Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Postseason Thoughts So Far

Since it’s taking longer than I anticipated for me to get my season review finished (work and school obligations have interfered with that), I’ll fill you in on my postseason thoughts in the meantime, now that all the divisional series have wrapped up (All photos from Getty Images).

American League

ALDS: Yankees-Twins

I totally rooted for the Yankees in this series, both because I don’t hate them and even I am allowed to feel vindictive every once in a while. And a funny thing happened: the Twins started to have the same problem that the Tigers had during the regular season, which was squandering scoring opportunities. Game 2 in particular bore an uncanny resemblance to game 163. The Twins even got the Yankees to line into a double play in a tough spot, just as they had done to the Tigers (Minnesota sure is getting adept at inducing the line-drive double play). However, with the exception of the double play, this time just about everything went AGAINST Minnesota. I already mentioned the multitude of guys that the Twins left on base (17, to be exact). A-Rod hit the home run about two minutes after I said “Joe Nathan likes to blow saves at Yankee Stadium.” And, just like in game 163, there was a blown call that totally changed the outcome of the game. In our game, it was the Brandon Inge HBP that wasn’t called. In this game, it was a ball that Mauer hit that was ruled foul but was clearly fair (even my Personal Baseball Guru complained about that, and he’s a Yankees fan). Mauer did eventually single in that at-bat, but had the call been right, he would have had a double, and the Twins would have scored in that inning had everything else played out the way it did. As it stands, they loaded the bases with nobody out, did not score, and Teixiera ended the game with a walk-off home run to lead off the bottom half of the inning. That game was such a karmic smackdown that those of us on Bless You Boys that night jokingly decided that Miguel Cabrera used his powers as a high priest of Santería to curse the Twins. Then in Game 3, the Yankees were able to do what the Tigers couldn’t: Kill the Metrodome. For most of that game, we all watched as Carl Pavano was able to mow down a team other than the Tigers (and the resulting TBS mancrush was irritating, to say the least). Home run power finally gave the edge to the Yankees, and it helped that Minnesota’s bullpen allowed a couple add-on runs (I will add this: Ever since he threw that pitch behind Adam Everett, Jose Mijares was not nearly as effective). And yes, I am going to make the unpopular choice to root for the Yankees in the ALCS.

ALDS: Angels-Red Sox

I don’t particularly care for the Angels, but seeing as how I absolutely do not like the Red Sox, I rooted for the Angels in this series. I didn’t get to see a lot of these games, due to a combination of work and the late start time of the first two. But it looks as though the Angels finally figured out how to beat the Red Sox. They got good starting pitching in the first two games, and then in game 3, at Fenway, with two out and nobody on, they scored three runs off Papelbon to overcome a two-run deficit. I watched the replay of that just to see the Fenway faithful cry (call me sadistic). The interesting part is that Vladimir Guerrero (who is notorious for his struggles in the postseason, much like A-Rod) delivered the knockout blow. I think one of the things that is different for the Angels this year is that their offense is a lot better (and most of it has come from the same guys who were in the postseason last year and the year before). Their pitching wasn’t quite as good in the regular season as it had been the past two years, but it stepped up when it needed to. And now comes the scenario that my Personal Baseball Guru dreaded. He talked to me about it last Saturday. He was actually rooting for the Red Sox because he felt the Yankees were more likely to beat them in the ALCS. Apparently, the Angels usually have the Yankees’ number (kinda like how the Tigers have dominated the Texas Rangers recently). I honestly don’t know what to expect from this series. The starting pitching looks pretty even. If it comes down to it, the Yankees have a better bullpen, but the Angels’ starters have gotten pretty deep into games so far. Both teams have a ridiculous number of switch-hitters. The Angels have more speed while the Yankees have more power. Regardless, I’m still rooting for the Yankees because I just don’t have that much enthusiasm for the Angels.

National League

NLDS: Dodgers-Cardinals

With the Tigers gone, I pretty much decided to root for the Dodgers all throughout. I like most of the players on the team, and, like New York, they are located in a city that I’d like to visit (Plus, I hung out during a couple Game Threads at TrueBlueLA, and the Dodgers fans there are really nice). Not a lot of people were expecting the Dodgers to beat the Cardinals. I myself pointed out the apparent pitching mismatch the last time I posted (though I failed to point out that the Dodgers probably had the better bullpen; this was an unfortunate oversight). As it turns out, the Cardinals, like the Twins, were doomed by squandered scoring opportunities. Game 1 was a showcase in squanderage by both teams. The Dodgers and the Cardinals combined to leave THIRTY men on base. Game 2 saw Matt Holliday go from hero to goat. He hit a solo home run that accounted for one of the two Cardinal runs, and unlike Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright pitched extremely well. All that was negated with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, when Holliday lost a sinking liner in the towels, of all things. That opened the door, and the Dodgers jumped on the opportunity. In game 3, Vicente Padilla (whom the Tigers jumped on so many times when he was with Texas) pitched the game of his life and the Dodgers not only beat the Cardinals in the NLDS, they swept them (the fans at TrueBlueLA posted an ESPN graphic showing all their “experts” except one picking the Cardinals). Now, I don’t dislike the Cardinals. If they had won, it would not have been the end of the world. I just like the Dodgers more.

NLDS: Rockies-Phillies

Alas, I suppose they can’t all go the way I wanted them to. In three of the four division series, the team I rooted for won. This was the one that didn’t. When the series began, I had no strong feelings either way towards the Rockies (that all changed; details to come), but I just don’t like the Phillies. Unfortunately, the Phillies had the means to execute what I must admit was a brilliant strategy: Lots of left-handed pitching. For the last several years, we’ve heard that the Tigers are too right-handed. Well, if that’s the case, the Rockies are an example of a team that is too left-handed. And they paid the price for it. Plus, the big guys in their lineup didn’t really come through and as a team, they only hit two home runs. Meanwhile, Magglio must’ve broken Houston Street with that 3-run homer in the ALCS, cuz he struggled through the postseason. He got the save in game 2, but it was an adventure, and he took the loss in both game 3 and game 4 (As an aside, I’ll say that the umpiring has been crappy this entire postseason, including our game, and the team in each division series that was victimized by it failed to recover). Game 4 was especially painful (I can’t really tell you about the end of game 3 because I was already asleep when that happened). Street was one strike away from sending everyone back to Philadelphia, and then he ended up walking Chase Utley. Ryan Howard followed up with a 2-run double that tied the game, and then Jayson Werth followed with a bloop single that scored Howard and gave the Phillies the lead again after the Rockies had staged one very entertaining comeback in the bottom of the eighth (one of the most hilarious moments this year has to be Dexter Fowler completely jumping over Chase Utley). One significant byproduct of this series (on a personal level, at least), is that I have officially gone nuts over one of the Rockies: the 23-year-old Venezuelan outfielder Carlos Gonzalez (pictured above). Usually, when I decide I like someone (be it strictly platonic, as with Pudge, or, and this is exceptionally rare, there is a bit of aesthetic pleasure mixed in, as with Verlander; for the record, there are only 3 players that I have found “aesthetically pleasing”), either they kinda gradually grow on me (Brandon Inge did this) or it’s instant, spurred on by something they’ve done to which I react by thinking/saying “That is AWESOME” (with Pudge, it was the first time I saw him throw out a runner; with Verlander, it was the first time I saw him touch triple digits). All Carlos Gonzalez did was step into the batter’s box and I decided I liked him. I didn’t know why (and I still don’t), but I liked him (the only other time I’ve done this was with Kurt Suzuki of the Oakland Athletics, whom I also find “aesthetically pleasing”). This was actually in some game late in the season (and I can’t remember which one). I just forgot about it until the NLDS. Bear in mind I pretty much knew nothing about him before this series (And actually, he was with the A’s when they came to Detroit last year. He batted cleanup in the game I went to. I don’t remember him, though). He certainly gave me plenty of legitimate reasons to like him in the NLDS, though (As another aside, I came across an interview with him, and he speaks English very well; he bats left, throws left, and also has the same birthday as my dad). Gonzalez (nicknamed “CarGo,” according to the folks at Purple Row) was by far the Rockies’ hottest hitter. He had himself a series: 10 hits (including a home run), nine of which came against left-handed pitching. It got to the point where I was seriously considering what it would cost for the Tigers to get this guy. It’s probably WAY more than they’d be willing to give up (and I would totally agree with them, if that were the case), but it sure is tantalizing because it looks like he represents a whole lot of things the Tigers need. He’s a lefty who apparently can hit left-handed pitching. It looks as though he’ll hit for average and for power. He can run, so there’s a stolen base threat and good speed in the outfield. I have heard he’s a good defender, and I have seen firsthand that he has a GUN for a left arm. I’m not an expert on prospects (far from it), but this is a good-looking player (and I mean that in multiple senses of the phrase). Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite carry the rest of his team, which means no more Carlos Gonzalez in the postseason. Hopefully by the time I see him again I will have figured out why I decided to like him (right after I figure out why I like Kurt Suzuki). And so the Dodgers and the Phillies are set for a rematch in the NLCS. I’m not sure how this will go. The Phillies have the edge with starting pitching, but then again, so did the Cardinals. The Dodgers have the edge in the bullpen. The Phillies are heavily-laden with lefty power hitters. The Dodgers don’t have as much power, but their lineup is a bit more balanced in terms of lefty-righty. The Dodgers have home field advantage this time around, but the Phillies were one of the best road teams in baseball this year. So I don’t know how this’ll turn out. I’ll certainly be rooting for the Dodgers, though.

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