Fans who don’t follow the game of baseball frequently ask “Why are so many new players in the lineup at the end of the season?” That’s the beauty of roster expansion. Veterans who have endured the grueling schedule for so long can get days off and clubs get a chance to see what some of their youngsters can do on the big league stage. For losing teams, these young players are auditioning for jobs on the opening day roster for the succeeding season. Someone may perform well enough to compete for a starting spot at their position next spring training. Someone else may perform so badly, management decides that player is a weak link and is expandable, and just like that, he’s traded off for a different prospect. Now after learning this, that same curious fan might say “So how does roster expansion benefit teams that are actually winning?” Well, it can help them a lot more than you’d think, depending on what kind of pitching a team has in their farm system. To put it bluntly, rookie pitchers can kick major ass in the playoffs. We just saw Sonny Gray throw 8 dominating innings of shutout baseball, striking out 9 and giving up a mere 4 hits. Oh by the way, his start occurred during the divisional series and prevented the A’s from falling down 2-0 in a best of 5 series against the Tigers, with the next game being in Detroit.
It’s becoming more and more common for rookies to have a huge impact in playoff games. In 2010, Madison Bumgarner, a late September call-up, pitched gem after gem throughout the postseason to help the Giants win their first World Series in more than half a decade. In 2008, future Cy Young award winner David Price (another player who came up during roster expansion) would pitch in the Rays’ bullpen throughout the postseason and his electric arm boosted Tampa in their own quest to win a World Series (they would reach the fall classic and eventually fall to the Phillies). And it’s not just the September call-ups who have been making their mark. Gerrit Cole was called up back in June and also had a tremendous postseason debut, limiting the powerful Cardinals offense to a single run over six innings and making sure the Pirates got the split on the road that they needed before the series headed to Pittsburgh. Professional hitters who read this blog might be wondering why I’m giving starting pitchers all the credit. Well first of all, no one reads this blog, so those hitters don’t exist. Second of all, impact rookie hitters in the postseason barely exist either. Pitchers have a distinct advantage when facing a team for the first time. They can get away with things because they have such good stuff and they usually have veteran signal callers who tell them where to locate their pitches and what to pitch to who in a given situation.
Hitters just have a harder time making adjustments in their first year, and once teams find their weakness, they’ll keep exploiting it until the player can fix the problem. Excellent players like Bryce Harper, Jason Heyward, and Troy Tulowitzki all struggled during their first taste of postseason play. So what should we expect as we continue forward in the 2013 playoffs? Expect the pitchers that make it to the next round to continue being weapons. Expect future stars like Yasiel Puig and Wil Myers to struggle, but don’t be shocked if they hit an absolute bomb in a key situation if they get the right pitch. Hopefully this prediction goes down better than my last prediction. One game playoffs are hard to anticipate! Until next time, I leave you with Justin Verlander being Justin Verlander:
I get way too excited when it is playoff time in baseball. The sport really captures the element of how postseason games should be like. The little margin for error, the intensity of the crowd, the unlikely heroes that rise during that time, David Freese Game Fucking 6 in 2011, Ranteria in 20.. no fuck that that gave me nightmares. How the fuck was Cliff Lee owned by Ranteria? Anyways, playoff baseball is awesome. And my Oakland A’s are in it for a second year straight. And face those goddamn tigers yet again. But the postseason is FUN regardless. Here are some things im looking forward to (and hoping it happens) in this years postseason:
- Verlander losing Game 1: Yes this is extremely biased. But man he singlehandely owned the A’s in Game 5 last year in the ALDS. Verlander hasn’t been as good as he was last year, buy hes still Justin Verlander. Now with the 1st game at o.co, and with the A’s having some regular season success against him, if the A’s beat Verlander, it will be a huge boost in the series.
- Yasiel Puigs Shenanigans: If he goes on a tear during the postseason, we will not hear the end of his amazing ability for a loooonng time. Then people will start talking about how hes just as good if not better than Mike Trout, Machado and Harper just to piss me off. If hes “clutch”, im gonna have to turn off ESPN and MLB Network for the next 20 years. Im sick of Puig-mania
- The Pittsburgh Pirates: I just love whats going on at PNC park. When your teams rotation consists of Gerrit Cole, AJ Burnett, Francisco Liriano and Jeff Locke, you know something special is brewing when you win more than 90 games with those guys. Cole is a stud but How the fuck is Liriano doing so well? But that team is going to be fun to watch.
- McCutchen in the Postseason: It could only be for 1 game if they lose the wild card game, but its about time McCutchen got a taste of Postseason baseball for the stud he is. He stayed with the team despite knowing he could land a FAT contract somewhere else. Its gonna be fun to watch.
- Kershaw-Grienke 1-2 Punch: I dont think I need to describe much here
- Bartolo Colon vs Prince Fielder
- “Momentum”: We will hear this word to no end. A team wins game 1, holy shit they have momentum now. They lose game 2, oh well now the other team has momentum now. There is no such thing as “momentum”. Its just one team playing better than the other on that day/night.
- Joe Buck: No FUCK THAT
- Belittling the A’s: They can go on to beat the Tigers 19-0 in game 5 and yet the story would be how bad the Tigers were rather than how good Oakland is. Yeah they’re just a fluky team with shit reject players. Whatevs
- Chris Johnson cussing out a Dodgers pitcher: He will pick beef with one of em for sure. If its Grienke, lets just hope he doesn’t break another collarbone.
- The Yankees: Oh wait, they’re not there. Praise the lord.
- Erin Andrews
Heres to another epic year of great postseason baseball. Lets just hope its not as boring as the world series last year.