While fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox are gearing up for the start of the 2018 World Series, the start of the Fall Classic represents a bittersweet time of year for most baseball fans. We will see two talented teams battle it out for all of the fame and glory that comes with winning a championship, which is fun. However, it also means that we are nearing the end of another great baseball season. Even the once-hectic playoff schedule slows to a crawl, with just one game per night (if that) for the next five to eight days.
Still, now is as good a time as any to look back on the 2018 playoffs and see what we have learned from this year’s postseason.
This week’s question: what has been your favorite storyline of the playoffs so far and why?
Brandon: Bullpenning is going to be a major topic from the postseason through teams’ offseason moves and planning. It has been interesting watching managers deploy their pitching staffs. Brewers manager Craig Counsell using Wade Miley for one hitter in Game 5 to force the Los Angeles Dodgers to flip their lineup was wild, for example. A lot of fans don’t like the trend toward bullpenning, while others love it. I’m still agnostic as to how effective the strategy can be and what personnel are needed to make it work, so I’m interested to see that play out. But now, with postseason games on the line and every pitching staff seemingly running on fumes, I think watching these teams try to get to the finish line is really fascinating.
Zane: I absolutely love everything that the Brewers are doing. Starting Wade Miley and then switching him after just one batter was genius no matter the result of the game. Starting Brandon Woodruff in Game 1 of the NLDS was shocking to me as well, and it worked very well! I find it particularly interesting that Counsell did not show his hand until the postseason rolled around, too. We have all discussed Kevin Cash’s genius in detail this season, but I think Counsell deserves a lot of recognition for his management, even though the Brewers did not make it to the World Series.
(I personally think MLB needs to regulate bullpen usage due to all of this new innovation before it gets out of hand, but I love watching managers use non-traditional tactics to gain an advantage in the meantime. Just imagine if Jim Leyland or Brad Ausmus had thought outside of the box in their time managing our best teams.)
Rob: I also like that the Brewers are giving the finger to baseball tradition, and I absolutely do not want MLB to regulate this in any way.
Another good thing: teams getting more nasty and petty with one another in the media. The NBA is arguably more entertaining off the count than on now, and I wouldn’t mind baseball trending in that direction somewhat. We don’t need to go full NBA — I like not knowing who the champion will be before the season even begins, thank you — but a few offseason tiffs or banana boat tweets would be nice.
Zane: I love that, too. We need more baseball copypasta. If baseball can strike a balance between entertainment on and off the field, it would further cement itself as the alpha sport. The NBA is by far the greatest reality show on the planet, but it’s so boring knowing which teams will make the finals year in and year out.
Patrick: Bullpenning is the story of the moment, and there’s no doubt that the role of relief pitchers continues to expand. However, I think the Brewers have a unique situation with such a strong bullpen and not-so-strong rotation. Pulling the starting pitcher before he struggles the third time through the order is one thing, but going with an “opener” and a bunch of relief pitchers for a full game is another matter. I think this has a limited application in playoff baseball going forward.
One story line that interests me is all the former Tigers scattered around the major leagues, leading their teams to victory. J.D. Martinez vs. Justin Verlander with David Price stealing the show is fascinating, although bittersweet.
Ashley: I’m pretty into the whole discovery that Manny Machado is a genuine on-field weenie and hope it impacts his offseason signing potential. Dirty play is a bad look, but it also secretly delights me when I find out popular people suck.
Cameron: My favorite storyline of the playoffs is the Cleveland Indians getting blasted out of it. I’m not happy that the Red Sox will be representing the American League in the World Series, but as long as it’s not that team from Northeast Ohio raising the big trophy at season’s end, I’ll be content.