- I was totally prepared to write a post-game article about how Ron Washington is going to lose this series by going to the Alexi Ogando well too many times. Seriously, Wash, you have Mike Adams and several other dudes down there in the pen and Ogando is still pitching, still walking guys, still leaving 95 mph fastballs up in the zone? Maybe I’m biased towards Adams because I saw him get so many Giants out, maybe he’s hurt, but that bullpen has other arms! Use them.
- Instead we have another LaRussa gem. I know the guy is smart, I know that he’s won a ton of games and been successful for a long time. I know that everyone has bad days and no manager gets it right even most of the time, but I really do wonder if some of the teams he’s managed could have/would have done better under someone else. Those A’s teams (’87-’91)…the ’04/’05 Cards…now this team. Hindsight is always perfect, but I think the question needs to be asked.
- This point has been made several times already but what were the Angels thinking when they traded Mike Napoli? Obviously, they wanted Vernon Wells. Obviously, they like Jeff Mathis. But their 2011 team needed: (a) Power (b) A first baseman (c) anyone who can hit. Unbelievable. Texas has improved its bullpen over the 2010 version of the team, but Napoli is the real big difference between this year and last year.
- Game six of the World Series is important. I know this because I like the Giants. I highly recommend that the Rangers end this thing on Wednesday. Still hoping for a game 7 though!
…Or a short treatise on greatness. Albert Pujols is great. He’s already proven that. He doesn’t need to do anything in this post-season to prove that. In fact, post-season greatness really doesn’t reflect who is actually a great baseball player. (I ran into a Phillies fan just after they got bumped by the Cards and he is still more upset about Cody Ross than this year’s playoff bounce). All that to say, just because you succeed in the post-season, it doesn’t make you a great player.
But Albert Pujols is great and there is something special about a great player having a great night on baseball’s largest stage.
I’ve always had a strange connection with Pujols (I think because we born in the same year and because I have never lost a fantasy season in which I drafted him). And even though I kind of want the Rangers to win this series, I always love watching the guy and root for him except for when he is playing the Giants.
Derek Holland is not great. At least not yet. We might be seeing the birth of a star. We might not. He had a horrible WS last year, so good for him, having the night of his life last night. Again, this is baseball: one night its greatest player has the greatest night ever. The next night he gets shut down by a guy who looks like this:
Baseball. Got to love it. Three more games please.
Baseball is such a humbling sport. Yesterday all the World Series analysis focused on the wizrdry of Tony LaRussa and how his cagey wisdom and guttiness allowed to pull all the right strings to help his team win. Now he’s a bum. Well, maybe not a bum, but no other job in sports is as second guessed or as misjudged as the baseball manager. We almost always over (and/or under) estimate how important the manager really is.
Then there’s the Pujols situation. The greatest player of his generation is a huge goat today. Baseball is the best sport at making even its best practitioners look horrible in small sample sizes. Plus the skipping out on the media thing doesn’t look good.
Also, there’s been some pitching in this series, which is a welcomed development. The bottom line is these teams are incredibly evenly matched. 90ish win teams with good, not great starters, the ability to hit some home runs and score, and bullpens that have a lot of options. What’s the X factor? Is it the managers? Is it the stars? Is it Allen Craig? I say whoever can get two more quality turns out of its starters takes this series, which is going to go seven. That’s about all I am convinced of so far.
Chris Carpenter is good. Chris Carpenter is old. Baseball is going through an adjustment period right now. There aren’t too many players in MLB older than me who are still really good. Chris Carpenter is one of those players. He’s been hurt a lot over the course of his career, but he’s also turned in some amazing seasons. (Go back and check out his 2009 numbers, only pitcher better that year was one Timmy Lincecum).
Chris Carpenter was born in New Hampshire. How much do the Red Sox wish they had a guy like him this year?
Thank you for pitching like a wily veteran who can get batters out, Christ Carpenter. Needed to see that.
One last thought: How badly did the Rangers need to win game 1 from a psychological standpoint? They have now lost 5 of the last 6 Word Series games played. Will the questions start to creep in, or can they refocus, get game 2, and head home with a split?
My goal for this Series is to offer my thoughts of each game…we will see if I’m successful or not. I’ve got to say, I’m surprised the Cardinals are still alive, but even more surprised at the Phillies and Brewers for not stepping up and winning winnable series. I’m not saying the Cards backed in, but I do think they are the benefactors of good fortune and hot streaks. (Some would argue like the Giants last year, but the pitching man, the pitching is the difference).
Seriously, I am surprised by how bad the starting pitching has been in this postseason. Every team has had good starters. It’s not a matter of talent. But no pitcher has put his stamp on the playoffs in 2011.
I think that will change to a degree in the World Series. It won’t quite be the 2010 Giants, but I think the Rangers will pull a dominant start out of CJ Wilson and Derek Holland and then cobble together two more wins out of their bullpen. Rangers in seven.
The year (post-season) of the home run? Perhaps, so argues Joe Lemire. I was thinking about this as I watched the Rangers-Tigers game last night. Early on, while Derek Holland and Max Scherzer were both struggling, I was trying to remember a post-season so dramatically defined by offense. I (and others) have pointed out how important pitching is to the post-season, and I still believe that (both at a gut level and based on copious statistical evidence provided by baseball prospectus and others). But every now and then a post-season comes along and turns into a slug fest.
Like 2002. I don’t have the numbers in front of me to prove this (so if someone wants to take the time to do this, that would be awesome), but 2011 feels a lot like 2002 to me. There are always blowouts and games where the scoring gets out of hand in any year’s post-season tournament, but I can’t remember a year like this since 2002. No one, especially the World Series teams (Angels and Giants) had a fearsome big-game type of starter. The bullpens were good and there were some excellent pitching performances, but you kind of expected the final scores to be 6-5, not 3-2.
Two points to all of this: (1) I can’t remember a slug it out post-season like this since 2002. (2) It really makes sad the Giants aren’t in this. I was kind of hoping the Phillies would win it all and the inevitability of that result would make it easy to swallow the Giants lost season. However, the more I watch this post-season, the more I think a dominant staff (starters and relievers) could have done some damage in this tournament.
Friday night brought the drama, and it also brought the pitching. I complained yesterday about the lack of dominance by pitchers in the post-season in what was supposed to have been the year of the pitcher. (Side note: someone is probably going to write an idiotic article about how Roy Halladay is great, but not super great, because he can’t win in the post-season…it will be ludicrous but it’s going to happen). Last night however provided everything we love about baseball: suspense, great pitching, unlikely heroes, and surprising results.
Saturday Morning Thoughts:
- Great job Cardinals. You continue to mess with my pitching model of success (although they really turned it on in the 2nd half…their season stats are not super impressive, but their second half stats are Giant-esque: 7.8 k/9, sub 3.30 ERA. Should have paid more attention to that), and you constantly annoy me with the terrible way you build your team, and yet you just keep on winning. I don’t get it and it frustrates me, but credit where credit is due. You just pulled off one of the greatest upsets in MLB history. Well done!
- I’m all in with the Brewers now. Might even go buy a hat. Probably not, but if 2011 turns out to be a repeat of 2006, I’ll be upset. Just saying.
- Sticking with the Rangers in the AL and I’m going to say Brewers in 7 in the NLCS.