World Series

Take that 2017 title away from the Astros -- and here's the reason why

Take that 2017 title away from the Astros -- and here's the reason why

I have had a hard time coming to grips with the whole Houston Astros cheating scandal and the ensuing punishment.

I believe players should have been punished individually for their participation in the sign-stealing scheme but I was never real sure about taking away their 2017 World Series championship.

Now I’m sure, though, after hearing more information about the obvious impact the cheating had not only on the winning team but the losing team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

This video, from Tom Verducci, the noted baseball writer from Sports Illustrated, brings to light an unbelievable statistic that I had never heard before, about the pivotal Game 5 of that Series.

Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers had pitched the opening game of the World Series in Los Angeles and it was a gem -- he allowed only one run over seven innings, walked none and struck out 11 in a 3-1 Dodger win.

Then in Game 5 at Houston, with the Series tied 2-2, the Astros returned to their home park, the site of the sign stealing. And just absolutely blasted Kershaw out of the game.

But here’s the thing: Anybody who knows baseball knows all about Kershaw’s devastating slider and curveball. They are terrific pitches for him. Unless you know they’re coming.

Verducci revealed that out of 51 sliders and curves Kershaw threw in that game he got ZERO swings and misses. None. Which is ridiculous. Impossible.

They didn’t chase that nasty slider in the dirt and they didn’t get fooled by the curveball.

You think the Houston hitters didn't know what was coming? And that it didn't help them to a great degree?

Of course, Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, has had to deal with all sorts of “choker” accusations about his performance in the postseason but this information sheds a different light on that game. And on that Series.

Houston eventually went on to win Game 5, 13-12. Had the Dodgers won, they would have taken a 3-2 lead back to LA, where they won Game 6 before dropping the deciding Game 7.

If you want further stats about the impact of cheating on Houston’s postseason run in 2017, you can find some mind-boggling home/road splits here.

Baseball needs to act and act immediately:

Take that trophy away from Houston. Just vacate the 2017 championship.

The Astros just can’t be allowed to call themselves champions of that season.

Dodgers have the home field for Game 7 -- for the right reason?

Dodgers have the home field for Game 7 -- for the right reason?

One game for a championship. The World Series is on the line tonight in Dodger Stadium to climax one of the most entertaining Series in recent years.

Los Angeles owns the home-field advantage because it won 104 games this season. The Astros won 101. Of course the teams played in different leagues and thus played much different schedules. Houston is in the American League, which has been considered the superior league for the past several seasons. This is the first season baseball has decided its home field based on best record -- a practice that has become common in just all the other leagues. But this just isn't right.

I've never liked it. In baseball, basketball and football these teams don't play the same schedules. It just seems to me very unfair to go by record when one team may have played a much easier schedule than the other. For a while, baseball experimented with the giving the home field to the league that won the All-Star Game. But nobody seemed to like that method and instead of going back to the practice of simply alternating the home field from year to year, baseball went the way of everybody else and decided it on best record.

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Home field in baseball is not the factor it is in basketball, where home-crowd pressure on officials is a real factor in deciding outcomes. In baseball, most of the advantage comes from the fact that the home team gets to bat last -- which is an obvious edge. Going into the ninth inning and knowing how many runs you need to win the game really helps.

Certainly SOMETHING has to decide the home field and for me alternating it is probably the fairest thing. At least each league can plan on getting the edge every other year.

Who will win this season? There is no question the Dodgers have a decided advantage in the bullpens, which is becoming a very big deal in the postseason. But this has been an unpredictable World Series, full of dramatic and sometimes surprising twists and turns. Which makes me think that somehow the Astros will figure out a way to win it.

On the Dodgers' home field.

Game 2 of the World Series: Welcome to modern-day baseball

Game 2 of the World Series: Welcome to modern-day baseball

Welcome to Modern Baseball. I hope you enjoyed Game 2 of the World Series Wednesday night because it was the best of new-age, analytics-based baseball.

Home runs? It's what the game is about these days. Yes, I'm guessing the ball is juiced, which is fine with me. But add in all the attention to launch angles, exit velocity and the fact that nobody wants to hit ground balls into shifts these days, you're going to get more home runs. And I love it. Eight home runs in a Series game was amazing and five in extra innings was shocking.

For too long, baseball has embraced a silly sort of one-base-at-a-time approach that has led to needlessly giving up outs with weak grounders to second and sacrifice bunts in early innings. Nobody ever paid good money to watch players bunt. And unless it's a weak-hitting pitcher bunting, the numbers just don't justify it.

I was watching a playoff game a couple of weeks ago -- wish I could remember who the participants were -- and there was a runner on second and nobody out. And of course we got all the usual pablum from the announcers about how the hitter has to make a "productive out" so the offensive team could "manufacture a run." You know, hit the ball to the right side of the infield. Hogwash. What happened was the right-handed batter took the first pitch, a hanging curve he could have hit into the upper deck, because it wasn't suitable for hitting to the right side of the field to advance the runner. On the second pitch he grounded weakly to second and became an instant hero.

He got huge back-pats from teammates and announcers for coming up with a weak out. "He did his job," they say. "He moved the runner up."

Sorry, I'd rather have a two-run homer or a simple line-drive single to left field. Even a walk. "Productive outs" are still outs -- and you get only 27 of them. Don't just give them away. And again, I think the analytics will back me up on this. Today it's all about the long ball and walks. Run the pitch count up, take your walks and belt three-run homers.

Of course there are a few things in the "new" game I don't like, foremost of which is the trend to overuse relief pitchers. All those pitching changes extend the game times and I think, in the long run, are detrimental to pitching staffs. It's led, like last night, to removing starters too early and asking closers to get six-out saves. I have no trouble with closers throwing more than one inning, but if that's what you want to do, go old school and have them do it in the regular season the way Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage did it. Don't condition them all season for one inning of work and then in the postseason, the most pressure-packed times, ask them to double their work load and do something you didn't ask them to do all season.

This World Series features two teams that are leaders in statistical analysis. They compile data and have learned how to use it to their advantage. It's a very underreported part of this World Series. These guys have come up with algorithms to analyze pitch sequences, if you can believe it. And the reason I bring this up is that I'm just sick of the old timers clinging to their tired and boring way of playing the game and deriding the new era of statistical analysis. There are still so-called experts who don't know OPS from TNT and it's time they did a little studying.

If you don't respect new information, you're never going to learn anything. And if you want to stop learning, just go away.

The Cubs win a World Series, in spite of Maddon's overmanaging

The Cubs win a World Series, in spite of Maddon's overmanaging

There is very little need for me to say much about Game 7 of the World Series between the Cubs and Indians Wednesday night. You saw it. If you didn't see it, you don't care anyway.

It was a dose of baseball that affirmed once again that no sport builds drama the way this one does. An incredibly tense game that had even the most non-partisan fans squirming in their seats.

The Cubs had this game locked up until Chicago Manager Joe Maddon's overmanaging turned the game around. Maddon had such a quick hook, particularly with his starting pitchers, that he eventually put his bullpen at risk, particular ace closer Aroldis Chapman. He had used Chapman Tuesday night in Game 6 with a six-run lead -- not exactly a vote of confidence for other pitchers he'd used all season in set-up roles. Both managers did this, of course -- making this the first World Series when no starting pitchers got an out beyond the sixth inning.

Chapman was obviously not himself physically. He was spent -- and Maddon got what he deserved when the Indians tied the game.

But Joe wasn't done trying to put his imprint on the game. In big situations, a lot of managers just can't keep their hands off the game. In the top of the ninth with the game suddenly tied, Maddon called for a surprise squeeze play with Javier Baez at the plate with a full count. Baez fouled the bunt off -- a strikeout -- and Hayward died at third. Sorry Joe.

The Cubs got a couple of runs in the top of the 10th when the Cleveland bullpen also ran out of gas and then got through the bottom of the inning when a two-out Cleveland rally fell short by a run.

Great game. Curse ended. Chicago GM Theo Epstein locked up his spot in baseball's Hall of Fame.

Enjoy it, long-suffering Cub fans. And stay humble -- it could be another century before it happens again.