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Must-Click Link: A proto “Hard Knocks” with the 1982 Atlanta Braves

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I’ve been a fan of the Atlanta Braves since the mid-1980s, but I’ve never seen “It’s a Long Way to October,” the documentary of the 1982 Braves. Today there is a detailed writeup of it over at The Sporting News, complete with multiple video clips.

It was a project that was ahead of its time. Ted Turner, who owned the Braves, ordered a season-long, in-depth documentary about his ball club. He gave a young Glenn Diamond — a baseball producer for TBS for decades, but who was then a local TV news guy — full access to the team, the clubhouse, the dugout, and especially manager Joe Torre, who was often mic’d up for games. There was practically nothing off limits. It was like “Hard Knocks” for baseball or some sort of reality show, back in an era where behind-the-scenes access was not the sort of thing people expected all that much of.

There are several clips embedded in the story. My favorites involve Torre, who many younger fans may remember as a stoic, sometimes statue-like figure in the Yankees or Dodgers dugout, and who now is MLB’s stern, rulebook-waving uncle, but who in 1982 was fiery and animated. Red Barber narrated the thing. Olivia Newton-John makes an appearance. There’s a big argument from Torre after a play involving part of the wall down the left field line breaking away, causing fans to spill on the field, preventing Bob Horner from scoring. It was timeless in some ways, but very 1982 in some others.

It’s a long article, but one worth reading. If you don’t have the time for it, at the very least watch the video clips. It’s all pretty amazing.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.