Paul Heinz

Original Fiction, Music and Essays

Filtering by Tag: playoffs

Post-Playoff Hangover

It would be disingenuous to say that the Brewers loss in Game 7 of the NLCS on Saturday night wasn’t disappointing, but at the same time, it can hardly be categorized as heartbreaking.  As my friend said to me in the middle of September when the Brewers were embarking on a great run toward the playoffs, “We’re playing with house money.”  No one expected the Brewers to play as well as they did in September, and few thought that a division title and advancing to the World Series was within the Crew’s grasp.  It’s hard to be too upset when the team so overwhelmingly defied expectations.

And the playoffs led to such great times, too.  I got to see a game with my old buddy from way back in grade school, I flew to California to attend one game with my daughter, drove up to Milwaukee to attend another with my son, and my wife and I gathered at my friend’s house for an evening of drinks, snacks and baseball on glorious high def.  I got to hang out with my sister’s family several times, and I even got to see Christian Yelich hit for his second cycle in September with a couple of buddies.  Not too shabby.  

But all of this has led to a bit of a post-playoff hangover for me.  Baseball had become such a glorious time-suck, that now suddenly, after weeks of having every bit of free time filled, the onus is on me to fill my time productively.  No more evenings watching the game on TV, mornings reading about the same game on-line, and afternoons texting like-minded friends about strategy and predictions.  No more restless nights with visions of the first World Series appearance in thirty-six years.  No more games to look forward to.  Now, instead of relying on others to entertain me, I have to entertain myself, which means tackling a basement project that I started last spring just as the 2018 baseball season was budding.  It’s back to reality, and it’s not necessarily a reality I want to face.

Still, I have another baseball season to look forward to, when I’ll once again set aside my personal aspirations in favor of the aspirations of others, and go along for the ride.  As disheartening as the end of this year’s playoffs was for the Brewers – being literally one good bullpen outing and one hit away from actually sweeping the Dodgers in four games – less disheartening is the core of players that are sure to return next year, and how that core might evolve.  Brewers owner Mark Attanasio commented on Saturday that the end of 2018 feels different than in 2011, when the Brewers lost the NLCS in six games.  That year felt like the end of something, where this year feels like it’s just the beginning.

My unmotivated self can’t wait.

2018 Brewers Prediction

The short version of this essay:  if you think the Brewers are – at present – a playoff caliber team, you are high.

Now, to elaborate.

General Manager David Stearns had Brewer Nation all abuzz in late January when he traded for outfielder Christian Yelich and signed free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain within a twenty-four-hour period.  I thought signing Cain for a large sum of money was a mistake then, but I was willing to concede the decision if Stearns had the next trade up his sleeve, offering some combination of Keon Broxton, Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips or first basemen Eric Thames for a starting pitcher.  If this was the case, picking up Cain would make sense, and I spent nearly every day in February checking the headlines for the next big name to don a Brewer uniform.  A trade never transpired, leaving the Brew Crew with a gluttony of outfielders and a dearth of starting pitching.  I’m sure Stearns tried, but to me, picking up Cain should only have been done if the next trade was already in the pocket.  If not, the money would have been better-spent on pitching.

And it isn’t as if pitching couldn’t have been found for a reasonable cost. Yes, the likes of Arrieta or Darvish may have been too rich for a small-market team, but Minnesota snagged Jake Odorizzi from the Tampa Bay Rays for a minor-league infielder.  Surely, the Brewers could have managed something along those lines.

Instead, the rotation is set – sort of – with Zach Davies, Chase Anderson, Jhoulys Chacin and Brent Suter, with Jimmy Nelson expected to return sometime midway through the year.  Wade Miley, who starts the season on the disabled list, is a potential fifth before Nelson returns, but either way, this is likely not a rotation that’s going to beat the Cubs or even the Cardinals. 

The Brewers are going to hit and hit well, but players are going to need to have career years if the Crew expects to be in the hunt for a playoff spot.  My guess is that before it’s all said and done, a deal will be made for pitching, but this can only happen if the Brewers play well enough during the first half to make a mid-season trade viable.  Can they hang in there long enough?  If they do, how much more will they have to trade for a mid-season pitching rental than they would have for an off-season pitcher with a few years left on his contract?

Stearns has received accolades for many of his personnel moves since joining the Brewers in 2015, but he isn’t above making dumb decisions – perhaps not Doug Melvin dumb, but dumb all the same, most notably cutting second baseman Scooter Gennett last spring, who went on to tear up the league for Cincinnati, and trading first-baseman Garrett Cooper to the Yankees for Tyler Webb, who lasted all of two outings before being sent down to the minors.  Unless Stearns finds a way to get some needed pitching, the signing of Cain may be added to the list.

In the meantime, my prediction: a disappointing 84 wins for the Crew this year, several games back from the wild card hunt.

I’ll still be there on opening day and hoping that come October I look like a fool.

MLB and NFL Parity

As the MLB playoffs roll on with the usual suspects, I’ve pondered what has often been passed for conventional wisdom when comparing professional baseball to professional football.  For years, the argument went like this: parity in NFL football allows for more teams to have a chance to win a Super Bowl, therefore generating greater fan interest, while MLB baseball has too many teams that are eliminated from a World Series hunt before the first ball is pitched in April.  I remember spouting this argument myself in the 1990s as my lowly Brewers were relegated to a perennial loser.  But a review of the champions and runners up of baseball and football since 1966 – the season of the first Super Bowl – tells a different story. 

Out of 30 MLB teams, 10 haven’t won a World Series since 1966, and of those, six are franchises that weren’t around that year (though all have been in existence for at least fifteen years):

Washington (1969, formerly called the Montreal Expos)

San Diego (1969)

Milwaukee (1969, formerly called the Seattle Pilots)

Seattle (1977)

Colorado (1993)

Tampa Bay (1998)

The other four teams are the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland, Houston and Texas.

Although some recent teams haven’t yet won a World Series, many winners since 1966 have been from franchises that started after that year:  Kansas City in 1985, Florida in 1997 and 2003, Toronto in 1992 and 1993, and Arizona in 2001.

Of the ten teams who’ve not won a World Series since 1966, 7 have at least appeared in an October Classic.  The only three teams that have been excluded entirely from the World Series are the Chicago Cubs, Seattle and the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos franchise.

Compare that to the NFL.  Of thirty current NFL teams, 14 have never won a Super Bowl.  Of those, six weren’t around in 1966, though all are now at least eleven years old:

Carolina (1995)

Cincinnati (1968)

Houston (2002)

Jacksonville (1995)

Seattle (1976)

Cleveland (1999) – note: for the purposes of this analysis, I’m considering Cleveland an expansion team from 1999 even though they kept the franchise statistics from the Browns team that moved to Baltimore in 1996.

The other teams are Minnesota, Detroit, Atlanta, Arizona (formerly the St. Louis Cardinals), Philadelphia, Buffalo, Tennessee (formerly the Houston Oilers) and San Diego.

Only one team that didn’t exist in 1966 has won a Super Bowl – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003.  Again, I’m not including the Ravens’ victories of 2000 and 2013 since they inherited the players from the Cleveland Browns in 1996, and therefore aren’t a true expansion team.

Of the fourteen teams who’ve not won a Super Bowl since 1966, all but four have at least appeared in a Super Bowl.  Those that have been excluded entirely are Cleveland, Jacksonville, Detroit, and the Houston Texans.  It should be noted that three of those four teams are relatively recent introductions in the NFL if you include Cleveland as an expansion team in 1999.

The following summarizes the above statistics:

SINCE 1966

 

MLB

NFL

% of teams not winning a championship

33%

47%

% of teams not appearing in a championship

10%

13%

 

Couple these stats with the fact that new franchises are more likely to win a World Series than a Super Bowl, and it might be tempting to disagree with the usual argument about parity between the leagues.  The World Series has actually been more inclusive than the Super Bowl.

What if we focus on the last 20 years?  After all, profit sharing and free agency changed dramatically since 1966, potentially affecting championships.  Let’s look at the same statistics for 1995 to 2012 (I’m choosing these years since there was no World Series in 1994.  Also, revenue sharing was first introduced to baseball in 1996).

SINCE 1995

 

MLB

NFL

% of teams not winning a championship

67%

60%

% of teams not appearing in a championship

40%

30%

 

Counter-intuitively, here the stats change to favor the NFL, though not dramatically.  If we shorten the timeline further and take into account only the past decade, which also coincides with the 2002 baseball negotiations when revenue sharing was fine-tuned, the MLB has 7 different winners plus an additional 5 who've appeared in a World Series  – a total of 12 teams out of a potential 20.  The NFL has 7 different winners plus an additional 6 teams who've appeared in a Super Bowl  –  a total of 13 out of a potential 20.

What conclusions can be drawn from this?  Perhaps nothing definitive, as you could continue to crunch numbers that help fine-tune or perhaps even contradict some of what the above reveals, but I think you can say that under current rules, parity within the leagues is about the same in the MLB as it is in the NFL.  What was surprising to me is how historically the MLB wasn’t as lopsidedly in favor of the big market teams as I originally thought, even before revenue sharing and playoff expansion.  Outside of the Yankees’ run in the 90s, there has been a good deal of turnover in the World Series, and expansion teams have had success, sometimes fairly quickly.

Copyright, 2017, Paul Heinz, All Right Reserved