Matt Provenzano [12:11 PM]: Welcome, guys. This is our first of hopefully many live Slack chats, and today we will be discussing the upcoming postseason, a pending possibly entropy-laden Game 162, and anything else we find relevant. Let’s talk about entropy first. Good, bad, excited, boring? Do we think that having no team knocked out today and merely being a home field advantaged wild card team lessens that?
Daniel R. Epstein [12:13 PM]: Not at all! I love game 162. There’s a ton to watch for, but the biggest thing of course is who has to go through a play-in game. That’s incentive enough to make the day worthwhile.
There’s also a Triple Crown watch, for whatever that’s worth, Khris Davis tries for 50 HR, and other milestone-type things like that.
Matt Provenzano [12:14 PM]: And hitting .247 again!
It would be his fourth straight year of that.
Kenny Kelly [12:14 PM]: I was just thinking that it would be better if the games today were canceled, and we skipped to game 163. From an aesthetic standpoint, I’d rather watch the teams competing against each other actually play each other.
Daniel R. Epstein [12:14 PM]: @Kenny Kelly booo.
Kenny Kelly [12:15 PM]: Yeah, I’m more interested in Davis hitting .247 again than Yelich hitting for the Triple Crown.
Matt Provenzano [12:15 PM]: Well I’m sure that’s what MLB thought after 2011, and alas, here we are with the Wild Card game
Daniel R. Epstein [12:15 PM]: Stats that we consider mostly irrelevant are relevant on this day.
Matt Provenzano [12:16 PM]: Let’s talk about the actual entropy predictions. Do we see one tiebreaker, two, or none? You will be proven right or wrong pretty soon, lol.
Kenny Kelly [12:16 PM]: I’m hoping for two, but I’m thinking we’ll get none.
Daniel R. Epstein [12:17 PM]: There’s roughly a 50% chance of one, so I’ll go with that, just as long as I don’t have to pick WHICH one!
Matt Provenzano [12:17 PM]: Yeah, I agree, I think one is going to happen. I’m hoping it’s Milwaukee and Chicago just because that fan vitriol is... kind of electric, in my opinion.
Kenny Kelly [12:18 PM]: Yeah, a Brewers v. Cubs tiebreaker would be rad as hell.
Matt Provenzano [12:19 PM]: So let’s say the Brewers win the Central and the Cubs are knocked out in the Wild Card game. I know there would be a lot of hand-wringing from fans because of how good they have been, generally, since 2015, but are there lessons to be learned there? The lackluster starting pitching definitely comes to mind as a mistake. I know Theo gets a bad rap for post-World Series winning teams, and hey, maybe there’s something to that. Some may see the Darvish deal as akin to Beckett back in the day.
Devan Fink [12:20 PM]: Absolutely, but I’d argue they did what they could to try to make the necessary in-season additions for pitching. I understand why they didn’t go get Chris Archer and went Hamels instead, but there wasn’t a lot out there
Matt Provenzano [12:20 PM]: Hamels probably wasn’t the Original Sin, for sure.
Kenny Kelly [12:20 PM]: Yeah, the pitching hasn’t been great, but it’s weird how poor the offense has been in certain games despite being pretty good all season.
Matt Provenzano [12:20 PM]: A 95 OPS+...
Daniel R. Epstein [12:20 PM]: It becomes revisionist history to point to a 94-68 team and point out its flaws. They’re an excellent team, but sometimes excellent teams lose in a one game playoff.
Matt Provenzano [12:21 PM: Of course! The same could be said for the Yankees, where fans will similarly hand-wave. I think the lesson may be, really, props to the Brewers for doing basically everything right in the past year to get them this far.
Devan Fink [12:21 PM]: The Yelich trade ... wow. I mean, who would have thought that Christian Yelich would have been the best outfielder the Marlins traded away?
Matt Provenzano [12:22 PM]: Signing Lorenzo Cain, as we’ve talked about, was also the steal of an artificially depressed FA market.
Devan Fink [12:22 PM]: Though they traded their entire OF (Stanton, Ozuna, Yelich)
Matt Provenzano [12:22 PM]: I think some keen observers would have guessed, he was right up there with Stanton, even.
Devan Fink [12:22 PM]: I’ll throw in Jhoulys Chacin as an excellent deal made there.
Daniel R. Epstein [12:23 PM]: I know we shouldn’t be talking about the Marlins today, but it’s amazing to think about those outfielders they traded and how they really got very little in return. smh
Kenny Kelly [12:23 PM]: Yeah, what the hell, Jhoulys Chacin?
Daniel R. Epstein [12:24 PM]: This is what I’m talking about with revisionist history though. The Cubs and Brewers have the same record, and the narrative for one is about flaws and the other is about smart acquisitions.
Matt Provenzano [12:24 PM]: Well, depends on your interpretation. What’s more important, where your true talent is perceived and how well you live up to it, or how much you move the needle beyond it?
Devan Fink [12:25 PM]: That’s a fair point, but the expectation is that the Cubs would be high-90s win team. The Brewers, on the other hand, have been a huge surprise. That’s why we’re looking at this through the “revisionist” history lens that you argue. It’s all about expectation versus results, IMO. I’d say that even in a year in which the Brewers win 94 games, the Cubs could still win that division by 2, 3, 4 games no problem
Matt Provenzano [12:26 PM]: I mean, a team this good had a starter (in Tyler Chatwood) allowing almost a walk per inning. It’s odd even though they ended where they would be I think it’s a slight disappointment despite the fact they can’t control how good the Brewers were, largely.
Daniel R. Epstein [12:26 PM]: So the bar is always based on how well you did in the previous season + how well you were perceived to do in the offseason? I’m more in the camp of “You are what your record says you are,” to quote Bill Parcells (I think)
Matt Provenzano [12:27 PM]: I think it’s a really interesting, philosophical question, which is why I want to continue that in a different sphere here before we go down the rabbit hole.
Daniel R. Epstein [12:27 PM]: So what does that say about the Yankees and A’s? They combined for about 200 wins and meet in the Wild Card game.
Matt Provenzano [12:28 PM]: There we go. How we compare those two teams? The Yankees won 100 games, but they made some crucial mistakes, too.
Daniel R. Epstein [12:28 PM]: ...such as letting Judge get hit by a pitch
Matt Provenzano [12:28 PM]: Shane Robinson played for a good chunk of time before they acquired Andrew McCutchen, for example, just in time for them to fall out of the divisional race
Devan Fink [12:28 PM]: I’m of the view that the entire American League is skewed. The records, I mean.
Matt Provenzano [12:28 PM]: Well, Judge getting injured was bad luck, but they still lose the division by 6 games even if he doesn’t. I mean, more.... they were seventh in payroll?
Daniel R. Epstein [12:29 PM]: The Yankees should NEVER be lower than first in payroll. Maybe second.
Matt Provenzano [12:29 PM]: A lot of it was out of their control, and the Red Sox had to have the perfect season, but the Yankees holding back financial resources could backfire if they don’t amp that up in 2019 and beyond.
Daniel R. Epstein [12:29 PM]: However, we have seen payroll doesn’t guarantee results... the A’s bieng the prime example.
Kenny Kelly [12:30 PM]: Also the Giants :disappointed:
Matt Provenzano [12:30 PM]: Well, the A’s forces you into another debate. Does them not spending... *anything* mean they could have won the AL West outright? As much as they didn’t need the money, even an extra $10 million may have made the difference.
Devan Fink [12:30 PM]: The question is, though, how many wins can you really buy?
Matt Provenzano [12:31 PM]: It definitely gets harder as you go beyond 100, that’s for sure.
Daniel R. Epstein [12:31 PM]: Depends how it’s spent. If they bought a bunch of mediocre relievers like Colorado did, maybe some of their excellent young relievers get squeezed out of roles
Kenny Kelly [12:31 PM]: I think it would have been hard to justify spending a whole lot considering where the A’s were perceived to be at the beginning of the season.
Devan Fink [12:31 PM]: When I wrote my article on the best FA signings, the Brewers led baseball with +6.8 wins from FAs
Matt Provenzano [12:31 PM]: That’s fair, Kenny. Once again, expectations are important.
Daniel R. Epstein [12:31 PM]: grrr
Devan Fink [12:32 PM]: So, if we assume that the Athletics acquired a more modest 3-5 wins from free agents, they still might not win that division
Matt Provenzano [12:32 PM]: Also true!
Devan Fink [12:33 PM]: And also, it’s about your free agents adding fWAR over what is currently already in your lineup or pitching staff. Just because a player you added was worth 3.0 fWAR, you have to consider what the hitter who was bumped from your lineup would have been worth, too.
Daniel R. Epstein [12:33 PM]: We’re also assuming it was a fact that the Astros would win a million games again. Surprises happen in the other direction as well, looking at you, Washington!
Matt Provenzano [12:34 PM]: Let’s talk about the NL East, which is of note. The Braves basically came out of nowhere, even if we did think they would be “better. And that came with no significant free agent signings whatsoever.
Devan Fink [12:34 PM]: The Nationals could have still won that division had they played to expectations. Braves are going to finish with 90 or 91 wins. Nationals won 97 and 95 in 2018 and 2017, respectively. Any similar season and a Braves surprise may not make the postseason
Kenny Kelly [12:35 PM]: Yeah, Braves sort of won the division by default.
Devan Fink [12:35 PM]: (Considering they have the same record as LAD and COL)
Matt Provenzano [12:36 PM]: It definitely puts the onus on, say, Philadelphia to pursue Bryce Harper or Manny Machado considering it was theirs for the taking as well.
Daniel R. Epstein [12:36 PM]:
This is bonkers.
Matt Provenzano [12:36 PM]: Cocaine is a hell of a drug.
Devan Fink [12:36 PM]: Philly has the money to spend and the willingness to shift their entire roster if it means fitting Harper, Machado or *both*
Kenny Kelly [12:37 PM]: Yeah, if Philly could hit even a little bit, they could have ran away with the division.
Matt Provenzano [12:37 PM]: And defend....
Daniel R. Epstein [12:37 PM]: Or play defense. Philly was awful there.
Devan Fink [12:37 PM]: I watched far too many Phillies games this year, and I have to say the pitching staff is what killed them too.
Matt Provenzano [12:37 PM]: They did have the worst DRS in history. I think the pitching is entangled with that defense.
Devan Fink [12:37 PM]: Great young starters who put up solid numbers through the first few months who all regressed by the end. Regressed even according to the fielding independent metrics.
Matt Provenzano [12:38 PM]: B-Ref gave Nola nearly a run per nine back in defensive adjustments.
Devan Fink [12:38 PM]: Of course, Aaron Nola is the exception there. But Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin all showed flashes of dominance... all at the same time. And when they stunk, they stunk all at the same time. Even Jake Arrieta didn’t pitch well at the end of the year.
Daniel R. Epstein [12:38 PM]: Assuming they both have young cores and gobs of money to spend, this could be a fun rivalry for the next five years. Braves and Phillies, that is.
Matt Provenzano [12:39 PM]: Nats won’t go anywhere, I suspect. So it should be a three-way race for a long, long time. It may seem in shambles, but Juan Soto is Juan Soto.
Daniel R. Epstein [12:39 PM]: As is Victor Robles.
Matt Provenzano [12:39 PM]: Max Scherzer, we could go on.
Devan Fink [12:40 PM]: The Nationals may not need Harper back
Kenny Kelly [12:40 PM]: Agreed, potentially losing Harper won’t impact them that much.
Devan Fink [12:40 PM]: But from a PR perspective, it’ll be crushing to the fan-base, considering everyone here in Northern Virginia pretty much has a Harper jersey
Matt Provenzano [12:41 PM]: So let’s finish this up with two more things. Firstly, Cleveland has been completely forgotten in this as they wrapped up their division mooooonths ago. I know it comes down to Francisco Lindor and Jose Martinez hitting, which is what sunk them last year, but it’s funny they will play their first meaningful games since the spring. (edited)
Kenny Kelly [12:42 PM]: I forget Cleveland exists
Daniel R. Epstein [12:42 PM]: They’re clearly the worst AL playoff team, so they’ll probably win the World Series.
Devan Fink [12:42 PM]: The Indians are still plenty dangerous, though I wonder what the effect of their cruising will have.
Matt Provenzano [12:42 PM]: Lots of #narrative there
Devan Fink [12:42 PM]: I know I don’t want to face Kluber and Trevor Bauer. Is he healthy?
Matt Provenzano [12:42 PM]: No one knows.
Daniel R. Epstein [12:42 PM]: On the other hand, I certainly do want to face that bullpen.
Matt Provenzano [12:43 PM]: And that’s the difference. They’re no longer the bullpen buzz-saw they were in 2016/17.
Devan Fink [12:43 PM]: I’m not excited to have bullpenning back, honestly
Daniel R. Epstein [12:43 PM]: TOO BAD!
Matt Provenzano [12:44 PM]: My sleep schedule certainly isn’t.
Daniel R. Epstein [12:44 PM]: OPENERS FOR EVERYONE!!!!
Matt Provenzano [12:44 PM]: So to wrap this up... Let’s talk about our postseason favorite. Who Ya Got, and why?
Devan Fink [12:45 PM]: My reason isn’t the best, but I had the Cubs over the Astros prior to the season, so I’m going to stick with that until proven wrong
Matt Provenzano [12:45 PM]: Stubborn, but fair.
Daniel R. Epstein [12:45 PM]: I’ll pick Cleveland over Milwaukee, just because it doesn’t make any sense, and neither does baseball.
Kenny Kelly [12:46 PM]: My brain says Astros, but my gut says the Yankees. Yankees over the Rockies in 4.
Matt Provenzano [12:47 PM]: I wish my gut said the Yankees! I’m going to be the boring pick and say the Red Sox win it all, mostly because a ~110 win team has to mean something, even with 2001 Mariners caveats considered. I go Boston over Los Angeles. Alright, thanks for participating, and go entropy!