No baseball today, which means it’s possible there could be some announcements slipped into the day (a Cubs GM announcement, for example?!). It’s not like it’s a hard requirement or anything, because sometimes news gets reported when it gets reported. But historically, if there is big MLB or MLB team news to drop during the postseason, it’ll come on a day when there aren’t any games scheduled.
• As for the games that took place yesterday, the Braves closed things out against the Brewers with a late 5-4 win. Josh Hader and Christian Yelich stood watch over the ending, which seemed appropriate. The homer Hader gave up to Freddie Freeman was his first against a lefty this year, and we all know rough, rough story for Yelich this year. The Brewers ran away with the division after that sweep of the Cubs in Milwaukee at the end of June, but getting to the dance with ease doesn’t necessarily assure you of a second round.
• Still, the Brewers don’t figure to be a wreck next year without massive regressions all over the roster, since almost everyone returns. Their payroll is gonna spike thanks to a lot of guys seeing raise points in their contracts and arb year increases, so I don’t know how much maneuvering flexibility they’ll have (never rule out impressive trades, though, sigh). Still, they can run it back, and with that rotation, that bullpen, and that positional core – what if Willy Adames simply *IS* that good and Luis Urias has finally broken out? – they’d probably go into the season easy favorites in the NL Central. It is difficult to imagine a realistic offseason that leaves the Cubs, on paper, looking better than the Brewers. That doesn’t mean the Cubs can’t win the 2022 NL Central, of course. It just means it will probably require some disappointments from the Brewers (and Cardinals, probably).
• The Braves, meanwhile, move on to the NLCS to face the winner of the Dodgers-Giants series. What a run for them after having the stagnated feel of a lost season back in late June (6.5 games back, 4.0 games under .500), and then losing Ronald Acuña Jr. for the season shortly thereafter. Even by the time the Braves traded for Joc Pederson in mid-July and semi-declared their intent to keep pushing, they were still below .500 and 4.5 games back. And even by the time of the Trade Deadline, the situation hadn’t actually improved! They were back to being three games below .500 and 5.0 games back. The point here is that there was clearly a belief, overall, in the roster (and the weakness atop the NL East), and the Braves were proved right, not necessarily by virtue of this NLDS win (always a little flukey), but by winning the East by 6.5 games. Good on the moves, good on the conviction.
• That other NLDS series is still undecided, with the Dodgers handling the Giants last night in Los Angeles to force a Game 5:
• We’ll get that one Thursday night at 8pm CT, with Julio Urias facing Logan Webb. Go Giants, in my humble opinion.
• Over in the American League, the Astros beat up on the White Sox to win Game 4 and take their ALDS:
• The game was colored by a couple HBPs, one early on against Jose Altuve, which was cheered by the fans, but which ultimately led to the lead that the Astros would never relinquish. The other came late on Jose Abreu, and had the look of something intentional, but sure was odd and dickish if the Astros actually did do it intentionally, at the end of a postseason game when things were basically over. As you could see there at the end of the highlights, Tony La Russa was pissed:
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) October 12, 2021
• I do get the discussion. Manager protecting his players and all that. But if I were a White Sox fan, it’d be pretty hard to care when the season just ended in extreme disappointment.
• So, I thought I had anecdotally noticed this as the second half went on, but I didn’t know if it was a significant enough rebound to merit this kind of discussion:
sticky stuff is back! Or at least spin rate is. Hard for me to believe it has recovered this much without pitchers going back to the Spider Tack (or related substances). https://t.co/WXGUYbekSN pic.twitter.com/fPLLps8YVP
— Rob Arthur (@No_Little_Plans) October 12, 2021
• I know what you’re thinking, and I was thinking it, too – couldn’t this just be (legal) adjustments made by pitchers to get some spin back? Well, Arthur does at least have a credible response:
and finally, do you not understand how hard these guys work to begin with? If there was a legal "one weird trick" to add 200 RPM to their fastball, *they already would have done it!*
— Rob Arthur (@No_Little_Plans) October 12, 2021
• He’s *probably* right. But there’s a little part of me that wonders, well, if the sticky stuff were available and worked so well, why would pitchers mess with their grips and mechanics unnecessarily, just be “legal”? It’s not like it was being enforced, so their backs were never actually against the wall. Sometimes inertia keeps us in a place until we absolutely cannot stay in that place anymore … and then we improve. And it’s like, oh, wow, I didn’t even realize that was possible. (Also, some guys may have ditched pitches that flat out didn’t work anymore after their spin rate dropped, and that raised the floor from the biggest point of the drop in late June.)
• The other explanation, of course, is at least as plausible: some pitchers evaluated out how the hat/belt/glove checks were going, and figured out how to better hide/deploy their sticky stuff. I have wondered all along why umpires don’t just shake hands with the pitchers as they come off the mound, but maybe rosin is just sticky enough to make that kind of approach unworkable. (Also, you would have to shake hands lefty some of the time. And that’d just be crazy. Ever think about the fact that we all always shake hands righty, even though a large chunk of the population is lefty? They’ve been forced to shake with their off-hand their entire lives!)
• In any case, I expect we’ll see much more studying on this issue throughout the postseason and then after the season ends.
• There was a foul pop up in the Brewers-Braves game that was, quite clearly on a second look, not caught by Luis Urias. But because *only* catches in the outfield are reviewable, it didn’t matter how obviously wrong the call was. It had to stand. This should probably be addressed:
"Sure, we have the technology to quickly and easily confirm that this was not a catch, but some guys initially saw it wrong with their eyeballs, and dadgummit we have to stick with that." https://t.co/bWj1Sj1GYK
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) October 12, 2021
• The puck drops tonight for the Blackhawks, so make sure you’re checking out our coverage if you do the hockey thing:
The Blackhawks open the season tonight, so here are some bold predictions for the 2021-22 campaign. https://t.co/cVaaHUYfrR
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) October 13, 2021