Nate Silver ranks baseball’s ballparks. Though he gets a little help.

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Nate Silver tends to do in-depth poll-crunching, but yesterday — as a bit of palate-cleanser —  he just presented the results of Yelp.com polling and ranked the major league ballparks from best to worst, based on average ratings by Yelp users.  The result: PNC Park on top, Rogers Centre on the bottom and, for the most part, results that tend to adhere to conventional wisdom in the middle.

Surprises: how low Dodger Stadium is (25). Yes, I know that it’s now in vogue to hate on the place, but it traditionally rates quite high among fans. Silver notes that the standard deviation on the ratings for Dodger Stadium suggest that it’s a love-hate thing, with traffic probably causing a lot of low ratings. I assume the same is happening for the New York parks, with people unfamiliar with the city in general reacting negatively to crowds and expense and all of that kind of thing. Of course there’s also the possibility that people who hated their experience at any ballpark are more likely to log on to slam it, while happy people don’t bother.

My biggest takeaway from the article, however, is when Silver reminds us that, from time to time, some writer gets his paper/station/website to pay for a 30-ballpark review trip:

Every now and then, some writer is lucky enough to earn a book advance or a freelance contract for visiting every major league stadium and rating them (see 1988’s Dodger Dogs and Fenway Franks or ESPN’s Stadium Tour for some well-executed examples). But most of these efforts are out of date — and of course, they reflect just one fan’s opinion.

Out of date, eh? Which means we need it updated?  Well, I suppose that would require a person who (a) is knowledgeable about baseball and ballparks; (b) loves travel; and (c) has the time on their hands to do such a thing and/or can consider going to baseball games as part of his job description.

Now, if you’ll please excuse me, I have to write an urgent email to my boss.

The Japanese playoffs are super unfair

Hiroshima Carp
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I know a little about Japanese baseball. Not a lot, mind you. Like, I couldn’t hold my own with people who actually watch it or report on it or whatever, but I could explain some of the broad differences and similarities between the NPB and the U.S. majors.  I can say a few things about how the two leagues compare competitively speaking. I can name some stars and (I think) all the clubs. But there’s, quite obviously, a ton I don’t know.

A thing I did not know until today: the NPB playoffs are really messed up.

The NPB is divided into two leagues, the Central and the Pacific, with the winner of each league facing off in the Japan Series. Like the U.S. majors, they have preliminary playoff rounds in each league. Each league has three playoff teams, with the second and third seed teams playing a series first, and the winner of that series playing the top seed — the team with the best record in the league — in what is called the Climax Series.

Here’s the weird part: the higher-seeded team in the Climax Series — the team which won the league in the regular season — gets every single playoff game at home. What’s more, that team begins the Climax Series with an automatic 1-0 advantage. So, yes, it’s a seven-game series on paper, but one of the teams only has to win three games to advance to the Japan Series.

Oh, in Japan, they also have no problems ending a playoff game early if it rains. That’s what happened in the Central League Climax Series last night, where the lower-seeded Yokohama BayStars took on the league champ Hiroshima Carp. Here’s the report from Jason Coskrey of The Japan Times:

The rainy conditions in Hiroshima caused the umpires to stop play for over 30 minutes and ultimately call the game after five innings, minutes after the Carp put three runs on the board. Just like that, it was over. The Carp won 3-0, with Yokohama robbed of the four innings (at least) it would’ve had to try and rally.

Even better: as Coskrey notes, there are five days in between the end of the Climax Series and the beginning of the Japan Series, so there is no reason they could not suspend a game and resume it the next day. They just choose not to. The upshot: the Carp were staked to a 2-0 series lead despite the fact that they had only played five innings of baseball. UPDATE: they played a full game today, the BayStars won, so now it’s 2-1 Hiroshima.

Imagine if that happened in the NLCS. Imagine if the Dodgers began the series with a 1-0 lead over the Cubs and played all of their games in Los Angeles. Imagine there was a freak L.A. storm and it ended one of the game in the fifth inning, right after Justin Turner hit a homer. I’m pretty sure people would riot.

Kinda makes our complaints about the replay system seem rather quaint, eh?