It turns out that the lineup card Bruce Bochy has been submitting to umpires this month is far different from the team he led to 88 wins during the regular season. It’s much, much better and to the benefit of astute handicappers, the difference seems to have escaped not only commentators but oddsmakers as well.
The narrative that’s emerged, unanimously as far as I can tell, from the digital-based sportswriting set is that the Royals are a wonderful story – for the city of Kansas City, for those who love underdogs, for small-market teams, etc. – who have created the perfect post-season team. However, the narrative continues, despite a masterful combination of speed, defense, and an unhittable bullpen, the Royals are one of the worst teams to ever play in the World Series. They are, the thinking goes, in the midst of a heater all while residing in a bed of 4-leaf clovers, lucky charms, and horseshoes.
To my wife, who puts up with this nonsense annually, I have a pre-emptive answer for you when you walk into our play room for the next six months, see me in the fetal position with the TV tuned to yet another Mariners game and ask, "Are you rooting for Seattle?" In the words of Marc Cohn, from Walking in Memphis, "Ma'am, I am tonight!"
Given that a lot of readers of these pieces aren’t just baseball fans, but are also fond of sports betting, as the 2014 preview series comes to a close, this is the perfect venue to tell you a story about the intersection of those two topics. As a result of writing my book, I met a lot of people I would have never met otherwise; this is a recounting of one of those experiences. It’s a column that you’ll never read about on mlb.com, but probably should.
It’s quotes like this that launch 2,000 word articles on FanGraphs followed by 8 dozen snarky posts in the comments section. It’s logic like this that leads to Brandon League getting a guaranteed $22.5 million contract after a string of 72 innings pitched in 2012, during which he gave up a home run on just 2.1% of the fly balls he allowed – 8% below league average and 11% below his career average (accumulated over 5 times as many innings, mind you.) It’s Gary Matthews, Jr. getting a $50 million contract a year after hitting .343 on balls in play, with no increase in power. That’s 43 percentage points above his career and the league’s average.