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Monday, September 17, 2012

Passan: Shameful that sub-.500 Phillies still contenders in wild-card race

As Larry Yellen Glasgow once said…“Baseball mediocrity would always win by force of stats, but it would win only more mediocrity.”

Lost amid the defibrillation of Philadelphia and Milwaukee’s seasons, and their ascent to nascent wild-card contention, is a sobering reality about this new playoff format: It begs for, and rewards, mediocrity.

It is the middle of September, and baseball is celebrating a pair of teams that have clawed their way back to around .500. Their refusal to fold is laudable, certainly, and their re-admittance to the wild-card shuffle should invigorate fan bases that were ruing September. And that’s about the only positive thing baseball gets from this watered-down race that rewards the pedestrian and manufactures and force-feeds drama where it need not be.

...Baseball’s playoffs used to serve top-shelf quality. Now they want us to guzzle the well stuff and act like it’s the same. The sport preys on fans’ ability to work themselves into a frenzy at a sniff of the postseason because it’s a crapshoot, because a team like the 83-78 Cardinals of 2006 can nonetheless win a championship, because of this contrived idea that a greater number of competitors equals greater competition. It doesn’t. Don’t mistake quantity for quality.

The number of deeply flawed and disappointing teams nonetheless in the playoff hunt is disheartening. Contention and bad baseball are not supposed to mix in September, and yet a team like the…

Repoz Posted: September 17, 2012 at 05:17 AM | 28 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, phillies

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   1. Juan V Posted: September 17, 2012 at 05:51 AM (#4237687)
The second wild card is, at worst, the fifth best team in the league. Any really bad playoff teams will be division winnners. If that really bothers you, get rid of divisions altogether.
   2. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: September 17, 2012 at 07:39 AM (#4237700)
Baseball’s playoffs used to serve top-shelf quality.

The '73 Mets would say hi, but they were elbowed out of the way by the 2005 Padres.
   3. DanG Posted: September 17, 2012 at 08:08 AM (#4237705)
Baseball’s playoffs used to serve top-shelf quality.
The Twins in 1987 allowed more runs than they scored.

Likewise the 1984 Royals.

And the 1997 Giants.
   4. Dale Sams Posted: September 17, 2012 at 09:21 AM (#4237761)
Phillies?

I've heard 'analysts' at MLBtv say, "The Padres are only 6 back!!"
   5. Belfry Bob Posted: September 17, 2012 at 09:32 AM (#4237768)
'Here come the Phillies'?

Does anyone really take a team that's 4 out with 16 to play THAT seriously?

I mean, it can be done, but that's pretty close to out of it, unless you've got a lot of head-to-head games with the team you trail.

I have considered the Phillies' late antics more of an interesting footnote than anything else, certainly not to see it as a 'news story' quite yet.
   6. TomH Posted: September 17, 2012 at 09:37 AM (#4237775)
If not for the strike that cnxd the 1994 season, the AL West winner could have had a shameful record of 75-87.
   7. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: September 17, 2012 at 09:39 AM (#4237776)
Does anyone really take a team that's 4 out with 16 to play THAT seriously?


I don't know what your definition of "seriously" is but they've reached the point that when I'm checking box scores, theirs is one of the scores I check on. Dropping 3 of 4 to the Astros probably puts a fork in them but it's not like they are trying to track down the '27 Yankees so they still have hope. The sheer number of teams involved and the lack of head to heads that you note is a pretty big problem for them but I wouldn't dismiss them out of hand at this point.
   8. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: September 17, 2012 at 09:51 AM (#4237787)
i am pleased the brewers still have a chance to meet my pre-season estimate of 85 wins. that and scaring the p8ss out of cardinal fans.

always a good thing
   9. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: September 17, 2012 at 09:54 AM (#4237789)
I didn't know much about Kevin Frandsen three months ago, in that I was never sure which one was him and which one was Todd Linden (or Dan Ortmeier), but he looks like a starting 3B for a contending team to me. Obviously the BAbip is through the roof right now, but he seems clearly better than Mike Fontenot. Where has this guy been for the last five years?

However, he's finally shattered my juvenile association of "filthy batting helmet" with "gamer who always gets dirt on his uniform". Frandsen showed up in his first Phillies game with a Phillies helmet that looked like his father had worn it during the Battle of Bien Hoa. Finally I realize the only reason there's pine tar up there is that they decided to put pine tar up there, not because of some sort of wear and tear.
   10. depletion Posted: September 17, 2012 at 10:31 AM (#4237822)
The sheer number of teams involved and the lack of head to heads that you note is a pretty big problem for them but I wouldn't dismiss them out of hand at this point.

The number of teams ahead of them, four, kills their chances. They have to play better than the Dodgers, Pirates and Brewers, and the Cards would have to get ice cold. Unless they almost win out the season it's really hard for four teams to fold.
   11. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 17, 2012 at 10:42 AM (#4237832)

The '73 Mets would say hi, but they were elbowed out of the way by the 2005 Padres.


Have we already forgotten the '06 Cardinals?


If not for the strike that cnxd the 1994 season, the AL West winner could have had a shameful record of 75-87.


And the NL West leader was only two games above .500 at the time of the strike. The 53-64 Rockies were only 6.5 games back.

Its not shameful that the Phils are in it, its shameful if they make the playoffs. And to make the playoffs, they'll probably have to get hot enough to be an 85-86 win team, which isn't all that shameful to be as a playoff team.

As #1 says, division winners will produce the "shameful" records, not the 5th best team in the league.
   12. ColonelTom Posted: September 17, 2012 at 11:03 AM (#4237850)
I didn't know much about Kevin Frandsen three months ago, in that I was never sure which one was him and which one was Todd Linden (or Dan Ortmeier), but he looks like a starting 3B for a contending team to me. Obviously the BAbip is through the roof right now, but he seems clearly better than Mike Fontenot. Where has this guy been for the last five years?


He's worked his way back from a ruptured Achilles in '08 that derailed his career. (That's not exactly good news as we watch Howard hobble around the field this season.)

Frandsen's been a great story this year, but he's not a starter, particularly not at 3B (2B is his natural position). He has very little pop and is below-average defensively at 3B. The fact that Utley's taking grounders at 3B shows the team doesn't see Frandsen as the answer. Amaro's basically said as much.

The problem is that there's virtually nothing available in free agency. Jeff Keppinger and Maicer Izturis are the only two guys that look like upgrades on Frandsen. If they can't trade for a 3B, they'll probably give Cody Asche (.346/.403/.615 in AA after the All-Star break) a shot at the job next spring. If he isn't ready, Utley's probably their 3B, with Galvis playing second and Frandsen backing up both spots.
   13. esseff Posted: September 17, 2012 at 12:01 PM (#4237906)
Frandsen burned bridges with the Giants when he threw an on-field tantrum at Triple-A Fresno after the G's traded for Freddy Sanchez. He also went public with his claim that he wasn't being treated fairly.

Last year, he did a 50-game drug suspension -- Ritalin without a use exemption -- while in the Phillies' minors.
   14. ColonelTom Posted: September 17, 2012 at 01:05 PM (#4237995)
Frandsen's tantrum was a sad situation. Frandsen was their starting 2B going into 2008, then blew out his Achilles in mid-March. He'd been trying to play through tendinitis that spring to keep his job, which he'd earned mid-season in 2007. Frandsen worked like hell to get back very quickly - making one plate appearance six months after the injury, at the end of the 2008 season - but still wasn't 100% for much of 2009 by his own account. The Giants gave him all of eight starts during two brief call-ups in 2009, during which he didn't hit at all (.344 OPS). They sent him back down in late July and traded for Sanchez a few days later. Sabean immediately touted Sanchez as the long-term answer at 2B they'd been looking for, which I'm sure didn't sit well with Frandsen. He got frustrated and snapped.

The on-field tantrum was ugly, by all accounts, but we sometimes forget that these guys are human. Frandsen grew up a Giants fan, made the team's starting lineup, then got injured and summarily discarded. Welcome to the business, kid.
   15. Tippecanoe Posted: September 17, 2012 at 03:33 PM (#4238213)
On the other hand, under last year's rules the Brewers, Phillies, Pirates, and even Cardinals would be starting lots of their minor league players from now until the end of the string. Instead, we'll continue to see regular turns from Halladay, Lee, Carpenter(!), Wainwright, Gallardo, and Hamels. So the new rule seems to have done what it was intended to do.
   16. spycake Posted: September 17, 2012 at 03:46 PM (#4238239)
On the other hand, under last year's rules the Brewers, Phillies, Pirates, and even Cardinals would be starting lots of their minor league players from now until the end of the string. Instead, we'll continue to see regular turns from Halladay, Lee, Carpenter(!), Wainwright, Gallardo, and Hamels. So the new rule seems to have done what it was intended to do.


Until the time that expert medical advice recommends shutting those players down, at least.

EDIT: And agents. Can't forget those agents.
   17. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 17, 2012 at 04:17 PM (#4238288)
Pre '94-Standings

NL East
Washington 89-57 --
St. Louis 77-70 12.5
Milwaukee 74-72 15
Philadelphia 73-74 16.5

NL West
Cincinnati 88-59 --
Atlanta 84-63 4
San Francisco 83-63 4.5
Los Angeles 76-71 12

AL East
New York 83-63 --
Baltimore 82-64 1
Tampa Bay 78-68 5
Detroit 77-68 5.5

AL West
Texas 87-59 --
Oakland 84-62 3
Los Angeles 80-67 7.5
Chicago 79-66 7.5
   18. ColonelTom Posted: September 17, 2012 at 04:52 PM (#4238325)
Passan's cherry-picking the 2012 NL race. In the AL, both wild-card teams and the next runner-up (Angels) have better records than the AL Central leaders (White Sox).

Going back over the last five seasons, in 4 of 10 league playoff races, a division champ had a worse record than the best team that didn't make the playoffs:

2009 AL - second WC would have been Texas, which finished one game ahead of the two teams tied atop the AL Central (Twins and Tigers).

2008 NL - second WC would have been the Mets, who finished five games ahead of the NL West champion Dodgers. In fact, there were four non-playoff teams (Mets, Marlins, Astros, Cardinals) with better records than the Dodgers.

2008 AL - second WC would have been the Yankees, who finished one game ahead of the two teams tied atop the AL Central (Twins and White Sox).

2007 NL - the Rockies and Padres had a play-in game for the lone WC; both teams, as well as the Mets, had better records than the NL Central champion Cubs.
   19. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: September 17, 2012 at 06:11 PM (#4238417)
Pre '94-Standings

NL East
Washington 89-57 --
St. Louis 77-70 12.5
Milwaukee 74-72 15
Philadelphia 73-74 16.5

NL West
Cincinnati 88-59 --
Atlanta 84-63 4
San Francisco 83-63 4.5
Los Angeles 76-71 12

AL East
New York 83-63 --
Baltimore 82-64 1
Tampa Bay 78-68 5
Detroit 77-68 5.5
Milwaukee 74-72 9

AL West
Texas 87-59 --
Oakland 84-62 3
Los Angeles 80-67 7.5
Chicago 79-66 7.5


FTFY.
   20. Walt Davis Posted: September 17, 2012 at 06:56 PM (#4238447)
Others have made my main point. I'm not WC fan but it's hardly the first time mediocre teams have made the playoffs and wouldn't be the first time one won the WS. The only way to ensure the "best" teams make the playoffs would be something like a 4-division (i.e. league) set up with no inter-divisional play. Then at least you get the best out of each (arbitrary) division but of course you have no control over relative divisional strength. This of course was what the pre-expansion world was like. You don't guarantee anything like the 4 best teams but chances are very good all the playoff teams will have a shiny record.

Or you go with, two leagues with a balanced schedule in each league and no divisions and no inter-league play and just take the top X records.

As to the Phils 4 out with 16 to play -- yes, that's nearly impossible. But back when they had 20 to play with the next 4 against the Astros? At that point I bet most of us expected the Phils to be sitting there at 75-72 instead of 73-74. That would have been 2 back with only 2 teams ahead of them. They looked like real "contenders" before crapping the bed against the worst team in baseball.

And this is what I don't like about these constructed "playoff chases" among mediocre teams. The winner is almost always going to be a team that backed into it somehow. Over the last 20 games of a season, what do we expect a bunch of mediocre teams to do? They're probably going to go 12-8 at best. The Cards might easily pull this off by playing 500 ball the rest of the way. That ain't drama, that's the SWAC conference final to earn the right to go to the 65th/64th seed NCAA play-in game.*

* Oh no! Hyperbole! In an internet post!!
   21. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: September 23, 2012 at 08:03 AM (#4243455)
Have we already forgotten the '06 Cardinals?

As a Tigers fan, I've tried very, very, very hard.
   22. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: September 23, 2012 at 08:12 AM (#4243457)
The second wild card is, at worst, the fifth best team in the league. Any really bad playoff teams will be division winnners. If that really bothers you, get rid of divisions altogether.
You're saying "fifth best" as if that's supposed to be impressive. But this isn't the fifth best team in D-1 basketball. It's the fifth best of fourteen/sixteen teams. That's not likely to be sub-.500, but it is pretty darn mediocre.
   23. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: September 23, 2012 at 08:15 AM (#4243460)
FTFY
Not really, since you forgot to delete Tampa Bay.
   24. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: September 23, 2012 at 08:34 AM (#4243468)
You're saying "fifth best" as if that's supposed to be impressive. But this isn't the fifth best team in D-1 basketball. It's the fifth best of fourteen/sixteen teams. That's not likely to be sub-.500, but it is pretty darn mediocre.
But there are five playoff teams anyway. If there are going to be five playoff teams, the fifth-best team making the last playoff spot is not shameful.
   25. bunyon Posted: September 23, 2012 at 09:19 AM (#4243482)
But there are five playoff teams anyway. If there are going to be five playoff teams, the fifth-best team making the last playoff spot is not shameful.

Right. If you're going to take 5, best to take the best 5.


A lot has been made out of all the "collapses" and late surges, etc. recently. But, my guess is, if you were to look at every season ever, you'd find a lot of "collapses" where a team looks to have third or fourth wrapped up and then falls to fifth or sixth. It's just that no one ever cared before. I think this for two reasons: 1) teams that are 3rd or 4th are less likely to be truly great or very good, thus, a losing streak is a little more likely, 2) teams bunch up as you come down in winning pct. In any given year, you'll have more teams within a few games of 85 wins than 95 wins, so late changes in position become more common.

It's the system we have now, so not much use in railing against it anymore (I would prefer either 69-93 system or simple pennant winners as in pre-69, but that ain't happening). Given that the system isn't likely to get harder to get in, we should recalibrate what a real collapse looks like. A team on pace for 87 wins with a month to go suddenly winning only 83 probably isn't that strange.
   26. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: September 23, 2012 at 10:08 AM (#4243515)
On the other hand, under last year's rules the Brewers, Phillies, Pirates, and even Cardinals would be starting lots of their minor league players from now until the end of the string. Instead, we'll continue to see regular turns from Halladay, Lee, Carpenter(!), Wainwright, Gallardo, and Hamels. So the new rule seems to have done what it was intended to do.


Are you serious? Did Halladay take September off when he was pitching for a bunch of also-ran Toronto teams? Felix Hernandez kept taking his regular turns the last two seasons for a team that lost 95 and 101 games. Also see Zach Gienke, KCR, 2008-2010.

I do note that Wainnwright skipped his last start of 2010 with the Cards out of it, but considering that Carpenter made his 35th start of the year after the Cardinals had been eliminated, and that Wainwright missed all of 2011, I'm thinking that there might have been a different reason for that.

If you don't like expanded September rosters, fine. But there's not a lot of evidence that large numbers of regulars take the last two weeks off unless their teams are still in contention.
   27. ColonelTom Posted: September 23, 2012 at 10:43 AM (#4243528)
Carpenter certainly wouldn't have rushed back from surgery so soon if the Cards weren't in the hunt. Halladay is pitching with a significant injury from all appearances, and almost certainly would have been shut down by now.
   28. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: September 23, 2012 at 11:02 AM (#4243534)
Those are fair points, but quite a ways from four teams shutting down most of their starting pitchers just because they're out of the playoff hunt.

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