The World Series begins tomorrow with two teams that I doubt any baseball expert would have predicted. If you expected to see the Royals facing the Giants, you must be psychic. Maybe you think Giants because of the every other year magic they’ve had lately, but a Royal team that hadn’t even been to the playoffs in 29 years! If you think about it, the best teams in baseball lose one third of their games and worst teams in baseball win one third of their games. The difference between a good team and a bad team is what happens in the other one third of their games. That’s why it takes a 162 game season to filter out which teams are the best.
So what’s the difference between two good teams? Let’s look at the regular season of the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers. They played each other 18 times. The Giants won 7 out of the first 9 games, then the Dodgers won 7 out of the next 9 games. There were minor changes in personnel and injuries that might account for the difference. Or is it just a question of timing. Every team good or bad will have a good week and a bad week. So once you get 2 good teams to the playoffs is it merely a question of who’s having a good week?
To me, the pivotal game in the Cardinals vs. the Dodgers series was the first game. The Dodgers are cruising along with a 6 to 2 lead in the seventh inning and inexplicably the best pitcher in baseball Clayton Kershaw suddenly falls apart. Kershaw pitched 7 to 9 innings consistently all season long and never lost a game when the Dodgers scored at least 4 runs. Did he get tired? Did pitching out of the stretch mess up his mechanics? Did the high temperatures in L.A. or the pressure of a playoff game get to him? You might replay that inning 20 times and Kershaw would probably go on to win the game 19 out of 20 times, but that day he didn’t.
When the Nationals played the Giants, the key game had to be the 18 inning marathon. Think about it. All the things that happened or didn’t happen to score one run or not score one run.
Half of the Royals playoff games were won in extra innings, including the first wild card game in which they came from 4 runs behind in the 8th inning. That’s how close they came to only having one playoff game.
More about the unpredictable MLB playoffs later.