Author: Craig Calcaterra

Wild Card

Playoff Reset: The AL Wild Card Game


Each day throughout the playoffs we’re going to be doing what we’ll call a reset. Not always a preview, not always a recap, but a generalized summary of where we stand at the moment and what we have to look forward tonight.

Today, of course, is Day One of the playoffs so we can really only look ahead, so let’s look ahead to what’s on tap in tonight’s one and only game.

The Game: Houston Astros vs. New York Yankees, American League Wild Card Game
The Time: 8:08 PM Eastern. Or thereabouts.
The Place: Yankee Stadium, New York
The Channel: ESPN
The Starters: Dallas Keuchel vs. Masahiro Tanaka

The Upshot:

  • Dallas Keuchel is the Astros’ ace and may very well win the Cy Young Award, but he’s (a) pitching on three-days’ rest; and (b) not in Minute Maid Park, where he is clearly superior compared to how he does on the road. At the same time, (a) the Yankees haven’t figured him out this year, going scoreless against him in 16 innings and striking out 21 times, including a poor performance against him in the Bronx a month or so ago; and (b) lefty sinkerballer types are basically the platonic ideal of a pitcher you want to throw against the Yankees to drive them crazy. While, historically, pitchers going on short rest in the playoffs fare poorly — in the past 20 years they are 18-37 — sinkerballers and extreme groundball pitchers fare much better than most. It ain’t a perfect setup for him, but you gotta like Keuchel here.
  • Meanwhile, Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka has made one career start vs. the Astros: this year, back on June 27. He got beat up, allowing six runs in five innings, receiving no decision. Those disclaimers about past performance not being indicative of future results you see in financial services commercials should apply to this and all other past matchup stats you see in the postseason, however. One random start here or there — or two in Keuchel’s case — doesn’t tell us a ton. This is baseball and tomorrow is always another day. At least if you don’t lose the Wild Card Game. More of a concern for Tanaka: rust. He has pitched only once since tweaking his hamstring against the Mets on September 18 and it wasn’t a good outing. At least he’s rested?
  • Both teams are dependent on the longball but both teams have struggled at times on offense down the stretch, with the Yankees’ bats being particular quiet in the season’s last month or so. Someone needs to wake up A-Rod. And Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Chase Headley and Brian McCann for that matter too. Of course, all of that firepower may not matter. The playoffs often see offenses go quiet and pitching come to the fore. Both teams have decent bullpens — the Yankees’ far, far more than decent — and given Tanaka’s rust and Keuchel’s short rest, this one is very likely to come down to multiple innings of hard-throwing relief. That favors the Yankees if they can keep it close.
  • Both teams are basically stumbling into the postseason, with the Yankees having lost six of their last seven games. They’re also under .500 since the end of July. The Astros swooned themselves in the second half, going 11-16 in September before rebounding in the season’s last week. Good thing momentum generally isn’t a thing in the playoffs — remember those 2000 Yankees losing 15 of 18 before the playoffs started and then won the World Series! — because neither team here has much of it.

This is the Astros’ first playoff game in a decade. While the Yankees haven’t been in the postseason since 2012, there is a lot of playoff experience here, making this an interesting study in contrasts from a storyline perspective. At least if you’re into storylines. Personally I’m not. I’m more into baseball games and in this baseball game I think Keuchel is a tough draw for the Yankees, even on short rest. For New York to advance they’re gonna have to be a team they haven’t been for weeks and maybe months: one that lays off junk down low and hits the ball hard.

Veteran’s Committee candidates for the Hall of Fame announced

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The Baseball Hall of Fame has announced the candidates for Veterans Committee consideration for the 2016 Hall induction class. The VC sorts its ballot by era, with each year’s candidates representing a different part of baseball history. Up for consideration: Pre-Integration Era candidates.

Here are the candidates, with short bios paraphrased from the Hall of Fame’s actual press release because, really, who alive who is not a baseball historian is super-familiar with many of these guys?

Doc Adams: a member of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club in 1845 who helped standardize the game’s tools and contributed to the establishment of the shortstop position. May actually be the inventor of “grit.” I mean, I don’t know this for sure, but he is a white shortstop, so . . .

Sam Breadon: Owned the Cardinals from 1920 until 1947. Hired Branch Rickey and helped create the blueprint for the modern farm system with minor league clubs owned or controlled by the parent club. Which, to be fair, wasn’t necessarily the best deal for a lot of folks, even if it was a good deal for baseball owners.

Bill Dahlen: Shortstop from 1891-1911 for the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Braves. He was a power hitter for his era. Not that his era was known for power. When he retired he was the All-Time Home Run King. With . . . 84.

Wes Ferrell: Pitched for 15 seasons from 1927-1941, compiling a 193-128 record for a lot of teams, though doing his best work for Boston. A six-time 20-game winner, including winning 25 games twice. As far as wins/ERA politics go, he was Jack Morris before Jack Morris and was probably a good bit better than Jack Morris.

Garry Herrmann: President of the Cincinnati Reds from 1902 to 1927 and chairman of baseball’s ruling National Commission from 1903 to 1920. Gets credit for helping bring the AL and NL together and starting the World Series. Demerits for running a conflict-of-interest-riddled National Commission which was disbanded in favor of the Commissioner system following the Black Sox Scandal, maybe?

Marty Marion: Thirteen seasons in the majors, 1940-50, 1952-53, batting .263 with 36 home runs and 624 RBI at shortstop. Mostly with the Cardinals. Was named the 1944 N.L. MVP Award winner, twice also finishing in the top 10. Considered one of the best fielding shortstops of his era. His prime almost perfectly coincided with the war years, which may have taken the shine off of some of his offensive numbers during that stretch, but he was considered a top shortstop, at least with the glove, for a long time after the war too.

Frank McCormick: Eight-time All-Star and the 1940 National League Most Valuable Player with the Reds. A first baseman, his comps are Sean Casey-types.

Harry Stovey: An outfielder in the National League and the American Association in the 1880s and 1890s, leading his league in home runs five times and runs scored four times. His pic at the Hall of Fame site is of a wood engraving. Baseball is old, you guys.

Chris von der Ahe: Owned the original St. Louis Browns franchise – now the Cardinals – from 1881 through 1899 “and demonstrated his visionary qualities with entertainment options at games.” No word on whether he invented The Cardinal Way.

Bucky Walters: Pitched 19 seasons in the major leagues, from 1934-1950, compiling a 198-160 lifetime record. Mostly with the Reds. Won 27 games once. Was the MVP as a pitcher in 1939, which is pretty sweet.

As the Hall notes, Dahlen, Ferrell, Marion, McCormick, Stovey and Walters are included for their contributions as players, the other four are inclusions for their off-field careers.

The Pre-Integration Era ballot is determined this fall by the Historical Overview Committee of the Hall of Fame, which is comprised of several historians and journalists. They are: Dave Van Dyck (Chicago Tribune); Bob Elliott (Toronto Sun); Jim Henneman (formerlyBaltimore Sun); Rick Hummel (St. Louis Post-Dispatch); Steve Hirdt (Elias Sports Bureau); Bill Madden (formerly New York Daily News); Jack O’Connell (BBWAA secretary/treasurer); Jim Reeves (formerly Fort Worth Star-Telegram); Tracy Ringolsby (; Glenn Schwarz (formerly San Francisco Chronicle); and Mark Whicker (Los Angeles News Group).

The results of the voting will be announced at the Winter Meetings in early December.

Starts times of postseason games announced


Every year the playoff schedule is announced, every year people complain. And it’s understandable why they do. After six months of games starting at around 7pm — bam! — the playoffs come and you’re either staying up late or tuning in early to watch your local nine.

Of course, the reason for this is that Major League Baseball has two fundamental problems to deal with when the playoffs come around (a) the country is big; and (b) baseball is local and two-thirds and more of the fans don’t have a local team to root for in the playoffs. As such, baseball has to make a schedule that somehow deals with teams — like the Mets and Dodgers — who have big time differences between their home fan bases while trying to rope in as many national viewers as possible.

This means compromises and weirdness like, say, the first couple of Mets-Dodgers games starting after 9pm Eastern time on Friday and Saturday. Or the Texas Rangers starting a game at what, back home in Texas, will be 11:45AM. Which, admittedly, aren’t great start times, but do we expect Dodgers fans in L.A. to fight Friday rush hour traffic and be home in time to watch a game featuring the local team any earlier than 6pm? Seems like a tall order.

Anyway, the early round schedule was just released and you can see it below. If you are so inclined you can find all manner of inconveniences here. Sure, if you don’t have a job — or if being online and watching baseball all day is your job — Friday’s back-to-back-to-back-to-back playoff games are pretty sweet. But otherwise, just plan accordingly and do the best you can.

And remember: no one gives a rip about these schedule issues about ten minutes after the games start:

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