With the Fall Classic now upon us, the staff at Baseball Prospectus shares their most memorable World Series moments.
Every baseball fan has a special World Series memory, whether it's Willie Mays' catch, Bill Mazeroski's home run, Brooks Robinson's defense, Kirk Gibson's limp around the bases, or Derek Jeter becoming the first-ever Mr. November. With the World Series opening tonight at AT&T Park in San Francisco with the Giants facing the Texas Rangers, many of our writers, editors, and interns share their favorite memories of the Fall Classic.
The Yankees look to get back to yet another World Series while the Rangers are in uncharted territory.
From 1996 through 1999, the Joe Torre-led Yankees and the Johnny Oates-piloted Rangers faced off in three American League Division Series, the first three times the latter franchise had ever reached the postseason. The Yankees won nine of those 10 games, holding the Rangers to a lone run apiece in their 1998 and 1999 sweeps. Times have changed, however, and while the Yankee machine has simply kept rolling, racking up four pennants and two world championships while missing the playoffs just once since their last meeting, the Rangers endured a dark decade before reemerging as AL West champions thanks to the shrewd deal making of general manager Jon Daniels and the fruits of their well-stocked farm system.
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The managerial decision tree for picking Game Four starters has had a number of offshoots, but how often did they lead to victory?
The present World Series has been notable for the way that both managers, facing rotations that are just a bit shorter than either would like, have struggled with the question of whether to bring back their Game One starters on short rest for Game Four. The managers tested their staffs and came to opposite conclusions: Charlie Manuel, fearful of pushing Cliff Lee too hard despite his terrific start in Game One and seeing that Joe Blanton had pitched relatively well this (and disregarding a poor track record against the Yankees), chose to wait until Game Five for Lee's encore. Joe Girardi, despairing of losing a World Series game with the wild and rarely utilized Chad Gaudin, decided to pitch big CC Sabathia on short rest, a move that paid off in the last round of the playoffs.
The Game One showdown between star southpaws, and tonight's matchup features a recently phoaled Phillie.
In yesterday's chat, Bronx Banter's Alex Belth asked me, "Is there any particular pitching matchup that you are looking forward to in the series?" I responded that the matchup I was most looking forward to was between CC Sabathia and Ryan Howard, particularly given the prospect of the big man pitching three times for the Yankees in a seven-game series, and the slugger's less-than-sterling reputation against southpaws. "I think that matchup will tell us something about what's going to happen over the next four to seven games," I wrote.
Will the Phillies establish a mini-dynasty, or will the Yankees add to their crowded trophy case with another title?
A year ago, the Phillies broke a 28-year-old title drought by winning the World Series, defeating the upstart Rays in five games. After winning 93 games in the regular season and tidily dispatching both the Rockies and the Dodgers in the first two rounds, they're back to defend their crown with a cast that's largely the same, save for summer acquisition Cliff Lee. They're the first NL team to repeat as pennant winners since the 1995-1996 Braves, and if they win the World Series, they'll be they first senior circuit club to do so since the 1975-1976 Reds.
Two tight games later, and we're back to being spoiled by great October action.
This postseason becomes a bit more ridiculous with each passing day. Counting the AL Central playoff, we've had 21 games since the regular season ended on October 4. Five have gone to extra innings. Three saw the lead change hands after one team was down to its final out. In 14 games, the tying or tie-breaking run has come to the plate in the ninth inning. Yesterday featured six lead changes, two extra innings, and the Phillies winning a game that they trailed through 26 outs-for the second time in just six games. It was a day that could make baseball fans out of people who had never heard of the game, or just remind the devoted of why they keep coming back.
Thirteen total games is hardly a fair representation of four series that all featured close games and some questionable decisions.
It feels like we deserved more than this. A week ago, three of the four postseason series seemed so evenly matched as to defy prediction. Two of those three did just that, but not in the way expected. The Cardinals scored six runs in three games en route to being eliminated by the Dodgers, and the Red Sox weren't much better in being swept by the Angels. The Twins, as expected, went down to the Yankees despite mostly holding down the game's best offense.
Four, count'em, four teams are making their cases for being enlisted in the annals of all-time ignominy.
Last week, I checked in on the Angels' quest to make sabermetric history. Examining their third-order Pythagenpat projection-their Pythagorean record based upon their hits, walks, total bases, stolen bases, and outs of all kinds, as well as those of their opponents, all adjusted for park, league, and quality of competition-I discovered that they were on their way to becoming the first team to finish at least 10 games above their third-order projection for a second year in a row. At the time, the Halos' D3, the difference between their third-order wins and their actual wins as published in our Adjusted Standings report, was 11.5 games, but I noted that suggesting they were "on pace" for an even higher mark was a misnomer, since teams that are outperforming their Pythagorean records by wide margins in either direction tend to regress to the mean. As if on cue, that D3 has shrunk to 10.1 games at this writing.