You gotta love the MLB - especially at playoff time

Alex Broun 19:11 16/10/2018
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The Brewers have been the surprise packet of MLB in 2018

It’s hard to understand why people don’t like baseball.

Some complain that it’s boring or it takes too long or it’s uneventful to watch, while preferring the more visceral treats of NBA and NFL.

I couldn’t imagine anything worse than watching an NBA game. Five guys running up the court and putting the ball in the hoop and then the other five guys running down the other end and putting the ball in the hoop. Excitement plus.

Okay, NFL, I get the attraction. It is a fascinating game with intricate plays and nuances which only expand as you delve into it further.

But for my part, baseball wins every time.

For starters there’s the explosive speed of the pitcher: the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman regularly clocks speeds of over 100mph (around 150kmh), similar to cricket’s fastest bowler, Australia’s Mitchell Starc.

Then there is the precision, timing and balance of the batters who somehow manage to connect with those balls (that are often swinging or dipping as well as coming at them at 150kmh) and send them out of the park for a home run.

These sluggers come in various different sizes from the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who is a commanding presence at 2.01m and 127kgs, to the diminutive Astro Jose Altuve, at just 1.68m and 74kgs.

Size doesn’t matter in this instance, it’s all about timing and weight transfer, with Altuve’s 97 career home runs showing what power they can provide.

Then you come to perhaps the most exceptional skill in baseball – fielding.

The extraordinary ability of any of the infielders to swoop on a well-hit bouncing ball, collect it in their glove, transfer it to their throwing hand in a fraction of a second and hurl it up to 30 metres to land precisely in the first baseman’s glove – all in a few blinks of the eye.

Breathtaking.

If you think it’s easy, try it sometime. You’d do well to even stop the ball let alone gather it, transfer and throw accurately (within 25cm) into your team-mates’ glove.

There’s a chance to watch all these skills at the moment as we are in the middle of the best of seven Championship Series (CS) for both the American League (AL) and National League (NL). The winners of both go on to the World Series.

Both match-ups are poised at fascinating stages early on. At the time of writing last season’s World Series champions the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox were tied up at 1-1 in the ALCS, and surprise packages the Milwaukee Brewers had led last season’s runners-up the Los Angeles Dodgers 2-1 in the NLCS.

There is a strong feeling in baseball circles, one that I won’t argue with, that the Astros and Red Sox is actually the World Series come early.

Both teams were mindblowingly brilliant in the regular season with Boston winning 108 games (at .667) and the Astros 103 (.636).

(The all-time record is 116 held jointly by the 1906 Chicago Cubs and the 2001 Seattle Mariners – neither of which won the World Series, incidentally.)

We also have to mention the luckless Yankees in this bracket, who broke the 100 (.617) but have the misfortune to be in the same division as the Red Sox (AL East), so despite that astounding feat had to still come through a Wildcard game.

In comparison the Brewers notched up a more than respectable 96 wins (.589) while the Dodgers carded just 92 (.564).

The Red Sox and the Astros met in last year’s AL Divisonal Series with Houston easing to a 3-1 victory, then overcoming the Yankees (4-3) and Dodgers (4-3) to claim the pennant.

But the Red Sox of 2018 are a much tougher beast than last year’s vintage. They have the No1 and No2 best sluggers and best batting averages in the MLB: right-fielder Mookie Betts, followed closely by left-fielder J D Martinez.

Martinez was also second overall for the most home runs with 43.

And they need to be as the Astros have also improved with many calling them the best player group in franchise history. They possess two of the top pitchers in baseball in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.

But to say it is just a contest between the Astros’ pitchers and the Red Sox’s batters is grossly inaccurate as both teams have multiple strengths in all three disciplines – pitching, fielding and batting.

For example Boston also boast the pitcher with the third highest saves in the season – Craig Kimbrel (42).

As for the Dodgers and the Brewers in the NLCS they have their own stars.

Pitcher Kenley Jansen is a close fourth behind Kimbrel in saves for tLA (42), while Milwaukee’s centre fielder Lorenzo Cain is in the top ten performing batters (avg .308).

There’s a chance to watch all these highly skilled players over the next fortnight and more as we head into what is sure to be another historic world series.

So switch over and take a look sometimes. Give baseball a chance. You just might like it.

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