It’s playoff time, and thankfully, just before a heart attack set in, the Giants dispatched the Braves to move on to the NLCS. They now face arguably the best team in baseball in the Phillies, but you have to beat the best to be the best. Here are some playoff thoughts as we head deep into October baseball.
Phillies vs. Giants
Speaking of the Phillies against the Giants, could you possibly construct a scenario more interesting than the presumed Game 1 matchup of Halladay vs. Lincecum? Let’s go to the tale of the tape.
Age, Height, Weight
Halladay: 33 years old, 6’6″, 230 lbs
Lincecum: 26 years old, 5’11″, 170 lbs
ERA, WHIP, K/9, K/BB, BAA
Halladay: 2.44, 1.04, 7.86, 7.30, .245
Lincecum: 3.43 1.27, 9.79, 3.04, .242
Halladay: Tall, lanky and the possessor of one of the most versatile arsenals in the game, Halladay can beat you pretty much any way you can think of. If he needs a strikeout he can pick one up, and he is never going to beat himself with the free pass. When he is “on” you will be hard pressed to see someone who can control both sides of the plate any better, and he simply gets filthy movement on his pitches to constantly mess with the hitters line of site. There is no better “pitcher” in the game today.
Lincecum: He couldn’t be any different than the Phillies’ ace. While Halladay has the prototypical pitchers build and a smooth flowing motion, Lincecum is all arms and legs as he seems to propel himself plate ward with every pitch. No bigger than the guy you just ran into in line at Starbucks, Lincecum generates tremendous whip with his arm, and it allows him to hurl the ball harder than he should for a man his size. While he can certainly “pitch,” Lincecum is the type of dominating hurler that when he is “on” batters give each other high five’s if they merely manage to put the barrel on the ball.
If I had to some it up I would say this. Halladay quietly retires the side over and over while Lincecum does the same while striking fear into the hearts of batters.
It should be a wonderful matchup.
Thanks to Jeff Fletcher of AOL for the following Tweets:
* Roy Halladay- Roy Oswalt-Cole Hamels vs SF this year: 1-2, 6.12;
Tim Lincecum- Matt Cain- Jonathan Sanchez vs PHI: 2-1, 1.96
* OK, here’s one you won’t believe: Slugging pct: Phillies .413; SF Giants .408.
* Since 9/1 Phillies scored 167 runs (most in MLB), SF Giants allowed 60 runs (fewest in MLB).
Tupac or Biggie? I’ve always been a huge Tupac fan, and that will never change, but as time wears on I’ve been giving Biggie a second look and the dude is growing on me. Just thought I would throw that in there.
Rays vs. Rangers
Heading into Game 5 of the the ALDS – here is one stat line you need to keep in mind; Cliff Lee is 5-0 with a 1.32 ERA an a 0.80 WHIP in the playoffs.
The Rays hit .123 through the fifth inning of Game 3. Since then they are batting .362 with four homers in 58 ABs.
The Yankees lost 17 of their last 26 games entering the playoffs before the went out and swept the Twins three games to none.
The Twins, they have lost 12-straight postseason games since 2004, one short of the all-time record set by the Red Sox (1986-95). The last nine loses have all come against the Bronx Bombers.
Some more bad news Twins fans? How about the fact that the Yankees have won the last four playoff matches between the clubs as they have outscored the Twinkies by the score of 69-36. That’s about as ugly as it gets.
By Ray Flowers
(1) Interleague play returns on Tuesday.
(2) Trade talks heating up – Roy Oswalt, Ty Wigginton, Conor Jackson, Mike Lowell etc.
(3) Jeff Suppan returns to Cardinals.
(4) Pablo Sandoval continues to struggle, hitting .234 last 39 games.
(5) Matt Cain new Giants “ace”?
(6) Chad Qualls likely out in favor of Aaron Heilman at closer for D’backs.
(7) Pedro Alvarez on verge of being called up for Pirates.
By Ray Flowers
(1) Buster Posey to play the infield in spring?
(2) Madison Bumgarner Giants 5th starter?
(3) Orlando Hudson to Twins results in Adam Kennedy to Nationals.
(4) Yorvit Torrealba ends up with Padres.
(5) Brandon Webb to throw off mound.
(6) Kevin Gregg is the newest member of the Blue Jays bullpen.
By Ray Flowers
I love baseball. In fact, I often find myself dreaming about the game. I stare at spreadsheets all day, sometimes wind up with a sore back from being hunched over the keyboard all day, and find myself constantly checking my fantasy squads for up to the minute results even when it is clear just how my team will finish in the standings. I know, I’m addicted. Luckily the season is almost over – though of course that doesn’t mean I won’t still be pouring over stats all offseason in search of those little tidbits that will make all the difference in 2010. Here are a few of my observations for Monday.
Matt Cain won his 14th game of the season on Sunday, this after picking up three straight loses during which time he allowed a total of 15 earned runs over 14.1 innings, and yes, that’s more than one run per inning folks (9.42 ERA). I’ve said it all along that Cain has just been lucky this season, though it’s not like I really wanted to see that prediction come to fruition down the stretch when the Giants really needed him to make a playoff push. Here are some numbers.
2009: 7.03 K/9, 2.31 K/BB, 0.93 HR/9, .265 BABIP
Career: 7.51, 2.08 K/BB, 0.80 HR/9, .277 BABIP
So, for the 13th time, don’t expect Cain to continue to roll along with an ERA of 2.88 next season, not unless he really turns around some things on the hill. Look for that ERA of his to be much closer to his career 3.53 mark in’10, though that would still leave him as a valuable member of any fantasy staff (just don’t reach on him).
Can you believe it?Jorge de la Rosa has 16 victories with one start left. If he manages to pull out the win, he will tie the Rockies single season record of 17.
Andy LaRoche had five hits on Monday, including two bombs, leading to six RBI against the Dodgers. That gives LaRoche 12 homers and 61 RBI in 499 ABs this season, to go along with a .259 batting average. So much for that breakout season he was supposed to have after producing strong numbers in spring. The breakout star for the Pirates has actually been Garrett Jones who has 21 homers and 10 steals, not to mention that he has hit .301 in his 292 ABs. If you predicted that one, you can have my job. Wait, I’m not willing to give up my job, you can have one that belongs to one of my co-workers.
Mike Lowell had another one of those Synvisc injections into his hip with to help lube up the joint for the playoffs. It hasn’t been a season to remember for Lowell, but really, is anyone going to complain about a .290 average, 17 homers and 75 RBI in just 438 ABs? If he picked up 589 ABs, as he did in 2007, that rate would leave him with about 23 homers and 101 RBI, and who wouldn’t take that from a third baseman who also hit .290? Exactly.
Brandon McCarthy continues to operate on the fringe of relevance. McCarthy, long hampered by injuries, owns a 4.47 ERA and 1.35 WHIP this season through 16 starts. Things have gotten even better of late as he has posted a 3.45 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP over his last five starts. He isn’t someone to count on, and he certainly doesn’t deserve any attention in mixed leagues heading into 2010, but if you are in an AL-only league there are certainly worse flyers to take a chance on late in your draft.
Do you like it when athletes do those funny commercials? If you do, and you are a hockey fan, give the new Joe Thornton Commercial a watch. Good to know that he has a job because this new line of work wouldn’t be too profitable based upon how he did in the commercial.
By Ray Flowers
“Greatness is hard to define and even harder to attain”
– Ray Flowers
Remember back on draft day 2009 when you started to get that itch to pull the trigger on your first pitcher? You probably waited a few rounds and ended up taking someone like Dan Haren or Josh Beckett as your “ace” and then waited a while to select your second option. You probably then decided to grab a youngster with some upside, maybe a Yovani Gallardo or Josh Johnson type, and then you were left trying to decide who to grab for your third rotation spot. Did you do the safe thing and take a Matt Garza or Matt Cain, or did you go for broke and select a guy like the young lefty from Tampa that was going to be the next big thing? If you drafted that young man your 2009 season has likely been one of disappointment,
David Price dominated in a brief look in 2008 posting a 1.93 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 14 innings with the Rays before allowing just a single run while striking out eight batters in 5.2 post-season innings on his way to a victory and a save. But the dude is just 24 years old, and as often happens on the road to greatness, reality set in.
First off, Price wasn’t even on the roster when the season started as the Rays sent him down to the minors to hone his pitches. Price posted a 3.93 ERA and a 9.17 K/9 mark at Triple-A in eight starts, but he was also plagued by walks – a 4.72 BB/9 mark clearly being a sign that he still needed to work on his craft.
So what happened when he was called up to the bigs? Predictably he struggled. Price failed to record six innings in any of his first four starts and in six of his first eight trips to the hill. He also struggled mightily with his control walking at least five batters in five of his first eight games. All told, over his first 12 outings, Price posted a 4-4 record while his ratios were far from impressive: 5.10 ERA, 1.63 WHIP and a 5.25 BB/9 mark. Things have gotten better, though that is certainly a relative term, over his last eight outings: 4-3, 4.35 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and a 2.62 K/BB mark in 49.2 innings.
The main difference, as it almost always is with hurlers, is his growing ability to locate his pitches in the strike zone. If you throw strikes, success usually follows. Maybe Price can teach that to another young hurler who was drafted early this season yet has failed to even remotely approach the heights that were predicted of him. Who is that hurler? Joba Chamberlain of course. So next time you consider taking that up and coming young hurler in the early rounds of your draft remember that sometimes slow and steady wins the race and guys like Javier Vazquez and Ted Lilly might just be better bets on draft day.
A QUOTE FOR THE AGES
Kyle Elfrink, my co-host on The Fantasy Buffet which can be heard each day at Fanball.com from 8-9 AM PST, found this quote while doing some research a while back, and I thought it would be great to share it with another audience here.
This Day in Baseball – September 7, 1961 – In the midst of his historic run at Babe Ruth’s single-season home run mark, the Yankees’ Roger Maris lays down a bunt in a 7-3 win over Washington. After the game, reporters ask Maris why he bunted. He replied, “Trying to win the game, you stupid ****sucker. Why do you think?” Is this the best quote in the history of baseball?
Possibly the best baseball quote of all-time.
By Ray Flowers
Wednesday is kind of a blah day. What happened last weekend is nothing but a memory now, and the plans for the coming weekend are still coming into focus. Of course in the world of baseball there is never a break until the season is completed, so I certainly have a lot of things to keep me occupied until I get the chance to get my groove on this weekend.
What’s the deal with Ronnie Belliard? He has hit .319 since joining the Dodgers (47 ABs), and he has hit .321 over his last 50 appearances. That’s pretty phenomenal production for a guy who hit just .184 over his first 51 games.
Eric Byrnes said that he will be playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic this offseason. “I miss playing baseball,” he said. “The past two years, getting 200 (at-bats), that’s not cutting it. If I can make up for some lost at-bats and get down there and play in a real competitive league, it will be beneficial.” Nicknamed “Captain America” by the faithful in the Dominican, this will be the fifth season he has played there. I wish him all the luck in the world because baseball is a better game when Byrnes and his child-like enthusiasm are flying all over the field.
Don’t worry Fausto Carmona owners, the Indians will leave him in the rotation for the rest of the season (Carmona is 3-11 with a 6.58 ERA, a 1.81 WHIP and a 5.57 BBB.9 mark). And to think, there was actually a chance that the Indians could have gone with a pitcher who could have actually given them a chance to win the game. At least they are loyal.
Bartolo Colon was released by the White Sox on Wednesday, and this could signal the end of the road for the one-time ace. Colon averaged 17 victories a year from 1998-2005, but since 2006 he has only been able to stay healthy long enough to make 48 appearances on his way to earning 14 victories. All told, Colon has won 153 games with a 4.10 ERA in a solid major league career, though we are all left to wonder just how well he could have done if he just dropped some weight and took better care of that body of his.
How good has this Josh Johnson kid been? On Wednesday he held the Cardinals to just one run over six innings to improve his record to 15-4 while dropping his ERA to a terrific 3.01. This was the sixth straight outing in which he didn’t go seven innings, but given that only once in that time he has allowed more than three earned runs, he has still given the Marlins a chance to win every time he has taken the hill. He is now 5.2 innings from his first 200-inning season as well.
Hiroki Kuroda continues to pitch well, something the Dodgers desperately need from a starting rotation that includes an injured Clayton Kershaw (out another week after hurting his non-pitching shoulder running into a wall during batting practice) and a struggling Chad Billingsley (an ERA of six in his last four appearances which has led to the team skipping his next turn in the rotation). Kuroda held the Pirates to but one run over six innings on Wednesday, the tenth straight start in which he has allowed three or fewer earned runs. Moreover, over his last three starts, he has an ERA of 2.84.
The Red Sox-Angels game just got underway. Glancing at the starting lineup every single one of the top-8 batters in the Angels’ lineup were hitting at least .287 and Juan Rivera was the only batter below .297 in that group. Do you think the players on the club make fun of Mike Napoli and his .269 average?
The Giants face the Rockies tonight with Matt Cain on the hill, and with a victory the Giants would move to within 1.5 games of the Rocks. Let’s hope it happens so that we can have a wild finish for the NL Wild Card.
Who is your AL home run leader since June 5th? I could give you 45 guesses and I bet you still wouldn’t come up with the right answer so I’m just going to tell you – it’s David Ortiz who has hit 23 homers in that time to lead the Junior Circuit. His last home run, on Tuesday night against the Angels, was his 270th as a DH, the all-time record (passing Frank Thomas).
By Ray Flowers
Castigated the world over as the worst free agent signing since Kevin Brown or Mike Hampton, the Giants’ Barry Zito will never be able to live up to his $126 million deal. However, that doesn’t mean you should throw Zito into the garbage bin like some mere bit of refuse. OK, I’m a Giants fan so I’m a bit biased, but in this case there clearly is support for the contention that Zito really hasn’t been as bad as you think he has been this season. In fact, since the All-Star break, is it possible that Zito has been the best Giants starter, better than Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain? Let’s take a look at the three hurlers performances since the break.
Lincecum: 2-2, 2.87 ERA, 1.02 WHIP in 57.2 IP
Cain: 2-2. 2.53 ERA, 0.96 WHIP in 53.1 IP
Zito: 3-2, 2.36 ERA, 1.10 WHIP in 42 IP
Granted there is a lot more to look at with a pitcher than the few numbers I tossed out there, but the point is clearly made; Zito has pitched as well as the Giants “aces” since the All-Star break, a fact that appears to have been lost on almost everyone in the game. I mean a 2.36 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP is some serious pitching folks, and though we are only talking about seven starts, Zito has been better in those seven appearances than Cain has been this season (2.43 ERA, 1.15 WHIP). Looking for some more data? How about this.
Over the past 30 days —
Zito has a 2.51 ERA, the 10th best mark in baseball and better than guys like Jon Lester (2.70), Johan Santana (3.19) and CC Sabathia (3.35).
Zito has a 3.43 K/BB ratio better than guys like Lincecum (3.29) and Zack Greinke (3.27).
Zito has a 1.12 WHIP better than Gavin Floyd (1.18), John Lackey (1.24) and Tommy Hanson (1.24) to name a few.
Obviously, Zito is trending in the right direction and doing so with resounding vigor.
Should you be surprised by this? Well yes, if you are one of the thousands who castigate the Giants and Zito on a daily basis because of the fact that he can burn dollar bills in the fireplace for the rest of his life and never run out of money. Still, history shows us that Mr. Zito is usually a much better pitcher in the second half after the All-Star break. Here are the career numbers.
Pre Break: 58-66, 4.23 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 1.65 K/BB
Post Break: 73-38, 3.42 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 1.91 K/BB
Moreover, Zito has posted the best number of his career in August with a 2.96 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over 58 games and his career record in September is 24-12.
Does all of this mean that Zito is better than Cain or Lincecum? What you think, I dropped some acid this morning before writing this piece? The point is that Zito has been really, really good of late and that his career record supports the position that he may indeed be a valuable fantasy part the rest of the way. Give the guy a break, it’s not like you would turn down $126 million if someone offered it to you, so don’t wish the guy ill simply because he was smart enough to sign the outrageous deal. Look at the numbers – they say that Zito should be rostered in mixed leagues and counted on for the rest of 2009.
By Ray Flowers