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February 8, 2008
Caribbean Series 2008
SANTIAGO, Dominican Republic--All good things must come to an end, and the 2008 Caribbean Series was no exception. The question was not if it would end but when-Thursday night with a win by Licey at its hated rivals' stadium, or Friday night, in a tiebreaker between the Dominican teams?
Before we could have an answer to that question, the two eliminated teams, Mexico and Venezuela, would face off in the early game. It would be a lie to say that this game was more than just an afterthought for those of us preoccupied with the big nightcap, but coming off of Mexico's stunning victory over Licey, I thought it would be interesting to do the same kind of lineup analysis for Mexico that we did for Venezuela on Day Three:
Name POS EqA PECOTA or NOTES Oscar Robles SS .224 .219 Jorge Padilla CF .285 (AA, .247 in AAA) Armando Rios 1B .288 (AAA, in 2004) Robert Saucedo DH .238 Reggie Taylor LF .273 Carlos Valencia 2B .212 Albino Contreras RF .222 Agustin Murillo 3B .253 Said Gutierrez C .235 --- Alfredo Amezaga .253 .240 Carlos Rivera .309 Iker Franco .200
In addition to the fellows in the lineup, I threw in three bodies from the bench: Alfredo Amezaga-who got Day Six off-as well as Carlos Rivera and Iker Franco, who'd been in the lineup regularly. The results aren't as brutal as you'd expect. There was a tendency to underrate Mexico because it had a 0-4 record coming into the big victory against the Dominicans, and because the team featured fewer brand names than last season's Mexican squad, which got creamolished up until the final day. Mexico's foreign players-Reggie Taylor, Rivera, Jorge Padilla-actually had pretty good 2007 seasons in their leagues, and Agustin Murillo and Amezaga were decent. Amezaga and Oscar Robles both get PECOTA projections, beating out the Venezuelans, who only had one position player with a projection (SS-CF Alberto Callaspo).
The game between Mexico and Venezuela was tight and suspenseful…until it wasn't. The teams were knotted at two runs apiece from the fourth inning until the ninth, when the floodgates opened with veteran lefty Andrew Lorraine on the mound. Venezuela struck back in the bottom half of the final inning, but came up short; so after eight innings of a riveting pitching duel, you got an inning of messy, poorly-pitched 5-3 baseball. Nonetheless, it was fun to see the Mexicans win, if only for the extreme raucousness of their fans. It was as if, by grabbing a tie for third place at 2-4, they had been crowned the tournament's secret champions.
But once the Mexican celebration was over, it was time to get to the business of selecting a non-covert champion. Day One starters Jose Capellan and Alfredo Simon (confusing because he's listed by dual surnames in the Dominican press-Alfredo Simon Cabrera-and then, he's always simply referred to as Simon) got the ball to start the game for Licey and Cibao, respectively, but both managers made it clear that just about everyone on their roster was available to pitch, a particularly scary prospect in the face of Cibao manager Felix Fermin's Captain Hook tendencies.
Here were the lineups the two pitchers would face, put under the same kind of magnifying glass we applied to the Mexicans and Venezuelans:
LICEY 2007 2008 EqA PECOTA Emilio Bonifacio LF .216 .236 Erick Aybar SS .195 .247 Juan Francisco 3B .191 .198 Nelson Cruz RF .224 .274 Jose Bautista CF .262 .267 Jose Offerman 1B .249 (in 2006) Timo Perez DH .272 .272 Ronnie Belliard 2B .267 .258 Matt Tupman C .226 .187
EAGLES Bernie Castro LF .237 Rafael Furcal 2B .245 .262 Miguel Tejada SS .270 .273 Edwin Encarnacion 3B .268 .282 Brayan Pena C .243 .239 Mendy Lopez 1B .265 Alexis Gomez CF .240 Victor Diaz RF .258 .259 Tony Pena Jr. SS .214 .226
The biggest difference between these lineups and the ones that played the early game isn't so much in last year's EqAs as in the prevalence of players that we've given PECOTA profiles. Only three position players in the Mexican and Venezuelan lineups had projections; meanwhile, between the two Dominican lineups, only four men don't have projections. It's a somewhat subjective basis for evaluation, but Nate Silver only does projections for players we think either could play in the majors in 2008 or are major prospects whose future will interest fans. Looking at the projections, the one that's really flabbergasting is the idea of Timo Perez delivering a .272 EqA this year-to me, he was a forgotten man. PECOTA also sees Edwin Encarnacion getting a nice boost this season, perhaps being a breakout candidate.
On the other side of the projection coin you have Matt Tupman. Sometimes, other writers and I here at BP will anthropomorphize PECOTA a bit, saying stuff like "PECOTA thinks" this or "PECOTA feels" that. If we did that in this case, it would be "PECOTA hates Matt Tupman." But the fact is PECOTA doesn't think anything, or hate anyone. It's an algorithm, not a person. It can't be bargained with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you're…
Oh, sorry. Talking about artificial intelligence sometimes brings out the Kyle Reese in me. The point is, it's a projection, not destiny. People sometimes get mad at us when PECOTA spits out a bad projection for someone they like. That doesn't make sense to me-you might as well blame Henry Chadwick when someone has a poor batting average. Personally, I hope that Matt Tupman bucks the odds, since he seems like a nice guy, and it's way more fun to watch ballplayers succeed than fail. After all, as I mentioned, it's a projection, not destiny.
We'll have some bullet points for the game:
So that's it for our coverage from Santiago. There might be some additional thoughts I'll put up on Unfiltered, but they'll be from the hotel in Puerto Plata, or later, when I get home. It's been a long week and I'm quite tired-not having a seventh game was a relief-but I'm also counting the days to Caribbean Series 2009, in Mexicali, Mexico.