What we read while we all just got along…
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
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.
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
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
Boston Red Sox (95-67) at Los Angeles Angels (97-65)
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.
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