Baseball Realignment

Thursday, 17 November 2011, 17:40 | Category : MLB
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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.

This would be a scary Halloween costume except no one in an Astros uniform has hit anything in two years.

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)

Maybe the coolest moment in any sport, the pitcher's mound dogpile with teammates coming from all directions.

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.

World Series Preview

Wednesday, 19 October 2011, 15:24 | Category : MLB
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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.

You know you have a good lineup when Nelso Cruz hits in the bottom third of it.

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.

Even in a "down" year Pujols will be the most feared hitter on the diamond

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.

Rough weekend for Detroit

Tuesday, 18 October 2011, 14:07 | Category : College, Football, MLB, NFL
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University of Michigan Wolverines, UofM, Michigan State Spartans, MSU, rivalry

This was a big weekend for Detroit sports fans.  With Brady Hoke coaching the Wolverines, the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry is interesting again.  The Tigers were fighting to stay alive in the ALCS for a chance to return to the World Series.  Even the Lions have worked their way to relevance and had a real shot at going 6-0 (yes, 6-0, not 0-6).  But nothing went as planned.

Everyone in the state of Michigan is either aligned with the Michigan Wolverines or the Michigan State Spartans.  It can be a bitter rivalry at times.  State suffers from the “little brother” syndrome (thanks for that one, Mike Hart).  Growing up about 20 minutes from Ann Arbor, I am naturally a Wolverine fan.  I really hate it when one of their major rivals beats them four years in a row.  State had a chance to do that, but I felt they were overrated and that Hoke had gotten this team moving in the right direction.  Unfortunately, the Spartans were able to pull out the win.

State won by two touchdowns, but the game was a lot closer than that.  Let these two teams play a 5 game series against each other and it could end either way.  However, that’s not how things are done.  State earned the victory and now UofM no longer controls it’s own destiny.  On top of winning out the rest of their games (which will not be all that difficult besides Nebraska and maybe Illinois), they need State to lose at least two (fortunately they play Wisconsin and Nebraska these next two weeks).  Ever since moving out of Michigan I root for State when they aren’t playing Michigan, but now I have to root against them so that Michigan can make it to the conference championship.

Later Saturday night I turned to the Tigers to help me get over the crushing defeat.  I knew winning two straight games in Texas would be a long shot, but if they won the first, then anything could happen.  The Tigers got off to a 2-0 lead early and things looked promising.  Then the third inning happened.  Sure there was at least one bad call that eventually led to more runs in that inning, but even if everything that could’ve just as easily gone the Tigers’ way happened, it still would not have made up the difference of 10 runs.

Sunday sealed the deal on the crappy weekend.  The Lions’ perfect season was ended by the 49ers and ended in this mess between Schwartz and Harbaugh.

It took me some time, but now I’m looking at the glass half full.  Regardless of whether Michigan makes it to the Big Ten Championship or not, Hoke has turned the team around and has given us plenty to look forward to in the future.  And if the Wolverines win the conference, I’d prefer State to take it.

Detroit should be proud of what the Tigers were able to accomplish this season.  I think it’s safe to say they over performed and made it to the ALCS.  We got to watch them embarrass the Yankees (yet again).  Also, I think I’d prefer to lose now than lose to the Cardinals in the World Series again.  That would be just too painful.  And Verlander still has a chance to win awards.

As for the Lions, we should be proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish.  They are 5-1!  I don’t think anyone really expected them to go undefeated, and they lost a non-division game.  This really isn’t all that significant.  Plus, now we can watch the Schwartz-Harbaugh incident over and over.

All in all, Detroit, things could be a lot worse.  Suck it up and get geared up for this weekend.

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