Saturday, October 23, 2004
Baseball Prospectus published their preview, which you can read for $. I'm too poor.
ESPN has a page to their World Series coverage here. Buster Olney has a few thoughts on the Top Ten matchups. The Ortiz issue dominates at #1, but who the Cards intend to use as their DH is an interesting question as well.
Jack McDowell at Yahoo! Sports breaks with the Red Sox consensus and predicts a Cardinals victory. I respectfully dissent.
Tonight's World Series needs to be put in its proper context, historically. So, with an eye to what the past can tell us about the present, I looked at Baseball Almanac.com to read a little more about the Red Sox history in the World Series in anticipation of tonight’s first game. A few interesting bits:
This is the Red Sox tenth appearance in the World Series, and the Cardinals sixteenth. Their records:
Red Sox: 5-4
Both teams lost their last World Series appearance in seven games: the Cards to the Twins in ’87, the Red Sox to the Mets in ’86.
For all of their difficulty in winning the World Series over the last eighty-six years, the Red Sox were arguably the most successful franchise in baseball history in the beginning: not only did they win the first World Series in 1903, five games to three over the Pittsburgh Pirates [I attended last year’s Turn-Back-The-Clock game at PNC Park that commemorated the centennial of the series], but they actually won five of the first fifteen World Series: 1903 [when they were known as the Americans], 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918.
The Cardinals, in contrast didn’t make their first World Series appearance until 1926, when they upset the New York Yankees 4-3.
Half of the Cards sixteen World Series have been against the Yankees (5) or Red Sox (3).
The Cardinals and Red Sox have met twice in the World Series, both times resulting in victories for the Cards:
Friday, October 22, 2004
Here are a few general numbers:
GPA / OBP / SLG / ISO / RC27
Boston: .280 / .360 / .472 / .190 / 6.05
St. Louis: .270 / .344 / .460 / .182 / 5.50
Roughly even, though it must be noted that the Cards will naturally lag because they can’t employ a DH like the Red Sox did with David Ortiz all year.
Runs / HR / 2B / Total Bases
Boston: 949 / 222 / 373 / 2,702
St. Louis: 855 / 214 / 319 / 2,553
If the Cards utilized a DH, I’m sure the numbers would be dead-even, or even a little to the Cards advantage. Compared against their respective leagues:
Offensively, I think a slight edge has to be given to the Red Sox here. Both teams slug the ball, but the Red Sox are a little better at drawing walks: they'll wear on the Cards starters.
The big 4 have been terrific for the Cards, but I think that the Red Sox lineup is deeper and that gives them the edge. In the ALCS the Yankees wilted when their big 4 slipped because the rest of their lineup couldn’t come through. The Red Sox survived an awful series from Johnny Damon because everyone was a threat: in game six of the ALCS, Boston’s four runs were scored by their 6-9 hitters: Cabrera, a light-hitting defensive specialist, has an OBP of .370 in the playoffs with eight RBIs in ten games. The Cards Big 4, in contrast, have 16 of their 18 home runs, and 37 of their 54 RBIs. The Cards look a little like the Yankees. If the Big 4 don't click on all cylinders, look out.
The only big difference between the two teams is in their approach to the running game: the Cardinals were aggressive base-stealers in the regular season, attempting 158 steals, 111 successfully. The Red Sox were more cautious: 98 attempts, 68 successful. Both teams had similar success rates: 70% for the Cards, 69% for the Red Sox. This could be a factor: I’ve seen the Cards run themselves out of big innings because of their aggressiveness on the base-paths.
WHIP / ERA / BAA
Boston: 1.29 / 4.18 / .255
St. Louis: 1.25 / 3.75 / .251
Interestingly, the Red Sox and Cards rank #1 & #2 in the MLB in WHIP. Otherwise, both teams are, again, pretty dead even. Not much separates them. Again, because of the differences between the NL and AL the Cards slight edge looks insignificant: in addition to being #1 in the MLB in WHIP, the Cards were #2 in the NL in ERA and BAA. The Red Sox were #1 in the AL in WHIP, and #3 in ERA and #1 in BAA. The Cards strength lies in their bullpen, while the Red Sox starting pitching gives them the edge.
I give a slight edge to the Red Sox on this one. I think their battle-hardened starters can go deep into the game, while I think that a lot of the Cards starters will be nervous. I could see the Red Sox jumping to a big lead in a few games.
ZR / Fielding Percentage
Boston: .829 / .981
St. Louis: .859 / .985
This is actually a big variance. On ZR the Cards were second in the MLB, the Red Sox were 30th.
Out of 30 teams.
The difference is less stark on fielding percentage, but still big: the Cards are a top fielding team, the Red Sox one of the bottom-feeders. Accurate? The big July trade bringing in Cabrera and Mientkiewicz significantly upgraded the Red Sox defense, so it is impossible to know of the gap between the two teams has been bridged. Advantage St. Louis, but the Red Sox seemed to be playing very good defense of late.
I suppose a big question mark is what the Red Sox intend to do with Ortiz during the games in St. Louis. They can’t do without his 41 home runs, 47 doubles, 139 RBI’s and .380 OBP. First base seems to be the option: Ortiz logged 260 innings this year at first base and wasn’t awful: his .797 ZR was better than Millar’s .789 …
I say Red Sox in six. Curt Schilling will close out the series in Boston on October 30 with a big win. He’ll be the series MVP too.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
My wife & I at our wedding: September 4th, 2004.
(Just got the pictures and I figured that I'd share them...)
Quick, check for me: has hell frozen over?
-I watched all of the end of last night's game (I gave my wife a break from baseball and watched Lost and The Bachelor with her, then caught the game from the fifth inning on. Marriage: it is all about compromise). Even though the outcome wasn't in doubt I still was nervous, pacing back and forth in the bottom of the ninth. When Sierra grounded out I shouted: "That's it!" And I watched the celebration on Fox.
-It is a pity that Jimmy Fallon left Saturday Night Live because this series really begs for a "Boston" sketch: "Wicked awesome!" I chortled uncontrollably during Game 6 when they showed the promotional commercial of Curt Schilling learning "Bostonese": "Wicked ... cahh ... park the cahh in the yaard ... wicked awesome ..."
-Is the curse over? Not for now: the Red Sox have lost four World Series Game 7's since 1918 ('46, '67, '75 & '86), so getting to the World Series isn't the triumph. But one thing is for certain: after over eighty years of hood-winking the Red Sox, the Yankees magestical hold over Boston is over. Forget all of the history: the Yankee comeback in '49, Bucky F---ing Dent in '78, last year's ALCS ... the Yankee mystique is gone. Fatally shattered like a mirror.
What this was, was one of the most epic victories in baseball history ... or really, of sports history. But the Red Sox still have to finish the job. The pressure is on them to win it all. You had better believe that if they fall short in the World Series the curse won't be lifted.
-Naturally, today I'm rooting for the Cardinals to win today's NLCS. A rematch of the '67 series would be interesting, and the Cards and Red Sox are such potent offenses it would make the World Series a lot of fun to watch. Go Cards!
-How amazing was it to see poor Johnny Damon, who looked awful in Games 1-6, finally come up big with 6 RBIs in the game of his life? Poetic.
-How humiliating is this for the Yankees and their fans? They are the first team in MLB history to blow a 3-0 lead, and they did it at home to their archrivals, in the hallowed green of Yankee Stadium. The Ghosts of Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, et al., couldn’t save them. A-Rod went to the Yankees instead of the Sox in a deal that was supposed to sew up the World Series ring, but that didn’t happen and A-Rod was a big part of that: he was just 2 for 17 in the last four games with one run scored. The Yankee machine failed, while the motley Red Sox were the champs.
-What was the deal with bringing Pedro in during the 7th? Just having him in the game fired up the Yankees fans and you’ve impacted his ability to pitch in the World Series. Francona made a smart decision pulling Pedro and putting Timlin in. That had trouble written all over it.
-A little article caught my eye at Yahoo! about workers in New York and Boston being less productive at work thanks to the ALCS. I remember reading somewhere that fantasy sports leagues cost the nation a few billion dollars in productivity because fans usually spend the first ten minutes at work checking in on their fantasy teams.
Links: Aaron Gleeman has a few comments about last's night's game at Hardball Times in his ALCS Diary. Also, a very emotional Ben Jacobs, Sox fan revels in the joy of the Red Sox improbable triumph. ESPN's Jim Caple is stunned by the fact that a team rallied from 0-3 to win, crediting the Red Sox hitters ability to wear down the Yankees pitching.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Game Six of the 1975 World Series was probably the greatest game in history, but nobody knew that going into the turnstiles at Fenway Park that night. It was only as Carlton Fisk’s home run soared over the Green Monster (the dramatic image of Fisk waving the ball fair) did fans realize that they were blessed to see the greatest game in baseball history.
So we’ll see how big today’s Red Sox – Yankees matchup is. How important this games ends up being greatly depends, in my opinion on the outcome of this series and the next. Today’s game will go down in the annals of baseball history as a classic if the Red Sox win, otherwise it will be merely another AL pennant for the Yankees. If the Red Sox win and go on to triumph in the World Series, then today’s game was the most important in baseball history: the capper to a historic comeback, the bridge to the Red Sox ending 86 years of futility. We’ll see if the game lives up to the hype.
-My poor wife is sick to death of baseball. I think she’s rooting for the Yankees because she knows I won’t care about the World Series then.
-It was nice to see the umps get some calls right last night. Bellhorn’s home run was a no-brainer. I hope Yankee fans aren’t trying to question A-Rod’s ball slapping incident. Rule 6.1 (as I heard it repeated on ESPN) seems to clearly forbid what he did: a malicious slapping at Arroyo’s glove. Rule on point, move on.
-It was sad, on the other hand, to see riot police being deployed to the stadium. I know tensions are high, but please Yankee fans: you only embarrassed yourselves.
Which brings up an interesting point: how will Yankee fans react if the Red Sox win? A standing O? Let’s see how classy they are …
-I thought it was interesting that Boston’s big inning in the fourth came courtesy of their 6-9 hitters. Mueller, Ortiz, Nixon, Ramirez and Damon’s bats were quiet (just 2 for 20). Meanwhile, the Yankees big four of Jeter, A-Rod, Matsui and Sheffield were a combined 3-15 last night with one RBI, a far cry from the 12 RBI’s, 15 runs and 13 hits they had in Game 3. Ouch.
-Curt Schilling pitched a terrific game, didn’t he? As a baseball fan you have to admire his grittiness on the mound, and as a Phillies fan you have to wonder what might have been for 2004 if he had stayed in Philly.
-The NLCS? Oh yeah, that’s still going on! I do think that the Cardinals will win Games 6 & 7 (home field and all that), but this was a heck of a year for the Astros, no? Whatever the outcomes of today’s NLCS and ALCS games there will be some good stories for the World Series: the Astros have never gotten there, so if they go that could be a good story. Obviously, if the Red Sox win today’s game you’ll be hearing the words “1918” and “curse” a lot in the series. But if the Astros win, regardless of the ALCS outcome, Roger Clemens will get to pitch against his old team. If the Cardinals win today and tomorrow, then it is a rematch of a 1960’s World Series (’64: Yankees, ’67: Red Sox).
Links ... Jim Caple gives the edge to the Red Sox for Game 7, noting that these last few games have been a dramatic reversal of past history when the Yankees would come from behind to spoil the Red Sox chances. Eric Neel notes that Schilling's place in baseball history could be immortalized if the Red Sox hang on as the man who broke the curse.
Craig Burley has a nice article on the interference call at Hardball Times. The meaning and purpose of baseball rules aren't typically discussed at any length, so it was nice to see an analysis of sorts. Also at Hardball Times, Yankees fan Larry Mahnken grumbles that the Red Sox might have already won, regardless of the outcome of tonight's game.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
The Cardinals. Obviously, they have to win Game 6 for practical reasons, but also for other reasons: coming into the playoffs most people assumed the Cards and their fearsome foursome of Rolen, Pujols, Edmonds and Walker would steamroll the opposition. This team won 105 games. They seemed destined for the World Series. To lose to the Astros, a team that finished 13 games behind them, a team that needed a furious spurt in the month of September just to make the playoffs, a team that they led 2-0, would be tremendously humiliating. We feel the Cards pain.
The Red Sox. Obviously, Game 6 is a must win. Win or go home.
The Yankees. Well now, aren't fans in the Big Apple sweating a little? After taking a 3-0 lead we all assumed that the Red Sox were finished. Even now, I grant you, I suspect that the Yankees will win game six, but how humiliating would it be for the Yankees if the Red Sox did force a game seven? Psychologically, it would be horrific. The spectre of becoming the first team in baseball history to blow a 3-0 lead and lose a series would weigh on the team heavily, especially given who they are facing. The Yankees need to win game six because the Red Sox will have all of the momentum in the world in their favor for a game seven: they will enter game seven with little to lose and everything to gain. If the Yankees lose game six tonight, they have to worry about the humiliation of losing the series, but even a victory in game seven would be hallow. If forced to a game seven, this team would be dogged by the fact that they nearly lost after building up a seemingly insurmountable lead to the Red Sox. A game seven victory would be more about survival than triumph.
The Astros? The one team that doesn't have any pressure. Good for them.
Nice article at Hardball Times from Aaron Gleeman about the thinning of the Yankees pitching. Jim Caple chimes in with his thoughts at ESPN.com, which seem to suggest that the tide has changed. Can Schilling put together a classic and keep the Sox alive like he did for the Phillies in game five of the '93 World Series?
(Click here for the link to ESPN's page for the ALCS.)
Monday, October 18, 2004
We've seen teams come roaring back from 3-0 deficits to win 1 or 2 games. Unfortunately, they always lose in game six (the '99 Mets-Braves NLCS comes to mind). As Fox and ESPN have reminded us, just two teams in NHL/NBA/MLB history have come back to win from 3-0 deficits in 238 such series: not likely, but then why not?
Oh, and I have to conclude that I might be bad luck for the Sox. With me watching, the Sox are 0-3 in the ALCS. When my wife & I watch ABC's Desparate Housewives instead, they are 1-0. (Our favorite new show.) I promise I won't watch, Sox fans. (Part 2 of the Farscape miniseries is on tonight anyway.) Sorry.
Sunday, October 17, 2004
Watching the Red Sox pitching get hammered by the Yankees makes me wonder: are the Yankees that good? Or are the Red Sox relievers that mediocre? Some of the Red Sox hitters haven’t performed up to par (Johnny Damon’s 1-for-13 hasn’t helped), but the Red Sox pitchers have looked like little leaguers. All six pitchers the Red Sox used last night gave up runs. Without Schilling and with Pedro seemingly on the down slope of his career, this is a real problem area for the Red Sox. Their pitching staff was supposed to give them the edge, but the Yankees pitching has been much, much better.
Oh well. Go Eagles!