Friday, October 15, 2010

LCS Preview

File photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Roy Halladay starts Game 1 of the NLCS for the Phillies tomorrow night.
It's hard to imagine the next round of the postseason matching the previous one for sheer drama. In the four Division Series alone, we saw a no-hitter, a 14-strikeout game, two Cliff Lee starts in which he struck out at least 10 and walked none, a Giants-Braves series in which all four games were decided by one run and a Rangers-Rays series in which all five games were won by the visiting team.

Tough to top that, right? Then again, consider what we have on our plates in the NLCS and ALCS: The potential for two Roy Halladay-vs-Tim Lincecum showdowns, the potential for Cliff Lee starting Game 7, the potential for the Phillies to become the first NL team to win three straight pennants since the 1942-44 Cardinals and the potential for the Rangers to reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. So this round could yet prove captivating in its own right.

It all gets started tonight in Texas with Game 1 between the Yankees and Rangers, and it could extend all the way to next Sunday with a possible Game 7 between the Giants and Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Here's a preview (and some predictions)...

SCHEDULE (all games on TBS)
Game 1: Tonight, 8:07 p.m. at Arlington, Texas
Game 2: Tomorrow, 4:07 p.m. at Arlington, Texas
Game 3: Monday, 8:07 p.m. at New York
Game 4: Tuesday, 8:07 p.m. at New York
*Game 5: Wednesday, 4:07 p.m. at New York
*Game 6: Friday, Oct. 22, 8:07 p.m. at Arlington, Texas
*Game 7: Saturday, Oct. 23, 8:07 p.m. at Arlington, Texas
*-if necessary

1. Which rotation gets more out of its non-aces? We know CC Sabathia (starting Games 1 and 5 for New York) and Cliff Lee (starting Games 3 and 7 for Texas) are going to be great. But each can only pitch twice, if that, so the pressure falls on each club's other starters to come through when called upon. The Yankees will send Phil Hughes, Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett to the mound in Games 2-4. The Rangers will have C.J. Wilson in Game 1, Colby Lewis in Game 2 and Tommy Hunter in Game 4. Games 2 and 4 look like the key toss-ups.

2. Can the Rangers keep running on the Yankees? Texas pulled off its ALDS Game 5 victory at Tampa Bay thanks to some daring (some might say foolish) baserunning. Whether you agree with the strategy or not, this is the Rangers' style. They don't have a ton of thump in their lineup, so they have to manufacture runs. Can they catch the Yankees defense by surprise the way they did the Rays?

3. Can Kerry Wood be the bridge to Mariano Rivera? Who would have imagined one of the most important members of the Yankees pitching staff would be the former wunderkind ace of the Cubs staff whose career was derailed by injuries? Yet here Wood is, serving as New York's top setup man. He appeared in all three ALDS games, escaping a jam in Game 1, dominating in Game 2 and then getting beat around in Game 3. He's going to have to be in top form in the ALCS, because Rivera really isn't a six-out closer any more.

Make no mistake, the Rangers are a very good team and they deserve to be here. And they could emerge victorious. But I'd feel a lot more confident if Lee was pitching Game 1 and not on the shelf until Game 3. They can't let the Yankees take a 2-0 series lead heading back to the Bronx. New York, though, has to like its chances with Sabathia starting tonight's opener and then Hughes facing Lewis in Game 2 tomorrow. If Texas can find a way to win one of these first two games, we've got a series. If not ... well, start spreading the news. PREDICTION: Yankees in 6.

SCHEDULE (all games on Fox)
Game 1: Tomorrow, 7:57 p.m. at Philadelphia
Game 2: Sunday, 8:19 p.m. at Philadelphia
Game 3: Tuesday, 4:19 p.m. at San Francisco
Game 4: Wednesday, 7:57 p.m. at San Francisco
*Game 5: Thursday, 7:57 p.m. at San Francisco
*Game 6: Saturday, Oct. 23, 3:57 p.m. at Philadelphia
*Game 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, 7:57 p.m. at Philadelphia
*-if necessary
*-Game 6 would start at 7:57 p.m. if ALCS is completed

1. Can anyone score four runs in any game? That may sound ridiculous, but seriously, with the pitching that's about to be on display from both sides, four runs might as well be 10. These are going to be some extremely low-scoring, tight ballgames, and that means every little thing counts: Defense, baserunning, timely hitting. Every run-scoring opportunity will be magnified, because there probably won't be many to begin with.

2. Who wins Game 4? It may sound arbitrary to pick the middle game of the series as the key to it all, but it very well could be. Each team has three outstanding starters (Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels for Philly, Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, Matt Cain for San Fran). But what about the fourth starters? Joe Blanton doesn't strike fear in many batters' hearts. Madison Bumgarner is an immensely talented rookie who looked great in the NLDS but could easily fall apart this time around. This series could hinge on that matchup.

3. Will either bullpen crumble under the pressure? Both teams have deep and talented relief corps, with established closers. But we've seen both Brad Lidge and Brian Wilson falter plenty of times before. Each guy is very much hit-or-miss. You don't figure there will be many large leads in this series, so you've got to figure the closers are going to play very prominent roles.

This really has the potential to be something epic. The Halladay-Lincecum Game 1 showdown alone could be history-making. Ultimately, this comes down to which team can produce clutch hits. Opportunities are going to be scarce, so they've got to take advantage when they get the chance. In the end, a Phillies lineup that boasts Placido Polanco, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez seems more likely to pull it off than a Giants lineup of Freddy Sanchez, Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, Pat Burrell and Juan Uribe. PREDICTION: Phillies in 7.


Harper_ROY_2012 said...

The good news for Texas is that Cliff Lee will stay undefeated in the postseason, the bad news is he will only pitch one game and the Yankees win in 5, outscoring the Rangers 32-9 in the four Yankees victories.

Anonymous said...

How many spring training appearances did Colby Lewis have for the Nats before they uncermoniously dumped him and I believe Texas claimed him the next day!? Another poor judge of personnel by the scouts and front office. Maybe the next manager and GM can put together a good team in 2014 or 15!!!

NatsJack in Florida said...

I can't find where Colby Lewis was even in camp for the Nats this past spring. Where do you get your information?

Sam said...

It doesn't really matter whether Lee stars game 1 or 2 or 3. As long as he is scheduled to get two starts, it's fine. If the Rangers lose in six and Lee only pitches once, it wouldn't have mattered anyway. The loss would have come in game 7 instead of game 6 or whichever game Lee wasn't scheduled to pitch instead. It's just a matter of displacing the loss.

Sunderland said...

Anon 10:58: an accurate fact or two would bolster the notion that you have the slightest clue about baseball.

Colby Lewis, drafted in 1999 by the Texas Rangers as a 20 year old out of JUCO.
Two and a half years in the minor leagues, 15 appearances and 4 starts in 2002 with the Rangers to a 6.29 ERA. 2003, 25 starts, 7.30 ERA. More time in the minors, a couple more shots at the bigs, Rangers cut him loose in 2004. In 2006 he had a cup of coffee with the Tigers and impressed no one. In 2007, age 27, parts of 4 unsuccessfull MLB seasons behind him, Lewis gets invited to spring training by the Nats. Who cut him.
Picked up by Oakland. 26 relief appearances in 2007, 6.45 ERA, Oakland cut him.
No one in MLB wanted him so he heads to Japan.
Pitched in Japan in 08 and 09.
Re-joined Texas in 2010.

So you blame the Nats for not what exactly? In 2007 (and the previous 5 years) he sucked.

Texas, Detroit and Oakland cut him. All the other MLB teams had a shot at him in 2008 and 2009. No one wanted him. No one invited him to camp.

Seriously. You just post frivolous crap.

Maybe the next anonymous poster can put together a good posting.

Steve M. said...

Cliff Lee?

Read the small footnote at the bottom of this about the Nats overspending in Free Agency.

OK, so here is what I think of that "overspending" like Teixeira they will bid up Free Agent salaries on the top guys and come back empty handed.

My feeling is take care of the guy who has produced for you in Adam Dunn. I heard the other night that Rizzo has told Dunn's agents to let him explore what is out there. I guess we are all curious on Dunn's value as a DH and as a 1st baseman in the open market.

In another conversation was Dunn's best value appears to be each seaon at the trade deadline as a 2 month end of season rental and the post-season. He isn't being mentioned much outside of Washington right now so possibly he falls into the same situation he was in after the 2008 season which was a lot of chatter and no substantive progress as Teixeira was signed by the Yankees in Dec 2008 and Dunn had to wait until after the New Year in 2009 to get his contract with the Nationals.

This is going to be interesting.

Anonymous said...

Uh, wrong on Colby Lewis, my fellow anon. Colby was part of the cattle-call for starters in 2007 (remember, that was the year of "if you have an arm, come on down to Nats camp,") - as Sheinin put it in his excellent August article. "The Spring of Jerome Williams, Billy Traber and Jason Simontacchi." Colby got a little bit of a look and then got cut. In a really classy move, the Nats cut him the day his son was born. He then spent the next two seasons with the Hiroshima Carp, where he added a curve and a cutter to his repertoire. THEN the Rangers signed him, and he has proven effective. So if you want to ding the Nats on him, ding them for cutting a guy on the day his son was born, not for failing to see that a washed-up 28 year old would spend two years in Japan, add two pitches, get healthy and come back as an effective mid-rotation guy.

Feel Wood said...

"How many spring training appearances did Colby Lewis have for the Nats before they uncermoniously dumped him and I believe Texas claimed him the next day!? Another poor judge of personnel by the scouts and front office. Maybe the next manager and GM can put together a good team in 2014 or 15!!!"

No, Texas did not claim him the next day. After the Nats cut him in spring 2007, he hooked on with Oakland and pitched 37.2 innings of 6.45 ERA ball for them that year. He was cut by the A's after the season, claimed by the Royals and released by them before spring training even started in 2008. He played the 2008 and 2009 seasons in Japan before catching on with Texas this year. Given his post-Nats career path, I really don't see any way you can blame them for cutting him.

Bowdenball said...

Texas is ninth in baseball in slugging and tenth in home runs despite the fact that four of their top six power hitters played in under 140 games, and two of them played in under 110 games. All six of them are now completely healthy.

Sounds like a decent amount of "thump" to me.

Anonymous said...

Babe Ruth hit 1,586 home and was cut by the Nats the next day. I know because I read it on the inner lining of my colon.

Anonymous said...

1,586 home "runs"

Softball Girl said...

@ Steve M.

The only way the Nats can get a top FA is to overspend. And I wouldn't be surprised if letting Lee 'get away' is part of the plan. Like Teixeira, it makes the FO look serious about spending, but allows them to make below-market offers to guys like Dunn because that's "all their worth."

Anonymous said...

@Natsjack. 2007 Bowdenball. Not last year with Colby Lewis.

Anonymous said...

@softball girl, Texiera was under 30 and coming into his prime. Lee will be 32. It has to factor into things as much as signing Dunn to a 4 year contract does.

Steve M. said...

Softball Girl, that is certainly a possibility in strategy but Jim Bowden said the Teixeira offer was genuine and the Nats were in it till the end but I don't see the strategy worth the risk to overpay at this point until the core is there with the team. The Rangers don't have a core as Cliff Lee is a one year hired gun and the Giants have a couple great starters but that really isn't a core.

The Rays, Phillies, Yankees all have the established core there to get close year after year and sure it is possible to get in the playoffs like the Giants or Rangers but you need great balance which the Yankees and Phillies have. The good news for everybody else is that the Yankees and Phillies are aging and unless you spend like the Yankees it is hard to stay up at the top for more than 5 to 6 years.

Keep in mind all the home grown talent that the Yankees have developed over the years. Their core has been Jeter, Posada and Mariano with hired guns like ARod, Teixeira, Granderson, Sabbathia, Burnette, and develop your own players to fill in every few years like a Andy Pettite, Robinson Cano, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Brett Gardner.

Philly has done it with Utley, Howard, Rollins, Madson, and Hamels as their core and added through trade in most other positions.

Tampa Bay has done it mostly through the Draft and have added with mixed results in Free Agency like Carlos Pena and Pat Burrell (DFA'd).

The Nats still aren't at a solid core. They have Ryan Zimmerman and a lot of maybes. I think you add a Cliff Lee type when you need him to push you immediately into the playoffs or else you end up like the Chicago Cubs and the NY Mets which are teams that spent a ton of cash and are in mediocrity.

I say re-sign Dunn as your priority and get your CF of the future in trade and continue to Draft well and this team will get there but won't get there overnight until the solid core is established.

sjm105 said...

How great it is, that as soon as a mis-statement is made that poster gets set straight by multiple people. I was going to jump down to the "post comment" immediately but did not have to as Sunderland and others set "ANON" straight on Colby Lewis, Wonder which one this is but its pretty easy to blast a team when you remain unnamed. It is true that they let him go as his wife was going into labor which is not really a classy act but you can't blame this Front Office for missing this one.

Still waiting for the Dunn situation to get settled and totally disagree with softball girl about the FO having a strategy of bidding just under what the player will take. If that was true, we would not have over paid for this years draft. Just hope they will do the same in Free Agency because that is the only way players will come here.

Go Nats

Cliff_Lee_4_Prez said...

@ sjm105 -

Your handle is not exactly not anonymous nor are may other fan-tards on this board Sunderland, NatsJack, Harper_ROY_2012, Bowndenball, Softball Girl, Sam, Sue Dinem.

You are ALL @#%@#^@#$^ anonymous except for Mark Zuckerman you are just have enough time to weaste to come up with witty ways to be anonymous.

Finally, ANON Colby Lewis was way off base.

JD said...

The Rays are about to lose Crawford, Pena and Soriano and according to their owner they may have to shed a couple more players to trim payroll; conventional wisdom says that they will drop way down in the tough AL east. I listen to Joe Maddon the other day and his position is that the expectations will remain just as high; also their farm system is considered at or close to the top of the heap so this will be very interesting to watch.

Sunderland said...

sjm105, I'm a lot closer to Softball Girl's way of thinking.

Paying over slot in the draft still means you are getting an absolute bargain. Yes, they paid overslot for Solis and Cole, but the two combined only cost $3M.

And yes, they paid a record contract to Strasburg. But he's still cheap. We paid $15M / 4 for Stras, about $3.75 per year. Aroldis Chapman, a less polished pitcher, but not subject to the draft,got $30M / 5, about $6M a year.

Paying over slot in the draft is a good and positive thing, and I applaud the Nats for the 2010 draft and signings. But it's not evidence the thrifty ways of the Lerners are fading.

Softball Girl is (I believe) definitely right about the Nats needing to overpay to get free agents. We overpaid for Marquis, and we had to in order to get him. If we want a top flight pitcher this year, we again will have to overpay.

I don't know that the FO purposefully bids on big time free agents to come in second. But certainly in the Teixeira case, the Nats were used by Boras to create a competitive market to drive up the final price for Tex. He was not coming here.

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