Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Friday Baseball Post (Wednesday Evening Edition)

For the fourth time in my life, and the fifth since they left New York, the Giants win the pennant and advance to the World Series. Game one tonight, but I figured I should write something first.

First up, the NLCS. I continue to be impressed with Bruce Bochy. Whether it was leaving Barry Zito off the postseason roster and benching the Panda back in 2010, or constantly reworking his postseason rotation and bullpen this year, Bochy is the rare manager who doesn't seem to assign roles by how famous a player is, how much money he makes or (given the ALCS this year) what the press is saying today. Oh, I've thought he was wrong from time to time, but overcoming those particular biases makes it a lot easier to be right. No, I don't know why he insists on keeping Pence fifth, Belt sixth, making it as easy as possible for opposing managers to get bullpen platoon advantages. Remember that it didn't matter against the Cardinals, who weren't built to do that anyway; we'll see what happens this week.

And, second...for a team that had to come from behind in seven, that sure wasn't a very close series, was it? Truth is that the Cardinals were lucky to be in it; all four Giants wins were blowouts, and only Game Two was an easy win for St. Louis. Indeed, Game Three, the first Kyle Lohse start, looked at the time and now especially looks like a game the Cards were lucky to win (that was the one where the Giants had tons of baserunners and couldn't quite bunch them the right way). Someone tweeted during the final that it was odd that Fox was showing a rerun of Game Seven of the 1985 World Series, and that sounds about right -- including that the Cardinals were actually outplayed in that one, too.

So, the World Series. I don't believe in making predictions about short series in baseball. I know people do it, including many I respect, but I can't see why. I do think the Tigers are a bit overrated at this point...Verlander is That Good, but the rest of the rotation is only good, and the hitting is nothing special (note that Buster Postey wound up with a higher OPS+ this year than Cabrera, for whatever that's worth).

Not that the Giants are all that amazing, either. It's not a bad team at all, but only a great one if the rotation actually was at it's best, which just wasn't the case most of the year or right now.

As for me, I'm just happy to be able to root for the Giants in a World Series again. It's always better to have a season that ends in October, however it ends.


  1. Seems like you might be a few years older than me (I'm 31), but regardless - it's pretty impressive that the Giants have made the Series 4 times in our lifetimes - considering all those years of thinking of them as a tough luck (or just plain bad) team (or was that just me?)

  2. From a lifelong Tigers fan:

    I'm 31, and therefore I've seen 2 World Series appearances, with 1 championship. I need say nothing about Verlander - but I will say the others, esp. Fister and Scherzer, have been "that good," at least lately. They haven't always been consistent, but dismiss them at your peril. Same for hitting - not always consistent, but sometimes deadly. OK, Cabrera isn't God, but he's still Cabrera. Dismiss him at your peril. He has an annoying tendency to perform in clutch situations, and so do some of the lesser-known folk, like Jackson, Avila, or Young.

    I know very little about the Giants, but your assessment of them is similar to how I'd describe Detroit: Not a bad team at all, and potentially a great one, when they fire on all cylinders.

    But are they overrated? I don't think that's fair. Personally, I don't think they're "rated" very much at all. Even in the ALCS, all the media coverage was about A-Rod and the Yanks. I will say though, I wasn't expecting them to get to the World Series, not even at the end of season play. On the other hand, neither the A's nor the Yankees were teams they couldn't beat. Nonetheless, I do consider them lucky to be where they are.

  3. Oh and of course, the Tigers bullpen is an absolute question mark. No idea how that will affect the series.

  4. Two thoughts:

    First, about predictions: the nation could retire the national debt if it had a nickel for every time an ESPN pundit said, about a seven-game series, "It's a great matchup, should be a great series, ultimately team X will prove too much in 7". Cardinals/Giants (or Cardinals/Royals '85) notwithstanding, its not often that we watch a great 7-game series and think, during game 7, Team X is just too much for Team Y. That doesn't stop the pundits from asserting that. Must be a marketable meme.

    Second, Verlander: the following is obviously pending tonight's outcome (and Leyland changing his mind about a four-man rotation - not likely with Scherzer at the back end), but Verlander is a great illustration of how a rested, workhorse starter with a WAR of ~8 totally changes a short series.

    Starters typically pitch 35 games a year; let's say the "replacement"'s team wins about 18 of those. The starter with a WAR of 8 nets his team 26 wins in his 35 starts (26 = 18+8), or his team wins roughly 3/4 of the time the starter takes the hill.

    Suppose Verlander, at his WAR 8 best, does indeed start games 1,4 and 7. The Tigers would then have about a 42% chance of winning all three! (42% = 3/4*3/4*3/4). If that 'came true', Bochy's boys would have to win all of games 2,3,5 and 6 (obviously negating the playing of game 7). If those other four games are coin flips, the Giants would have a 6% chance of winning the series, as 6% = (1/2)^4. The Tigers have an additional 42% probability of winning 2 of 3 games started by an 8 WAR pitcher; in that case the Giants' chance of wining jumps, but only to about 30% or so.

    Long story short, 3 appearances by a starter with a WAR of 8 means that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the opponent's probability of winning is either 6% (really depressing) or 30% (kind of depressing).

    This may all be irrelevant with Scherzer at the back of the rotation, and if Sandoval's homer stands up, but I just wanted to point out that Verlander is not only that good, but he potentially takes a large part of the randomness out of an otherwise random short series.

    1. Sandoval's second homer having just left the yard, perhaps this is a good time to add that even a starter with an otherworldly WAR of 8 sees his team go down to defeat in 25% of his games...:)

    2. I can't do the math (I was always bad at probabilities) but surely this isn't right for the very basic reason that Verlander won't be facing a replacement level team, or pitching against a replacement level pitcher (ok, today maybe he is).

  5. People don't seem to appreciate how much better the Giants' offense is, which is somewhat hidden by the ballpark and the lack of DH. They outscored the Tigers by 77 runs in road games this year, despite having their pitchers hit instead of Delmon Young.

  6. It's not all that unusual for the team with significantly more rest/rust to come out flat in Game 1. That said, Verlander picked an awful time to have a clunker.

    With Vogelsong and Cain lined up for games 3 and 4, lots of pressure on the Tigers tomorrow.

  7. Were I a betting man, I would have put money on the Tigers in this series, mostly on the strength of Verlander.
    Of course, were I a betting man, I also would have lost a ton of money betting against the As and Os and for the Angels this year.
    And, in my fantasy baseball life, I *am* a betting man, and apparently I'm terrible at it!


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