As Jose Bautista can attest, the percentage of pitches a batter sees in the strike zone tells us a good deal about his capabilities.
The pitcher begins each confrontation with a batter with the initiative. He alone controls when the baseball is thrown, how it moves, and where it is located. Thus, the batter is by nature placed in a reactive position. However, the batter, too, has a measure of control over how the plate appearance proceeds. He stands at the plate with a club, and it is within his discretion to swing his weapon or not.
It's a series that will feature superb pitching staffs, and one team will come away with a long-awaited title.
In baseball as in literature, archetypes tend to be formulaic, proof that fiction falls short of reality when it comes to the power to describe any one thing in shorthand. The need, indeed one of the great benefits of the human mind is to identify patterns, and to peg things that fall within those patterns, or to re-evaluate the pattern as a whole to create some new rubric, some new way of explaining things. Take our current post-season slate: instead of a much-anticipated rematch between the Evil Empire and the Phillies' a-bornin' senior-circuit dynasty, last week we got the pleasure of witnessing imperial ambitions utterly overthrown in both leagues.
A series that will feature spectacular pitching may come down to the tiniest advantages to decide the winner.
So, let's see, for an initial checklist for maximum LCS entertainment potential, is there anything missing? Record-wise, the two best teams in National League? Check, even if we allow for the fact that the Giants weren't one of the top two teams in Clay Davenport's adjusted standings. The two best rotations in baseball? Check. Heck, it even features two of the three best defensive units in the league (via PADE), with only the already-vanquished Reds separating the Giants and Phillies. And the offenses are... well, OK, this whole clash of the titans thing only goes so far, because they're not both among the best in the league. The Phillies are, tying for third in the league in team-level True Average, but the Giants finished back in ninth place, even with Brian Sabean's ticky-tack trades to accrue incremental improvements.
Two teams that took interesting rides to the postseason meet in the first round.
Those of you who root for chaos and the eventual heat death of the universe were no doubt disappointed that the season did not end with a series of one-game playoffs. To the Braves and the Giants, however, the outcomes of Sunday’s games were more than welcome. Their starters will receive an additional day of rest each, and they won’t entirely foreclose the possibility of pitching their Game One starters on short rest in Game Four. The condensed schedule of this series (potentially five games in seven days, rather than the eight allotted to the other NLDS) means Bobby Cox and Bruce Bochy will have tough decisions to make should the series go to four or five games.
The most asked-about player in yesterday's chat gets a good going over.
Today I want to go into detail discussing a player who has recently become one of my favorites to watch. Pablo Sandoval was a hot topic of conversation yesterday during my chat, and there were many questions about him still left in the queue that went unanswered; I also had a few e-mails sent my way afterwards, so it's clear that this is someone that people want to talk about (many among you are in keeper leagues). The questions were mostly centered on his future performance, and whether he would be able to improve on this season, or if he was going to fall apart due to his lack of plate discipline. We'll take a look at both of those things and see what we can conclude from his numbers.
Opening Day's around the corner, but several stars are nursing nagging hurts as they gear up for the regular season.
The reports from early in the week read as very positive. "No structural damage" is certainly better than the alternatives, but it's important to remember that's usually not the whole story. The doctors or the team can safely say no structural damage, leaving out that there's wear and tear, or bone chips, or something else that they see inside. It's also important to note that most pitchers will have significant damage of some kind inside their elbow or shoulder, but they'll still be asymptomatic and fully functional. It does not mean that they're 100 percent. Hamels had inflammation in his elbow, but the location indicates that there's no UCL involvement. He denied that there was any significant wear and tear, so the signs are positive here. Hamels remains a risk, and it will be interesting to see how the Phillies work him back into the rotation. Something along the lines of the way Scott Kazmir was handled last year seems like a good comp, but it will probably be a little more aggressive than that.