I like the Tigers, and would love to see them win their first World Series in 30 years, but they'll likely still be competitive for several years more, and there's no sense of urgency about this team.

6. Oakland Athletics. I just don't get much of a charge out of them. They have some small-market, clever-roster-construction appeal, but they don't grab my fancy like the teams above do.

7. Los Angeles Dodgers. A big market team that'll likely be in contention for years. I'd be happy for them, because I've never seen them win it, but being a glamor franchise, it's not as fun to root for them. No underdog appeal.

8. Los Angeles Angels. Saw 'em win it in 2002. Though this team is completely different than that one, I want to see a new franchise as champion.

9. San Francisco Giants. Though they've won it twice this decade, and more recently than the next team, they at least have fans that are generally cool and not self-congratulatory clowns.

10. St. Louis Cardinals. There's nothing likable about this team. Nothing whatsoever. They are the epitome of evil.

OK, that said, how do I think it's actually going to play out? Well, the bottom four teams above are all part of what I call "The Oligopoly," so I believe one of them will win it in the end, unfortunately. So here's what I'm going to predict:

Wild Card Games:

Kansas City over Oakland  (I don't think Oakland's that good, and Kansas City will be pumped up at home)
San Francisco over Pittsburgh  (Just a feeling about this one, since Pittsburgh in the LDS two years in a row would be crazy)

Divisional Series:

LA Angels over Kansas City  (The Royals will probably give 'em a good fight but come up short)
Baltimore over Detroit  (Detroit's bullpen is concerning, and Baltimore has had its share of late inning heroics this year)
St. Louis over LA Dodgers  (I just can't pick against the Cardinals. They're most dangerous when you count them out)
San Francisco over Washington  (I love this Nats team, so it's hard to believe they could get past a media darling like the Giants)

League Championship Series:

Baltimore over LA Angels  (I have a feeling about the Orioles this year...that they're destined to be 2014's dangling false hope, like the Tigers were in 2012)
St. Louis over San Francisco  (The Cardinals always get the last laugh, and some are still bitter over 2012)

World Series:

St. Louis over Baltimore (Of course)

The only alternate scenario I could see would be the Dodgers taking the place of the Cardinals. First they'd beat St. Louis, then defeat the Giants in a battle of lifelong rivals, and then cap off Kershaw's magical year with another victory for the Oligopoly. So really, that first round series between the Dodgers and Cardinals is the one the postseason hinges on. You heard it here first.

Isn't it fun being bitter and cynical about the game you love?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Oldest Ringless Players: 2014

After a final day of the season where a few tiebreakers were avoided, it's officially that time of year again! Time to look at each postseason team's roster and determine who the oldest guy without a World Series ring is! I still don't approve of the Wild Card game, but I'm still technically counting it.

If you've been reading my blog all these years (as you surely have), you know the rules: The player here must be on the 40-man roster at the end of the season, and to throw in a new rule, he must have played for the team this season, for reasons discussed below. Any older players who might be in line to get a ring aren't mentioned. So here we go!

Baltimore Orioles: Nelson Cruz (July 1, 1980)
Detroit Tigers: Joe Nathan (November 22, 1974)
Kansas City Royals: Raul Ibanez (June 2, 1972)
Los Angeles Angels: Jason Grilli (November 11, 1976)
Los Angeles Dodgers: Jamey Wright (December 24, 1974)
Oakland Athletics: Adam Dunn (November 9, 1979)
Pittsburgh Pirates: Clint Barmes (March 6, 1979)
San Francisco Giants: Tim Hudson (July 14, 1975)
St. Louis Cardinals: Mark Ellis (June 6, 1977)
Washington Nationals: Adam LaRoche (November 6, 1979)

Johan Santana (born March 13, 1979) is on the Orioles' 40-man, but since he hasn't played this year, I didn't think it right to count him. Would he even get a ring if the Orioles won the World Series? I didn't actually realize how relatively young the Orioles were until I looked just now.

In fact, it's amazing how much youth there is on this list even compared to last year's. Last year the youngest player was Carlos Beltran (born April 24, 1977). This year there are five players younger than that. It looks like a lot of veterans from last year ended up on bad teams this year or retired.

With no Yankees or Red Sox in the playoffs for the first time since I've been a fan, the AL is looking interesting. The Cardinals and Giants still lurk in the NL to ruin it though, so we'll see how that turns out. I'll do a separate post for my playoff predictions.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Run That Clinched It

As longtime readers of this blog might know, I have a fascination with World Series champions. Some I love, others I loathe, but they all accomplished the goal every team opens the season with, and only one can claim by the end.

I was recently thinking about one of those teams I hate: The 2007 Boston Red Sox. In the final game, pinch-hitter Bobby Kielty hit a solo homer to add an insurance run for the Red Sox which didn't seem significant at the time. However, his team ended up winning by only one run, and that homer represented the last run the team scored, so in retrospect it was the run that clinched the World Series. It got me thinking: What was that run for each team in history? Who drove it in? Who scored it? I thought it would be fun to compile just such a list.

To be clear, this is a list of the last run necessary for the team to win the World Series. If the team scored 11 runs in the final game and won in a shutout, the first run they scored is considered the clinching run. Here's how the list looks:

Some interesting notes here. In 1927 it ended on a wild pitch with Tony Lazzeri at the plate. Five times the run has scored on an error, though it hasn't happened since 1921. In 1962 it scored on a double play ball. Only three times was the clinching RBI on a triple, which isn't too surprising, given the rarity of triples. In two cases the run was driven in by a pitcher (Johnny Podres in 1959 and Bob Gibson in 1967). Derek Jeter scored the clinching run in all three of the Yankees' World Series titles of the 1990's.

I'm not sure how many of these men knew how key a role they played in their team's victory, but here, we recognize every last one of them.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

All-Star Break Report

Well, we're just past the halfway point of the season, and after last night's Derek Jeter tongue bath All Star Game, we have the official "second half" to look forward to. Let's take a look at the standings, and see if we can't make any predictions about what October might have in store. Bear in mind, I believe in the oligopoly, so I'm not optimistic about seeing anything interesting happen. We'll see how things look in comparison to my preseason predictions.

AL East:

The first-place team is surprisingly the Orioles, who have a four-game lead over the Blue Jays. It would be nice to see someone besides the Yankees, Red Sox or Rays win this division (well, I don't mind the Rays so much), and this would seem to be the year for one of the others to do it. However, the Yankees and Red Sox are members of the oligopoly, while I don't think any other team in this division is, so until they're eliminated, I can't count either one of them out. This division is packed pretty tightly, so even the teams at the bottom still have a shot. Although losing Masahiro Tanaka would be a huge blow, I stand by my prediction that the Yankees are somehow, someway going to win this division. They're evil. It's what they do. I had the Rays winning a Wild Card spot, but I don't see them pulling that off this year.

AL Central:

The current standings are exactly the same as my predicted final standings, so I'm looking pretty good there. I'll stick with my prediction that the Tigers win the Central, and as for my Wild Card prediction for the Royals, I'll stand by that too. They're close behind the Mariners in the race for the stupid second Wild Card spot that nobody wanted, so I think they can still do it. I hope they do.

AL West:

This division has the team with the best record in baseball, the Oakland Athletics. The A's seem to be going all in this year, trading away their top two prospects for starting pitching. After years of frequent-but-forgettable playoff performances, it seems that they're ready to make this year special. I would love to see it, but there's just one problem: They're not part of the oligopoly, so they won't win the World Series, as much as I'd love to see it happen. The Angels are close behind the A's, and they're sort of a fringe oligopoly member, so I could see them possibly winning the World Series, but I wouldn't particularly be interested in that. I picked the Rangers to win this division, but after a bargeload of injuries, their season's already a lost cause. I'm going to amend my prediction to Oakland winning the division and Anaheim winning the Wild Card. The surprising Mariners will fall short.

NL East:

This is pretty much a two-team race between the Nationals and Braves. As a National rooter, I'd like to see them do it, but they're not part of the oligopoly, unlike the Braves. I had the Nats winning the division and the Braves the Wild Card, and I guess I'll stick by that.

NL Central:

I predicted the Brewers would finish in last place, but they're actually in first, surprisingly. I don't think they're for real though, and don't expect them to make the postseason. I also made the out-of-left-field prediction that the Cubs would win the Wild Card, and I think it's safe to say I look like a fool on that one, as they currently sit in last place and have already punted on this season. No biggie. I figured I'd be wrong. I just wanted bragging rights in case I was right. I predicted that the Cardinals would win the division, and even when they struggled early on, I said they were going to do it. I stand by that prediction, because the Cardinals are pure evil and always find a way. Though this is a four-team race on paper, I say it's inevitable that St. Louis takes it and the Brewers, Reds and Pirates are all left out in the cold.

NL West:

This is another two-team race between the Giants and Dodgers. Rivalry! I had the Dodgers winning the division and the Giants in second place. I stand by that prediction, although I'll amend it to have the Giants winning a Wild Card spot.

So here are my amended predictions at the All-Star Break:

NL Wild Card: Giants over Braves
AL Wild Card: Angels over Royals

NLDS1: Cardinals over Giants
NLDS2: Dodgers over Nationals
ALDS1: Angels over Athletics
ALDS2: Tigers over Yankees

NLCS: Cardinals over Dodgers
ALCS: Angels over Tigers

World Series: Cardinals over Angels

Let's see how much more accurate these are.