Monday, October 31, 2011

Busy Day for MLB

Less than 72 hours from the end of an improbable World Series run by the St. Louis Cardinals, MLB had multiple news headlines before most people had lunch on the east coast. A Hall of Fame worthy manager retired, an expected announcement was nixed and general managers began lighting the hot stove, wasting no time molding their rosters for 2012.

Surprises
The first bit of surprising news came from the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. A press conference announced the retirement of Tony LaRussa as manager. LaRussa just completed his 16th season as Cardinals manager and won his third World Series title (two with St. Louis and one with Oakland) during his 33 years as a manager. LaRussa, 67, said he knew as the season wore on that he was going to call it quits, win or lose. I'm sure he is happy to go out on top. In fact, the Elias Sports Bureau states that he is the only manager in MLB history to retire after winning the World Series. Best of luck to Mr. LaRussa.

Everyone was expecting to get an official announcement from the New York Yankees, said to have agreed to terms with general manager Brian Cashman, but that was postponed.  Over the weekend, Cashman and the Yankees proposed an offer to ace CC Sabathia, who has the ability to opt out of his current contract, so I would not read into anything along the lines of a retreat from extending Cashman. Maybe he and the Yankees didn't want to share the spotlight with LaRussa today? Or, Cashman doesn't want to answer questions about the possibilities of Sabathia opting out during the press conference when nothing has been established as a certainty to this point. Sabathia can officially opt-out at midnight tonight.

Hot Stove Firing Up
There were multiple options picked up (Marco Scutaro, Eric Hinske, Fausto Carmona and Jason Giambi among them) or declined (Grady Sizemore, Nate McLouth, Ryan Doumit and Paul Maholm) throughout the morning and early afternoon. There will be many more of each as the day progresses and the number of free agent eligible players will continue to grow beyond the initial 148 players who automatically became free agents yesterday.

Not long after noon, Jon Heyman tweeted that the Atlanta Braves had traded Derek Lowe to the Cleveland Indians. As the dust settled, we found out the Braves are picking up $10 million of the $15 million owed to Lowe and received a minor league reliever in return. This was definitely a salary dump by the Braves. The Indians get a #3 or #4 starter for a very reasonable $5 million. If anything Lowe has exhibited the ability to be a workhorse. He has logged at least 32 starts each season since 2002.

The baseball offseason is officially heating up. By 12:01 AM Thursday, when free agents can sign with any club, the fire of the hot stove will begin to scorch.



Thursday, October 27, 2011

Can Cardinals Take Advantage of Postponement?

The St. Louis Cardinals may have been handed a gift yesterday by the weather. Persistent rains forced MLB to make a wise and quick decision to postpone Game 6 of the World Series. The option to play was there, but MLB would most definitely have taken a lot of heat for playing a game in poor conditions with the prospect of better weather forecast for today.

Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa would appropriately tell you they have to get through today's game before worrying about Game 7. However, he must feel good that he would have an option to throw Chris Carpenter on three days rest should the Cards win tonight. Perhaps, LaRussa chooses to stick with Kyle Lohse, but to have Carpenter to fall back on is certainly a benefit. Carpenter's only start on three days rest came in Game 2 of this season's Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. It wasn't pretty (3 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 4 ER).

Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington has already stated he will not start C.J. Wilson on three days rest. Why would he since he hasn't been all that great on regular rest? It is plausible that Washington could use Wilson in a tight spot if there is a Game 7. The World Championship is on the line so it will be all hands on deck.

World Series Stats Through Game 5
  • The Cardinals have outscored the Rangers 22-19
    • Of course 16 of the 22 runs came in the Game 3 blowout.
  • The Cardinals batters have hit to a tune of .229/.351/.350
    • It is never good when your OBP is higher than SLG
  • The Rangers' Mike Napoli has 9 RBI on 4 hits (2 HR, 1 2B)
    • The rest of the Rangers have 10 RBI and Napoli leads all players with a 1.235 OPS
  • The Cardinals team ERA is 3.77 and the Rangers team ERA is 3.68
    • Take away Game 3 and the Rangers team ERA is 1.03
  • Albert Pujols is 0 for 12 outside of his epic performance in Game 3 (5-6, 4 R, 3 HR, 6 RBI)
    • He's 4 for 5 in speaking after games
  • Alexi Ogando: 4 G, 2 IP, 13.50 ERA, 6.00 WHIP
    • Yet Ron Washington continues to go to him in big spots
Cumulative Post Season Stats
  • Cardinals must be happy with David Freese's performance - .393/.443/.732
    • Not so much with Rafael Furcal's - .188/.233/.333
  • Nelson Cruz has come up big - .250/.350/.692 with 7 HR and 15 RBI
    • Elvis Andrus has come up small - .233/.313/.250
  • Colby Lewis: 1-1, 2.95 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 7.86 K/9
  • Jaime Garcia: 0-2, 3.97 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 7.15 K/9
At the beginning of the World Series, I took the Rangers in 6. They are one step away from completing their goal of winning the franchise's first World Series title. Colby Lewis has been the Rangers most consistent starter during both this and last season's postseason runs. Jaime Garcia was exceptional in Game 2 and will hope for a repeat performance. I'll stick with the Rangers finishing out the series tonight with a strong outing by Lewis and the Rangers bullpen. Hopefully Ron Washington's love affair with Ogando does not come into play here or else we could be watching baseball Friday night. Enjoy tonight's game!

Stats courtesy of MLB.com

Follow me on twitter at @BaseballStance

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Momentum is Unloyal and Fickle

The Texas Rangers were on their way to losing Game 2 of the World Series.  The St. Louis Cardinals had their closer, Jason Motte on the mound. Motte had pitched the equivalent of a complete game one-hitter up to the time he stepped foot on the mound in the ninth inning Thursday night. Home field, on a roll, who would expect that Motte couldn't keep, what I will now give the proper name, Momentum, happy? If you don't already know, let me explain that Momentum is not loyal and is very fickle.

Yes, Momentum shifts like the wind, especially in baseball. Ian Kinsler greeted Motte with a single. Kinsler then made a gutsy move and barely stole second base. Elvis Andrus singled moving Kinsler to third and Andrus ended up at second on the throw home which was cut off.

Momentum convinces managers to over think. Tony LaRussa who has managed over 5000 games in his career, decides to lift Motte, his best arm in the bullpen, for 41 year old left hander Arthur Rhodes to pitch to left handed hitting Josh Hamilton. Hamilton hits a drive to the warning track to score Kinsler and ties the game, Andrus moves to third. Another pitching change by LaRussa bringing in Lance Lynn to pitch to Michael Young. Young lifts a fly ball to the outfield and Andrus scores the go ahead run.  Four hitters and the two runs across with sac flies. Momentum walks across the diamond to greet his new friends.

The Rangers once on the brink on going down two games to none in the best of seven use closer Neftali Feliz to shut down the Cardinals in the bottom half of the ninth. Momentum decides to travel with the Rangers as the series heads to Texas.

So, you would expect that the Cardinals would have to be a little down after such a tough loss. Well, it became rather obvious that was the case when Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina did not address the media after the game. But, they came into Texas and got on the board first with a home run from World Series MVP candidate Allen Craig. Then came a bad call on a double play ball as the first base umpire missed Mike Napoli tagging Holliday in the back as he was crossing first base. The extra out allows the Cardinals to get three more hits, a IBB along with a Rangers error to plate 4 runs and take a 5-0 lead. Momentum laughs and runs to the Cardinals dugout.

At this point, Keith Law, tweets, "I picture the press box in Arlington full of writers working on stories about the "momentum shift" from that play at the plate. #cliche".  I'm not quite writing on one momentum shift, so I will continue with Law's quote filed for later.

Bottom of the fourth and the Rangers are down big and Kyle Loshe looks under control. Rangers fan favorite Michael Young drills and opposite field home run. Next batter Adrian Beltre, singles bringing up home run machine Nelson Cruz, and of course, BAM he homers yet again. Now 5-3 and Momentum ushers Kyle Loshe to the showers.

The Rangers are back in the game and a shutdown inning is in order, except, of course it doesn't happen. A Pujols single and two straight walks loads the bases. David Freese grounds into a fielder's choice scoring a run. Yadier Molina drives in two with a double to left.  Lead is back up the five and Momentum can be seen sitting next to Tony LaRussa in the Cardinals dugout.

In the Rangers half of the fifth, Andrus leads off with a single, Hamilton singles moving Andrus to third.  Young doubles driving in Andrus, Hamilton to third. Pitching change by LaRussa after he notices Momentum chatting with Adrian Beltre.  Lynn on to pitch to Beltre. It doesn't work as Beltre singles driving in Hamilton making it a three run game again. After Cruz strikes out, Napoli hits a sac fly plating Young.  Now it is 8-6.Momentum gives a high five to Texas manager Ron Washington.

Washington brings in Alexei Ogando to draw Momentum closer, knowing full well the third batter in the inning is Allen Craig. Craig already has two RBI singles off Ogando in the series both giving the Cardinals the lead, and has become one of Momentum's favorite players in this World Series. Ogando quickly loses his grip and Momentum's patience by walking Ryan Theriot. A single by Rafael Furcal and now two on for Craig. Ogando throws slider after slider each one going further and further outside. Then a 97 mph fastball that Craig can't catch up with.  Ogando wins this battle. Momentum smiles.  Perhaps it new this inning was not over. The next batter, Pujols hits a mammoth homer and Momentum is in AWE like the rest of the ballpark and walks back with Pujols to the dugout.

The Cardinals have a five run lead and the Rangers have four more at-bats to convince Momentum it belongs with them. Bottom of the sixth and the first batter Andrus singles to right. Hamilton quickly grounds into a double play. Young strikes out and Lynn shakes hands with Momentum at te top of the dugout steps.

The Cards look to strengthen their grip in the seventh. Thank you once again Albert Pujols, who connects on a two-run two out homer to center and the Cardinals are up by 8. Momentum wonders if Washington should have made a pitching change the way Pujols is swinging the bat, but it doesn't care as it is now resting comfortably with the Cardinals during the seventh inning stretch.

The Rangers get one back in the seventh. Momentum yawns from the Cardinals bench as they get the run right back in the top of the eighth. One more chance for the Rangers after fail to score in the eighth. Momentum is seen with a Cardinals hat on.

In the ninth, Albert Pujols hits his third home run of the game and puts the odds of Momentum hanging again with the Rangers in this game at about ten million to one. The Rangers go quietly in the ninth and the game is over. Momentum readies itself for the press conference Pujols will not miss.

Momentum is fickle.  Momentum sticks with the team producing at a given moment in the game or series.  Momentum does not HELP a team win.  Keith Law was right all along.  Who will Momentum hang with tonight?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

2011 World Series Preview

The Texas Rangers are back in the World Series for the second straight season and hungry for the title. The St. Louis Cardinals are in the World Series for the first time since they won in 2006. They have already feasted on two of the best teams in baseball's regular season and are ready for more.

The Rangers have had little trouble in making their way back to the World Series for the second straight season. They beat the Tampa Bay Rays three games to one in the American League Division Series and the Detroit Tigers four games to the two in the American League Championship Series. In the series with the Rays they did it with strong pitching, especially from the bullpen, and timely hitting. Each of the four games was settled by two runs or less. In the ALCS, they brought out the whipping stick. Most notably, a new October legend was born, as Nelson Cruz broke the records for home runs (6) and RBIs (13) in a postseason series and was awarded the ALCS MVP.

The Cardinals followed the same unbelievable path they rode into the postseason. After catching the Atlanta Braves from 10.5 games back on August 25th to gain the wildcard seed, they beat down the top two seeds in convincing fashion. The Philadelphia Phillies, owners of the best record in MLB during the regular season with 102 wins were no match for the Cardinals pitching staff in the National League Division Series. Then the grudge match everyone was expecting in the National League Championship Series, turned into a bullying of the Milwaukee Brewers. They took control of the NLCS from their NL Central rivals with a display of fantastic hitting in the middle of their lineup and a superb bullpen performance. The Cardinals also had an October star emerge in third baseman David Freese (.545, 3 HR, 9 RBIs) easily winning him the NLCS MVP.

Notable Postseason Stats:
  • Rangers OF David Murphy has a 1.047 OPS during the postseason while hitting .391
  • 8 of Nelson Cruz's 9 hits have gone for extra bases (6 HR, 2 doubles)
  • Rangers top regular season starter C.J. Wilson has an 8.04 ERA and whopping 1.85 WHIP
  • Pujols, David Freese and Matt Holliday have done serious damage (1.211, 1.315 and .976 OPS respectively)
  • After Chris Carpenter (3.71 ERA) the remaining 3 Cardinals starters have ERAs over 5.74
  • Each team has stolen 7 bases which leads all teams for the postseason
The Matchups:

At the Plate: The Rangers hit, hit and hit some more, consistently all season. The Cardinals have one of the most feared hitters of all time in Albert Pujols and a complimentary cast on a roll. Advantage - Slight edge for Rangers, just too much 1 through 9.

Starters: The Rangers rotation has not been very good as a whole and quite frankly neither has the Cardinals starters.  Advantage - Slight edge for Rangers based on regular season performance.

Bullpen: Has been a major strength for both teams so far. Advantage - Rangers, only because they are a little deeper.

Manager: Ron Washington may be loved by his players, but even they would admit that his best day is Tony LaRussa's average day. Both men have been questioned thus far in the playoffs, but Washington will have to manage at least 2 games with NL rules. Not good, Advantage - Cardinals

Prediction: When all is said and done, the Cardinals only real advantage is home field and even that will not be enough to overtake the Rangers. I think the Rangers have too many powerful weapons, so if one guy is down another picks up the slack. Expect the Rangers to take Game 1 or Game 2 in St. Louis, then two of three in Texas and celebrate their first World Series Championship at Busch Stadium. Texas Rangers in six.





Friday, October 14, 2011

Top Starters Falter During MLB Playoffs

The Major League Baseball playoffs began with an opportunity for 9 of the top 14 starting pitchers during the regular season (using pitcher's WAR from Baseball-Reference as the basis) to lead their teams to the World Series. How have they fared as of yesterday's games? See the table below:

Ironically, the Phillies starters (Halladay, Lee and Hamels) as a whole fared well yet were eliminated by the St. Louis Cardindals in the divisional series. The performance of the rest of the group ranges from mediocre to awful during this postseason.

The information tells us that performance during the regular season is not a precurser for performance during the postseason. Moreover, it may not be just this postseason. Verlander has a career postseason ERA of 5.57 in 42 innings pitched.  Sabathia has a career ERA of 4.81 in 86 innings pitched.  These are two of the top pitchers in the game!

Added pressure is certainly a plausible reason for a dip in performance. Pitchers who have been successful during the regular season have predominately thrown more innings and more pitches as well. Perhaps they enter the playoffs worn down. A third and in my mind the most legitimate reason for a downturn is the competition. Pitchers are not facing watered down lineups during the postseason as often as they do during the regular season.  Combine all three and the difficulty of success in the postseason is apparant.

Fans get excited when their team makes the playoffs and most feel that the better the starting pitching the further their team go in the playoffs.  Unfortunately, at least for 2011, that has not been entirely the case. Not all players are able to transcend their performance from the regular season into the postseason.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

NL Central Foes Ready for Battle

National League Championship Series Preview

When the St. Louis Cardinals meet the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series tonight don't expect a lot of pre-game hugging. These guys do not like each other.  The Brewers were the NL Central winners by six games over the Cardinals, but the teams split the season series winning nine games a piece.

Brewers starter Zach Greinke began tossing salvos 2 days before throwing the first pitch saying Cardinals hurler Chris Carpenter has "a phony attitude" among other things. Being rivals in the same division only raises the level of contempt. There were several incidents this season between the teams, including a bench clearing moment with Albert Pujols in the middle of the squabble. With the tension high already with a trip to the World Series at stake, don't be shocked if there are fireworks between players during the series.

On the field, each team was forced to shuffle rotations due to the use of their aces to close out their respective division series foes. The Brewers begin with Greinke and the Cardinals with Jaime Garcia, both very competent pitchers. Their aces Yovani Gallardo and Chris Carpenter are expected to pitch Game 3.

At the plate, the Brewers rely on the power of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder while the Cardinals counter with Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman. Matt Holliday should be on the roster for the Cardinals but is nursing an injured right hand.

Each team has a fine bullpen, though the Brewers may have a slight edge with two bonafide closers in Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford.

It will be interesting to see how the managers put their mark on the series. With each area being a close call, it could come down to how the managers handle the nuances of the game. One bad move could cost their team a game and the series.

Statistical Notes:
Greinke led all MLB starters with 10.5 K/9
Braun hit .225 BA with a .633 OPS vs. the Cardinals in the regular season
Fielder hit .237 with a .793 OPS vs Cards in the regular season
Pujols hit .250 with a .773 OPS vs. Brewers in the regular season
Berkman hit .196 with a .578 OPS vs. Brewers in the regular season

Prediction:
The Brewers will end up being just a bit better in all facets of the game. The Cardinals while playing valiantly at the end of the regular season and then in the division series, will once again come up short against the Brewers. Milwaukee in 7.

Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Rangers Set to Defend American League Title

American League Championship Series Preview

The Texas Rangers begin defense of their 2010 American League Championship tonight at home versus the Detroit Tigers. The Rangers dispatched of the Tampa Bay Rays in four games and the Tigers defeated the New York Yankees in five games.

Each team will have their aces on the mound.  Cy Young Award candidate Justin Verlander, working on normal rest, hopes to return to regular season form, while C.J. Wilson looks to put an awful start in the ALDS behind him.

Detroit received bad news this afternoon.  Delmon Young, their team leader in all major offensive categories during the ALDS, (.316 BA, 3 HR, 3 RBI, 4R) will not be available due to an oblique injury and has been removed from the roster. Besides Young, the Tigers offense was putrid during its series with the Yankees.

The Rangers offense was not much better versus Tampa Bay, though they received a three home run game from third baseman Adrian Beltre in the ALDS finale.

Statistical Notes:
  • Verlander is 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his career at Rangers Ballpark
  • Each team's run differential in their three wins during the ALDS was +4.
  • Detroit was outscored by the Yankees 26-17 in the ALDS
  • Texas hit .211 with a .674 OPS during the ALDS
  • Texas' staff ERA was 4.25 with a 1.31 WHIP during the ALDS
  • Detroit hit .228 with a .690 OPS during the ALDS
  • Detroit's staff ERA was 5.73 with a 1.50 WHIP during the ALDS
  • The Rangers had won six straight and 12 of 14 to end the regular season
  • The Tigers won 20 of their last 25 regular season games to bury the rest of the AL Central

Prediction:
The Rangers are rested and the Tigers are coming off an emotional Game 5 and series win just two days ago. They had to head straight to Texas the day after celebrating their victory. The Tigers enter a ballpark where runs are usually easy to come by, but with their hottest hitter off the roster. They'll need Miguel Cabrera to revert back to his MVP caliber regular season form to have a chance of knocking off the defending American League champs. The Rangers lineup, which also struggled during its series with Tampa Bay, is much deeper than Detroit's. Beyond Verlander and Doug Fister, the Tigers rotation is slightly behind the Rangers rotation. Each team has good but inconsistent arms at the end of the game.  This figures to be an important aspect of the series. Detroit's closer Jose Valverde, who did not blow a save the entire regular season, walked a tightrope in the first two games he pitched against the Yankees and then closed out Game 5 with a perfect ninth. Nefali Feliz had a less successful regular season with 6 blown saves, but was 3 for 3 in save chances in the ALDS. In the end, the Rangers will be thankful for winning one more game in the regular season than Detroit to gain home field advantage, as they celebrate a return to the World Series by beating the Tigers in seven games.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

ALDS Finale Features Unlikely Starters

What was once promised to be a possible Game 5 duel of two veteran aces, will instead be a matchup between Ivan Nova, a 24-year-old rookie and Doug Fister, a 27-year-old who 3 months ago pitched for one of the worst teams in baseball. Nova has not lost since June 3rd. Fister, the Tigers trade jewel, has lost only once since August 14th. Notably, that loss came to the Yankees just days ago at the hands of Nova.

This game will prove to be a no holds barred fight to the finish.  CC Sabathia is available. Justin Verlander isn't. The Yankees, of course, don't want to see Sabathia pitching tonight or else that means Nova faltered. The only pitchers they want on the mound after Nova are Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera. The Tigers want Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde pitching at the end of the game holding a lead, not trying to keep it close to salvage the season.

Questions abound. Can the Yankees build off their 6-run 8th inning Tuesday night in Game 4? Can Nova win yet again? Did Alex Rodriguez break his slump in Game 4? Will Fister throw the game everyone expected of Verlander? Will Don Kelly be the surprise hero for the Tigers? Or will they ride the bat of their MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera?

The winner meets the Texas Rangers in the American League Championship Series.

Statistical Notes:
  • Jorge Posada, a questionable selection by manager Joe Girardi as the main DH, is hitting .400 with 4 BB and 1 HBP
  • Brett Gardner is hitting .385 with two big 2-run, 2-out hits
  • The Yankees, who led MLB in HR during the regular season, have only 3 for the series
  • Delmon Young leads all hitters in the series with 2 HR
  • The Tigers are hitting .226 for the series
  • The Tigers entire staff has a 6.69 ERA for the series

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

NLDS Moves to Arizona

Today, the National League Division Series matchup between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Arizona Diamondbacks moves to Chase Field in Phoenix. What have we learned from Games 1 & 2 and what can we expect for Games 3 & 4?

Game 1 & Game 2 Summary:
Game 1 went as scripted for the Brewers. Big pitching performance from Yovani Gallardo (8 IP, 1ER, 9 SO) and the usual production from their bashers, Ryan Braun (3-4, 2 R) and Prince Fielder (2-4, HR, 2 RBI). Diamondbacks' Cy Young Candidate Ian Kennedy did not pitch terribly but was unable to match Gallardo.

In Game 2, Zach Greinke started for the Brewers on three days rest. He gave up three home runs but the Brewers were sparked by a five-run sixth inning as they won 9-4. D'Backs starter Daniel Hudson was ineffective giving up five runs in 5 1/3 innings.  Braun flexed his muscle with a two-run homer.

Game 1 & Game 2 Statistical Notes:
  • Braun is hitting .750 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 4 R
  • Brewers relievers have not allowed a run in five innings in the series
  • Diamondbacks reliever Brad Ziegler was trounced for 4 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks
  • D'Backs 2B Aaron Hill is hitting .500 with 3 walks after hitting .246 and drawing only 35 walks all season
Games 3 & 4 Expectations:
The Diamondbacks send rookie Josh Collmenter to the mound tonight in Game 3 to face Brewers' righty Shawn Marcum.  Collmenter threw 14 shutout innings against the Brewers this season in two starts.  Collmenter was excellent at home this season (9-4, 3.30 ERA), while Marcum was fantastic on the road (8-3, 2.21 ERA). In Game 4 of the series the D'Backs send Joe Saunders to the mound, while the Brewers have yet to announce their starter. The key for the D'Backs is to contain Braun and Fielder. Collmenter gives them an excellent chance this evening, while Saunders will have to be careful with Braun (2 HR allowed in 6 AB). The Brewers would love to settle this tonight and rest up for the NLCS, but they'll have to fend off the upstart D'Backs first.

Stats courtesy of MLB.com

NLDS Moves to St. Louis

Today, the National League Division Series matchup between the Philadelphia Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals moves to Busch Stadium in St. Louis. What have we learned from Games 1 & 2 and what can we expect for Games 3 & 4?

Game 1 & Game 2 Summary:
Game 1 in Philadelphia started out with an unexpected bang off the bat of Lance Berkman. The shock was not about Berkman, but that his three-run homer was hit off Cy Young Award candidate Roy Halladay. Halladay would settle down and throw seven shutout innings after the first. The Phillies' bats woke up in the sixth inning with Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez going deep off Cardinals' starter Kyle Lohse.

Game 2 started exactly as one would expect with Philadelphia starter Cliff Lee getting staked to an early 4-0 lead. What was not expected was Lee coughing up the lead in the 6th inning and then putting the Phillies behind in the 7th on a triple by Allen Craig and a single by Albert Pujols.

Game 1 & Game 2 Statistical Notes:
  • The Phillies 1 through 6 hitters in the lineup are hitting a combined .422
  • Phillies 7 through 9 hitters in the lineup have a total of 1 hit in the series
  • Phillies are 9 for 16 with RISP in the series
  • Cardinals relievers tossed 6 innings of 1 hit ball in Game 2
Games 3 & 4 Expectations:
Phillies Game 3 starter Cole Hamels is no stranger to pitching in pivotal playoff games. His opponent on the mound Jaime Garcia however will be making his first postseason start. Both pitchers have induced more ground outs versus fly outs with ratios of 1.50 for Hamels and 1.67 for Garcia. In Game 4, the Phillies send up veteran pitcher Roy Oswalt to face vagabond pitcher Edwin Jackson. Oswalt has battled injuries most of the season and Jackson has been very effective since the All-Star break (7-2, 3.19 ERA). The Cardinals were not really fazed by the Phillies two Cy Young candidates in Games 1 and 2, so they must feel good psychologically about their chances against Hamels. The Cardinals need to get quality starts so their bullpen does not get over worked.

Stats courtesy of MLB.com

Monday, October 3, 2011

ALDS Moves to Detroit

Today, the American League Division Series matchup between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers moves to Comerica Park in Detroit. What have we learned from Games 1 & 2 and what can we expect for Games 3 & 4?

Game 1 & Game 2 Summary:
Game 1 of this series ended up being suspended due to rain Friday night.  CC Sabathia pitched two innings, allowing a solo home run to Delmon Young. Justin Verlander threw one inning and allowed one run, courtesy of two walks and a groudout. When the game resumed Saturday night, Ivan Nova picked up where Sabathia left off, not allowing any runs until the Tigers scratched two across in the ninth inning. Doug Fister was effective until a six-run 6th inning, capped off by a Robinson Cano grand slam.

In Game 2 Sunday, Max Scherzer was virtually untouchable while Magglio Ordonez (3 for 3) and Miguel Cabrera (3 for 4, HR, 3 RBI) provided the offense for the Tigers. Yankees starter Freddy Garcia was done in by shoddy defense, poor base running and the Yankees inability to make noise with runners on base. It did get interesting in the ninth, but Jose Valverde induced a game ending groud out to second by Cano with the tying runners on base.

Game 1 & Game 2 Statistical Notes:
  • Alex Rodgriguez and Mark Teixeira are a combined 1 for 15 in the series
  • The Yankees are a combined 2 for 19 with runners in scoring position (RISP)
  • The Tigers are 7 for 17 with RISP
  • Both teams are batting .239 for the series
  • Tigers relievers have allowed 5 ER in 5 1/3 IP (not including Fister as a reliever)
Games 3 & 4 Expectations:
Verlander and Sabathia will battle deep into Game Three. With no chance of using them for the rest of the series, both managers will let their horses leave it out on the field tonight. It will be interesting to see how their "side sessions" on Friday impact tonight's performance. Expect a slugfest in Game 4 with Rick Porcello (4.72 ERA, .292 BA against) and A.J. Burnett (5.15 ERA) taking the hill. The Yankees hope to do a much better job with RISP and Yankees pitching needs to contain the Tigers hitters in the same situations. Rodriguez needs to provide some offense or Cano will see less and less pitches in crucial situations for the remainder of the series. Yankees batters will try to wear down Verlander and hope to get into Tigers bullpen which has thus far been unable to keep the Yankees off the board. Verlander will work to contain his energy by not overthowing in the early innings which has been an issue in his most recent outings against the Yankees.

Stats courtesy of MLB.com

ALDS Moves to Tampa

The American League Division Series matchup between the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays moves to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg this evening.  What have we learned from Games 1 & 2 and what can we expect for Games 3 & 4?

Game 1 & Game 2 Summary:
Game 1 in Texas featured Tampa Bay's rookie pitcher Matt Moore (one MLB start prior to Friday's game) hurling 7 innings of shutout ball.  He received all the offense he would need from his battery mate, Kelly Shoppach, who pounded two home runs and drove in five in a 9-0 rout of C.J. Wilson (6 ER) and the Rangers.

In Game 2, Tampa Bay starter James Shields was battered for seven runs in five innings.  Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli and Mitch Moreland drove in two runs a piece in Texas' 8-6 triumph.

Game 1 and Game 2 Statistical Notes:
  • B.J. Upton is a combined 4 for 8 with 3 doubles and 3 runs scored
  • Wilson had given up only 5 ER in his last 37 1/3 IP of the regular season
  • Moore threw 62 of 98 pitches for strikes
  • The Rangers are hitting a combined .194 in the series
Game 3 and Game 4 Expectations:
David Price takes the mound for Game 3 against Colby Lewis. Price was a hero out of the pen for Tampa during their World Series run in 2008 and Lewis was exceptional last year in Texas' postseason going 3-0 with a 1.79 ERA. In Game 4, Rookie of the Year candidate, Jeremy Hellickson faces Matt Harrison.  Tampa will hope to turn around their fortune against the Rangers at the Trop where the Rangers swept three games from the Rays in last season's ALDS.  The Rangers need production from Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz (combined 1 for 21 in the series).  The Rays hope to continue to get solid performances from Upton and Evan Longoria (3 for 9, HR, 3 RBI).

Stats courtesy of MLB.com