New York Mets-Los Angeles Dodgers
A Penny for my thoughts on Game 1: Can you say "Pedro?" It just amazes me how a manager behaves one way during the season and in a completely different manner during the postseason. Perhaps it is managers - not players - who choke under pressure. In the case of Grady Little, it wouldn't be the first time.
What was Jeff Kent thinking? The ball that Russell Martin hit was well over the head of right fielder Shawn Green. The latter had no chance of catching it on the fly and, in fact, pulled up and positioned himself perfectly to play the carom off the wall. Kent, in the meantime, was hanging around second base so he could tag up and go to third. He didn't start running until the ball hit the base of the wall. Pulling a piano a la Laurel and Hardy in The Music Box, Kent was thrown out at home, followed seconds later, in Another Fine Mess, by J.D. Drew.
How many runs would you expect a team with the following sequence of plays to score in this particular inning?
First batter: Single to center.
Second batter: Infield single.
Third batter: Long single to deep right field.
Fourth batter: Double to left.
Fifth batter: Intentional walk.
At a minimum, you would expect a station-to-station team to have scored two runs and still have the bases loaded with no outs, right? At that point, according to Baseball Prospectus' Run Expectancy Matrix, teams at-bat would have scored an additional 2.37 runs during the 2006 season. Let's round that number down to 2 to be conservative. Last time I checked, 2 + 2 = 4. In other words, the above sequence should have led to a 4-run inning. Instead, the team in question scored once, leaving THREE runs on the table in what turned out to be a - you guessed it - 6-5 loss to the hosts.
Oh well, the Dodgers and Mets now turn to Hong-Chih Kuo and Tom Glavine, a couple of left-handers with a combined total of 291 wins. It should be quite a contrast in styles: Kuo's live arm vs. Glavine's finesse. Game 3 features Greg Maddux vs. Steve Trachsel . . . John Smoltz hasn't decided which team he will pitch for in Game 4.
* * *
San Diego Padres-St. Louis Cardinals
I sent my pal Brian Gunn of the now retired Redbird Nation the following email during the game on Tuesday:
"I know you are watching...and I know you are loving this!!! Is Albert Pujols any good?"
Brian wrote back, "If Pujols learns how to hit the intentional ball, he'll have no holes in his game."
I responded with "...and then his name would be Albert Nojols."
Pujols or Nojols, this guy can flat out hit. He is the biggest difference maker in the game today. As Larry Borowsky of Viva El Birdos told me in a separate email (all letters in small caps, of course), "pujols and scott carpenter --- in a 5-game set, those two plus a little luck will probably win you the series 1/3 of the time. . . . . maybe it'll go that way." Throw a healthy Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds into the mix and the Cards are a very top-heavy team. I realize that this may be their last shot at winning a World Series for a while, but they should not be ruled out just yet.
* * *
Minnesota Twins-Oakland A's
After Tuesday's second-inning bomb, Frank Thomas is now 8-for-19 with 3 HR in his career vs. Johan Santana. Nothing like a national stage to gain some well-deserved fame after a terrific 17-year career, huh? Forget the fact that The Big Hurt will likely become the seventh player in the history of the game to retire with at least 500 HR and a lifetime batting average of .300 or better, I just know that some writer will justify his selection of Thomas for the Hall of Fame based on how he performed in the 2006 playoffs. Aargh!
I awoke Wednesday morning with the following email awaiting me from the astute and sabermetrically inclined Patrick Sullivan (aka Sully) of The House That Dewey Built: "I wonder if Ozzie enjoyed that performance from the comfort of his own couch?" Ouch.
According to home run guru David Vincent, in a post on the SABR-L board (is there a reason why you're not a SABR member yet?), "Frank Thomas waited 13 years between hitting a home run in post-season. This is the longest anyone has waited. Then he hit a second four-bagger in the game to become the oldest guy to have a multi-homer game in post-season."
Vincent, who is also the official scorekeeper for the Washington Nationals, proceeded to make a list of of the players with the longest waits along with the number of years between post-season dingers.
Frank Thomas 13
Mark Grace 12
Bobby Grich 12
Wally Joyner 12
Hank Aaron 12
Eddie Murray 12
In addition, Vincent included a table of the oldest players with a multi-homer game (with ages expressed as yy.ddd):
PLAYER DATE AGE
Frank Thomas 10/03/2006 38.129
Larry Walker 10/05/2004 37.308
Babe Ruth 10/01/1932 37.237
Eric Karros 10/04/2003 35.334
Ted Kluszewski 10/01/1959 35.021
* * *
New York Yankees-Detroit Tigers
Can I mention the fact that Derek Jeter went 5-for-5 with a HR on Tuesday or is that proof I've bought into the media hype? As long-time reader Wimbo exclaimed in the comments section attached to Monday's article, "Boy, Jeter sure played like the MVP last night." Before one of my critics jumps in, I know full well that post-season play doesn't count toward the MVP voting. Jeter's performance during the regular season was plenty good enough to earn him his first MVP trophy when the hardware is handed out next month.
If the Tigers go three and out, they will do so without Jeremy Bonderman getting a chance to pitch. That's too bad. The 23-year-old right-hander had the best K/9, BB/9, and HR/9 metrics of any Tiger starter. Yes, he bettered Nate Robertson, Kenny Rogers, and Justin Verlander across the board. He also placed second in the AL among qualified pitchers (behind Santana) in K/100P. As I told Mike Plugh of Canyon of Heroes, "Put me in charge and he would be the ace of the staff." I realize that Bonderman went last Sunday, but I would have scheduled him to start Game 3 on Friday rather than Game 4 on Saturday.
Alex Belth, founder and co-writer of the always engaging Bronx Banter, wrote an excellent article about Chien-Ming Wang for SI.com. Alex quotes me, as well as Joe Sheehan and Nate Silver from Baseball Prospectus, and renowned authors Glenn Stout and Allen Barra. Go check it out.
* * *
TEAMS TIME (ET) NAT TV PITCHERS
Detroit at NY Yankees 1:00 PM ESPN Verlander vs Mussina
St. Louis at San Diego 4:00 PM ESPN Weaver vs Wells
LA Dodgers at NY Mets 8:00 PM FOX Kuo vs Glavine