Posts Tagged ‘Vladimir Guerrero’

Monday Medley

What we read while we all just got along…

MLB Postseason Preview: It’s the World Series!

OVERVIEW

It’s the matchup we all expected as far back as Game 5 of their respective League Championship Series. Two teams filled with traditions (largely of losing, but that’s beside the point) that will each be looking for their first title in at least a half-century. It’s Rangers-Giants on the baseball diamond, and not some odd cross-promotional hockey-football battle royale in New York. Tim and John S, who were all over this matchup by reverse jinxing it into fruition in their LCS Previews, provide their take hours before Game 1.

LINEUP

While Josh Hamilton’s ALCS heroics got most of the attention—from fans and Joe Girardi alike—the Rangers were not a one-man show against the Yankees. Guys like Bengie Molina, David Murphy, and Matt Treanor all homered in the series, and they got big hits from Vladimir Guerrero and Mitch Moreland. In fact, everybody on the team who got more than three at-bats in the ALCS had multiple RBIs. That may say more about the Yankee pitching staff, but it also shows that the Rangers’ lineup is as deep and as versatile as the one San Francisco just faced. And unlike in a lot of World Series past, the Rangers won’t be hurt much by losing the DH (at least not offensively)—since Ron Washington has already stated that he plans to play Guerrero in the field at least in Game 1, the Rangers will only be losing the platoon of David Murphy and Jeff Francoeur.

The Giants, meanwhile, outscored the Phillies primarily by not letting the Phillies score. As Tim said in his preview to the series, San Francisco would need someone to unexpectedly step up, and Cody Ross—contrary to all the time spent talking about Jose Guillen in that preview, even when Jose did not even make the NLCS roster—turned out to be that guy. Ross hit three home runs in the first two games of the series and finished with as many extra-base hits (6) as the rest of the team combined en route to series MVP. Of course, it was Juan Uribe who had the biggest hit of the series: a stunning in every way opposite-field home run to win Game 6. The formula for the Giants stays the same in the World Series: They need Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey to anchor the lineup with someone else getting hot. Contributions from Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez—Torres has been, as OutKast would say, “ICE COLD” since his September appendectomy while it seems as if Sanchez hit better than .268 in that NLCS—would go a long way toward helping. All this is complicated, though, by the fact that San Francisco will need to add another below-average bat to the lineup in Games 3-5, with Pablo Sandoval likely getting the nod against the two righties in Games 3 and 4 and, who knows starting Game 5. Travis Ishikawa? Mike Fontenot? It’ll be ugly.

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Free Pass

Just put him on...

Alas, the Yankees have lost the ALCS. There are many things you can blame for this sad reality, most notably the fact that the Rangers pitched and hit better than the Yankees throughout the series. But one thing that certainly didn’t help matters was the absurd number of intentional walks issued at the behest of Joe Girardi.

Two of the series’ key turning points were centered on intentional walks. First, in Game 4, with A.J. Burnett pitching as well as anyone could have expected and the Yankees leading 3-2, Vlad Guerrero led off the sixth with a single. Nelson Cruz replaced him at first on a fielder’s choice, and then, in a smart baserunning play, went to second on a deep fly ball to center. This move was so smart because it left Girardi with something that, apparently, managers do not know what to do with: a base open.

You hear things like this all the time in baseball: “Well, you have a base open here, so you can pitch around him,” or “You may as well walk him with a base open.” Here is a quick note for managers: YOU WANT YOUR BASES TO BE OPEN. That is a good thing. It means you have fewer runners on base and, thus, fewer runners at risk of scoring. And yet having a runner a second base and not first for some reason makes managers think about this differently, as if there were no substantive difference between having two runners on and having only one.

Because I’m sure that, had Cruz not taken second, Girardi would not have done what he did,* which is intentionally walk David Murphy.** Continue reading

MLB Postseason Preview: Rangers vs. Rays

Texas Rangers (90-72) at Tampa Bay Rays (96-66)

OVERVIEW

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.

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MLB Preview Bonanza: AL West

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

The Myth of Clutch

A-Rod

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

MLB Postseason Preview: Red Sox vs. Angels

Boston Red Sox (95-67) at Los Angeles Angels (97-65) 

LAARed Sox

OVERVIEW

In 2004 and 2007, the Boston Red Sox swept the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS en route to winning the World Series. I really hope that doesn’t happen again. People always make a big deal about Red Sox “having the Angels’ number” in the postseason. But the truth is that those teams were different from these teams: The Angels didn’t have Kendry Morales, Torii Hunter or Scott Kazmir, and Boston didn’t have Victor Martinez, Jason Bay or a steroidless David Ortiz. This series will actually probably come down to some marquee pitching matchups: Lester v. Lackey, Beckett v. Weaver.

THE LINEUPS 

It’s hard to believe, but the Angels more or less experienced no drop-off offensively when Mark Teixeira left last off-season. Kendry Morales, combined with the frugal but wise acquisition of Bobby Abreu, have actually made the 1-5 hitters in this lineup (Figgins-Abreu-Hunter-Guerrero-Morales) very scary.

The Red Sox lineup is harder to gauge: Jason Bay seemed like an MVP candidate for the first three months of the season, then cooled off dramatically, then picked it up a bit in September. David Ortiz had an atrocious first half, but has taken out the old syringe hitting stick and quietly become a power hitter again. Victor Martinez has been a great addition for them, but it puts them in an odd position of having to bench Jason Varitek (shouldn’t be that hard, but he’s the sentimental favorite and captain) or Mike Lowell. Continue reading

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