Posts by Jimmy:
Major League Baseball recently decided that the Houston Astros are going to switch from the National League Central to the American League West in 2013. This move makes some sense because the divisions will now have the same number of teams. One problem now, however, is that both leagues have an odd number of teams so there will always be at least one interleague series going on throughout the year. As a baseball purist, I’m not a big fan of this. Imagine if the Red Sox or Rays were playing a National League team on the final weekend of the past season for the right to win the AL Wild Card. Something just doesn’t seem right with that potential scenario. I have never liked interleague play in the first place, but I definitely don’t want it to play a major role in September games.
Baseball also announced the addition of an extra Wild Card team to the new playoff system. I’m not a big fan of this move either because it most likely means there will be a one or three game playoff between the two Wild Card teams. That is too short in baseball where the worst team can beat the best team on any given day. Isn’t 162 games long enough to determine the four best teams? We just had one of the most exciting regular season finishes imaginable last year. It would have been completely boring if there were two Wild Card teams. Granted, there will be years where two additional teams will add excitement, but why water down the regular season? I don’t think teams with the 9th and 10th best records in baseball deserve a shot at the World Series. Reward regular season excellence I say. Oh well, at least they have a regular season…
As for the Astros, my all-time favorite professional sports team, it really hurts my already wounded Astros heart to see them move to the American League. I love the small-ball managerial style of the National League. I love the chess match that happens at the end of NL games between managers who have to decide who and when to pinch hit and how to use your pitchers accordingly. The American League doesn’t have nearly as many decisions to make because their pinch hitters probably aren’t much of an upgrade over their worst starters, and you can pitch a pitcher as long as you want because you never have to pinch hit for him. I will definitely still be an Astros fan, but I can’t root for the American League and their fat designated hitters. Why didn’t they just take the Brewers back? Ugh. (stepping down from the soap box)
Quick note on the World Series: it was awesome. I’m not going to mention how I nailed the series with my prediction so I’m just going to say that is was a solid all-around series. I don’t usually like it when people quickly make comments such as “that was the best season/game/shot/dunk/pass ever!”, but Game 6 was probably the best World Series game ever. I went to bed because my wife was going to bed when it was 7-4 Rangers. I have learned my lesson and now have an example to give my wife for the rest of our lives so I can stay up to watch sports. Also, LaRussa walking off into retirement right away was pretty cool too. Hopefully he stays away unlike Michael Jordan. I don’t really have a good conclusion sentence here because this article has several different subjects. Uh… have a nice day.
Baseball is a funny sport. In the long run, statistics even out but it it is extremely unpredictable. A .250 hitter can hit .450 during a small 6 game sample. He could then hit .050 the next week and his average stays the same. This would be like Kobe Bryant averaging 50 points a game one week and then 10 points then next week. That just doesn’t happen. Baseball is just a less predictable sport. That is why a 60% winning percentage is incredible in baseball, but only solid in other sports.
Trying to predict an unpredictable sport is even more difficult when the St. Louis Cardinals are involved. I have almost perfectly predicted every series that did not involve the Cardinals (that’s only three but still…). I can’t figure them out. Despite the nonsensical year they have had, every person and domesticated animal is picking the Texas Rangers to win the World Series. Not even the Republican presidential candidates would have disagreed about this last night. I’ve decided to take a deep breath (something I’ve been longing to do since my left lung collapsed last Thursday but enough about me…) and focus on the big picture.
Nelson Cruz is not Babe Ruth. Everyone is raving about the series (6 homeruns in 6 games is pretty ridiculous) he had but they conveniently forget that he batted .067 with no RBIs while leading the team in strikeouts against the Rays. He is the prime example of the introductory paragraph. He also bats 7th in his lineup and batted .263 during the regular season. He can get as hot as anyone and arguably has as much power as anyone in baseball, but he can be pitched to. Baseball is a streaky sport. The problem with the Rangers is they have about 6 guys who can get hot and carry a team like Cruz did, but they did win less than 60% of their games. They aren’t unbeatable.
My next point, they still don’t have Cliff Lee. There are some major red flags in the starting rotation that have been evident throughout this post-season. That isn’t a recipe for success. Luckily for them, they played two of the three weakest hitting teams in the playoffs. The Cardinals can feast on left handed pitching and led the National League in runs scored. If anyone can make the Rangers miss Cliff Lee, it’s the Cardinals. Pujols, Berkman, Holiday, and the very capable David Freese might be salivating at the chance to tee off on the confident-less CJ Wilson, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland southpaw trio.
Next point, Josh Hamilton is hurting. He is a little off and that groin pull may be more serious than we realize. He doesn’t have a homerun in the postseason and he is a big piece of that lineup.
Ron Washington may have the easiest job. I already don’t think American League managers do much but he is especially unnecessary. He keeps the same lineup every game except for his last hitter. Occasionally he pinch hits for that hitter but it almost seems like he just does it to give everyone playing time. He lets Mike Maddux handle all of the pitching decisions. He does a great job of directing the clubhouse but he just hasn’t had to manage all that much in the postseason (he did have to work with a fair amount of injuries during the year). When the Rangers play in St. Louis (where pitchers hit), he may get severely out-managed by Tony Larussa. In the National League, knowing who and when to pinch hit is big. Washington just hasn’t had to do that much.
I’m not very big on the Cardinal’s starting pitching. Chris Carpenter is not who he used to be and the rest of the staff has been very inconsistent. However, I can see them having some success with the Rangers though. They have a good mix of heat and finesse that could throw the homer happy Rangers a little off.
The Rangers are a very talented team. They have one of the best offenses I have seen in a long time, but they can be beat. The Cardinals have home field advantage (a bigger advantage in the World Series than in other rounds) and an “Angels in the Outfield” aura going on. If they can beat the Phillies without home field, they can beat the Rangers with it. 21 of 25 ESPN analysts picked the Rangers so I am going with Cardinals in 7. I like to be different. Plus, with all this Big 12 conference drama, this is one more chance for Missouri to stick it to Texas.
My wife, Charina, says Rangers in 6 because of their hitting and defense. She said defense because they weren’t dropping balls in the outfield like the Tigers were. Yes, I have convinced Charina to watch some baseball with me.
It turns out the rain delay/postponement of Game 1 in the Yankees vs. Tigers series favors the Tigers. They now have their rotation set perfectly with Justin Verlander well rested and ready to go in Game 1 of the ALCS.
I don’t think Verlander is a sure thing in this series though. Power pitchers are more vulnerable to the long ball and the Rangers are absolutely stacked with power hitters up and down the lineup. Also, Verlander will be pitching twice (unless he pitches on three days of rest) in Texas (a small ballpark where the ball flies). Plus, CJ Wilson is no slouch himself. The Tigers just can’t afford to lose any of Verlander’s starts.
On offense, the Tigers have been playing very well but they still don’t match up with the Rangers. You can pitch around Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez and get away with it. You can’t really pitch around Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre because you have All Stars Michael Young, Mike Napoli, and Nelson Cruz right after them. Any of them can have a big game on any given day like Beltre did in Game 4 against the Rays. I don’t think they will get shut down in a 7 game series.
Also, Jose Valverde has been flirting with danger on his save opportunities all year long. He is bound to blow one of these days. Detroit is a very good team but I don’t think they match up well with these Rangers.
Rangers in 6
These St. Louis Cardinals have no die in them. It is dangerous to bet against them these days. They seem to thrive under pressure. Chris Carpenter was his old ace-self on Friday. This will be an interesting matchup with their division rivals Milwaukee Brewers. Who would have thought the NLCS would be between two NL Central teams?
I have never seen a team that is so good at home and so bad on the road in baseball. The Brewers won all their home games and lost all their road games in the Diamondbacks series after being below .500 on the road during the season. Having home field advantage is even bigger in this series than it is in most.
The trio of Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, and Matt Holiday are probably canceled out by the trio of Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, and Corey Hart. The rest of the respective lineups are fairly even. The starting rotations are also pretty even. Every pitcher can be really good, but no one is a sure thing. The Cardinal’s bullpen is deeper than Milwaukee’s, but the Brewers are better at the back end with K-Rod and Axton.
The other interesting note in this series is that both teams know this may be their best chance to win. The Brewers are going to lose Prince Fielder after this year and the Cardinals may lose Pujols. Both teams want to win badly.
I’m going to go with the Brewers in 7 because of home field advantage and because Carpenter isn’t available for the first couple of games. I’m nervous about picking against the Cardinals though…