Anything Can Happen in a Short Series, 2014 Edition
I write a piece like this pretty much every post season because there is basically no relationship between how well a team plays in the regular season and how it plays in the post-season. On paper, the Royals should have been crushed by the Angels, but, of course, they weren’t.
I went into the Giants/Nationals series thinking that the Giants were going to be hard-pressed to keep up with the Nats because after Madison Bumgarner, the Giants’ starting rotation was looking awfully weak. Well, the only starter of the four the Nationals faced that they were able to beat was Bumgarner.
Clayton Kershaw, who was unhittable this season compiling a 21-3 record with a microscopic ERA, just lost his second game of the five-game set between the Dodgers and Cardinals.
Some of it may have to do with match-ups between particular teams, but I tend to think a lot of it is just which team happens to play good baseball at the right time. Over the course of a regular 162 game season, most teams have stretches where they are almost unbeatable and also stretches where they can’t buy a win, both usually lasting longer than five or seven games. Put together a streak of 12 games where you can do no wrong, and you’re World Champions.
I do think there is an advantage to having a team which has been to the post-season before, as the Giants have this year. However, tell that to the Royals or the A’s. The A’s make the post-season almost routinely but can’t make it as far as the American League Championship Series.
Of course, it’s a lot more exciting if the outcomes of each series are almost entirely unpredictable. However, I think it’s a good thing that relatively few teams in baseball make the post-season, at least compared to basketball, football or hockey. If .500 teams routinely made the post-season in baseball, there would be years when a .500 team ends up as World Champions, as the 1973 Mets came within one game of doing against a vastly more talented Oakland A’s team. If three starting pitchers and three hitters all get hot at the same time, almost any team in baseball could win the whole thing.
In a final thought, I kind of wish MLB could extemporaneously make the Orioles/Royals ALCS a nine game series. Fans in Baltimore and Kansas City so rarely get to see their teams in the post-season that it would be nice to give them a couple of extra games just for the hell of it. An Orioles/Royals ALCS feels like some kind of flashback to the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, the last time either team was really good.