Playoff Odds, Leadoff Walks, and Milestones

News has been slow for the past few days, but there are a few minor points that I thought might combine to merit a post:

– For most of the past week, I’ve been pretty pessimistic about the possibility of the Brewers making a run at the postseason, mainly because there was almost no way it was plausible without them sweeping the Cardinals this weekend. Unfortunately, the Crew came up one run shy today, leaving them six games behind St. Louis with three weeks to go, no more head-to-head matchups, and a gauntlet of teams in between them. As good as the Brewers have looked lately, their recent run (and the club’s briefly revitalized playoff hopes) is simply too little, too late.

At this point, you can probably close the book on all the playoff talk, and I’m sorry if I sounded too intent on crushing everyone’s dreams throughout this whole thing – I was genuinely hoping that I would be receiving volumes of hateful tweets in October after the Brewers pulled it off, but that’s life, especially when your bullpen has blown 27 saves.

However, the last month or so has given fans plenty of reason to feel better about next season. The Brewers are a year removed from a playoff appearance and would almost surely be there this year if not for a complete and total bullpen catastrophe. They have some offseason work to do as far as retaining the core of that team, but the majority of their roster is producing at a playoff level, and the part that isn’t can either reasonably be expected to return to form or can be replaced without too much trouble.

– Over the last few days, Brewers pitchers have managed to string together a relatively high number of leadoff walks. Walking the leadoff man is widely considered to be the worst thing a pitcher can do to start an innings, and both Bill Schroeder and Brian Anderson have been quick to pronounce it as a surefire prelude to a disastrous frame that should be avoided at all cost. On the other hand, the announcers incessantly bringing up this cliché like it was sponsored by somebody is annoying to say the least, to the point that I – and probably others – went into each inning kind of hoping for a leadoff walk just for the vindication that came from seeing the inning pass without anyone being struck down by bolts of lightning.

Unfortunately, this is just as stupid and intellectually dishonest as the kind of thinking that led to the leadoff walk becoming the highest level of baseball anathema, so I decided to defer to what the numbers said. Thanks to this article from the community side of Fangraphs, I didn’t even have to run them myself. Basically, a leadoff walk isn’t any different from a leadoff single or a leadoff hit batsman. It’s certainly bad for the team playing defense, but there’s no impending disaster that’s not inherent in having a baserunner with no outs.

– Speaking of numbers, today is the 20th anniversary of Robin Yount’s 3000th hit. Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times has an excellent article about it that also has interesting facts about a handful of former Brewers (did you know that today is also the anniversary of Rick Helling’s last major-league game?). Check it out.

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