Yesterday was Opening Day, and while NPI still be caught up in college basketball excitement, that doesn’t mean we can’t bring you the brilliant baseball analysis you’ve come to expect. Today John S will be breaking down the National League, so brace yourself for backhanded compliments, ill-informed generalizations, and an overall tone of condescension and derision!
1. San Francisco Giants
2. Colorado Rockies
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. San Diego Padres
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
Hey, remember when the Padres were in first place? What? When did that happen?
For most of last year, actually. Lies! Next you’ll be telling me that it was largely due to someone named Luke Gregerson…
Well, now that you mention it—Look, the Giants’ whole “underdog” thing was fun when they toppled the Phillies, but it sort of ignores the fact that San Francisco has great starters, including two of the best in baseball. And it’s not like any of the four had unsustainably great years—in fact, we can probably expect Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner to get better. After all, Lincecum had by far the worst year of his young career in 2010, and Bumgarner only pitched half a season. Continue reading »
San Francisco Giants (92-70) at Philadelphia Pillies (97-65)
The Phillies find themselves in their third consecutive NLCS, although this time not against the Dodgers. The Giants defeated the Braves in a great NLDS — seriously — and will now try to dethrone the two-time defending NL champions and their three-headed pitching Cerberus.*
*Or Cerbe-ROY-us. Get it?
In Part I, John S and Tim exhaustively and inconclusively dissected the Yankees and Phillies’ respective lineups. In the much-anticipated (and admittedly more concise) Part II, it’s time for the pitching staff and predictions–detailed predictions.
LEE V. SABATHIA
TIM: Everyone knows Mets fans are devastated about this series. But what about Indians fans having to watch this?
And do you expect CC to ever give up TWO runs in a playoff game?
JOHN: It’s probably especially rough for Indians fans given the trajectory of each of their careers. Both Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia were always guys who had tons of potential who couldn’t stay consistent. Then each of them put it together for a Cy Young year….and was promptly traded to a playoff team.
My confidence in CC at this point is reaching a point I’ve never reached with a starter. This is odd, given that as late as July I was wondering if he was worth the money. I’m kind of hoping for a rainout betwen Games 3 and 4, so Sabathia can pitch 3 times this series (although I guess they’d just ditch the off-day if that happened). I cannot conceive of losing a game he starts in the playoffs, despite his shaky history against Philly in the postseason. I’m adamantly for going with a 3-man rotation, something I’d always thought was a bad idea when other teams considered it.
Phillies fans, however, probably have similar confidence in Cliff Lee. I’m a little worried about Lee, despite his bad numbers vs. NYY in his career. Those are mostly from pre-2008, so it was really a different pitcher. But I know you think he’s a pretty weak ace, right?
TIM: I never said he was a “weak” ace. I did need to see some validation this year from him, and I have. The thing about Cliff Lee is that nothing he does looks very impressive. He doesn’t blow anything by anyone, he doesn’t make hitters look silly very often, and his stuff doesn’t jump off the TV screen. He’s just a very good pitcher…that I think is going to have one bad start in this series. I think he and Sabathia each have one good and one bad start, but Sabathia will be better in both (assuming they match up twice). Continue reading »
at Los Angeles Dodgers
It’s the most anticipated NLCS rematch since Cardinals-Astros ‘05! Will this one finish what that one started, and officially put the nail in Brad Lidge’s coffin?
The Phillies are coming off a very entertaining four-game NLDS victory over the Rockies (seriously; it was one of the best NLDSs in a while) while the Dodgers swept the Cardinals in a direct and reciprocal refutation of my prediction for the series. The Phillies dispatched Los Angeles in five in the NLCS last season, with the series turning on a big Matt Stairs pinch-hit home run in Game 4. This one appears more evenly matched, as it’s the Dodgers with the home-field advantage.
LCS rematches have been fairly memorable over the last two decades, including the 2004 series between the Yankees and Red Sox and the 1992 rematch of the Braves and Pirates.
Continue reading »
If I took 100 pennies and I threw them up in the air, about half of them would land heads and the other half tails, right? Now, if I looked around closely, I’d probably find some heads grouped together in a cluster. What does that mean? Does that mean anything?—A Civil Action
Statistics are great. They help us find the answers to important questions. Need to know if smoking causes lung cancer? Look at the data. Wonder if height is correlated with material success? There’s probably a study you can find. Think Albert Pujols is a better hitter than Mickey Mantle? Look it up. Statistics aren’t the final answer to any of these questions, but they certainly help.
The problem with statistics is that, like most great things—the automobile, plutonium, superpowers—they can be very dangerous in the wrong hands. One need only to look at the myth of baseball’s “clutch players” to see how statistics can be misinterpreted.
One week ago, Alex Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero were first-ballot Hall of Famers. CC Sabathia was one of the best pitchers in the game. But all three had reputations as guys who couldn’t come through in the playoffs. They were not “clutch players.” Clutch players are guys like Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, and Cole Hamels.
Except here’s the thing: Rodriguez and Guerrero each had clutch ninth-inning hits in their division series. Sabathia gave up one run in seven innings vs. the Twins. Meanwhile, Ortiz went 1-for-12 with no walks and three strikeouts, and Hamels gave up four runs in five innings at home (Derek Jeter had a great series, but that’s because Derek Jeter is fucking awesome).
So what happened? Did A-Rod, Vlad and CC all suddenly learn how to be clutch players? Did Ortiz and Hamels just forget? Neither. The truth is this: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A CLUTCH PLAYER. Continue reading »
Colorado Rockies (92-70) at
Philadelphia Phillies (93-69)
The (sigh) defending champion Phillies open with a rematch of the 2007 Division Series, when a red-hot Rockies squad swept them out of the playoffs with surprising ease. To me, this is the most intriguing division series and has a chance to be one of the best we’ve ever seen. These are the two best offenses in the league (the Phillies led the NL in runs; the Rockies were second. The Rockies led the NL in OPS; the Phillies were second), and each team boasts a deep rotation. I think these are the two best teams in the National League, and that this series goes five games.
As mentioned like three sentences ago, these are the two best offenses in the league. Everybody knows about Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Ibanez for Philadekphia; they might be less aware of how important Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino are to the Phillies’ offense. Werth had 36 home runs this season. Jayson Werth!
Colorado, meanwhile, is spearheaded by Troy Tulowitzki, who you could make a strong case deserves to finish second in the NL MVP race behind Albert Pujols. Tulowitzki has made the leap this season and is, in my book, the second-best shortstop at the plate in the NL (behind Hanley Ramirez) and probably the best all-around shortstop in the game right now when you take into account his Gold Glove fielding. Todd Helton has bounced back to his usual .325 form, and the top of the Rockies’ order is formidable now that Carlos Gonzalez has found his swing the last two months.
Continue reading »