“Why make sense when the world around refuses?”
That’s a lyric from the latest album of this British band called Hot Chip, who I’ve been sorta obsessed with for going on a couple months (an obsession that has led to me dressing as Star-Lord and dancing around in the front row at one of their concerts. If you really want the gory details, check my Instagram).
Anyways, I can think of no better line to describe playoff baseball, and the art of predicting playoff baseball. Why make sense of playoff baseball when, year after year, it just bloody refuses? We were one non-terrible Lucas Duda throw from gearing up for a Game Six in Kansas City tomorrow, and instead of basking in Eric Hosmer’s hustle, we’d be frowning at his idiocy. The Mets very could easily have won this Series in five games instead of the Royals, and then the Giants would be sending them pizzas instead. The Royals won because Jeurys Familia made one bad pitch to Alex Gordon and the Mets made two horrific defensive plays in the final two games. That’s basically the difference between the Royals’ first championship in 30 years, and the Mets’ first championship in 29. Why predict baseball when it refuses to be predictable?
With the small sample size shenanigans of playoff series pretty much well understood now, the managers get put under the microscope by analysts the most in these postseason battles. Terry Collins is going to get scrutinized forever for not taking Matt Harvey out after eight innings in Game Five, but he was just doing what we all would have done in that situation. I think it’s really hard to blame him. Stick with your best, especially when your best appears ready to murder you on camera if you don’t let him go out for the ninth inning. I wouldn’t say there were any blatantly stupid managerial decisions (except maybe Collins leaving Yoenis Cespedes in to hit in Game Five after he almost destroyed his knee on a foul ball) in this one.
No, in the end it all came down to a couple of plays the Mets didn’t make. The Royals were good and a little bit lucky and they came out ahead in three games that were basically toss ups. Let’s take a gander at how my predictions came out.
“Daniel Murphy will hit zero home runs”.
I’m a genius! Not only that, but Murphy had just three hits in 20 at-bats in the series and made two errors, one of them being the crippler in Game Four. Amazing how one man can go from superhero to epic goat in a matter of four games. I think it’s safe to say that Murphy won’t be back in the Mets pinstripes in 2016. Baseball, man. It’s merciless.
“Bartolo Colon will start, and win, Game Four”.
Not even close. Rookie Steven Matz took the ball and pitched very well, and should have gotten the win. It’s silly to think that Colon would have pitched any better, so shame on me. See, this is why the actual baseball men make the baseball decisions and jerks like me only write about it in their Ninja Turtle jammies way too late on a work night. Colon made three appearances out of the bullpen and gave up one unearned run (again with the Mets and their errors). I have no idea if Colon is going to come back and pitch somewhere next year, but if he calls it a career, this wasn’t a bad performance to go out on.
“Michael Conforto will have a big Series”.
He almost won Game Four by himself with his two home runs and he slugged .733 in the Series, so I’ll go ahead and pat myself on the back for this one. Not for nothing, he came up as the potential final out of the whole series in Game Five against Wade Davis and lined a single. I hope for the sake of awesomeness that he quoted Gary Carter from 1986 and told the first base coach “There’s no way I’m making the last fucking out.”
“Ned Yost will make one bone-headed, game losing decision in the Series”.
Wrong on this one, too. The epic Game One was a microanalyst’s dream, but Yost didn’t hit any false notes in that one. It wasn’t even like last year’s AL Wild Card game, where the Royals won in spite of some amazingly awful Yost moves. He pretty much pulled all the right strings, managed his bullpen as well as could be expected, and, for one winter at least, got all the writers off of his back.
“The Royals will win in seven games”.
I was off by two.
I did correctly predict one storyline that played a huge part in the series: the Royals’ contact-heavy offense vs. the Mets’ troika of strikeout pitchers. Sure enough, the Mets’ starters averaged far less than a strikeout per inning against the Royals and a recurring theme seemed to be their constant inability to put away the Kansas City hitters on two-strike counts.
The hot term for the Royals now is “relentless” and maybe that’s a bit overblown, but when hitters make contact stuff happens. Stuff like Daniel Murphy flubbing a slow chopper and Lucas Duda airmailing a throw to home plate and the Mets’ miserable infield defense just making a general shit show of things all series long. If there’s one thing good contact hitters do, it’s put pressure on bad fielders, and the Mets’ shaky infield was totally exploited in this series.
You can bet that, in this new baseball world where strikeouts and walks are so prevalent, some front offices are taking note of the Royals’ contact-and-speed philosophy and the success they’ve had with it. Could a new brand of Moneyball be on the horizon, one that’s sort of the exact opposite of what a lot of people still incorrectly think the original Moneyball was about?
The series was fun and included three great games, one of which (Game One) was an all-time classic. I just wish it could have lasted at least one game longer. Now we wait six months and ponder who the 2017 champs will be. Next year, of course, is an even year, so we know who will take home the crown in ’16. I mean, why even play the games?