Post Season Preview

I know the post season doesn’t start for another week, but what I need to say isn’t too dependent on team vs. team matchups, so here we go with your need to know about the 2017 MLB post season:

I started this blog earlier this season and I’ve learned a lot on the fly.  One of the things I’ve learned is how so many people – smart people who’ve watched baseball for a long time – completely over emphasize and over react to small sample sizes.

Any MLB player can be great for a few weeks.  Any MLB player can be awful for a few weeks.

And I agree with an observation that baseball writer Joe Sheehan made: It seems that the people who rail against statistical advancement in baseball – you know the people who say deeply insightful things like “remember, this game is played by humans, not numbers” (eye roll) – are exactly the people who expect players to be automatons.

Starlin Castro raked for 6 weeks.  Aroldis Chapman was bad for a month.  Chase Headley was worse.  Gary Sanchez was average for 5 weeks.  Jacoby Ellsbury has been great for 4 weeks.

News flash:  These guys are human.  They will all go through ups and downs.  Not all position players are Mike Trout, not all relief pitchers are Mariano Rivera.

Guys with a .400 OBP don’t get on base 4 out of every ten times.  Guys with a 3.00 ERA don’t give up 3 runs every nine innings.  They are not robots – they are people.

And baseball is hard.  Very hard.  The other guys get paid too.

But over the course of 162 games, they will revert to who they are far more often than not, as is the case with the aforementioned players.  Again somewhat ironically, it’s those among us who have inclinations for data and information who are the ones who see and apply that.

What does this have to do with my Playoff Preview?  Glad you asked.

Because what has happened up to this point has nothing to do with what’s going to happen next.  Anyone who tells you otherwise or has solid predictions on who’s going to win the World Series has no clue about that which they speak.  This is why I don’t need to wait to see the matchups and analyze them to death to predict a winner – it’s a waste of time.  We already know who the best teams are.  Whatever happens over the course of a few short series isn’t going to change that, regardless of what the ex-jocks and pseudo-intellectuals bark into a microphone.

Consider this:

As of this writing, the Indians are the favorite to win the World Series, with a 20% chance according to Fangraphs.  The Astros are second with an 18.4% chance and the Dodgers are third at 16.3%.

In other words, if one of the best teams in baseball won the World Series, it would be regarded as an upset.  The Indians, widely regarded as the best team, are a big underdog at 4-1.  And yet somehow if they don’t pull off a 4-1 upset, their season was a failure according to many.  (Pinches bridge of nose…)

That’s the case on a macro level, because as noted, on a micro level, player performances are impossible to predict for a period of a few weeks.

Remember, over the course of a few weeks:

Brian Doyle and Bucky Dent were better than Graig Nettles and Thurman Munson.

Deion Sanders was better than David Justice (at baseball).

Scott Brosius was better than Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams.

David Freese was better than Albert Pujols.

There are countless more similar examples.  You simply cannot predict either player or team performance over a period of time as short as a few playoff series.

That’s not a bad thing.  Frankly, that’s exactly what makes the playoffs fun.

In April, everyone pretty much agreed the Indians and the Cubs would be in the post season in October.  But there’s absolutely no way to predict what they’ll do now that they’re there.

Watching Jim Leyritz hit one of the biggest home runs in Yankee World Series history is what makes the playoffs great.  Watching Chad Curtis take Tom Glavine deep early then winning it in the 10th with another HR is what makes the post season great.

Watching Luis Sojo hit a seven hopper up the middle to beat the Mets in the World Series is what makes the post season great.  (Or heartbreaking, depending on your perspective…)

The playoffs are made for watching and enjoying, not for predictions – have fun with it.

Until the manager of your team waits too long to go to the bullpen….


Thanks to Fangraphs, Baseball Reference and Joe Sheehan for much of the information here.


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