— Ted Berg (@OGTedBerg) October 19, 2013
The World Series is set. It is not a dream match-up, St. Louis versus Boston, because of fan baggage. On its face, matching two teams with rich histories and strong, vast fanbases and nice uniforms. Who can’t get behind that?
Turns out – many people can’t get behind that. Dream match-up? This World Series is not that. It is the series of teams people love to hate. Which is both a shame and totally understandable.
This series doens’t get started until Wednesday, as both league championship series went six games. So now we are into the lull. The space between, where the storylines become jumbled as everybody around the game searches for their angle. It is time for postmortems on the baseball season in Detroit and Los Angeles.
Almost all reflective looks at What Went Wrong remind me of forced apologies – we say we’re sorry because we got caught, not because we feel actual remorse. The Tigers were the Tigers all year long, it just happened to catch up with them at the wrong moment. The same holds true for the Dodgers and Yasiel Puig – the magnitude of the moment inflated the significance of their shortcomings.
Faulting the Tigers for their wacky defense and base running is to ignore the very nature of what made them good. They built the team with full acknowledgement of these flaws. The strikeout-heavy pitching staff was assembled to combat the “offense first, questions later” fielders. Base running? I’ll take trots and double to the gap, thanks so much.
The wounds are still fresh so this type of reflection is natural, especially when defensive miscues or base path hijinks appears so easy to remedy. If only it were so simple.
The Dodgers blame seems to miss the mark entirely. That than calling them “a group of mercenaries”, how about admitting what the Dodgers roster really is: old. Injury prone. Top heavy. The first two work together and when the third is true (and also inevitable), you end with a rough week against a better club.
The parallels with the 2011 Red Sox are uncanny, as the team that couldn’t lose for more than two full months picked the wrong time to not be perfect. The Dodgers are still good, very good, but the playoffs are a battle of attrition more than a strict meritocracy. Somebody has to lose, this time it was the team with the biggest payroll.
X Gon’ Take it From Ya
Rather than give it to you, Xander Bogaerts is the kind of hitter who will take it from you. Especially if “it” is “a whole lot of pitches.” Bogaerts turned in some of the best at bats you’ll ever see, doubly so when you consider his age. theScore’s own Jonah Birenbaum got granular on his three encounters with Max Scherzer in Saturday’s deciding Game Six.
One thing I thought after that 3-2 change up from Scherzer missed by the slightest of margins – why not go back at him with the fastball? Bogaerts showed great patience by spitting on sliders down and away. Not that the change was a bad pitch – it locked Bogaerts up, I think we can agree. But maybe the fastball has a similar effect without fooling the umpire as well as the batter.
Shane Victorino‘s Ripples
The game graph above shows just how dramatic Shane Victorino’s grand slam changed the course of Game Six. It shows that, according to win probability added, Victorino’s “blast” increased the Sox chances of winning by nearing 50% – they went from a slight favorite to a shoo-in.
Plenty of hits this season that altered the course of a single game by a greater margin but, given the actual gravity of the situation, maybe WPA fails to capture the true heft of this hit.
The Red Sox only had one out with the bases loaded when the Red Sox outfielder took Jose Veras deep, so there was a good chance they would at least score one more run somehow. But the possibility that the Sox walk away from this situation was very real. So they don’t score and then they have to beat Justin Verlander in Game Seven? Shane Victorino did the Red Sox a greater service than we can really measure using run expectancy tables.
All This Could Be Yours
Doesn’t take much to run afoul of a press corps. As soon as word emerged from Cincinnati that Brandon Phillips will probably be playing for a new team next year, out came the knives from the local writers. He’s a bad guy you see, which helps expose all the things that make him not a great baseball player and lousy teammate, too.
Considering his signed through 2017 for $50 million, teams will be lined up around the block to take him off the Reds’ hands! Actually, that’s probably true. Brandon Phillips isn’t as bad as he seems now, just as he isn’t as good as he looked before.
Any team considering a move for BP faces a tricky proposition. It isn’t that a smart team won’t use him correctly (i.e. not as a clean up hitter) but using him correctly while getting the (apparently) prickly Phillips on-board with a reduced role in the offense remains the greater challenge. A task requiring finesse – even more finesse than extracting him the Reds without paying full freight demands. Which is to say, tread lightly.
Mike Trout is good at just about everything on the baseball field. Off the field, he’s at worst polite and at best cordial. He is not, however, not a very good interview. At all. It’s a 20 skill on the 20/80 grade. That said, here’s Mike Trout talking to Bill Simmons about hoagies. And Bill’s fantasy team. Wee. (Gotta say he has at least a 60-grade on the “inexplicable accent” scale.)
Guessing who will end up filling some the vacant manager’s position around baseball is probably not worth effort. Even those with knowledge of the proceeding whiff on these matters. Between the Tigers, Nationals, and Reds jobs, there are some pretty sweet seats up for grabs.
Knowing nothing of their process, I feel like Randy Knorr is the most likely choice in Washington. Though the way they overreacted and signed Rafael Soriano last winter suggests the most likely in-house candidate might not stand a chance.
All the usual suspects will get a turn in the interview chair. Have to think, all else being equal, the chance to manage the Nats sets up as the best chance to win now and in the future. The Tigers are sort of an autopilot choice and the Reds are in tough in the NL Central. Or, put another way, nobody knows anything.