The Playoffs So Far

The post-season is only two days old, but there has been some great pitching, the first post-season no-hitter in 54 years, interesting games, hours of commentary during the games and story lines that are beginning to form. Some observations based on what we have seen so far include:

  • Every year it seems like some team has a good regular season, looks like a serious candidate to play far into October and then essentially doesn’t show up for the post-season. This year, that team is the Rays. The Rays have played themselves to the brink of elimination after only two games by being completely shut down by good Ranger pitching, while their own pitching has been mediocre.
  • Tim Lincecum is not only a great pitcher, but he is the kind of player that makes baseball such a great game. In a sport where even in this alleged year of the pitcher, big sluggers and big power pitchers still dominate the game, the 5’11” and skinny Giants star stands out even more. He is a throwback, not in the sense of poorly shaven white player who plays sometimes too aggressively, but to an era when players, and particularly pitchers, did not always look or act like jocks. With his long hair, west coast attitude, drug bust and mellow demeanor, Lincecum feels like a player from the 1970s or early 1980s, albeit one with some of the nastiest pitches on the planet.
  • The announcers seem committed to viewing the games almost entirely in terms of momentum. A five game series is a five game series, it is not battle for momentum and confidence. If momentum can shift in a single plate appearance, or even pitch, several times a game, than it is not really momentum. By constantly discussing momentum, its shift and its elusiveness, the announcers give in to an analytical laziness that precludes the telling of more interesting stories and thoughtful discussion.
  • The LDS are very exciting and important for the fans of the team involved, but perhaps for the casual fan, it is one series too many. It seems unlikely that many people who do not have a rooting interest in the particular game, will really sit through most of an LDS.
  • The Yankees have not had the feel of a championship level team for most of the last few months, but their offense is the best of any team in the post-season. The Yankee offense has not really started clicking yet, as they have stranded eight runners in each of the last two games, but the team is still up two games to none against Minnesota. The Yankees starting pitching is not as good as Philadelphia, San Francisco or Texas’s, but it does not need to be. Because the Yankees are the team that is probably best able to score against good pitching, Yankee starting pitchers just need to be good enough.
  • The contrast between the opening game of the Yankee-Twin series Wednesday and the Giant-Brave opener Thursday highlighted the different styles of play between the two leagues. Although neither game went into extra innings, the Giants and Braves game was 91 minutes shorter, had nine fewer runs, six fewer walks and a remarkable 103 fewer pitches than the Yankee-Twin opener. Game two of the Yankee-Twin series lasted two hours and 59 minutes and had only 253 both low figures by AL standards, but still exceeding the two hour 26 minute 241 pitch game the Braves and Giants played Thursday night.