Monday, October 18, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, October 18, 2021 -- "Four Pop-Ups"

 

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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--
 
"Four balls in play, none hit even 80 mph, none hit even 260 feet, but they’re the difference in this series right now. The Dodgers have a higher OBP, a higher slugging, a much better strikeout rate and not a single win, because the Braves have won on the dirt, with better baserunning and defense in the games’ biggest spots."

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, October 16, 2021 -- "NLCS Preview"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"The history of matchups like this, though -- which I didn’t realize until I did the research Friday -- sways me. The fact that the Dodgers have outplayed the Braves even over the Braves’ best stretch of baseball sways me. As well as the Braves’ bullpen pitched in the NLDS, I’m inclined to think that was more a reflection of the Brewers’ weak lineup than an endorsement of the law firm of Matzek, Jackson, and Smith. I was leaning Dodgers in five before the Scherzer news, and I’ll stick with it even though an extra game may now be needed."

Friday, October 15, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, October 15, 2021 -- "ALCS Preview"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"I don’t expect it to happen. The Astros aren’t a great matchup for anyone, but a team that puts the ball in play hard is a particular problem for these Red Sox, a bad defensive club all around the field. The Rays, in losing to the Sox, hit .255 on balls in play. That number is headed up, and that’s probably going to be what swings the series. Astros in five."

Newsletter Excerpt, October 15, 2021 -- "Checked Out"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"The final moment of the Giants’ season was Wilmer Flores checking his swing on an 0-2 pitch, and first-base umpire Gabe Morales calling it a swing, a strike, and ballgame. Replays showed, to the extent you can ever be sure about these things, that Flores hadn’t gone far enough around to have been called out. This is unusual; most of the time, it looks like the player held up and replay shows that he went around. If you can find someone who looked at this replay and thinks Flores went, you’ve done better than I have. It’s not just that it was a bad call; it was a bad call that was hard to defend, made at a terrible time, that left even Dodger fans cringing a bit."

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, October 14, 2021 -- "What I'm Watching"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"These are the signature franchises in the history of the National League. The Dodgers have won 24 NL pennants, the Giants 23. They were tentpoles in New York and their paired move to California reshaped the baseball map. The longest stretch of National League baseball played without one of the two being its champion is 11 years, and that took a format change and a Braves dynasty to come about. At one point in the 1950s, the teams won six straight NL pennants between them. Today, they have won six of the last 11 and whoever wins tonight’s game will be a considerable favorite to make that seven of 12."

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, October 13, 2021 -- "Thinking Inside the Box"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"The Braves won this series from the mound, throwing two shutouts and allowing just six runs in four games. They struck out 48 men -- a 35% rate! -- and walked just nine. They held the Brewers to 2-for-23 with runners in scoring position and just two homers. Without Freeman, who raked in the series, they might well have had to go back to Milwaukee and face Corbin Burnes for the right to advance."

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, October 12, 2021 -- "Two Rookies"

 

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"This is baseball now. They don’t care how old you are, don’t care what you did in Topeka in 2019, don’t care if you’ve never done something before. Teams identify skills, and they sharpen those skills, teach the player how to get the most from those skills, and if that player can help them win, they put the player in position to succeed."

Monday, October 11, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, October 11, 2021 -- "Division Series Reset"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"I know everyone’s numbers look better after hanging a 12-spot, but can we talk more about Luis Robert? He might have been safe on the Gurriel throw anyway after getting a great jump off third. He’s now 6-for-12 in this series with just one strikeout against two walks. (His teammates have 29 strikeouts and seven walks.) There’s a Fernando Tatis Jr. quality to his game, where you have to keep your eyes on him at all times, because he might do something you’ll tell your friends about. I have no rooting interest here, but as with the Rays and Wander Franco, I’d like to see the exciting young player play more this October."

Friday, October 8, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, October 8, 2021 -- "Giants/Dodgers Preview"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"The Giants, who have been playing baseball since Reconstruction, set a franchise record with 107 wins. They needed every single one of them to end the Dodgers’ eight-year streak of winning the NL West. The difference? The Giants went 10-9 against the Dodgers. The Dodgers actually outscored them 80-78. The Giants won both extra-inning contests. The teams split six one-run games. If you dig into third-order records, the Dodgers pull away a bit, but really, there’s not much separating these two teams."

Newsletter Excerpt, October 8, 2021 -- "Brewers/Braves Preview"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"So are the Braves an 88-73 team? A 37-19 one? Something in between? Will their low-OBP, high-power offense play up in postseason games where scoring in as few swings as possible is the best strategy? The NewBraves scored 47% of their runs on homers in August and September."

 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, October 7, 2021 -- "Rays/Red Sox Preview"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"So these teams look somewhat close on the page, over a full season. But the Rays have been the much better team -- the Rays have been a truly great team -- for more than half the season. That’s the team that takes the field at The Trop tonight."

 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, October 6, 2021 -- "Astros/White Sox Preview"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"Put it all together, and the White Sox had the fourth-highest strikeout rate, and sixth-best K-BB%, in baseball history over a completed season. The top eight guys on this staff are capable of shutting down any offense in baseball, including that of the Astros."
 

 

Joe Sheehan Newsletter, October 6, 2021 -- "What I'm Watching"


Cardinals (Wainwright) at Dodgers (Scherzer), 8 p.m. ET

We’re going to hear a lot about how the system doesn’t work because of this matchup between a 106-win Dodgers team and a 90-win Cardinals team. Many people will notice, for the first time, that it’s a little ridiculous to make a team play a one-game playoff against a team whose record was far worse over a 162-game season. They will be right, of course. What they’ll miss is that this ghost has always been in the machine, and MLB just got lucky for a decade. From a piece I wrote all the way back in 2010:

“Let's play it out, though. The Yankees and Rays bust their humps all month, win a few extra games, maybe 99 for the Rays, 98 for the Yankees. With a "second wild card" to play for, the Red Sox make a couple of small additions, pick up some wins in September and get to 91. One of those extra wins comes at the expense of the White Sox, who fade a bit faster, enabling the Red Sox to lock up their spot in the Coin Flip Game heading into their last series of the year.

“Now, the #3 seed, the #4 seed are preparing for the playoffs, while the two best teams in the league are playing for the right to not be dropped into this unimaginably stupid Coin Flip Game against a team that, because the sixth-best team in the league is far enough behind the fifth-best, is itself resting! Moreover, after proving itself to be eight or so games better than than its divisional partner over a full season of play, the second-place team is now, after losing its run at the division title, shoved into a single-game playoff.

“The second-best team in baseball could go from fighting for a division title and the best record in its league to a one-game playoff against a team it was miles ahead of for six months. It may sound far-fetched, but it is not that far removed from what we would have had this year had the rule been in place. It's pretty much what you would have gotten in the AL in 2005, where the Yankees and Red Sox tied for first place while the "second wild card" would have been the Indians, five games clear of the A's for the #5 seed.”


It wasn’t far-fetched, it just took a few years to play out this way. The Cardinals clinched their wild-card berth Tuesday and had five days to play low-pressure baseball, rest the people who needed resting, and set their pitching up for the Wild Card Game. The Dodgers, by dint of being a whole lot better, played meaningful baseball through the last day of the season, when their first baseman suffered a terrible injury and they burned their #1...#1A if you want...in pursuit of a division title they would be locked out of.

This is a very bad system, one that never should have been implemented, and one that is likely to go away next year. If in its death throes it finally invalidates six months of baseball in a single evening -- if the 90-72 Cardinals advance over the 106-57 Dodgers -- well, MLB will have gotten its just desserts. For the problem isn’t a single playoff system or any single decision, the problem is MLB’s 40-year streak of being unable to envision the consequences of its actions. There’s just never been anyone standing there to say, “You know, a wild card could kill great division races.” “If we go to interleague play, the All-Star Game will lose its luster.” “Trashing our players for two generations might eventually turn people off of baseball.”

This is a bad playoff system for a league that plays 162 games, and it always has been. I don’t know what comes next, but I do know this: It will have flaws that MLB won’t see coming, because MLB never sees anything coming.

What I don’t want to hear is that this isn’t fair. The Dodgers approved this and played ten seasons with it. Everyone knew the system at the start of the season. The Cardinals did their job, finishing with the fourth-best record in the league, in fact. If they are playing in San Francisco on Friday, it will be because they earned that spot.

It could happen. It’s crazy, the Dodgers, despite having to play an extra game, are the overall betting favorites to win the NL pennant and the World Series. I picked the Dodgers at the start of the season and I think they’re probably still the best team in baseball -- hold that thought -- but for them to be favorites starting from the wild card defies everything we know about the baseball postseason.

How could this particular apple cart be upset? Start with a Cardinals team that became the Gashouse Gorillas down the stretch: 56 homers and a .480 SLG in September, leading the NL and second in all of baseball. Max Scherzer has had an incredible bounceback season, arguably worthy of the NL Cy Young Award, but he does put the ball in the air.

Up (FB%, 2021, min. 100 IP)

                          FB%
Jameson Taillon   NYY   48.3%
Max Scherzer      2tm   48.3%
Triston McKenzie  CLE   48.1%
Marco Gonzalez    SEA   47.9%
James Kaprelian   OAK   47.5%


This isn’t an unusual season for Scherzer, either. He has been a flyball pitcher his entire career. To beat him, you have to go deep against him. Of the 53 runs he allowed this season, 34 (64%) came on longballs. Scherzer’s teams were 9-6 behind Scherzer when he gave up a dinger, and 13-4 when he did not. Tonight, it’s ball go far, Cardinals go far.

The Cardinals are as close to their best selves as they have been all season long. Obviously they’ve played well, but they’re also now putting their best team on the field. Trade-deadline pickups J.A. Happ and Jon Lester stabilized the rotation -- and yes, I remember mocking the acquisitions. Journeyman reliever Luis Garcia bolstered a bullpen that had been worked very hard. Edmundo Sosa mostly took over at shortstop for Paul DeJong, providing much more OBP at a small defensive loss. Tyler O’Neill had his long-awaited breakout at the plate, finding a spot on my MVP ballot in the process. Even Jack Flaherty, who has had a lost season due to injuries, may be available in limited roles throughout this month.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, come in hobbled. Max Muncy suffered an elbow injury Sunday on a collision that will keep him out of tonight’s game at least, and could cost him the whole month. Muncy is a key piece for the Dodgers, balancing a lineup that can list to the right, providing a high OBP, and giving Dave Roberts a lot of intra-game flexibility. With the collapse of Cody Bellinger, Muncy’s role only grew in importance. His loss changes the Dodgers' lineup in a way that will be felt tonight against a good right-handed starter in Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals’ deep stable of right-handed relievers -- Garcia, Alex Reyes, Giovanny Gallegos, maybe even Flaherty -- becomes more effective in the absence of Muncy.

One interesting aspect of this game is the way both fan bases are terrified of their manager. Dave Roberts, who overall is one of the best managers in baseball, has often had his tactical shortcomings exposed in October. He has a high-effort roster, with platoons and a middling bullpen, and sometimes that catches up with him in the playoffs. Mike Shildt has traditionalist tendencies -- staying with his starter too long, mixing in smallball -- that hurt him as well.

If there’s a danger spot for the Cards tonight, it’s Wainwright facing the Dodgers the third time through the order. Forget his 2021 splits, which are excellent (.180/.229/.304). The third-time penalty is immutable, as Wainwright’s career illustrates: his batting average, OBP, and slugging allowed all rise with each pass through the order.

As an analyst, I’ve dreaded this matchup. The Dodgers have been a dominant team for nearly a decade now, but until last year hadn’t won a championship. We don’t handle teams like that well anymore, emphasizing the losses in October rather than the wins that preceded them. Winning the World Series last year tamped down the criticism, but should the Dodgers lose tonight -- hardly a notable event given the Cardinals' quality -- it would ramp up again. There is a segment of media and fans aching to attach an asterisk to the Dodgers’ 2020 championship, and a loss tonight would allow them to do so. I find myself rooting for the Dodgers not out of attachment to the team or any dislike of St. Louis, but just to avoid what will be six months of absolutely miserable coverage of the Dodgers.

The Cardinals can make that happen by hitting a couple of homers off Scherzer and not leaving Adam Wainwright in too long. It’s a simple formula on the page, a bit harder on the field.


Red Sox/Yankees

The Red Sox continued their surprising campaign with a 6-2 win over the Yankees last night, advancing to the AL Division Series against the Rays. There wasn’t much to the game -- the Red Sox hit a couple of early homers off Gerrit Cole, who had good velocity and bad control. The Yankees were appropriately aggressive against Nathan Eovaldi with nothing to show for it through five innings.

The key moment of the game came in the sixth. A solo homer by Anthony Rizzo and an infield single by Aaron Judge chased Eovaldi. Giancarlo Stanton greeted Ryan Brasier with a long fly ball off the Green Monster, his second of the night. Judge, perhaps hesitant to make a baserunning mistake, didn’t run hard to second, picked it up when he saw the ball hit the wall, and decelerated again as he headed towards third base, expecting this to be a long single. Phil Nevin, seeing the play behind Judge, waved the big man home. Judge was out by...actually, he just reached home now.

I’ve written here about how teams are too conservative sending runners given the likelihood that the next batter will strike out or pop out, given the high rates of those events in today’s game. Philosophically, I’m with the idea of making the defense make a play, because baseball is hard and making multiple good throws and a tag isn’t as simple as it looks sometimes.

With all that said, this was a bad send. The run wasn’t critical -- Judge was the second run in a 3-1 game. Nevin may have read the play correctly, but he didn’t read his baserunner, who had gotten no jump and who wasn’t running hard into third. The decision was incredibly costly, turning first-and-third and one out into a runner on second and two out. The Yankees would make eight straight outs after this play and get their final run on a solo homer by Stanton down 6-1 in the ninth.

The Red Sox were the better team last night, which is what matters in October. There’s a lot of garment-rending in the zip codes around me today, but the Yankees won 92 games in the toughest division in baseball with no center fielder. They need to fix some things, and that might be hard given the contracts in play, but the idea that a team that has the third-best record in baseball since 2018 -- under Aaron Boone -- has to start over is nonsense.


Picks

With last night’s win on the first five under, Newsletter picks are now 7-0, which mostly makes me want to apologize to Rotowire for the first three months of the season.

I don’t have a strong opinion on tonight’s game and will pass. Maybe the over 7.5 if you want the action, but it’s really a pass.

What I have today are some Division Series and futures calls. The Dodgers being the betting favorite from the wild-card slot is mathematically indefensible and should be creating some value elsewhere, but the books take so much juice from the futures markets that I still don’t like the numbers. The Rays at +650 to win the World Series, though, isn’t bad. They’d be +700 (7-1) if everyone was equal, and they are definitely a tick above the field. The only team clearly better than them is the Dodgers, and the Dodgers have to play the extra round and don’t have Muncy (or Clayton Kershaw). I can recommend that one.

I gave out the Brewers at 25-1 to win the NL and 44-1 to win the World Series in March, so I can’t get excited about their current short odds. Here’s hoping you’re holding a ticket.

The White Sox are underrated coming into the playoffs and undervalued as well, a posted underdog to the Astros. You’ll see in the series preview how high I am on them, so getting plus money for them to win their series has value to me. White Sox +110 for the series, and if you’re feeling frisky, +850 to sweep.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, October 5, 2021 -- "What I'm Watching"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"As was well covered, Cole was one of the pitchers whose spin rate was down a lot this summer as well. On their face, his statistics indict him. They may lie, though. While Cole did decline after the crackdown, he bounced back to pitch well in July and, after a bout with the coronavirus, in August. From the crackdown through September 1, Cole had a 3.31 ERA and a 2.68 FIP, hardly a big change from before. It seems to have been the injury, and not a loss of grip enhancers, changing his stats."

Monday, October 4, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, October 4, 2021 -- "Baseball 1, Chaos 0"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"Looking ahead, the Mariners have talent coming through their system, but they do need to evaluate the 2021 roster as if it were a 76-win team, and not a 90-win one. Their unbelievable performance in high-leverage situations -- the best ever relative to overall performance -- will not be repeated."

Friday, October 1, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, October 1, 2021 -- "What I'm Watching"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"You’d like to think the Red Sox are in good shape to get the wins they need, but they just lost two of three to the Orioles. Variance swamps everything."

Joe Sheehan Newsletter, August 27, 2021 -- "Second Place"

 This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 

The Joe Sheehan Newsletter
Vol. 13, No. 78
August 27, 2021

The Dodgers recovered from Wednesday’s marathon game more quickly than their opponents did, shutting out the Padres 4-0 behind near-Padre Max Scherzer. The win pushed the Dodgers’ record in August to 18-4. Jon Weisman, the great Dodgers writer, pointed out that all that winning has gained them just a half-game on the Giants (18-5) this month.

Now, I’m stubbornly sticking with my preseason pick of the Dodgers to win the division. They trail the Giants by 2 1/2 games, three in the loss column, with 34 to play. The two teams have a pair of three-game sets in September that will go a long way to determining who wins the division and whose season comes down to beating Luis Castillo or Yu Darvish. 

Whoever lands in second, though, is headed for history. The Dodgers are on pace to win 102 to 103 games, an incredible number for a second-place team.

Greatness Denied (most wins without finishing first, MLB history)

           Year    Record    Behind
Dodgers    1942    104-50    Cardinals
Cubs       1909    104-49    Pirates
Giants     1993    103-59    Braves
Yankees    1954    103-51    Indians
Athletics  2001    102-60    Mariners
Dodgers    1962    102-63*   Giants
Tigers     1961    101-61    Yankeees

*101-61 in scheduled play, lost NL playoff series to Giants 2-1


What jumps out here is that most of these seasons happened in moments of low competitive balance for one reason or another. The 1942 Dodgers, of course, played during World War II. The 1993 Giants, 1962 Dodgers, and 1961 Tigers all posted their marks in expansion seasons; Oakland's big year in 2001 happened as the game was still rebounding from the 1990s double expansion and CBA changes that drove competitive imbalance. These Giants and Dodgers play in the tanking era. There’s almost always an externality that allows for these extremes.

When it comes to great records falling short, I think of the 1980 Orioles, who went 100-62 and finished three games behind the Yankees. I was obsessed with baseball, and had been too young to really follow the 1978 team, so this was my first experience living through a real pennant race. I still have an image of watching a late-season Yankees/Orioles game, almost certainly on a Sunday, in a long-gone American Legion hall that my family was a big part of in the 1970s and 1980s.

Those Orioles, coming off an AL pennant in 1979, were 42-36 and nine games behind the Yankees at the All-Star break. They would go 58-26 in the second half, Weaverballing their way to five runs a game over that stretch, playing great defense. They closed to a half-game of the Yankees in late August but never caught them, succumbing to the Yanks' 30-11 closing kick that pushed them to 103-59. (As I recall, they didn’t play a postseason that year.)

The Orioles won 100 games and went home, one of just two teams to do that since 1963. The 1993 Giants, in The Last Pennant Race Ever, won 103 games and finished just behind the Braves at 104-58. Fans younger than...well, me...might find it hard to believe the way that race was the biggest story in sports that month. Baseball used to own September in most years, a position it forfeited, probably forever, just 11 months after that Braves/Giants race ended.

In the wild-card era, just two teams have won 100 games and not won their division. The 2001 A’s, pre-Moneyball, had the misfortune of trying to chase down the 116-win Mariners in the AL West. The format then meant that the A’s weren’t much worse off than the Mariners were in October, and when they took a 2-0 lead in the Division Series, it seemed like they would get another crack at Seattle in the ALCS. Mike Mussina and Derek Jeter intervened. (As I recall, they didn’t play a World Series that year.)

Seventeen years later, it was the Yankees’ turn to be a great second-place team, winning 100 games and never really getting close to the best Red Sox team ever. The Yankees did get a second shot at the Sox in the Division Series, but were taken out in four games as the Red Sox waltzed to their fourth World Championship in 15 years. 

That’s the scenario we could be headed for in 2021, with the NL West champion finding itself facing the team it bested over 162 when it plays its first playoff series. (The aforementioned Mssrs. Castillo and Darvish may have a say in the matter.) In a season where team greatness has been undercut by injuries on a daily basis, the prospect of a playoff series between two teams that won 100 or more games is tantalizing. That the teams are rivals dating back a century makes it that much more delicious.

However the postseason plays out, though, it’s nearly certain that the NL West runner-up will be among the most accomplished bridesmaids in baseball history.