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Regular Season Success Means Little In October

By bullpenbrian - October 13, 2012 - 4:15 pm Leave a comment.

Four teams won 90-plus games after finishing the 2011 season below .500: Nationals (98), Reds (97), Athletics (94) & Orioles (93)–a first in major league history. But, not a one remains in this year’s postseason.

The Orioles, despite a convincing 5-1 win against Texas in the AL play-in game, fell victim to Yankee Stadium’s postseason magic. Or in other words, they blew it.

Baltimore not only let Raul Ibanez beat them once, but twice in Game 3…and then floundered with the bases loaded in the top of the eighth with the tying and winning runs aboard against CC Sabathia in a decisive Game 5.

The Yankees left the door wide open for the O’s to take the series. Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and A-Rod went a combined 9-for-75 (.120) with 26 strikeouts. Baltimore, however, went 8-for-37 with RISP, the worst mark in the AL in the Division Series.

The A’s, conversely, just couldn’t get on base against the Tigers, whose 88 regular season wins were the fewest among AL playoff teams. Granted, the A’s did face Justin Verlander twice, but the Athletics had the fewest hits (30) and most strikeouts (50) of any team in either league in the Division Series.

Cincinnati inexplicitly lost its Division Series after winning the first 2-games on the road at San Francisco, allowing the Giants to become the first-ever National League team to recover from an 0-2 deficit after losing the first 2-games. Not to mention, the Reds had 3 straight home games to close the series in this year’s 2-3 format, but failed to do so.

The Giants hit .185 with RISP for the series, the worst mark of any postseason team in 2012. The Reds, meanwhile, had the highest NL average with RISP (.220), but didn’t drive in runs when it mattered most, including having the tying runs aboard in the final four innings in Game 5.

Ah, then the Nationals, who now famously will be remembered for not only shutting down its best power-arm before the postseason, but also allowing St. Louis to overcome the largest-ever deficit in a winner-take-all game…rallying from 6-runs down in Game 5–four of which were plated in the top of the ninth.

So what does it all mean? Basically, the regular season means little, if anything, when it comes to postseason baseball. Some teams, like St. Louis and New York live for moment, and some teams, like the four above, crumble under the pressure. How else do you explain the slumping Bombers and cockroach Cardinals advancing?

The Reds, with arguably the most formidable bullpen in the majors, were suppose to be battle tested after being swept out of the Division Series in 2010 against the Phillies. The Orioles were figured to be battled tested having survived the tough AL East. Oakland was riding the huge momentum from its thrilling season ending sweep vs. Texas to win the AL West…and the Nationals entered the tournament with the most wins in all of baseball (98).

And not one of them has anything to show for it—eliminated, finished, collapsed.

It’s the teams that advanced who understand the postseason is not the same as the grind of a 162-game regular season schedule, but rather the awareness, ability and determination to not let a summer’s worth of hard work be undone.

Hey, 90-plus wins coming off a losing season, that’s nothing to sneeze at…we’re all happy for ya. But to actually make those wins mean something…you’ve got to make them count in October.

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Dempster’s First Big-Game Start Since Oct., 2008

By bullpenbrian - October 3, 2012 - 3:30 am Leave a comment.

The last time Ryan Dempster made a big-game start was October 1, 2008 against the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS at Wrigley Field.

As many of you remember, Dempster didn’t fare too well. He appeared riddled with early-game jitters and his overall performance actually felt worse than his pitching line: 4.2 innings, 4-ER, 4-H, 2-K…7 walks.

James Loney’s fifth-inning grand slam off Dempster erased an early 2-0 Cubs lead and sent Chicago spiraling towards a 7-2 loss–and eventual series sweep at the hands of Los Angeles.

Now four years later, Dempster has his chance at redeeming his big-game poise when starting at Oakland later this afternoon (2:35pm CST). He has not faced the A’s this season.

Meanwhile, having dropped two-straight against the Athletics, Texas is on the brink of wasting what was once a 13-game lead over Oakland. The two clubs enter Game 162 tied atop the AL West division.

Officially, it’s not a playoff game, but it might as well be given the circumstances. And now, more than ever, the Rangers need Dempster to deliver a gem or risk facing a one-game playoff in the wild card round to advance in October.

Dempster’s been as good as advertised since joining the Rangers at the trade deadline (7-3, 4.64), but he’ll have his hands full against a red-hot A’s club that’s won 5-straight and sends AJ Griffin to the mound who’s (7-1, 2.71) over his last 14-starts.

For Cubs fans there’s plenty to root for, and against, depending on how bitter you are from Dempster’s fallout with Chicago after he surprisingly turned down what would have been a lucrative trade with Atlanta this past July.

However, this is exactly what Dempster was holding out for…a chance to play meaningful baseball in October…and a chance to right his playoff misfortunes with the Cubs in 2007-08. Batter up…

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Cubs Billy Beane Style

By bullpenbrian - September 6, 2012 - 3:05 am Leave a comment.

I pulled a Billy Beane last night tuning out the Cubs game in favor of running an errand, grabbing a workout and taking a long walk home enjoying the beautiful weather along Lake Michigan.

I had my ideas how Volstad vs. Gonzalez would play out. It wasn’t pretty. And seeing as how the night before I spent the evening wanting to pound my head against the wall watching the Cubs get thumped, I figured, why watch this horror flick again?

Like Beane (at least how he’s portrayed in the movie ‘Moneyball’) I checked-in on last night’s game infrequently with my cell phone. If something historically big was happening in the Cubs favor, I had a friend standing by ready to call, which, needless to say, didn’t happen.

The first update I read was this Tweet:

Thanks goodness I left the condo. Although, with full disclosure, I did check-in one more time–9-0 after seven-innings. Great.

One difference between Billy Beane and myself is I’ll return to watching the Cubs tomorrow. That’s what baseball addicts do, especially a Cubs junkie like me who whole heartedly enjoys analyzing pitchers, hitters and the strategy of the game–even though the Cubs lack the talent to truly compete.

But I’m certain Cubs fans not as cursed as I am by this disease have already tuned-out North Side baseball; many doing so before the Nationals series, and most after watching the Cubs get walloped in Game 1.

For the most part I’ve kept my piece as a full supporter of the Cubs rebuild. I’ve saved my gripes for what’s been, thankfully, only the occasional stretch of poor effort from the Cubs.

Of course, every team suffers a few pitfalls along the way of a marathon season, but it’s one thing to be able to recover from them and another when you’re in the midst of a 100-loss season.

When talent is lacking, like it is with Chicago, effort is all you got, and that’s what’s made this two-game stretch at Washington so irritating.

Both games have not only been blowouts, but also a saddening display of disinterest on the Cubs part. In fact, it’s been the worst showing of effort, execution and performance this entire season, perhaps, only rivaled by getting swept in Arizona in late June.

If the Cubs’ desire to play the game doesn’t improve over the final four weeks of the regular season, I’ll likely spend more time watching the Cubs Billy Beane style–favoring box scores over the big screen.

I wish that wasn’t the case. But quite simply, this Cubs team has been incredibly hard to watch–even on paper.

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Why You Missed Opening Day

By bullpenbrian - March 29, 2012 - 4:00 pm Leave a comment.

Believe it or not, the MLB regular season is already underway. That’s no joke.

If that’s news to you, however, don’t feel left out. It certainly is for most baseball fans, even the diehards, because MLB did little, if anything, to promote the opening series between Seattle & Oakland in Japan.

I bet most of you have no idea who won, who pitched, who homered…who was the home team? I know I didn’t, except for a small blurb I caught on Baseball Tonight. The rest of the story I found online. (Seattle won Game 1, Oakland won Game 2).

Funny enough, there’s such irony in the fact that while MLB tries to expand its horizons, they failed to reach the fans in its own country, and for the season’s lid-lifter no less!

Even those aware of the ‘official’ overseas opener couldn’t find it on television, including players and managers still wrapping up meaningless spring training games.

And there’s your big kick-off to the 2012 season. Hooray?

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Former Cub Jake Fox DFA

By bullpenbrian - June 16, 2010 - 1:00 am Leave a comment.

Never thought Jake Fox would be DFA by Oakland. He appeared to have All Star potential on the North Sidebut just needed more playing time.

Jim Hendry made the right decision by giving Fox that opportunity…with a trade to Oakland in December. I figured Fox would take advantage of a starting role, even the DH spot, to become that All Star.

Turns out, that never materialized. Fox batted .214 with 2HR and 12 RBI through 39-games. Jake Fox DFA…never would’ve thunk it.

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Jake Fox, Aaron Miles Traded to A’s

By bullpenbrian - December 4, 2009 - 1:00 am 3 comments.

Jake Fox will be an All Star with Oakland. I really believe he’s that kind of player.

With the chance to play everyday, especially given the DH role, I see Fox hitting 25 HR and driving in 90-plus RBI.

Strangely, the Cubs never had a place for Fox to play, which makes little sense for a player of his talents. And for that I fault Jim Hendry. 

When you hand out bad contracts the likes of Soriano, Bradley and Miles, that’s how you end up with potential All Stars like Fox on the trading block.

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Long Live The Oakland A’s

By bullpenbrian - March 31, 2009 - 12:47 am Leave a comment.

Photo | Yahoo! Sports

It appears the Oakland A’s are heading towards San Jose–permanently.

The club’s proposal for a new ballpark village in the Fremont area turned sour in late February and a second approach isn’t scheduled.

Meanwhile, the Raiders still hold court in the Oakland Coliseum leaving little chance the stadium is demolished in favor of a baseball-only facility.

But one thing’s for certain, the days of MLB & NFL franchises sharing the same playing field are over.

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Holliday Heads to Bay

By bullpenbrian - November 10, 2008 - 3:37 am Leave a comment.

Holliday slides safely into Oakland

Holliday slides safely into Oakland, for now.

I’m surprised Matt Holliday is heading to Oakland; I actually expected the slugger would end up in Philly replacing Pat the Bat.

That being said, Burrell is just 31-years-old, and appears to have several more seasons like this one ahead of him (.250, 33 HR, 86 RBIs).

Burrell isn’t the best defensively but, it’s hard to knock a guy who just helped his team win the World Series, so why rush to get rid of him?

On the other hand, Colorado’s pitch to Holliday of a four-year, $72-million extension with a fifth-year player option at $12 million isn’t even close to what the slugger will get come free agency after 2009.

Besides the money issues, Holliday was also discouraged to remain in Denver after the Rockies dismissed Holliday’s close friend and strength coach Brad Andress.

Oakland seems a long shot to sign Holliday to a long-term deal as well meaning Billy Beane will use the left fielder as a trading chip come July.

It’s another crafty move by Beane who’ll more than likely spin Holliday into a package of talented prospects similar to the Dan Haren deal with Arizona.

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