Friday, October 14, 2016
Have you ever wished that you could budget the events that happen in certain months like you do an insurance or electric bill?
I certainly do.
The first two months I would attack would be March and October. Why must those two months continually hurl time-consuming, energy-sapping activities/tasks at you so that you have no idea what date it is, what day, sometimes even what hour? High school playoff games, on top of the baseball postseason, on top of the NFL, on top of work upheaval and restructuring, on top of seasonal change activities, on top of emergency home repairs. Spread it out a little!
Usually my down time includes hobby activity or low-key game viewing or random household activities. But in October, if you have a team in the postseason, virtually all of one's downtime is spent pacing in front of the TV.
The last two innings of last night's Dodgers-Nationals NLDS-deciding game, I barely sat down. You know that feeling you get when you're in that room waiting for the doctor to come in? That was me.
Still, in the rational part of my mind (or maybe the irrational part), I knew the Dodgers would win. As soon as Jayson Werth was thrown out at the plate (Corey Seager possibly could have chased him down with the ball), I knew that was the beginning of the end for the Nats. And Joc Pederson's home run officially clinched my feeling the Dodgers would win.
There is something 1988 about this Dodgers team. I've noticed it ever since the Giants started squandering their NL West lead. The Dodgers cobbled together a division title with bizarre turns of events and dramatic wins that made no sense, just like in 1988. There is no way a team that is so desperate for pitching help that scraping someone up for the mound virtually each inning becomes their modus operandi should win. Nor should a team that put more players on the disabled list than any other team in history win games. But they do and still are.
I have watched Dodgers playoff games since 1977. I totaled up all of L.A.'s postseason games since I started watching games. There have been 110. I know I haven't watched every one, but I bet I've watched 80-85 percent.
I can't recall a game quite like the one I saw last night. Of course, that's true because it lasted longer than any postseason game in history. Where does it rank among the other Dodger postseason games I've seen?
I really don't know. It's up there. Probably in the Top 10. Kirk Gibson's hobbled homer in 1988; one of those NLCS games against the Mets in '88 (there were so many); Rick Monday's HR in Montreal in '81; Bill Russell's walk-off base hit to score Ron Cey in the '78 NLCS; something or other in 2008 or 2009, and this game. (P.S. Ron Cey hit a grand slam in the first Dodger playoff game I ever saw, Game 1 of the NLCS against the Phillies in 1977).
I don't get into many of the newer baseball stats, mostly because my brain is older and it was never that thrilled about math in the first place. But I do like the "leverage index" stat, which measures the importance of a game situation, as well as an individual player's leverage. Clayton Kershaw's ninth-inning appearance last night, in which he retired the final two hitters with two runners on base and a 1-run lead, ranked third in terms of leverage index for any Dodger pitcher in the postseason. No surprise, Orel Hershiser's Game 4 relief appearance against the Mets in the 12th inning in 1988 was first. And Jesse Orosco's appearance in that same inning was second.
There's another connection to 1988.
I almost wish that Kenley Jansen could have finished the game last night. How long had it been since a closer threw a three-inning save in the postseason? Three-inning saves by a closer were a common occurrence in the 1970s when I first became acquainted with the term "closer." So, although people were flipping out over putting Jansen in during the seventh (and I admit I had no idea what Dave Roberts was doing at the time), it's certainly not new and it doesn't have anything to do with nerds winning. It did break a pattern that's lasted for too long, and I like that.
The Dodgers' ability to produce the unexpected -- the manager's ability to do the unexpected -- is freeing for a fan. There is no need to rely on an established player or established protocol. Because watching the Dodgers sometimes it seems like THERE ARE NO RULES. That's a lot of fun.
And that's what I felt in 1988. Mickey Hatcher's going to hit an epic home run here? Yeah, OK, didn't expect that. Kirk Gibson can't walk but he's going to bat against the whole league's best closer? Sure, throw him in there. It's not supposed to work. Hell, I don't know, maybe it is. There is no reference point!
So, hopefully, this will make it easier to watch the NLCS against the Cubs. I look at the Cubs as a better team than the Dodgers. They're built a little better. The pitching is better. But, pssshhhh, none of that has seemed to matter at all this year for L.A. They can barely figure out who is starting after Kershaw.
I have already mapped out which games I will be able to see live. Games 2, 4 and 5. The others I'll just have to catch glimpses at work and hope the DVR records a win (Last night's epic win is preserved forever).
As for the cards I show here, they're just three cards off my Nebulous 9 list that was sent to me by Judson of My Cardboard Habit. That was quite nice of him.
I'll post each player's postseason stats here just to continue the theme.
Yasiel Puig (2013-16): 21 G, 62 AB, 16 H, 2 3B, 5 BI, .258/.333/.339
Jay Howell (1988): 4 G, 3.1 IP, 3 BB, 3 SO, 8.10 ERA, 0 W, 1 L
Jackie Robinson (1947, 49, 52-53, 55-56): 38 G, 137 AB, 32 H, 7 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 12 BI, .234/.335/.343
But don't ask me what it means. Especially this postseason.