Thursday, October 09, 2008


Quick and Dirty LCS Predictions

When the Giants aren't in the playoffs I tend to take a somewhat apathetic approach to October baseball. I normally root for the National League in the World Series as a rule, and I always root against the Yankees and, more often than not, the Red Sox. Sometimes there's an awesome team, like this year's Rays, that I root for to win the whole thing because I like underdogs and and feel-good stories. Most times, though, I just watch to watch baseball, without a whole lot of rooting interest.

This year, though, is a different story. I'm treating the 2008 NLCS like this year's Presidential election. It's too important not to have an educated interest in. You see, watching the Dodgers move on to the World Series is about as repulsive as watching the McCain/Palin clown act raise their arms in victory on November 4th. Just as the country is nearing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Giants fans are on the brink of a nightmare scenario involving a Dodger team parading around the streets of LA, led by a spoiled man-child and a pornstached cowboy whose injury-hiding ways are only mildly less embarrassing than Monta Ellis's.

So, yes, I'll be watching this NLCS about as intently as I've ever watched a non-Giant playoff series. If it comes down to the pick-your-poison scenario of a Boston-LA series (just like it did in the NBA Finals this year), I may just implode in on myself and take on a new existence in the astral plane just to get away from this crap.

Philles over Dodgers, 4-2

Even if the Dodgers had the lineup of the 1939 Yankees and a pitching staff anchored by the perverted love-child of Tom Seaver and Sandy Koufax, I still wouldn't pick them to win this series. Even if Tommy Lasorda tied me up and waterboarded me with Ultra Slim Fast, I still wouldn't give in and pick the Dodgers. Even if Ned Colletti set his mustache on fire and hopped around ablaze for our amusement on live television, I still wouldn't pick the Dodgers. Even if...well, you get the idea.

The Phillies have a lineup that is miles better than LA's. They've been hotter than LA the past month (for all the talk about Manny, the Dodgers are just 30-25 with him). They're awesome on the road while LA sucks away from Dodger Stadium. Their run differential was way better than LA's. All this could mean nothing in a short series, I realize, but my money would be on Philly even if they weren't squaring off against a team affiliated with Satan.

Red Sox over Rays 4-1 (but I hope I'm horribly wrong)

I really, really want the Rays to win the World Series. They're a fun worst-to-first story and they are the perfect model of how every franchise should be run. They have colorful players (how can you not love Grant Balfour*?) and their roster is made up of a lot of utility guys like Ben Zobrist, Willy Aybar, and Eric Hinske who, when utilized correctly, are huge assets due to their positional flexibility and ability to hurt you in platoon matchups. I love players like that, and teams who use them wisely to win. Don't ask me why, but it probably stems from my love of the 1986 Mets, who had a lot of that type of player.

So I love the Rays this season. Unfortunately, the point of this little writeup isn't what I want to happen; it's about making me look smart. I think the Sox are still better in almost every aspect, especially if Josh Beckett is healthy and himself. The Rays' offense is a little sketchy and I don't have a lot of confidence at all that their pitchers can hold down the Boston attack. If Scott Kazmir gets past the fifth inning in any of his starts against the Red Sox and their collection of walk machines, I'll give everybody reading an ITunes gift card (no, not really, but wouldn't that be sweet? Those things are money as Christmas gifts). Pitchers who routinely run up high pitch counts tend to meet an early doom against Boston.

So I really, really want the Rays to win, but every rational baseball fiber of my being says that the Red Sox are just the better team. Hopefully I'm just an idiot and the Rays sweep their way into the World Series and ride through the streets of St. Petersburg in the parade that no one will turn out for.

*In Game One of the White Sox-Rays series, Balfour and Orlando Cabrera got into a little shouting match for reasons that really aren't clear to me. The two were facing off at a crucial point in the game. Seventh inning, bases loaded, two out, Sox down by three. A base hit plates two, an extra base hit ties the game.

Balfour threw his first pitch high for a ball, and Cabrera for some reason kicked dirt at him and started cussing. Balfour dropped some F-bombs of his own, but order was maintained before anything came of the whole back-and-forth. Balfour finally struck Cabrera out on a 98-mph fastball and stormed off the mound yelling for Cabrera to sit down. After the game, all I heard were teammates trying to justify Balfour's behavior by saying, basically, hey, he's a crazy Aussie who gets fired up and loses control in these situations, like the douchebag fiancee in Wedding Crashers. It's just Balfour being Balfour.

Fine. My problem isn't with Grant Balfour. My question: What the fuck was Cabrera doing? He's a light-hitting shortstop facing a guy who is out there throwing 98 mph petrol and the first thing he can think to do is taunt the guy? Not sure here, but I'm guessing when MENSA held tryouts, Cabrera missed the cut. The look on Balfour's face immediately after Cabrera kicked dirt at him was priceless. It was like, "Did this scrub really just do that?"

All the post-game chatter focused on Balfour's nuttiness, but I think he was completely justified in screaming at Cabrera after he blew him away on strikes. If some lousy player kicked dirt at me and started talking shit for no reason like that, I'd be pissed off, too.

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Going back to your last post - how does it not bother you that Pedroia might win MVP despite not even being the best player on his own team? Youklis put up a .958 OPS compared to .869 from Pedroia (beating him in both OBP and SLG), with more RBI's and HR's. He also played gold glove calibur defense at whichever corner infielder spot the Red Sox needed. It's just ridiculous that the overriding criteria would be "small and scrappy" compared to actual performance. Oh, and I disagree with you on the WHIP being more important than ERA. For a reliever it probably is, but for a starter, baserunners aren't as important as the runs they let up to measure how good they were in a season.
Second base is a much more difficult defensive position (Youkilis played the vast majority of his defensive innings at first) so it's harder to get the kind of production there that Pedroia gave them this season. Youkilis was great, but I'd still give Pedroia a slight edge because of the position. I do agree that it's ridiculous that "small and scrappy" is any sort of performance criteria, but "ridiculous" and "BBWAA" go hand-in-hand.

ERA tends to have a high degree of variance in pitchers from year-to-year, whereas WHIP tends to be more stable and thus, IMO, is a better indicator of how a pitcher performed. ERA is subject to being skewed by crappy relievers and one or two bad innings.

Take, for example, a game in which a pitcher has one bad inning in which he gives up a grand slam, but otherwise pitches seven innings and doesn't allow another baserunner besides those that scored. He actually pitched quite well and kept his team in the game, but his 5.14 ERA makes him look like crap. On the other hand, his WHIP is 0.57 and shows that he was unhittable for all but that one inning. I just think it shows a pitcher's effectiveness more clearly and projects future performance much better.
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