Well, that was disappointing.
The only teams I cared about in the MLB playoffs have all been eliminated. I was rooting for the Athletics, Orioles, and Nationals, and yet all of them were sent home before any of them could reach their respective Championship Series. The common story lines seem to be (or could be) that Billy Beane's (redacted) still doesn't work in the playoffs, the Orioles magic ran out, and the Nationals really did get burned by shutting down Stephen Strasburg.
My thoughts on all three: Yes, you could say the Nationals hurt themselves by keeping Strasburg off the playoff roster. However, there's really no way you can pin the Game 5 loss against the Cardinals on the lack of their top ace. Gio Gonzalez is one hell of a pitcher himself and yet he struggled a bit, and Drew Storen allowed those four 9th inning runs. Strasburg wouldn't have been a reliever in the playoffs, and the upgrade from Gonzalez to Strasburg is minimal.
For the Orioles, it was a bit of a wonder how their team was so dominant this season. Well, we did get to see it on full display (the bullpen), as Darren O'Day, Jim Johnson, Troy Patton, etc. pitched a ton of innings against the Yankees. But hey, their starting pitching wasn't too bad, either. It was their offense which couldn't get anything going (doesn't help when Ryan Flaherty is getting the most starts in a platoon at 2B), and it definitely hurt that they were missing Nick Markakis.
Finally, the Athletics. Every time I looked at their offense, I was baffled at how they beat the Rangers for the top seed in the AL West. Josh Donaldson was their starting third baseman! (Who?) Their pitching staff was pretty good, and they were relying on a lot of rookies in their rotation. It just didn't work out for the Athletics yet again, the one team that seems to have as much futility in the playoffs as our Twins.
Well, with all these teams eliminated, it looks like I'm now a Giants fan, though I would not be opposed to Bud Selig stepping in and just calling these playoffs a tie for the 4 remaining teams.
- Speaking of playoffs, when you think of a dominant performer, you likely think of Yankees Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, or perhaps if you know your stuff, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Well, the name that you probably weren't expecting is Carlos Beltran, who recently became the best playoff hitter in terms of OPS during this past NLDS against the Washington Nationals. Back on Tuesday, Aaron Gleeman noted that Beltran's 1.297 OPS is the best in major league history for hitters with at least 100 postseason at-bats. He's not done, however, as he has now bumped that up to 1.306 with these last couple games against the Nationals. Not too shabby for a guy that seemingly had his postseason career defined by a single strikeout looking against Adam Wainwright back in 2006 that ended the NLCS.
- Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt has had some goofy injuries these past couple years. First, he sliced his right (non-throwing) hand open with a knife while attempting to separate frozen burger patties and suffered nerve damage at the end of the 2011 season. Back in May, he suffered a sprained knee attempting to catch his son who was jumping off the couch in their home. Now, it's a jammed left hand, as Affeldt fell off the top steps of the dugout while avoiding a screaming line drive hit by teammate Gregor Blanco during Thursday's game. Affeldt did wear a wrist guard for the remainder of the game, but he insisted that the injury was not serious as it was merely "in case one of these knuckleheads tries to hit me with a champagne bottle."
- 15 years ago yesterday, we were subject to one of the oddest strike zones ever used in a baseball game. That's right, I'm talking about the Livan Hernandez - Eric Gregg playoff game in 1997. If you're unfamiliar with that game, home plate umpire Eric Gregg had one of the most egregious strike zones known to mankind, as he called virtually every pitch within a foot off the plate a strike. While Hernandez was dueling with control artist Greg Maddux, it was Livan that is often credited with taking advantage of Gregg's zone the most, perhaps because it was Hernandez's Marlins that beat Maddux's Braves that day. Here's a short video of some pitches from Livan that were called strikes that day.
- In case you didn't know, Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer has heterochromia iridum - or two different colored eyes in layman's terms.
(John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)
So when the Tigers beat the Athletics to move on to the ALCS, Scherzer naturally had to keep the joke running.