Pitching wins ballgames, we’re always told. You need pitching to win, specifically an all-world ace. A horse. Last week, I looked at some numbers from recent history that suggested maybe it wasn’t the case. Maybe four able and healthy bodies go a lot further towards playoff achievement than one generational talent.
It sparked some debate on twitter as the lure of an ace or a lockdown pitching staff endures. It sent me back into the history books, all the way back to the year 2013.
The top scoring team in the American League in 2013 was the Boston Red Sox. The top scoring team in the National League was the St. Louis Cardinals. These two teams won 97 games apiece and maybe also kinda met in the World Series.
Offense matters, too. Offense matters and defense matters and pitching matters. They all matter. Balance matters, too.
Aces are a nice luxury. The St. Louis Cardinals certainly got ace-level performance from Adam Wainwright in 2013. The Red Sox top pitcher in 2013 was…Jon Lester? Clay Buchholz and Koji Uehara both surpassed him in the flavor of WAR derived from runs allowed.
It takes a village, in other words. There is no one magical formula to follow if you want to win the World Series. A team lacking an ace can win, a team with injuries can win too. The top scoring team in baseball doesn’t always reach the playoffs but a good offense can support an otherwise lackluster roster.
Even offense comes in many sizes and shapes. The Cardinals don’t have a traditional “big bopper” in the middle of their lineup. Their top best hitters combined for 33 home run. Matt Holliday and Matt Carpenter hardly fit the cleanup hitter mould. But they have depth. They have a deep well of talent that is varied and wonderful.
Their bullpen is about to get a little deeper for 2014, as former closer Jason Motte is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and, thanks to Trevor Rosenthal, Motte looks like he’ll be in a setup role at the beginning.
Motte was a great part of the 2011 Cardinals championship, a fireballer throwing all manner of cutters and sinkers, each one coming at max effort out of the ear of the former catcher. He told told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he’s happy with whichever role the team has for him.
And, because they’re the Cardinals, the return of Motte to the bullpen lets them try Carlos Martinez as a starter once again. A key cog in the playoff bullpen, Martinez is starting in the Dominican Winter League and turning heads with his play, just as he did this past fall.
Amazingly, the numbers game in St. Louis might force Martinez back into the bullpen, just as they did with teammate Trevor Rosenthal last spring. It is the absolute best kind of problem to have, the kind of problem that might help alleviate some of the stress a drive to the World Series takes on pitching arms young and old.
It is just such a perfect distillation of The Cardinal Way. They have ten pounds of meat in a five pound bag but will somehow figure out a way to stuff it all inside some really sweet sausages. I dunno, the Cardinals are spoiled for choice. It’s starting to get annoying, to be honest.
Important Read of the Day
Buster Olney on PEDs and baseball’s complete inaction on the topic. Written in 2006, Buster uses his years on the beat and as a New York Times reporter to paint a damning picture not just of players but of an entire system wilfully turning a blind eye as far back as 1987. Always in season, doubly so during Hall of Fame time.
Breaking new ground
Very interesting: the Boston Red Sox strike a strategic partnership with Korean baseball side Nexen Heroes. It is the first such deal between the Red Sox and any Asian team. Will be interesting to see how the Sox benefit. Korean players don’t come with the same fanfare as their Japanese counterparts but recent expansion the KBO might make it a more competitive product in the Asian baseball market.
A PR statement from team president Lee Jang-seok is proud enough to mean anything while still hinting at tangible benefits for the defending World Series champs.
We hope to maintain a mutually beneficial strategic partnership that can build and improve new systems and models through active exchanges.”
Active exchanges, you say? New systems and models, you say? Very, very interesting, Mr. Lee. Too bad it wasn’t my beloved Doosan Bears reaching such an agreement. Hwighting!
You can go home again
Remember, back in the NationLOLs days, when Jim Riggleman up and quit his job as their manager because he didn’t receive a contract extension? That was pretty awesome. It looked like career suicide but still, awesome.
Turns out his career is just fine, thanks. Riggleman spent last season as the triple-A manager for the Cincinnatti Reds and recently interviewed for their vacant bench boss position. Riggleman didn’t get it but he’ll be back in the dugout in his second season at AAA Louisville.
Presented without comment – Brohio
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) January 6, 2014