Nationals Baseball: Baseball is not cooperating

Friday, September 22, 2017

Baseball is not cooperating

Part of the deal with this whole WC business was the idea that more divisions and more playoff spots would create more contenders and more interesting games as the season wound down. 2017 is working hard to be the exception to the presumed rule.

Multiple division races were done early. The Astros have had complete control of the AL West since Memorial Day. The Nats have held a two-series lead since the very start of May and have had a 10 game lead since the All-Star break. The Dodgers streak put away the NL West at about the same time in July. The Indians gained the upper hand in early August and drove the stake through the Central around Labor Day. That's four races over just when you are checking in to see what's exciting.

The other two are theoretically better but haven't managed to get over the hump. The Yankees took 3 of 4 from the Red Sox right before Labor Day weekend cutting the division lead to 3.5 games and have gone 12-4 since then. But the same teams the Yankees are wiping the floor with the Red Sox are too, going 11-4. With no head to head series after that last one (great scheduling - when has NYY/BOS ever been important late in the year?) there's nothing to do but passively scoreboard watch and be disappointed. Basically we're watching the 2nd best team in baseball over the past 2 1/2 weeks try to catch the 3rd best team*. Great baseball. Bad drama.

The NL Central was setting itself up for a slam bang finish. After finally getting the lead and then some breathing room (up 5 on 9/7) the Cubs promptly got swept by the Brewers. Up just 2 on the Cardinals and Brewers with a STL/MIL series, a MIL/CHC series and TWO STL/CHC series to go there seemed no way this could not finish strong. I mean what was going to happen? The Cubs were going to blast off and win all the H2H games?

Cubs 8-1, 4-0 in H2H games so far.

The Cardinals and Brewers haven't played badly otherwise but who cares if they didn't play well when it mattered. We're a Cubs win today away from basically the Central being over.

Well then the WCs right! The WCs will save us... I suppose. The first spots are occupied by good teams that have been mostly safe for a while. Both the D-Backs and Yankees got off the strong starts, faltered a little bit but turned it back on. In the NL the D-Backs have been in control of the #1 spot since Labor Day. In the AL the Yankees had a minor scare but ended the conversation with a sweep of the current #2 seed Twins this week. That's the story of almost all these races up here so far. The challengers are lined up just to get knocked down.

So we're down to the red-headed stepchild of playoff spots, the 2nd WC.  The NL spot will probably be decided with 88 wins if we're lucky, the choices being the free-fall Rockies or a Brewers/Cardinals fight between two teams unable to win big games this month. The AL is even worse, where 84 wins should take it in a true race to the bottom. Check out the September records of the teams in question.

TEX 10-9
KC 10-10
MIN 9-11
SEA 8-11
LAA 7-11
TB 7-11
BAL 6-14

I suppose if you wanted you could work yourself into something resembling interest for two of these teams battling H2H this weekend, you know as long as it wasn't the worst two teams playing eachother. Guess what the only H2H match-up is this weekend! That's right TB vs BAL!  In fact thanks to an incredible quirk in the schedule here are the H2H match-up between these teams from 9/10 and now :

SEA@TEX
TEX @ LAA
TEX@SEA

Hope you were a fan of the Rangers! Who as a reminder started at the end of August on the very fringes of the WC race. Watch them slowly catch up to the stumbling pack by not tripping over their own feet! And from now to season's end?

TB @ BAL
SEA @ LAA
BAL @ TB

The two of the worst playing teams this month, one who's out of it play a couple series against each other. So the hope is what? Seattle catches fire while KC, TEX, and MIN crash to set-up a winner take all Angel Mariner clash? That's our hope? Ugh. I'll have the clam juice.

It's not that the idea isn't strong. More teams - more playoff spots - more interest should work. But it doesn't always have to and this season is proving that exception in spades. 

*The Indians dummy!

18 comments:

KW said...

I've found it difficult to maintain interest. It would have been nice to see Trout in the playoffs, on the big stage against the Yankees, but that concept is rapidly fading. For a while, I thought the Brewers might beat the Cubs for the division title and leave the Cubs out of the playoffs entirely, but alas, I guess the Nats will have to be the ones to stick the fork in them. I'm frankly surprised that the Brewers have been able to stay in the WC game after losing Nelson.

If the Yanks and the D-Backs survive their crap-shoot play-in games, they're going to be real threats to the Indians and Dodgers respectively.

blovy8 said...

There's always fantasy baseball reasons to watch...

Harper said...

KW - the upside is that the playoffs should be fun certainly in the AL. The NL could still crap out if the Cubs muddle through then don't present much of a challenge to the Nats and the other one ends up a near dead Rockies versus a flailing Dodgers. Of course this is a great scenario for Nats fans.

Bill Hicks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wookiee of the Year said...

This rundown makes sense, but I can't help but think, "Compared to what?" Not sure there's a postseason scenario (single Wild Card, two divisions per league, top two teams make the playoffs, etc.) that would've added excitement this year.

Harper said...

Wookie - yeah that's why the take away is "it usually works - just this is a really bad year" I guess one division per league would have been more exciting but no one is clamoring for that.

KW said...

Harper, I do agree that the playoffs shape up to have some strong matchups. Nats-Cubs and Snakes-Dodgers are both compelling series, as would be any resulting combo in the NCLS. (Although we know that TV execs would much prefer LA-Chi; here's hoping they're disappointed.)

TV execs would also kill for an NYY-Bos ALCS, but the better teams are probably Cle-Hou. Anyway, divisional series there with Yanks-Indians and Bosox-Stros would be really good.

BxJaycobb said...

Im really hoping as both a Nats fan and a baseball fan for Cleveland vs Astros and Nats vs Dodgers. That would be arguably the best final four in a long time, in terms of W-L records....4 different teams with 100 or near 100 wins.

BxJaycobb said...

Harper: it appears that Boz sees the same standings and believes this is an incredibly exciting race to the finish! Lol.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/mlb-got-it-right-and-now-the-playoffs-are-preceded-by-a-compelling-postseason/2017/09/21/6a913b96-9eff-11e7-9c8d-cf053ff30921_story.html

Anonymous said...

Right you are, Harper: really boring division races. That is, if you're following baseball, not just the Nats. I'm in the latter camp, so I'll take boring. And then there was the chance to see Victor Robles! Hopefully, we don't go into wait-until-next-year mode until the end of Oct. Even so, I can hardly wait.

JE34 said...

The crab juice is good for washing down all that klav kalash.

Rob Evans said...

Love the Nats. I've tuned out since football started and just look at the box scores until the playoffs start.

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