With Game 163 on the docket tonight, playoff fever is in the air. But before we totally succumb to that level of trepidation and elation, I thought I would hit on a few of the storylines from the regular season that popped into my noggin’ today.
Andrew Bailey isn’t getting a lot of pub when it comes to the AL Rookie of the Year award, and you can thank the fact that he played half his games in front of about 11,000 people a night out in Oakland. If he pitched for the Yankees or the Red Sox he would be a household name. Bailey saved 26 games for an A’s team that won only 75 contests, and along the way he posted a 1.84 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP and a strong 9.83 K/9 mark. How many hurlers posted an ERA below 1.90 with a WHIP below 0.90 and racked up at least 25 saves this past season? The answer is one – one. Mariano Rivera had a 0.90 WHIP and Trevor Hoffman had a 0.91 WHIP. They were close, but no cigar.
Homer Bailey may have finally established himself at the major league level. Over his last seven starts he went 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA and 42 Ks over 43.3 innings pitched. He still hasn’t really solved those control issues (3.95 BB/9 in that time), but he may just have picked up enough about the art of pitching to get by with his above average stuff.
Chris Coghlan finished sixth in the NL batting race hitting .321 as a rookie for the Marlins. Not only was he a tremendous option for his overall work – he was actually flat out amazing over the second half of the season as he hit a Joe Mauer-like .372 over his final 72 games covering 304 ABs. Moreover, if we remove May when he was finding his legs in the bigs, Coghlan hit .338 over his 438 ABs. Not a bad rookie season Mr. CC.
Pablo Sandoval has got to be 30 pounds overweight, and I swear to my maker that he is off balance on literally about 50 percent of his swings, not to mention that he obviously went to the Vladimir Guerrero school of ‘if it’s in the air I’m going to swing at it.’ Despite all that, and the fact that he entered 2009 with only 145 big league at-bats, the Kung Fu Panda was second in the NL in the batting race (.330) while socking 25 homers, knocking in 90 runs and finishing seventh with a .943 OPS. I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m telling you this kid has a lot to learn about hitting. I don’t know if that means he will improve upon his current level of production, but he can certainly improve his technique and approach, and that has to be one scary thought for hurlers.
Vincente Padilla came over to the Dodgers after going 8-6 with a 4.92 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP with the Rangers. I, for one, though this was a desperate move. I still think it was, but the fact of the matter is that it has certainly paid dividends for the Dodgers who got some terrific work from the righty in his eight appearances (4-0, 3.20 ERA, 1.22 WHIP). In his last start he lasted seven innings against the Rockies striking out a season best 10 batters, and as a result he will apparently start Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs for the Dodgers. It certainly would help the Dodgers outlook immensely if they were able to get the “real” Chad Billingsley in the playoffs after he struggled pretty heavily down the stretch with a 5.20 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP over his last 14 appearances (he did last 12 innings in his last two starts, but he went 0-1 with a 3.75 while walking nine batters). Don’t know about you, but I simply cannot count the Dodgers as a legitimate World Series contender if they are counting on Padilla to be their third starter in the playoffs.
Lastly, if you want some info about Game 163 pitting the Twins against the Tigers, give Around the Horn a read.
By Ray Flowers