October 2012

Sports Weekend Wrap-Up

By Jeff Dickson, Director of Food & Beverage

What a weekend it sports it was. If you missed any of the action, I’m here to highlight the biggest news and best games, and recap the football picks Andrew and I made on last Friday’s podcast. But I’ll warn you…it was ugly.

MLB Playoffs

The weekend got kicked off with an incredible night of baseball that featured not only two excellent series ending games, but one of the best and most improbable playoff comebacks ever.

The first game of the evening was a tight 3-1 New York Yankees defeat of the Baltimore Orioles to win what had been the most evenly matched series so far this post season. CC Sabathia got the win for NY, pitching a complete game and holding off the Orioles as they threatened multiple times in the late innings.

But as good as that game was, it was no match for the drama of the series deciding NLDS Game 5 match-up between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Nationals. Washington got off to a quick start, scoring 3 runs in the first off of Cardinals star pitcher Adam Wainwright. They ended up chasing Wainwright in the third inning, en route to taking a 7-5 lead heading into the 9th inning. 

The Nationals, in front of their home crowd, brought in their fantastic young relief pitcher Drew Storen to finish out the game. Storen had appeared in only 37 games during the season, but pitched exceptionally well, to the tune of a 2.37 ERA. 

No one, I’m sure, was ready for what would happen next. The Cardinals, of course, came back. But not only did they tie the game, they took the lead. A two run lead. They scored 4 runs in the top of the ninth, two runs each on base hits by Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma.

The Nationals failed to score in the bottom of the ninth and, just like that, their season was over. I’m sure it will be a while before they get over the loss, but it was the end of a very special season for the Washington franchise.

The only game on Saturday was Game 1 of the ALCS between the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees. It was a long, 12 inning game which was ultimately won by the Tigers. But not before a little drama.

Bullpen meltdowns continued to be the theme of the weekend, as Tigers’ closer Jose Valverde gave up 4 runs in the bottom of the ninth as the Yankees sent the game to extra innings. The final blow of the inning was a two run, game tying home run by Raul Ibanez. It was yet another clutch homer by the Yankee who also huge home runs in the ALDS against Baltimore. The Tigers were stunned, and it looked like Yankees were in business.

What ended up happening, however, was much worse than just a loss for NY. Not only did the Tigers score twice in the 12th, and ultimately win the game, but the Yankees captain and shortstop, Derek Jeter, broke his ankle and is out for the rest of the playoffs. Losses are tough, especially in extra innings, but as long as the series isn’t over there is always that next game to rebound. It’ll be hard, though, to rebound from the loss of Jeter.

Sunday featured two more close games, as the Tigers took a 2-0 series lead with a 3-0 win over the Yankees and their struggling offense. Not as much drama as in game 1, although there was bit of controversy over a blown call that went in favor of the Tigers.

The NCLS got started with the Cardinals beating the San Francisco Giants 6-4 to take a 1-0 lead in the series. The Giants then evened the series up on Monday night, beating the Cardinals 7-1.


NFL

Like most football weekends there were some good games, some great games, and some blowouts. There were also a few surprises, like the New England Patriots losing to the Seattle Seahawks or two of the top teams, the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers getting trounced at home by the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants, respectively. 

But the biggest shock, the best game and the most drama all came on Monday night. Fast forward to half time of Monday’s game when the Denver Broncos went into halftime down 24-0 to the San Diego Chargers.   Enter: Peyton Manning. The Broncos, not at all sharp in the first half, were led by in the second half by their quarterback who went 13-14 for 167 yards after halftime as Denver scored 35 unanswered points to beat the Chargers 35-24.

Manning and the offense couldn’t win the game all alone, of course, and the Denver defense helped out in a big way. The Broncos intercepted Chargers QB Philip Rivers four times, including one for a touchdown by Chris Harris. 

The two teams are now tied for first in the AFC west with 3-3 records.

PICKS

On the Weekly Crawdads Boil Podcast last Friday, Andrew Buchbinder and I made picks for three NFL games, as we will do each week for the remainder of the season. Each week we’ll keep track of how we did right here, even when the picks go as poorly as they did this week.

(Winners in bold)

New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers

Andrew: NYG

Jeff: SF

Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets

Andrew: IND

Jeff: IND

Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans

Andrew: HOU

Jeff: HOU

Records: 

Andrew (1-2)

Jeff (0-3)

Jeff is entering his third season with the ‘Dads and second as the Director of Food & Beverage.  The Oneonta, NY native joined the Crawdads in 2011 as a concessions assistant, and has previously worked with the Oneonta Outlaws as a sports marketing intern.  Jeff is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and is a die-hard fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and North Carolina Tar Heels.

Should Triple Crown = MVP?

By Jeff Dickson, Director of Food & Beverage

Baseball is great, isn’t it? And great as the final day of the 2011 season was, this year was even more improbable. Who saw the Nationals having the best record in the league? Or the Orioles and A’s in the playoffs? Not to mention the late, incredible run the A’s put on to chase down the Rangers and win the West. And, perhaps most impressive of all, what about Miguel Cabrera winning the Triple Crown? The first one since 1967, no less. Truly a special season for the Tigers slugger.

Why, though, is it so special? Well, if you’re a fan of the history of baseball like me then you’ve probably associated the words Triple Crown and the name Carl Yastrzemski the same way you’ve done with 56 and Joe DiMaggio, or .406 and Ted Williams: as sacred, nearly untouchable feats, the likes of which we would not see matched in our lifetimes.  But Miguel Cabrera proved this to be untrue.

But what does it mean? Well, from taking a quick look at the landscapes of sports media and sports fandom it appears to mean that the Triple Crown should automatically make Cabrera the American League Most Valuable Player, no questions asked. But I do have a question to ask: why?

Baseball is a game of statistics, no doubt. But why are the three Triple Crown categories (batting average, home runs, runs batted in) seemingly the be-all end-all of hitting stats? For one thing, they are among the oldest stats in a game that sure does love its history. They were on the back of baseball cards. They were the stats shown on television when the game was first beginning to be broadcast. They resonate with fans. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they are the best stats.

I guess before going any further I should mention that I think Mike Trout, the rookie centerfielder for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, should be the AL MVP this year. But I don’t want to get too much into the war of statistics between the two players, at least not yet. I’d just like to explain why what Trout has done this year should not be immediately dismissed, despite Cabrera’s supremacy in the Triple Crown categories.

My first problem with these stats is the use of them. By taking stock in leading the lead in any category one must also take in context the rest of the league. My point: with his 2012 AL league leading batting average of .330, Cabrera would have been second in the National League. And last year, when Cabrera led the AL with a .344 average, .330 would have been good for only fourth. Now, a .330 average is nothing to scoff at, but in most seasons it won’t win a batting title. This year that particular category was a bit of an anomaly, and I don’t think an anomaly should play a part in determining the MVP.

The biggest problem that I see is not with average, though; it’s with RBI. By consistently being at or near the top of the league in batting average, Cabrera has shown an uncanny ability to hit for contact as much as power. It really is incredible. But his league leading 139 RBI says as much, if not more, about the lineup around him then what he was actually responsible for.

If the Tigers lead-off hitter, Austin Jackson, didn’t have a 60 point increase in on-base percentage, maybe Josh Hamilton edges out Cabrera for the RBI crown. And what if Hamilton, who missed 15 games, played in 5 or so more and hit another two home runs? Then we aren’t even having this discussion. Yes, there are always a lot of what if scenarios that ultimately don’t matter. And yes, Cabrera should get some credit for playing in 161 games. But this all is just to illustrate my point that leading the league in these categories only means so much when you realize how many people play a role in the statistic leaderboards.

What should be done, then, when determining an MVP, is taking the best candidates side by side and examining their seasons. This will go beyond HR, AVG and RBI. We need to look also at on-base and slugging percentages, and thus OPS (on-base plus slugging). Let’s not discount base running and defense. And sure, to some extent we can take a peek at where the teams play a role in this, but we have to remember that baseball very much and individually played game and one player can only have so much impact on the standings. And even if you want to give Cabrera credit for the Tigers making the playoffs, just remember that the Angels actually finished with a better record than the Tigers while playing in a tougher division.

There are many other new stats that support Trout, things such as RE24 and WAR, but in an attempt to keep this relatively simple I’ll look to more common stats to argue for him. Trout led the lead in steals and runs which, if you are going to give credit for home runs and RBI, you certainly can’t discount. There is also one stat that Cabrera led the league in that helps out Trout here: his 28 double plays grounded into (GIDP). If Cabrera should be lauded for his ability to hit with runners on base (RBI) then he should also be penalized for his failure in those situations (GIDP).

I could go on and on. And on. But if I don’t stop now, I might go on forever. I’ll end by saying that Cabrera will almost certainly with the award, and that’s ok. I get it. But this is just another battle between the old guard and the new guard of baseball fans and writers. The new guard has won a few of these battles (Felix Hernandez and Zach Greinke Cy Young awards) and will win many more. I understand the lore of the Triple Crown is too much for even those writers who are starting to accept some of these new metrics.  But it should be noted that not all Triple Crown winners have won the MVP, so even in the days before WAR and OPS and the like it wasn’t a guarantee for the award. So why should it be now?

Jeff is entering his third season with the ‘Dads and second as the Director of Food & Beverage.  The Oneonta, NY native joined the Crawdads in 2011 as a concessions assistant, and has previously worked with the Oneonta Outlaws as a sports marketing intern.  Jeff is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and is a die-hard fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and North Carolina Tar Heels.

‘Dads Playoff Predictions

With the 2012 playoffs right around the corner it’s time for the Crawdad’s staff’s post season predictions.  The Crawdads want to know how you think the playoffs will unfold!

 

Jared “Walk off” Weymier:

AL:

Wild Card – Texas over Baltimore

Division – Oakland over Detroit

Texas over New York

ALCS – Oakland over Texas

NL:

Wild Card – Atlanta over St. Louis

Division – Cincinnati over San Francisco

Washington over Atlanta

NLCS – Washington over Cincinnati

World Series:

Washington over Oakland

Andrew Buchbinder:

AL:

Wild Card – Texas over Baltimore

Division – Detroit over Oakland

New York over Texas

ALCS – New York over Detroit

NL:

Wild Card – St. Louis over Atlanta

Division – Cincinnati over San Francisco

Washington over St. Louis

NLCS – Washington over Cincinnati

World Series:

New York over Washington

 

Matt Moes:

AL:

Wild Card – Texas over Baltimore

Division – Oakland over Detroit

New York over Texas

ALCS – Oakland over New York

NL:

Wild Card – Atlanta over St. Louis

Division – Cincinnati over San Francisco

Washington over Atlanta

NLCS – Washington over Cincinnati

World Series:

Oakland over Washington

 

Megan Meade

AL:

Wild Card – Texas over Baltimore

Division – Detroit over Oakland

Texas over New York

ALCS – Texas over Detroit

NL:

Wild Card – Atlanta over St. Louis

Division – Cincinnati over San Francisco

Washington over Atlanta

NLCS – Cincinnati over Washington

World Series:

Cincinnati over Texas

 

Douglas Locascio:

AL:

Wild Card – Texas over Baltimore

Division – Oakland over Detroit

Texas over New York

ALCS – Texas over Oakland

NL:

Wild Card – Atlanta over St. Louis

Division – San Francisco over Cincinnati

Washington over Atlanta

NLCS – Washington over San Francisco

World Series:

Texas over Washington

 

Jeff Dickson

AL:

Wild Card – Texas over Baltimore

Division – Detroit over Oakland

New York over Texas

ALCS – Detroit over New York

NL:

Wild Card – Atlanta over St. Louis

Division – Cincinnati over San Francisco

Atlanta over Washington

NLCS – Cincinnati over Atlanta

World Series:

Cincinnati over Detroit

Playoff Fever

By Jeff Dickson, Director of Food & Beverage

The Texas Rangers, major league affiliate of the Hickory Crawdads and back to back American League Champions, will be making another appearance in the MLB postseason. After a loss last night to go along with an Oakland Athletics win, the two teams are tied for first in the American League West but both are guaranteed at least one of the two wild card spots. They would each surely like to win the division, as that would place them directly in the divisional round of the playoffs rather than in the wild card match up, a one game playoff between the two wild card teams with the winner moving on.

That addition of the second wild card spot in each league has added some intrigue, if not the drama to match the end of the 2011 regular season. As it currently stands, in the American League the Baltimore Orioles would face either the Rangers or A’s in a one game playoff of the two wild card teams, with the winner to face the top seeded division winner. As of today that would be the New York Yankees, who currently hold the best record in the league.  

The other American League spot has been secured by the Detroit Tigers, who have won the Central Division and will be the third seed. They are in line to play whoever wins the West.

In the National League the division races are all wrapped up. The Washington Nationals have won East, the Cincinnati Reds the Central and the San Francisco Giants the West. The wild card winners are the Atlanta Braves and the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

This new change to the playoff system had two main goals: to add drama to the end of the regular season, and to better reward teams for winning their divisions. Has it worked? Well, first of all, there was no way this season could match the end of the 2011 regular season which concluded with one of the most exciting and dramatic days of regular season baseball history. That being said, this new format hasn’t yielded enough drama to warrant an additional playoff spot.

 Yes, the National League playoff spots would have been secured days ago had it not been for the second Wild Card, but save for a little hope for a few extra teams there really hasn’t been what I would consider any drama. The two closest and most dramatic playoff races are actually in the chase for division titles in the AL East and West. If anything the extra Wild Card may be taking some drama away in these cases, as both second place teams are in the playoffs even if they do not win the division, albeit for only one game for one of those teams.

All of that aside, there are some very interesting storylines heading into the postseason. Not only have the Washington Nationals unseated the Philadelphia Phillies from their perch atop the NL East, but they are tied with Cincinnati for the best record in the majors. If winning the division after years at the bottom of the league wasn’t enough of a story, they will be heading into the playoffs with perhaps their best and most important player, all-star pitching Stephen Strasburg. The righty went 15-6 with a 3.16 era on the year but was shut down by the team for reaching their self imposed innings limit, in place to keep Strasburg, who missed almost all of the 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery, from reinjuring his throwing arm. If the Nationals don’t win the World Series you can bet that there will be loads and loads of stories that bring this back to attention. Actually, it will probably be a story all the way through until they either win it all or get knocked out.

And just down the road, in Baltimore, the Orioles are back in the playoffs for the first time since 1997. And you want drama? The O’s have done this with by far the lowest run differential of all the teams in or near the playoffs, thanks in large part to an incredible 16-2 record in extra innings.

Then look out west. The A’s came out of nowhere to claim a spot in the postseason (and sport an 11-5 extra innings record) when most people thought they would be near the bottom of the division along with the Mariners.

Oh, and back the Reds. While they came into the year with higher expectations than these other surprise teams, I doubt there were many who thought they would have the best record in the sport this late in the year. Especially with star first baseman Joey Votto having played in only 110 games.

And the superstars. Even with a handful of surprises, there will still be plenty of names you’ll know and players to follow. Atlanta Braves and future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones is back in the playoffs in his final season. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain will try to lead the Giants to another title. Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Prince Fielder will carry the Tigers into the postseason. You may have heard of a few guys on that Yankees team. And of course, back to the parent squad of the Crawdads, the Rangers are led by Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre. 

The Orioles and A’s are bit younger and may not have the big names, but that makes their stories even more compelling.  Then there are the Cardinals, the one team that doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest. No more Pujols. No more LaRussa. Not full of rookies, but not led by a bunch of superstars, they slip into the playoffs a little under the radar. Actually, quite a bit under the radar considering that they are the defending champions. But I’d imagine that is just how they’d like it.

Jeff is entering his third season with the ‘Dads and second as the Director of Food & Beverage.  The Oneonta, NY native joined the Crawdads in 2011 as a concessions assistant, and has previously worked with the Oneonta Outlaws as a sports marketing intern.  Jeff is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and is a die-hard fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and North Carolina Tar Heels.