Quick Hits: MLB Playoffs

I know that we are now 4 games into the LCS’s, and the DS’s are ancient history, but I wanted to throw out some random thoughts about the first week in the always fascinating MLB playoffs.

This Hard-Core Traditionalist LOVES The Extra Wild Card
I hate the DH with as much as I hate anything else in this world.  I can’t stand Astroturf (though, it’s AMAZING to play on).  I don’t necessarily hate the “This Game Counts” rule for the All-Star Game, but I completely DESPISE the fact that we have to make it count.  And, I can’t stand any best-of-5 format.  BUT…I LOVE this extra wild card.  Why?  First of all, it’s exciting, but that’s cheap and easy.  Most of all, because I really look at it as not necessarily adding a wild card, but actually taking one away – or, at least, taking away any advantage for the division winner.  Yes, might Baltimore and St. Louis meet in the World Series?  Yes, but Texas and Atlanta didn’t even get to the Division Series.  And, the Orioles and Cards will have done so against longer odds than any of the division winners – and rightfully so.  And, honestly, it’s exciting!  That wild card day was fantastic.  And anyone who argues that it’s “fabricated excitement” is a hypocrite if they argue for any playoff system whatsoever.  If you denounce this “fabricated excitement” created by the one-game playoff, your argument would have to finish with just crowning the Washington Nationals as 2012 MLB champs because they were the best team over 162 games.  Hell, I’d be all for letting all 30 teams in a big playoff, where #30 plays #29 with the winner playing #28 for the right to play #27, and so on…

While a Really Bad Call, the Bogus Infield Fly Call Actually HELPED The Braves
First of all, the infield fly call in the Braves-Cardinals Wild Card Game was a bad call.  The point of the rule is so the infielder can’t intentionally drop a pop-up and turn a double-play.  Well, you saw what happened when that popup was dropped – they didn’t get anyone out!  So, there is no debate that the call was wrong.  However, I couldn’t disagree more with those of you that said it cost the Braves the game.  In fact, not only did it not cost them the game, but it didn’t cost them anything.  The Braves actually benefitted from that call, at least from what I could tell.  When a popup is hit into shallow leftfield, there is a tacit understanding between the leftfielder and the shortstop that if no one says anything, it’s the shortstop’s ball, but it is the leftfielder’s clear responsibility to call off the shortstop if he can make the play because it’s an easier catch coming in.  So, as a shortstop, you are finely trained to go after the ball hard, all the while listening to be called off, in which case you better get out of the way.  As Kozma went back on the ball, he was ready to make the catch, but was also dutifully waiting to be called off by Holliday.  There is no doubt in my mind that when the umpire – who was standing 10 feet from Kozma – yelled “INFIELD FLY, BATTER’S OUT,” Kozma mistook it for his leftfielder calling him off, peeled off and the ball dropped.  Yes, it is his fault that he misheard it, but if the umpire did his job and said nothing, then he would have caught the ball and the runners would have remained at 1st and 2nd.  Instead, the ball fell, and the runners advanced.  Obviously, the Braves didn’t capitalize, but they were clearly (by my judgment) actually put in a better situation because of the umpire’s mistake.

This Bad Call Actually HELPED the Braves...

Hey, at Least They Sold Out the Playoff Game for a Change.
Then, in the wake of that call, how embarrassing was it when Braves fans threw so much trash on to the field that it delayed the game for more than 15 minutes?  Absolutely classless.  Where was that on the front page of every national sports site?  If that was Philly, it would have been on Good Morning, America

Managers Stepping Up
For a sport with “experts” that like to do nothing more than criticize managers for their moves, October seems to be bringing out the best in this much-maligned species of baseball man.  Joe Girardi, obviously, made the splashiest move by pinch-hitting for the best right-handed hitter of all-time with a 40-year old who hit the game-tying and game-winning home runs in ALDS Game 4.  But, I am much more concerned with the more subtle decisions that are a lot harder to analyze.  Buck Showalter‘s decision to start Joe Saunders in the winner-take-all wild card game (as prescribed by BSB’s own, Gross, the day of that game) exemplified the steady hand he has had on that wheel all year.  And, then there was that Reds-Giants series, that had two managers oft-criticized for their approach to their pitching staffs put on an absolute clinic on how to use a bullpen in a short series.  I did not exactly like Bob Melvin‘s treatment of the 9th inning in the elimination Game 4, but it seemed to work out okay for them on that day.

Is Robinson Cano Lost at Sea?
Doogan asked me the other day “Do you think Robinson Cano has ever gone 2-for-32 before in his entire life???  Not the best timing.”  Not only would this Cano slump (which is grossly overshadowed by One Life to Live, starring Alex Rodriguez) be incredible at any point, it is even more incredible if you consider that he finished the regular season in absolute blistering fashion.  In fact, Cano entered the playoffs with a ridiculous streak of NINE straight multi-hit games – the first time anyone has even had a streak of 8 or more since, well, Robinson Cano, in 2010.  In those 9 games, Cano his .615…yes, .615…with 24 hits in 39 at-bats.  And, he’s not the only one who ended the regular season red-hot only to go ice cold in the postseason.  Here is an article from the day after the regular season ended that mentioned, among others, some of the postseason’s worst hitters as players to watch this postseason simply because of how hot they were down the stretch:  Cano, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, Chris Davis, Brandon Moss, and Bryce Harper.

My Pick to Win the World Series
I said before the playoffs started that the winner of the Giants-Reds series would win the whole thing.  While I hate the whole “I can’t change my original pick” theory that has plagued sportswriters, I still hold on to the Giants as my pick to win this thing, despite how good the Tigers and Cardinals both look right now.  Pitching wins, and the Giants have it – in the rotation and in the ‘pen.  If, in 2010 when the Phillies acquired Roy Halladay, I told you that, by the end of 2012, Barry Zito would have two more World Series rings Mr. Halladay, you would have had me committed.