November 23, 2014

Why the NLDS is Going to be Nuts – for Everyone

I’ve always enjoyed the craziness that is baseball’s NL and AL Division series. Lots of games, plenty of excitement on the parts of fans and prognosticators, and more than a few upsets in years past.

I was reading the Wall Street Journal this morning and there was an excellent article on the division series there posted by Darren Everson and Hannah Karp. The writers did some good research on what often happens in these early games of the playoffs. Here are some interesting stats from the WSJ:

– In recent years, the team with the better record has prevailed only 48% of the time
– Teams with 100+ wins in a season have escaped the division series only 10 out of the last 19 times

The move to a five game series in 1995 to accommodate more playoff teams certainly has its detractors, including the Dodgers’ own Russell Martin. “It sucks,” says Martin, who remembers the sweep by the Mets in 2006. “It was so quick. It was just like a glimpse of being in the playoffs.”

Obviously, there is more to it than just statistics and a short series. For example, two of the Dodgers starting pitchers, Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw, lack any playoff experience whatsoever. Does the shorter series really impact them more than their lack of postseason experience? Not likely, given that both would likely only see one outing in either scenario given the prevalence of shorter series. Also, the “day game” factor is often blamed as there are considerably more games while the sun is up in order to accommodate TV schedules. Should baseball players be equally comfortable playing in the day and in the evening? Absolutely. Does the pressure to win combined with environmental issues like time and frequency of games also play a role? definitely.

Perhaps the Dodgers should be wary of the Cardinals given their superior record in the regular season and the fact that they are now seen as the underdog by many handicappers and sports analysts. One thing is for sure – this is going to be an exciting series. I have my thoughts on what it will take to win but will save those musings for another post…