I have been reading a lot on baseball since the season ended, from Dirk Hayhurst to Jonah Keri and a lot in between, and something that comes up more often than not is the fact that just because the odds are in your favor, things don’t necessarily go your way.
When Davey Johnson chose to pitch to Pete Kozma in Game 5 of the NLDS, people wanted to know why they didn’t walk him. People wanted to know why they didn’t try and empty the bench and bullpen of the Cardinals. Well, it’s a decision that will always be second guessed. If they had walked them and still lost, people would be wondering why they didn’t walk the light-hitting second baseman in his first year in the Major Leagues.
There was no right or wrong answer, only a good or bad result. When you start looking at the result as your barometer of whether you made a right or wrong decision, it can lead to a downward spiral that you never get out of. I wrote earlier, when talking about the James Shields-Wil Myers trade that the mantra of the Tampa Bay Rays is “trust the process” and that whether the trade works or not is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. It’s even how Joe Maddon manages and how everybody should look at things.
People get lucky. That applies to good and bad luck. Kozma was 1-3 with a walk against Storen previously before he singled again. Both singles fell mid-way in the outfield and weren’t particularly well-struck. The only thing you could say was that the pitches were kept in the middle of the zone. They were good pitches to hit. In other words, the execution was why Kozma got the single. If the same pitch was made to, say, Tony Cruz, he could have hit it for a single as well.
You can argue the decision by Johnson all you want, but not because of the result. You can argue that the percentages were higher to win with a walk, but then Cruz could have singled. Or homered. Or struck out. The thing about second guessing is that it never happens if the result goes right but in order to improve every decision should be looked at the same to see why it was made.
That’s not the point of this post. The point is, right now the Washington Nationals are listed as one of the best teams in baseball. If something were to happen where the Nationals struggle and fail to win the division or make the playoffs, people will be up in arms. I’m not sure they should be. Is this team perfect? Absolutely not. But you can’t argue that Mike Rizzo did not do a good job of putting a team together that could win it all. However, baseball is cruel and often – very often – the best team on paper does not win in October. Stuff happens but one thing you have to look at is the process and there isn’t much that Rizzo should have done differently to build this team up to this point.
There was disappointment in the last 12 months for the Nationals, but there was also a lot of excitement. 2013 is set to start with anticipation only six weeks until baseball is back. 29 other teams have a bunch of excitement as well. For a good number of those 30 teams, the year will end in heartbreak as well.
Only one team can win it all. Those aren’t great odds.