Sunday, May 25, 2014

Well, The Prospects Looked Good . . .

Baseball fans are often heard to say that this or that matchup “looks good on paper” -- which means, commonly, that one team's superior record (or starting lineup or game-day pitcher) suggests that it will likely defeat an opponent. That's what I feel (sadly) every time the A's face the Mariners' Felix Hernandez: on paper, Seattle has a great chance of prevailing.

But, as another sports cliche goes, “that's why they play the game.” Because what happens in reality, what transpires on the field, often doesn't go according to expectations, let alone well-informed predictions. And of course that's part of what makes baseball, or really any sport, so interesting.

Take the Oakland Athletics. Last Wednesday A's fans had every right to be giddy. The Athletics had just won their eleventh game in twelve contests, and the immediate future looked bright: the club's three best starters were scheduled to pitch the next three games. Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, and Jesse Chavez had a combined win-loss record of 14-3, and the A's had gone a freakish 23-4 in games they pitched.

So on paper things looked good – nay, great – for the A's. And then:

Wham. On Thursday Gray goes eight strong but the Tampa Bay Rays walk off with a win in the 11th.

Bam. The A's score just two runs on Friday in support of Kazmir, while the Blue Jays plate three.

Ouch. Jesse Chavez leaves Saturday's game after just five and a third innings and the A's go on to lose 5-2 to Toronto.

So much for “on paper.” The A's have come crashing down to earth. (They lost their fourth straight game today.) Reality trumps and transcends all number-crunching prognostications. Thinking ahead, while it may be tempting, is a dangerous sport.

Posted by C.S. Soong

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