I’m with the those who say playoff baseball is as much random chance as anything else. I don’t believe it takes anything away from the champions, because everyone has a chance to the rules of the game before they play it, but it’s different enough from the regular season that you shouldn’t be surprised when the team that struggles to make it in the playoffs succeeds or the one with the great record falls, and quick.
For most of the second half of this season, I’ve been worried about the Cubs being the latter. The 2008 Cubs regular season was the best in my lifetime; they surpassed the ’84 Cubs sometime in August, and the other teams aren’t close. As much as I enjoyed that, I kept thinking back to another Lou team, the 2001 Marniers, and how it all came crashing down in a blink of an eye. Regular season success doesn’t guarantee you anything.
Most Wins, NL
2007: 90 (Colorado, Arizona)
2006: 97 (Mets)
2005: 100 (St. Louis)
2004: 105 (St. Louis)
2003: 101 (Atlanta)
2002: 101 (Atlanta)
2001: 93 (Houston)
2000: 97 (San Francisco)
1999: 103 (Atlanta)
1998: 106 (Atlanta)
In the previous ten years, only the 99 Braves, the 04 Cardinals and the 07 Rockies made it to the World Series. Accounting for last year’s tie, there was a 27.5% random chance the best team makes it out the NL. 30% did, which doesn’t say much for being the best team.
I’ve had these numbers in the back of my head for a few months, and visions of Webb, Haren and RJ shutting the Cubs down just as easily as last year. Thankfully, Arizona took care of themselves so the Cubs wouldn’t have to try, but that doens’t mean I’m not fearful of being crushed even harder this year.
At least I was, until the series in Milwaukee against Houston. The Astros had plenty of excuses (some valid) for their performance, but the way the Cubs absolutely crushed them while breaking away from the division. They Cubs were so dominant when they need to be, they seem significantly better than the rest of the NL teams. The Brewers and the Phillies had to fight to make it in the last week and the Dodgers would’ve been fifth in the NL Central. The Cubs are a step ahead, a big enough step to outweigh the numbers.
Maybe even a big enough step ahead to avoid all the expecations, all the hype (each paper will have a story a day about a possible Chicago/Chicago World series, and it’ll be five stories if they make it to the LCSs) and everyone trying to capitalize and monetize the Cubs success. I love baseball, I love the Cubs, but I know I’m going to hate a billion things going on around it the next three months.
Look, a break. Like this thing is coherent or focused at all.
1: Dempster vs Lowe
Derek Lowe’s line for the last 7 games:
If the Cubs can steal this game, this series is going to be a rout. It turns to the Cubs advantage for Game 2-4, but this as tough a start as the Cubs are going to get.