The 2015 PostSeason is off to a glorious start for baseball fans, with many of the familiar October teams that even made the playoffs vanquished in the first or second rounds. New York Yankees and their ghosts of post-seasons past with Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez and other veterans? Gone in the wild card round to the upstart Houston Astros whose rebuilding efforts netted a playoff berth a season earlier than expected. How about the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants? Well, it’s not an even year so they didn’t even bother making the playoffs. The MLB payroll leader Los Angeles Dodgers are out too, losing to the New York Mets and their tough young pitching staff and Daniel Murphy. So what makes the best playoff team and how do the Padres get there?
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The Chicago Cubs blasted the Cardinals out of the playoffs with their home run hitters but 2 games into the NLCS those home runs aren’t coming. Likewise the Astros had a lot of guys who hit home runs in the regular season but that well dried up against the Kansas City Royals in the ALDS. So how do we count home runs?
The Dodgers led the NL in home runs with 187, while the Cardinals were the lowest ranking playoff team in home runs with just 137. San Diego by the way came in at 148. The Mets and Cubs came in at 177 and 171 respectively. For actual batting average though, the highest ranked playoff national league team was Pittsburgh in 5th place with a .260 average. The Padres were at the bottom of the barrel with just a .243 average. By this basic logic if the Padres can focus more on basic hitting that will help them at the very least have a few more base runners when the home run is hit. Matt Kemp led major leaguers with 2-out RBI while at least to the fan observer it seemed like Justin Upton led the league in “home runs that didn’t affect the game outcome”.
Of course next you have to look at the pitching. St. Louis had the most wins in the league this year and their 2.94 staff ERA showed why. Don’t forget that is without Adam Wainwright. The Dodgers achilles heel was shown in the playoffs as they heavily relied on Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. While this is not a bad thing – when Kershaw was defeated early on Dodgers fan knew their third starter was Brett Anderson. Gulp. Kershaw this year was able to pitch well in the post-season but unable to save the Dodgers season. It is interesting that the top 5 ERA in the NL ALL made the playoffs. The Padres ranked 10th and finished accordingly.
One interesting note is looking at quality starts – which is a far from perfect statistic but does indicate fairly well where a team’s focus might need to be. Top four in this category again were St. Louis, New York, the Dodgers and Pirates. The Padres come in 6th after Washington (no surprise there) and the Cubs come in 8th with Miami 7th. This suggest very early that perhaps Miami and the Padres could be a surprise team next year with some offensive fortification and bullpen help. Remember of course that Miami had to play a lot of the year without a fully healthy Giancarlo Stanton and a recovering Jose Fernandez.
The Padres hadn’t expected the bullpen to be a concern for them in 2015, but the cracks showed early and consistently. They were able to get some good seasons from Shawn Kelley, Craig Kimbrel, and Brandon Maurer. They did battle the injury bug and other relievers just weren’t consistent in the ‘pen to hold them throughout the long season.
The Mets are showing what strong pitching can give you in the post-season as the Giants have shown their championship runs as well. The Blue Jays are trying to buck the trend and power their way to post-season glory, while the Royals seem well rounded on many fronts but also not exactly dominating on any one front. The Cubs have youth on their side as well as a veteran manager who seems to know how to motivate his team and keep them calm, as well as a veteran in Jon Lester who has been here many times before.
With both Championship Series reaching the midway point no matter what happens we will have a team winning the World Series for the first time since the Blue Jays did in 1993. Incidentally that was also the last time they even made the play-offs. Of course America would love if the Cubs could win for the first time since 1908.
The Padres seem to be just a few tweaks from being a lot better than where they are at now. Unfortunately for them, baseball and its 162 game season doesn’t allow for “close enough” but requires a season long commitment to doing all the things to win ball games and give themselves the chance to win the great play-off tournament.