Initial Thoughts on the 2014 MLB Playoffs

Stat Of The Day

No sport has bastardized the use of the statistic more than Major League Baseball.

Here’s proof.

Verlander arms raisedHeaded into the bottom of the fourth inning of Game Two of the ALDS between Detroit and Baltimore, Victor Martinez and Nick Castellanos both homered to give the Tigers a 5-2 lead.

TBS led off the following inning with this statistic:  When Justin Verlander receives 5+ runs or more support, his career record is 111-2.

Game over, right?  I mean, no team (okay, two) had ever come back to beat Verlander when he has that much run support.

Fast forward one inning.   A JJ Hardy RBI double made it 5-3.  TBS then flashed this statistic: Justin Verlander has surrendered a lead 17 times (most blown leads in MLB)

Huh?

Didn’t those two statistics just entirely contradict themselves?  Weren’t there people in the broadcaster’s booth scratching their heads on that one or were they not paying attention?

So which is it?  Is Justin Verlander unbeatable when he gets that much support or does he cough up more leads than anyone in the league?  Is five his magic number or do the Tigers end up magically coming back the following inning once he gives up that many?  I’m confused.

Back in the day, baseball’s use of statistics was much simpler.  Batters were judged on their hits, home runs, RBIs and batting averages, pitchers by their wins, losses, ERA and strikeouts.  And of course, the eye test worked pretty well too.  We knew who was good.  We didn’t need a glossary and a spreadsheet to figure it out.

These days, we have more baseball statistics than there are people in China.  I’m still not sold on the whole Wins Above Replacement (WAR) as an end-all, be-all statistic and we’ve already discussed how I feel about Quality Starts.  Without sounding like an old fart, I long for the days when there were only six statistics on the back of a baseball card and not a lengthy numerical explanation of why that player is great.

As it turned out, the Detroit-Baltimore game was a barnburner, more must see TV for these 2014 playoffs.  The Orioles ended up coming back, scoring four in the eighth, besting Verlander and proving one of those statistics to be true and the other one, not so much.

New Kid On The Block

Who the fuck is Eric Hosmer and why hadn’t I heard of him until a week ago?

Here’s all Hosmer has done in the two biggest games of his life.

In the wild card elimination game against Oakland, Hosmer went 3-4 with two runs, an RBI and two walks.  His biggest hit came in the bottom of the 12th when he uncorked an unattainable triple off the left-centerfield wall.  Minutes later, he would later score the game-tying run.

Hosmer swingIn Game Two of the ALDS, Hosmer once again went 3-4, hitting a two-run home run in the top of the 11th giving the Royals the lead for good.  He’s currently batting .429 in the post-season.

Here’s your Hosmer primer for those of you, like me, who weren’t in the know.  Hosmer is 24 years old.  He was the third overall pick in the 2008 Major League Draft.  (FYI, the Tampa Bay Rays had the first pick in that draft and selected Timothy Beckham.  I’ll give you all a second while you ask a collective “Who?!?”)

Hosmer was born and raised in South Florida where he was a highly touted high school baseball player.  The Royals called him up in 2011 and he hasn’t looked back since.  After four years in the majors, he’s a career .275 hitter, which means he’s stepping it up a notch this post-season.  A 150-point notch!  Keep this up and he’ll have pitchers pitching around him if they haven’t started to already.

This Royals team is a blast to watch and an easy team to root for even though you can’t name anyone on their roster.  Well, now you can.

 

Can’t Buy Me Love

In 1964, the Beatles released the song “Can’t Buy Me Love.”  In 1987, Patrick Dempsey (yes, McDreamy) starred in a movie with that same name.

We may want to consider that the theme song of these 2014 playoffs because so far the teams with the higher payrolls are getting no love at all.

KershawThe Dodgers, the team with the highest payroll in baseball lost the opening game of their series after being up 6-1 in the 5th inning.  And they had their ace Clayton Kershaw on the mound!  They allowed the Cardinals to score a ghastly eight runs in the top of the sixth.  The Cardinals, whose payroll ranks 13th in the league, stole home field advantage in that series as it no goes back to St. Louis.

The Tigers boast the fifth largest payroll in Major League Baseball.  In fact, you can’t say Tigers without mentioning the fact that they have the last three Cy Young Award winners in their rotation.  A lot of good that’s done them.  Matt Scherzer and Justin Verlander were rocked by Baltimore hitting the first two games.  The Orioles payroll ranks fifteenth in the league.

And while the Giants and Nationals payrolls only differ by $20 million, there’s a world of difference between that of the Angels and Royals.  The Angels have four guys on their roster making over $16 million a year.  The Royals have only James Shields making $13.5 and they brought him in at the trading deadline.  The Royals payroll is not even $100 million.

So far this has been a great post-season for Major League Baseball especially if you’re a fan of the underdog because regardless of whether or not they can afford it, they’re the ones getting all the love.

 

Playoff team payrolls

1. LA Dodgers:  $235,295,219

5. Detroit Tigers:  $162,228,527

6. LA Angels:  $155,692,000

7. San Francisco Giants:  $154,185,878

9. Washington Nationals:  $134,704,437

13. St. Louis Cardinals:  $111,020,360

15. Baltimore Orioles:  $107,406,623

19. Kansas City Royals:  $92,034,345

25. Oakland A’s:  $83,401,400

27. Pittsburgh Pirates:  $78,111,667

20 thoughts on “Initial Thoughts on the 2014 MLB Playoffs

  1. Since reading this I’ve been racking my brain (seem to be doing more and more of this lately… LOL!) trying to remember a stat that was mentioned during last night’s marathon Giants/Nationals game. I thought at the time it was ridiculous. That game BTW set all kinds of new records and I’m sure the baseball statisticians will be having a field day over it…

  2. The Dodgers need to win this thing having spent close to half a billion dollars in the past two seasons . As for the Angels they’re being made to look goddamn awful and a great deal more . All this from a team with the best player in the game ? Mike Trout has to be embarrassed having to carry this team (has there been sighting of either Pujols , Josh Hamilton or even CJ Wilson ) .

    Got my own thoughts on the postseason .

  3. Well, Al, they all NEED to win this thing. It’s just harder for the Dodgers to justify losing with all the money they’ve spent.

    Re: the Angels, Pujols and Hamilton are shells of their former selves. Trout is the best player on the team if not the best in the majors. He still gets protection by batting around them. But you’re right. It’s not like those guys are ancient. They should still be contributing.

  4. Pujols and Josh Hamilton have been robbing the Angels blind since they both signed for the team. Mike Scioscia is likely to lose his job at the end of the postseason if his team fails .

    Hosmer, Moustakis and Alex Gordon have been the best players on the Royals’ roster (see my response in my most recent piece) and manager Ned Yost has them playing like a team rather than a bunch of overpaid stars.

  5. Having spent the first 35 years of my life in Kansas City and former season ticket holder of the Chiefs and Royals I have a tendency to follow both very closely (double adverb). My only hope is that the recent success of Royals doesn’t culminate in the annual ritual of free agency triggering a mass exodus to the quarter billion dollar teams. Wishful thinking on my part.

    In reading your article, Chris, I thought I was reading my own thoughts. The orgy of stats has become mind-numbing. I don’t remember the exact stat (imagine that) but when it was pointed out that such and such was a “new record” for a Wild Card game, my thought was “big fucking deal….this is only the third year for the Wild Card”. Can’t wait until next year when that stat is eclipsed.

    One thing I wanted to ask is this….Is anyone as sick and tired as I am of seeing the word POSTSEASON littering the playing field, banners behind home plate and most of all, on the uniforms? What in the fuck purpose is that ugly patch on the player’s left shirt sleeve and ballcaps. Are they reminders to us imbeciles watching the games that we’re watching a playoff game? Whatever the reason is I will never accept it as something that was spawned from rational thought.

    And remember…….ALWAYS OCTOBER!!! wtf?

  6. Chris

    The World Series baseball’s hierarchy might have wished for (Angels & Dodgers) is unlikely to happen . I like what the Orioles are doing , but I thought the Tigers would be putting up more of a spirited fight in their ALDS match-up . San Francisco and the Washington Nationals’ contest is proving to be an interesting series .

    Who do you believe will win the Manager of the Year in either league ?

  7. Verlanders best stat is that he gets to go home to Kate Upton.

    Hosmer is loving the dream. Love seeing nobodies become somebodies in the post season…Derek Fisher comes to mind. Average in the regular season, but becomes Supeman come the playoffs. It’s one of the most beautiful things about sports…The underdog exposing the S on his chest when it means the most.

    The Dodgers…sigh…

    Game 1 was downright painful.
    Kemp bailed us out of game 2, now we fall in game 3…All that scratch and still sitting on the brink of elimination. Oh how I long for the simpler times of Mickey Hatcher, Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson….No expectations, only miracles.

    So much for that freeway series I was dreaming about. The Angels shit their pants and the Doyers look to be poised to join them.

    Stats schmats, the postseason is about chemistry. If LA can’t pull a rabbit out, it would great to see the nobodies in KC become sombodies despite their “tiny” paychecks.

  8. Al…

    The Angels are paying Josh Hamilton $123 over five years and Pujols $240 over ten.

    Ouch!

    Angels fans better get used to seeing that mediocrity for some time.

    Can you say buyers remorse? I knew that you could.

  9. Markaz…

    First of all, congrats on your Royals. You have yourself a pretty sweet team there.

    I’m not sure what they’re payroll situation is like. For example, could Kansas City, which I’m pretty sure is a small market team (compared to the others, at least) afford to pay players their “market value?”

    And would they, especially considering that, as we’ve seen, that that is no guarantee of winning?

    I wonder the same thing with the Rays. If Tampa Bay actually put together a World Series winning team, how would that equate in revenue to what they would spend in the future? Would they spend twenty more? Thirty more? More than that even or the same amount?

    If the Royals win it all, someone’s gonna have to get paid. I don’t see them ever letting Hosmer go, if they’re smart, but what about the rest of the roster? These teams can’t afford to all Dodgers/Yankees.

    Or can they?

  10. Al…

    I’m not so sure the game wanted that subway series.

    Who on the East Coast would watch?

    Manager of the Year, Al? I can tell you who it’s not going to be and that’s either Brad Ausmus or Don Mattingly.

  11. The only problem, Bleed, is that the Orioles also have that team chemistry.

    I’m not sure how much farther KC’s magic can take them but it sure is fun to watch.

  12. Chris.

    Hosmer won’t become a free agent until 2018. But from his performance in 2013 and now the cornerstone for the 2014 team the Royals need to seriously extend him NOW. Sure the Royals are small market, but the loss of Hosmer would be catastrophic.

    James Shields is a free agent after this payoff run is done. My initial thought when Shields was pulled by Yost after 5 2/3 inning in the Wildcard game was that was the nail in the coffin for Shields returning. He does need to return to the starting lineup in 2015, but the Royals can’t break the bank i doing so. Too many good arms on the staff as it is.

  13. Mark…

    That’d be odd if Shields is left as the last man standing simply because his price tag is too high. Don’t get me wrong. I know there’s plenty of teams out there willing to pick him up but are they contenders?

    And I would imagine KC would do everything in their power to keep Hosmer. But at this point, he might be able to set his own pricetag if he keeps up this pace.

  14. “And I would imagine KC would do everything in their power to keep Hosmer. But at this point, he might be able to set his own pricetag if he keeps up this pace.”

    I agree. Tampa Bay and Evan Longoria is what I see for the Royals and Hosmer. Small market teams heavily investing in one cornerstone player.

  15. Mark…

    Here’s hoping Hosmer is more productive.

    While Longoria is the face of the franchise and they got him for relatively cheap, it’s not like he’s setting the league on fire. He’s pretty solid defensively but he has yet to hit .300 for a season and his power numbers have been pretty inconsistent.

  16. Ausmus was in his first year as manager and he inherited a team ready to win , but his acumen was found wanting . Mattingly on his best day , wouldn’t know his @ss from his elbow . ‘

    Given the fact that the ratings for the World Series haven’t always been great , would it really have mattered ?

    Possibility of a Cardinals vs Royals’ World Series seems to have the odds-makers chomping at the bit .

    Is it me , but is Tony Romo getting dumber by the second ? His latest statement, Jason Witten is the greatest Cowboys’ player ever . Is that meant as a slight to the players who have preceded Witten , who have gone on to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame ? Witten I would have to say has been the franchise’s best player over the past eight years , since he first stepped unto the field to play for the team , but the best of all time ? No way in hell , he might not be in the Cowboys’ top-ten when his career comes to an end , even with his statistics .

    tophatal ……….

  17. Al…

    Your stat of the week is that the Royals last Series appearance was ’85 while the Orioles’ was ’83.

    How’s that for a blast from the past?

    And why, pray tell, are you listening to Tony Romo?

  18. Chris

    Both of these AL teams are deserving of their accomplishments this season . Now , can the Royals be stopped after notching their fourth consecutive extra-innings’ victory with their win over the Orioles last night ?

    As for Romo, the story was put out there in print , merely I believe to take the emphasis of the fact the team at present is now doing it all with smoking mirrors. Impressive as DeMarco Murray has been , it seems he has a tendency with fumbles .

    The match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks this weekend should make for a real competitive game.

    If Vick replaces Geno Smith at the quarterback position for the Jets even for the next two games , will it actually make a difference given how bad the team has been playing ?

    😀

    tophatal ……..

  19. Chris

    Having spent $2 billion on the Dodgers , do you believe Magic Johnson can regain any type of momentum in going ahead and rebuilding the team ? Front office executives Stan Kasten and Ned Colletti have simply made a frigging mess of things with high a payrolls and assembling a roster of ill-fitting pieces .

    What chance of LA’s other $2 billion franchise , with Steve Ballmer now promising to being an NBA title to the Los Angeles Clippers and their fans within two years ? Possible or Ballmer being overly optimistic ?

    😀

    tophatal …………

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