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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
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4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
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Enough with the Barometric Pressure
2004-09-10 14:16
by Jon Weisman

When the leading team in the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals, visits Dodger Stadium this weekend, here's what's at stake:

  • the margin of the Dodgers' lead in the National League West.

    Here's what's not at stake:

  • the Dodgers' ability to defeat the Cardinals in the postseason.

    The Dodgers' ability to defeat the Cardinals in the postseason is what it is - already. We just don't know it yet. It exists; it just hasn't been fully revealed.

    A second Cardinal sweep of the Dodgers will lower the chances of Los Angeles winning the World Series because - and only because - three Los Angeles losses will make it that much easier for other teams to catch the Dodgers and knock them out of the playoffs.

    But if the Dodgers make the playoffs, they can lose to the Cardinals as many times as possible and still beat them in a postseason series, and/or win it all.

    To which you say, "Yes, but six losses to the Cardinals would indicate that we don't have a chance of winning a postseason series from them."

    To which I say: "Six games are a small sample size. And besides, who doesn't love an upset?"

    See, last week's Los Angeles-St. Louis series came with all this barometric pressure - i.e., the Dodgers using the Cardinals as a barometer for how good they are. That was a mistake.

    Jim Baker of Baseball Prospectus has been studying the performance of teams in the postseason during the wild-card era, and found that, for example, teams that win their divisions by 10 or more games have won fewer playoff games and fewer World Series than wild-card teams have.

    Billy Beane is right. The postseason is a crapshoot. A crapshoot with odds, but still a crapshoot.

    Baseball seasons have rules, just like baseball games have rules. And one of those rules is, it doesn't matter how you acquire four victories in the World Series, just that you get them.

    Dodger fans would obviously feel more encouraged about their team if Los Angeles hadn't been swept in St. Louis. But what else is new? Dodger fans would feel better at any given moment when things go well. You feel bad when a Dodger strikes out against Randy Johnson; you'd feel bad if a Dodger struck out against Van Johnson.

    But even if Randy Johnson strikes out the Dodgers 15 times in seven innings, it doesn't mean the Dodgers won't win the game.

    If anything, as far as barometric pressure goes, losses to the Cardinals are more positive than negative. They provide insight into your weaknesses, and give you the opportunity to address them. As long as you make the playoffs, failure in an individual game can be a useful tool.

    The nuance that I'm trying very hard to convey (and will no doubt fail at) is that right now, the Dodgers are in a race only to make the playoffs. The World Series competition does not begin until October. An 0-6 regular season record against St. Louis would not be an encouraging thing to take into a postseason series with the Cardinals, but we have known for weeks and weeks now that the Dodgers would be an underdog against St. Louis. So what's the big deal?

    For now, this weekend, the Dodgers need to focus not on the Cardinals as a barometer, but as a roadblock. They need to play like an NL West leader trying to draw closer to a division title, not like a team trying to prove itself to the world.

    Right now, it's all about just getting into October Madness. After that, as Dick Vitale would say, "Survive and advance, baby!"

    Dodger Thoughts does not endorse the quoting of Dick Vitale.

    Update: Go Cardinals takes this discussion and looks at it from the St. Louis perspective. "It would be fun to ridicule this statement as a Cubieesque rationalization of losing, but it would be a cheap out of context type of thing to do," the author, Josh, writes (much to my relief). "Instead Jon's point is salient on the filp side as well."

    Open Chat: Tonight's Game

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