Friday, October 28, 2011

That Was Awesome

You kind of had a feeling, didn't you?

The Rangers were one strike away from winning the World Series. Up by two runs, bottom of the 9th, Neftali Feliz on the mound. Yet - the season didn't quite feel ready to end. After a regular season with the most exciting final day of the wild card era? After three of four division series went all five games? After an LCS where both series went six, with the winning teams doing so in pretty unconventional, bullpen-centric ways? Nah, this season would live on  another night.

So when David Freese ripped a two run triple over the head of Nelson Cruz, was anyone really surprised? Excited, sure. But that's the way this year has gone.

So we go extra innings for the first time in World Series since 2005. (World Series' the last few years have been duds, I have to say). After losing the chance to win, many teams might have been deflated. The Rangers? A Josh Hamilton two run homer in the top of the 10th. That had to seal the game right? I mean, a team hadn't scored two runs in the top of the 10th inning in a World Series and still managed to lose since Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.




I've heard some talk today that there's no way the Rangers come back and win after such a crushing blow last night. To that, the only thing I can say is... REALLY? You've been watching baseball the last three weeks and you think that Rangers team is going to roll over and die? They already put up a two run 10th after leading by two with one strike to go. Sure, Chris Carpenter might be dominant tonight, and maybe the narrative will be that it's because the Rangers were "demoralized," but I'll be pretty skeptical of that. 

So, here we go. Game 7. I love baseball.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mike Napoli, Hall of Famer?

One of my favorite articles written in the past few years comes, not surprisingly, from Joe Posnanski. In The Hall of Could Have Been, Joe discusses several players who might be described as "alternate universe" Hall of Famers - guys who might be in the Hall today if their careers had taken slightly different turns. He leaves out discussion of guys whose career was cut short by injury or interrupted by war, and focuses on those players who just didn't catch their breaks.

Some were obvious - Bert Blyleven's case, for example, and he fortunately did finally gain induction this year. Fred Lynn's statistical dropoff after leaving Boston has also been much-discussed. Others, less so. The Matt Stairs reference really piqued my interest at the time. His career numbers were so far short of a Hall of Famer, I'd never thought of him that way. I discussed this in an earlier post, and it's worth pointing out that Stairs' career home run rate was higher than that of Jim Rice.

In the last few months, while he was dominating the American League, I thought about Mike Napoli. I mentioned that in my World Series preview. With his performance the last two nights, Napoli stands a great chance of winning the World Series MVP Award if the Rangers hold on to win. In light of these occurrences, I'd like to make a bold pronouncement.

If he hadn't spent his 20's playing for a manager that didn't value his offense, Mike Napoli would be headed for the Hall of Fame.

Who are the best hitting catchers of all time? Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench and Mike Piazza. (Josh Gibson, too, but we don't have enough statistical information on him).  Through age 29, Berra homered once every 21.9 at bats, Bench every 19.3, Piazza every 15.6, playing in the greatest offensive era of all time. Mike Napoli? At 15.7, he is the slightest tick behind Piazza, a player with similar defensive difficulties to Napoli who nevertheless got a chance to play because, well, you'd either have to be an idiot or Mike Scioscia to not want a guy who could be a reasonable facsimile of a catcher and hit a home run once every 15.6 at bats. Sure, Piazza hit for a much higher average than Napoli, and Berra and Bench were vastly superior defensive players. But it's not like those three are borderline Hall of Fame guys. Bench was elected, on 96.4% of ballots cast, in his first year of eligibility. Berra had to wait until year two, because voters in the 1960's and 70's did things like that - Joe Dimaggio didn't even get in on his first year. Piazza might have to deal with ridiculous steroid allegations, but on the numbers alone, he'd be in the Hall upon eligibility in 2013.

Let's look at Napoli's career numbers:



What do you notice? First off, the guy homers a LOT. He also strikes out a lot, leading to some batting averages that some people wouldn't be thrilled with, but overall that's pretty amazing production from the catching position.

For comparison's sake, let's take a look at the guy Mike Scioscia often preferred to play, Jeff Mathis.


Mathis gets bagged on a lot. I'm sure he's a nice guy and a fine defensive catcher, but the guy is an automatic out. It's hard to picture any manager other than Mike Scioscia giving a hitter like this half the playing time over a five year period. I'm not sure how bad Napoli would have to be defensively and how good Mathis would have to be to make up for the difference in their offensive production. I'm pretty sure it would involve Mathis framing every single pitch so that Angel pitchers never threw a ball, and Napoli using the Bob Uecker knuckleball approach on every single pitch, simply waiting until it stopped rolling to pick it up to toss it back to the pitcher. Even then, it would be close. If Napoli has a lower batting average than you'd like, how can you take a guy who has a lower career OBP than Napoli's batting average? The difference has become more pronounced in the last two years, with Mathis compiling an OPS+ of exactly 37 in both seasons. I'm not the biggest plan of OPS+, but THIRTY-SEVEN? Over 499 plate appearances? In his last 499 plate appearances, Mike Napoli has 33 home runs! His home run total is almost as high as Mathis's OPS+! These numbers are mind boggling.

So, let's move to an alternate universe. One in which Mike Napoli is not within the clutches of Mike Scioscia, and his manager instead notices that he's managing the best power hitting catcher in the world. Said manager gives Napoli 550 plate appearances per year. Let's recalculate his stats, based on that, shall we? I've left his rookie 2006 season intact, and pro-rated every season since.

Note: Because of rounding, some of the calculated seasonal rate stats will vary slightly from what they were in reality. 



Hmmm. We now have a player who has seasons of 40 and 38 homers, twice has 90+ RBI, and has 50 extra base hits for four consecutive years. Let's compare that to some other Hall of Fame catchers through their age 29 seasons.

Fake Napoli307526274426961406168450359750.265.363.515.878
Johnny Bench630455548241491294212871038655941.268.343.484.827
Mike Piazza3482311951110381484200644330493.333.396.575.972
Carlton Fisk2825249141171012023114376272405.285.360.489.849
Gary Carter50254422608119022422188688485597.269.342.457.799
Yogi Berra43333964646117517737181790332179.296.354.497.851

Unsurprisingly, Napoli is second in slugging percentage. Perhaps more suprisingly, he's also second in on-base percentage, assisted by a comparatively high walk rate. It should be noted that Bench, Piazza, Carter and Berra have a sizable lead in counting stats, even over alternate universe Napoli, simply because they got earlier starts. All except Piazza were big prospects (especially Bench), and Piazza got immediate playing time once he made it to the big leagues.

So, I decided to take the our alternate universe Mike Napoli and calculate some of his similarity scores based on the version. Here's what I came up with for players through age 29. 

Note: These may be incomplete, since I was running through the players based on the similarity scores of other guys. There were about 100 players that I calculated similarity scores for, and probably 100 more that I looked through. Least similar player that I ran a score for? Bobby Doerr.

1. Javy Lopez (919)
2. Gabby Hartnett* (907)
3. Charles Johnson (905)
4. Carlton Fisk* (904)
5. Matt Nokes (886)
6. Gus Traindos (885)
7. Toddy Hundley (8801)
8. Del Crandall (881)
9. Gene Tenace (876)
10. Ramon Hernandez (876)

Ok - so of the top 10 comparable players, only two are Hall of Famers. Interesting to note, though, that these comparability scores are all so far off. Of this group, only Lopez had a home run rate better than every 20 at bats. Napoli, of course, is under 16. Also, I don't care for how B-R uses batting average, rather than OBP, in their calculation. Let's swap that out.

1. Gabby Hartnett* (929)
2. Carlton Fisk* (921)
3. Javier Lopez (919)
4. Victor Martinez (890)
5. Charles Johnson (887)
6. Gene Tenace (885)
7. Earl Battey (867)
8. Todd Hundley (862)
9. Gus Triandos (859)
10. Mike Piazza^ (855)

*Dave Nilsson rated an 898 on the first list, and a 910 on the second, if you put his position as a catcher. He only played about 1/2 his time up to his age 29 season as a catcher, and very little in the last few years. I decided to use a weighted position scale, which dropped him out of the top 10, but it's likely that some would include him.

So we lose Nokes, Crandall, and Hernandez and replace them with Martinez, Battey and Piazza. Hartnett and Fisk move up to 1-2. The underrated Tenace moves up to 6th. This is a pretty impressive group of comparables. Among these players, only Piazza has more home runs. Only Piazza and Hartnett have a higher SLG. 

To conclude, while Alternate Universe Mike Napoli isn't quite a slam dunk "I'm only 29 and I'm surely headed to the Hall of Fame" case that Johnny Bench was, his career lines up nicely with some guys who did make it. Real-life Mike Napoli has no such luck. 

Still, out of Mike Scioscia's doghouse, Napoli has gotten a real opportunity to shine. Again, the power hasn't been a surprise - he's always hit for power. Arguably more rewarding has been the plaudits Napoli has earned on defense. Most metrics seem to agree with the Ranger coaching staff that Napoli has been improved behind the plate. And for Scioscia, shouldn't that be more damning than anything else? I mean, it's one thing to overemphasize defense over offense - it's quite another to be considered a master instructor, and than have a former player improve mightily from the moment he escapes. If Scioscia's tyranny kept Napoli out of the Hall of Fame, it's fair to imagine that Napoli's emergence might do the same to Scioscia - once considered one of the best managers in the business, his reputation has taken a hit this year.

In the end, while it will always be interesting to consider the career arc of Alternate Universe Mike Napoli, what's really thrilling is seeing the real life version finally make the impact we knew he was capable of. Now we can all live Napoli Ever After.

Tables were made using TABLEIZER!

Monday, October 24, 2011

No Theo, Thank You

No snark. I mean that.

You likely have heard by now that Theo Epstein has taken a job with the Chicago Cubs. Upon his departure, he took out a full page ad in the Boston Globe, thanking "Red Sox Nation."

No need to thank us, Theo. We've been harder on you than you've deserved, particularly in the last 18 months. Last year's team wasn't that great, and this year they sort of fell apart, so I suppose that's expected. Still, the narrative that Theo was overrated and hadn't done a good job seemed a little silly. After all, he was the GM for two World Series Champions in Boston.

Rewind for a second. It's fall 2002, Theo has just been hired. You visit the oracle, and he tells you that Theo will win two World Series, but that when he leaves in 2011, people will be calling him an overrated failure. What would your response be to that oracle? Mine would be "wow, Red Sox fans are really the miserable jerks that the world thinks we are, huh?"

First, the myth that Dan Duquette really built the 2004 championship team, and Epstein just skated in on Theo's work. After all, Theo is the one who had brought in star players Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez. Anyone who has been following the Red Sox for any length of time knows that having stars has never been the problem. It's been filling out the roster sensibly, getting production from second tier guys. Those mid-level pickups that other teams always seem to find, but Boston never does. Right? Well, let's check out The Greatest Game in Red Sox History (Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS).

For those of you who don't remember (likely anyone who is under the age of 10, because if you're older than that and don't remember that game, you're not reading this blog right now), let's give a quick reminder. Against the greatest closer in history, controversial Theo Epstein acquisition Kevin Millar walks to lead off the 9th inning. Theo Epstein acquisition Dave Roberts pinch runs for Millar, and steals second base. Theo Epstein acquisition Bill Mueller then hits a single to right field, scoring Roberts. Theo Epstein acquisition Keith Foulke pitches 2.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Finally, in the bottom of the 11th, Theo Epstein acquision David Ortiz hits a game winning home run.

That was not a Dan Duquette team. Theo Epstein had built an offense of patient, professional hitters. He rebuilt a bullpen that had significant trouble in the first half of 2003. Top put them over the top, he acquired a top starter in Curt Schilling to take some of the workload off of the bullpen, and hired a manger in Terry Francona whose temperament was just right for dealing with that group.

Was the 2011 team overpaid and underachieving? Of course. That collapse was everyone's fault, from the players to the manager to the GM to the ownership. The lack of pitching that killed them at the end of the season didn't sneak up on them - they'd been pitching badly all season, and expecting to hit so much to overcome that was probably a tad myopic. He went out and got injury-plagued Erik Bedard, who turned out to get injured. They didn't give Alfredo Aceves a chance to start (and the press buried David Ortiz for stating the obvious regarding it), and he ended up being second on the staff in September innings anyway. 

You know what though? The Red Sox scored the most runs in the major leagues in 2011. For all the mistakes that he made, Theo Epstein STILL had built the dominant lineup in baseball. He's inheriting a bigger challenge with the Cubs, of course. Theo DID have the cornerstone of a franchise in place when he came aboard in Boston, something he doesn't have the benefit of in Chicago, an organization that needs to be completely rebuilt from top to bottom. It's a bigger challenge. I wish him luck.

In the meantime though, he deserves our thanks. He set out to bring Red Sox fans a championship. He won us two. That's how he should be remembered.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Top Ten Reasons to Watch the World Series

I've heard a few people complaining about the World Series this year, talking about how the "ratings" are going to be too low, how they were rooting for other teams to make it, and on and on. While this wasn't the matchup I was expecting, there are a ton of storylines that any good baseball fan should be excited about. Here are 10 I find appealing.

1. Old vs. New

Up until the Giants and Dodgers moved in 1958, the St. Louis Cardinals were the "western" team in Major League Baseball. They still have a huge fan base throughout the west. This is their 18th National League Pennant, and they are looking for their 11th World Series title - both are leaders among National League Franchises. They're the only team who has appeared in as many as three of the past 10 World Series. Their manager, Tony LaRussa, has won 2,728 games, third most all time. Their best player, Albert Pujols, is the greatest player in the game today, a sure bet Hall of Famer, and, by the time he is finished, may be one of the top 10 players of all time.

The Texas Rangers have never won a World Series. Before last year, they'd never even won a playoff series. They've spent their existence in the shadow of the Dallas Cowboys. "It's a football town" people would say, and the Rangers never really did anything to prove otherwise. In the last couple of years, though, things have changed. Some shrewd moves by GM Jon Daniels and a new organizational philosophy led by team president Nolan Ryan, manager Ron Washington, and, with far less fanfare, pitching coach Mike Maddux has had the Rangers winning, and perhaps more importantly, the fans responding. The Ballpark in Arlington has been louder the last two years than any other stadium in baseball. The New Yankee Stadium has the louder fans pushed back too far - the place doesn't rumble like the old yard. Fenway Park has become too expensive, and the rabid fans of previous decades have been replaced by business customers and yuppies more interested in singing "Sweet Caroline*." Rangers' fans have really picked up the slack. Is it bandwagon jumping, or is this the real deal? It's hard to tell. Football will always be king in Texas, but that doesn't mean baseball can't be huge as well. The Dallas-Arlington-Fort Worth metroplex is the fourth largest in the United States. The three who are larger (NY, LA, Chicago) each have two baseball teams who BOTH get tons of support. Doesn't it seem likely that the Rangers can join them? They've been well-run and have a huge population (a.k.a. revenue) base to work off of. They just signed a new TV contract last fall worth $80M a year. The word "dynasty" was thrown out in a couple spots, which is dumb, because they haven't won a World Series yet, but the Rangers have everything in place to be able to be an annual contender the way the Red Sox and Yankees are. They combine effective traditional scouting and development with smart statistical analysis. They are baseball's new school.

*Ok, I actually like Sweet Caroline. It's a good little ditty. But hearing it over and over in the midst of the Red Sox collapse made it, and the Sox fanbase, something of a laughingstock. The idea that it "rubbed off on the team" was preposterous - the Red Sox didn't lose their lead because they were complacent, they lost because their pitching stunk. The complacency of the fans singing whimsically while their baseball team collapsed around them is a pretty strong narrative of the change in mindset over at Fenway in the last 10 years. Anyway, that's the last I have to say about the Red Sox today. This is about the Cardinals and Rangers. I swear.

2. Star Power.

Albert Pujols. Josh Hamilton. Your 2011 World Series on Fox, coming up next.

That sounds... about right. I mean, doesn't it? Two of the best, most exciting and most popular players in the game, as the centerpiece of their pennant winning teams. Hamilton's season was off quite a bit from his 2010 MVP campaign, but his .536 slugging was still good for 8th in the American League. And his story is well-established.

Albert Pujols had the worst season of his career, when he hit .299/.366/.541. That should pretty much speak for itself. . During the first two round of the playoffs, he's hit .419/.490/.721. His first double of the World Series will set the record for most in a single postseason. gives him a career WAR of 89,1, good enough for 41st all time. At 31 years old, that puts him immediately below Randy Johnson, Warren Spahn and Cal Ripken. He's 18.3 away from the top 20. Whatever your feeling are on the WAR statistic, it seems to get the overarching career narrative down. Pujols is one of the greatest players of all time, and he's playing in the World Series. Isn't that enough of a reason to watch?

3. Chris Carpenter vs. C.J. Wilson


Neither pitching staff did especially much in the league championship series. Carpenter got the win with 5 mediocre innings against the Brewers. C.J. Wilson followed up his bad start in the LDS with a start that didn't get him out of the 5th inning and another where he gave up 6 runs in 6 innings. So far in the playoffs, he has an 8.04 ERA with 6 homers allowed in 15.2 innings.

That's only part of the story. Carpenter pitched a gem in game 5 of the NLDS, a 3 hit, complete game shutout against Roy Halladay. He NEEDED to be that good, too - Halladay gave up only one run. Carpenter was that much better that day, and it's the reason his team is still playing. He had two additional complete game shutouts in September. He's won one Cy Young Award, and also has a second place and third place finish on his resume. Since joining the Cardinals in 2004, he has 95 wins and a 3.04 ERA (good for a 134 ERA+). He is one of the few true, established aces in the game.

C.J. Wilson was a relief pitcher through 2009. Benefitting more than anyone from the tutelage of Nolan Ryan and Mike Maddux, he's complied 427 innings over the past two years. After last year, I was skeptical of his, and the Rangers success. In this year's AL West preview, I wrote that "If he can get that walk rate down from 4.1 per 9 to the mid 3's, then he may be able to keep up his success. If that walk rate stays up though, his ERA will follow." Wilson did more than that - he got his walk rate to a flat 3.0 per nine, and his strikeout rate jumped from 7.5 to 8.3 - the jump in K/BB from 1.83 to 2.78 resulted in a drop in ERA from 3.35 to 2.94. The success of Wilson and the success of the Rangers seem to very much be the same story. Both proved me wrong - the Rangers proved to be a legitimate contender, and Wilson proved to be a legitimate ace.

4. Breakout performers in the 2011 playoffs who aren’t actually that young. 

David Freese. Nelson Cruz. Alexi Ogando. Mike Napoli. Marc Rzepczynski*. Jason Motte. 
Only Freese is younger than 28, and he just had one of the best LCS performances in history. Arbitration eligible, he's been a good player since being called up in 2009, but has probably won himself a nice raise and enough goodwill to not have to compete for the starting 3B job next year. Cruz might not totally belong on this list, because he's made an All-Star team, but his ridiculous ALCS performance demands it. Ogando was named ace of the All-Ugly team. Rzepczynski had a 1.93 ERA and a memorable Game 6 performance where Tony LaRussa actually let a reliever pitch to more than 3 batters. He also has a name that rather lends itself to memorability. Jason Motte has pitched 8 scoreless innings in the playoffs, saving four games. The playoffs lend themselves particularly well to previously little known relievers becoming household names - Brian Wilson appearing in Taco Bell commercials goes to show that power.

For me though, the most satisfying is Mike Napoli. His dominant offensive statistics and lack of playing time led people to write things that would make you think Mike Scioscia was some sort of evil dictator or complete fool. Ok, maybe he is those things, because HE DIDN'T PLAY MIKE NAPOLI. Evoke the name of Matt Stairs, and some smart people, like Bill James and Joe Posnanski, will tell you that if he'd gotten the chance to play in his 20's he might have been a Hall of Famer. People will be saying the same thing about Napoli, only there is more evidence to back it up. He's been a dominant offensive player for six years, and he now gets the chance to show everyone.

*Note: On my original draft of this, I correctly spelled Rzepczynski, but misspelled "Marc," ending it with a k. Sounds about right.

5. Bullpens – overused or just awesome?

In the NLCS, St. Louis starting pitchers had only 24.1 innings in six games, leaving 28.2 for the bullpen. Tony LaRussa made 28 pitching changes, 4.66 per game. Yet they managed to win 3 games and compile a 1.88 ERA. Lance Lynn, not even on the previous rounds roster, pitched in 5 games. He gave up zero runs. Rzepczynski also pitched in 5 games. In game 6, he pitched 2.1 innings; in the other four games, he pitched a total of 2.1 innings. 

In the ALCS, Texas starting pitcher made it 28.2 innings in their six games, leaving but a meager 27.1 for the bullpen. Ron Washington made 25 pitching changes, 4.12 per game. Yet their bullpen won all four games, with a 1.32 ERA. Mike Adams pitched in 5 games, Feliz and Ogando in four apiece. Ogando, arguably the teams second best starter all year, won two of their games and gave up only 1 run in 7.2 innings, striking out 10. What appeared to be a tired arm down the stretch appears to be revitalized pitching in shorter stretches. 

Can they keep it up? This sort of usage is extreme, and it's easy to say "if these teams want to win, they're going to get more use out of their starters. But the truth is that both teams, particularly the Rangers, have a TON of talent in their bullpens. I wouldn't ADVISE a strategy that involves taking out your starter in the 5th inning with the bases loaded and 6 runs already allowed, but both these teams have the offensive firepower and bullpen talent to overcome it.

6. Implications for Free Agents

Ok, this isn't something I'm personally interested in, because I hate to see good players leave good teams. Baseball is definitely better off if Albert Pujols stays on the Cardinals, and probably better off if C.J. Wilson does the same. Equally importantly, both players are probably better off if they stay in the same place, as the enormous goodwill for Michael Young shows. There's something to be said for a player being identifiable with a team. If Jorge Posada wasn't a Yankee in 1996, he wouldn't have been one in 2011. That said, the story is there, and will be talked about. 

The truth is, there's nothing Albert Pujols could do in this series to change his value, other than perhaps suffer some horrific injury. If he went 16 for 18 with 12 home runs, he probably wouldn't earn one cent more. If he goes 0 for 18 and strikes out 14 times, he probably won't get one cent less. His record of excellence is established, and anyone who thinks they're going to measure him based on four to seven games is a fool. Be ready, though, for a lot of "will this be Albert's final this, this and this as a member of the Cardinals."

Measuring CJ Wilson on the (possible) two games he'll pitch in this series is probably just as silly, but he certainly has a chance to set perception of him as an elite performer. He will be the best free agent pitcher available - I'm ignoring CC Sabathia who will almost definitely a) listen to some posturing about how the Yankees would not be happy to renegotiate with Sabathia if he opts out, b) exercise his opt-out clause, then  c) resign with the Yankees, for six or seven years, in relatively short order. There's little that shocks me anymore in baseball, but a chain of events that isn't as I described would at least surprise me. Anyhow, that leaves Wilson as the best starting pitcher available as a free agent. Wilson is on the cusp of ace-ville. He has 9.4 WAR over the past two years, going 31-15 with a 3.14 ERA in 67 starts, striking out 376 and walking 176 in a pretty tough place to pitch. In the playoffs, though? He's 1-4, with a 5.40 ERA. He's completed six innings in just 3 of his seven starts, never completing seven. Fair or not, a mediocre or poor World Series will solidify him in the minds of many as a good pitcher, but something less than a franchise player. A big Series, and he could be looking at $100M plus. 

There are other free agents - Edwin Jackson probably has a nice deal coming - but Pujols and Wilson are going to get the bulk of the attention.

7. The impact of potential over-management.

 LaRussa, as I wrote here, took out Lance Lynn for no reason in Game 2. Washington, I wrote here, had Josh Hamilton bunt in a game he was losing 6-0. (It came out the next day that Washington did not put on the bunt sign, but he thought it was a good play. I'm sure that's just protecting Hamilton, but it would've been ok for him to say something like "I love that he was willing to give him up for the team, but we need Josh to be swinging there").

I discussed above the number of pitching changes both managers made. Part of that was necessitated by poor starting pitcher performance. Part was just overdoing it on the matchups. LaRussa loves the sacrifice bunt, with 57 non-pitcher bunts. Leading the way was Daniel Descalso, who sacrificed 10 times - including twice when he was put in as a pinch hitter. Neither manager employs the intentional walk frequently, which is nice. Washington used the second fewest in the majors, with 21. His intentional walk of Miguel Cabrera very nearly burned him - it took a fantastic Nelson Cruz throw to get him off the hook.

So, I don't think we'll be in a situation where it's a repeat of 2001's Game 4, when Bob Brenly THRICE had Craig Counsell sacrifice Tony Womack, a strategy that produced a run in zero of those three chances, and the Diamondbacks lost by one run. That is still my go-to bad managing moment. Keep an eye on the pitching changes, though. Both managers got good results on their pitching changes in the LCS, but good results aren't always the product of good decisions. Both of these teams have offenses good enough to make an ill-timed pitching change look really, really bad.

8. The re-emergence of batting average. 

Batting average has taken a lot of heat in recent years, and with good reason - it doesn't correspond to run scoring as well as on-base percentage or slugging percentage, and it is subject to huge variation based on luck in balls in play. However, that doesn't mean batting average is useless. Guys like Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Ichiro Suzuki and Derek Jeter hit for high batting averages for years, despite not hitting for much power. Why? Because hitting for average is a skill. It's true that there is variation based on luck, and it's true that some players fluctuate more than others. That doesn't completely devalue the statistic totally, it just means you need to be cognizant of possible external factors.

There's been a line of thinking, one that I'm trying to do some research on whenever I get the chance, that teams who are good at hitting for average succeed in the playoffs. Why? Because they are better at hitting good pitches. Teams with a low batting average that rely on walks and the home run have trouble in the playoffs, because the teams they are playing against are likely there because their pitcher do a good job avoiding walks and home runs. This was pointed to a lot when The Oakland A's lost in the first round four straight years in the early 00's, but that was partially because traditionalists were trying to find any reason the de-legitimatize the statistical approach of Billy Beane and, somewhat ironically, tried to use statistics to do it. "My statistic is better than your statistic" became the baseball version of "my dad could beat up your dad." In this case though, maybe there was something it. After all, it sounded reasonable.

So far in 2011, the team with the better regular season batting average has won all six series. That includes Detroit, who beat the higher scoring New York Yankees, and Milwaukee, who beat the higher scoring Arizona Diamondbacks. The story was especially prevalent in that Tigers-Yankees series, where the middle third of the New York order, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Nick Swisher, all notably struggled. All three hit below .280 and derive much of their value from power and patience. This is particularly true of Teixeira, who is now .207/.315/.322 in the playoffs in 143 plate appearances .

This is a small sample that doesn't "prove" anything, but if it had been the Moneyball A's rather than the Moneybag Yankees who did this, the narrative would be less that the players choked, and more that the organizational approach failed.

9. We’re on schedule for a really, really, really good one.

I've been watching baseball since 1988. The two best World Series of my baseball watching life were 1991 and 2001. There really isn't too much debate about it. Both are generally talked about as being among the best of all time. Following that pattern, 2011 should be classic.

10. The Yankees aren’t here. 

Which is awesome. The World Series is always more enjoyable to me when the Yankees are either not there, or lose. Either way. 

There's a larger point though. I've read a couple articles about how low the TV ratings are probably going to be for these two teams. So what? Do you choose your favorite TV show based on how many people watch? Are the best movies the ones that make the most money? Of course not. Baseball, as I've pointed out several times, shoots itself in the foot by constantly promoting the same teams. In the last seven years, the Yankees have been in one World Series, and the Red Sox have been in one World Series. The Cardinals and Rangers are both in their second in that span. 

So if you're choosing not to watch because of the way MLB chooses to promote themselves (or, more accurately, how ESPN and Fox choose to promote them - the MLB Network actually does a good job at least trying to promote the entire league), you deserve to miss out.

So that's it. 10 reasons to watch. If that's not enough for you, I'm sorry.

My prediction? Rangers in 7.

After all, they had the better batting average this year. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why Tony LaRussa is Allowed to Overmanage

Tony LaRussa's Overmanaging Making Me Sleepy

Seriously. It's 10:30 at night, and we're still in the top of the 6th inning. Lance Lynn, who I'd barely heard of before this series, induced an inning ending double play to Rickie Weeks with the bases loaded to preserve a 7-2 Cardinal lead. On the first pitch. Lance Lynn is stretched out as a starting pitcher.

Here in the top of the 6th, LaRussa pinch hits for Lynn with two out and the bases empty. Why? If Lynn's not good enough to pitch the 6th, how was he good enough to pitch to Weeks with the game on the line. Ryan Theriot just got a single, which doesn't really increase the Cardinals chances of winning. For that teenie advantage, the downside is that, to start the 6th inning, they'll have to go to their 4th pitcher. Even though their third pitcher got two outs on one pitch. 

Everyone gets up in arms about babying starting pitchers, but it's the use of relievers that's far less sensible.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

10/1 Playoffs Liveblog!

A little later starting here than I wanted to be, so let's dive right in.

2:07pm: Leadoff hitter Willie Bloomquist singles of Yovani Gallardo, on the first pitch. I haven't even had time to get my scoresheet ready. I never knew Gallardo wore #49 to honor Teddy Higuera. The stuff you learn.

2:10: Justin Upton to the plate. An excellent season to be sure, but I don't know how he can be considered an MVP candidate with the season Matt Kemp had. 

2:11: I hope someone other than Bernie is watching this series.

2:12: Willie Bloomquist thrown out at the plate in the first inning by 30 feet with the cleanup hitter on deck. It's like I'm watching the Red Sox again!

2:17: Jerry Hairston getting the start for Milwaukee over Casey McGehee. Considering that Hairston was a better hitter and pitcher this year, that seems a sensible move.

2:18: My wife is liveblogging with me. This scheme to have her watch hours of baseball with me is genius. Until about hour seven, when she dumps her yogurt on my head. 

2:24:  "Joe West is the crew chief for this series." Over/under on ejections is set at 9.5. 

2:28: Ryan Roberts probably deserved more attention for having 2011's best "where did that come from" season, except for nobody really cares about the Diamondbacks, so nobody noticed. Still,  .249/.341/.427 with good defense at 3B. Classic minor league slugger who finally got the chance to perform, and did. The strange thing is that he didn't have to sign a minor league contract with the A's for that to happen.

2:33: This seems like a good time to mention that Miller Park is probably the best park that nobody talks about being good. Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Baltimore are all great, and Fenway and Wrigley are classic, of course. Miller Park is great, complete with the best beer and food I've come across. 

2:37: Do you think the Yankees would trade Curtis Granderson for Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson, and Phil Coke? A lot has been made about how great that trade was for the Yankees, but did it? The Diamondbacks ended up getting Edwin Jackson (who they turned into Daniel Hudson) while the Tigers got Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth. With all three teams winning their divisions, and the components all playing major roles, I'd say it's a rare trade that worked out well for THREE teams. 

2:43: Pop out by Yuniesky Betancourt! Before the season, I wrote an entry questioning whether Betancourt was the best the Brewers could do. Despite the incredible .7 WAR, I still don't think he is.  When a .252/.271/.381 line gets a positive offensive WAR, it's easy to see why so many people are dismissive of the statistic. 

2:47: Christine: "This is a long inning!"  Hahaha, you have no idea what you are in for! And with that, Jonathan Lucroy lines to left.

2:52: "What time are the Red Sox on tonight?" Is that enough reason to get a divorce? Octoberfest will fix this... 

2:52: "Oh, I meant the Yankees." Yep, divorce. 

2:55: Back to baseball - Solid 1-2-3 inning from Gallardo. Matt Williams sending Bloomquist looks especially bad now, as Gallardo has really settled in.  The Diamondbacks really need to take Game 1 with Greinke going tomorrow. 

3:00: A test of the emergency broadcast system? At 3:00 on Saturdays??? What happened to Corey Hart? Comcast I should punch you. 

3:03: Corey Hart apparently grounded out to third base. I'll never get to see it, though. Ian Kennedy is settling in nicely as well.  

3:06: This "which Upton brother is the family watching" story would be much funnier if they all went to watch Justin because he's better.  

3:08: Jarrod Parker is apparently available in the Arizona bullpen. I miss the days where teams would at least call up their prospects before 9/1 in order to make sure they are playoff eligible. They should either enforce the rule, or allow anyone in the organization by 9/1 to be on the playoff roster, whether or not they're in the majors. The roster gymnastics that teams are allowed to get away with are embarrassing. 

3:14: "Don't miss new episodes of Kendra and Dirty Soap. On E!" I wouldn't say I'll be "missing" them. 

3:16: Braun/Fielder/Weeks this inning. Now, a picture of the Brewers dressed like cowboys

3:20: Single for Braun. Double for Fielder. Weeks is HBP. Bases loaded for Hairston, Betancourt, Lucroy. 

3:22: Decision to play Jerry Hairston pays off, RBI sacrifice fly. 1-0 Brewers. 

3:27: Christine is now opening wedding gifts. I think she has given up. 

3:29: "Allright, what's going on?" Back in. 

3:31: 13 of the last 14 retired by Gallardo. We're through four and a half innings in like 80 minutes. Being a Red Sox fan doesn't prepare me for things that move this quickly. 

3:36: Hitting Nyjer Morgan with a pitch with Braun on deck and Fielder in the hole doesn't seem like a great strategy. 

3:38: ".332. So almost 1/3 of his runs are batted in?" Still, I think my wife knows more about baseball statistics than Dan Shaughnessy. 

3:45: Wait, why is the roof closed?  

3:46: "The biggest sports weekend in Wisconsin history." That sounds like a backhanded compliment if I ever heard one. 

3:49: Is it just me, or has sliding into first base become something of an epidemic this year? Someone has to be keeping a stat on this, right? "Hey, I might be out at first, why do I do something that slows me down and increases my chances of getting hurt!" Didn't you listen to your little league coach?

3:53: Whoa,  weird backwards shadows, with the pitcher in the shade and the batter in the sun. I think that might even be harder than the opposite. 

3:56: Triple for Yuniesky Betancourt, who I have never spoken poorly of. Genius move for the Brewers to acquire him and stick with him through his struggles. 

3:59: RBI single by Jonathan Lucroy on a pitch way up and in. 2-0 Brewers lead. With the way Gallardo is going, that's a valuable insurance run. For what it's worth, the Brewers now have an 86% chance of winning, according to's Gamecast.  

4:01: The avocado commercial!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

4:07: Nyjer Morgan with the nice catch crashing off the wall. I'm happy Good Nyjer Morgan showed up this year. Evil Nyjer Morgan is probably lurking somewhere, ready to strike, and giving both Washington Nationals' fans recurring nightmares. 

4:10: Do my ears deceive me, or did someone at TBS think it was a good idea to use a Britney Spears song as a bumper coming out of commercial? I hope somebody has been fired. 

4:18: Ryan Braun with a nice double down the right field line on a pitch low and way off the outside corner. He's now 3 for 4.

4:19: Surprised to see Kennedy pitching to Prince Fielder.... and as I type this, he hammers a home run over the right field fence. I was starting to write - I'm surprised, because Kennedy is probably going to be pinch hit for in the next inning, so either a lefty reliever pitching to Fielder, or having Kennedy walk him to pitch to Weeks, would have made more sense.

4:23: I didn't even realize the Diamondbacks had traded for Brad Ziegler. Ziegler has been one of the better relievers of the past few years - career ERA of 2.43 in 252 career innings. He gets the Weeks ground out to end the inning. Brewers lead 4-0, going into the 8th. 

4:27: Is the Brewers organist playing "Sweet Caroline" in an attempt to mock me?  He even did it to me in the 8th inning! I had a discussion regarding this with some friends, and the "new" Red Sox "fans" who would sing Sweet Caroline when they just blew a lead against the Yankees has become my least favorite part of the Fenway experience. It made steam come out of my ears. Does that mean I take baseball to seriously? YES! Of course it does! I'm writing an 18,000 word blog about 12 hours of games, and having my wife do it too! What extra sign did you need that I take baseball too seriously?

4:28: Ryan Roberts sticks it to the Brewers' organist with a solo homer. Brewers' lead is cut to 4-1. 

4:31: Awesome to see Sean Burroughs pinch hitting. No sarcasm here, really an amazing comeback.  

4:33: After the Roberts home run, Gallardo strikes out the next three batters. That gives him nine through 8 innings. At 106 pitches, I expect to see Axford for the 9th. 

4:37: Yep, there's Axford warming up in the bullpen. 

4:40: Jerry Hairston walks. The Brewers were already my pick to win the World Series. With Hairston in instead of McGehee, I'm feeling even stronger about that. 

4:43: Mark Kotsay is up. Christine posts: "I believe that is the guy with a really attractive wife." Note to self - I could talk for days about Mark Kotsay's throwing arm or his performance in the college World Series and his excellent years with the Marlins and A's, and she's not going to remember. Mention that his wife is hot, and she never forgets...

4:46:  Axford is in. After a rough start to the season, he was dominant the last five months. Really though, we remember him because of his mustache. 

4:49: Axford blows a 96 mph fastball by Justin Upton. One out to go.  

4:53: Miguel Montero with a routine grounder to Rickie Weeks to end it. Brewers win 4-1, and go up 1-0 in the series. Seven minutes until the next game! 

5:04: Settling in for the Cardinals-Phillies game. I've opened a new bottle of beer. Christine has opened a new bottle of wine.  All is well!

5:06: Roy Halladay vs. Kyle Lohse. Good luck Cardinals!

5:06: Tony LaRussa is managing, so I need to leave an extra half dozen pitcher spots on my scorecard... 

5:08: Rafael Furcal with the leadoff single. That's one more hit than Halladay allowed in Game 1 of the NLDS last year. 

5:11: Halladay vs. Pujols. Can't type, watching. 

5:12: Four pitch walk. Roy is no fool. He'll take his chances with Berkman.

5:13: Three run homer for Lance Berkman. 3-0 Cardinals. Already more runs allowed by Halladay than in 20 of his 32 starts. He only gave up one home run in the regular season with men on base.

5:20: Lohse with three straight groundouts on six pitches. It's like he and Halladay switched bodies.  

5:25: Ryan Howard, defensive ace! Retires John Jay, one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, 3-1, Halladay covering.  

5:29: Deion Sanders is still trying to convince me to buy DirecTV.  

5:33 Kyle Lohse has retired the first six Phillies. They should probably try taking a couple pitches. If they hadn't been in the playoffs the last four years, the announcers would probably be talking about how nervous and inexperienced they are. 

5:37: Halladay vs. Pujols. Take two.

5:38: Pujols ripped two straight balls foul. He then slightly rolled over an inside changeup to third base. Sounded like a broken bat.

5:39: Halladay breaks Berkman's bat as well. He's settling in, I think.

5:45: Kyle Lohse with another 1-2-3 inning, this one on only 10 pitches.  After three, he's only at 23 pitches. Phillies need to make him work harder. 

5:51: Halladay responds with a 10 pitch inning. The commercial breaks are lasting longer than the innings.  

5:55: Lohse strikes out Jimmy Rollins for his first K of the night. 

5:56: One out double for Chase Utley, first hit for the Phillies. When I was at the University of Rochester, we would go to Red Wings games. In the 2003 opener, Chase Utley, Playing for the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Barons, hit two massive home runs. He was called up that summer, and has been generally awesome ever since. 

6:02: David Freese drops a Shane Victorino foul pop... This usually ends badly.

6:04: Indeed. RBI single for Victorino, Chase Utley scores to cut the lead to 3-1.

6:04: Raul Ibanez flies out on the first pitch to end the fourth. After several years of consistent performance, putting up OBP's between .345 and .358 every year from 2001 through 2010, Ibanez really cratered this year, down to .289. 

6:06: "You never write about me anymore." 

6:08: Halladay strikes out John Jay. What a Commie.  

6:10: Christine appears to be editing her Google+ account. There's bored, there's very bored, and there's so bored that even google+ is more exciting than what you're doing. 

6:11: 11 in a row retired by Halladay. After an hour, we're halfway through the game. Josh Beckett takes this long between pitches.  

6:23: Halladay vs. Pujols, Take 3.  

6:24: Long at bat there - Halladay really wanted that curveball on the 0-2 pitch. Ended up  inducing a 2-2 groundout on a curve. 

6:25: Halladay strikes out Berkman. 14 in a row retired by Halladay. He now has 7 K's through 6 innings. Lohse is shutting down the Philly offense though.

6:25: Avocado commercial!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

6:33: Bad swing by Chase Utley on a nasty changeup leaving Rollins on first with one out. Hunter Pence with a first pitch single up the middle now, bringing up Ryan Howard with first and second. Howard had the lowest SLG of his career for the second straight year. Big AB here, as the heart of the Philly lineup may not be up again until the 9th.

6:39: This is what Ryan Howard thinks about your "falling slugging percentage." Three run homer to right, Phillies take a 4-3 lead.  

6:42: Victorino follows the homer with a solid single. Lohse shouldn't be tiring, he's only at 73 pitches. His pitches have been all over the place since the homer. 

6:43: Raul Ibanez with a two run homer, and this game has quickly gotten away from Lohse. This one was on a high hanging change-up. Philly fans seem ok with Ibanez now. That'll be it for Lohse, here comes Octavio Dotel. 

6:50: "I'm sick of this song." I agree, Christine. I agree. I don't know who at TBS is in charge of music, but no.  

6:53: The good news for the Cardinals is that Octavio Dotel stopped the bleeding. The bad news is that they're loing by 3 runs and are facing Roy Halladay. With nine outs left, Albert Pujols is eight batters away. Uh oh.  

6:58: Three straight ground outs. And Cliff Lee tomorrow.  

7:00: Iced coffee time!

7:04: Leadoff single by Halladay off Mark Rzdjfsaigfedfgliagxzvczynski. Texas game scheduled to start in three minutes. Double duty!

7:08: Desmond Jennings back up to leadoff for the Rays. Meanwhile, Chase Utley singles to load the bases in Philly, with the middle of the order coming back up. Rzepczynski fails to retire any of the three batters he faces. Mitchell Boggs will relieve him.

7:10 First big scoresheet error of the night. I just put Cardinals reliever Mitchell Boggs as the CF batting second for the Rays. Keeping two scoresheets at once is dangerous business.  

7:12: Grounder back to Boggs by Hunter Pence forces Halladay at home, bringing up Ryan Howard with the bases loaded. Ducks on the Pond, as Joe P. would say. Meanwhile, B.J. Upton doubles in Texas, bringing up Longoria.  

7:15: Howard hits a sac fly to right, scoring Rollins. 7-3 Phillies lead.  

7:17: Shane Victorino rips an 0-2 slider to right for an RBI single. 8-3. Meanwhile, the Rays have loaded the bases off of Derek Holland, with game one hero Kelly Shoppach coming up. 

7:19: Philly Phan Phavorite Raul Ibanez rips a high straightball to right, scoring Hunter Pence. 9-3 Phillies.  

7:21: Boggs gets Placido Polanco to fly out to right, ending the inning. Polanco and Carlos Ruiz are the only Phillies without hits. Holland and Shoppach are engaged in a 8+ pitch at bat.

7:22: Shoppach walks, scoring Upton. 1-0 Rays. 

7:23: Holland gets out of the jam allowing only the one run. He gets Sean Rodriguez to hit a grounder to Kinsler, forcing Shoppach at second. Here comes the reputed "Big Game" James Shields.  

7:28: You know, it's easy to bash announcers, so I need to say what an excellent job Dick Stockton is doing in this game. Thumbs up. 

7:29: 21 in a row retired by Halladay. 

7:33: Roy Halladay comes out to bat in the bottom of the 8th! And Dick Stockton hasn't even referred to a complete game as "a lost art" yet. I think he's violating his contract.

7:35: The narrative, repeated on the telecast by Bob Brenley, that the Phillies "window of opportunity" may be closing, because of the advancing age of their team, seems to be overstated. They seem to do a good job developing players who they can either insert in the lineup or trade for an established regular. And while Roy Oswalt showed some signs of age this year, Halladay, Lee and Hamels were three of the four best pitchers in the NL. This team will be good going forward. 

7:39: Chase Utley with a double to right, sending Jimmy Rollins to third. They might want to save some of this, no? Meanwhile in Texas, Desmond Jennings with a two out double.

7:40: Hunter Pence with a two-run single up the middle, knocking Mitch Boggs from the game. 11-3 Phillies. 

7:43: Arthur Rhodes in for the Cardinals. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Rhodes has been around so long that he was a teammate of Dwight Evans and the late Mike Flanagan on the 1991 Baltimore Orioles.  

7:45: Rhodes gets Ryan Howard to ground out, ending the 8th. On to the 9th with the Phillies up 11-3.  

7:48: After a 20 minute wait, Halladay does not come out for the 9th, depriving us of a final Halladay-Pujols encounter. Michael Stutes in for Philly.  

7:50: Allan Craig leads off the 9th with a walk. First Cardinal baserunner since Skip Schumaker led off the 2nd with a single.  

7:52: James Shields strikes out Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli in the 2nd, but has to use a lot of pitches to get through the inning. He's at 28 pitches through two innings, which isn't so bad, but it is a lot for facing only six batters. 

7:53: Backup catcher Gerald Laird will pinch run for Albert Pujols. The Big Puma is up with runners on first and second. I apologize to both of my readers everywhere for failing to use the name "Big Puma" until we're almost done with this game.

7:56: Adron Chambers, who I first heard of yesterday when I was looking over the team rosters, hits an RBI single off of Michael Stutes. 11-4. 

7:57: Michael Stutes gives up his third hit of the inning, this one to Yadier Molina. Charlie Manuel decides he's had enough and is going to Ryan Madson. 

7:59: Tommy Lee Jones' delivery in this Ameriprise commercial is reminiscent of Sam Waterston trying to sell us Old Glory Insurance.

8:01: Christine's boy Skip Schumaker with a two-run double off of Madson.  This is why Roy Halladay likes to complete his games. 11-6 Phillies.

8:03: Matt Holliday to pinch hit! With two on and two out, a homer here will make Tony LaRussa feel stupid for pinching running for Albert Pujols.

8:04: LaRussa is saved that ignominy. Madson strikes out Holliday, Phillies win 11-6.

8:10: Don Orsillo informs us that the six RBI that Kelly Shoppach has in the playoffs equal his total in any month this year. However, I should point out that yesterday's game was in September, so Shoppach only has one playoff RBI this month. Me trying to point out what month his RBI counts in is probably a good sign that I've gone insane.

8:11: Am I the only one who considers throwing errors by the pitcher to be ironic? Anyway, Casey Kotchman reaches, then goes to second, on Derek Holland's overthrow.  

8:15: The error is costly. Two run homer for Matt Joyce that clears the right field wall by plenty. 3-0 Rays.  

8:22: James Shields throws five straight change-ups to Josh Hamilton. He knocks the fifth one between the first and second basemen for a single. Two-on, nobody out for the middle third of the Texas lineup. 

8:24 Buck Martinez tells us that Michael Young is the right person to have up with a man in scoring position, because he had the most at bats in 2011 with runners in scoring position. Ok. Young singles anyway. Bases loaded for Adrian Beltre.  

8:26: Adrian Beltre drives in Andrus the hard way, as he's hit in the leg with what looked like a curveball. 3-1 Rays, with MIKE NAPOLI coming up with the bases loaded.  

8:31: Mike Napoli hits a two run single, tying the game and proving once again that Mike Scioscia is always wrong. 3-3 tie.  

8:37: We're underway in New York. Meanwhile in Texas, David Murphy gets a second life when umpire Kirwin Danley calls a ball foul prematurely.  

8:38: David Murphy strikes out, but the pitch bounces away from Kelly Shoppach. Adrian Beltre scores, Murphy reaches, 4-3 Rangers.

8:39: Grounder to shortstop by Mitch Moreland. Sean Rodriguez throws him out at first. James Shields thinks it's the third out, and walks off the field. Except, it wasn't the third out. Mike Napoli scored on the play. 5-3 Rangers. 

8:44: Brandon Inge throws out Jorge Posada at home for the first out of the second, then Doug Fister strikes out Derek Jeter, the greatest and most clutch baseball player of all time.  

8:46: The always informative in-game manager interview.  

8:47: Fister strikes out Granderson, and the Tigers get out of a jam. In Texas, a leadoff double by BJ Upton leads Alexi Ogando to start getting warmed up. Ogando really seemed to run out of gas in the second half. 9-3, 2.92 ERA, 3.4 K/BB ratioin the first half, 4-5, 4.48 ERA, 2.4 K/BB in the second. That's why he's in the bullpen rather than the rotation.

8:48: Mike Napoli thows out BJ Upton stealing, proving once again that Mike Scioscia is always wrong. 

8:59: Doug Fister strikes out Alex Rodriguez. Ben Zobrist makes a nice play on a ball up the middle hit by Michael Young, but can't get quite enough on the throw to get him at first.

9:00: Christine gives up. That was quite a run. Meanwhile, Fister strikes out Mark Teixeira to end the 3rd. In Texas, Adrian Beltre ends the 5th with a grounder to second that forces Young. 

9:02: TBS keeps telling me that "The Big Bang Theory" is very funny, but in my experience, that's not the case.  

9:03: Ron Washington goes to Alexi Ogando, which seems to me to be the right decision. It's as close to a must-win as it can be for the Rangers in a non-elimination game, and Ogando's stuff is better naturally than Holland's. Holland wasn't especially sharp tonight anyhow. 

9:04: Ogando is throwing smoke, 95 with natural movement, striking out John Jaso. 

9:05: Why is Jim Leyland batting Ordonez/Young in the 2 and 3 spots? To make sure Miguel Cabrera comes up with as few runners on as possible? Yes, I know Young homered, but that sort of exaggerates the point - he has good power, but low on base skill. He's a born 6 or 7 hitter. 

9:08: Ivan Nova strikes out Cabrera to end the 4th, as Fister vs. Nova turns into the pitching duel that Sabathia vs. Verlander was supposed to.  

9:11: Did Ron Darling just reference Warren Zevon's "Excitable Boy"? That's pretty awesome. 

9:12: Jorge Posada steps in. Meanwhile, Jesus Montero still exists. 

9:13: Mike Napoli with a lead off single, giving me another chance to rag on Mike Scioscia. 

9:14: Doug Fister strikes out Posada. Jesus Montero is making sure all of the helmets in the dugout are in the correct compartment, and making sure the canisters of Big League Chew are full. 

9:16: Russell Martin, who hates the Red Sox, is up. Now is a good time to mention that he got run out of LA because he enjoyed partying more than baseball.  Martin grounds out the third base. So yeah, the feeling is mutual, Russy boy. 

9:19: Back to back singles by Napoli and Cruz will drive Not So Much Game James out in the 6th. Jake McGee in. 

9:23: Craig Gentry in for David Murphy to counter the Jake McGee move. Possible overmanaging here by Ron Washington - Gentry is more likely to hit McGee, but Murphy is the better defensive player, and the Rangers already have the lead. I'd prefer to have Murphy in.

9:24: WOW. For the second day in a row, the Rangers sacrifice bunt at a WRONG time. If the Rangers were going to take David Murphy out for a pinch hitter who is worse defensively in a game they have a lead, they're doing it for immediate offense, right? Then WHY OH WHY is Craig Gentry sacrifice bunting here?? Couldn't Murphy have done that, then still been in the game? Terrible. 

9:25: Ivan Nova walks Alex Avila. He is the first baserunner to reach of Avila, and this ends a string of 11 straight retired by Yankee pitching. In Texas, McGee hits Mitch Moreland, loading the bases. This will knock McGee from the game. 

9:26: Juan Cruz in for Tampa. In New York, Jhonny Peralta singles to center with two on. The Tigers try to score Avila, but he is thrown out by 20 feet, even though Granderson sort of angled the ball in funny, and Jeter's relay was about five feet up the line. Wasted outs all over the place here.

9:28: Two run double for Ian Kinsler. 7-3 Rangers. 

9:38: Juan Cruz strikes out Michael Young to end the 6th. In New York, Curtis Granderson singles to end a streak of 11 consecutive batters retired by Doug Fister.

9:40: Robinson Cano hits a ball off of the top of the left field wall, scoring Granderson from first. 2-1 Yankees. 

9:41: Koji Uehara relieves Alexi Ogando for reasons I don't really understand. Off day tomorrow, and Ogando is stretched out. Hm. 

9:42: They're reviewing Cano's double to see whether it left the park. Uehara walks Jennings to lead off the 7th.  

9:44: Cano's ball ruled in the park after the review. In Texas, a three run homer for Evan Longoria off Uehara cuts the Rangers lead to 7-6. Remember, Alexi Ogando was removed from this game for no reason. This will drive Uehara from the game, after he retires none of the three batters he faces.

9:45: Alex Rodrigez flies out to center, stranding Cano at 2B. Give Girardi credit though - he has Granderson/Cano batting 2 and 3. On other teams, they'd still be batting 5th and 7th. 

9:49: Darren Oliver, who the Red Sox traded Carl Everett for back when Oliver was still a bad starter, before he became a good reliver. Oliver was released after two months by the Sox, but considering it got Everett off of the team, it might have been the best trade they ever made.  Could the Red Sox have made him a reliver? Sure, Grady Little could've done a lot of things. 

9:52: Following an Austin Jackson leadoff walk, Maggio Ordonez hits into a double play. Delmon Young then swings at the first pitch, and flies it lazily to right. In Texas, Darren Oliver settles the game back down. Rangers still lead 7-6. 

9:57: It should be mentioned that the Tigers are batting three of the four lowest OBPs in their lineup in the first three spots. Which is why Miguel Cabrera didn't drive in enough runs to get MVP consideration.

9:59: Brandon Gomes in for Tampa. This may sound like a sportscaster cliche, but Adrian Beltre does NOT get cheated on his swings. He pops to the second baseman in short right field to start the 7th. 

10:04: Doug Fister is pitching a little too carefully to Jorge Posada, consider that this isn't 1999.  He walks him, on what Brian Anderson terms an "unintentional intentional walk." 

10:05: Russell Martin hits a soft grounder to short because he is a short, drunk, lazy punk. 

10:06:  Mike Adams in for Texas. April superstar Sam Fuld pinch hits for Sean Rodriguez. Brett Gardner hits a two out single to score Teixeira and Posada, making the decision to pitch carefully to Posada even more foolish. Compared to the decision to bat your three lowest OBP guys in the first three spots though, it's small bananas. 

10:07: Fuld flies to center, because it's not April.  

10:12: Charlie and Ethan are here, with beer! This will get me through.

10:14: It won't get Doug Fister through, though. He walks Curtis Granderson and is knocked from the game. 

10:18: Al Albuquerque does much worse. Grand Slam Robinson Cano, giving the Yankees an 8-1 lead. 

10:18: Seconds later, Mitch Moreland homers to deep right field, giving the Rangers an 8-6 lead. 

10:19: At least Alex Rodriguez still can ground out to second, allowing us to continue our game of "how bad can Alex Rodriguez get while the announcers still talk about how dangerous he is."

10:22: Joel Peralta in for the Rays. Neftali Feliz warming in the bullpen for the Rangers.  

10:29: Neftali Feliz in for the 9th, and is throwing 98 as usual. In New York, Victor Martinez works a 12 pitch walk, which is why he's batting after Miguel Cabrera, and Delmon Young is before? Ok. 

10:36: Feliz holds down the save. Rangers win 8-6, and the series is tied 1-1. Game 3 will be Monday, with David Price vs. Colby Lewis.

10:37: Ryan Perry in for Detroit, which is a sign of what Leyland thinks of Ryan Perry. 

10:41: Perry strikes out Posada, which Fister probably would have done if he'd thrown him strikes rather than a series of off speed pitches out of the zone.  

10:45: Short fat drunk Russell Martin strikes out.  

10:48: Still can't understand why Verlander and Sabathia aren't starting tomorrow. They threw about the same amount as their usual side session yesterday. Down 1-0, the Tigers can't afford to have Verlander start only one game. 

10:51: Austin Jackson strikes out to end the 8th. It's Jackson's second strikeout of the game, following a regular season where he struck out 181 times. Jackson's defense makes him a sensible start in CF, but that doesn't mean he should bat leadoff.  

10:57: Daniel Schlereth is in the game for Detroit. This is only interesting because his father was on the Redskins. 

11:07: This game is wicked boring. Alex Rodriguez struck out again though, which is cool. 

11:18: There are a lot of reasons Ivan Nova's game is impressive. The "number of innings in relief" record is not one of them. Because this game is a continuation based on new rules. So can we stop talking about it, announcers? Ok, thanks.  

11:24: Slow grounder to Jeter by Alex Avila scores a run. 9-2.

11:27: Single between short and third by Raburn scores Cabrera. 9-3, which serves to make Nova's pitching line look a little less great. Final count: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 5 K.

11:29: Jhonny Peralta single to load the bases means Mariano Rivera is in the game. Luis Ayala stinks again. 

11:33: Rivera strikes out Betamit to end the game. But beer is still yummy. After way too many words, I'm signing off. If you read all of this, seek help.