It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The leaves are falling, the weather is cooling down and we’re only four to six weeks away from the landlord actually turning on the heat to our place when frozen pipes become a viable threat. Most importantly, though, the 108th World Series begins tonight in San Francisco, where the hometown Giants will host the Detroit Tigers to decide the champions of baseball.
Here, for your enjoyment and edification is an A-Z guide to everything World Series related.
Angel Pagan Is The Most Oxymoronic Name Of All-Time Ever
While many will point to the Giants intangible ability to overcome great obstacles as a means of explaining how the team played better baseball in Melky Cabrera’s absence than they did with the unrecognized batting champion in their lineup every night, the truth is that in Cabrera’s absence, Angel Pagan began playing like Mike Trout.
The center fielder put up 2.7 fWAR from the beginning of August to the end of the regular season, with an incredible slash line of .309 AVG/.368 OBP/.517 SLG.
But above all else, his name is really rad when you think about it. Angel, heavenly like the Shaggy song, and Pagan, like the rituals where you wear goat flesh.
Even better is his nickname when he played for the New York Mets: ”El Caballo Loco” or ”Crazy Horse.”
Bless You Boys
The phrase “bless you boys” was first used sarcastically by local sports anchor Al Ackerman in the early eighties after the hopeless Tigers would somehow manage to win a game. As the team improved though, it became something of a rally cry, especially during the team’s run to the 1984 World Series title.
Closers Are Meaningless
Neither the Detroit Tigers nor the San Francisco Giants have gotten to where they are because of a typical closer.
For the Tigers, Jose Valverde has been terrible during the playoffs. Of the fifteen batters he’s faced this postseason, eight have reached base in some capacity. He’s been so unreliable that Phil Coke was called on to close out three of the four Tigers victories in the ALCS.
Meanwhile, Brian Wilson has been on the Disabled List since shortly after this moment:
The Giants used a team of relievers to fill in for Wilson while he recovered from Tommy John surgery, quite adeptly putting each of Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo in situations that best suited their individual talents. Out of this, Romo has emerged as the candidate most likely to be called upon to get the final outs of a game.
Delmon Young Will Play Left Field In San Francisco
Delmon Young’s defensive abilities are about equal to his plate discipline. No one in all of baseball took more swings per pitches this year than Young, and only Josh Hamilton swung at a higher percentage of pitches outside the zone. This season he played 226 innings in left field. Only four players in all of baseball would have cost their teams more defensively if they were allowed to play an entire season at their position.
In a normal stadium, this would be a cause for concern, but at AT&T Park, it’s certain to cause nothing but comedy. This is what the left field corner looks like to those unfamiliar with the stadium:
We mock Delmon Young’s defensive abilities, but outside of Austin Jackson in center field, the Detroit Tigers offer very little in terms of fielding ability. Miguel Cabrera playing third base is single-handedly making me rethink my previously held belief that baseball is the most aesthetically pleasing sport of all.
FOX Is Your Broadcaster
The great many of us who aren’t lucky enough to be traveling to San Francisco or Detroit over the next week will have to resort to the television broadcast to watch the action. It’s nearly impossible to be a baseball commentator and be appreciated. They use such an enormous amount of verbiage over such a relatively short span of time that they’re almost guaranteed to say something stupid or mess up their delivery. Of course, Jon Miller is a rare exception, but he’s quite likely a talent that may not even come around once in a generation.
For FOX , Joe Buck and Tim McCarver will be calling the game. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to believe that Buck, who is every bit as enthusiastic about baseball as McCarver is sensible, would rather be preparing for a Sunday afternoon NFL broadcast than calling any game in the World Series. Meanwhile McCarver’s outlook on the game is so outdated, viewers don’t bat an eye when he starts referring to the starting pitcher as Christy Mathewson.
This is an example of their work from last season:
When the first modern World Series was played in 1903, the American League and the National League each had eight franchises which are still referred to as the “original sixteen.” Despite both organizations belonging to this exclusive club, the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants have never faced each other in the World Series.
In fact, they’ve only played each other a dozen times in total, with the Giants owning a 7-5 advantage.
Justin Verlander and Matt Cain, the respective aces of the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants, have thrown a combined 505 innings this season, including the playoffs. That’s more than any two starters in all of baseball this year. Barring a sweep, Verlander is guaranteed at least two starts this series, but Cain may end up only getting one after pitching in the deciding Game Seven of the NLCS.
As it stands right now, he’s scheduled to pitch the fourth game, but he could be an option to start Game Seven on short rest if such drama is necessary.
First there was #RallyZito, then there was #RallyEnchilada, and then my favorite of all, #RallyHorse.
Fans of the San Francisco Giants have rallied their support for the team throughout the playoffs via social media, peaking during Barry Zito’s NLCS Game Five start when they made #RallyZito the number two trending topic worldwide. Having conquered hashtags, they appear ready to take on bigger and better memes.
Via the wonderful Nat.
Justin Verlander Throws Hard, Harder, Hardest
We’ve already established what a horse Verlander is, but even more impressive than the sheer amount of innings he pitches is his ability to actually increase his velocity as the game progresses. This is his velocity chart from Game Three of the ALCS.
See how his velocity increases? Yeah, pitchers don’t typically do that. He’s other-worldly.
Kings Have Crowns
Miguel Cabrera won the American League Triple Crown. To do so, he had to lead the league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. Two of those three statistics are outdated methods for measuring success, but it’s not as though you can completely luck into knocking in as many runs and collecting as many hits as Cabrera managed in 2012. It’s an incredible accomplishment, and one that should be celebrated. It’s testament to just how good of a hitter Cabrera is.
Leyland Is The Best
Jim Leyland is a legend. The 67 year old manager has been around the block more times than lost dinner party guests with bad directions. He signed his first contract to play professional baseball in September of 1963, more than two months before the Kennedy Assassination.
After his unimpressive playing career was over, Leyland went on to manage the Pittsburgh Pirates for ten years, win a World Series as the skipper of the Florida Marlins and then helm the Detroit Tigers, a position that he still holds with the team that originally signed him to that first contract almost 50 years ago.
During his 21 years as a manager, he’s won two pennants and been named the best at his profession on three separate occassions. And he gets away with smoking cigarettes in the dugout. Once, when asked about possibly retiring from baseball, Leyland famously replied, “My wife doesn’t like me that much. I can’t retire.”
He represents the type of awesomeness that I have a hard time immediately articulating except to say that all I want in the world is to spend an afternoon with Leyland, drinking beer, taking apart a lawnmower and putting it back together again in a residential garage that’s been converted into a workshop.
I’m not sure if that properly conveys the measure of respect people of my generation feel for a Leyland type, but know that it’s not uncommon for total strangers in a similar age range to recognize someone like Leyland on the street or in a shopping mall and give each other knowing glances of mutually witnessed awesomeness.
Leyland possesses a type of irreverence that’s only held by someone who has not only lived his life to the beat of a different drum, but also found whoever was drumming in the first place, took the instrument away from that person and did it himself, all while making smart ass comments. This type of attitude isn’t just conveyed in his words, but also his body language.
He’s the type of person/manager who wouldn’t suffer the indignity of yelling across the diamond for a substitute to replace an injured player. At least not when he can make an obvious gesture for 6’6″, 270 lbs Brad Eldred.
He doesn’t suffer fools, but he’ll gladly tell you why you’re being foolish … and do so with great detail, actually.
And, once again, he does this:
He doesn’t need a meme to exist in which the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man In The World is parodied. Listing made up exploits isn’t his thing. All that needs to be said is that he’s Jim Leyland, and he remains one of the best things about baseball.
It would be criminal to write at length about the San Francisco Giants and their fans without mentioning McCovey Chronicles, a team blog edited and written by the wonderful Grant Brisbee. It is what all other team blogs should ascribe to be: informative, irreverent and a funny as shit corner of the internet for fans to hang out.
The first pitch for the entire best-of-seven series is scheduled for 8:07 PM local time. I remember, as a kid, watching the World Series and only being able to stay up for the first inning or so before having to go to bed, and it was infuriating. Would it really kill television ratings to have a Saturday afternoon game in Detroit after Friday’s off-day? Here’s the entirety of the schedule. Obviously, everything after Game Four is on an if necessary basis.
- Wednesday, October 24th, 8:07 PM ET, Game One: Detroit Tigers at San Francisco Giants;
- Thursday, October 25th, 8:07 PM ET, Game Two: Detroit Tigers at San Francisco Giants;
- Saturday, October 27th, 8:07 PM ET, Game Three: San Francisco Giants at Detroit Tigers;
- Sunday, October 28th, 8:07 PM ET, Game Four: San Francisco Giants at Detroit Tigers;
- Monday, October 29th, 8:07 PM ET, Game Five: San Francisco Giants at Detroit Tigers;
- Wednesday, October 30th, 8:07 PM ET, Game Six: Detroit Tigers at San Francisco Giants;
- Thursday, November 1st, 8:07 PM ET, Game Seven: Detroit Tigers at San Francisco Giants.
Outside Is Where You Should Pitch Buster Posey
The Giants catcher put up MVP caliber numbers throughout the regular season, despite coming back from a brutal knee injury on a home plate collision that we’ll see in replay form only three times throughout the series, but hear mentioned more than 25 times by the commentary team in the broadcast booth. Oh, and he had shingles earlier this season as well.
However, Posey hasn’t been able to transfer this regular season success into the postseason, where the St. Louis Cardinals pitchers gave him absolutely nothing to hit. The Detroit Tigers pitching staff used an exaggerated approach to deal with the New York Yankees best hitters during the ALCS, and we can probably expect something similar when they do battle with Posey during the World Series.
Here are the pitches that Posey swung at during the NLCS:
And here are the pitches that Posey took during the NLCS:
Quintin Berry Bats Second Probably Because He’s A Good Bunter
Rookie outfielder Quintin Berry is not a very good batter. He has absolutely no place near the top of the order, but when a right-handed pitcher is on the mound, the left-handed hitting Berry will bat second in the Tigers lineup.
Offensively speaking, his best skill set is probably a combination of his speed and ability to drop a good bunt. This, to the same Jim Leyland that I praised before, makes for an ideal second hitter because he can be counted on to move the leadoff runner into scoring position whenever he gets on base.
That’s perhaps not the best way to think because a) it means that you’re using a batter who will get up to the plate more than anyone else in the lineup save the leadoff man to give away an out; and b) it would be better to have a guy who can avoid outs as well as the leadoff hitter, which will lead to multiple runs being scored with the best batters as opposed to one run being scored (at best) with batters who are more prone to collecting outs than others.
Both teams are using the exact same rosters that were used in their respective Championship Series. This is somewhat surprising considering that Hector Sanchez is one of the best options for the Giants to use as a designated hitter. Yes, I realize how sad that is, but it’s the true. It’s also true that Sanchez is the only catcher other than Buster Posey on the team’s roster.
Therefore, if they want to use Sanchez as a DH, they’ll have both the catchers in the lineup at the same time. If Posey gets injured, they would have to burn their DH spot to allow Sanchez to replace him. It seems to me that calling up a third catcher like Eli Whiteside for the active roster would be a good way to guard against possibly using Pablo Sandoval as an emergency catcher.
When asked about the possibility of losing the designated hitter should Posey go down to injury, Bruce Bochy responded:
Scutaro Was The Best Deadline Acquistion
Remember all of the analysis at the end of July giving teams letter grades for how they performed ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline? Did any of those predict that San Francisco’s acquisition of Marco Scutaro from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Charlie Culberson would be the most important transaction to take place that month?
Scutaro won the NLCS MVP award after going 14-for-28 in the series. Without him, there is simply no way that the Giants would have been able to beat the St. Louis Cardinals.
Adding hilarity to all of this, is that the Rockies were in such a hurry to rid themselves of Scutaro this past summer that they also included enough cash to cover a significant portion of the second baseman’s remaining salary.
Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games by Major League Baseball after testing positive for testosterone. That 50 game suspension is over now, but as previously mentioned the Giants are going to keep the same roster that they used in the Division Series and League Championship Series. That means mo Melky Cabrera.
While it’s difficult to see how Cabrera wouldn’t be an upgrade over Aubrey Huff or Xavier Nady, it should be remembered that the shamed outfielder hasn’t played baseball at a competitive level for two months. At least this is likely the excuse that the San Francisco Giants are making if they’re challenged by the union for not putting him on the roster following the lifting of his suspension. The collective bargaining agreement explicitly states that teams aren’t allowed to push further punishments on players suspended for using banned substances.
Umpire Choices Are … Interesting
Gerry Davis is the crew chief of the umpires assigned to the World Series and he’ll be behind the plate for Game One. He’s known as a hitter’s umpire, and he’s got one of the better pantomimed chainsaw called strikeout motions in the business. Having umpired more postseason games than any other MLB umpire, he’s hardly a surprising choice. Neither is the inclusion of Fieldin Culbreth, Brian Gorman, Dan Iassogna, or Brian O’Nora. No, the “interesting” choice is the inclusion of Joe West.
West has a well-deserved reputation for attention-seeking, and the last thing that Major League Baseball should want is for a game to be decided by what’s been referred almost all season long as an Ump Show.
In addition to all of this, there exists a sordid history between West and Barry Zito, as documented by Navin Vaswani at NotGraphs.
All that has to be accomplished for the Detroit Tigers or San Francisco Giants to win the World Series, is to play .570 baseball over the next seven games.
Wood Was Broken By Hunter Pence
This is by far the most mesmerizing play of the postseason to date:
Get this man a hurling contract.
Xavier Nady is on the Giants postseason roster and his name is spelled with an X at the beginning, which for the purpose of our little project here is just right.
Yesterday’s Heroes Are Today’s Ceremonial Pitchers
Tonight’s ceremonial 1st pitches will be thrown by @sfgiants HOFers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda & Gaylord Perry
— MLB Public Relations (@MLB_PR) October 24, 2012
Zito Is The First Game Starter
A World Series opener between Justin Verlander and Barry Zito may seem like a colossal mismatch, but there’s something to Bruce Bochy’s arrangement that makes the best of the Giants situation, beyond merely punting the first game of the series.
The series opens in San Francisco at AT&T Park, which tends to be more pitcher-friendly than the bandbox-by-comparison Comerica Park in Detroit. Ensuring that two of the less reliable members of the starting rotation begin the series at home gives Zito and Bumgarner a helping hand, and also ensure that two of the team’s more reliable starters down the stretch and in the postseason pitch in the first two games in Detroit.
For Game Five, if necessary, the Tigers are likely to go back to Verlander, while the Giants can choose between Zito, Bumgarner (on short rest) or even Tim Lincecum to start, depending on who has been the most effective over the early part of the series. Then, when/if the series goes back to San Francisco, as previously mentioned, the hope has to be that both Vogelsong and Cain would be available on short rest, with whoever didn’t start Game Five available out of the bullpen should the need arise.