Tigers in Five 

Yadier Molina and Jeff Suppan the heroes of the NLCS? As Billy Beane once said, "My shit doesn't work in the playoffs."

It's a relevant point as we head into an off-season of major changes for the Giants. All the armchair GM'ing we're about to do should always have a caveat, even if it goes unstated: Get the team into the playoffs and cross your fingers.

The conventional wisdom -- pitching and defense wins playoff games -- is true. Except when it isn't. The loss of Pedro Martinez and El Duque should have been a crippling blow to the Mets. Except it wasn't. But they still lost. Go figure. Here's what BP's Joe Sheehan wrote yesterday, before Game 7 of the NLCS:

Over the course of a season, if two teams are separated by 23 games—a 104-win team and a .500 team—that edge comes out to about one win a week. One team goes 4-3, the other goes 3-4. That difference is tiny—one game—but it adds up over the course of a season. In one week, though, those two teams are virtually indistinguishable from each other.

Playoff matchups rarely occur between teams separated by that much. The NLCS, for example, features teams separated by 14 games in the standings, or about [one] win every two weeks. So the Mets would go 9-6, whereas the Cards would go 8-7. Over 15 games, that’s nothing; a bloop here, a random good start there, an injury. Over a season, sustaining that gap is an indication that one team is better than the other. Over seven games, the gap between those two teams simply disappears, the edge that exists over 162 games vanishes, and you’re left with teams that are essentially equivalent. That’s what playoff baseball is: matchups between teams that become essentially equal.

(Hat tip to Sheehan for reminding us of the Beane quote.)

So as you watch Brian Sabean rebuild the Giants this winter, think about this year's playoff teams. None is a perfect blueprint that screams "World Series winner." The Tigers have good young pitching. (The Giants should have plenty of that the next couple years.) The Tigers have a 41-year-old who's become the unlikeliest of staff aces. (If Sabean had hired Kenny Rogers last winter, we all would have howled. But is it now an acceptable idea to sign, say, Terry Mulholland to a 2-year contract?) The New York teams had lineups of thunder shut down in short series. (Who would have bet on that going into the playoffs?) The Cardinals' best post-season pitcher is Jeff Suppan. They wouldn't have gotten this far without Jeff Weaver. (Imagine a similar sentence from a BizarroWorld newspaper celebrating the Giants' NL pennant: "The Giants wouldn't have gotten this far without Brad Hennessey and Jamey Wright.") The Mets got stellar performances from John Maine and Oliver Perez. (Ditto: "The Giants pitching was bailed out by stellar performances from Jonathan Sanchez and Damian Moss.")

This all adds up to a Grand Unifying Theory of Nothing Much, Really. Good teams slump. Mediocre teams coalesce. Horrible pitchers find a secret inner mojo reserve. Just get us to the playoffs, and let the fates have at it.

The corollary to the Beane-Shit Theorem is simple: Endy Chavez happens.

Except when it doesn't.


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