by Dr Lefty
I look forward to the baseball playoffs in October and always watch them, regardless of whether or not the Giants are in them. (In some ways, I enjoy them more when the Giants aren’t in them!) But this week’s activity hasn’t held my attention much. The combination of slow, low-scoring games with little action plus first-round mismatches has led to some pretty dull October baseball so far. And that’s even with two tiebreakers to determine division titles and two wild card games this week. Here are a few random observations about the playoffs.
The Biggest Surprise: The Cubs’ Early Exit
A month ago, the Cubs appeared to be sailing toward their third straight division title and the best record in the NL. But then the Brewers got hot and caught them at the end, and the Cubs, with not one but two play-in/tiebreakers at home at Wrigley Field, couldn’t win either game and were ignominiously dumped from the tournament on October 2. Then it was announced that Joe Maddon’s contract, which runs through 2019, wouldn’t be extended.
The Cubs and their fans have gotten a bit spoiled by their sudden success. This year was their fourth straight appearance in the postseason, but it was also their earliest departure from it.
The Biggest Disappointment: The A’s Early Exit
I know, I know. I’m not on record as being an A’s fan. Quite the contrary, in fact. But objectively speaking, the A’s were the most interesting story in baseball this season. It’s not very surprising that the loaded Yankees, with home field advantage, easily won the AL wild card game. But the A’s had a better record than any NL team, and now they’re out. It’s kind of a bummer.
The Mostly Boring Tiebreaker and Wild Card Games
Really the only interesting one of the four was the Rockies-Cubs wild card game, which went 13 innings, but even then, it was just a 2-1 game. So it was close and it was tense because of the stakes, but the game itself was long and slow and dull.
The First-Round Mismatches
It’s early yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see both NL Division Series end with three-game sweeps. The Braves are the weakest of all ten playoff teams (in terms of record), which is why it’s ironic that they were the only NL team that got to sit around and relax for a few days this week. Will they even score a run in this series? As for the Rockies, they lost a tiebreaker and won a 13-inning wild card game before losing the first two DS games in Milwaukee. They went from Coors on Sunday to LA on Monday to Chicago on Tuesday to Milwaukee for Thursday. Their pitching is in shreds after all that, and they appear to be emotionally and physically gassed.
It’s also possible that the two AL series will go just three games, and I’d predict no more than four, with Houston and Boston living up to their regular-season records and advancing to the ALCS. Maybe the Yankees will put up a fight and win a game (they belatedly put one up yesterday, and you can’t ever count them out with those bats). The Indians are good and a battle-tested team, but they’re just outmatched by the defending champs.
Who to Root For?
I like the Brewers. I’m no fan of Ryan Braun or of Josh Hader, the lefty reliever with all the racist, homophobic tweets that surfaced after the All-Star Game. But most of the teams left have someone like that–the Astros have Osuna, the Yankees have Chapman, and the Dodgers have…well, all of them are gross. But the Brewers are a hot and confident team with a nice mix of stars like Yelich and veterans who’ve been there like Moustakas. Assuming they advance to the NLCS, they’ll have home field advantage. I expect them to put up more resistance to the Dodgers than the Braves have so far.
In the AL…well, the Indians, I guess, but I don’t think they’re going to be long for October this year. I still think the Astros are the favorites to win it all again, and they’d be the first repeaters since the 1999-2000 Yankees. So I guess that’s interesting to watch for.
Maybe This Week Will be Better
The last couple of postseasons have had epic battles, especially the last two World Series going seven exciting games. Game 5 of the Nats-Cubs NLDS last year was one of the wildest games I’ve ever watched, and the first two rounds in the AL had some great series, too. I’ve gotten spoiled. I don’t want to watch sweeps or shutouts. I want twists, turns, home runs, failure and heroics. C’mon, Baseball Gods. We Giants fans haven’t had a lot to cheer about for a couple years. You owe us some October fun. Lefty out.