Lessons Learned from the Divisional Round
I'm sure baseball fans would agree that the 2015 MLB post season has lived up to the hype with plenty of thrills and excitement. Between familiar faces such as the Cardinals and Dodgers to surprising newcomers such as the Astros and Blue Jays, this year's post season seems to have a little more energy than prior years. Exciting energy isn't the only thing playing out through this early part of the playoffs. Even though it may be early, there are some foreshadowing headlines popping up and they are significant.
Now whether or not you agree or disagree with some of these, you cannot disregard the proven facts that are presented within each one. Now without further adieu here are some early post season story lines.
1.) Experience Trumps The Big Bats
Unfortunately for Blue Jays fans, this one is directed towards Toronto. Whether you'd like to admit it or not the playoffs bring an entirely different atmosphere regardless of where you are playing. It differs from sport to sport with each sport having unique aspects to their post season. For Major League Baseball the biggest downfall for inexperienced teams is their lack of patience. From the pitching to the batting regardless of how teams played in the post season, inexperienced post season teams come right out of the gate with guns blazing'.
Now Toronto has handled their inexperience better than most in the past however it still has been a significant factor in each loss for the Blue Jays. It started off in game one with a very shaky David Price, and continued with a bad bullpen performance and limited offense in game two. I myself would love to see the Blue Jays win and move on but all signs point to an early exit for the most potent offense in the MLB.
2.) The Cubs Are Here And The Cubs Are Real
The Cubs have not only exceeded all expectations but they have cemented themselves as a legitimate threat to win the World Series. After all, Marty McFly and back to the future predicted the Cubs to win it all and who am I to disregard a prediction 26 years in the making? Jake Arrieta made the first big statement of the playoffs and proved that a game one NLDS loss doesn't count them out.
The Cubs came storming back against a dominant Cardinals pitching staff to decisively win game two thanks to a five run second inning. They out smarted a smart Cardinals team with two perfectly placed squeeze bunts and made sure they were threatening all game long with batters on base whenever they could. They play the small ball game wonderfully but have the power in Rizzo, Bryant, Russell, and more to make the Cubs well rounded team and the best shot to beat St. Louis and make the World Series.
3.) A Big Wallet Doesn't Mean Postseason Success
Take a look at the past five World Series winners and the budget each had worked with. Since 2010 no World Series winner has been higher than 4th on the richest payroll list. Just because a team has a big wallet doesn't mean that will translate into postseason success. This proves that a cohesive championship team isn't pieced together throughout the regular season, instead a cohesive championship team has had at least two seasons to get together with minor, calculated changes. The Cardinals won the 2011 World Series with the 11th highest payroll in baseball because they did a phenomenal job at working from within and only finding the perfect free agents that gel with the team. Acquiring talent that fits in with the team rather than just to have big name talent is the championship formula.
All of that is simply cold hard facts. Over the past several years the Los Angeles Dodgers have proven just that. The Dodgers have had no hesitation to break out the blank check and pay big money for individual talent. Sure the Dodgers have been one of the better teams throughout the regular season this year, but that same song and dance has been on display the past several years for Los Angeles and yet no postseason success. The Dodger's big check book has shifted their mindset from working within for a cohesive competitive team to a pieced together bunch of big ego talent.
The biggest example of this is the Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Don't get me wrong, Kershaw is a phenomenal pitcher and the Dodgers probably wouldn't be where they are without him, but he's not as great as everyone thinks he is. One would think that if a pitcher is earning over $200 million over seven years they'd be bringing home hardware each of those seven years. Unfortunately for the Dodgers they are paying the big bucks to a pitcher who still has only won one postseason game and performed just as horribly this postseason as the past several years. Sure the Dodgers only gave up three runs to the Mets but all three runs were given up by Kershaw himself. What the Dodgers are paying for now is nothing more than a regular season wonder who has gone 1-6 with 32 earned runs and a 4.99 ERA in crunch time.
Kershaw isn't the sole reason for the Dodgers recent postseason collapses as the offense has stuttered just as bad in the playoffs. The Dodgers are continual proof that you can buy talent, but you can't buy yourself a championship. You can piece a team together all you want but that doesn't translate into a championship team.
So there are some of the early story lines. It's still early in the post season and you can never count out the unexpected atmosphere of the playoffs but these early story lines may just be the only consistency in what could be a wild postseason.