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Postseason to feature variety of new elements

Postseason to feature variety of new elements

Postseason to feature variety of new elements
TBS -- which on Monday announced its eight-year contract extension with MLB starting in 2014 -- will offer extensive coverage of the postseason, beginning with the exclusive presentation of the first Wild Card presented by Budweiser on Friday.

The network, in its sixth consecutive year televising the Division Series and one League Championship Series, will also be the exclusive home of up to 18 Division Series games and the entire American League Championship Series coverage on TBS presented by the Capital One Cash Card. FOX will broadcast the National League Championship Series and World Series.

For the Wild Card and Division Series, TBS will feature a pair of three-man commentator teams. The first will be Cal Ripken and fellow analyst John Smoltz, along with play-by-play man Ernie Johnson. The other team will feature play-by-play announcer Brian Anderson, who called Roy Halladay's historic no-hitter on TBS during the 2010 NLDS, along with veteran analysts Ron Darling and Joe Simpson. Darling will join with Smoltz and Johnson to call the ALCS.

Division Series announcer teams also will include veteran play-by-play announcer Dick Stockton, joined in the booth once again by former MLB manager and longtime TV analyst Bob Brenly. Don Orsillo (play-by-play) and Buck Martinez (analyst) will return for their sixth and fifth postseasons, respectively, with TBS.

Host Matt Winer, Dennis Eckersley and David Wells will be in the studio, and with Ripken moving to the booth for the Wild Card and Division Series action, Turner will be adding a personality to be named as a fill-in for him. Matt Kemp had been announced as the choice, but he subsequently became unavailable because of his announcement that he will undergo surgery on his injured left shoulder on Friday.

"The challenge is the next 72 hours, no question about it," Craig Barry, Turner Sports senior vice president of production, said of the wild uncertainty over sites and matchups, especially in the AL. "Yesterday, there were 18 scenarios; this morning, I think that was down to eight for us, involving production crews and talent in various places. The biggest challenge is -- although we only need to do certain games on certain evenings -- we need to be set up in certain cities, what we call SWAT crews. While we may not go to Oakland Friday, we still have a truck set up there based on one of the scenarios. So we have twice as many production trucks set up and only half will be used, but we have to be ready."

TBS technology coming to this postseason includes:

• 3D Hologram Imagery: This will illustrate detailed examples of pitch grips while demonstrating the pressure points, release points and rotation. Analysts will use the tool to explain how pitches work and how the batter approaches each type of pitch.

• Super Slo-Mo: TBS will triple the amount of Super Slow-Motion cameras utilized throughout its postseason coverage, increasing to three in the Division Series and six in the ALCS.

• Bloomberg Stats: TBS will once again utilize Bloomberg Sports' vast resources as they integrate comprehensive statistical information into each telecast. The service allows game and studio analysts to examine every pitch of each game to find patterns and pick out tendencies.

• Pitch Trax: The in-game technology which illustrates pitch location throughout the game will return to TBS for the postseason.

Smoltz, Darling and Johnson went around the horn with media on the conference call, and the one thing they agreed on most is that Miguel Cabrera has locked up the AL Most Valuable Player Award now that he is on pace for the Majors' first Triple Crown since 1967.

"[Mike] Trout has had a phenomenal year," Smoltz said, "just picked the wrong timing to have a phenomenal year."

TBS will be educating viewers on the unique Division Series 2-3 format, one that will be replaced next year. Instead of the past 2-2-1 format, the team with the lesser record will host the first two games. Smoltz said that is "scary" for the club with the better record, and said it especially bodes well for Detroit, which has the worst record of any division winner but has Justin Verlander and Co. in a formidable rotation.

"The way this format is set up, I'm not so sure the No. 1 seed has an advantage in the Division Series," Smoltz said. "I never liked in [1995] starting on the road -- we should have lost to the Rockies but we didn't, and we went on and won the World Series. Best-of-fives are scary.

"If you are the best-record team, and you do not split those first two games, it's very difficult to win three at home. The way it's set up, Detroit has a little advantage."

Barry said viewers can expect a special nod to Chipper Jones during Friday's Cardinals-Braves NL Wild Card game in Atlanta, because it could be the last game for the retiring Braves legend.

"That's a huge part of the storyline on Friday, and it will be addressed," Barry said.

Ripken told MLB.com on Monday he thinks "everybody's going to go with survival no matter what" for the Wild Card games, with "everyone available."

"The team that gets in with the fourth or fifth starter, they win; it's an advantage," Smoltz said. "For Atlanta, it's a nice situation knowing your best guy's going out for you, but sooner or later if it doesn't get tweaked, you have to ask if I want to go out at all costs or set myself up to win 11 more games.

"It's a manager's worst nightmare; nobody really wants to manage this type of game, because there's going to be so much opportunity to question strategy. It'll be interesting to see who handles it and who has the most patience."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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