Monday, October 17, 2005

Keep the Faith

I'm starting to wonder if I have the mental make-up to enjoy the playoffs. I mean - the Game 2 loss kicked my butt. The Game 3 loss didn't hurt as badly, but only because I thought the Cardinals would win Game 4. Which, in turn, really got me in a great mood last night/this morning...

I think, in a nutshell, the Cardinals recent trends in the playoffs has conditioned me to think this; once a trend starts, it seems to continue. Call it La Russa's law of playoff dynamics. Look at what La Russa's playoff teams have done in history.

1983 (White Sox) - 1-3 in the ALCS
1988 (Athletics) - 4-0 in ALCS, 1-4 in WS
1989 (Athletics) - 4-0 in ALCS, 4-1 in WS
1990 (Athletics) - 4-0 in ALCS, 0-4 in WS
1992 (Athletics) - 2-4 in ALCS
1996 (Cardinals) - 3-0 in NLDS, 3-4 in NLCS (after winning 3 of the first 4)
2000 (Cardinals) - 3-0 in NLDS, 1-4 in NLCS
2001 (Cardinals) - 2-3 in NLDS
2002 (Cardinals) - 3-0 in NLDS, 1-4 in NLCS
2004 (Cardinals) - 3-1 in NLDS, 4-3 in NLCS, 0-4 in WS
2005 (Cardinals) - 3-0 in NLDS, 3-3 in WS

What do you see? Very few La Russa led teams do anything half way. They tend to either sweep or be swept. Which is especially strange when you consider that four of those teams (1988, 1990, 2004, and 2005) were 100 win teams. The teams that appear to be outliers to "Tony's Law" were the 1992 A's (2 wins in a series?), the 1996 Cardinals (who built a lead then blew it), the 2001 Cardinals (just missed winning that one), and the 2004 Cardinals (dug out of a 3-2 series deficit in the NLCS.)

It gets even stranger if you break it down a bit further. The 1996 Cardinals, as I mentioned above, actually had a 3 games to 1 series lead in the NLCS before dropping 3 straight. Which means, they went 6-1 to start the playoffs, 0-3 to finish. 2004? Similar. They started the playoffs off by going 5-1, only to go 2-7 over the last 9 games of October. In fact, if you break all of his playoff teams into "hot" and "cold" categories, it looks like this.

Hot, 37-3 (.925 winning percentage)
Cold, 10-39 (.256 winning percentage)

There you have it. Tony's teams have gotten off to hot starts, winning 93% of their games. Once this hot streak lasted through the World Series. Three times it never started. Generally, however, it ends during the LCS. Why? Anyone? I have trouble thinking that the manager can guide a team into the playoffs, as well as (usually) past the 1st round, only to forget how to win.

OK, so enough of that stuff. Back to 2005. Carpenter goes tonight, and if there's anyone on the staff that you'd want going in a must win, it's him. And you know if the Cardinals can send this thing back to Busch, anything can happen.

Which brings me back to my initial train of thought. I'm not sure if I can handle the playoffs. The truth of the matter is, the wins are more enjoyable when they are earned. How much fun was it to see the Cardinals win Games 6 and 7 in the NLCS last year when they appeared dead after Game 5? Not to mention the walk-off home run by Edmonds in Game 6, the game saving catch by Jimmy in Game 7. None of those moments would have been nearly as memorable had they come in Games 3 and 4 of a sweep. You have to walk the rocks to see the mountain view, as they say.

In 2004, the Red Sox were down 3-0 in the ALCS before going on to win the World Series. In 2003, the Marlins were down 3-1 in the NLCS before going on to win the World Series. Both of those teams had 2 must-win games on the road in their respective LCS', with the Marlins having to do so in Games 6 and 7. By comparison, the Cardinals having to win one in Houston pales.

Of course, there is the final thing of having to beat Pettitte, Oswalt, and Clemens in consecutive starts. That's not going to be easy - but it's been done as recently as 3 months ago by none other than the Cardinals.

July 15th - Pettitte Start, Cards win 4-3
July 16th - Oswalt Start, Cards win 4-2
July 17th - Clemens Start, Cards win 3-0

Yes, I'm grasping at straws here. In a nutshell? Win tonight. Worry about Game 6 if that happens.


At 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 11:35 AM, Blogger Valatan said...


And what you're saying is, that if this streak is reversed, then they just might have the momentum to make it the rest of the way.

At 11:43 AM, Blogger KEN said...

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At 11:48 AM, Blogger KEN said...

Gah. I was going to write a similar analysis of LaRussa's postseasons after the Cards lose tonight.

My theory is that, for all LaRussa's supposed brilliance at managing players, he is absolutely horrible at keeping the right mood in the clubhouse one things start to fall apart in the playoffs. Take, for example, the pitch on which he chose to get thrown out last night. He was clearly just frustrated and I think his brooding and pouting just spill over into the players.

I have also found these 2005 playoffs difficult to watch and, along with the general lack of very close games, I think what's made it unenjoyable is the horrific officiating we've seen all over the place. Cuzzi should be fired. I remember how Joe Buck always used to say about umps like that, "Nobody's ever come to a game to watch the umpire." It's amazing to me that that jerk feels he can insert himself into such an important game like that.

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Robb said...

Hey Ken,

Lack of close games? The Cardinals lost the last 2 by 1 run each, and have only been ouscored 11 to 8 over the 4 games stretch!

But the "mood" of the games has been less close, I'll agree with that.

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