Once again: baseball has greater parity than the NFL

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There are some beliefs people hold in their heads and hearts that are simply immune to reasoning. You can’t change someone’s religion via logic and reason (and don’t ever try). It seems that most political beliefs these days are articles of faith rather than fact-based positions. So too is the concept that the NFL has greater parity than Major League Baseball.

Really: every other month someone comes up with a new analysis to disprove the notion that the NFL is a somehow fairer enterprise, and within ten minutes I’ll have a comment around these parts from someone talking about how no teams but the Yankees and Red Sox have a chance, about how baseball needs a salary cap and about how football is a fair and just pursuit that is economically, competitively and morally on the side of the angels.  It’s uncanny.

Still, that won’t stop me from linking stuff like this from Tyler Kepner:

In the N.F.L., 24 of 32 teams have made the playoffs over the past five seasons. That’s 75 percent. In baseball, 22 of 30 have made the playoffs in the same time span. That’s 73.3 percent, despite the fact that the N.F.L. awards 12 playoff spots each season, and baseball – for now, anyway – awards only eight.

I wouldn’t trade baseball’s system for the NFL’s for anything. And that would be the case even if football wasn’t poised to rip itself to pieces in a labor war. A labor war that must have been fomented by the sides arguing if the NFL’s system is merely perfect or if it’s “absolutely the best most perfect system ever invented infinity.”

The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

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If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.