Monday, September 21, 2015
In a five-game Division Series, most managers start their ace in Game 1, assuming that he is available to pitch on regular rest. That will optimize a club’s chances of winning Game 1. However, I’ve wondered if that does not necessarily optimize that same club’s chances of winning the series. Would a team be able to, under some circumstances, optimize its chances of winning the series by using their #2 starter in Game 1, and starting the ace in Game 2?
Regardless of what strategy you choose, you always want your ace to start twice in the LDS. Thanks to the schedule format, it is possible to start your ace in Game 2, and have him come back on normal four-day rest to pitch a potential Game 5. In that sense, by starting your ace in Game 2 instead of Game 1, you are in no worse position for the remaining games. My thinking was that Clayton Kershaw was so good in 2014, that even if you start your own ace against him in Game 1, you are still likely to lose that particular game. Therefore, it may make more sense to save your ace for Game 2, in order to maximize your odds of winning Game 2, and the series overall.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Imagine a world with no divisions….it’s easy if you try….
Were the postseason to begin today, the National League’s second- and third-best teams would play each other in a single winner-takes-all game for the honor of going on the road and playing a series against the best team in baseball. In the meantime, the teams with the fourth- and fifth-best records in the league would face off for a ticket to the NLCS.
If this seems screwed up, it’s because it is. The wild card opened up a world of possibilities, including the one playing out in the NL Central today: The three best records happen to come from the same division, and baseball’s playoff system is in danger of penalizing teams for having the temerity to exist in relative geographic proximity to other good teams.
This, of course, is ridiculous, and even if the New York Mets ride the weakness of the National League East or the Los Angeles Dodgers the strength of their $300 million payroll to pass up the Central’s St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs or even all three, an odd truth in baseball still will exist: winning a division is more important than winning, period.
Considering divisions are little more than constructs – they didn’t exist until 1969, further split 25 years later and are so subject to whims that teams change leagues without much hullabaloo – their power over baseball is strangely addictive. It held true in other sports, too, until NBA commissioner Adam Silver this offseason said the league plans to award teams with better regular-season records instead of giving division winners artificially high playoff seeds.
“That,” Silver told reporters, “is a vestige of a division system that may not make sense anymore.”
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