Aug
02

The “crapshoot” nature of the playoffs

By

“My shit doesn’t work in the playoffs. My job is to get us to the playoffs. What happens after that is fucking luck.” – Billy Beane

Many fans I know object to that quote. They think that the inefficiencies Billy Beane exploited work well in the long-haul, but fail miserably in a short series. And, in their defense, Beane’s playoff run in the early 00s bears that out. However, the recent play of the Yankees and Red Sox better illustrates Beane’s point than his words do.

After rolling through the first four teams after the All-Star Break, the Yanks hit a snag, dropping three straight to the White Sox. The Yankees are obviously a good team, but hit a rough patch. It happens to the best of teams. The Red Sox also hit a bad patch, right as the Yankees were rolling. Both teams are on the same level, yet both have slumped, and slumped hard, over the course of the season.

What if those teams hit a rough patch in the beginning of October? It’s unfortunate, but it happens. The 2006 Yankees are a good example. They had a great regular season, but hit a terrible patch against Detroit in the playoffs. Hell, they even played well enough in the first game, but slumped in the final three. It happens during the regular season, and it can happen in the playoffs.

You hope your team can focus and avoid a slump when the games matter the most. The great teams, so goes the reasoning, will be able to do this. But in an age of increasing parity, rough patches hurt that much more. A team can hit a few bumps in the road over a 162-game season, but if they slump just a little during the playoffs it’s over. Even the best team in the long haul can have four bad games.

This is just something to chew on as we enter the off-day. We’d like to believe that players can elevate themselves in October, but sometimes they just can’t. I don’t think that’s necessarily a reflection of the team’s character. I think it’s in the nature of baseball’s marathon schedule.

Categories : Playoffs

85 Comments»

  1. Salty Buggah says:

    Hopefully this year we get on one of those hot streaks in the playoffs.

  2. stuart says:

    that is why the first round best of 5 series is stupid.. luck is involved already why play best of 5 instead of best of 7????

    they should make it so the division winners have a distinct advantage by playing best of 7 and having the lesser team only have 2 home games… it is like the 162 regular season games mean nothing…..

    • they should make it so the division winners have a distinct advantage by playing best of 7 and having the lesser team only have 2 home games… it is like the 162 regular season games mean nothing…..

      Let’s not go crazy.

      Best of 7 would be a good move, but making a series 5 home and 2 road games is over the top.

      The biggest issue I have with the playoffs is the high number of off days. Good baseball teams are built to be able to win playing games every day, then you get to October and have off days left and right and it narrows the gap between deep teams and non-deep teams.

      All series should be best of seven, but there should never EVER be an off day that’s not a necessary travel day.

    • toad says:

      Going to seven games doesn’t really change the luck factor significantly. The better team picks up only a very small extra chance of winning the series.

      Of course, other things, like depth, will come somewhat more into play. If the definition of “better” is the team more likely to do well in the regular season, then that matters. If it’s the team more likely to win a single life-or-death game then something like having one great pitcher picks up weight.

  3. Yes, but when we won 4 titles in 5 years, it was because of five reasons:
    1) We had Gene Michael as our GM, and he’s the smartest man ever
    2) We had Joe Torre, who never made a mistake
    3) We had my boy Scotty Bro
    4) We had a dynamite bullpen that was the heart and soul of our team, even though we had a pretty crappy rotation (i guess, can’t really remember who started for us, probably wasn’t anybody important)
    5) We didn’t have all these expensive free agent pretty boys who only worry about their own stats and/or are Latino

    It had nothing to do with a weak league, or a massive financial advantage, or good luck and good fortune, or playing in an era with fewer injuries, or any of that.

    We won playoff series because of Gene Michael, Joe Torre, Scott Brosius, Jeff Nelson, and not having ARod and that’s it. The fact that we no longer have any of those things means we suck and we’re going to lose the best of 5 ALDS in an 0-4 sweep.

  4. Kevin Ocala, Fl says:

    Really? A deep pitching staff w/a deep line-up, w/a deep bench seems to take “lady luck” down. But then of course we’re talking the last Yankee Dynasty…Silly Beane, play-offs are for the Yankees ;)

  5. Dela G says:

    we’ll be fine in the playoffs this year

    i can’t wait to see grit gutner in the playoffs

  6. Mac says:

    Jim Kaat was on the radio with Suzyn today, he mentioned the importance of the pen in the Yanks dynasty (Mo pitched 41.1 innings in the 98-00 post season) and how important Hughes’s role in the pen is.

    He mentioned what many here think is incorrect and a cliche – that having a pen that can give you 3 innings puts alot of pressure on the opponent.

    I know many here have much more experience and more major league wins than Jim Kaat, so of course I believe you guys.

    • Salty Buggah says:

      Of course having a shutdown bullpen coming in after a dominant rotation is good. Problem is, you also gotta have that good rotation.

    • Drew says:

      Who on this planet said anything negative about having a good pen that can give you 3 innings if necessary?

    • He mentioned what many here think is incorrect and a cliche – that having a pen that can give you 3 innings puts alot of pressure on the opponent.

      Nobody here thinks the bullpen is not important.

      What we’re saying is that the rotation is far MORE important. Thing A being really important and Thing B being less important than thing A does not mean that Thing B is not important.

      Jim Kaat is correct in claiming that the bullpen was a huge reason why we won those titles. If he thinks it’s a bigger reason than David Cone, David Wells, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Orlando Hernandez though, he’s dead wrong.

    • RichYF says:

      This theory is only valid if you have:
      Cone, Wells, Pettitte, and El Duque in 1998
      Cone, Clemens, Pettitte, and El Duque in 1999 and 2000

      That’s off the top of my head, but I’m pretty sure it’s accurate. The point is that those guys were almost guaranteed to give you 6 innings of 2 or less runs. That’s where the real winning happened.

      The “shut-down” bullpen is irrelevant if you’re losing 8-3 in the 7th.

      • The “shut-down” bullpen is irrelevant if you’re losing 8-3 in the 7th.

        I have nothing to add, I just wanted to repeat that louder so that everyone heard it.

        • Thomas A. Anderson says:

          The “shut-down” bullpen is irrelevant if you’re losing 8-3 in the 7th.

          I have nothing to add, I just wanted to repeat that louder so that everyone heard it.

          I have something to add and I want to repeat this to make sure that people get this.

          Mariano Rivera has had about 3 meaningful innings in the postseason in the Yankees’ last 3 trips.

          Why?

          Cause if it wasnt Chien Ming Wang or Randy Johnson getting annihilated, it was Jaret Wright being entrusted to save the Yankees season in Detroit in 2006.

          Simply put, the one way to nullify a great bullpen is to get shitty starting pitching.

          • Ivan says:

            Think about this, The yankee pen in 03 besides of course Mo was down right putrid (for crying out loud, Felix Heredia was one of yanks main set up guys) and the yanks still made the WS because of GREAT starting pitching. Moose(and I mean in his prime moose), Pettitte(Who won 20 games that season) Wells(who if his back didn’t lock up in game 5, yanks win that series) and Clemens(who was the yanks 4th starter)

            Dominate SP>Dominate RP.

        • ShuutoHeat says:

          +1

    • whozat says:

      “I know many here have much more experience and more major league wins than Jim Kaat, so of course I believe you guys.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A....._authority

      I’m gonna write a firefox extension that automatically responds to posts containing logical fallacies.

    • RollingWave says:

      Joe Morgan’s one of the best player EVER , Steve Phillips have a lot moer pro ball experience than most othe GMs

  7. LiveFromNewYork says:

    Whenever they drop 3 games, esp to lesser teams, I think of this.

    • Thomas A. Anderson says:

      Doesn’t matter if the Yankees get blown out by good teams. Good pitching–and to a lesser extent, good defnese–rules all in October.

      The 2007 Indians, 2006 Tigers and even the 2005 Angels were beaten by the Yankees in the regular season. Come posteseason time, those losses were irrelevant.

      If you are the Yankees, just make sure you get to October. By any means necessary.

      • Side-note: This is probably our best defensive team since the title years.

        Yankees team UZR:
        02: -48.9
        03: -62.2
        04: -76.3
        05: -137.0 (ZOMG!!1!)
        06: -73.9
        07: -8.8 (Thanks, Melky!)
        08: -44.5
        09: -14.7

      • Tank the Frank says:

        Correct. I thought about that when we trounced the Twinkies this season. But it doesn’t look like they’ll be in the mix.

        Of course, luck is a huge part of postseason success, but those factors you mentioned – good pitching, good defense – are what teams need to do to put themselves in a position to win a short series.

        For the Yankees to win it all, they’ll need a lot of luck, riding a hot streak in October, but they can help themselves by pitching well (goes without saying), playing good defense – and that includes things like hitting the cutoff man, avoiding mental mistakes, and keeping your opponent from taking the extra base – and good situational hitting, getting the runner over, getting that runner in from 3rd.

        If the Yankees can do these things, they’re more than good enough to win it all, no matter who they play.

  8. Mac says:

    >Jim Kaat is correct in claiming that the bullpen was a huge reason why we won those titles. If he thinks it’s a bigger reason than David Cone, David Wells, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Orlando Hernandez though, he’s dead wrong.<

    Good enough for me – the pen is\was a huge factor but they had the starters to get it to them.

    Yanks had much better D as well – Tex has helped alot, but I think this team is still not as balanced defensively and as good enough in the front of the rotation to go far in October – unless it really does come down to having a lot of luck.

    • whozat says:

      “as good enough in the front of the rotation to go far in October – unless it really does come down to having a lot of luck.”

      This is ridiculous. CC-AJ is as good as any 1-2 in baseball.

      • Mac says:

        I don’t see how anyone could say its ridiculous – CC has a 7.92 era in the post season and AJ has never pitched a game in October.

        Also, when you see performances from the CC like today, it raises a question how good CC really is against top teams.

        I griped earlier he’s really a #2 starter (his WHIP says I’m wrong, but his performances against good teams says otherwise)- maybe that’s harsh, but when I think about him being matched up in game 1 against Beckett or whatever Tampa or the Angels or Tigers decide to go with, I think he’s the lesser guy.

        • Tank the Frank says:

          He’s having a down year for us no doubt. I don’t think that puts him at a #2 just yet though. Beckett was hardly infallible last year in the postseason, but they still got to the ALCS.

          CC and AJ may not go 8 shutout innings, but I don’t think you can expect either of them to give you a 2007 Wangian performance. We’ve got pitching that at the very least can keep us in a game.

        • whozat says:

          because he’s still the same guy who pitched multiple games in a row on short rest, including the do-or-die game at the end of the season, to put his team in the playoffs.

          How does that carry less weight than his small number of playoff games?

          As for his performance against “top teams”, I’m much more interested in his performance against top offenses. You brought this up, so the burden of proof is on you. How has Sabathia performed against the top offenses in the league?

          • Tank the Frank says:

            He’s been a mixed bag this season really.

            • whozat says:

              Remember how Beckett started the year?

              Lots of guys have been mixed bags.

              • Tank the Frank says:

                I understand. Doesn’t change the FACT that CC has been a mixed bag. He’ll shut down the Rays one week, and give it up to the M’s another.

                • Drew says:

                  Eh, this is not directed right at you but I find it comical that the past few years we would’ve killed for a starter with an ERA under 4. Now, we have 3 and no one is happy.

                • David Cone and Orlando Hernandez both went 35-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 1998. I remember it like it was yesterday.

                • whozat says:

                  My point is that guys having years like Grienke are few and far between. CC’s still having a very good season, but yes…he’s had some inconsistency.

                • Mac says:

                  It’s not about being unhappy, its about realistically looking at how good this team – and in this case CC really is.

                  I definitely agree this team is much better and the Yanks made the right move in getting both CC and AJ (and I wanted AJ especially, warts and all, b\c he can be lights out and he’s a mean SOB on the mound).

                  I also agree to a point, CC is a horse who logged alot of innings by the time October rolls around – but that’s also going to be the case this year as well.

                  Here’s CC’s this year:

                  Bos 0-1 5.14 era
                  LAA 0-2 6.08
                  TB – 0-1 5.93
                  Phillies – 0-0 3.38

                • Tank the Frank says:

                  Meh. I’m not a guy who’s down on CC per se. But he’s certainly not lived up to the expectations I had for him.

                  I expected about 220 with a 3.5 ERA, 1.2 WHIP and about 190-200 K. Very in line with his career norms especially his last few “prime” years. And maybe some room for improvement since he is technically in his prime.

                  If you want to talk openly and honestly about him, the fact remains that his last 3 seasons in the AL is ERA + was:
                  140
                  143
                  162
                  This season he’s at 115 (not counting today). But I realize there is still 2 months to go.

  9. Frank says:

    Good starting pitching/BP notwithstanding, hitting with RISP also goes a long way in succeeding in the post season.

  10. It’s something that I find rather perplexing about American sports. Don’t get me wrong, I love ‘em, but there’s something fundamentally illogical about asking players who’ve run a marathon to then suddenly run a sprint, then a couple more slightly longer sprints to see who’s the best.

  11. Mac says:

    Question:

    When do we realize that the Emperor has no clothes in re Billy Beane?

  12. Rick says:

    This team isn’t title good enough if they don’t another starter and reliever.

  13. bobtaco says:

    Some of the teams in the Dynasty Years™ actually slumped horribly also, but the great thing was that those teams slumped at the right time. They would hit a rough patch or lull, right before the playoffs and then start a dominating roll that would peak right through the World Series.

    The one I think clearly think about is the 2000 team, I believe they lost 15 out of their last 18 games, but then dominated through the playoffs.

  14. YankeeScribe says:

    I would argue that in a short series, the teams that play good fundamental baseball combined with solid pitching is usually more successful than more the teams that are more offense-centric.

    • Drew says:

      Solid pitching, isn’t it arguable that there is some luck involved? You never know when a pitcher is going to throw a clunker or when the other team is just going to be dialed in on offense.

      • Tank the Frank says:

        The Rockies were such an unbelievable example in 07. They didn’t lose a game in the playoffs, then they waited 5 days (?) to start the World Series and got swept. Go figure.

        Not saying they would have beat the Sox because they weren’t the better team, but I think it speaks volumes about momentum in the playoffs.

        • YankeeScribe says:

          In a 7 game series I think luck and momentum factor more when you have two teams that are evenly matched. When one team is clearly better it shows…

      • YankeeScribe says:

        There’s always luck but the good pitching usually stops good hitting and some pitchers elevate their game for the playoffs.

        I mean how many years did we beat great offensive teams like the Rangers, Indians, and Athletics, on our way to the World Series? Are you saying that it was all luck? Is it not true that we had all around better pitching and defense than those teams?

    • Mac says:

      The 02 Angels were the exception – they slugged their way to a title – alot of them also had hat sizes greater than 8 as well.

  15. JimT says:

    I think that three solid starting pitchers, a good bull pen and a good, healthy starting line up provide all the “luck” you need. Even really good teams that enter into the post season banged up are vulnerable. Injuries are the normal wear and tear of a baseball season. I don’t consider a “banged up” team unlucky.They simply lacked the requisit depth to persevere. Billy Beane’s luck aurgument is a “cop out”.

  16. Kevin Ocala, Fl says:

    Funny how much better pitching staffs seem to get when they have a top defensive team behind them. Especially in the play-offs. THAT is probably the biggest reason that the Yanks haven’t taken home the Trophy since 2000, a team w/ too many Giambi-like players….

  17. [...] some ways, I do think that the playoffs are a crapshoot. A team can get hot at the right time and mow down the competition. A great team can get cold and [...]

  18. [...] The playoffs are underway, and there have already been some exciting moments. The old refrain that the playoffs are a crapshoot is as tired as it is common (even in its more expletive-peppered variety).  [...]

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