Friday, October 15, 2010

NLCS Preview

This series looks to be a series with some amazing pitching. The "Big Three" of each team is very impressive. The Giants will have Strikeout King Tim Lincecum (3.43 ERA, 9.8 K/9), Jonathan Sanchez (3.07 ERA, 9.5 K/9), and Matt Cain (3.14 ERA, 1.084 WHIP) going in their first three games. Clearly the Phillies have their work cut out for them, despite their amazing offense.

Luckily for the Phillies, to go with their amazing offense, they have a "Big Three" of their own with extremely impressive numbers. They will be sending likely Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay (2.44 ERA, 1.041 WHIP, 1.1 BB/9) to the mound, followed by WHIP-leading Roy Oswalt (2.76 ERA, 1.025 WHIP, 8.2 K/9), followed by Cole Hamels (3.06 ERA, 9.1 K/9).

Obviously in most statistical categories (aside from Strikeouts), the Phillies have an edge in pitching. However, it should be noted that the Phillies "Big Three" have not faired especially well against the Giants, which is kind of baffling giving the Giants' mediocre offensive attack. So far this season, in 45 innings against the Giants, the "Big Three" has put up a 4.80 ERA. This is a somewhat small sample size, but it is not a miniscule one. Psychologically, it may also give the Giants more of an edge than people think.

Obviously in sizing up the line-ups, the Phillies have the clear advantage. One through eight the Phillies have an above average offensive player given their position. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, and Jimmy Rollins (when healthy) are all well above average offensive players.

The Giants can not boast two former MVPs in their line-up like the Phillies can, but they are not completely punchless either, as Giants teams of the last few years have been. Buster Posey, who will be battling Jason Heyward for Rookie of the Year honors, proved himself to be an offensive weapon (.305/.357/.507 with 18 Homers in only 108 games), and Pat Burrel seems to have had a Renaissance in the National League since being let go by the Rays, bashing 18 home runs in 96 games for the Giants. Still, the Phillies have a very clear edge in the offensive department.

Like I did in my post about the ALDS, I will finish up by discussing some key questions for each team.

For the Giants:
Can Kung Fu Panda turn it on? - Pablo Sandoval was one of the biggest dissapointments of the year for the Giants, following his impressive 2009 with a .268batting average and only 13 home runs. He also did not do anything impressive against the Braves in the ALDS, collecting one single in 7 plate appearances. The fact that he was only used in two of the four games indicates how little faith the Giants have in him right now. However, if Pablo Sandoval can get it going, and start hitting like he did in 2009, if only for this post-season series, it would be a major upgrade for the Giants line-up.

Will Tim Lincecum pitch on short rest? - I realize this is kind of a cop out, because I used a similar question to discuss the ALCS too, but in this "Year of the Pitcher" with so many pitchers being utterly incredible this year, it is hard not to talk about. I have not heard whether or not the Giants plan on using Lincecum on short rest. At this point it seems that Madison Bumgarner is slated to pitch game four. Bumgarner is no slouch, and Lincecum's smaller frame, at least according to "baseball guys", doesn't seem like the best body type to stand up pitching on short rest throughout this series. It seems more likely that Bumgarner starts game 4, and that Lincecum pitches on normal rest throughout the rest of the postseason.

For the Phillies
Do the Giants have the "Big Three" figured out? - If the Phillies "Big Three" pitch against the Giants like they did in the regular season, they may very well find themselves on the losing end of this series. A 4.80 ERA allows for plenty of runs for the Giants rotation to get wins from. The big question here is whether or not the Giants just coincidentally encountered the "Big Three" at times of the season when they were a little off, or if the Giants have the Phillies' "Big Three"'s number.

Will Roy Halladay pitch on short rest? - Yeah, I did it again. I think this is a very big question, as dominant as Halladay has been this season, and as sturdy of a pitcher he seems to be. It should be noted that Halladay has pitched a staggering 259.2 innings this season (counting the post-season), and even he has to have a wall that he will encounter. While Halladay is largely considered capable of pitching on short rest by scouts, it will be interesting to see if the Phillies are weary to do so because of his massive workload this season. If Halladay does NOT pitch, it seems likely that Joe Blanton, who did not have an especially impressive season will take the ball. While the Phillies have a marginal advantage when looking at the first three pitchers for each team, when looking at all four pitchers (Bumgarner for the Giants, Blanton for the Phillies), things look a lot more equal.

That's it for now, enjoy ALCS game one tonight!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How will the ALCS go?

Hey everyone,
Now that we know who the last 4 teams are this year, I thought I'd kind of preview the two series and talk about what I think are going to be important issues.

Today I'm going to talk about the ALCS.

Texas Rangers vs. New York Yankees
A lot of analysts seem to be thinking that the Rangers are nothing more than a speed-bump for the Yankees to get back to the World Series. I would argue that the Rangers deserve more respect than that. Yes, Cliff Lee will not be starting until game three, and yes he will only be able to start two games in the series, and that is assuming it goes to 7 games. But people seem to be overlooking C.J. Wilson, who put up stellar numbers this year (3.35 ERA, 7.5 K/9) that are in fact comparable to Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia (3.18 ERA, 7.5 K/9).

In other words, the Yankees will be facing a tough left-hander in games one, three, four, and six. The Yankees fair much worse against left handers (31-27 in the regular season) than they do against Right Handers (64-40).

It is also important to bring up the fact that the Rangers have home field advantage in this series, as the Yankees are the Wild Card entrant. Once again, the numbers do not favor the Yankees. The Yankees barely managed to stay above .500 on the Road, (43-38), while the Rangers are a dangerous team at home (51-30).

Further developing the argument that this series will be more evenly matched that most people seem to think is the fact that the Yankees and Rangers actually split their season series this year, going 4-4 against eachother.

Another thing that makes me like the Rangers in this series is the fact that the Rangers are pretty much loaded when it comes to Right-handed bats. This is important because Sabathia and Pettitte will likely start the most games for the Yankees, both of which are left handed. Hamilton, Cruz, and Kinsler all destroy left-handed pitching. And that's without even talking about Michael Young, who is no slouch.

Basically, what I am trying to argue is that the Rangers should put up a very good fight in the ALCS, and could even win it, despite what most people seem to have concluded. To conclude this thing, I will be talking about the biggest questions for each of these teams.

For the Rangers:
Can their bullpen get it together? - In the ALDS the Rangers bullpen was from the effective bullpen it was during the regular season. Even Neftali Feliz, a very good Rookie of the Year candidate, struggled. It does not seem impossible for the bullpen to get back to being effective in the ALCS, but many of the people in the Rangers bullpen do not have much postseason experience, and the bright lights at Yankee Stadium may cause them problem.

Can Ian Kinsler stay hot? - Ian Kinsler had an injury-riddled regular season, but was productive when he could play. He seems to have really turned it on for the post season, having hit .344 while bashing 3 Home Runs in five games. If he can stay hot, the Rangers will be in a very good place.

Will Cliff Lee pitch on short rest in an emergency situation? - So far it has been fairly clear that neither Lee nor Ron Washington are interested in having Lee pitch on short rest, something he has never done in his career. If a situation arises in this series where Lee is needed to get the Rangers back on the winning track, will they use him? My guess is the answer is probably no, which is something that does not bode well for the Rangers.

For the Yankees
Will the long layoff have done the Yankees harm? - The Yankees once against brutally swept the Twins, leading to a long lay-off for them as the Rays/Rangers series went to five games. There are examples of long layoffs being good for teams, and examples of them being completely horrible (2007 Rockies, for instance), which group will these Yankees fall into? Many commentators have stated that the veteran nature of the Yankees will make it hard for them to lose their focus, and this could very well be true.

Will A.J. Burnett pitch game 4? - At this point, Joe Girardi intends to use C.C. Sabathia, Andy Pettite, Phil Hughes, and A.J. Burnett in that order. A.J. Burnett had a year he would likely like to forget, but the Yankees really have no other option for a fourth starter, as their depth in this department is far from desirable. The question becomes, if the Yankees are down 2-1 before game four, will Burnett still be pitching it? My gut feeling is that the answer to this is "no", as C.C. Sabathia has proven throughout his career that he can pitch well on short rest. C.C. Sabathia with 3-days rest versus a well-rested, but gassed, A.J. Burnett seems like an easy choice to me. Especially if it means going down 3-1 or evening up the series. The answer to this question could very much end up determining how well the Yankees do in this series.

That's all I have for now, I will try to post a similar blog about the NLCS tomorrow.
Enjoy some post-season baseball!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Some Comments on Baseball

Sorry for completely dissapearing from the face of the Earth for a while. Between moving, starting graduate school, having a broken computer, and no cable, I haven't had an extreme amount of free time. However, I think I've gotten to where I can manage my time more effectively and I will have the time to update this a little more regularly. Granted, heading into the offseason there probably won't be as much to talk about, aside from trade rumors.

Anyway, on to baseball.

The playoffs have been interesting, although the first few series have looked like kind of bad match-ups, but that's baseball for you.

The Yankees swept the Twins again, and will be playing either the Rangers or the Rays in the ALCS.

I think it's fairly likely that the Rangers manage to win that series, because even if the Rays get it back to Tropicana Field, that means they will be seeing Cliff Lee again, who seems to have it really dialed up this post-season, just like he did last year. The Rangers also have the confidence of knowing that they won the first two games in St. Petersburg without any problem, so playing game five there should not intimidate them, if it comes to that.

The Phillies seem to be on the verge of sweeping the Reds, whose pitching phenom let them down in game two, and who were the victims of the second no-hitter in post-season history in game one. The pitching match-up tonight doesn't seem to favor the Reds at all.

The Braves and Giants series is an interesting one, as both teams have pretty good pitching with pretty average offenses. Unfortunatley, the Braves may have lost their closer for the rest of the series, which does not exactly bode well for them. Regardless, the Braves Giants series is probably the most evenly matched of the opening series, and I could see it going the full exciting 5 games.

Additionally, I thought it would be interesting to look back at my pre-season predictions about who would make it into the playoffs this year.

In the AL I managed to get two of four correct. I had the Yankees winning the AL East and the Red Sox winning the Wild Card. Obviously the Red Sox's massive number of injuries prevented this, and the Rays surprising 96-win season despite their offense horribly underachieving did as well.

I also got two of four in the AL East correct, predicting the Phillies winning the NL East and the Braves winning the Wild Card. I predicted the Rockies winning the NL West and the Cardinals winning the NL Central. Obviously I got both of those pretty wrong. The Rockies were contendors until September, but never really threatened the Padres or Giants. The Cardinals stumbled late in the season and only managed to finish a few games over .500.