Why wild-card World Series is not a bad thing
Three weeks ago the Royals and Giants were facing do-or-die games. Tuesday they began the World Series with barely a hiccup in their march to a championship as the two teams enter Game 1 with the best combined postseason win percentage in the wild-card era. Who had that called at the beginning of the season?
Quick – name three big stars of baseball playing in this series. Most of those guys are home. There is not one player on either roster who finished the season in the top 10 in average, slugging, offensive WAR, on-base percentage, OPS, home runs or RBIs. Ditto for ERA, WHIP, K/9 or FIP on the pitching side.
On the flip side, Kansas City has the stellar defense, superior speed and top-notch defense while the Giants have a true ace, experience and decent run-scoring ability.
While there has been some grousing that this is a dream matchup if you like mediocrity, I find it tough to look at it that way. Postseason baseball is different from regular season baseball. It is harder to score runs. More is on the manager’s shoulders when every game is crucial. These two teams may be mediocre when it comes to wins and losses – although Kansas City had one of the better second-half records in baseball – but when it comes to execution, getting that one run or preventing that one run, these teams have proven to be much more than that in the three weeks that count this time of the year.
Do they deserve to be here? When all is said and done, will the winner be the best team in baseball in 2014? Well, that team will have the trophy and those players who are holding it – as well as those who are watching from home – won’t really care who is on top of the statistical leaderboards.
I am sure there are a number of Mariners fans who still haven’t quite gotten over the feeling of “it could have/should have been us” while watching the team that had just two more wins than Seattle advance to the World Series. But if anything, that should reinforce the “could” part of that statement. As it should for a number of teams around the league.
Dare to dream. Dare to have a longer-term plan. Dare to make trades for the shorter term if you have a window. It doesn’t have to be all about the $175 million payroll. It doesn’t have to be about the 40 home runs. It doesn’t have to be about having three aces. Just enough has trumped over-the-top this year.
Sure, a year from now we could be looking at Boston and New York teams that have reloaded or a Dodgers team that somehow found the zen it needed to win the big games, but with the recent trends in the pitching and the scarcity of available big bats, what we are seeing now could be the start of the new norm.
What premiums will be put on pitching, defense and speed? What will teams focus on at the deadline? How do you avoid the crash that the Angels saw at the end of the year or can you find a way to spark a late-season or postseason peak?
If what we are seeing this postseason is a display of mediocrity, it sure is interesting.