Tuesday, October 27, 2009

World Series

Here we are, well into fall and on the precipice of possibly a classic World Series. If the Yankees win, I will find solace in that I won’t have to hear about the Yankees gaining retribution for not winning the title for a whopping 8 years. How the media plants a chip on the Yankees shoulder is beyond me. This is like Lakers fans getting miffed if there is no three-peat.

This series could be very close. This is a rare time when the National League team can match batters pound for pound with the American side. Both teams can hit the ball out of the yard when needed. The offenses are very similar with the speed going slightly to the Phillies.

Both teams have great defenses. When you look at each depth chart it really is hard to decipher who you would take between the positions. Teixeira and Howard are monsters at the plate but Tex may get the nod because of his fielding. Utley is arguably the best hitting second baseman in the majors right now, but Robinson Cano is not far behind, and is younger.

Shortstop may go to Rollins if it weren’t October, a month Jeter dominates from both sides of the ball. The only real mismatch is at 3rd base, there ARod is a hall of famer and Pedro Feliz looks good in a hat.

The one thing that may keep this from being a tight series is the pitching. Last series the Phillies were able to get past their faults in the pen by dominating the Dodgers with their starters. In this series however, they are on the short end in both starting and relief pitching. Phillies starters are ill-equipped to face a line-up like the Yankees. Save Cliff Lee, the Phillies will be sending up questionable pitchers like Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, and for game two Pedro Martinez.

Hamels is a ghost of his 2008 self. He is neither overpowering nor fooling anyone at this stage. Joe Blanton is a fastball pitcher that likes to start a batter by throwing balls in the dirt. He will get behind in counts to a disciplined lineup and subsequently give up a long ball or two. Pedro Martinez looked good against the Dodgers, but then again Vicente Padilla looked good for a start against the Phillies.

The Phillies will most likely have to match the Yankees run for run rather than quieting their bats. Either way Charlie Manuel will have to go to the bullpen earlier in games than he would have liked. From there Chan Ho Park will remember he is Chan Ho Park. J.A. Happ will get bombed. Ryan Madson will walk batters. And Brad Lidge will either strike out the side or give up a grand slam.

This looks to be a good one, so pop open a beer, loosen the pants, and put up your feet. This may take a while.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Deep Thoughts

Well it seems like the Yankees and Phillies get to play at least one exhibition game each before heading to the World Series. Both Championship Series are all but wrapped up with cute little bows on them.

If the Dodgers do win tonight they have the great fortune of facing Cliff Lee again. If the Angels win tomorrow and in game six they have to face C.C. Sabathia. We all know how both teams fare against those respective aces. For a second let’s disregard the match-ups. Let’s get down to what really matters in baseball, the subtle nuances.

Some things I learned in the Championship Series round:

1) Ron Darling sounds remarkably like James Woods. I finally realized this because I chose to focus on the tenor and repetition of his syntax rather than listen to…

2) Buck Martinez is a nose breather. He breathes through his nose and while funny in the first inning became quiet annoying in the second. And that was game one. I had to sit through this man’s nose whistles all through the 27 outs of each game.

3) Matt Stairs may look like a Little League dad who goes out and drinks all week and plays softball with his buddies on Sundays, but to Jonathan Broxton, Matt Stairs looks like the monster you always believed was in your closet as a kid.

4) The American League series was a tight one if you take away all the home runs the Yankees hit. Also please imagine a world in which Alex Rodriguez dominates in the postseason, seems bleak right? Well that’s the world we live in now.

5) Tim McCarver is currently in a heated battle with the English language. Who will win I am unsure of but we are worse off for witnessing it.

6) I could have easily gone out and got five of my closest friends and umpired these games. We would have been just as effective and might not have blown so many calls.

7) ManRam takes a shower in the ninth of game four. A leader on the team, he is neither there to console or to praise had the Dodgers pulled the win out. I still do not understand why he is supported by the fan base in Los Angeles.

It may be a long layoff before the World Series. I for one will be stocking up on cases of beer. I have found that’s the only way to truly follow what Tim McCarver is trying to say. It makes watching the World Series more understandable.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

American League CS

So let me get this straight. The Yankees went out and spent roughly the GDP of Kerzblakistan on better starting pitchers and yet they will take on the formidable Angels with…three pitchers. This seems like a bad return on investment.

Joe Girardi has decided to go with a rotation that will have the very spry and not a bit overweight C.C. Sabathia pitch in a possible 3 games this series. To his credit it is not a strategy born of great minds mulling it over, rather it is derived from necessity. You see, it’s October and the Yankees have really only three starters you can count on. Joba Chamberlain is best used as a catch-all pitcher that can go long or short and Sergio Mitre has a propensity to let the opposing team score a lot.

A three-man rotation may cause trouble if they get past the Angels and have to go to a 4-man rote in the Series. But that brings me to this series. The three-man rotation is pure trouble when you consider that two of the three are left handers. The Angels have no problem hitting left-handers. This has the makings of another Steinbrenner blow-up. I for one will not be able to handle a Yankee loss. Not because I am a fan-I am not. It’s because every year the Yankees fail to bring home a Series title they buy more players the next year. Soon it will be the Yankees and a couple teams with the likes of Chris Davis and Barry Zito on them.

The Angels have eight guys hitting .297 or higher on the year against lefties. Basically get used to Angels being on base. Also get used to Scioscia running his little heart out against Posada.

Now the fun part is that the Yankees have an all-star lineup that can crush the ball. Add the fact that Yankee stadium turns pop ups into home runs and you have the makings of a very ugly series.

I guess my main point is this will not be a pitchers series. Scores should average above 5 and very well could take 4 hours to play.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

National League CS

These playoffs have reaffirmed what I thought I already knew about baseball. A lot of times the loss goes to he who screws up first, often, or both. Either a closer will throw a changeup out over the plate, or a shortstop will flub a double play, or Matt Holiday will try to run and catch at the same time. More often than not these mistakes turn into game changing blunders. Looking to the National League match-up on Thursday, I have decided who will screw up least.

Both teams boast solid defenses. Dodger faithful may even have images of gold glove infields of yester year. Likewise, the Phillies have nary a hole to hit to. This would almost be a complete tie on defense if it weren’t for the Manny in left field. I know it’s coming. It hasn’t yet. But it will. There will be a gaffe of such epic proportions as to end the Dodger hopes in one foul swoop. Things have been too easy out there for him. Sure every fly ball looks like it wants to come out of his glove. Sure every gaper is chased at walking speeds. But a big one is coming. Set the DVR to record.

As for rotations I have to give the “most likely to get rocked” award to either Randy Wolf or Brad Lidge. One constant with Wolf is that when he takes the ball, you know the opposition will score three runs. You can take comfort in that it will not be more than that but either way he will leave the game with three runs having been scored. As for Brad Lidge, I mean, come on, even Brad Lidge was holding his breath when Brad Lidge was pitching the ninth inning on Monday. He really only had one pitch he was comfortable with and that was his slider. Lucky for Lidge, Troy Tulowitzki was fond of swinging at pretty much anything that night.

Now what hitters will go completely absent for the next week? Smart money is Pedro Feliz. This guy wasn’t exactly raking the ball against Colorado. He went 3 for 13 but still scares me. He has a Scott Brosius thing about him. He could easily go 1 for 20 in the next series but that one could be the game-winning walk off single.

So which team will screw up least to take this thing? My guess is the defending champs…then again it could be the Dodgers. I’ll let you know after I see how many fastballs Padilla can throw without Chase Utley hitting the pavilion.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Playoffs: American League

Twins v. Yankees

The Twins were not supposed to make the playoffs this year. The same can be said of last year as well. Actually every year they do well after Kent Hrbek retired is pretty much icing. But here they are well into October, keeping baseball in the Metrodome for at least one more game. Unfortunately they are up against the best paid team in baseball - and they still have to play in a marshmallow.

The Yankees’ weakness the past couple of years has come in the arm department. It should also be noted that Yankee players have no actual souls so that could be a minus as well. This year however, they have a great one-two of Sabathia and Burnett and plenty of depth in the bullpen. Their greatest strength in that department may be Joba Chamberlain. He can pitch a few innings of long relief if need be or he can be ready at a moment’s notice to pitch to one batter. A guy that versatile in the playoffs is extremely valuable.

The Yankees also benefit from the Twins coming off an extreme high and may still very well be suffering from champagne hangovers. What’s scary thought is that the Yankees usually have Alex Rodriguez on slump mode right about now. But he has been heating up every month and just had one of the best games of his career to end the season. It turns out his injury at the beginning of the season was a blessing in disguise. But he still has no actual soul to speak of.

Red Sox v. Angels

Let’s disregard the fact that the Angels have three division series losses to the Red Sox. This is a new year and what’s striking is that these two teams are pretty close images of one another. Take away the ability of both Jon Lester and Josh Beckett to turn into K machines every so often, the Angels and Red Sox are pretty much split down the middle talent wise. The regular season record illustrates this with the Angels taking five of nine.

Both squads have extremely talented hitters throughout. What both lack is a step-up stud of a hitter. Neither has the one guy who pitchers would rather pitch around than put anything near them. This has not deterred either from being extremely potent on offense. Rather, the hits are spread out all over. This is a pick em’ series that should go all five.

To pick the winner of this one I flipped a coin nine times and the Angels won. However I remember that I still can’t stand the Rally Monkey so I switched to the Red Sox. Monkeys should be lauded and laughed at for their comical behavior not invoked to spur on a rally. That’s right the Red Sox win because Angel fans worship monkeys. You heard it here first.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Playoffs: The Senior Circuit

Rockies v. Phillies

The Rockies are as enigmatic as the division in which they play in. Touted as a young team on the rise, the Rockies started the season as underachievers.

I would also like to take this time to throw a special shout out to my boy Garrett Atkins whom I drafted in the 7th round of my fantasy league this year. Atkins was supposed to be the slugger the Rockies desperately needed this season. He is now backing up Ian Stewart at third base. Let me put this in perspective for you Garrett, Dexter Fowler is getting more hacks then you right now. Dexter weighs a little more than a fat infant and he is getting the nod over you in crunch time. I hate you. I’m sorry - I just really could have used the power from that position this year.

Anyway, they would hit their low point of 12 games under .500 in the beginning of June. Management felt not enough was being done with the talent on the roster and manager Clint Hurdle was fired. That being said, the Rockies have been the hottest team in baseball since the break. Jim Tracy has brought back a sense of calm to the young dugout. Starters such as Troy Tulowitzki feel at ease knowing that their skipper has faith in them. The players have dutifully rewarded him with solid defense, consistent hitting, and a playoff berth. If Jorge De La Rosa can be fit to pitch in this series Colorado’s chances skyrocket.

Please don’t misconstrue me. The Phillies should win this series. They have a better roster and won it last year. That should be the end of the argument. But what fun would sports be if great teams didn’t have at least one fatal flaw? The problem for Philly is in their bullpen.

While the Rockies are trying to maintain their heat, the Phillies are trying to return to postseason form. Last year Philadelphia had a seasoned and lethal bullpen. They played with a confidence after the seventh inning not many could. Unfortunately for the defending Champions Brad Lidge has gone from a lights out solution in the ninth to a shaky proposition. There is no doubt that Philly touts a better lineup and starting rotation in a short series. They have the power to make short work of the Rockies. The only caveat will come when Hamels, Lee, or Blanton have to surrender the ball to the bully.

Cardinals v. Dodgers

With Torre and LaRussa at their respective helms, the Dodgers-Cardinals series will be an interesting exhibition in strategy. And we all know how exciting baseball strategy exhibitions can be.

The Dodgers come in with the best record in the National League but may just be the underdog in this one. Both teams tout a stunning lineup of speed and power. The Cardinals have a lethal combo of Pujols and Holliday. Either of which can turn the game around in one swing. The Dodgers counter with Manny Ramirez whom the Dodgers are confident will turn things around for the series. They also feature one of the best hitting center fielders in Matt Kemp. He is not only adept in the batter’s box but also on the base paths. Oh, I almost forgot the stunning contribution Jim Thome brings to the table for the Dodgers. His ability to fly out in crucial situation may prove vital in the week ahead.

The game changer comes in the form of the starting rotations. St. Louis has two of the best in baseball in Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. The Dodgers have used the entire season to piecemeal a consistent rotation together. With Billingsley unable to throw anything but fastballs down the middle, Joe Torre will call on Randy Wolf to lead the Dodgers in game 1. The only confidence this brings LA fans is that Wolf is left handed and the Cardinals seem befuddled by these types of people this season. This will be a close series if the Dodgers take game 1. However if they lose home field advantage you can buy tickets for St. Louis in the League Championship series.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Baseball Bits

We are at that funky time of the season where a lot does not matter. Most teams are locked into early winter breaks or about to make a run at a World Series title. There may be a nice race in Minnesota/Detroit but since neither is representing the American League in late October let’s just ignore them completely:

Kip Wells the Human Pitching Machine

Kip Wells finally got the Cardinals back on track today, too bad he pitches for the Reds. Both he and reliever Micah Owings combined to give up nine runs in a little over four innings. I don’t know what it takes to be a pitcher in Cincinnati but I am pretty sure the prerequisites consist of an ERA above five and a penchant to throw the ball over the plate.

Chris Carpenter chimed in with six RBI’s including a grand slam off of Wells in the 2nd inning. Troy Glaus got into the mix with his first RBI this season. Yes, the Cardinals starting pitcher and fresh off the DL third baseman combined for 8 RBI’s today off what the Red’s are calling pitchers now-a-days. I am seriously considering hiring Kip Wells to throw me batting practice when I am having a bad day. I hear he might be available soon.

At least they aren’t the Orioles

The Mets will be damned if they have anyone healthy to end the season. Jose Reyes was threatening to end September with a fully healed hamstring. The Mets staff quickly nipped that in the bud and ran Reyes in practice until he was good and re-injured. He is now out for the remainder of the season, all three games. Most would have opted to sit Reyes down and avoid pesky distractions the offseason can bring like surgery on an injured hamstring. Such is not the way of the Mets. This news was followed by the revelation that ticket prices for the Mets will be down 20% next year. I feel this was necessitated by the fact that their best players this year were Angel Pagan and Luis Castillo. You can’t charge big league prices when best and healthiest mean the exact same thing in your organization.

Any day now

I have a sneaking suspicion that the Dodgers believe the National League will clinch itself. Watching Mark Loretta try to field a ball last night, I could come to no other conclusion. Much like Manny running down a routine fly ball in left field, the Dodgers will make clinching their division look as hard as possible. I don’t like Los Angeles’ chances after that as their rotation has looked surprisingly like the quality staff of arms they have over there in Cincinnati.