Winning baseball is fundamental. In this era of analytics, teams have gotten away from stressing fundamentals and there was no more glaring example of that, than what we saw from the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series.
Atlanta not only ran themselves out of a couple of big innings, they ran themselves out of the NLCS. With a 3-1 series lead, the Braves made base running blunders in games 5 and 7 that, arguably, cost them a trip to the Fall Classic.
In game 5, Marcell Ozuna’s mistake was “floating” off the bag before Mookie Betts touched the ball. Ozuna made the right play by getting back to the bag to tag up once the ball was in the air, but he has to stay anchored there until Betts touches the ball. Betts was in medium right field and has a great arm, but he wasn’t upright when he made that great catch.
There were multiple repercussions from that play. The first was a run was taken off the board. The other was that the double play ended the inning. There was a runner left on second after the appeal was made. Who knows what could’ve happened if the inning continued?
In the rundown that turned into a double play in the fourth inning of game 7, Austin Riley made the crucial mistake by not getting to third. After Dansby Swanson got involved in the rundown, it’s incumbent upon Riley to get from second to third. If both runners end up on third base at the same time, according to the rules, only Riley would be called out. That crushed what could’ve been a big inning and it also gave some momentum to the Dodgers who were looking at a potential, three-run deficit but only trailed by one.
A post scripts with a local flavor. Mets’ fans can stop lamenting the departure of Travis d’Arnaud. After his best regular season and a solid first two rounds in the playoffs, d’Arnaud did not acquit himself very well in the NLCS. In the seven game series, the former Met was 4 for 23 with 0 home runs and only three runs batted in. His slash line was .174/.286/.174, OPS of .460, so he was big dud when it counted most. d’Arnaud got enough of a chance to make it with the Mets but it’s my opinion that he was never going to thrive here.
Now that the World Series match up is all set, it brings me back to the notion that the playoff (Wild Card, Division Series, Championship Series) stats should be separate from the World Series stats and should be noted as so. I don’t need announcers putting Mickey Mantle in the same breath with recent players who have compiled post season stats by playing many more post season games.
As the Yanks and Mets look ahead to 2021, it’s interesting that both teams have question marks at catcher and shortstop, to some extent.
Who will be the starting catchers for the Yankees and Mets next season. J.T. Realmuto is the most attractive free agent on the market, but could be a physical risk with his hip issues in the recent past. James McCann could be a cheaper and more practical alternative.
The Mets love Andres Gimenez’ defensive skills at shortstop but can he be a productive major league hitter on an everyday basis. I’m a little concerned about Gimenez’ bat and his ability to hit quality major league pitching. Doesn’t mean he can’t improve. Making consistent contact would go a long ways towards making him a better offensive threat. If Amed Rosario is not in the future plans, then the Mets need to offer him around while he still has youth on his side.
Hitting has not been Gleyber Torres’ problem. His defense at shortstop has rightfully come under fire but again, it doesn’t mean he cannot get better. I see a problem with his technique and footwork on certain plays. Torres also tends to take too much time to get rid of the ball, and seems to underestimate the speed of any particular runner.
Speaking of next season, Major League Baseball needs to make a decision soon on whether the “Universal DH” will become a permanent staple of the game. Teams have to decide on what direction they want to go in the off season and having a DH, or not will influence many of those decisions.
BTW: Now that the Astros’ season is over, it doesn’t mean the wrath from their peers has come to an end. Houston will still have to face many teams next season, that they didn’t see in this truncated season, including the Yankees.
(Photo courtesy of Twitter)