Carleton: Who has the momentum? And does it matter?

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on September 30, 2013:

Oh boy, it’s playoff time! Time for all of the baseball prognosticators out there to find that perfect little factoid that no one else has noticed about each series. It needs to be slightly surprising and counter-intuitive so that the reader is entertained by your erudite knowledge of the game, not to mention your use of the word “erudite.” You also need to be able to make a case, probably though some questionable logic, that this factoid will, over the next five games between these two teams, not only make a difference in the outcome of the series, but will be the difference between the teams. You get bonus points if you refer to someone really obscure as an X-factor.

But if you can’t think of an X-factor that’s hipster enough, you can always fall back on the old standbys. Team A will win because they clinched early and are well-rested. Team B will win because they had to fight all the way through September to the last day and are already in playoff mode. What’s fun is that you’ll hear both explanations cited. The Braves built a 15-game lead over the Nationals in August, and it was a foregone conclusion that they would win the NL East. The AL Wild Card race, on the other hand, ended up being oodles of fun (and it’s not done yet!). We’ll find out later this week who gets to be the fourth entrant into the ALDS round. I guarantee that you’ll hear both the Braves and the Indians/Rangers/Rays picked to win (and lose) their respective series for these completely opposite reasons, the same way that the older, more experienced team and the younger, hungrier team will win.

It’s an argument that comes up a lot.

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Originally published: September 30, 2013. Last Updated: September 30, 2013.