The playoffs are finally here, but before I do a mini preview of the Wild Card Games, I want to give the teams who just missed the playoffs a shoutout, and in some cases, a condolences letter, because some of them would be much more entertaining than the teams we got.
Lets start in the NL…
St. Louis Cardinals
I think one of the main reasons I would rather have the Cardinals in the playoffs than the Mets or Giants is because, if the Cardinals are in the playoffs, the chances the Dodgers don’t go far in the playoffs increases.
St. Louis was never bad this season. They were just never good enough. St. Louis got screwed by the Cubs winning 103 games, and had to deal with a ton of injuries in 2016. At least St. Louis was consistent, and is an easy team to figure out.
Thats the difference between St. Louis and the Mets or Giants. New York and San Francisco had such low lows this year that its hard to take them seriously. Let me put it this way… Do the Mets and Giants really deserve a playoff spot?
The Cardinals seemed so much more complete this year. The Giants bullpen is terrible, and SF almost pulled off the worst 2nd half ever. Of any team ever! New York has guys like Kelly Johnson starting in the infield, and still has issues scoring runs. In a season like this, with these trends, its a miracle that they’re playing in October.
So yeah, either the Mets or Giants are gonna play the Cubs in the NLDS. But who wouldn’t have enjoyed a playoff series between the Cubs and Cardinals?
The only people who are happy with the Cardinals missing the playoffs are Mets, Giants, and Cubs fans. Because believe me; I can guarantee you the last team the Cubs would want to deal with in the playoffs is the Cardinals.
The Tigers battled and battled this year. They were in it till the last game, and things just didn’t break right. However, I can guarantee they’d be a better playoff team than Baltimore.
The Orioles are about to realize that you need pitching to win in the playoffs. The Tigers had the 12th best rotation in the league this year via Fangraphs’ WAR. Justin Verlander proved last season wasn’t a fluke by putting up a 3.04 ERA and striking out 10 batters per nine innings. Michael Fulmer is probably gonna win AL Rookie Of The Year, though I have Gary Sanchez on top of my ballot. After those two, the rotation dips in quality, but its still more competent than Baltimore’s.
Detroit was a little too mediocre to make the playoffs, but I think with a hot streak they’d go farther than the Orioles.
Houston and Seattle weren’t quite good enough to make this quick list, but the Astros had that entertainment aspect to them with the young, exciting infield.
On the Diamondbacks cleaning house…
As you’ll see as we recap the latest firings, I have sympathy for managers. This isn’t like other sports where there are truly bad coaches. Managers never get credit for good decisions, only bad ones.
Its hard for me to believe that Chip Hale deserved to be fired when he had a clown above him in Dave Stewart, a ton of bad luck, and a ton of injuries to deal with this season.
Arizona certainly underperformed. I thought we’d win somewhere around 80 games. But turns out Shelby Miller isn’t as good as Dave Stewart thought, and injuries happen.
Perhaps, if the Diamondbacks were a smart team and paid attention to analytics, they would have won a couple more games.
I hope ownership is seeing the light here. But if they do, that means… Well…
Thats means Tony LaRussa has to go. Remember the In Tony We Trust slogan? Yeah, thats becoming irrelevant.
Its extremely unlikely, but just maybe (under the circumstances that ownership is going to go modern), just maybe, LaRussa can be convinced to buy into sabermetrics.
Arizona needs to give him two options: No job or sabermetrics.
So yeah, while seeing LaRussa go would suck, it’d be best for the team going forward.
Those are words I never thought I’d write.
On Robin Ventura’s firing…
Yet another case of a manager being in charge of meeting way-too high expectations. I don’t think Robin Ventura’s a top-20 manger in the league, but the White Sox front office made some delusional moves in the Winter, and set the bar way too high for a still developing roster. Ventura leaving might be good for Chicago, but Rick Renteria better know what he’s getting into.
And now, time for the Wild Card mini-previews…
A.L. Wild Card Game: Orioles vs. Blue Jays
This game has two of the best offenses in the league matched against each other in a season where, if you can hit, you’re gonna win.
But this is the postseason, and we all know you have to have pitching to make it deep.
Marcus Stroman is gonna face Chris Tillman on the mound tonight. The stats would say otherwise, but man, thats quite a mismatch.
Comparing ERA’s and other stats isn’t the best way to evaluate and predict for one game. Drive is.
Marcus Stroman is electric, and while he struggled against Kansas City in last year’s playoffs, this is gonna be the biggest game he’s ever pitched in. And Stroman is not gonna give in. He’s not that type of pitcher or guy.
I’m taking Toronto because I trust Stroman on the mound more than Tillman, because they’re gonna be home, and because I believe Baltimore is one of the luckiest teams in past memory. Oh, and because then we get a Rangers-Blue Jays rematch in the ALDS. That’ll be fun.
Prediction: Blue Jays-5 Orioles-2
N.L. Wild Card Game: Giants vs. Mets
This is an extremely hard game to pick since we have two of the best pitchers in the league going against each other. This is gonna be a special pitching matchup, at least until the starters are pulled.
The Giants bullpen has been a disaster in the 2nd half. They seem to have no viable relievers. Thats not only a bad thing for this game, but is a terrible thing to deal with in the postseason. Thats the last place you want to blow games.
However, the Mets offense didn’t really improve in the 2nd half. And their rotation, though Noah Syndergaard is pitching tomorrow night, is extremely depleted.
This game is a tossup, so instead of trying to guess whats gonna happen in one nine inning postseason baseball game, I’m gonna pick the team that, with a win, would be more of a contender this postseason.
That team is San Francisco. While their bullpen is a disaster, they have good enough starting pitching to get them a win or two this postseason. However, its hard to imagine them getting past Chicago in the NLDS. But, it is an even year. And its October. Anything can happen.
Prediction: Giants-3 Mets-0