The scheduling mess that is the MLB playoffs

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As we had to sit through yet another night without baseball on Saturday, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports penned a pointed piece on the scheduling embarrassment that is the MLB playoffs:

Beaucoup bucks buy Fox the leverage to insist on starting the World
Series on a Wednesday instead of the Saturday that was standard until
2007. That’s right: The World Series should have started already. Only
because Saturday night is a TV ratings sinkhole, and the potential of
two games on Saturday makes Fox executives cower, they make us wait.
And wait. And wait.


Didn’t used to be that way. Prior to 2007, there was a standard
formula employed since baseball introduced the wild card. The playoffs
always started the first Tuesday following the regular season ending.
The LCS would begin seven or eight days later. And the World Series
came 11 days after the start of the first LCS.


Now the postseason starts on a Wednesday. And while the LCS this
season began eight days later, the World Series doesn’t start until 13
days after the first LCS game. There are off days built in specifically
to adhere to Fox’s request of a Wednesday start, and with the World
Baseball Classic already pushing the season back a week, there will be
at least one – and as many as four – World Series games this November.

Because baseball was always meant to
be experienced in mittens and snow hats. At least they’ve thrown us a
bone by giving us slightly earlier start times, however the late
innings of the ALCS games have been a chore to sit through, even for
the most die-hard of fans. Coincidence or not, things have worked out
pretty well for FOX and TBS this October, although they have the
presence of the Yankees to thank for that.




The Phillies will have a week layoff
when the World Series begins on Wednesday. And as Passan points out,
such a long break isn’t necessarily an indicator of anything. More
recently, the 2006 Tigers sat for seven days and were defeated in five games by the
Cardinals, while the 2007 Rockies went nine days between games before
getting swept by the Red Sox. However, the 1995 Braves or 1996 Yankees
didn’t complain, as they both went on to win the World Series with
week-long breaks.

Imagine for second if the Yankees actually won Game 5 on Thursday. It would have been a whole six days before Game 1 of the World Series. What a joke. Again, MLB and FOX have the Yankees to thank for making things interesting and safeguarding them from a real P.R. nightmare.
  

Kershaw-Sale anything but a pitcher’s duel

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World Series Game 1 was billed as a battle of aces, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw against Chris Sale of the Red Sox. Between them, they have 14 All-Star Game nominations. Kershaw has won three Cy Young Awards. Sale could his first Cy Young Award this year. Among his 10 seasons with at least 110 innings pitched, Kershaw has never posted a sub-2.92 ERA. Sale has been at 2.90 or below in each of the last two seasons. The two have combined for over 4,000 career strikeouts and both have averaged better than a strikeout per inning over their careers.

And yet Tuesday’s Game 1 was anything but a pitcher’s duel between Kershaw and Sale. Though a couple of fielding mistakes weren’t of any help to Kershaw in the first inning, Red Sox batters were squaring him up good. Of the five balls put in play in the first inning, three had exit velocities of 100 MPH or higher. Of the 12 total balls put in play against him overall, five reached triple digits in exit velo.

Kershaw gave up a pair of runs in the first, another run in the third on a J.D. Martinez double to straightaway center field, and another two in the fifth. Kershaw led off the fifth by walking Mookie Betts, then giving up a single to Andrew Benintendi, ending his night. Ryan Madson relieved Kershaw and proceeded to allow both inherited runners to score. All told, Kershaw yielded five runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts on 79 pitches in four-plus innings.

Sale, meanwhile, was on the hook for individual runs in the second, third, and fifth. Dodger hitters weren’t squaring him up quite as well as the Red Sox batters squared up Kershaw, but Sale was still more hittable than usual. Of the eight balls put in play against him, four were at least 90 MPH in exit velo. One of the runs was a no-doubt solo home run to Matt Kemp in the second. The Dodgers chased Sale in the fifth when he issued a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier. Matt Barnes relieved him allowed the inherited runner to score. Overall, Sale threw 91 pitches in four-plus innings, serving up three runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.

The game is now, as has been generally the case throughout this postseason, a battle of the bullpens.