MLB’s new one off-day policy meant that John S and Tim didn’t have time to preview the Division Series this year. But now they’re back to discuss the American League Championship Series. Together, they preview the Tigers-Rangers matchup and make their predictions…
JOHN S: Alright, so I think I’m finally over the Yankees loss enough to talk about this potential LCS. First off, let’s talk about Verlander. All throughout the season, we’ve heard how Justin Verlander is the key to how far the Tigers can go. His entire MVP case seemed built around the idea that the rest of his squadron was a bunch of glorified Little Leaguers. Hopefully, though, the ALDS proved that the Tigers are actually quite good, even apart from their dominant ace. And yet there are still a few Around The Horn talking heads who insist that the Tigers only chance against Texas is if Verlander starts Games 1, 4 and 7 (which Jim Leyland won’t do). This idea seems insane to me. So just how important do you think Verlander is to the Tigers, on a scale of “C.J. Wilson to the Rangers” to “Jake Peavy to the ’05 Padres”?
TIM: Don Kelly? Ramon Santiago? Tell me these plucky kids aren’t Little Leaguers! Continue reading
What we read while being constantly reminded to never forget…
We’re a full weekend into the baseball season, and NPI still hasn’t previewed the most important league! Don’t fret, though, John S is here to break it all down for you, and to make sure you don’t get fooled by Baltimore’s 3-0 start.
1. Oakland Athletics
2. Texas Rangers
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
4. Seattle Mariners
So you’re on the A’s bandwagon? Yeah, and I’m not even going to pretend like I got on it particularly early. I was really just looking for someone to pick over the Rangers.
Why do you feel the need to mess with Texas? Well, I was early on the Rangers bandwagon, picking them to win the West at the beginning of 2010, so it’s not like I’m anti-Texas. This year, though, the defending AL champs are both overrated and underrated. They are underrated because people have inevitably focused on the loss of Cliff Lee this off-season; but while losing Lee is obviously big, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the Rangers were in first before trading for Lee last season, and that they likely would have won the division even without his acquisition (Lee was actually pretty mediocre for Texas in the regular season). Continue reading
Tim and John S already proved their baseball knowledge by issuing World Series predictions that were proven wrong within moments of the series starting. Now, with Game 3 moments away, they reconvene to discuss the series in progress.
TIM: Two games into the World Series, John, and as everyone expected, the Giants are just bludgeoning the Rangers’ pitching. I don’t think I’m telling any tales out of school when I say that everyone knew Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson could handle the Yankees, but neither one really stood any chance against this San Francisco lineup, right?
JOHN: Surely nobody expected Cliff Lee and his 1.26 postseason ERA to shut down a lineup that included Juan Uribe and Freddy Sanchez, but did anyone expect a dazzling 5.2 IP, 4 ER shutdown performance from Tim Lincecum? In all honesty, I think a lot of people were prepared for that matchup to disappoint after the relative anticlimax that was Lincecum-Halladay, but it was obviously shocking to see Lee pulled in the 5th for Darren O’Day. I think what Game 1 showed, though, was why the idea of a “great postseason pitcher” is kind of a flawed notion. Most of the time, Lee has excellent control and is masterful, but when he starts missing spots, even slightly as he did in Game 1 (only 1 BB and 1 HBP), he becomes a mediocre pitcher. The reason his playoff numbers were so great was that he simply hadn’t had a game like in the playoffs yet.
TIM: Well, I think you can say it shows why the idea of calling Cliff Lee a “great postseason pitcher” is flawed, but not the concept in and of itself — with the caveat, of course, that most great postseason pitchers are great pitchers, period. Even the best postseason pitchers — such as Bob Gibson and Curt Schilling — have had bad outings somewhat like Lee’s the other night. One bad outing may hurt his reputation, but it doesn’t tarnish it.
Texas Rangers (90-72) at Tampa Bay Rays (96-66)
Two teams that missed the playoffs last year face off in a series where, amazingly, the Rays are the “Goliath” in a David vs. Goliath matchup. The Rangers are in the playoffs for the first time since 1999, have only one playoff win in their franchise’s history, and have never appeared in a League Championship Series, let alone a World Series. Meanwhile, the Rays won the pennant just two years ago with more or less the same roster that they have now, and finished this year with the best record in the AL.
What we read while lamenting the destruction of traditional marriage…
- Further proof that William Faulkner can write about anything, as if we needed it. Remember the words of Moe Szyslak: “William Faulkner can write an exhaust pipe gag that would really make you think.” Our favorite sentence from this Faulkner Sports Illustrated piece from 1955? “But [the ice] looked not expectant but resigned, like the mirror simulating ice in the Christmas store window, not before the miniature fir trees and reindeer and cosy lamplit cottage were arranged upon it, but after they had been dismantled and cleared away.”
- We are far from the first ones on this, but sometimes, taking two things that independently aren’t funny, like say, Kanye West tweets and New Yorker cartoons, and putting them together equals comic gold.
Now that Tim has started breaking down the archaic, stuck-in-the-19th century National League, it’s time for John S to focus on the American League, where our lineups actually go nine-deep and pitchers aren’t forced to pretend to know how to hit. As Tim did, we’ll being in the West.
The AL West is the most wide-open division in the American League, and probably in all of baseball this year. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim won the division easily last year, as we’ve become accustomed to: They’ve won it five of the last six years. But the Angels lost their ace, John Lackey, their leadoff hitter, Chone Figgins, and their slugger, Vlad Guerrero, to free agency, and only really replaced Guerrero (by adding World Series MVP Hideki Matsui). Add in the fact that Guerrero and Figgins went to division rivals, and that every other team in the division made a significant addition to their rotation, and the Angels seem particularly vulnerable this year. Continue reading