The 2021 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Joc Pederson Pearls kicks off tonight at 7:09 CT. The first two games are in Houston, the next three (as needed) will be in Atlanta, while Games 6 and 7 would be back in Houston if it comes to that.
And get this: According to FiveThirtyEight, this is one of the closest on-paper matchups in World Series History. In fact, the gap between the two teams is measured as the 15th narrowest since 1901. And digging through the data, I also see that the 1918 World Series between the Cubs and Red Sox was the second narrowest in MLB history, while the 1910 World Series between the Cubs and Athletics was the 16th narrowest. Now I know why the Cubs haven’t won more World Series! They had atypically tight matchups.
Joc Pederson was basically the most exciting addition to the Cubs in the offseason, but after struggling offensively for much of the year, he was also probably the least memorable or impactful trade made in July. And while Pederson was a fair bit better for the Braves (101 wRC+) than the Cubs (90 wRC+) in the regular season, the overall production was not much more than steady … until October rolled around.
In 10 postseason games this October, Pederson is slashing .276/.323/.586 (137 wRC+) with three homers and 9 RBI.
But Pederson can offer so much more than what he does at the plate (even when he was struggling with the Cubs, that was easy to see). And he talks about all the effort he puts into keeping his clubhouse popping and energized at the Players Tribune … the pearls, the dyed hair (which was actually Anthony Rizzo’s idea), the Slim Shady walk-up music, etc.
Really good read (not too long, either), and I really do appreciate Pederson, the player.
we might have taken an unconventional path to get to this stage…
but we also just might be those motherf*ckers.https://t.co/GkJ3TRcmMg
— Joc Pederson (@yungjoc650) October 26, 2021
Oh, and he wanted to stay in Chicago:
— Cubs Zone ™️ (@CubsZone) October 26, 2021
Tampa Bay, Montreal, the Rays, the CBA
The fan response is not the only hurdle the Rays split-home plan between Montreal and Tampa Bay (which might actually be something of a leverage play from MLB for either city to foot the bill for a new stadium, either for these Rays or an expansion team, or both). There’s also the matter of the MLB Players Association, who will need to sign off on it (lest their players get a pretty raw deal, splitting time between two “homes” that are 1,300 miles apart, spanning two countries).
But here’s where things get even trickier. According to Maury Brown, these Rays-Tampa-Montreal-MLBPA negotiations are being filtered into the broader CBA negotiations, which doesn’t seem like a good idea to me (at least, not for the Rays players, whose direct, near-term fate will be tied into concessions/rewards they’ll enjoy only indirectly via the CBA).
As of now, the concept of the Rays playing a split-season has been nothing more than a proposal to the MLBPA as part of bargaining rounds as the expiration of the current labor agreement is set to expire on Dec. 1st. For the MLBPA to approve such a plan, certainly additional compensation to the Rays’ players would be part of the discussion. The union for the players could also use it as additional leverage for concessions with MLB’s owners.
In other words, if the MLBPA is going to leverage the Rays players’ comfort/travel/whatever for some other, unrelated ask, isn’t that unfair to the Rays players? I think so. But I guess the players can use all the leverage they can get? Seems like MLB created a problem they get to solve. It just seems off.
Dodgers Next Move?
I really like the way this Tweet is phrased: For the first time in a while, it’s not a mortal lock [The Dodgers] will be this good next year:
Weird vibes from the Dodgers this postseason, and for the first time in a while it's not a mortal lock they'll be this good next year https://t.co/4yoXDPoLZr
— Michael Baumann (@MichaelBaumann) October 24, 2021
When you consider the outgoing starting pitchers, alone, the Dodgers are losing a combined 6.3 WAR from their rotation between Clayton Kershaw (3.4 WAR) and Max Scherzer (2.9 WAR with the Dodgers), not to mention Danny Duffy and Cole Hamels, who didn’t contribute, but are also on their way out, and Trevor Bauer, who might not even come back.
And how about the outgoing relief pitchers? The Dodgers will lose 4.0 WAR between Kenley Jansen (1.8 WAR), Jimmy Nelson (0.9 WAR), Joe Kelly (0.7 WAR), and Corey Knebel (0.6 WAR). They’re also losing shortstop Corey Seager (3.7 WAR) and super utility man Chris Taylor (3.1 WAR).
That’s 17.1 WAR walking out the door *not* including Bauer, plus the continued aging of everyone else who’s staying. A simplified WAR-analysis like this isn’t a deep enough dive, but it illustrates the point just fine: The Dodgers will be a fundamentally different team the day the World Series ends and free agency begins.
And in case you forgot, Trea Turner is a free agent at the end of next season, and Justin Turner, 36, can be too if the Dodgers don’t pick up his club option for 2023. Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger, and Julio Urías each have just two years left. The Dodgers have plenty of resources to extend this window, but as we’ve seen in Chicago, sometimes bridging that gap is easier said than done.
Odds and Ends:
• The Athletic dives into the evolution (and ending?) of using starting pitchers out of the bullpen in the postseason.
• The Cardinals new manager, Oli Marmol, 35, is the youngest manager in MLB. In fact, he’s younger than a bunch of players. At MLB.com, Will Leitch dives into the Cardinals new skipper and what we can all expect from him in terms of analytics, style, influence, and more. So far, I think I hate him because I can’t quite find a reason to hate him yet.
• Kevin Goldstein did the chat thing again, always worth a browse. We’ll dig into some of the rumory bits later in a Lukewarm stove.
• This is funny/sad.
Me: Literally gets dressed.
Media: Yup that’s why he sucks. https://t.co/5xaRjecvQf
— Joey Gallo (@JoeyGallo24) October 25, 2021
• And this is awesome. Griffey is the coolest.
A historic day for our franchise!
Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. has joined the Mariners Partnership Group.
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) October 25, 2021