Wednesday, October 5, 2016

An Astros Fan's Guide to the Playoffs: NL Edition

Yesterday we covered the American League teams in the playoffs, now it's time to do the same for the National League teams.

San Francisco Giants, 87-75, Wild Card

EYBS. These dudes won in 2010, 2012, 2014 and they snuck into the 2016 playoffs despite blowing 30 saves and going 30-42 in the second half. That's some even year devil magic right there. Or it's how you ride a hot first half into the playoffs, that sounds more familiar to me, anyway.

Former Astros: Hunter Pence. Did you know that Hunter Pence set a career-high .899 OPS during his rookie year, while an Astro? All three categories in 2007: BA (.322), OBP (.360), SLG (.539) were career highs for Pence that season. I had not realized that. Anyway, Pence got a ring in 2014, so good for him.

Matt Duffy. Wait, wrong Matt Duffy.

Bottom Line: Madison Bumgarner is a joy to watch any time - especially when Puig is up to bat - but in the postseason, especially. A Giants/Dodgers matchup would be Must See For Possibility Of Violence on the Rangers/Blue Jays level, but it would also be a great baseball series. I can hope for that.

New York Mets, 87-75, Wild Card

The Mets made the postseason twice in a row and the Astros didn't, so screw 'em. How their corrupt Madoff-lovin' lookin' head ass owners still managed to put two playoff teams together in a row is beyond me. And Terry Collins! Collins somehow vacillates between NL Manager of the Year one day and About-To-Be-Former-Mets-Manager the next. Maybe that's just Teh Medier.

Former Astros: It barely counts, because he only played in eight games for the Mets before getting injured - and none with the Astros at the Major-League level - but Justin Ruggiano spent some time on the Mets roster. Ruggiano was 30 when he signed a minor-league free agent with the Astros before the 2012 season. In 39 games he hit .325/.409/.581 for Oklahoma City and was traded to Miami for Jobduan Morales. Over the next 91 games for the Marlins he hit .313/.374/.535 while the Astros trotted out Jordan Schafer, Brian Bogusevic, and pre-Reggie Jackson-era J.D. Martinez. If they had just kept Ruggiano maybe the 2012 Astros would only have lost 104 games.

Bottom Line: I have some Mets-fan friends. Whatever.

Washington Nationals, 95-67, 1st Place - NL East

I like Bryce Harper because he seems to really make a lot of people mad. But the Harper vs. Trout debate is pretty much over. After five seasons, Harper has a very respectable 22.9 fWAR and a 139 wRC+. Trout, on the other hand, in 5+ seasons has a 47.7 fWAR with a 168 OPS+. Mike Trout's Most Similar By Age comparisons from Baseball-Reference for the last four years? Frank Robinson, and Mickey Mantle (three seasons in a row). Game over.

Former Astros: Mark Melancon. The Astros acquired Melancon from the Yankees in the Berkman trade, and I don't think we ever understood what the Astros had in Melancon. He was good in 2011 (20 saves, 2.78 ERA) which made him prime bait material for Luhnow in the first year of the rebuild - Luhnow flipped him to Boston for Kyle Weiland and Jed Lowrie in what I believe was his first trade as Astros GM. And Melancon has racked up 147 saves since leaving Houston. The jury's already come back on that one.

Bottom line: I do like the Nationals but an undervalued sub-plot of the Nationals in the playoffs is to see what crazy stuff Dusty Baker does to ruin a 95-win team's season.

Chicago Cubs, 103-58, 1st Place - NL Central

The Cubs won 103 games and put up a Team OPS of .772 - 2nd in the NL - despite Jason Heyward's inability to hit the baseball while simultaneously cashing checks on a $184 million contract that runs through 2023. He hit seven home runs as an everyday right fielder. This shows that Theo Epstein is a combination of Bill James, Branch Rickey, and Professor Moriarty. It's not fair, and I resent the Cubs for starting their rebuild around the same time as the Astros and doing...this.

Former Astros: Dexter Fowler. In his one season in Houston (2014), Fowler put up a .770 OPS. Given that he was going to be a free agent after the 2015 season and the Astros allegedly had other, younger center-fielders who, we were promised, could do things like "hit the ball" and "get on base," the Astros traded him to Chicago for Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily. You can draw your own conclusions. An interesting little Fowler sub-plot is how the Cubs brought Fowler back for this season despite a ton of reports that he had already signed a 3yr/$35m deal with the Orioles, who were eliminated last night.

Jake Buchanan. The Astros' 8th Round pick in 2010 signed as a minor-league free agent with the Cubs on April 3, 2016 after making 22 appearances with the Astros in 2014 and 2015. He appeared in two games for the Cubs (1.50 ERA). I don't think he'll make the playoff roster, but good for Jake Buchanan.

Kris Bryant. If I close my eyes and chase the demons away, I can pretend that Bryant was part of a three-team trade between the Cubs, Phillies, and Astros in which the Cubs got Bryant, the Phillies got Appel, and the Astros got Ken Giles. That feels better. Sort of.

Bottom Line: I know that the Cubs haven't won the World Series since Theodore Roosevelt was in office. So that part would be fun. They're odds-on favorites to win the World Series, which will make my long-suffering Cubs fan cousin very nervous. If they don't win it all this year it will be a split-decision between the Randomness of Playoff Baseball and the very real possibility that the Cubs are, indeed, cursed.

Los Angeles Dodgers, 91-71, 1st Place - NL West

Four Dodgers were injured in the typing of this post. First-year manager Dave Roberts did a fantastic job keeping that team together - and taking advantage of the scuffling Giants - to win the division. But it's hard to feel something special for a team with a $266 million payroll this season, no matter how much of a delight Clayton Kershaw is, and the feeling that anytime you watch his starts could involve history being made. Corey Seager (.308/.365/.512) put up the season I think we expected Carlos Correa to put up this year.

Former Astros: Scott Kazmir. Scott Kazmir can go to hell. Kazmir only threw 136IP in 2016 because Kazmir got hurt in the second half. He didn't perform well due to Bad or Injury in the second half of a season? Color me shocked.

Enrique Hernandez. Hernandez was traded in 2014 as part of the Cosart deal that brought back Marisnick, Moran, Francis Martes (who is the odds-on favorite to be the steal of that trade) and the pick that brought back Daz Cameron. One of my all-time favorite Astros minor-leaguers, Hernandez had a rougher go of it in 2016, following up a breakout 2015 in which he put up an .836 OPS with a .190/.283/.324 line  this season. He's still a good dude, though.

Josh Fields. Fields, a former Rule 5 pick, couldn't put it together for any stretch at all for Houston. He could throw it hard with barely a guess as to where the ball was going. The Astros traded him for 19-year old Cuban minor-leaguer Yordan Alvarez, who enjoyed a .974 OPS in limited time in the Dominican Summer League this season.

Bud Norris. Even though the Dodgers released Bud Norris last week, it delights me to no end that Bud Norris had to share a field with Yasiel Puig.

Bottom Line: I love Clayton Kershaw.

Prediction Time!

Mock me as you do:

Toronto over West Shreveport in five
Boston over Cleveland in four

Chicago over San Francisco in four
Washington over Los Angeles in five

ALCS: Boston over Toronto in six
NLCS: Chicago over Washington in five

World Series: Chicago over Boston in seven, with the Game 7 going 46 innings.