MLB Playoff Recap: What We've Learned So Far
1. #1s get romped in playoff debuts. Let's just take the top 5 sure fire aces of the postseason: Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Luis Severino, and Corey Kluber. The combined ERA of those aces in their postseason debuts was an abominable 9.15. Yikes. Let’s compare that to 2016 years crop of aces: Rick Porcello, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber, Madison Bumgarner, Max Scherzer. They combined for an ERA of 3.45 in their debuts. Not too shabby. The 2015 aces, Dallas Keuchel, Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom, Jake Arrieta, and David Price combined for an ERA of 2.08 in their debuts. The point is it’s rare to see aces perform this bad in playoff debuts. Aces are aces for a reason. They’re supposed to be able to handle the nerves and jitters. And sure, they’re are some wicked offenses in this year’s playoffs, but they're good offenses every year. This isn’t basketball where good offense will always beat good defense. Good pitching more times than not beats good hitting. It’s why all these guys are crucial to their team’s success, and it's why their performances have been absolutely perplexing.
2. It’s amazing the Red Sox were even close to forcing a Game 5. In the 3-1 series defeat the Red Sox never made it out of the first inning without giving up a run, and the Sox’s starters, which ranked 4th in total ERA during the regular season, were only able to pitch 8.1 total innings in which they combined for an ERA of 15.12. Chris Sale got clobbered. Drew Pomeranz got crushed. Doug Fister looked like an old 33 year old. And Rick Porcello continued his ugly 2017 campaign. The Red Sox could not get the Astros’ big three (Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer) out with any consistency. Jose Altuve basically played like the MLB reincarnation of Pablo Sanchez (.533 BA, 1.765 SLG%, 3 HR). Josh Reddick was inches away from putting the Astros up 6-0 in Game 3. The Red Sox lost their best player of the second half in the first inning of Game 1 in Eduardo Nunez. Mookie Betts hurt his wrist. John Farrell got ejected in the second inning of an elimination game. And yet, somehow, someway, the Sox were in position to bring the series back to Houston up 3-2 in the 8th inning.
3. The Red Sox also straight up blew it. A 3-2 lead with Sale on the mound for the 8th, and a fresh Craig Kimbrel ready to roll? They had to have that game. It would have been easy to question why they didn’t just bring in Kimbrel for the 8th if Kimbrel actually looked good. Instead he gave up a costly insurance run that completely ruined Rafael Devers’ inside the parker. It’s a hard reality to face, but the Sox had a lead with six outs to go and their two best pitchers couldn’t get the job done. They deserve to be gone fishin'.
4. The Dodgers regained their mojo. I really thought the Diamondbacks had a good shot at beating the Dodgers. They won the regular season series 11 games to 8, including the last 6 games against the Dodgers. All three Divisional Series starters, Robbie Ray, Tijuan Walker, and Zack Greinke had put together better than quality outings in those meetings, the D-back offense had stung the Dodgers scoring 6.66 runs per game, and overall they were +27 against them in those meetings. Mix that with the Dodgers’ unattractive 12-17 September, their past postseason failures, and you have my line of thinking. In reality though, the Dodgers looked anything but postseason chumps. In the 3 game sweep they exerted their dominance the way a championship team should exert their dominance. Paul Goldschmidt was kept completely under wraps (.091, 1 HR, 2 RBI). The Dodgers bullpen supported a 2.31 ERA, and kept every lead they were given. And the offense hit good pitching. All signs point towards the Dodgers as the National League representative in the World Series.
5. Well, actually, now that I’m thinking about it…. the Cubbies did beat them last year. If not for the Cubs’ bullpen completely blowing game 2, we might already have a NLCS repeat from last year. The Cubs still have to close out the Nats, but so far, they’ve looked like the better and luckier team.
So far Cubs’ starters have supported a 0.48 ERA in 18.2 innings of work. Jon Lester was good. Kyle Hendricks was better and Jose Quintana showed why they went out and acquired him before the deadline. They beat Stephen Strasburg and squeaked a game out against the brilliant Max Scherzer. Sometimes postseason experience doesn’t mean anything, but these Cubbies have been through hell and back, and they’re not going to be an easy out for anybody. As a result, it wouldn’t surprise me if they found a way to beat L.A. the way it would surprise me if the Nationals did. They have all the pieces. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, especially Rizzo, have had better than solid postseasons so far, and they both killed the Dodgers last year in the NLCS. And as I just mentioned, their starting pitching has been phenomenal this postseason. Good pitching. Good hitting. Experience. Luck. It all adds up to the Cubbies making a run at back to back titles.
6. Yankees-Indians earns best Division Series award. Overall it’s just been a strange one. And strange is always good in baseball. Terry Francona starts Trevor Bauer in game 1 over soon to be Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. Bauer pitches a gem. Kluber then gets rocked in game 2, only to have Joe Girardi screw up an easy challenge leading to Francisco Lindor’s big grand slam, and eventually the Indians’ walk-off victory in the 13th inning. Greg Bird, who spent the entire year mysteriously mending his ankle, hits a solo shot off of the un-hittable Andrew Miller for the only run in Game 3. And then Bauer who pitched so well in Game 1 gets shelled in Yankee Stadium in Game 4. Let’s hope the weird ride just gets weirder in Game 5.
7. Home runs dominated the regular season, and they’re dominating the postseason too. More home runs were hit in the 2017 season than any in baseball history (1.26 HR per game). That trend has become even more vital in this year’s postseason as some of the biggest hits have come via the long ball. Houston exerted their dominance over Boston hitting as many home runs in the first inning of games (5) as Boston did the entire series. On the other end of the spectrum, the D-backs smashed 7 homers against the Dodgers and couldn’t get a single win. We’ve also had a lot of game changing blasts. Greg Bird’s solo shot in Game 4. Franscisco Lindor’s Grand Slam. Bryce Harper saving the Nationals in Game 2. Rafael Devers’ go-ahead shot in Game 3. Andrew Benintendi’s knock off of Justin Verlander, and Alex Bregman’s game tying monster blast against Chris Sale. The long ball is so instant. And it’s so integral to Baseball’s intrigue. Cheers to this trend continuing.