Angels slow to start 2013

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The L.A. Angels, some prognosticators’ pick to win the AL West, have stumbled out of the gate to a 2-8 start, dead last in the division. As I write this, they trail the Astros, some prognosticators’ pick to win fewer than 55 games, 2-0 a night after getting blanked 5-0. With a loss tonight, they would be in danger of a series sweep tomorrow afternoon.

Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for the Halos. Josh Hamilton, whom they signed to a five-year, $125 million contract over the off-season, entered the night with a .492 OPS. Mike Trout, the defending AL Rookie of the Year, is hitting .227 with no homers. Jered Weaver is out until late May with a fractured elbow. The starting rotation has otherwise been dreadful, posting a 6.02 ERA entering tonight, the third-worst mark in the Majors.

That being said, all the Angels have to do to keep the faith is look at Albert Pujols. Many pronouced the slugger dead last season when he entered May with a .570 OPS and no home runs. From the start of May through the end of the regular season, Pujols posted a .910 OPS with 30 homers.

Their -23 run differential through ten games is their third-worst in franchise history. Their fourth-worst? They were at -20 through ten games in 2002, the year they won 99 games during the regular season and the World Series.

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 now have a 2-0 series lead despite the fact that they’ve only played five innings of baseball.

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?