There is commonsense and no rhyme or reason sometimes. A team that wins 111 games in the regular season and gets bounced in their first round is not the way it is supposed to work. But it’s baseball. The team that wins the final game gets crowned as the World Series champ. How they got there is a route that is often looked at by the analysts thinking they could do the same. But they can’t. Every winner is unique, and the road is not always smooth.
We have looked at patterns of success, and what we realized is that there is no exact path. The 2019 Washington Nationals were the improbable team for all-time in baseball. No other team could do what they did. Don’t try it again because it might not happen for another 100-years. The path of least resistance is to win early and often because it just makes it easier to make the postseason.
Baseball is down to it’s final four to determine this year’s champion. Four teams won 100 or more games in the regular season this year. The Dodgers won 111, and there season ended quickly. In fact, three of the teams that won 100 or more games this season are done, one, the Mets, did not even survive the Wild Card round. Baseball is cruel. All of the hard work of the regular season just might get you a ticket to the dance. It doesn’t mean you go home with the prom queen -or- king.
Sorry Mets, maybe it was Zack Wheeler who you should have extended a few year back. Sometimes you bet on the wrong horse. There are ex-Nats all over this year’s NLCS on the Phillies and Padres rosters. Maybe that’s a tribute to general manager Mike Rizzo, or maybe it is part of the criticism he should receive that the team has failed over and over to retain top players. But truthfully, it is an epidemic in baseball that seemingly every team is afflicted with except for the Atlanta Braves. Oh yes, the Braves, one of the 100+ win teams this year that was bounced from the postseason already. They won the World Series last year with a team that was statistically less on paper. Take the paper, and shred it.
“You have a great year, and you can run into a buzzsaw. Maybe this year we’re the buzzsaw,” Stephen Strasburg said in 2019.
If you can find a real pattern in the numbers with no exceptions, it is that if you lost over 82 games you won’t be going to the postseason. Sure you can find some loose patterns, and that if you win 90 games in a season you will make the postseason. That’s probably very true in the new playoff structure with three Wild Card teams.
But as Ryan Zimmerman said so casually, you need some bounces to go your way.
“In the playoffs, you have to get a couple lucky bounces,” said Zimmerman before the 2019 postseason. “I’ve seen it the other way where the other team gets a couple lucky bounces go their way. It’s a wacky game.”
Groundball hits get applauded by your fans, and conversely the ones scooped up for outs the other 75 percent of the time don’t get your applause. Baseball has an extreme luck factor, and it is those teams that can ride the magic and capitalize get to hoist the World Series trophy. The thing is — the best team for that marathon 162-game regular season usually doesn’t hoist the trophy these days. The Braves had a better regular season team this year and looked so ordinary compared to last year’s World Series team.
Don’t worry, those players on everyone’s roster will mostly be gone from baseball in ten years. It’s just the way it is. Fretting and getting upset that Juan Soto wears a Padres uniform or that Bryce Harper could have been bashing homers for the Nats is not the way it works. The Nats just won their World Series a little under three years ago without Harper. It is the way sports work, and all players realize, sooner or later, it’s just a matter of time.