What in the World Series is going on here?

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We’re 10 days into the 2012 postseason and the American League finalists can’t hit, the National League contenders can’t get any starting pitching and none of the teams still playing seem to be any better than the ones that were eliminated.

Here are the hitting lines of the four teams still standing:

Detroit: .258/.299/.351, 3 HR, 20 RBI in 248 AB
New York: .205/.277/.326, 6 HR, 20 RBI in 258 AB

St. Louis: .249/.342/.438, 9 HR, 40 RBI in 233 AB
San Fran: .196/.270/.332, 5 HR, 20 RBI in 199 AB

If these were actual regular-season player lines, the Cardinals would be a fringe regular as a corner outfielder and the other three would be riding the pine. The Yankees have scored fewer runs in their seven games than the NLDS-losing Reds did in five games.

The AL contenders have combined for 198 hits and 239 strikeouts so far. Obviously, that’s not the norm. In the regular season, AL teams had 20 hits for every 17 strikeouts. In the postseason, it’s been 20 hits for every 24 strikeouts.

Overall, AL hitters are batting .218 and slugging .310 this postseason. To put that in perspective, Justin Verlander limited major league hitters to a .217 average and a .306 slugging percentage this season. So, essentially, every AL pitcher this month is Justin Verlander.

The NL, on the other hand, hasn’t had it so bad for offense. Not early in games anyway. What is odd is just how bad the starters are getting roughed up, especially with four of the league’s top five rotations represented. Going by ERA, the Nationals had the NL’s best rotation this year, followed by the Dodgers, Cardinals, Reds and Giants. And yet…

Cardinals starters: 2-2, 4.22 ERA
Reds starters: 1-2, 4.30 ERA
Nationals starters: 0-2, 5.25 ERA
Giants starters: 1-3, 6.49 ERA

Outside of Washington’s, the bullpens have been far more effective, which is fortunate since they’ve so often needed to cover five innings per game. The Cards’ bullpen has a 1.80 ERA in 30 innings. The Giants are at 2.51 ERA in 28 2/3 innings.

So, what are we left with 10 days in? The AL’s best offensive team has a .650 OPS, a mark that would have rated the worst in the major leagues this season. NL starting pitchers are 4-8 with a 4.92 ERA, which is a worse ERA than every NL team besides the Rockies posted this year. And for all of the exciting games, it’s hard to argue that we’ve actually seen a great caliber of play from any of these teams this month. While there have been thrills and chills, it hasn’t exactly been a showcase.

Nationals activate Stephen Strasburg off the disabled list

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The Nationals officially activated Stephen Strasburg off the 10-day disabled list, the team announced Saturday. They’ll pencil him into the starting lineup for their second set against the Padres on Saturday night. Strasburg is expected to assume Max Scherzer‘s roster spot after Scherzer landed on the disabled list with neck inflammation prior to Friday’s series opener. No other roster moves appear to be necessary for the time being.

Strasburg, 28, is finally looking stable after serving a 26-day stint on the DL with a right elbow nerve impingement. It’s the first serious injury he’s sustained since last August, when he missed 20 days with inflammation in his right elbow, and one the Nationals are taking seriously as they juggle multiple stints for their elite starters. He’ll enter Saturday’s competition with a 10-3 record in 20 starts, supplemented by a 3.25 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 through 121 2/3 innings.

Elbow issues are nothing to be played around with, but Strasburg’s performance in his lone rehab outing relieved any residual apprehension the Nats might have had about his activation this weekend. He tossed 66 pitches for High-A Potomac, hitting 95 MPH with his heater and logging three hits, one run, one walk and five strikeouts over five innings. Club manager Dusty Baker is hoping for a similarly dominant start against the Padres, and told reporters that he’ll hold Strasburg to a performance count as the righty works his way back to a full-time gig.

MLB umpires will wear white wristbands to protest “escalating verbal attacks”

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The World Umpires Association is dissatisfied with the punishment meted out to Tigers’ second baseman Ian Kinsler following his lengthy criticism of MLB umpire Angel Hernandez on Tuesday. Kinsler’s comments were sparked by a confrontation on Monday night, when the infielder was ejected after arguing balls and strikes with Hernandez in the fifth inning.

“It has to do with changing the game. He’s changing the game. He needs to find another job, he really does,” Kinsler told reporters. “Candidly, leave the game. No one wants you behind the plate anymore. No one in this game wants you behind the plate any more, none of the players.”

Kinsler was fined an undisclosed amount for the remarks, but did not receive a suspension. Hernandez, meanwhile, returned to cover second base the next day and appeared to resolve the conflict with a brief conversation and a handshake.

Whether or not the comments speak to underlying truths about Major League Baseball’s flawed umpiring system, they clearly got under the skin of the World Umpires Association. The union released a statement Saturday condemning Major League Baseball for choosing to overlook the “escalating attacks” on the men in blue:

This week, a player publicly and harshly impugned the character and integrity of Angel Hernandez – a veteran umpire who has dedicated his career to baseball and the community. The verbal attack on Angel denigrated the entire MLB umpiring staff and is unacceptable.

The Office of the Commissioner has failed to address this and other escalating attacks on umpires. The player who denigrated Hernandez publicly said he thought he would be suspended. Instead got far more lenient treatment – a fine. He shrugged that off and told reporters he has ‘no regrets’ about his offensive statements calling for an end to Hernandez’s career.

The Office of the Commissioner’s lenient treatment to abusive player behavior sends the wrong message to players and managers. It’s ‘open season’ on umpires, and that’s bad for the game.

We are held accountable for our performance at every game. Our most important duty is to protect the integrity of the game, and we will continue to do that job every day. But the Office of the Commissioner must protect our integrity when we are unfairly attacked simply for doing our jobs.

Starting Saturday, umpires will don white wristbands in protest of the Commissioner’s lack of support, and will continue to do so until their concerns are addressed.

Kinsler’s comments may have been in poor taste, but given the established in-game ramifications for challenging an umpire’s decisions, it’s difficult to tell where the union wants MLB to start drawing the line. If players already face ejections for questioning the parameters of a strike zone (often immediate ones, without any room for a productive or non-confrontational discussion), it seems unfair to hit them with suspensions for venting their frustrations after the game. Until Major League Baseball finds a way to start automating calls, however, the “human element” of the game will continue to pose problems for players and umpires alike.