FOX Sports Does Not Understand Baseball

Pointing out that the Dodgers are consistently underrated by the national media is hardly news – every Dodger blog alive points it out constantly – but FOX has really outdone themselves this time. I get that the Dodgers may not be the Yankees, and had a lousy last week or two, but you’re really going to call the team with the best record in the league 7th out of 8 playoff teams?

Even better, their facts are inherently flawed.

There are just too many rotation issues and offensive woes to trust the Dodgers. They’re arguably playing the worst of any team, regardless of league, going into the playoffs. Manny Ramirez can immediately change that if he gets hot, but his performance over the final week doesn’t lend confidence to that happening. The rotation is very unsettled and doesn’t stack up well to the Cardinals’ and Phillies’. At their core, the Dodgers are a very talented team, but they’re just not playing well enough in any one facet to think they’ll get more than two wins this postseason.

Well, FOX, I reject your reality and substitute my own.

Fact: for all the hand-wringing over the Dodgers’ struggle to clinch the NL West, the Cardinals fared even worse. In September and October, St. Louis was 14-16. The Dodgers were 16-13.

Fact: it’s been proven many times, but probably none better than Jay Jaffe on Baseball Prospectus today, that how a team ends a regular season has very little impact on a postseason:

As the postseason unfolds over the next few weeks, you’re going to hear a lot about momentum and its importance to a ballclub, and while it’s undoubtedly a good idea to bear Earl Weaver’s famous maxim in mind, the take-home message is that the conventional wisdom that a team’s recent performances foreshadows their playoff fate is generally wrong. The fact that there are no shortage of pundits who elevate the 2007 Rockies as their evidence while forgetting the 2006 Cardinals underscores either how little attention some talking heads pay to actual results, or how short their attention spans are.

Fact: Sean Forman of the imcomparable baseball-reference.com has derived a formula including a team’s margin of victory and quality of opponent – just like NCAA football’s BCS rankings and determined that the Dodgers are the best team in the NL by far:

These ratings show the Dodgers to be a legitimate 95-win team and the best team in the National League by a wide margin. The Rockies and Phillies have 86-to-88-win talent with the series leaning in the Phillies’ direction because they are slightly better and they have home-field advantage. The Cardinals grade out as the worst of the playoff teams with 83 wins against an average schedule.

Cardinals fans will, I’m sure, be up in arms at this characterization. By our measures, the Cardinals pitchers faced the second-easiest set of lineups and the batters faced the easiest set of pitching staffs, meaning they had the easiest schedule by a wide margin. (The Cy Young candidacies for Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright are another discussion.) In addition to playing in the N.L. Central where the next best team ranked 18th in the majors, the Cardinals faced the A.L.’s worst division, the Central, in interleague play.

Not that I mind playing the underdog, but does it always have to be that way? Will the Dodgers ever get some proper respect?

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