Thursday, November 5, 2009

Game times and other playoff thoughts

Game times in the playoffs

I've been posting about game times in Japanese baseball over the past few months, mainly in relation to NPB's effort to shorten overly long games. The average game time this season came in at 3:13, which was 21 minutes longer than the average MLB game in 2009. Doesn't sound like much (only 1 minute every half inning) but I find the pace entirely different here and it's what drove me away from the game years ago.

I also made note of how the playoffs in baseball haven't been that exciting recently. But now I realize that not only is it the fact that so few series go the distance (not a single MLB playoff series went to a deciding game this year) but the games are excruciatingly long. I did a quick check of the average game time in the playoffs this year and was stunned to find it coming it at 3:37! Excluding 4 extra-inning games, it's still a laborious 3:28. Only one game came in under 3 hours!

So MLB playoff games are 45 minutes longer than those in the regular season. That's over 25% more time for the same number of innings. I thought TV might be to blame, but they only get an extra 15 seconds per inning break. So it's just all the posturing, mound visits, pitching changes, and gamesmanship that makes these games much duller than they ought to be. I like baseball, but if games were 9 hours long, I wouldn't be watching either. Let's pick up the pace guys!

What's really interesting to me though is that Japanese playoff games are pretty much the same length as those in the regular season. Through game 5 of the Japan Series, the average was 3:20, just 7 minutes longer than their regular season average and a full 17 minutes shorter than the MLB playoffs. I've often thought that a regular season NPB game is treated like a playoff game - even in a blowout, there's more time between pitches and it seems to be that both teams are still playing seriously when the game is already decided. It's a small statistical sample, but there's certainly less difference between the regular season and playoffs over here.

World Series Thoughts

The Yankees win, Theeeeeeeee Ah shut up. Unfortunately I put my last $200 million into the stock market last year, so I couldn't afford to buy me a World Series this season. The Yankees had no such problem though. Must be fun to be a Yankees fan, just spend, spend, spend and take the World Series every few years. I hate the way major league baseball is run now.

Frankly, I thought that the Yankees would not win when the season began; mainly because I felt Sabathia and Burnett weren't that good. I was wrong. And Andy Pettite, who looked washed up against the Jays back in July, was back to his old self in the playoffs. With those 3 on the hill and Marte and Rivera in the pen, you've got a chance. Doesn't hurt to have Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeira, and Cano in your lineup either.

It seemed like a dull series; I didn't watch much of it as I am still working and my boss didn't seem to like the idea of me watching MLB.TV on my computer. But the games weren't particularly close and I don't think there were any classic moments we'll be talking about for years to come. Just more proof in my mind that the MLB playoffs are overrated.

There was one bright spot in Hideki Matsui getting the MVP. Despite his playing for the Giants here and then the Yankees there, I've always rooted for Matsui to do well. He's quiet, efficient, and a pretty decent hitter to boot. He can't play defense any more with his wonky knees, but after his performance in the playoffs, I don't see why he won't get a shot to be the DH somewhere in the States again next year.

Japan Series Thoughts

Over here, the Yomiuri Giants have taken a 3-2 lead over the Nippon Ham Fighters. The Giants are Japan's equivalent of the Yankees - they spend lots of money and are universally hated, except by their obnoxious fans.

Game 5 was last night and certainly one to remember, except for a certain Fighters reliever. By the time I got home, it was in the 8th inning and the Fighters led 1-0. In the bottom of the 8th, the Giants had a runner on second and wily veteran Noriyoshi Ohmichi was batting. This was the guy who hit a game-winning homer in a minor league game I saw back in July. What was amazing is that his hit was in the bottom of the 11th with two out - in other words, he was the last batter because games stop after 11 innings. So even though the Giants beat the Swallows, I was actually happy that he homered as it avoided a 0-0 tie, an obscenity in baseball.

Anyway, after a wild pickoff throw allowed the runner to advance to third, Ohmichi battled before finally fisting a single to right to tie the game. Truly a clutch hit and probably his last big moment on the national stage.

But the Fighters were not to be deterred. In their 9th, Shinji Takahashi homered to make it 2-1. In the bottom half, it was up to Hisahi Takeda to hold off the heart of the Giants order and send the Fighters back to Sapporo up 3-2 . But the ghost of Byung-Hyun Kim's career made an appearance. A leadoff homer by Yoshiyuki Kamei tied the game. Then with 1 out, catcher Shinnosuke Abe came to the plate and cranked one. Back, back, back and gone! Ah crap. 3-2 for the Giants and the Fighters take one in the gut. I'm not sure if they can recover from this sort of loss, but games 6 and hopefully 7 are this weekend, so I'll let you know what happens.

Update (11/8). The Giants won game 6 2-0 (in just 3:02) and took the series 4-2. A depressing end to the baseball season as both the Yankees and Giants won their respective series.



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