Archive for ‘Playoffs’

Wednesday: 11.23.2011

Is Playoff Hangover Real for Starting Pitchers?

Analyzing and subsequently choosing starting pitchers for a fantasy baseball is more art than science these days.  There are tons of different theories, hypotheses, principles, concepts, philosophies, ideas, notions and axioms that fantasy managers will subscribe to and often the landscape becomes so jumbled that some of these will overlap or outright contradict another.  One such adage is that starting pitchers on teams that make a deep run into the playoffs are susceptible to a level fatigue that non-playoff pitchers avoid.

It is kind of a tributary of the Verducci Effect.  The Verducci Effect warns that pitchers under 25 years old who see their inning workload increase by 30 or more innings are subject to regression in performance often because the season is cut short by injury, but also the innings they do pitch aren’t on par with the previously set watermark.  The Playoff Hangover, which doesn’t have nearly the traction of the Verducci Effect, doesn’t have age limits or even any hard and fast inning requirements.  The loose concept is that the extra month of pitching and late start to the offseason could make a pitcher subject to performance degradation the following year.

The logic behind this supposition is sound enough on its face, more pitching + less rest = worse followup… OK, not outrageous .  It isn’t hard to envision how a longer season with a 20-35 extra innings (depending on the caliber of pitcher and how far their team goes) could have a negative impact on a starting pitcher, especially in this day and age when pitch counts and inning workloads are at the fore and the focus on protecting pitchers is at an all-time high.

But how does the theory play out in practice?  Nominally the best teams in the league make the playoffs and then the best of that bunch advances on into the League Championship Series and eventually the World Series.  Of course it takes a strong rotation to do this so it would stand to reason that often the pitchers on these teams advancing round-to-round are among some of the league’s best.

The relevance here is that the sample of pitchers isn’t likely to be riddled with injury washouts and subpar hurlers fit for the backend of second division teams.  Should an extra 25 innings from a Texas Ranger or St. Louis Cardinal starting pitcher impact their 2012 projection and ranking this offseason?  Does a lengthy playoff run portend performance degradation the following year?

To observe the potential effects of deep playoff runs, I looked at the inning output year-to-year of the starting pitchers for teams making it to the LCS in each league.  If this potential hangover had any substance, it would likely show itself in the form of injury resulting in decreased workloads for the parties involved.  I looked at the starting pitchers from the 12 LCS teams since 2008 which yielded a sample of 29 starters who all threw at least 12 playoff innings and averaged 23 as a group.

Of that group:

  • 16 of 29 (55%) saw their innings decrease the following year
  • 8 of the 16 (50%) saw what I would term a “marginal” decrease in workload (fewer than 20 innings) and averaged 204 innings as a group
  • 1 of those 8 (13%) threw fewer than 195 innings (Scott Kazmir with 147, after 152 during the playoff year)
  • 3 of the 16 (19%) saw what I would term a “marked” drop in workload, 20-35 innings, but that group still averaged 198 innings
  • 10 of the 16 (63%) threw what I would term “full seasons” of work averaging 208 innings
  • 5 of the 16 (31%) saw what I would term a “major” drop in workload, 50+ innings, due in large part to injury
  • 1 of those 5 (20%) threw a career high in innings during their playoff year
  • 0 of those 5 (0%) were within the generally accepted injury risk age range of 25 years or younger
  • The group of 5 averaged 32 years old while no one was younger than 28
  • 13 of 29 (45%) saw their innings increase the following year
  • 8 of the 13 (62%) saw a marginal increase in workload (fewer than 20 innings) and averaged 219 innings as a group
  • 2 of the 13 (15%) saw a marked increase in workload (20-35 innings) and averaged 219 innings
  • 2 of the 13 (15%) saw what I would term a “legitimate” increase in workload (36-49 innings) and averaged 214 innings
  • 1 of the 13 (8%) saw a major increase in workload (50+ innings) as Madison Bumgarner threw 94 more major league innings the following year.  That is admittedly skewed because he truly threw 193 innings in 2010 if you count his minor league total.  In that case, his workload increase would be 12 innings from 2010 to 2011.
  • 3 of the 29 appear in both ends of the pool including Cole Hamels (who actually appears twice increase pool and once in the decrease pool), CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee.

Are there any great lessons to be learned within these results?  It would seem not as far as I can tell.  We saw a total of 17% injury attrition from the group (5 of 29) and while that isn’t a meaningless figure, is there any indication that it had anything to do with the extra work in the playoff year?  They were all established veterans and only Jonathan Sanchez had reached previously untouched heights in terms of total workload.

Starting pitchers are inherently risky which is why you don’t see them populate the early rounds of drafts despite how often several of them finish among the top 25 in fantasy value in a given year.  We are always looking for advancements in analyzing and projecting pitchers year to year and attempts to show how workload impacts performance is currently the primary focus.  So while it might make some logical sense to concoct a theorem whereby deep playoff runs under the most intense spotlight the game offers will eventually hamper a pitcher in the subsequent year, it doesn’t seem to hold up as a bankable red flag.

Further damning the notion is the fact that it is only brought up in the context of the playoffs whereby fall and winter leagues, probably because of their scant coverage, aren’t thought of as future hindrances. While the pitchers in the Arizona Fall League or Venezuelan Winter League aren’t up to the caliber of the MLB Playoffs on the whole, each league will funnel impact players into the league for the 2012 season.

Any proof that an extended playoff run contributed to an injury-shortened season the following year would like be offered retrospectively and thus downgrading a Chris Carpenter or CJ Wilson (who pitched the most playoff innings in 2011 at 36 and 28, respectively) because of their team’s run through the World Series would be foolhardy and most of all, arbitrary.

Carpenter is37 years old with a checkered injury history on the heels of back-to-back 235+ inning seasons, something he has never done, so there is reason for caution with him, but if he does succumb to injury at any point in 2012 it isn’t likely to be related to the extra playoff innings.  Wilson, who only recently transitioned to starting, will soon be rewarded for excelling in that transition and who knows how a new environment, fame, heaps of money and lofty expectations will impact him in 2012?  But if he is felled by injury next season, I don’t see his 28 playoff innings anywhere near the top of the suspect list.  Happenstance and bad luck should be brought in for questioning first.  Especially in light of the fact that Wilson went from 74 relief innings in 2009 to 204 innings as a starter in 2010 (plus 24 playoff innings) to 223 (and 28) in 2011 without incident.

The Playoff Hangover Panic is a tool of revisionists retrofit onto a poor performance when no obvious explanation exists.  Thus you won’t see any concerns in the 2012 Starting Pitcher Guide around the elongated seasons of Carpenter, Wilson, Jaime Garcia, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Justin Verlander, Yovani Gallardo, Edwin Jackson, Matt Harrison, Zack Greinke, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Kyle Lohse, Shaun Marcum or Randy Wolf, all of whom threw 10+ playoff innings as their teams reached the LCS.

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Tuesday: 05.15.2007

Why?

Major League Baseball announced yesterday that the World Series would be pushed back to start on October 24th and end in early November if it should go seven games. While it is cool that World Series will start on my birthday, I have to question the idea of pushing it back. After the horrendous weather problems in the St. Louis-Detroit series from a season ago, why would they push it further into the Fall?

One of the reasons behind the switch was to start things on a weekday to take advantage of historically higher viewership during that time, “‘Major League Baseball is pleased to make these amendments to the postseason schedule,’ MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy said. ‘Starting the World Series in the middle of the week, when television viewership is historically higher, will provide more fans with the opportunity to watch the games.'” I don’t necessarily disagree with that, but I’m still a little worried about pushing the season deeper into Fall with the potential weather problems that could factor in.

Thursday: 10.26.2006

You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me.

I haven’t made it any secret that I’m not a huge fan of Bill Simmons. He’s very hit-n-miss and for the past few years, his miss rate is much higher. I think he runs out the same tired jokes time and again and focuses far too much on reality TV jokes that often miss the mark. I realize Page 2 isn’t the bastion of sports, hell ESPN isn’t either, but maybe a little less focus on trying to pop off a one-liner wouldn’t make them look so forced and cause them to fall flat. Anyway, I was directed to his latest article, filled with backtracking of the highest order after he blasted the World Series, wherein he actually accused Kenny Rogers of steroid use:

“Back to Rogers: Does anyone else believe that he planted that brown stuff on his left hand to deflect attention away from the fact that he fits every possible profile of a steroids/greenies guy? I mean, let’s say you just returned from a three-week safari in Africa and I told you, “Yo, there’s this veteran pitcher in his early 40s with a storied track record for choking in big games, only now he’s working on a 22-inning scoreless streak in October and punctuating each start by screaming after every out and stomping around like a crazy homeless guy trying to clear out a bus stop?” Wouldn’t your first thought be, “What’s he taking?” Instead, we’re worried about some mud on his hand? Somebody make this guy pee in a cup, please.”

This claim is laughable at best and somewhat disturbing at worst. I just don’t see how this guy links a turn of luck in the postseason coupled with emotion during the streak as a sign of steroids. It probably wouldn’t bother me so much if I didn’t already dislike him, but this is just ridiculous. Stick to Laguna Beach references and an unhealthy obsession with the NBA.

Wednesday: 10.25.2006

The Aftermath: Game 3

How many more bad starts did Chris Carpenter have in him? The answer, unfortunately, was none. After two un-Carpenter-like starts against the New York Mets in the LCS, the Cardinals ace was back in form last night with eight shutout innings. It is disconcerting that the lineup was absolutely man-handled by Carpenter, but not completely unexpected. How much can you really complain about a Cy Young winner and 2006 candidate shutting down a lineup?

Per Billfer at DTW, no batter reached a three-ball count all night. That is downright vomit-inducing. The lack of discipline led to a whopping one runner in scoring position all evening. Overall, despite some very predictable pitch-calling by Carpenter and Yadier Molina, the Tigers remained lost. That isn’t to take anything from Carpenter. Predictable or not, filth is filth and will fool major league hitters regardless.

Then there is play by Joel Zumaya. I know what he was thinking, I just don’t know why he was thinking it. The fact of the matter is, the extra runs just made it look worse, but the Tigers weren’t coming back against Carpenter last night. Bottom line: they got taken out behind the woodshed and ruined my birthday! 😀 Actually, being able to watch my Detroit Tigers in the World Series for my 25th birthday was all I could really ask. A win would’ve been icing on the proverbial cake.

On to tonight, the Tigers get LCS MVP Jeff Suppan in St Louis. Conversely from Carpenter, the question about Suppan isn’t how many more bad starts are in him, rather how many more gems does he really have? He has dropped his earned run average every month since June including a 2.15 ERA in six September starts. His two LCS starts spanned 15 innings of one-run ball. He isn’t bad, but he definitely isn’t this good, so can the Tigers get to him? I think he is beatable.

Better yet, I like the potential of Jeremy Bonderman to shutdown the Cardinals. I like the Tigers to tie it up once again tonight. I’m even sporting my Bonderman shirt to bring in the W.

Go Tigers!!!

Monday: 10.23.2006

Already?

I was taking a look at some books on Amazon.com to pick some things out for my birthday when I stumbled across the most aptly named book I’ve seen in some time. It’s not that I don’t think the 2006 Detroit Tigers are worthy of a book, but isn’t it a bit early for this book? With the Tigers in the World Series and the book scheduled for an October 30th release, how good can it really be?

Furthermore, I’m not saying you have to judge a book by its length, but at 127 pages, is it really going to cover the ins and outs of this wonderful season? The author, George Cantor, wrote two books I’m very interested in getting. One is about the 1968 Tigers and the other is about the 1984 Tigers, both of which have received some great reviews. Thus, given his history for covering wonderful seasons in Detroit, you have to like him tackling the 2006 season, but I think the timing is just a huge problem.

Speaking of books, if you’re a stat-nerd like myself I heavily recommend the Bill James yearly handbook. Last year was my first time to receive it and I absolutely loved it. It not only serves as an amazing statistical reference for each player, but it has the most in-depth leaderboards on some of the most obscure stats available from the 2006 season. Also, I recommend going for the spiral-bound edition that can purchased by clicking the picture below. I have no vested interest here and won’t receive a nickel for anyone that follows the link, I’m just passing off my heavy recommendation for a great item:

The Bill James Handbook will be available November 1st, 2006.

Monday: 10.23.2006

The Aftermath: Game 2

Phew! Now that’s more like it. Kenny Rogers threw yet another playoff gem to run his postseason scoreless innings streak to an astounding 23. It didn’t come without controversy. Dirtgate, as it’s being called, is on the tip of everyone’s tongue this morning as Rogers defends a brown smudge found below his thumb on his pitching hand. Of course, the fact that he removed it after the first inning and continue to dominate for seven more innings is evidence enough that he doesn’t need any illegal assistance. Still, it is the hot topic for debate amongst the talking heads on this Monday morning. I think we just need to get Grissom and Willows on the case to settle it once and for all.

With two World Series home runs, Craig Monroe has ran his playoff total to five and put himself in a tie with the legendary Hank Greenberg. Monroe has really started to become a favorite player of mine as he has come up big for this team time and again both at the dish and in the field. It really started with his 23rd home run of the season on August 30th that capped off a thrilling comeback against the Yankees in the night game of doubleheader in New York.


Monroe Against New York in August
Courtesy: CBS Sportsline


Monroe in the First Inning Last Night
Courtesy: Yahoo!

Rogers and closer Todd Jones held the first three batters of the St. Louis lineup hitless as they went 0-for-10 with two walks. In fact, Scott Rolen continued his coming out party from game one as the only hitter in the lineup to notch more than a hit. He was again 2-for-4 and scored the team’s lone run. Jones made things exciting by allowing an RBI-double to Jim Edmonds, but closed the door for his fourth save in October.

Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez combined to go 5-for-7 and scored two of the team’s three runs. Guillen’s 3-for-3 performance gives him five hits in seven at-bats for the World Series after hitting just .188 in the LCS against Oakland. Meanwhile, Monroe is 3-for-7 with two home runs and a double in the first two games.

The teams enjoy an off day to travel to St. Louis where the series will pick up on Tuesday for three straight in Busch Stadium. Nate Robertson will face Chris Carpenter and Jeremy Bonderman draws NLCS MVP Jeff Suppan before the rotations start over on Thursday.

Here is a World Series Boxscore followed by a complete playoff boxscore for the Tigers:

Detroit AB  R  H  RBI  BB  K  HR AVG
C. Granderson 9 0 0 0 0 2 0 0.000
C. Monroe 7 3 3 2 1 1 2 0.429
P. Polanco 7 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.000
M. Ordonez 7 1 2 0 1 1 0 0.286
C. Guillen 7 1 5 2 1 1 0 0.714
I. Rodriguez 8 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.000
S. Casey 6 0 1 1 0 1 0 0.167
B. Inge 7 0 2 0 0 3 0 0.286
R. Santiago 5 0 1 0 0 2 0 0.200
M. Thames 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.000
N. Perez 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.000
TOTALS 64 5 14 5 3 13 2 0.219
               
St. Louis AB  R  H  RBI  BB  K  HR AVG
D. Eckstein 9 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.000
S. Spiezio 3 0 0 0 1 1 0 0.000
A. Pujols 6 2 1 2 2 1 1 0.167
S. Rolen 8 3 4 1 0 2 1 0.500
J. Encarnacion 7 0 0 1 1 1 0 0.000
J. Edmonds 7 1 3 2 1 3 0 0.429
P. Wilson 4 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.000
Y. Molina 8 1 2 0 0 1 0 0.250
A. Miles 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.000
R.Belliard 4 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.000
S. Taguchi 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0.250
C. Duncan 4 1 1 1 0 2 0 0.250
TOTALS 67 8 12 7 5 15 2 0.179




Playoff
Composite
Player AB R H RBI BB SO HR AVG
Granderson 36 5 9 6 0 4 3 0.250
Polanco 32 4 11 3 3 3 0 0.344
Casey 26 1 8 5 1 1 0 0.308
Ordonez 31 5 8 3 3 4 2 0.258
Guillen 30 6 15 4 3 5 1 0.500
Rodriguez 30 4 5 3 2 7 0 0.167
Monroe 31 6 8 6 1 5 5 0.258
Thames 23 3 7 2 1 6 0 0.304
Inge 28 3 7 3 1 9 1 0.250
Gomez 4 1 2 4 0 0 1 0.500
Santiago 6 0 1 0 0 2 0 0.167
Totals 277 38 81 39 15 46 12 0.292




Sunday: 10.22.2006

The Aftermath: Game 1

Ouch! That one hurt. Not only did a rookie pitcher that was pretty awful during the regular seasoon take it to the Tigers, but it is a rookie pitcher that irons the bill of his cap!!!! By the way, ironing the bill of your cap should be called “douchebagging” your hat. Mind you, I’m not bitter about a game one loss and he pitched the game of his life so he gets the credit he deserves, but I think it’s completely ridiculous that he irons the bill of his hat.

As for the game, the Tigers definitely got punched in the mouth. Hopefully it functions as a wake up call and they return to their previous form shown in the New York and Oakland series’. Honestly, I’m not overwrought with anguish over this loss. I’d have preferred to be closer, but even a closer loss would still be a loss. My biggest problems with the game lie in the fact that some of their sleeping giants woke up including Jim Edmonds (2-for-4 with one RBI), Albert Pujols (1-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs) and Scott Rolen (2-for-4 with a home run and one RBI). Rolen and Edmonds had been struggling a good bit, while Pujols was still getting hits but not driving in too many runs.

Justin Verlander hasn’t been that effective in these playoffs and yesterday was no different. His curve was biting, but his velocity was down on the fastball and he missed his spots from time to time. The ill-advised throw over on Pujols was a floodgate situation that made his numbers look a lot worse than he actually pitched. The Tigers hitters were offensive… and not at all in a good way. The four hits were confined to two players (Carlos Guillen and Craig Monroe) while the team went back to their free-swinging ways with five strikeouts against just one walk. Anthony Reyes downright owned the team leading to the inevitable cries that the week off made the team rusty. Maybe so.

It is just one game and I already felt that we were looking at a six or seven game series, so I obviously expected to lose some games. I would’ve loved to see the team get game one under their belts, especially being at home, but I’m confident that Kenny Rogers can deliver a game two win and the teams will head to St. Louis tied at one.

Overall, it was really awesome to watch my favorite on October 21st as they hosted a World Series game! I wasn’t sure I’d ever see it, much less so soon. I’m really excited for game two tonight.

Saturday: 10.21.2006

The Preview

If you had told me in March, when I started this blog that my post on October 21st would be a World Series preview involving the Detroit Tigers, I would have laughed. The fact of the matter is, I expected improvement from my team this season, but no one could’ve imagined this kind of success. That said, I’m absolutely ecstatic to be here writing this preview.

Both of these teams entered the playoffs on a sour note. We all know how the Tigers lost out on a division crown, instead settling for a wildcard berth after dropping three straight to the Kansas City Royals. Meanwhile, the Cardinals had to hang on for dear life as the Houston Astros charged and nearly swiped the divsion away from them. St. Louis was 12-16 in September and were swept by the Astros in four games from September 21-24. That is all history now, of course, as both teams have thoroughly disproved the notion that September momentum matters.

The Rotations
Having defeated the “Best Lineup Ever Assembled” and powering a sweep of the Athletics is bound to draw some attention to a rotation. The praise has been merited as the Tigers showed that their league-best ERA in the regular season was no fluke. Justin Verlander draws most of the press, though he hasn’t been anywhere near the most effective of the foursome. In fact, he and Nate Robertson have matching 5.91 earned run averages in their 10 and 2/3 innings of work apiece. Still, Verlander is being handed the ball in game one. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I trust Verlander enough to be effective aganist a struggling lineup that features one bonafide threat. On the other hand, both Jeremy Bonderman and Kenny Rogers have been more effective and have more veteran presence than the rookie. As has been the case with these playoffs, I’ll let Jim Leyland make the call and wait for the results. Dual lefties in the form of Rogers and Robertson will follow Verlander with Bonderman pitching game four. I do take issue with Bonderman set up to pitch just once in the series, but again, with each passing game it becomes increasingly tougher to question Leyland. Rogers has not only held New York and Oakland scoreless in 15 innings, but he has notched 14 strikeouts as well. Bonderman, usually a strikeout pitcher, seems to have switched roles with Rogers as he has half as many punchouts as the old man.

The Cardinals will match the Tigers in game one. Not only will they also throw a rookie, but Anthony Reyes holds the highest earned run average amongst Cardinals starters in the playoffs. Of course the similarities stop there, Reyes is a talented young arm, but is a far cry from Verlander. He has pitched just once in these playoffs and lasted just four innings. He walked four and allowed three hits in a no-decision. His flyball tendencies got the best of him in that playoff start with two home runs allowed. A flyball pitcher against a home-run hitting team could prove costly. Following Reyes is former Detroit Tiger Jeff Weaver. Weaver has been excellent during the playoffs after an abysmal season split between Los Angeles and St. Louis. In three starts, Weaver is 2-1 with a 2.16 earned run average and 1.14 WHIP. He has not been dominating with just five strikeouts in 16 and 2/3 innings, but he has avoided walking too many (7) and kept the ball in the park by allowing just one home run. I’m sure the mainstream press will hype up his return to Detroit as extra incentive as well. The Cardinals most talented pitcher, Chris Carpenter, will go third while LCS MVP Jeff Suppan will be relegated to just one game as he finds himself in the four slot after coming up huge in the deciding game against the Mets. Of course, without him, the Cardinals wouldn’t be here. Suppan has a 1.86 earned run average in 19 and a third innings of work. For all the mettle shown by this staff in their two series so far, they lack one key ingredient that would allow them to exploit the Tigers: they don’t strike many hitters out. Of the three starters with three or more starts in the playoffs, only Carpenter has hit double digits in strikeouts and even his rate is only 6.3 per nine innings.

Edge: Detroit – and it isn’t that close. With Suppan only going once and Reyes a complete wildcard, the Tigers hold a serious edge here.

The Bullpens
If anything has received more press than the Tigers rotation in the playoffs, it has been their bullpen. Led by the explosive Joel Zumaya, the six-man crew have allowed a whole four runs in 19 and 2/3 innings work (1.83 ERA) and consistently worked out of jams. No jam was bigger than the one Jason Grilli dug in clincher against the A’s, and yet Wilfredo Ledezma pulled him out of it. Todd Jones has made it exciting at times, including loaded the bases in game two against Oakland with Frank Thomas bearing down on him, but he has kept teams scoreless in five appearances and notched three saves. Say what you will about Jonesy, and I’ve said plenty including this tirade on June 15th, but he has gotten the job done in these playoffs. The aforementioned star of the pen, Zumaya, was unavailable for most of the Oakland series making the week off something to cheer for as he is now back and ready to go as needed. Jamie Walker, the lefty specialist, has been the least effective of the relievers allowing two of the four runs. Still you should expect to see him in key at-bats against the likes of Jim Edmonds.

The Cardinals have ran out seven different arms on various occasions during these playoffs and received mixed results. Their closer, Adam Wainwright, has been very effective with three saves of his own. He has held his opponents scoreless in six and two-thirds innings with 10 strikeouts against just one walk. He and Tyler Johnson have both been strikeout pitchers in these playoffs. Johnson, a lefty, has 11 in six and one-thirds innings and racked up four holds. Randy Flores is more of a situational lefty, like Walker for Detroit. On the other end, Braden Looper, Brad Thompson and Josh Hancock have allowed 11 runs in nine and two-thirds innings for a 10.24 earned run average. Coincidentally enough, 10/24 is my birthday! I forgot to mention Josh Kinney. He has come pretty much out of nowhere to deliver some very effective innings.

Edge: Detroit – and it’s because of Zumaya. His dominance gives the Tigers a slight edge in the department by my estimation. I’m not especially sold on Johnson or Kinney. Wainwright has been excellent, but he is the only one I think they can count on unconditionally.

The Infields
Word is that Sean Casey will be ready to go after recovering from a torn calf muscle, another good reason for the week off. That means, the infield will be at full strength for the first time since game one of the Oakland series. Casey’s return to first base will put Carlos Guillen back at shortstop with Placido Polanco and Brandon Inge holding their normal spots at 2nd and 3rd base, respectively. Team leader, Ivan Rodriguez, remains the stalwart behind the plate. Offensively, Polanco and Guillen have carried the team with key hit after key hit and the ability to get on base at whatever cost. They are sporting .514 and .424 on-base percentages and have combined for 36 total bases. Inge broke out of his funk from the New York series to hit .333 against Oakland and totaled an equal number of walks and strikeouts (three). Rodriguez has been the least effective of all Detroit hitters with a .172/.242/.310 line.

The infield for St. Louis has produced a fair bit of their offense. Albert Pujols has been excellent as expected while Ronnie Belliard and Yadier Molina have picked up the slack for the rest of the team. David Eckstein, arguably baseball’s most overrated player, has been held down to the tune of a .195 average. I’ll have the barf bag ready in the top of the first when Tim McCarver starts waxing poetic about how gritty and tough of a baseball Eckstein is for the Cardinals. Shoot me already. He’s no slouch, but he isn’t half as good as every announcer makes him out to be. Meanwhile, Scott Rolen has been mired in turmoil about injuries, playing time and apparent spats with manager Tony LaRussa. He’s hitting a paltry .188 with no runs driven in during these playoffs.

Edge: Detroit – I’m starting to look like a homer by giving Detroit the edge everywhere, but if I truly thought the Cardinals held an edge in one of these first three breakdowns, I’d give them the nod. Pujols is the best hitter between both teams, but he can be pitched around given how poorly the bulk of the Cardinals’ lineup is performing. Meanwhile, Polanco has been white-hot is the toughest out on either team coming into this World Series. He will be the catalyst again.

The Outfields
I actually suggested maybe moving Curtis Granderson from the leadoff spot right around the beginning of the playoffs because of his strikeouts. I’m an idiot. He has been great this October and actually drawn more walks than strikeouts (four to three). His three home runs have him tied for the team lead and he has two of the team’s three playoff stolen bases. Flanking him have been two key players as well. I can’t say enough about the defensive performance of Craig Monroe making catch after catch, then you turn around and realize he’s mashing at the plate as well. Only Granderson’s 23 total bases top Monroe’s 21 and C-Mo has also scored the most runs with eight and ties for the team lead with three home runs. Soon-to-be-elected Mayor of Detroit, Magglio Ordonez rounds out the trio. His three home runs make it a three-way tie between the outfielders for the team lead in the playoffs. Of course, though the number is the same, many would agree that Ordonez is the home run leader as his two in the clincher tied, then won the game. The three outfielders have 69% of the team’s 13 postseason home runs. Ordonez is hitting just .250, but four of his eight hits have been for extra bases.

The outfield features the other former Detroit Tiger to call St. Louis home. Juan Encarnacion spent five seasons with Detroit before being traded to Cincinnati for Dmitri Young. He and his outfield mates have put on quite a lackluster performance offensively this October. Jim Edmonds has used his excellent eye to draw seven walks and post a .395 on-base percentage, but his two home runs account for all the power from the regulars in the outfield. Preston Wilson and Scott Spiezio have drawn an equal number of starts and in turn, been equally ineffective. Edmonds is the most capable by a long shot and could be a huge factor in an otherwise listless bunch. He and Pujols are the biggest threats, but Duncan, Encarnacion, Spiezio and Wilson all have legitimate power.

Edge: Detroit – by arguably their biggest advantage in any of the breakdowns. Their outfield is functioning on all cylinders, while St. Louis doesn’t even have a set three to put out there everyday.

The Benches
With 42 no-hit middle infielders on the bench, the Tigers will be tested in St. Louis with the pitcher batting. Alexis Gomez and Marcus Thames both offer significant power while Omar Infante, Neifi Perez and Ramon Santiago offer next to nothing offensively. Chris Shelton could have been added to the roster, but only as a replacement of Santiago, however he was not. Vance Wilson will back up Pudge, but has yet to swing a bat in the playoffs.

Being that they are built for National League baseball, the Cardinals do have a deeper bench. It is comprised of Gary Bennett, Chris Duncan, Aaron Miles, John Rodriguez, So Taguchi and one of Spiezio or Wilson when games are played in St. Louis. Taguchi’s hot streak has earned him a start in tonight’s first game, meaning both Spiezio and Wilson be coming off the bench as Duncan has been slotted to DH.

Edge: St. Louis – it is not only comprised of better players, but it doesn’t feature Neifi Perez, that alone is a signifcant edge.

Overall
Obviously I like the Detroit Tigers to take this series. However, at the beginning of the playoffs, I predicted that a serious injury to Orlando Hernandez would open the door for the Cardinals into the series, meaning I’m not at all discounting them. I think this thing goes six with the Tigers winning it at home for the city of Detroit. The power pitching combined with the timely hitting and sparkling defense will be too much for this Cardinals team. St. Louis does have the best hitter in the series with Pujols and the best starter with Carpenter, but it will not be enough to tame the Tigers.

Preview Central:
Tiger Tales
Tiger Blog
Mack Avenue Tigers
Where Have Gone, Johnny Grubb?
Detroit Tigers Weblog
Ken Rosenthal
CNNSI
ESPN
Baseball Analysts
Baseball Prospectus
Baseball Musings
Hardball Times
CBS Sportsline
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Friday: 10.20.2006

Cards Are Dealt: Tigers To Face St. Louis in 1934, ’68 Rematch.


Courtesy: Detroit Free Press

Adam Wainwright‘s breaking ball froze Carlos Beltran with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth last night and sends the St. Louis Cardinals to Detroit for the begining of the 2006 World Series. Justin Verlander has been named the game one starter with Kenny Rogers, Nate Robertson and Jeremy Bonderman following.

Joel Zumaya is a go for the Series and manager Jim Leyland has suggested that first baseman Sean Casey will be as well. The full 25-man roster is not yet available, but rumors are that Andrew Miller might replace Zach Miner. I hope that Chris Shelton makes the roster in lieu of Neifi Perez if Casey isn’t able to go or needs time off at any point during the series.

Both of the previous Series’ between this franchise went seven games with Detroit winning in ’68 and the Cardinals taking the ’34 bout. The 1968 victory marks the last “true” World Series where just the winner of the American League played the winner of the National League for the whole ball of wax. In 1969, the LCS playoffs were introduced.

I like this collection of bits and pieces from various articles about the Series put together by the Free Press that can be found here. I’ll post a similar collection of blog previews as they appear over the course of this afternoon/evening and tomorrow afternoone. My full preview will likely be done by tomorrow morning.

As for the season series, the Tigers swept the Cardinals in a three game set that took place in Detroit at the end of June. I wouldn’t take much from it because it was so long ago, but it is nice to have that success as well as the experience against the Cards as they make their way to Detroit. For some reading enjoyment while you wait for my preview, I direct you to Jerry Crasnick‘s piece on how the Tigers were built. Part of me likes the article because it’s well done, part of me hates it because I was writing a very similar piece for this space. Oh well.

Look for my preview sometime between tonight and tomorrow afternoon. Go Tigers!

UPDATE: The Cardinals have announced their rotation and it is as follows:
1st: Anthony Reyes
2nd: Jeff Weaver
3rd: Chris Carpenter
4th: Jeff Suppan

Shout out to DTW.com for that.

Monday: 10.16.2006

American League Champions!!

I still haven’t found all of the words necessary to convey the feels after Saturday’s result. The Tigers don’t play for another week, so there’s time. I’m just so happy and it’s still sinking in that my favorite team is World Series bound!