Sport: Let The Championship Series Begin, Almost

The National League is in disarray with the San Diego Padres hosting the Philadelphia Phillies as the Championship Series begins. The shocking upsets of the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers has left MLB Network stunned. What they like to call the super teams are gone, finished, kaput. You would have thought that upsets never happen in baseball with all the excuses that the network gave for the surprising results. Too long of a break, one team coasted too long, another team had to work too hard to get the bye, you can’t let the air out of the season and then recharge. Batters have a routine that really gets disrupted when they have a break. They went on and on practically giving no credit to the Phillies and the Padres. Just give the ring to the Astros, who for the moment, are the only “super team” in the semifinals. There have been upsets in the baseball post season for 70 years. The Tigers in 68, Miracle Mets 69 and the Pirates in 71 and 79, just to name a few. This is nothing unique because of more teams being in the post season. A series is a series is a series and you had better be ready to play. Major League Baseball was fortunate that this did not happen in the 16 team tournament of 2020. Enough of the media bemoaning the past, let’s look at what we have in store for the next 7 days.

The elimination game for the division series between the Yankees and Guardians is this afternoon. My feeling is the Yankees will prevail and MLB Network will at least feel half good, because they will get their wish on the American League side of the playoffs. I would like to see Cleveland win but there are two things that bother me. The pitching has not been near as dominate as it was in the wild card series. The second thing is, after their dramatic win in game 3, it just felt like the Guardians were talking and feeling like they had already won the series. There was not one comment by the players and their manager of putting things into perspective. Things like, hey this was a great win, but we still have to get that third win and the Yankees are not going to lay down and just let us take this thing. I don’t even know if I would call this over confidence, but more of a feeling of accomplishment and contentment, when in reality nothing was accomplished except to go ahead 2 games to 1 in a 5 game series. We will see if the Guardians can refocus this afternoon and pull out the third shocker of the playoffs. It will allow MLB Network to come up with a ton of excuses for the Yankees.

On the National League side, the 5th and 6th seeds are playing to see who will go the World Series. The Phillies look red hot and have been the most impressive of the two teams. Being on a roll can vanish in a heartbeat. The Padres have had some gritty wins and Josh Hader has seemed to have returned to form. The Padres have had players, that had a mediocre regular season, all of a sudden come alive with the bats, to contribute heavily to the playoff wins, in both series. These teams have not met since the end of June when the Phillies took 3 out of 4 in San Diego. The fact that 4 of the 7 games are in San Diego I do not look at as a big advantage for the Padres. This team plays better on the road and showed it in the wild card round. I think one of the big keys to this series is whether Bryce Harper will stay hot, and will San Diego allow him to beat them. I think this will be one of the most entertaining 7 game series we have seen in a long time, and I do think it will go the distance. I just give the slight edge to the Padres because of all the big names they have and how well they seem to be fielding right now. As we have seen so far, nothing will be surprising in this post season.

Baseball, The Four Run Rule

Whenever a team wins or loses a baseball game, there is a part of the team that is responsible for the outcome. It could be a total team effort, the pitching, or the hitting. Four runs is the determining factor that shows who is responsible for the outcome. If a team scores 4 or more runs, then they should win the game. If a team holds their opponent to 4 or less runs, they should win the game. If both teams accomplish this goal on the number, the game will go into extra innings and eventually one team would give up the go ahead runs. Wins and losses can be put into 6 categories: Team win, pitching win, hitting win, team loss, pitching loss, and hitting loss. Here is an example of how each category would play out for the winning and losing team. Final score of 5-4 would be an example of a team win and a pitching loss. Final score of 4-3 would be a team win and a hitting loss. Final score of 7-5 would be a hitting win and a pitching loss. Final score of 3-2 would be a pitching win and hitting loss. Final score of 6-3 would be a team win and team loss. Let’s look at 4 teams in the National League and see how this plays out.

I will look at a bad team, my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates, the best team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Milwaukee Brewers, who barely missed the playoffs, and the Philadelphia Phillies, who barely made the playoffs. First, checking some basic year long stats, let’s see where each team finished the season. In runs per game, the Dodgers were 1st, the Phillies 7th, the Brewers 10th and the Pirates 27th. In on base percentage the Dodgers 1st, the Phillies 10th, the Brewers 13th, and the Pirates are at the bottom at 28th. In run prevention, the Dodgers 1st, the Phillies 15th, the Brewers 16th and the Pirates are 28th. In Fielding Independant Pitching, the Dodgers are 3rd, the Phillies 7th, the Brewers 15th and the Pirates are 23rd their highest ranking. No big surprises in those rankings. Here is how the games broke down for each team. In team losses the Pirates lead the way with 42%, followed by the Phillies with 35%, the Dodgers with 29% and the Brewers with 26%. These were the losses that the team gave up more than 4 runs and failed to score 4 runs. In games where the pitchers were responsible for the losses, the Brewers were at 33%, the Phillies 32%, the Dodgers 26% and the Pirates 21%. These were games where the hitters scored 4 or more runs but the pitchers gave up 4 or more runs in the loss. In games where the hitters were responsible for the loss, the Dodgers were at 45%, the Brewers 41%, the Pirates 37%, and Phillies 33%. These were games where the pitchers gave up 4 or less runs but the hitters could not score 4 runs in the loss. In team wins, the Dodgers led the way with 77%, followed by the Pirates 68%, the Brewers 68% and the Phillies 65%. These were games where the team scored 4 or more runs and the pitchers gave up 4 or less runs. Pitching wins were led by Phillies at 18%, the Dodgers Brewers and Pirates tied at 16%. These were games where the hitters score less than 4 runs, but the pitchers held the opponent under 3 runs for the win. Games where the hitters were responsible for the win, were led by the Phillies 17%, the Pirates and Brewers tied at 16%, with Dodgers bringing up the rear at 10%. These were games where the pitchers gave up 4 or more runs but the hitters were able to score more runs for the win. What does all of this mean other than the obvious that the Dodgers are great and the Pirates stink.

At least for these 4 teams it lays to rest the old adage that one part of the team can carry the team to victory on a consistant basis. Team wins occurred at least two thirds of the time and the Dodgers had team wins over 75% of the time. Losses on the other hand can be due to one aspect of the team, mainly hitting, not performing. At least one third of the team’s losses were due to a lack of hitting, with the Dodgers losing 45% of their games because of the bats not performing. It shows, that even with the best of teams that hitting can be a sometime thing. The Brewers did not support the aspects of their game well at all. Seventy-four per cent of their losses were due to either the pitchers or hitters not performing well, when their counterpart was doing the job. Only 20 of their 75 losses would be considered a team failure. When the pitchers pitched well, the hitters could not hit, and when the hitters hit, the pitchers could not keep the other team from scoring more runs. Winning seems to more about avoiding the bad performance rather than having great performances. There were a lot of one side of the ball fails for the Brewers which kept them out of the playoffs. We will see how other teams did when applying the 4 run rule.

Sports: On To The Division Series

Tomorrow, the divisions series will start with 3 of the underdogs advancing, from the wild card round. The Padres did do in the Mets, and even though I wrote previously that I would not be surprised by who won the other 3 series, I did not predict any of them correctly. Not only would it be surprising, but it would be downright shocking if the bye teams do not advance to the championship series. None of these teams limped into the playoffs. The Yankees had the post All-Star game slump, but what went unnoticed, because of the Aaron Judge home run chase, was that the Yankees finished 20-11. The other 3 teams did not do too shabby either, with the Astros finishing 22-9, the Dodgers 21-12, and the Braves 21-10. Is there any hope for the 4 teams that have to play these juggernauts. Well, there is always hope until the plug is pulled. Which of these teams have the best chance of pulling off the big upset.

In my view, it is the Guardians. That pitching staff has to be brimming with confidence. The Yankees have been known to go into some mighty large batting slumps. Besides Judge, they have not hit that well all year. One 11 game stretch in August they scored over 3 runs only once and went 2-9. Will the Guardians be determined to not let Aaron Judge beat them? The fact that the Guardians did not have to play on Sunday gives everybody that much needed extra day off. On the other side of the coin, the Guardians bats have not exactly been on fire. In 24 innings they scored 3 runs, all of them on the home run ball. The Guardians have one to the best managers in Terry Francona. The Yankees have one of the worst managers in Aaron Boone. Since he is a former media boy, the media treats him with kid gloves, but the bottom line is, he is the king of the bonehead move. If the games are close this could be a major factor. The other team that has the best shot of pulling off the shocking upset is the Padres. The biggest factor they have to overcome is the Dodgers seem to have their number. This was going to be one of the biggest baseball rivalries, with many people thinking that the Padres were going to challenge the Dodgers for the division title in 2021. The Padres collapsed in the 2nd half of the season and did not even make the playoffs. Even this year it was a struggle as they finished the season just 16-14 but it was good enough to get the wild card. I thought the Padres would beat the Mets, not because the Padres were the Padres but because the Mets were the Mets. The Mets have a dark cloud over them, and it just got darker with that playoff loss. The Padres do have that swagger, but the Dodgers are the heavy favorite to take it all. They were the most dominate team with a staggering 111 wins. Can you believe it, they were 1-5 against the Pirates. As the old saying goes, that is why you play the games. However, if the 4 bye teams are still not standing next week it will be a big surprise.

Sports: Let The Playoffs Begin

For a baseball fan, this is the best time of the year, as the playoffs will start today with the wild card round. To me, this round will be just a prelude to being eliminated in the division round. If the championship series are not Yankees vs. Astros and Dodgers vs. Braves, it will be very surprising. These teams have been the dominate teams most of the year, and if any of them do not make the finals of their respective leagues, it would be a major upset. The wild card round I feel is pretty competitive, and I would not be surprised at any team advancing. I do feel there is one series that is the most intriguing and should help the Braves advance to the championship round.

San Diego Padres are the wild card team of the wild card round. They play just as well on the road as they do at home. In fact, their road record is one game better than their home record. The Padres really did not set the world on fire after they acquired Josh Hader, Josh Bell, and Juan Soto. They looked like they might not even make the playoffs with Milwaukee challenging them right into the last week of the season. They are a seasoned group when it comes to playoff experience. They beat the Mets 4 out of 6 games during the regular season. The Mets are going to open with Scherzer and DeGrom, but they did the same thing against Atlanta and lost both games. The Padres have always had a certain swagger, whether it is justified or not. When you look at the teams statistically the Mets have the decided advantage. There is this perception that the Mets somehow blew the division title or limped into the playoffs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Their record before and after the All-Star break is exactly the same. For whatever reason the Mets have this aura of failure around them. If the Padres pull off the upset, which I think they will, this aura will only darken. It will just be the Mets being the Mets.

Pirates Morning Report, The Final Game

Final Score: Pirates 5 Cardinals 3

How The 2023 Pirates Did: As a group (7), they went 8 for 24 with 4 walks, scoring 5 runs, driving in 3 and striking out only 5 times. I’m not sure if Miquel Andujar will be part of the 2023 Pirates next year but I am counting him for now, had 3 hits to lead the way. Johan Oviedo could only go 4 innings but looked better than most starters lately giving up 2 earned runs on 5 hits. The bullpen, this time was able to protect the lead after the Pirates put up the crooked number in the bottom of the 4th. Who knows what the bullpen will look like next year, but I count their performance none the less. The fielding was sketchy again with 2 more errors.

Key Moment of The Game: The Paul De Jong line out to end the game. If this ball is hit a little harder or a little higher there is no telling how the game would have ended with this bullpen history. It allowed the Pirates to close the season with a win.

Next Game: March 30, 2023, Red in Cincinnati. The Pirates start their playoff run.

Pirates Noon Report, Losing No. 100 In Style

Final Score: Pirates 7 Cardinals 8 in 10 innings

How The 2023 Pirates Did: The Pirates brought out the lumber last night scoring 7 runs on 15 hits. The first 6 batters for the Pirates went 12 for 28, scoring 6 runs and driving in 4. Oneil Cruz led the way getting 3 hits. Ji Hwan Bae, batting 9th, had a nice game going 2 for 5, with 1 RBI and 1 run scored. The starting pitching continued their late season slump with J. T. Brubaker only going 2.2 innings giving up 3 runs on 4 hits and a walk. The bullpen could not hold the lead of 7-3 and the game went 10 innings before the Pirates lost 8-7. Cruz and Bae each made an error which contributed to the Cardinals scoring.

Key Moment of The Game: With score 8-7 Cardinals in the bottom of the 10 designated runner Kevin Newman was on 2nd base with one out. On a ground ball by Cruz that went off the first baseman’s glove and was retrieved by the 2nd baseman, Newman tried to score all the way from 2nd on the play. I do not know who made the decision, but it was a bad one and Newman was out at the plate. Instead of the Pirates having 1st and 3rd with one out, they had a runner on 1st with 2 outs. Cruz managed to get all the way around to third base, but Reynolds grounded out to end the game. The Pirates lost game number 100 for the season with some flare at least.

Next And Last Game of The Season: This afternoon, Cardinals in Pittsburgh. The last chance for the Pirates to put the 2023 Pirates on the field. On a personal note, I was in San Diego for the week, and it was fun to watch a team clinch a playoff spot and see the excitement. I got in very early this AM, which is why this is a noon report. After the season I will look at what the 2023 Pirates will do next year when they try and win games. Playoff baseball is right around the corner, and I can hardly keep my fingers still.

Pirates Morning Report, I Only Thought The Pirates Would Do That

Final Score: Pirates 3 Cardinals 2

How The 2023 Pirates Did: The Pirate’s bats were quiet for most of the game. Reynolds, Castillo, Suwinski and Delay each got 1 hit, with Reynolds doubling in a run and Suwinski hitting a home run. Keller started off strong but faltered in the 6th giving up 4 straight hits to start the inning, including a 2 run homer to Albert Pujols. The Pirates only struck out 2 times which may be a season low. The bullpen hung tough for the 2nd game in a row.

Key Moment of The Game: Earlier, I wrote that the Pirate’s bats were quiet, but they were very quiet in the bottom of the 9th. In fact, they never made a sound. Unbelievably, the Cardinals walked the first 4 batters in the bottom of the 9th to lose the game. If I thought I would ever see something like that, it would be the Pirates who would do it. I was wrong and the Pirates won 3-2.

Next Game: Tonight, Cardinals in Pittsburgh. Came close to the lineup last night but Newman had to start. Can the Pirates avoid 100 losses? Who cares, certainly management doesn’t.

Pirates Morning Report, Bullpen Back To Early Season Form

Final Score: Pirates 7 Cardinals 5

How The 2023 Pirates Did: Roansy Contreras did not have his usual stuff as he gave up 4 runs, 2 earned, on 3 hits, walking 2, and 0 strikeouts in just 3 innings of work. The bullpen worked the last 6 innings giving up just 1 run on 7 hits, walking 3, while striking out 5. The bats woke up, with Reynolds, Cruz, and Bae getting 2 hits each. Reynolds hit a home run in the 7th to give the Pirates a 2 run cushion. David Bednar got a save and holy surprise the Pirates won.

Key Moment of The Game: The bottom of the 9th was interesting with a one out double and then a 2 out walk. Corey Dickerson had a chance to be the hero again against his old team but David Bednar got him to ground out to 2nd to end the game and give the Pirates a 7-5 win

Next Game: Tonight Cardinals in Pittsburgh. Tyler Heineman returned from concussion protocol and was cleared for play because he did not think the movie McGruber was funny. He proved that everything was ok by going O for 4.

Pirates Morning Report, Dickerson’s Revenge

Final Score: Pirates 3 Cardinals 13

How The 2023 Pirates Did: Luis Ortiz who had 2 very nice starts, got racked for 6 runs in the 1st inning to begin a dismal performance for the 2023 Pirates. They got 6 hits with Jason Delay getting 1 and driving in 2 runs. Cal Mitchell got 2 hits and scored 1 run. It was just another blowout loss for the Pirates as the season winds slowly painfully down. Oneil Cruz did not play, as management wanted to get a good look at Kevin Newman. Cruz developed well on the bench and was also thankful that he was not part of this debacle.

Key Moment of The Game: It looked like Ortiz might get out of the inning with only 2 runs scoring despite his wildness. The bases were loaded with one out and then Corey Dickerson unloaded a bomb to clear the bases and make the score 6-0. The former Pirate exacted a nice revenge on his former teammates and this game was over.

Next Game: This afternoon, Cardinals in St. Louis. It would be so nice to see a lineup with no Newman, Gamel, Godoy or Collins. I just don’t think it will happen even this late in the season. It would be so much fun to watch, but why change things now. Just 4 games to go.

Pirates Morning Report, Only The Uniforms Are Red

Final Score: Pirates 1 Cardinals 2

How The 2023 Pirates Did: The top of the order went 0 for 12 which is never a good thing. Ji Hwan Bae had the best game going 2 for 4 and driving in the only run for the Pirates. Suwinski, Hayes and Castro each got one hit. Johan Oviedo pitched another good game giving up 2 runs on 6 hits, walking 2, striking out 4, while throwing 103 pitches. The Pirates bats could do very little at the plate. The Cardinals made 2 acrobatic catches of foul balls including one by Paul Goldschmidt to end the game. The Cardinals showed again they are one of the best fielding teams in the league.

Key Moment of The Game: The 3 singles in the bottom of the 5th, none of which were hit that hard, but produced the 2nd and go ahead run. The Pirates offense was pretty much putrid and then they realized that even though the uniforms were red these were not the Reds anymore. No gifts today, as the Pirates went quietly down to defeat

Next Game: Tonight, Cardinals in St. Louis. The season is grinding mercifully down to an end. Just 5 more ridiculous lineups to go.

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