Some things to talk about while I maybe forgive Abbott for the 2015 jinx...
1) The Series then vs. now
Today is the day. The World Series begins in a matter of hours. The Astros going back to the Series brings back memories of their last trip. They’re not pleasant memories, but they’re here all the same.
The 2005 team was an odd duck. They caught fire at the right time to charge into the wild card and then used formidable starting pitching to win playoff series. They didn’t have Jeff Kent or Carlos Beltran and lost Jeff Bagwell to a career-ending injury. But, they did find the delightful Willy Taveras, saw Lance Berkman blossom into an MVP candidate and, well, that’s it.
When Brad Lidge got destroyed by Albert Pujols, it destroyed my hope in a series win. So, every loss against the White Sox was a self-fulfilling prophesy. Roger Clemens got lit up? It figures. Roy Oswalt can’t match his NLCS Game 6 heroics? Not surprising.
Houston was also hurt back then by Morgan Ensberg’s hand injury that sapped him of his power. That 2005 season was by far his best as an Astro. With a healthy Ensberg hitting behind a hot Berkman and in front of an also-hot Willy T, maybe the Astros win a game or two that year.
I bring all this up to contrast it with this year.
The 2017 Astros have no such hangover effect in place. They didn’t lose a heartbreaking game (I’m ignoring all those New York games, because the two wins in Houston overrode them. Yes that’s arbitrary. No I don’t care). They had plenty of big moments, their pitching did well when it counted and the offense came back to life in the last two games.
None of their main players has an injury that they’re playing through, either.
It makes this year’s World Series trip seem much more like a fair fight. Now keep telling yourself that for the next eight hours so the nervousness doesn’t become unbearable.
2) A good cause
Once upon a time, David Temple took on a pretty daunting task. He followed the Astros and became a fan during one of the most horrible seasons in team history. For that, he’ll always have a special place in Astros Twitter’s cold, dead heart.
Well, the well-named Temple is raising money for a great cause. Let’s help him out.
Hey. I'm helping to raise money for sick kids. Sure, I'm doing so by playing video games, but, hey ... sick kids. https://t.co/NQ7qcn4Pjh— David G Temple (@davidgtemple) October 24, 2017
3) Clayton Kershaw in the playoffs and the siren song of small samples*
*Boy, I’m really bad at titling things after two years. What’s worse is I still write headlines in my day job, so I shouldn’t be this bad at a simple task. Oh well.
Game 1 tonight will feature two titans dueling it out in one of the most storied stadiums in baseball history. Some of the best pitchers of all time have plied their trade in Dodger Stadium and that includes Dallas Keuchel’s mound opponent Tuesday night.
Clayton Kershaw hasn’t hit 30 yet, but continues to put up amazing seasons. If there’s one flaw in his sterling resume, it’s that he hasn’t won consistently enough in the playoffs.
The difference is stark, too. Kershaw has an ERA of 2.36 in his 10-year career, but his playoff ERA is a full two runs higher than that. He got roughed up against Arizona in the National League Division Series before bouncing back against the Cubs, but still. A track record is a track record.
Or is it?
One of the things that has driven me crazy this postseason is the game broadcast’s insistence on the meaning of small sample sizes. Like when everyone was freaking out about Houston’s lack of offense in the middle of the last series. You and I, dear reader, we didn’t let it get to us, because we understood Houston’s best offense during the regular season means they could overcome a slow game or two.*
*Convenient that I wasn’t writing for the site last week, so you can’t prove I was freaking out about the lack of run scoring. Nope. Never happened. Never.
The problem is things are magnified in the playoffs. It doesn’t matter if 20 at-bats are meaningless to determine whether a player is a “clutch performer” or not. 20 at-bats may be all a team has in the postseason.
It’s why the playoffs is such a crapshoot. Great teams win easily, but sometimes they struggle. Occasionally, they lose before they even get to the World Series.
So it is with Kershaw. He’s got a reputation as a bad playoff pitcher, but that’s based on 21 starts and 100 innings. Oh, by the way, he’s struck out 122 in that stretch and only walked 32.
What can we expect from Kershaw in Game 1? Will he be the bad playoff pitcher of his reputation? Probably not. He’ll be the guy who shows up most of the time in his starts, meaning he’ll be pretty great.
So what’s the point of all this? Just that those small sample size stats on the screen for Fox’s broadcasts really annoy me. I’m already annoyed because I’m sure they’ll bring up Kershaw’s playoff record and it hasn’t even happened yet.