Thursday, October 16, 2014

One Time

It has to be so unfair to be a fan of the Baltimore Orioles.

Here your team emerges from nearly 20 years of chronically bad baseball. Finally, your team gets out of the shadows of the Yankees and Red Sox, who have won eight World Series between them in the last 18 years, and makes it to the American League Championship Series.

Surely this is an underdog team well worth rooting for, no? So what happens to your team? It finds waiting for it the Kansas City Royals, who are an even bigger underdog Cinderella type, and suddenly every neutral fan is against you.

It's hard to root against the Royals, who have an even bigger record of futility during the last 20, or even nearly 30, years than the Orioles.

Beginning in 1975, the Royals finished first or second 10 straight times and won the 1985 World Series, the only one in franchise history. Since then, though, the bottom basically fell out of a team that had little money and little fan interest.

By 1992, the Royals were in the their third straight year of finishing sixth in the AL West, and attendance dipped below 2,000,000. At no point since has it made it back, including this year.

Kansas City is playing in its first postseason since 1985 - and making the most of it. First there was a thrilling comeback win over Oakland in the wild card game, followed by sweeps over the Angels and Orioles that have put the Royals back in the World Series.

And they're 8-0 in the postseason. How nuts is that?

It's even nuttier when you consider that four of those eight wins are by one run and four of those wins were in extra innings. Of the other four games, two were decided by one run. The last two wins against the Orioles were 2-1 and 2-1.

By the way, here's a list of all Kansas City Royals players TigerBlog could have named before the playoffs began - .........

That's supposed to mean he couldn't have named any.

One thing these Royals have done is make it clear that these days, nothing is more overrated than starting pitching. Kansas City has won basically every game because of three bullpen guys whom TB had never heard of but who are completely lights out. Take yesterday. It was 2-1 in the sixth - and 2-1 when it ended.

The ability to win close games in the postseason is what defines greatness. Of Princeton's nine NCAA lacrosse championships between the men's and women's teams, five were won in overtime.

TigerBlog has been struck by the number of close games that Princeton teams have been playing this fall. Or at least he thought he was.

The numbers don't always back up what is originally suspected, so he figured he'd look.

He researched the football, two soccer and field hockey teams. He wasn't sure what to do with women's volleyball, since no game can be a one-point win but a match can be won 3-2.

Here's what he found:

* the men's soccer team has played 11 games, of which eight have been decided by either one goal or ended in a tie
* the women's soccer team has played 11 games, of which six have been decided by either one goal ended in a tie
* the football team has played four games, of which one has been decided by one point
* the field hockey team has played 12 games, of which six have been decided by one goal - and three have gone to overtime
* the women's volleyball team has played 15 matches, of which six ended 3-2, though it's not quite the same thing as one one-point game

Either way, add that up, and between the five sports, you have 53 games, of which 27 - or one more than half - have been either ties or one-point, one-goal or one-game margins.

If you factor out volleyball, then you have 38 games and 21 one-point margins. That's a lot, no?

TigerBlog didn't add this up, but the men's soccer team has probably played more than 80 percent of its season so far with the score either tied or one team up by one. That puts a ton of pressure on each possession, even in soccer, which has more possessions than any other sport, TB would guess.

Is this an anomaly?  A year ago, Princeton played 17 men's soccer games, and 13 of them were one-goal or tie games. The women had eight in 17 games. The field hockey team had eight in 19 games. The football team had two in 10 games.

That's 31 of 63, or 49 percent, as opposed to 55 percent this year.

What does all this mean? Maybe it's just the nature of soccer and field hockey to play close games.

Maybe it's means nothing.

Or maybe it means that if you come watch a Princeton game, it's likely to go down to the wire. And other than football, it's free.

Yeah, let's go with that. 

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