How might we measure how great a series is?

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I said last night that this World Series is shaping up to be a classic. But how do I know?

In my case, my gut. At some point while watching Derek Holland make the Cardinals look more foolish than he does with his mustache, it just struck me that I’ve been watching something special.  But Chris Jaffe — in the spirit of Bill James and Joe Posnanski — has tried to come up with a formula that tells us whether what we’re watching is, in fact, fantastic.*

He came up with several factors that make a great postseason series. Walkoff wins, close games, extra innings, multiple elimination games, pitchers duels, lead changes and, of course, the longer the series the better.  At the end of all of that he made a list of the top ten postseason series of all time. For reasons Jaffe explains it’s weighted more heavily in favor of recent series, but given that there are more series now and more seven-game series now than there used to be, that makes sense. It’s also worth noting that anyone under 40 — which I suspect is the majority of HBT readership — didn’t see many series before the 1980s anyway, so it’s hard for us to criticize.

I’ll admit, I was a bit surprised at the series that ranked number one. But in thinking about it, yeah, it was damn, damn exciting and stomach-churning and all of that.

I’m sure your mileage will vary, but I sort of like this little formula, if for no other reason than because it made me think of some postseason series I haven’t thought about much lately.

 

*Please, save your “statheads take all the fun out of baseball” outrage. Anyone who has read James, Posnanski or Jaffe realizes that these kinds of formulas are themselves designed to be fun. James himself has always admitted that many of his metrics were for nothing but the giggles and yuks — he called one of them his “favorite toy” — and no one but the ignorant haters out there can honestly suggest that these sorts of exercises are either calculated to take the fun and wonder out of the game or that, in practice do so.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.