There is no time in baseball more bedeviled by cliché and hollow commentary than the playoffs. The concentration on just four teams, coupled with small sample sizes in all directions and the toll taken by the long season all play a part in creating an environment ripe for the undoing of expectations.
Witness the events of the past 10 days. David Price and Josh Donaldson look truly vulnerable, whereas Edinson Volquez is suddenly a flamethrowing ace and rookie Kyle Schwarber is destroying baseballs. Solid, but unspectacular players like David Freese, and this year, the Mets' Daniel Murphy, suddenly get hot for a few weeks and become franchise legends. Woe to all the poor sportswriters left to rationalize any of this to the fans. Murphy is well on his way to postseason immortality? Really?! And the goat that cursed the Cubbies was named Murphy? Goats have names?! The baseball gods may despise your narratives, but they certainly seem to have it in for the Chicago Cubs.
With the Cubs now down 0-2 and heading home for Tuesday night's Game 3 of the NLCS, they will have to take comfort in the old standby "you aren't in trouble until you lose a game at home." Do not be deceived. The series may not be over, but the Cubs are in dire straits already. They have to win on Tuesday night. Going down 0-3 is almost certainly the death knell for their season. Fortunately, they have Kyle Hendricks to hold the breach. The Mets can only call on Jacob deGrom to oppose him.
Oh. Oh no. Oh, this looks very bad for you, Cubs.
There are still reasons for hope. Jake Arrieta looked like the best pitcher in the game for months, and has produced a pair of rough outings in the post-season. Pitching far beyond 200 innings for the first time in his career, the Cubs' ace finally appears to have hit the wall. deGrom has shown no such signs, but against a dangerous Cubs' offense stacked with studs like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber, he could easily prove the next sure thing to come undone as he cracks the 200-inning mark for the first time in his young career.
As things stand, the Cubs have to hope they can flip the "pitching wins championships" axiom on its head, at least temporarily. Time and again we seem to see high-powered offenses come undone against the best rotations in the game. While the Toronto Blue Jays have another bullet after David Price to send to the mound in the form of Marcus Stroman, the Cubs do not. For them to turn things around, and give Lester and Arrieta an opportunity for redemption, those big bats are going to have to make their presence felt. If they can't, this deep New York Mets rotation is going to send them packing, and despite what appears a bright future ahead in the Windy City, wondering what might have been had they gone all-in this season.
The High Cost of the Dodgers’ Small Mistakes - FanGraphs, August Fagerstrom
When analyzing a playoff series, we tend to think big picture. Who has the more dominant rotation? Which players figure to make the most difference at the plate? And yet it's a rare thing when two teams play fundamentally perfect ball and the games are decided by who has the better roster. Instead games come down to mistakes. Causing them in an opponent, and preventing them on your own team. The Dodgers weren't badly outplayed in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Mets. Instead they shot themselves in the foot repeatedly, and gave away just enough of the edge in that game to lose it.
October Moment: The unlikeliest of home runs - FOX Sports, Dave Cameron
Daniel Murphy has been a bit more Reggie Jackson than Babe Ruth, but I digress...Cameron breaks down the unlikely eruption of Daniel Murphy, master of the postseason.
The Physics of a Souvenir - The Hardball Times, David Kagan
Several Tigers players were extremely outspoken about fan safety in the aftermath of an ugly incident on August 21st. A foul ball off the bat of centerfielder Anthony Gose struck a fan in the head, causing an extremely tense delay in the game while she was attended to and taken to a local hospital. While the debate over adding additional netting around the home plate and infield box areas continues, David Kagan breaks down the physics of the foul ball, illustrating why those areas are far more dangerous than say, catching a punished home run ball.
Predicting John Lackey's next contract - Beyond the Box Score, Nick Lampe
John Lackey has had an excellent season for the Cardinals while pitching for the league minimum. How much can he expect to make in free agency this winter? Can the Tigers afford him?
Former starters are succeeding in the Cubs' bullpen - Beyond the Box Score, Nick Lampe
The Cubs are getting huge bullpen contributions from former starters like Trevor Cahill, Travis Wood, and Clayton Richard. As one of those who has begged the Tigers to make this a bigger part of their bullpen construction, it's interesting to see the strategy validated.
How Kansas City Royals can cool off Toronto Blue Jays' big bats ... maybe - FOX Sports, Jeff Sullivan
The Blue Jays have been crushing balls all year long. How can the Royals stop them? The advice is pretty simple. The execution is a different story. So far, that execution seems to be going pretty well.
John Gibbons is losing the bullpen battle - Beyond the Box Score, Henry Druschel
Bullpen decisions are endlessly scrutinized in the playoffs, and while nothing has blown up in his face yet, John Gibbons appears to be taking a confusing and dangerous path.