Friday, September 30, 2011

ALDS/NLDS notes and oddities

By Rick Morris

^ Not since 1999 have the playoffs failed to feature a team from California. Coincidentally, Arizona and Texas won the Western Divisions that year as well.

^ The ALDS marks the first time that all four teams in a league’s playoff bracket have won the pennant in the last half-decade.

^ This year, the American League is replicating the ALDS of 1997. In that year, all four AL skippers (Mike Hargrove, Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella and Joe Torre) brought World Series managing experience to the postseason. Also, last year in the NLDS, all four managers (Dusty Baker, Bruce Bochy, Cox and Manuel) had been on the biggest stage. These are the only two previous instances where one league featured a full slate of managers with World Series experience. For that matter, in this entire postseason field, only Milwaukee’s Ron Roenicke and Arizona’s Kirk Gibson have not managed in the World Series – but all true baseball fans are familiar with Gibson’s playing experience in that realm.

^ Here’s the strangest baseball stat of the year: since the divisional round of playoffs was instituted in 1995, only three times has the postseason featured both Charlie Manuel and Bobby Cox – or neither of them. Almost every year is like this one: with just one of them managing there (actually, Cox is fully retired from managing). Cox skippered the Braves to the divisional round from 1995-2005, while Manuel managed the feat for Philly from 2007-10. In addition to 2006 being a year absent either of them and 2010 featuring both of them, the only other year to break this pattern was 2001, when Manuel joined Cox in the postseason as the manager in Cleveland at the end of their run.

^ It’s always exciting to take a look at the emerging stars getting ready to make their October debuts each fall. Because there are so many repeat teams from recent years in this field, there aren’t as many this year as in some autumns past. Some of the most prominent are Alex Avila, Doug Fister, Ivan Nova, Matt Moore, Paul Goldschmidt, Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Josh Collmenter, Shaun Marcum, Zack Greinke, Domonic Brown and Hunter Pence.

^ Should Milwaukee and St. Louis meet in the NLCS, it would mark the first meeting of two teams that once met in a World Series (in 1982). For that matter, Milwaukee is trying to become the first team to win the pennant in both leagues.

^ Credit to Wikipedia: along with the Cubs, the Phillies are one of only two old-line NL teams who the Yankees haven’t lost to in a World Series.

^ If the Yankees and Phillies make it to the World Series as they did two years ago, they’ll be creating a rare matchup: only three times before have franchises returned to play each other in the World Series with a year in between their last meeting (As/Giants in 1913/15, Cardinals/Yankees in 1926/28 and Dodgers/Yankees in 1953/55).

^ In terms of potential renewals of rivalries between cities in the World Series, New York and Philadelphia top the list because of the many playoff meetings and divisional battles they have seen across all four major sports. Philly vs. Texas would be intriguing because it would match the markets engaged in one of the NFL’s great enduring rivalries.

^ The World Series has never failed to feature an “old-line” franchise (those who were around prior to the post-1961 expansions in the game). So that’s one more strong note in favor of Philadelphia winning the National League pennant, which they are heavily favored to do. But 2009’s “all-old line” World Series between Philly and the Yankees is pretty rare in the recent history of the game. The last few were St. Louis vs. Detroit in 2006, St. Louis vs. Boston in 2004, the Yankees vs. Atlanta (keeping in mind that the Braves go way back, in Milwaukee and in Boston before that) in 1999 and 1996 and Cleveland vs. Atlanta in 1995. So in terms of the likelihood of seeing the Yankees vs. Philly again or the Yankees against the Cardinals, you have to go back to the first two years of the LDS format in 1995-96 to find a World Series comprised solely of these franchises in back-to-back years.

^ Here are potential rematches from past World Series in this year’s field: Cardinals-Yankees (previously 1926, 1928, 1942, 1943 and 1964), Cardinals-Tigers (previously 1934, 1968 and 2006), Phillies-Yankees (previously 1950 and 2009), Phillies-Rays (previously 2008) and Diamondbacks-Yankees (previously 2001).

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