Friday, October 13, 2023

Month of MLB: Days 11 and 12

Well, the folks at MLB were obviously hoping to have some Game Fives in the Divisional Series on Friday and Saturday, but that will not be happening.  So go watch high school football tonight, and watch college football tomorrow.  MLB will be back on Sunday night.

Last night, Philly hit three solo homers, and the Braves hit one, and so Philly won the game 3-1.  The Braves played a few good innings at the end of Game Two, and were simply horrific the rest of the series.  So they are eliminated by Philly for the second straight year.

Here's how the Divisional Series ended:

Atlanta 1 - 3 Philadelphia
Los Angeles 0 - 3 Arizona
Baltimore 0 - 3 Texas
Houston 3 - 1 Minnesota

So the higher seeds went 4-10 in the Divisional Series.  Furthermore, the Braves (104 regular season wins), Orioles (101 wins), Dodgers (100 wins), Devil Rays (99 wins), and Brewers (92 wins) combined to go 1-13 in the post-season.  Here's who is left:

National League:
Philadelphia (90-72) v. Arizona (84-78)

American League:
Houston (90-72) v. Texas (90-72)

Of course, those labels are somewhat misleading.  Philadelphia is the defending National League champion.  Houston is the defending World Champion.  Texas has a manager who won three World Series in five seasons for the Giants.  So I don't think the results are as random as they appear.  In fact, we could easily end up with the same pennant winners as last year.  But I do think that going forward, we should understand that the regular season in MLB means about as much as it does in hockey.  You don't need to be trying for a 105-win regular season.  You need to make sure that you have two or three elite starting pitchers, and two or three guys who can hit elite pitching.  That's what works in the post-season.

In a way, baseball has found a way to reduce the importance of analytics.  The big insights that Bill James and others developed were truly breathtaking, and they did change the game.  But they almost all depend on a large sample size.  If you have to win one game -- today -- to save your season, you will be better off with a team that was built by the old book.  The analytics guys convinced themselves that managers, and starting pitchers, and fielding, and base running, and RBI's aren't really that important -- and they aren't, over 162 games.  But in one game, or in a short series, they are enormously important.  And that's why old guys like Dusty Baker and Bruce Bochy are still going, and the analytics crowd is out.

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