Connoisseurs of American sports consider football to be the ultimate team sport because no one player can directly impact the outcome of a game. Even the best quarterback cannot succeed if there is not a good offensive line blocking to provide time to throw the ball and receivers capable of catching the ball. A good offense can score lots of points but if the defense does not prevent the opposing team from scoring, the team can still lose the game.
Last night we learned the degree to which baseball is a team sport. The Los Angeles Dodgers are clearly the better team than the Chicago Cubs, which is why the Dodgers will be playing the World Series this year. We also learned how difficult it is for aebaseball team to repeat its prior year performance.
The final analysis of the Cub’s play during the League Championship series will likely point the finger at their anemic hitting. What might be overlooked is how their poor bullpen affected the hitting and how the poor hitting affected starting pitching.
The poor Cubs bullpen, exacerbated more by the Dodger’s excellent bullpen, shortened the game. Cubs hitters knew they had to hit and score runs in the early innings to have a chance to win. Success in baseball comes primarily in how the players handle pressure.
Pressure on the hitters causes them to do things they otherwise don’t, and that provides a huge advantage to opposing pitchers.
Cub’s starting pitching went into the games thinking they had to pitch a shutout to win because they weren’t getting any run support. Further, the starting pitchers knew the bullpen was not doing their job and therefore felt they not only had to pitch a shutout, but do so for at least six, if not seven, innings.
Pressure on pitchers tends to cause them to not throw through the ball where they want, resulting in walks or lots of hits and home runs. Cubs pitching gave up too much of all these in this series.
In contrast, Dodger hitters had no pressure to do anything more than they did all season. Relaxed hitters can do unexpected things like Enrique Hernandez’s three home runs last night. Dodger pitching enabled the hitters to relax and their bullpen and hitting enabled the starting pitching to not have to worry if they gave up runs early in the game, hitting and relieving always gave the Dodgers a chance to win.
In other words, even though an individual pitcher or hitter can influence the outcome of a game, baseball is still very much a team sport and a balanced team is necessary for winning championships. The 2017 National League Championship Series proved the Los Angelas Dodgers to be the better team than the Chicago Cubs, and that is why they are playing in the World Series.