Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Royals Don’t Need A Broom When a Whisk Will Do

Kansas City rolled into the playoffs the hottest club in baseball, which unfortunately has sometimes been the kiss of death. Just ask the Angels and Nationals whom had the best record but didn’t have to play a meaningful game for so long before the playoffs that they were swept away by the intensity and right out of their first round series. The Royals journey has been well documented, on the outside looking in coming down the stretch, making the wildcard, then riding that momentum into the playoffs and winning 8 straight games, 4 in extra innings, and 4 by one run. Now that steam seems to be running out, they are still playing the same game, great defense, small-ball, full of sacrificing, bunting runners into scoring position, and trying to bring them home. However what has been missing has been the speed on the base paths and the timely hitting. Actually, the Royals are hitting rather well with runners in scoring position (.322) they just haven’t had that many, only 31 opportunities in five games. And the stolen bases? Only one, and they haven’t even attempted one after being caught by Buster Posey early in the series. Meanwhile the Giants have a lower average (.301) still respectable but have had 53 runners in scoring position. They also have only one stolen base, but that’s not what they do. That begs the question would you be more upset if you left runners in scoring position or if you didn’t have enough? The Giants may have left 39 runners in scoring position but they have had 16 more than the Royals over the course of the first five games, and most importantly San Francisco has out hit KC by almost 20, 52-33. With all of that said, and all of those stats, at the end of the day Kansas City still has the final two games at home and rest assured at the beginning of the season if someone would have proposed that to end the “Pine Tar Curse” all they had to do was sweep a two game series at home they would like their chances. After all they have already proven they could take four straight from the best baseball, and the odds are actually on their side as eight out of the last ten clubs that came back home down 2-3 won the final two games to take the series. So they don’t need the Royal flush, just get back to what got em’ there and hope that the Giants don’t bring back Bumgarner on two-days rest!

Monday, October 20, 2014

World Series Preview - The Wildest Cards in The Deck

And then there were two. After what always seems like it takes a full calendar year to complete the regular season came to a close, giving way to a post season that was one of the best and most surprising fans have ever been treated to. The clubs with the best record were both eliminated in their first series by teams that didn’t even with their division. The clubs with the highest payroll didn’t make it out the Divisional round, if the playoffs were determined by marketing dollars then the Dodgers and Tigers with rosters fill of Cy Young award winners, MVP’s, and Gatorade spokespersons should be throwing out the first pitch on Tuesday, but that’s not how it works. What did hold true was that the teams that were playing the best baseball are still playing and everyone else is home for the Holidays. The Royals and Giants needed all 162 games just to make it into the playoffs so it seems they’ve been playing playoff games for two months now, and therein could be the key, if you go in cold you get carried out cold, and conversely regardless of rest if you come in battle tested, you’ll last much longer. Regardless of what you might think the formula is and despite what it might look like on paper the two best clubs are the ones we have left standing, and they both needed to win a play-in game. The Giants got out of the blocks like they finished the season, playing their brand of baseball and simply just winning games. They burst out to a nine game lead on the Dodgers and looked like they were going to run away with the division. Then they hit a lull that culminated in the Dodgers coming up to A T & T Park in late July and sweeping their way back into contention. LA would eventually take over first, lead by 6 games down the stretch and hold off the Giants by winning 7 of their last 9 meetings. However once they got in, they’ve looked worthy to represent the National League going 8-2 against the League’s best. Meanwhile the plight of the Kansas City Royals was very similar. The Royals got out of the box fast including a 13-3 streak in June where they took control of the division but tough stretch in the second half of the season particularly against the division leaders Detroit who seemed to own them, put them in danger of missing the playoffs all together and fighting for that final playoff spot. But they got it an now they’re 4 wins away from the pinnacle it took them 29 years to get back to. KC has defied everything we thought we knew about baseball as we watched a club with a .549 winning percentage win 8 consecutive playoff games, sweep the team with the best record in baseball, win four extra-inning games (new record), and 4 one-run games. So the Series opens in Kansas City as they try to keep the win streak alive which got all kinds of things going through my head. Could you imagine if they manage to keep this streak going? What if they win 4 straight? This team goes down in the books as the greatest ever? Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinal teams of the past and this Royals clubs gets top billing over all of them? Or what about the Giants? In the first four games of the series they’ll send out pitchers where 3 of the 4 in their rotation have winning percentages of .538, .692, and .615 respectively. I look at this and ask how did they get this far? I mean, we’re all aware of the “every other year” phenomenon, and it make for great fodder but really?? In the end I don’t know if the Royals can keep it going and finish the post season with the most wins in MLB history, or if the Giants can win in another even numbered year, but I do know that I’ve seen every game of the playoffs thus far and these clubs, as unsexy as they may be, play the game the right way and it works for them. If they get a runner on first the either bunt or steal him into scoring position and then they get a timely base hit or move the runner over and get a sac fly. A walk is sometimes as good as a run with them. Defensively the Royals have been the best we’ve seen in years, quashing rallies with leather and breaking teams spirit in the process. A guy like Pablo Sandoval goes AWOL for 6 months, benched at one point during the season for lack of production, and suddenly is playing like the guy that took home a World Series MVP. And they did all of this with Angel Pagan, arguably their most consistent player in the lineup. We can all make strong arguments how one of the clubs watching from their living has more justification to be running out on the field on Tuesday but they would all be wrong. This is the World Series, and you don’t get this far without being the best in the world, and say what you will, the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals have proven that they are just that. Enjoy. View the complete World Series preview with highlights, stats, predictions, and more here.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Body of Work Doesn't Get You Far In October

If the MLB playoffs were the NCAA tournament everyone’s bracket would be thoroughly busted at this point with club with the best record in all of baseball not only eliminated but swept out, and the club with the best record in the NL dropping the first two games at home to trail 0-2 going on the road. The Angels’ bats that had come through with timely hitting the entire season en route to 98 wins couldn’t get any when it counted and dropped two tough extra inning games to start the series and then it was all over but the shouting as they laid down in KC in game 3 to complete the sweep. In the other AL matchup the #2 Baltimore Orioles also brought their brooms as they swept the #3 Detroit Tigers away in very orderly fashion, by getting the upper hand in two one-run games that pushed them into the next round. Crazy how all of that stick in the Tigers lineup couldn’t produce more than one run at home in an elimination game and how the “Three-Headed Monster” of three consecutive Cy Young award winners couldn’t produce even one win. This will be a very long winter for both of those clubs and their fans as you would have to wonder how much more of a favorable matchup will you ever see for a chance to get to the show?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Playoff Bracket Worthy of March

It took over a half a year for us to get here and it was well worth the wait. The post season matchups have all of the necessary components for one of the best in history. I know that’s saying a lot but before you rain down the post to the contrary hear me out, and look at the matchups. Firstly, the September appetizer was one of the best ever, going down to the final week/day before the positions were decided and that just rolled into the wild card games where one home team (KC) had to come back multiple times before getting the walkoff hit and in the other game a pitching gem by a road club that sent thousands home stunned. A little something for everyone that left us with a playoff bracket worthy of the one that takes place in March. (3) Detroit at (2) Baltimore –The Orioles are hosting an ALDS for the second time in 3 years coming off a prior 15-year playoff drought. They are the AL East division winners, by a landslide, with the baseball world wondering how they did it. They don’t have a great rotation, deep lineup, or bullpen but they do have a deep pitching staff, great defense, and the most home runs in baseball. Oh, and they’re the best story left outside of Kansas City. On the other side is the combination of where the Lumber Company meets Rocketdyne. There is so much wood in Detroit lineup that their home games could be protested by environmental groups, Victor M, Cabrera, JDM, with 32, 25, and 23 homers each, add Hunter and Kinsler at 17, and 3 hitters hit better than .300 and you’ve got one Excedrin headache staring at you from top to bottom. Just for good measure the Tigers will send out the last three Cy Young award winners consecutively for the first time in history. Really? On Paper this should be a sweep but rest assured this series may be being played at two of the most modern and picturesque ballparks but this is ol’ school Sparky Anderson vs. Earl Weaver and will probably go six or seven. Our Pick, the Tigers. (5) Kansas City at (1) Los Angeles Angels – The Royals are the “feel good” story of the post season, making their first appearance since before most of their was born going up against the club with the best record in all of baseball with some future hall members and the reigning MVP in their lineup. Much like the afore mentioned Orioles, ya kinda’ wonder how the Royals even got here. They’re 14th in the league in home runs, 19th in slugging pct, and their best pitcher in recent years signed with a team that could be representing the National League in the World Series. But they hit the ball (4th in avg.) and then when they get on they steal bases, run plays, manufacture runs, and generally make life miserable for opposing pitchers. Chicks may dig the long ball but these guys are fun to watch. On the other side are the Angels whom have consistently played the best baseball in the majors of any team this season. Even when the A’s looked like they were positioned to run away with the divison early on in the year, the Angels not only gunned them down but left them in their wake, winning the division by a massive 10-game margin. An experienced club with a lethal combination of pitching, hitting, and coaching whom are not a bit nostalgic. We like the Angels to end the dream but leave them with story of a great season. (6) San Francisco at (1) Washington – I gotta’ tell ya, I’ve looked up and down the Giants roster, particularly now with the loss of Angel Pagan and Hector Sanchez and I can’t figure out how they keep winning games, in fact they’re 7-0 in ‘close out’ games. A club so seemingly taken right out of the book “Money Ball” that I expect to see Brad Pitt running onto the field after each big win. This is another series where on paper you figure it may only take the Nationals 3 or 4 games but that’s what makes the GMen so dangerous as many, like myself, simply look past them. On the other side of the diamond are the Nats that simply dominated the NL West taking the flag by an egregious 17 games en route to the best record in the NL. Last the decision to shut down Stephen Strasberg prior to the post season back in 2012 will be second guessed every day until they throw out the first pitch to start this series. The last time they were in the postseason was in 2012, when their bullpen blew up in the NLDS against the Cardinals, including in the decisive Game 5. This season, that same bullpen ranks among the league leaders, and looks even stronger now that Drew Storen has replaced Rafael Soriano as the team’s closer. The Nats seem to know what it will take to move on to the NLCS and beyond and believe this team could bring the city it’s first championship in 90 years. We’re with them, at least for this step. (3) St. Louis at (2) Los Angeles Dodgers – Doesn’t it seem like these two meet in the playoffs every year?? The storyline for this series is poignantly obvious, if the Cards are going to advance they’ll need to cut one of the heads off the two-headed monster that is Kershaw-Greinke something that most clubs haven’t been able to do. In a three-game series it almost seems unfair but if there is any team that has the Dodgers number it’s the Cards, winners of 3 out of 4 series including the NLCS last year. Much has been written about the how LA has broken the bank to win ‘now’ and the pressure that has come with that, with many players publicly stating anything less than a World Series win, would be considered a failure. This Dodger team has been Jeckyl & Hyde all season, capable of to putting up a batting lineup where there has been no place to hide and the run come through like the California sun and sometimes it dries up like the California drought. Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp are the wild cards in this as they have been all year. If they play even ¾ of their potential it will be a short series coming out in their favor, however if the ‘Wild Horse’ is tamed or makes mental mistakes that cost his club potential runs the Cardinals won’t be very forgiving. We like the Dodgers to get that boost from winning game 1 (LS is 24-3 when Kershaw starts) and from there closing the deal in 4. Get all of the scores, stats, highlights, and previews of every playoff game here.
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