It’s Anyone’s OctoberPosted: October 2, 2013
As baseball’s best teams duke it out for a World Series title, SI senior writer Tom Verducci says the MLB postseason is more random and chaotic than ever. Verducci writes, “With parity across the sport, no dominant team among 10 postseason entrants and four rounds of playoffs, welcome to Anybody’s October, a two-fortnight roll of the dice.” (PAGE 36)
A’s GM Billy Beane meticulously builds and runs his team through statistical analysis, but he too surrenders October to chance. The notoriously nervous GM can comfortably watch the A’s in October. “Like a 14-year-old Labrador in front of the fireplace,” Beane says. “It’s the one time I can sit with my wife and just watch.” (PAGE 36)
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, whose team won the NL West by the largest margin in baseball (11 games) and boasts the one-two pitching punch of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, says: “There is no clear-cut favorite. It’s not like you can say, ‘Well, jeez, this team won 106 games’ or ‘This team has two No. 1 starters and four guys with 30-plus home runs.’ An upset probably doesn’t exist. You shouldn’t be surprised if anybody from the pool of 10 teams winds up on top.” (PAGE 36)
One trend may suggest who the favorites should be this October: the importance of putting the ball in play. Baseball set a record for strikeouts per game this season for the seventh consecutive year and teams that avoid strikeouts have won more in the postseason as of late.
Verducci notes the offenses of the past eight teams to reach the World Series each ranked ninth or lower in league strikeouts and the four most recent champions ranked 15th, 16th, 12th and 13th. Conversely, in that same span, teams that ranked among the top five in strikeouts lost nine of 11 series. This would appear bad for the Braves (second in the NL in strikeouts), Pirates (third), Reds (fifth) and Red Sox (fourth in the AL), and good news for the Cardinals (14th in the NL), Dodgers (12th), Tigers (13th in AL) and A’s (ninth).
“That is a small trend,” Beane says. “You’re never going to predict anything with small sample sizes. You’ve got to be careful about drawing conclusions.” (PAGE 38)