Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The 106th World Series

File photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
For the Giants to beat the Rangers, Tim Lincecum will have to get the better of Cliff Lee.
This may not be the Fall Classic everyone envisioned on April 1 -- or even on October 1 -- but it's the Fall Classic we've got. And it's the right Fall Classic, because these two teams clearly played the best baseball this month and earned their shot at a World Series title.

The Giants have got deep starting pitching and a deep roster of contributors. The Rangers have the best pitcher on the planet right now, one of the best all-around players and plenty of support. Each team has the likely rookie of the year in its respective league. Each club is trying to win its first championship in its current city. What more could you want?

Before the 106th Fall Classic commences this evening, let's break down the matchup and pick a winner...


TEXAS RANGERS (AL champions)
vs
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (NL champions) 
  
SCHEDULE (all games on Fox)
Game 1: Tonight, 7:57 p.m. at San Francisco
(Cliff Lee vs. Tim Lincecum)
Game 2: Tomorrow, 7:57 p.m. at San Francisco
(C.J. Wilson vs. Matt Cain)
Game 3: Saturday, 6:57 p.m. at Arlington, Texas

(Colby Lewis vs. Jonathan Sanchez)
Game 4: Sunday, 8:20 p.m. at Arlington, Texas
(Tommy Hunter vs. Madison Bumgarner)
*Game 5: Monday, 7:57 p.m. at Arlington, Texas
*Game 6: Wednesday, Nov. 3, 7:57 p.m. at San Francisco
*Game 7: Thursday, Nov. 4, 7:57 p.m. at San Francisco
*-if necessary

KEYS TO THE SERIES
1. Can Tim Lincecum match or surpass Cliff Lee in either Game 1 or Game 5? Yes, the Giants could win this series without beating Lee. But to do that, they'd have to win four of the other five games. That's a tall order. Their best shot is to somehow become the first team in two years to beat Lee in the postseason. While that figures to be a daunting challenge, San Francisco does have a pretty good ace of its own in Lincecum. If "The Freak" can hold his own against Lee, especially at home in Game 1, the Giants can steal one off the planet's hottest pitcher, and that could change the entire complexion of the series.

2. How well does Bengie Molina know the Giants' hitters, and will that matter? In perhaps the most-bizarre twist to this most-bizarre matchup, the man calling the pitches for the Rangers spent 3 1/2 seasons (including the first four months of THIS season) playing for the opposition. Nobody knows the Giants' strengths and weaknesses like Molina, and you can bet he's feeding as much information as he can to Texas' pitching staff. But what's the likely impact of that? It's one thing to know a hitter's tendencies. It's quite another to actually exploit them. It requires not only a catcher who knows what pitches to call, but a pitcher who can execute those pitches.

3. Can Bruce Bochy continue to mix and match his position players and get the most out of them? The Giants manager used five different lineups in six games in the NLCS, shuttling guys like Andres Torres, Aaron Rowand, Mike Fontenot, Juan Uribe, Edgar Renteria and Pablo Sandoval in and out. It worked like a charm, but can Bochy continue to strike gold with every move he makes? He'll have plenty of options in this series, especially when the series shifts to Texas and the DH is added to the mix. Managers don't always have a huge say in the outcomes of games, but the way San Francisco's roster is assembled, Bochy has a significant say.

4. Which bullpen steps up? On paper, San Francisco's relief corps looks better, with Brian Wilson closing, Javier Lopez getting tough lefties out and Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla bridging the gap after the starters depart. Texas' bullpen, though, is pretty good itself, led by rookie closer Neftali Feliz and unheralded left-hander Derek Holland. Each group had some shaky moments in the LCS, something neither team can afford now. The relief corps that holds up better in this series is going to be the one celebrating at the end.

THE BOTTOM LINE
Just about everyone seems to be picking the Rangers, based on the manner in which they dismantled the Yankees in the ALCS. Nothing wrong with that, but people may be selling the Giants short. Yes, they score precious few runs and have to win every game by the skin of their teeth, but that's the way they were built. Texas may have Cliff Lee, but San Francisco has a deeper rotation -- who doesn't like Madison Bumgarner over Tommy Hunter in Game 4? -- and more options off the bench for Bruce Bochy to take advantage of matchups. In a month full of nip-and-tuck baseball, I think we're in for another epic, low-scoring series that comes down to a winner-take-all Game 7 at AT&T Park next Thursday. There have been eight World Series Game 7's in the last 30 years. The home team is 8-0 in those games. PREDICTION: Giants in 7.

19 comments:

Les in NC said...

This is how I think the series will go...

Lee will prove just how effective he is in the post season, or the Rangers will be able to take advantage of "the Freak" and his tendency to give up stolen bases (which will lead to runs). Either way the Rangers win game 1. Yes, I like Bumgarner over Hunter in game 4, and I think they split games 2 and 3. So going into the rematch of the first game, I think Lee will show the chink in his armor (which is Ranger's Ballpark in Arlington), so the Giants will take the series home and finish in 6.

BQ said...

Rangers' lineup has been scary this postseason but let's face it. They haven't exactly faced the best pitching of AL. Besides Price, Pettite, and CC, Texas didn't exactly face the best pitchers in AL. Most runs Texas scored in ALCS were off of the Yankees' excuse for a bullpen. On the other hand, Giants' offense played against two of the best overall (starting pitchers and bullpen) pitching in the league in Atlanta (Hudson, Lowe, Hanson) and Philly (Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt).

Don't get me wrong. The world series will feature Giants, which has the best rotation in the league, against the team with best offense in the league during the regular season (as well as postseason).

I will be rooting for Giants in the world series. I would like this Year of the Pitcher to end by the team with best pitching rotation to win the world series but their chances are slim.

FOTB said...

I'm taking the traditional approach this year. Good pitching beats good hitting in the post-season. For that reason, I agree with Mark that the Giants will bring the trophy to the City by the Bay for the first time.
I don't think it will take them 7 games to pull this off, however. As good as Cliff Lee is and has been in the post-season, he is definitely beatable. He gave up 5 earned runs to the Yankees last year in Game 5. Had crazy A.J. even come close to duplicating his Game 2 gem, the Yankees would have won in 5.

natsfan1a said...

I don't do predictions, but as a former Bay Area resident I've been rooting for the Giants to go all the way. So, go GIANTS!!

Bowdenball said...

I don't know why everyone thinks the Giants have a great pitching staff while the Rangers have a terrible one. Their respective season-long numbers aren't really that far apart. When you consider that:

(1) Lee wasn't in Texas for the majority of the season, and he struggled a bit when he first got there;

(2) Texas can drop Feldman and his 5.48 ERA from the rotation in the Series, while the Giants are just dropping Zito and his 4.15 ERA; and

(3) AL lineups are just plain better than NL lineups ...

I think you can make an argument that the Rangers, as currently comprised, are almost as good or even as good as the Giants on the mound.

The Giants staff does benefit from good defense though. Their team ERA is far better than their fielding independent stats would suggest.

N. Cognito said...

WASHINGTON NATIONALS UNVEIL NEW UNIFORMS

Nationals players to reveal new uniforms during fashion show at Nationals Park

The glitz and glamour of the fashion runway is coming to Nationals Park. On Wednesday, November 10, the Washington Nationals will unveil their new uniforms during an exclusive fashion show featuring players* Tyler Clippard, Ian Desmond, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, Drew Storen, Ryan Zimmerman and Jordan Zimmermann. Nationals Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo* is also expected to make an appearance.

This first-of-its-kind event at the ballpark will include a pre-show cocktail reception and raffle drawing. Following the fashion show, invited guests will have the opportunity to mingle with players and purchase the new jerseys. The invitation-only affair will be held from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. in the Stars and Stripes Club at Nationals Park.

In addition, the new jerseys will be available for purchase beginning Thursday, November 11 exclusively at the Nationals Park Team Store, located on Half Street next to Center Field Plaza and Garage B. Nationals players will be on hand to sign autographs and meet fans from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (one each half hour).

Scooter said...

I think the burning question of this Serious -- indeed, the entire postseason -- is who picks those crazy start times? 7:57? The LCS had a couple of 8:19s, if I'm remembering correctly. At least 8:20 makes more sense than that, but it's still a bit odd.

I favor los Gigantes, but mostly, I just hope it's a good Serious. This has been a pretty swell postseason so far; I hope they keep it up.

(And a quick note to Mr. Cognito: thanks for the dope. Also, when copying and pasting from elsewhere, I usually like to include the source's URL.)

N. Cognito said...

Nats Press Release

Anonymous said...

So I wonder who rates an invitation to this new uniform fashion show? I'm a season ticket holder already paid in full for next year, and I haven't gotten an invite. However, Dan Steinberg - the guy who spent the entire 2009 season documenting every Nats Fail moment he could think of, in excruciating detail - apparently has. News flash, Lerners: I think someone like me is more likely to take advantage of the opportunity to purchase the new product than someone like Steinberg.

I guess maybe I shouldn't have dumped my Philadelphia PO Box after all. My invitation must be sitting in the dead letter office up there.

Anonymous said...

Bryce Harper struck out on a full count with 2 runners on down in the AFL

Scottsdale up 4-0 in the 2nd (Derek Norris walked and scored earlier in the inning)

Mark in Arlington

Anonymous said...

Harper just threw a guy out at the plate on an attempted Sac Fly

Scottsdale up 6-1 at the end of 2

Mark in Arlington

Anonymous said...

All of this is on Gameday:

http://mlb.mlb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?sid=l119&t=l_sco&lid=119

Mark in Arlington

JaneB said...

Scooter! You call it the "Serious" too?!? We've been doing that ever since our now-26 year old thought for sure we were mispronouncing it, when he was four. It was, after all, Baseball. So it HAD to be the World Serious.

Giants in six.

And what do our guys need new uniforms for? Maybe a new manager and some new pitching, a new contract with Dunn, yeah. But uniforms? What a waste of dough.

sjm105 said...

Mark,

Could point 5 be which team adapts to the others rules? I wonder how Vlad will be in the field and I also wonder if Burrell or Sandoval will handle the DH role? There is no doubt the pitcher hitting in 4 games will also favor the Giants but Lee does have experience with that. It also plays a role in when you bring in a reliever, or how long you leave a starter in. I think home field advantage is not that big a deal when everyone is playing within their League but I think it does change when you now have AL & NL rules in place at each teams park. What do you think?

Mark Zuckerman said...

sjm105: You make a good point. The lack of a DH in these first two games forces Ron Washington to play Vlad Guerrero in right field (though I wouldn't sell him too short and I don't know that I'd take a chance running on his arm). The bigger question to me for tonight's game is how the lack of a DH might affect when Cliff Lee is pulled. Say it's a 1-1 game in the seventh inning and the Rangers have a man on with the pitcher's spot up. Do you send up a pinch-hitter and take out your ace, who otherwise would probably go the distance? Or do you give up a chance to score in favor of keeping Lee on the mound? Could make for a fascinating scenario.

sjm105 said...

that's just what I was thinking, thanks Mark

Doc said...

I don't know what Vlad's arm is like now, but at one point, early in his Expos' career, Flipe Alou had him take extra throwing practice so he wouldn't over throw home plate from deep in RF.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Memo to Vlad: In order to pick up a ball, you have to be able to bend over to the ground.
More situps, less cheeseburgers, my friend.

Scooter said...

Dunno whether you'll see this, JaneB, but I picked up the Serious habit from "You Know Me Al" by Ring Lardner. Terrific novel.

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