- 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!
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.
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.
So, that squirrel thing was kind of funny. Other than that, despite the three game 5’s, I am not finding these playoffs to be super enjoyable thus far. Last October was so awesome, such an experience, and this year just can’t match that.
- While there is a lot of evidence that pitching was better overall in 2011 than 2010 the post-season is not supporting that. Verducci writes about it here, but that would have been my top observation anyway. Again, it highlights the tragedy of Posey: I really think the Giants could have run this table if they had made it back.
- Not surprised to see the Yankees go down to Detroit in a short series. I don’t think Detroit has enough to get past the Rangers, but in 5 games with Verlander and Cabrera and company, Detroit had plenty of weapons to deal with a Yankees team that had a nice regular season, but was always way too thin to inspire tons of confidence.
- For a second there I believed that Tampa might be on the verge of something magical, but that was quickly erased by three nice, efficient games from the Rangers. There’s a part of me that wouldn’t mind seeing them win it all. Feels vindicating in some way for Giants’ fans. My ALCS prediction: Rangers over the Tigers in 6.
- Tonight’s games: Still think the Phillies pull this out. They’ve been exposed by the Cardinals a lot more than I expected, but they should get out of this and on to the next round (and the World Series for that matter). Phillies over Cards 4-2. The other series continues to be a total coin flip in my opinion. I guess I’ll go with the Brewers since they are at home and that seems to really matter in this matchup. Brewers over D-Backs 5-4.
We’ve established the importance of pitching to winning championships on this site this year. So, with that in mind let’s look at the pitching performances of the 8 playoff teams and see if that lends any insight into what might happen in October.
1) New York Yankees: 2010 7.2, 4.06, 1.31, 106 2011: 7.5, 3.71, 1.32, 120 Somehow the Yankees have the best pitching staff in the AL (based on ERA+). I still don’t really buy it. I do not think they have the depth of starting pitching to make it all the way through (which may just mean they lose to the Phillies in the World Series), but the numbers wouldn’t make it a surprise. Sorry Detroit, the Yankees make it out of round 1.
2) Texas Rangers: 2010 7.3, 3.93, 1.31, 114 2011: 7.4, 3.81, 1.24, 118 The Rangers improved nicely this year even without Cliff Lee and I had them going head to head with the Yankees in an all out 7 game brawl in the ALCS until the Rays pulled off their miracle last night. Now, I’m not so sure.
3) Detroit Tigers: 2010 6.6, 4.30, 1.37, 97 2011: 7.0, 4.04, 1.32, 102 Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball right now (my apologies to my boy Timmy). But, in this day and age a team needs more than one stud to make it through the three rounds of the playoffs. I think they could pull off an upset in the short first round, but I still think the Yankees prevail.
4) Tampa Bay Rays: 2010 7.4, 3.78, 1.26, 103 2011: 7.1, 3.58, 1.22, 105 The Rays have created a love/hate situation for me. Love that they proved me right in making the playoffs, hate that they knocked the Sox out and that they have now really messed up the playoff picture. They have the kind of staff that can make a deep playoff run. My main argument against them though is that they have not had the ability to line up their rotation for the short opening series. I’m going to reluctantly pick the Rangers, but I’m rooting for the Rays and will not be surprised at all if they move on.
1) Philadelphia Phillies: 2010 7.3, 3.67, 1.25, 111 2011 7.9, 3.03, 1.17, 128 No team in recent memory has so perfectly followed the model I’ve been touting this year as the 2011 Phillies. The addition (Lee) and emergence (Worley and Madson) of excellent arms has the Phillies poised for a deep run. As long as Halladay doesn’t pull a groin throwing a first round no-hitter this team is going to the World Series and anything less would be one of the great baseball upsets of all time.
2) Milwaukee Brewers: 2010 7.9, 4.58, 1.44, 88 2011 7.9, 3.65, 1.24, 107 The Brewers also masterfully followed the pattern by adding pitching and have seized the moment presented to them this year (likely the last with Prince Fielder). Timing, however, is everything and I am not sure they will even make it out of the first round, let alone take down the mighty Phillies. Before St. Louis overtook the collapsing Braves, it was a no brainer the Brewers would take out Atlanta. Now, they are in the most intriguing first round match up with…
3) Arizona Diamondbacks: 2010 6.7, 4.81, 1.43, 89 2011 6.6, 3.78, 1.29, 105 Arizona’s improved bullpen has gotten a lot of press, but the emergence of Ian Kennedy and Josh Collmenter, and a full season of Daniel Hudson have been just as, if not more, important. In fact, they are so improved I can actually see them beating Milwaukee and giving Philadelphia a huge test. So, for now I am saying D-Backs in 5.
4) St. Louis Cardinals: 2010 6.8, 3.57, 1.30, 109 2011 6.7, 3.81, 1.31, 96 So, the Cardinals have defied the pattern before (see 2006), but that team didn’t have to face the 2011 Phillies in the first round. Sorry, Cards, fun story, but time to get on with re-signing Pujols.
By the numbers I see the Phillies taking the title by beating the Yankees in 6. However, the romantic side of me will say this: don’t be shocked if the Rays and Phils meet in a replay of 2008, only this time the little team from Tampa takes it all.
The July 31st, non-waiver, trade deadline has come and gone. Tons of rumors were milled and many speculations made, and now that the dust has settled what do we have? Most trade winners and losers columns looks like this, but I want to frame this discussion in the pitching model we’ve been working on this year. In that light, let’s start by looking at who added pitching:
- The Indians: They obviously nabbed the big fish in this small sea by acquiring Ubaldo Jimenez. In my opinion this is a brilliant move by the Indians and quite possibly the stupidest trade of all time by the Rockies. Maybe Ubaldo has a torn rotator cuff that no one else can see, and maybe he hates Coors (the beer) or did something to offend everyone in Denver. But I have NO IDEA how a franchise that has been desperate for power arms (or any kind of quality pitching) trades Jimenez (a good and sometimes great arm) at all, let alone when they control him cheaply for 3 MORE SEASONS. Good for the Indians. They need more than an ace to really contend in the AL right now, but this is the kind of move that perfectly fits our model. A
- The Rangers: While not as flashy as landing an ace, the Rangers nonetheless made two exquisite additions at the deadline adding great arms to their bullpen in Koji Uehara and Mike Adams. This is a team that can now shut a game down after six innings. They reinforced their one glaring area of weakness. They still don’t have a prototypical #1/Ace type pitcher, but they have depth and may only need guys to get through five innings to win games. I’m this close to making them the team to beat in the AL. A-
- The Brewers: In my opinion, Bob Melvin has done everything right this year for his team. Given his constraints with money, he has gone all in for a small market team that has a short window. This is how you do it, folks, when you have limited resources. He made two big trades this offseason to get pitching and made another good July move to help the pen (adding K-Rod to lock down the 8th inning). I think they have more than enough to get this done, it’s up to the players now to make it happen. B
- The Diamondbacks: Ok, it’s good to add pitching, but Jason Marquis and BradZeigler don’t exactly get the blood moving. As it turns out, though, Marquis is great against the Giants (ugh) and Zeigler is a good arm in any pen. Hard to imagine that these moves put the D-Backs over the top, but they don’t hurt. B-
- The Cardinals: Sure they added an arm, but they did it in the weirdest way imaginable. I don’t care what Tony LaRussa says: I don’t know how you give away a young, talented, and contract-controlled player like Colby Rasmus for a free-agent to be like Edwin Jackson. But they did add pitching, and Jackson seems like a guy who will do well in STL with Dave Duncan. C+
- The Red Sox: all trades, of course, are much easier to evaluate in hindsight, but the move the Sox made yesterday is really a coin toss. It looks like Clay Bucholz is done for the season and Dice-K has turned in to a ghost, so the team needed pitching. Eric Bedard is really good when he is healthy, but he is rarely healthy. He may be fine and have a dominant two months and magical, ode inspiring run through the playoffs, or he might blow out a knee or an elbow or a shoulder getting out of bed tomorrow and be done for the year. NO ONE, not even the Red Sox, knows which one it’s going to be. Incomplete
Let’s continue what we started yesterday by looking at the rest of the contending teams.
- 2010 Red Sox: 7.5 K/9, 4.20 ERA, 104 ERA+, 1.36 WHIP
- 2011 Red Sox: 7.1, 3.98, 103, 1.27
- 2010 Rays: 7.4, 3.78, 103, 1.26
- 2011 Rays: 6.6, 3.61, 100, 1.21
Here’s where ERA+ is such a useful stat. It might appear that both of these teams are pitching better in 2011 than in 2010, but in reality they are just benefiting from a depressed run scoring environment. Runs are down throughout baseball and both of these teams, especially the 2011 Rays, are the definition of league average, despite a lower ERA and WHIP. Relative to the rest of baseball they have seen no improvement. As much as I like both of these teams, this analysis does not bode well for their Championship hopes.
- 2010 Indians: 6.1 K/9, 4.30 ERA, 93 ERA+, 1.43 WHIP
- 2011 Indians: 6.3, 3.97, 97, 1.30
- 2010 Tigers: 6.6, 4.30, 96, 1.37
- 2011 Tigers: 6.9, 4.30, 89, 1.38
- 2010 White Sox: 7.1, 4.09, 105, 1.36
- 2011 White Sox: 7.0, 3.83, 105, 1.28
- 2010 Twins: 6.5, 3.95, 107, 1.29
- 2011 Twins: 6.0, 4.24, 95, 1.36
Only the Indians have seen improvement in this division. Everyone else is down or standing pat. Again, ERA+ is helpful in showing how, relative to the rest of baseball, none of these teams is particularly impressive. The White Sox are the only above average staff in the division. Most surprising, to me at least, is how bad the Tigers are. Verlander is having a season for the ages and they still are one of the worst six pitching staffs in all of baseball. It would behoove them to go get a top of the line starter as rumored here. This division could be decided by one big trade.
- 2009 Rangers: 6.4 K/9, 4.38 ERA, 106 ERA+, 1.37 WHIP
- 2010 Rangers: 7.3, 3.93, 112, 1.31
- 2011 Rangers: 7.0, 3.84, 109, 1.28
First of all, what is incredible about this division is that two of the ten best teams, in terms of pitching, are here (the A’s and the Mariners) and yet, for the most part, they are not in any kind of contention. That’s amazing since the Angels and Rangers are not exactly the Red Sox and Yankees. Second, I included 2009 because the Rangers made it to the World Series last year and I wanted to check out their trajectory. For a team that has a reputation for being great offensively and suspect in terms of pitching they’ve been throwing quite for three years now. They were obviously helped by the addition of Colby Lewis, CJ Wilson, and Cliff Lee in 2010 but they have not suffered as badly as I, or others, would have thought this year. Nonetheless, not the kind of jump that befits a Championship profile.
Bottom line for the AL: The Yankees and Angels are the two teams that have shown the most improvement with their pitching. This is interesting to me because my gut doesn’t agree with this analysis, still thinking the Red Sox (and even the Rays or Rangers) are better suited to come out of the AL. Again, some of this will change with trades, slumps, and hot streaks, but right now I would have to say the Yankees are the AL favorite to go to the World Series with the Angels not far behind them.