But once in a long while I will read a statement that imparts on me such a strong measure of disagreement that I have to respond. That happened today while reading a piece on the Sports Illustrated website. The article was written by Tom Verducci (who seems to be becoming increasingly irrelevant since he doesn't break news or use twitter) about the year-to-year occurrence of turnaround teams, the main subject being the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks.
You can read the article here, it contains some interesting points about Kirk Gibson and Ron Roenicke as well as some equally interesting numbers on past wildcard teams. An alright read, nothing to write home about but with some creative stats. What draws my ire is a statement made at the end that, well, wreaks of laziness.
Verducci finishes the article with this statement:
9. So what does the future hold for the Brewers and Diamondbacks?
Not much. Both teams are likely to be underdogs in the National League Division Series -- Arizona against a Philadelphia team that hasn't lost three out of five games since July 29, and Milwaukee against an Atlanta team against which it is 3-5 while scoring only 17 runs in eight games.
So what is wrong with this thought? Where to begin. First, the 3-5 record that Milwaukee had against the Braves this season. If you remember, the Brewers played their second series of 2011 as a four game set against the Atlanta (Milwaukee's likely first round opponent) on April 4-7 at home. The second time these two teams played was a four game set starting on May 2 in Atlanta.
Let's say, for a moment, that reading into what happened in the first month and a half of the season is a good idea. Ok then. Call it a five game series since that is what the two teams would play in the divisional series. In the first five games these teams played the Brewers were 3-2. Except it wouldn't have gone to a fifth game because Milwaukee won three of the first four.
But why wouldn't we consider these two teams early season match-ups as a good post-season primer? I mean it's not like they've changed at all since then, they're basically the same two teams right? That's a big negatory. Both teams have added parts, Milwaukee bolstered their bench with the addition of Jerry Hairston Jr. and their bullpen with Francisco Rodriguez while the Braves have brought in Michael Bourn to patrol center field at Turner Field. Yea, that 3-5 is really holding water now.
Zack Greinke had rounded into form by then right? Try again, the former Cy Young winner didn't pitch in the series the teams played at Miller Park and was making his season debut in Atlanta. Suffice it to say that he is pitching a little bit better than he did those first couple months.
Corey Hart? He had only 14 at-bats coming into that series in Atlanta. He had yet to tally an extra-base hit or draw a walk. Hart has 23 home runs now, third on the team.
Milwaukee's first half record? 49-43. Their second half record? 36-14 (Atlanta's are 54-38 and 28-20 respectively).
Milwaukee's first half ERA? 4.07. Second half? 2.89 (Atlanta: 3.12 and 3.90).
When these two teams wrapped on their season series neither team was in a playoff position, the Braves were in third and the Brewers were in fifth. St. Louis, Cleveland, Colorado and Los Angeles were all leading their divisions - not one of those teams would make the playoffs if the season ended today.
The moral of the story is that a 3-5 record earned in what amounts to the first month and a week of the baseball season is only slightly more reflective than a 3-5 record earned in the last week of spring training. To make a statement about a team's chances to win in the postseason based on a week's worth of games in April and May is just lacking reason.
But let's wait and see, if Verducci is picking his winner's based on match-ups in the first two months of the season the New York Yankees did go 3-4 against the Detroit Tigers. So by that logic we should see him picking against the Yanks, right?
Somehow I doubt that.