Thursday, October 12, 2006


Random LCS Thoughts, Washing Down Like Tears In Rain

Okay, have you had enough of the Blade Runner references yet? I thought so. Here are some observances from the first three days of LCS play.

-The A's look screwed, but I think they're safely in the "down but not out" phase. The encouraging thing about the first two games for the Athletics is that they kept getting a ton of runners on base, which usually means that the runs will come at some point. They were abysmal with runners on base in Game One, then were a little better in Game Two, but Esteban Loaiza impersonated the 2004 likeness of himself so it hardly mattered. Still, they're working the count and not letting the Detroit starters go deep into the games, so if they keep doing that it should pay off eventually.

-Of course, let's not kid ourselves. The odds are stacked against the A's coming back in this series. With Harden's injuries and Haren's sub-par September, their pitching is questionable, and they now have to beat a hot Tiger team at least twice in Detroit. Plus, no team in the history of LCS play has ever lost the first two games at home and come back to win the series. The last postseason team to do that was the Yankees in the 1996 World Series. The last team to do it before them was the Mets in the '86 series. Hey, it's 2006, so maaaaaybe...

-For those wondering, yes I am rooting for the A's for the rest of the postseason. Yeah, I know they're the Giants' rivals, I know dumb A's fans will give us nonstop shit if they do win a fifth Oakland championship, and I realize that their mullet brigade of the late-80's will forevermore be a black eye for Bay Area baseball. Still, I've softened my stance on the A's over the years (I used to basically regard them as the Dodgers' retarded little brother), and I love what Billy Beane does year-in, year-out with that team. Plus, if the A's win, it'll shut up all the idiots who say a "Moneyball" philosophy can't win, without really understanding that there really is no such philosophy in the first place.

-One move that would certainly help the A's in Game Three against Kenny Rogers would be to start Bobby Kielty in left field and shift Jay Payton to center. Kielty absolutely murders lefties, hitting .325/.358/.607 against them this season, with a .901 OPS lifetime. I know that Kotsay is one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, but Kielty isn't bad afield at all, and the edge in offense the A's get by starting him far outweighs the loss in defense. If Ken Macha doesn't make this move tomorrow, his IQ should be questioned. Frankly, Kielty should have been starting in Game One against Nate Robertson.

-Is it just me, or do the Tigers have one of the most bizarrely constructed lineups ever? The FOX goons harp incessantly about how they have their three home run leaders hitting 7-8-9, but is this really smart? Here's the Tiger starting lineup from Game One, with each player's 2006 OPS:

Granderson .773
Polanco .693
Casey .650 (w/Tigers)
Ordonez .827
Guillen .920
Rodriguez .769
Monroe .783
Thames .882
Inge .776

Now, I'm obviously no wise baseball sage like Jim Leyland, but it seems to me that you would want your best power hitters in the middle of the lineup, not squashed down where their power is less of an asset. Here's how I would fashion this lineup:


This way, you maximize at-bats for your best hitters, who are Guillen, Thames, and Ordonez, and get them and the other power guys another plate appearance or two as the late innings approach. There's absolutely no reason a guy like Thames, who slugged .549 on the year, should be batting eighth, and the higher in the order that you can get your best hitter, Guillen, the better.

Yes, Polanco and Casey are more prototypical top-of-the-order hitters, but let's face it, Casey has no power left and Polanco, by any real measure of offensive ability, was terrible this year. Of course, the Tigers are two wins away from the World Series, so what do I know.

As for the Game Two lineup, I'm not even going to comment on the fact that Neifi Perez was batting second.

-One supposed strength of Detroit, really a weakness, that opponents can exploit is the whole Todd Jones-as-closer farce. The Tigers have some absolutely electric hurlers in that bullpen. There is no need to trot Jones out there to close out games, when the team can just keep Fernando Rodney or Joel Zumaya in there to dominate opposing hitters, 37 mustachioed saves be damned. Do you really think batters on the other team, after facing 100 mph heat and filthy sliders for two straight innings, are going to shake in their boots when Todd Jones wanders out to the mound and starts throwing shitty little cutters? No! They're going to be licking their chops!

For the love of God, Rodney absolutely blew the A's away in the eighth inning last night, then Jones went out and nearly coughed up the game. Seriously, if Frank Thomas is just a little more ahead of that last fastball, the series is tied at 1-1. Forget Jones, if Zumaya is healthy just let him finish games from here on out. No one can freaking hit him.

-I love how Neifi Perez is so awful that not even the FOX announcers could give him the sugar coat when he stepped up to the plate in the first inning yesterday. Lou Pinella chimed in with, "Well, he's a veteran..." That's about as good as it got.

-Curtis Granderson is quickly becoming one of my favorite players. The guy can hit to all fields, he's got solid pop, he can go get it in center field, and he's still only 25. He's a better hitter than his .335 OBP would tell you (an awful month of August dragged his numbers down), and if he can cut down on the strikeouts he should be an All-Star a few times, maybe even something of a Carlos Beltran Lite.

-Speaking of Carlos Beltran, the home run he hit tonight was an absolute stunner, halfway up the scoreboard at Shea. It brought back memories of the kinds of bolts Darryl Strawberry used to hit out there in the 1980's.

-I failed to do any NLCS predictions this year, but i'd be surprised if the Mets let this thing go past five games. I've been wrong before (see previous post...or hell, just read through the history of this blog), but the Mets' offense easily outclasses the Cards', and their pitching, while surely not good, is still better than St. Louis'.

-As you can probably guess, I'm not too impressed by the Cardinals this year. Shall we pile on? Watching today's game, I was surprised by just how many awful hitters the Cards send out to the batter's box. Here are some of the luminaries: David Eckstein (.694 OPS), Aaron Miles (.672), Ronnie Belliard (.666), So Taguchi (.686), Yadier Molina (.595!). Sadly, three of these guys are in the starting lineup.

It gets worse. Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen, both probable Hall of Famers, are playing at half-speed due to various injuries, and Juan Encarnacion and Preston Wilson are no great shakes either. So it's basically a matter of praying that Eckstein can out-hustle some infield choppers before Pujols can come up and hit one to the moon. A far cry from the Cardinal demolition derby of two years ago.

-I guess I owe Jeff Weaver some props for following up his solid NLDS performance with another gem tonight, against a much better lineup. Maybe it's really Jered out there, and Jeff is somewhere headbanging to Motorhead. I know that I promised I'd eat my mouse pad in just such an instance, so...(munch, munch).

-Those FOX promos featuring Tommy Lasorda trying to pep up fans of the also-ran teams are cute and amusing and all, but if I turn on my TV and see Tommy trying to talk a Giants fan into pulling his head out of the oven, it's just going to get offensive. Talk about hitting close to home.

-Final verdict: The difference in taste between a mouse pad and a McDonald's Big Mac is decidedly negligible.

-A few words about Corey Lidle. I didn't know the man, obviously, but I'll always harbor fond memories of him for a rather silly reason. In 2001 I played my first year ever of fantasy baseball. Early on in the season, with me being a super-green rook, I made a trade for Lidle that, at the time, could have been charitably deemed questionable. Of course, Lidle turned in a magnificent season, going 13-6 with a 3.59 ERA to help the A's win 104 games...and help me win my fantasy baseball title. So if nothing else, Lidle certainly helped put a smile on my face for that year, and for that I'll always be a fan.

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