The leaves are falling. The colors are changing. The ballparks are filling. It’s October, and with all due respect to Santa Claus and Andy Williams, this is “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” And I do not need anymore of a muse than that for the next Hit List:
What are the Top 5 2013 MLB Postseason Storylines?
5. Will the near dead of winter make a difference? For only the second time in MLB postseason history, there will be baseball in November. For the historians, that is one of the most significant MLB postseason storylines in 2013. For the bandwagoners, it’s just a little extra nippy outside to go to the park or the pub. Back in 2001, there was a national tragedy that made the world stand still — including the MLB postseason. For one of the most peculiar MLB postseason storylines in recent history, the World Series began October 24 and ended November 4.
It was warm in New York that year in November — temps in the low 40s — and the other place was Arizona, so there’s that. This year; however, we have teams in Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. There are going to be some pitchers that may have a skosh of an issue hurling a curve ball with a swift November oceanic wind blowing up their knee-high knickers. Good times — pitching red-hot fastballs during a time of the year when you are freezing your snowballs off, not playing in the snow.
4. Who are the closers of the future? With 2013 being the year of “Exit Sandman,” who will be the next torchbearer for “Whom the Bell Tolls?” With Mariano Rivera leaving his post as the man from the bullpen to a guaranteed first-ballot ride into Cooperstown, the question remains “Who is man enough to take his place?” The great thing about the 2013 MLB postseason storylines is that we may discover who that person is by the aforementioned frigid end of the World Series. My odds-on favorite is the closer pictured, Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves.
Consider his numbers in only his 4th year: 1.39 ERA, .90 WHIP, 227.1 career innings and 13.16 Ks/9 ratio. Between his four-seam fastball and his power curve, the dude is about impossible to make contact. And, oh yeah, he’s only the 11th pitcher in MLB history to record 50 saves in a season. Add to the mix Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen of Reds’ and Dodgers’ fame respectively, and we have a winning formula of 9th-inning magic this postseason.
3. Moneyball or Spend-It-All? The Oakland Athletics aren’t the only ones that are running a baseball on WIC stamps and triple-coupon points. See the Pittsburgh Pirates or the Tampa Bay Rays — a team counting on a radio station to get fans to attend games at the
Dump…eh, Trop. These teams have made MLB postseason storylines before, but this year is different because people can no longer complain about going cheap means going lean on talent. The As are closers, the Pirates are made for a movie and the Rays are stubborn, as well as a great team.
And then you have the teams who give the middle finger to the ubiquitous luxury tax and farm system, such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers, who have the 2nd, 3rd and 5th fattest wallets in the Majors respectively. These teams seem to always make MLB postseason storylines for one reason or another, but now they are all in the playoffs, making noise and providing a debate to the worth of smashing that piggy bank in its noggin or not. You have three teams who believe in the Billy Beane idea of sabermetrics and browsing for players at a county swap meet. And the others want to make the New York Yankees jealous. Which is the better way to build a team? Which is the most effective way to get to the playoffs? Which is the fastest way to get ROI in the MLB? Time will tell. And then I will, so tell your friends. Thanks.
2. Will we have a double-Triple Crown winner? There are dozens of MLB writers and fans alike that do not understand the kind of player Miguel Cabrera really is – legendary. And, oh yeah, clean. And then there’s Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles, whom suffice to say, people in Texas have their doubts. How’s that for some MLB postseason storylines? Yet, here they are — both players are up for triple crown consideration.
If there was a favorite, it is the most complete player of this generation in Cabrera. Think about it: .357 average (1st), 43 dingers (2nd) and 130 RBIs (1st). Those are crown numbers, but he is also first in on-base percentage, slugging, total bases, hits, runs, OPS, wOBA, wRC+ — whatever you want to throw out there to measure offensive performance, Cabrera is leading it. (Yes, even I can rock the SABR every once in a while.) It’s more of a one-sided issue because Miggy really has a chance of a repeat Triple Crown winning season, which is just insane to consider. Another race these two are facing together is the AL MVP. It’s been a nice race, sans the needless examples and comparisons of McGwire and Sosa, but even this one has to end. And it will with one holding a trophy and the other being presented with a subpoena to appear in court about his HGH abuse. You be the judge.
1. Will the Pittsburgh Pirates make this season to “Sail Ho” in the record books or just another buccan-year? (Surely, you saw what I did there.) Don’t look now, but the Steel City is not talking football. And that’s all thanks to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Speaking of MVP, meet the NL MVP here in Andrew McCutchen. Thanks to him (and others named Russell Martin, Justin Morneau, Gerritt Cole, A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd and Mark Melancon), this team is riding the MLB postseason storylines train for the first time since 1992.
Sure, the Cardinals have experience and the ability to break hearts in baseball (mine), you would think the edge goes to the Red Birds. Not. So. Much. The Pirates are playing with destiny. Not since the star-embroidered caps of nostalgia — Pops, Parker, Van Slyke, Pena — has the fandom of baseball been behind a team so much, so fast. With a color-by-numbers pitching staff, a just-in-the-nick-of-time free agency and that possible NL MVP dude, this is a team that cannot be stopped. This is the litmus test for “worst to first” MLB postseason storylines. And I can’t imagine — nor the MLB front office could script — one better.