An AL powerhouse against a Rocky Mountain-high Cinderella--who has momentum, and who's got the advantage?
Tonight, the Colorado Rockies will become the fifth franchise in the past 11 years to make its virgin appearance in the World Series, following in the footsteps of the 1997 Marlins, the 2001 Diamondbacks, the 2002 Angels, and the 2005 Astros. The Rockies combine elements from each of those clubs. Like the 1997 Marlins, they are an odd mix of veteran talent and youth, and squeezed into the playoffs as a Wild Card team in a league that featured a great deal of parity. Like the 2001 Diamondbacks, they are an expansion club from the Mountain West that is set to square off at long odds against one of the AL East's superpowers. Like the 2002 Angels, they are a 'small ball' team that has excelled by vacuuming up with their defense when their opponents tried to put the ball into play. And like the 2005 Astros, which at one point were more than 200:1 underdogs to reach the postseason, they saved their best baseball for late in the year.
Anticipating the dogpile in Denver, the dicey question about last night is whether or not Bob Melvin went too long with Livan Hernandez.
First off, my apologies for yesterday's column, which opened by getting the winner of ALCS Game Two wrong and proceeded to return Mike Hargrove to the Indians' dugout for about five paragraphs. The Indians' manager, of course, is Charlie Manuel. No, I'm kidding…Eric Wedge made a reappearance in the column, but the earlier mistakes were bizarre-I truly don't know what I was thinking-and embarrassing. Thanks to the readers who caught them.
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Two NL West teams, two 1990s expansion teams, two teams long on youth and short on experience.
It may not play well on the Upper East Side, on Newbury Street, or the Main Line, but this National League Championship Series has the makings of a great series. The Rockies and Diamondbacks are evenly matched teams with comparable strengths and weaknesses, and each has a number of young stars or stars-in-waiting well worth watching. Both swept more experienced opponents in the first round, striking a blow against the notion that experience is a determinant of postseason fate. This is simply a terrific series ahead of us, one that despite the locations-both teams' home parks are among the better hitters' parks in the game-could feature more low-scoring games than its AL counterpart.
Notebook kicks off the week by looking at the Red Sox, Cubs and Giants.
Rnk Team AEqR AEqRA Diff
1 Boston 588 492 96
2 New York 577 498 79
7 Baltimore 542 497 45
13 Toronto 485 455 30
24 Tampa Bay 507 569 -62
This is all in spite of such a lousy pitching staff. As mentioned, Mike Timlin has been the best Red Sox pitcher, so obviously the Boston staff has been less than stellar. While it isn't great news that the pitching has been bad, there are a few reasons why it should get better. First, let's deal with what we know. The Sox have rid themselves of Alan Embree, who was doing nothing to help the cause. In his place we find Chad Bradford. The difference in performance between the two is about one win for the Olde Towne Team:
The Giants have made a number of moves heavily criticized by analysts. Is there an overarching strategy driving the decisions, and can they be defended?
And he keeps on winning.
Since Sabean took over in 1997, the Giants have gone 738-557. That .570 mark is the second-best in the NL in that span (behind the Braves), and fourth best in all of MLB. Since '97, the Giants have never finished worse than second in their division. Of the 1295 games they've played in that time, no more than a dozen have failed to have playoff implications. By any accounting it's a sterling record of success.
Talk of a World Cup of baseball, potentially starting as early as 2005, has inspired early speculation about what the lineups might look like. The team from the Dominican Republic promises to be a monster. Vlad, Manny, Pujols, Sosa, Pedro--yeah, that's going to be tough. Tough enough to threaten the U.S.A.? I caught the Errol Morris documentary "Fog of War" recently, which offers 11 lessons from the life of Robert S. McNamara, seven-year Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson. McNamara, one of the celebrated "Whiz Kids" who brought the science of modern management to a struggling postwar Ford Motor Company, was an early adopter of quantitative analysis. McNamara's Lesson Six: "Get the data." A World Cup of baseball is hardly the Cold War, but the McNamara in me relishes any opportunity to take the 2004 PECOTA Weighted Mean Projections out for a spin. Data? We've got data.
I caught the Errol Morris documentary "Fog of War" recently, which offers 11 lessons from the life of Robert S. McNamara, seven-year Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson. McNamara, one of the celebrated "Whiz Kids" who brought the science of modern management to a struggling postwar Ford Motor Company, was an early adopter of quantitative analysis. McNamara's Lesson Six: "Get the data."
Brian Sabean has brought a fair amount of criticism on himself with his low-key approach to this off-season, creating the world's largest chapter of the lunatic fringe in the process. So it's no surprise that he faced his share of skeptical questions from Giants fans during his live chat on mlb.com earlier this week. But it was his answer to a fairly innocuous question that raised the most eyebrows among the "fringers":
Q: Did you ever make an offer for Vladimir Guerrero?
Sabean: In a word: No. If we had signed Guerrero or [Gary] Sheffield, we would have been without [Jim] Brower, [Scott] Eyre, [Matt] Herges, [Dustin] Hermanson, [Brett] Tomko, [A.J.] Pierzynski, [Pedro] Feliz, [J.T.] Snow, [Jeffrey] Hammonds, [Dustan] Mohr and [Michael] Tucker--obviously not being able to field a competitive team, especially from an experience standpoint, given our level of spending.
A lost season for the Angels has folks in Anaheim scratching their heads. John Smoltz's injury buries Bobby Thigpen's name for another year. The Royals' run evokes memories of George Brett and company. Sandy Alomar...you can probably guess what Chris will write about Sandy Alomar. Witticisms, Kahrlisms and roster schmisms in this edition of Transaction Analysis.