So even with the knowledge that the third installment of a beloved two-unit series can be overkill, I’m throwing caution to the wind and penning the third annual issue of baseball’s version of the TMZ staple, Who’d You Rather? Of course in our version, it’s more accurately titled, Who’d You Rather Have as Your Closer? Two years ago this exercise correctly predicted late-game blow-ups by Texas closer Neftali Feliz and last year’s implosion by the Tigers’ Jose Valverde which cost him the closer’s role before the second round of the playoffs had even ended.
The Pirates finished 94-68, and based on my deeper “cluster luck” calculations I have them as a 92-win team overall. In other words given their exact level of production hitting and pitching, Pittsburgh is a 92-win team in 94-win clothing. Ever wonder if a personal shopper is a good investment? Well the Cardinals are wearing 97-win clothing and everyone from Las Vegas to national pundits think they look pretty good in front of the camera. However, I think they have the same 92-win body of work the Pirates do.
Unlike his distant cousin Warren, who periodically appears in my baseball-themed writings when I need to make an analogy to financial markets, Jimmy Buffett isn’t anyone’s idea of a deep thinker. After all, this is a man best known for songs like Cheeseburger in Paradise and Margaritaville, and for concerts that celebrate a certain brand of live-and-let-live hedonism.
The most prominent way Doug differed from the family was in his refusal to root for the Phillies. Based on the first card out of the wrapper of his first pack of baseball cards, Doug took one look at a 1974 Topps card of Steve Garvey and announced that the Los Angeles Dodgers were his favorite team. For the next couple of years it just seemed odd that Doug checked the morning paper for West Coast box scores, covered his room in Dodgers paraphernalia and wore a blue LA baseball cap around the neighborhood. It became downright grating after the Dodgers eliminated the Phillies two years in a row in the NLCS to advance to the World Series. In frustration, after the second defeat in 1978, I defaced something in our house connected to the Dodgers. . . but completely forgot about it shortly thereafter.
There’s an expression in sabermetric circles that sums up a starting pitcher’s erosion in effectiveness the longer he stays in the game: “A team’s worst pitcher is the one who is facing an opposing team’s lineup for the third time.” Unlike some adages this one isn’t exactly true. For one, while he’s a rare exception, Justin Verlander actually does have better results as the game goes on. Even tossing outliers like Verlander aside, the statement itself is a bit of overkill. A team’s ace becomes something like a league-average pitcher the third time through the lineup, the second best pitcher is something like a #4 starter, and so on.