Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Observations of Day 1

Thoughts on the first day of the playoffs. I was only able to watch the LAA/NYY game, and had to rely on sporadic, at-work radio listening for the other two. This is probably reflected in the length and quality of these comments. Too bad I have a job.

In the Battle of the Clergy, the Cardinals pulled rank on the Padres (HONK HONK). Jake Peavy didn't pitch very well, and now he's out for the rest of the playoffs with a broken rib. Apparently he aggravated an injury suffered while celebrating their division title. Ladies and gentlemen, the 82-80 San Diego Padres! While Peavy takes most of the blame, the Pads were also exposed as a bad defensive team. They sieved away 4 runs thanks to a wild pitch/passed ball and a blunder by first baseman Mark Sweeney, though the play was ruled a hit. To beat St. Louis's lineup, a team needs great pitching and flawless fielding. San Diego had neither. The Cards had a scare when Carpenter left the game, but it turned out to be just cramps. Probably just as well; he had thrown a lot of pitches up to that point, and LaRussa needs to keep him as fresh as possible. St. Louis's bullpen struggles were a bit alarming, but not all that suprising. Frankly, it was probably good for Isringhausen to get that out of his system before the stakes get any higher.

Wow, guess the Pale Hose took offense to my prediction! Today's explosion exemplifies the random beauty of baseball. Even Scott "No Homers" Podsednik can hit a homer sometimes! This is just one of those crazy anomaly games that generally stirs up the sports media into making grand statements about the massive implications this game will have. All I can say is, remember when the Red Sox lost last year's ALCS Game 3 19-8? Didn't seem to bother them too much. There's something to be said about momentum, but momentum sure as hell doesn't have anything to do with Mark Buehrle hanging a slider tomorrow.

All that aside, the White Sox were very impressive today. Contreras looks the part of postseason #1...his forkball was absolutely filthy. You have to wonder what kind of career he would have had if he weren't, you know, Cuban. Chicago has to be feeling good about itself, as they throw Buehrle tomorrow, who has been their best pitcher for the past four years. Boston isn't particularly well-equipped to hit lefties, and will need production from Renteria and Varitek. Another strike against Boston is that the White Sox do most of their hitting against left handers. Of course, the way the first game went, that means Wells will pitch a no hitter through six.

One more observation from the game. Despite his homer, Podzilla is now a liability. Since returning from injury last month, he has stolen bases at a 50% clip, which is horrendous. Unless he wants to run his team out of 1 or 2 runs per game, his green light needs to change to red. You've got problems when Varitek throws you out handily.

Bartolo "I Sort of Look Like Chico Marx, in a Bloated Way" Colon was a bit unlucky tonight. He happened to throw his one mistake of the night right after allowing 3 pretty dinky hits. They all count, however, and Colon could have proven his Cy Young candidacy by striking out Robinson Cano. He ended up with 6 strikeouts and only 1 walk over 7 innings, which is the kind of performance you'd expect. Anaheim fans and Yankee haters shouldn't be worried about him.

Do worry, however, about the lineup. Scioscia defies all logic with his batting order. Orlando Cabrera, .310 OBP? Ok, that's cool, you hit 2nd. Darin Erstad, .371 SLG? Fine, fine, you hit 5th. Adam Kennedy, .356 OBP? You suck, you hit 9th. Casey Kotchman, .484 SLG, good for second on the team? Sorry rookie, you're riding the pine. We'd rather have Steve Finley (.374 SLG) in there. There is no hope for the Angels winning if Scioscia doesn't get Kotchman more at bats. And no, pinch hitting against Mariano Rivera doesn't count. Finley needs to sit, Rivera needs to play left, Anderson needs to play center, and Kotchman has to DH. Alternatively, put Kotchman at first, Figgins in center, and Dallas McPherson, who slugged .449, at third. There's just no way a guy who slugs .371 can protect Guerrero! And there's no way there will be enough guys on base in front of him if a .310 OBP guy is 2nd and the .356 OBP guy is 9th! Such poor lineup construction is inexcusable.

The Angels were terrible at the plate tonight. Give credit to Mussina for keeping them off balance, but Anaheim just plain sucked. They let every fastball go by and chased Mussina's junk all night. I particularly didn't like Chone Figgins. He's a sterotypical rally-starter--good OBP of .354 and 62 steals in 79 tries. Yet Figgins looked uncharacteristically tentative out there. He must be more assertive tomorrow, because something tells me Scioscia won't be switching Kennedy and Cabrera in the batting order anytime soon.

The Yankees? Wasn't too impressed. If Mussina had been pitching in Yankee Stadium, a couple of those long fly balls would have been out of the park, and the Yanks only hit a couple balls hard off of Colon. Mariano Rivera didn't have his best stuff tonight; his control was off. It was probably just rust, as he was only used 5 times since September 20. He looked supremely pissed after the game though. He realizes too that he's no longer invincible.

Looking ahead to Game 2 of this series, it's a battle of two young pitchers, although John Lackey has certainly been there before. Chien-Ming Wang is the type of pitcher Guerrero should feast on, since Vlad can hit a homer on a ball in the dirt and Wang is a sinkerballer. At one point, you have to think Wang will get overconfident, think "There's no way he'll be able to get this one", and that's when Vlad will take him deep. Lackey is the key, however. He was 2-0 against the Yankees this year, striking out 12 in those two starts. If he can get the game to the 7th with the Angels on top, it will be lights out.


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