Friday, October 23, 2020

A Historical Look at the 2020 World Series 10/23/20

 Hey baseball fans!

The 2020 World Series is here, which means that it's time for me to give you a historical look on the matchup, which pits the Rays against the Dodgers!

The Tampa Bay Rays are making their second World Series appearance in franchise history and their first since 2008. This marks the second time that a 1990s expansion team is making its second World Series appearance, joining only the Marlins. Having lost that 2008 World Series to the Phillies, the Rays are one of six teams to never win a World Series title. They will be facing the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are looking to win the franchise's seventh ring in its storied history, having not won a World Series since 1988, but making it in 2017 and 2018. If the Dodgers lose the 2020 World Series, they will join the 1911-1913 Giants and the 1907-1909 Tigers as the only teams to lose the Fall Classic in three out of four years. Also, it should be noted that the Dodgers have one of the worst World Series championship percentages out of the teams that have rings. With only six championships in 20 tries, the Dodgers have the third-worst success rate on baseball's biggest stage, behind the Phillies (an original NL team that didn't win its first World Series until 1980) and the Cubs (who didn't even appear in a World Series from 1946-2015). 

This marks the fourth time in the Wild Card era that the top two teams in each league have made the World Series, joining the 1995, 1999, and 2013 editions of the Fall Classic. What's even more interesting is that the 2020 World Series has the highest combined regular season winning percentage of all time. The Rays and Dodgers had a combined winning percentage of .692 during the shortened 2020 campaign, surpassing the 1906 World Series combined regular season winning percentage of .690 between the Cubs and White Sox. In other words, this World Series is supposed to be one of the most competitive World Series ever and I'm excited to see how it all plays out. If you want to know who I think will win the World Series, click here to listen to the newest episode of my baseball podcast, Baseball for Breakfast, where me and my friends talk all about the 2020 World Series!

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Friday, October 9, 2020

My Top 5 World Series Walk-Off Home Runs Of All Time 10/9/20

 Hey baseball fans!

The World Series is only about a series away, so it's time to start imagining how the 2020 edition of the Fall Classic will be entered into the history books! Personally, I'm a big fan of the walk-off home run and hope we see some crazy game-winning dingers during the final stage of the MLB postseason. To honor this, let's run through my top five World Series walk-off home runs of all time. 

Number Five: Derek Jeter, Game Four, 2001

The game-tying home run by Tino Martinez in the bottom of the ninth was amazing, too, but the walk-off by Derek Jeter off of Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Byung-Hyun Kim in the tenth is legendary for Yankees fans. Because the World Series was delayed due to the September 11th attacks, Jeter's home run came during the first moments the MLB has ever had games during the month of November, hence Jeter's nickname, "Mr. November." I like this home run a lot because Jeter was my favorite player growing up and this is one of his best moments and certainly one of his best home runs. 

Number Four: Bill Mazeroski, Game Seven, 1960

See? This isn't a Yankees blog! Maz's shot in Game Seven of 1960 ended a back-and-forth affair between the Yanks and champion Pittsburgh Pirates with the first ever walk-off Series-winning home run (and the only one in a Game Seven). Personally, I think Mazeroski is an overrated Hall of Famer, but I have to give credit where credit is due. He made history against a franchise that hadn't been sent such a crushing blow in their 40-year dynasty prior to that homer. It's a big deal, for sure. 

Number Three: Joe Carter, Game Six, 1993

To put it simply, this used to be my favorite moment in baseball history, let alone my favorite World Series walk-off home run. While Mazeroski's home run came in Game Seven with the game tied, this walk-off Series-ending home run that Carter hit with the Blue Jays against the Phillies came with his team trailing in the ninth in Game Six. The reasons why Carter's homer is so good is the crazy pitching motion by Phillies reliever Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams that Carter read well, the Hall of Famers on base (Paul Molitor on second and Rickey Henderson on first), and the impact that the homer had on the city of Toronto. A lot of Canadians are baseball fans because of this moment.

Number Two: Kirby Puckett, Game Six, 1991

"And we'll see you tomorrow night." One of the best home run calls I've ever heard (it was by Jack Buck, Joe Buck's dad and longtime MLB announcer), and it was made during arguably the best World Series of all time. Kirby Puckett is one of my favorite players ever, and the fact that it was him, the star of the Twins championship teams in 1987 and 1991, that hit this home run against the Braves makes it that much sweeter.

Number One: David Freese, Game Six, 2011

All Nelson Cruz had to do was run a little bit faster, and he would've caught Freese's game-tying triple in the ninth, which would've ended the game and the Series for the Rangers. But instead, we were left with one of the greatest couple of innings that the World Series has ever seen, which ended with Freese's walk-off that sent the St. Louis Cardinals faithful into a frenzy. I remember watching this home run live and realizing that because I was watching it, I was part of history. That's why this homer takes the top spot on my list (even though Joe Buck stole his dad's signature line from the Puckett homer for Freese's homer).  

I'm going to get ahead of some of you and address the missing Carlton Fisk homer that the Hall of Fame catcher hit in Game Six of the 1975 World Series to send it to Game Seven. The Red Sox didn't win Game Seven against the Reds! The home run was meaningless in the grand scheme of things! Sure, Derek Jeter's homer didn't amount to much for the 2001 Yankees in the long run, but that homer doesn't need to be carried by magnitude because it was a Game Four and not a Game Six! But anyway, what do you think of the rest of my list? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Worst To First: A 1991 Baseball Story 9/30/20

Hey baseball fans!

The 2020 playoffs are officially here, with a few notable curse-breakers in the bracket. The Marlins, White Sox, and Padres all snapped massive playoff droughts when they clinched playoff berths this season, with the Marlins and Padres going from last place in their respective divisions in 2019 to the postseason in 2020. Worst-to-first teams have become more common in baseball with the popularity of free agency and the rise of analytics, but I want to talk about the first worst-to-first teams in baseball history, the 1991 Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins. That's right: they did it in the same year and, get this, both made the World Series that year.

Before the Braves won 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005, they were a struggling franchise in the National League West. They finished the 1990 season with a 65-97 record, good for last place. They had pieces, like star pitchers Tom Glavine and Steve Avery, but Greg Maddux was still in Chicago at this time and John Smoltz wasn't the Hall of Famer we all know and love. So, the Bravos went to free agency. Terry Pendleton, a third baseman for the Cardinals, happened to be available, so Atlanta signed him. Boy, what a move, that was. Pendleton would go on to win the 1991 NL MVP by leading the Senior Circuit in hits (187) and batting average (.319). Hall of Famer Tom Glavine made his first All Star Game, won 20 games, and grabbed the 1991 NL Cy Young Award. The rest of the Braves did really well, too, winning 94 games and the NL West by a single game over the Dodgers. They then beat the Pirates in the NLCS to advance to the franchise's first World Series since 1958, where they would face the Minnesota Twins. 

The 1990 Twins, three years removed from a World Series title, disappointed the Land of 10,000 Lakes, only winning 74 games and finishing in the basement of the AL West. Then, in the offseason, they signed slugger Chili Davis and the winningest pitcher of the 1980s and St. Paul native, Jack Morris. They also brought up speedy second base prospect Chuck Knoblauch. Alongside Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett and Twins legend Kent Hrbek, these new stars flourished. Davis hit 29 homers and drove in 93 runs, Morris won 18 games, and Knoblauch stole 25 bases and won AL Rookie of the Year. Couple those stats with solid seasons from Puckett and Hrbek, and the '91 Twins were in business from the get-go. They won 95 games, the AL West, and the AL pennant, setting up the first all-worst-to-first World Series. 

The 1991 World Series is ranked by many, including myself, as the top edition of the World Series in baseball history. Five games were decided by one run, four were decided in the final at-bat, and three went to extras. Was this World Series primed to be this good because of the way the teams got to it? I certainly think so. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Baseball for Breakfast: My New Podcast! 9/20/20

 Hey baseball fans!

Myself and two of my college friends have started a baseball podcast. It's called "Baseball for Breakfast," with new episodes releasing every Monday morning for the foreseeable future. Click here to access all our episodes so far. We're really excited for you to listen!

So, why did we start a podcast? Well, me and my friends, Brendan and Logan, love baseball, but as you could probably guess, have different opinions going across all topics relating to America's Pastime. We figured it would be quality entertainment to listen to us bicker for an hour about who knows what in the world of baseball. What you could also probably guess is that I'm the historical perspective on "Baseball for Breakfast," using my knowledge of baseball history to win arguments spanning generations of baseball fans. So, I figured for this post, I would go into greater detail about our last podcast topic from a historical point of view. If you want to hear the full episode before reading this post, click the hyperlinked words in the first paragraph of this blog post. 

So the topic of the most recent episode of "Baseball for Breakfast" was the rule changes for the 2020 season. We discussed things like the seven-inning double-headers, the universal DH, the expanded playoff format, and the hastened extra innings. For the most part, we as a trio like the changes for this season alone and don't want to see these same rule changes in future seasons. The only rule we all like for the rest of the MLB's existence is the universal DH. The designated hitter has been a position in a baseball lineup going as far back as 1973, when Ron Blomberg of the Yankees became the first DH in baseball history. The DH, solely a rule in the American League, was originally implemented because of the crazy pitching years of the late 1960s, a la Bob Gibson posting a 1.12 ERA in an absurd 1968 year for pitchers across Major League Baseball. The situation is much different today, as home runs have exploded in recent years, but the DH rule for the National League would, as I said in the podcast, homogenize the league. Baseball is the only American professional sport with a noticeable rule differentiation that alters the play between conferences. There's no four-point field goal in the NFC, nor is there s two-point foul shot in the NBA's Eastern Conference. Giving the NL the DH would stabilize lineups across the Senior Circuit and will even out claims that the NL is the "better pitching league," but only in theory. 

The only other rule change I'll go into for this post is the expanded playoff format. For the 2020 season, eight teams from each league will make the postseason, by far the most for a single postseason in MLB history. I don't like the rule going forward, but commissioner Rob Manfred has said that the expanded playoffs are here to stay, so I might as well criticize the decision. Baseball has probably the least equality among its teams out of the over 120 teams in America's four biggest sports. What I mean by that is big-market and small-market teams are much more pronounced in baseball. In addition, the MLB is the Big Four sport where the one seed is least likely to make the championship round. So, having an expanded route to the World Series would give teams that don't generally compete a chance to wreck the league's powerhouses. A perfect example of this is seeing the Marlins in the postseason picture this year. For all we know, they could win their third World Series in franchise history this year. This move would make the World Series trophy a true dogfight, which I personally don't want to see, but will try to accept when the rule change becomes permanent and official. 

Again, make sure to check out our podcast, "Baseball for Breakfast." You can get it anywhere you normally listen to podcasts. And while you're at it, let me know what you think of the 2020 MLB rule changes. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz." 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Cubbies? 9/8/20

Hey baseball fans!

From 1946-2015, the Chicago Cubs failed to win the National League pennant. We can blame their struggles on a plethora of factors, but the Cubs actually sported some great players during that span. Here are my top five Chicago Cubs Hall of Famers during their grueling World Series appearance drought. 

Honorable Mentions: Greg Maddux and Andre Dawson

The one major rule for this post is that the player has to go into the Hall as a member of the Cubs. Maddux and Dawson each won awards in the Windy City, but the Braves and Expos logos on their Hall of Fame plaques means they are disqualified from this list. 

Number Five: Ron Santo

Ron Santo was a staple at third base in Wrigley Field throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. Santo played his entire career in Chicago (his last year was with the White Sox), making nine All Star Games in his 14-year Hall of Fame career. Although his .277 batting average is subpar for Hall of Fame standards, his on-base percentage of .362 certainly isn't. In fact, Santo led the NL in walks in four seasons and regularly posted over 90 walks a season. If he wasn't hampered by the strains of Type 1 Diabetes, who knows what this Cubs legend could've additionally accomplished?

Number Four: Billy Williams

It's hard to separate Santo and Williams apart, considering their primes with the Cubs coincided almost perfectly. But Williams gets the edge in several ways, all of which have to do with his seasonal averages. From his Rookie of the Year season in 1961 to his last All Star Game in 1973, Billy Williams averaged 183 hits, 29 homers, and 98 RBIs a season. To put up that kind of consistency definitely gets a hitter on this type of list. The fact that Billy was a fan favorite only solidifies his spot at #4. 

Number Three: Ryne Sandberg

After the days of Santo, Williams, and the next two guys on my list, the Cubs needed a player to rally around. Besides Andre Dawson and Greg Maddux, that player was Ryne Sandberg. The 1984 MVP and ten-time All Star (all of them consecutive), Ryno was the typical five-tool player. Throughout his career, he had seasons with at least 180 hits, 25 home runs, 30 stolen bases, and/or 100 RBIs. He was also a a Gold Glove second baseman, winning the award nine times in nine years.

Number Two: Fergie Jenkins

The only pitcher on my list, Fergie Jenkins certainly had a career to remember in Chicago. In his twelve years with the Cubs, he posted a win-loss record of 167-132, an ERA of 3.20, and 2,038 strikeouts. For his career, the first Canadian-born Cooperstown resident and 1971 NL Cy Young recipient sits in twelfth place on the all-time strikeouts list, with 3,192 career K's.

Number One: Ernie Banks

Was it going to be anyone else? Mr. Cub was the Cubs from 1953-1971. He won back-to-back MVPs in 1958 and 1959, averaging 46 home runs for those two years. He topped 40 homers in a season three other times, finishing his career with 512 of them, currently good for 23rd on the all-time list. One of the greatest shortstops of all time, the positive attitude of Ernie Banks never failed to cast a smile on Cubs fans. As he used to say, let's play two!

Do you agree with my list? Let me know in the comments section below. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

A Historical Perspective on Baseball's Legal Larceny 8/25/20

 Hey baseball fans!

Even in a shortened 2020 season, we are sure to see some crazy home run numbers across Major League Baseball, a trend that will only continue to pick up as we advance deeper into the 21st century. But with an emphasis on power comes the slow demise of one of baseball's most underrated and exciting statistics: the stolen base. 

Most baseball fans like to think that base-stealing was always as common as it was right before the new millennium, but that's actually incorrect. Maury Wills and Lou Brock were the first consistently excellent base-stealers, regularly crushing the rest of the league in the category throughout the 1960s. But it was "Larcenous Lou" who oversaw the true rise of the stolen base in the 1970s. In 1975, Jerry Remy of the Angels and Jose Cardenal of the Cubs tied for tenth place in baseball in steals with 34 each. In 1976, Freddie Patek of the Royals came in tenth in steals with 51 of them. From 1976-1998, there were only two seasons (besides strike-shortened ones) in which the tenth-best stealer had less than 40 steals, a phenomenon that hasn't happened in baseball since 2006 (Alfonso Soriano, 41, Nationals). What's also important to note is that from 1976-1998, four hitters made it to the 500 Home Run Club (Hall of Famers Willie McCovey, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, and Eddie Murray) but from 1999-2015, twelve hitters accomplished the feat. 

With this information, I wouldn't go as far to say that homers and stealing bases are antitheses of each other, but it is certainly fair to say that the long ball and small-ball aren't not opposites. That's why it makes sense that hitters are stealing less bases and hitting more home runs in modern baseball, but is this good? Does it make sense? Analytically, at least, yes. Hitting a home run is the quickest way to score a run in a baseball game, and sure, a team is more likely to score if there is a runner on second versus one on first, but having more players involved in a run-scoring opportunity makes a team less efficient statistically. But why is base-stealing still important? To answer that question, I'm going to drop some business vocabulary, so hold on to your briefcases. 

A competitive advantage is a proportionate advantage of one entity over another. In the business world, a company that can manufacture a product in a cheaper way than other companies has a competitive advantage in that market. That company isn't unstoppable in that market necessarily, they're just better-equipped. The same thing goes for teams with more base-stealers. As baseball moves more and more into the power department, pitchers and catchers will be trained to be less and less worried about steals. It might be purely psychological, but it'll happen. This would let base-stealers feel more comfortable on the base paths and will collect stolen bases exponentially. Based on WAR, stolen bases might still be inferior to home runs in this future speedy utopia I'm describing, but always remember Syndrome's quote from The Incredibles: "If everyone's super, no one's super." In other words, if every team is trying to win in the same way, the team that will prevail is the team that's winning differently, the team that emphasizes batting average and OBP to reach base, the team that drives pitch counts through the roof, the team with a competitive advantage.

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Coors Effect 8/13/20

Hey baseball fans!

Thus far into the abridged 2020 MLB season, it seems that former and present members of the Colorado Rockies (DJ LeMahieu and Charlie Blackmon) are some of the best hitters in baseball in terms of batting average. DJ is now on the Yankees, but when he played a mile above sea level, he did, in fact, win a batting title. But why are hitters on the Rockies so good? The answer is simple, and I kind of already hinted at it when I said "a mile above sea level." That's right: it's the Coors Effect. 

Denver, Colorado is one of the highest cities in the United States and is also where the Colorado Rockies home ballpark, Coors Field, is situated. This high altitude means that balls hit within the confines of the field travel farther, due to less air density. When Coors Field opened in 1995, the builders were aware of this natural phenomenon, so the field was made with some wide dimensions. But if anything, this just keeps the caverns in between the outfielders open for business. In 2019, Coors Field had the highest park factors in terms of hits, runs, and home runs, meaning that when pitchers pitch there, the ballpark has more to do with their failures than at any other stadium. This works both for and against the Rockies, and here's how. The Rockies lineup has always been full of All Stars. LeMahieu and Blackmon are just the tips of the iceberg, because the current lineup also has hitters like Trevor Story, David Dahl, and my favorite player in baseball, Nolan Arenado. Historically, it doesn't stop there. Todd Helton was a longtime great first baseman in Denver; recently-elected Hall of Fame outfielder Larry Walker made a name for himself in a Rockies uniform; and Andres Galarraga was one of the best hitters in baseball at the turn of the millennium. 

But what about the pitching? Well, while the Rockies rank as one of the best-hitting teams in the modern era, they have had some astronomically terrible pitching seasons. Last season, the Rox ranked dead last in the National League in terms of team ERA (5.56) and have never had a seasonal ERA below 4 in the team's entire history. That's why the Rockies have never won a division title in their 28-year existence. Sure, they've been a Wild Card team a couple of times and even made a World Series in 2007 (which was a sweep by the Red Sox), but they can't keep up in the pitching department because of their ballpark. So, in order for the Rockies to win a World Series, they will have to have one of the best run-producing seasons ever to compensate for the Coors Effect. I, for one, can't wait to see Nolan Arenado hit 60 bombs on the way to the Fall Classic, if it ever happens. 

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."