First, a brief comment:
I sympathize with the Keith Olbermanns of the world who were less than thrilled to see a
Finals World Series featuring the team with the fourth-best record in the American League squaring off against the club with the fifth-best record in the National League.
Just don’t place all of the blame on the second-wild-card formula introduced in 2012, okay?
From 1995 until 2011, only one wild card was awarded per league. Unlike the present scheme, however, that team immediately advanced to play the top seed in a best-of-five division series. In those 17 seasons, an astonishing 53 percent — 18 of 34 — of wild card clubs triumphed. Additionally, five wild card teams won the World Series, an absurd 29.4 percent rate. A wild card team was represented in the World Series each year from 2002 to 2007, with both wild cards — Angels and Giants — appeared in the 2002 Fall Classic.
As evidenced by this year’s results, the second wild card is no panacea. However, by having the wild card teams face each other in a one-game playoff, at least MLB may have implemented a system that will ultimately reduce the odds that teams who fought tooth and nail for six months to post the best record in the league get knocked off mere days later. Perhaps extending the division series to a best-of-seven format would help as well.
And with that . . . here are several links from the past week that will make your Monday at the office a bit more bearable:
Over these five seasons, the Giants own the seventh-best regular-season winning percentage in the majors:
Even if you include their amazing 34-14 record in the postseason since 2010, their overall winning percentage climbs to just fourth-best behind the Yankees, Cardinals and Braves and one percentage point ahead of the Tigers and Rays.
They were never the best team in the majors in the regular season during any of their title seasons, either:
2010: 92–70, fifth in majors, second in NL
2012: 94–68, tied for fourth in majors, tied for third in NL
2014: 88–74, tied for eighth in majors, tied for fourth in NL
The Giants have also benefited all three years from playing fairly mediocre World Series opponents as far as World Series teams go. This is one of the results of a playoff system that allows 10 (or eight teams before 2012) in as opposed to four or two: The best regular-season teams may be eliminated before the World Series due to the nature of short series, where upsets are common. . . .
If anything, the moral of the Giants’ success story is a reminder that in this particular era, with so much parity and few great teams and the more wide-open structure of the postseason, the goal is just to get into the playoffs. At that point, what happens in the regular season is irrelevant. The Giants didn’t win it all in 2011 or 2013 because they didn’t make the playoffs.
Multi-Position – Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals
“This is the first year of the Multi-Position Fielding Bible Award. The goal of this new award is to recognize players who bring versatility to their teams with their ability to play multiple positions, and who play those positions well defensively. Lorenzo Cain was so good in 2014 that if he played full-time in either center field or right field, he might have won the Fielding Bible Award at either position. He saved 14 runs in center field in 93 games he started there for the Royals on the season, and another 10 runs in right despite only 29 games started there. Cain’s ability to play right field gives the Royals the best outfield defense in baseball by a wide margin with fellow FBA winner Alex Gordon in left field and baseball’s fastest player, Jarrod Dyson, in center. In the closest of margins in this year’s balloting, Cain edged out Mr. Versatility, Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays, by three points, 92 to 89.”
First Base – Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers
“Adrian Gonzalez has been the best defensive first baseman in baseball over the last six seasons but somehow he has never won a Fielding Bible Award. Until now. Gonzalez wins his first Fielding Bible Award, leading all of baseball’s first basemen by saving 11 runs defensively for the Dodgers in 2014. That brings his six-year total to 62 runs saved, 12 more than Albert Pujols’ second-place total of 50. Every aspect of Gonzalez’s defensive game is superb. He fields his position well, does a great job with difficult throws, and handles bunts and double plays with the best of them. But he’s not flashy. Just consistently excellent.” . . .
Third Base – Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics
“Josh Donaldson led all MLB third basemen with 20 Defensive Runs Saved. Here’s another way to measure Donaldson’s excellence. Baseball Info Solutions tracks a stat invented by Bill James called Good Fielding Plays (GFP). It’s not as easy as it sounds to define a Good Fielding Play—there are 28 different categories of GFPs. Donaldson’s total of 77 GFPs is 13 more than the 64 good plays handled by Colorado’s Nolan Arenado. Donaldson is especially good making plays to his right where his excellent reaction time and strong arm really stand out. Nolan Arenado was second in the voting: Donaldson 114 points, Arenado 104.” . . .
Left Field – Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
“It’s a three-peat for Alex Gordon. Three Fielding Bible Awards in three years. And it was unanimous. Every voter had Alex Gordon ranked first. Gordon saved 27 runs for the Royals on the year. This is the highest total ever recorded for a left fielder since the tracking of Defensive Runs Saved began in 2003. Christian Yelich of Miami was a distant second with 13. Gordon’s converted third-baseman arm has always set him apart. It counted toward nine of his runs saved in 2014, but his excellent range also makes a huge difference. His range in left field has been above average every year since he started playing there in 2010, but this year he had his career high with 16 Plus/Minus Runs Saved.”
- The “Greek God of Walks” has said goodbye to baseball. Over the Monster’s ”BrendanOToole” shares his fond memories of one of Boston’s most colorful characters in recent memory, Kevin Youkilis.
That’s it. Have a walk-off week!