Friday, October 20, 2006

The World Serious


The Tigers and Cardinals have survived their respective playoff rounds to make and have made it to the World Series. Both teams entered the playoffs as the longest of long shots to make the series. They have the worst post all-star game records of any teams to ever make the series. The Cardinals almost lost a 8-1/2 game lead with 12 games to play. They won a total of 83 games during the regular season. The American League alone had eight teams that won more games than that. They beat a team, in the Mets, that won 14 more regular season games than they did. The Tigers went into the all-star break with a 60-29 record and proceeded to play under .500 the rest of the way. They went 35-38 the rest of the way, including a less than inspirational 12-16 in September to blow an 11 game lead and lose the central division to the Twins.

How did we end up with these two teams in the World Series? I don't know. The Tigers got swept at home by the worst team in baseball right before the playoffs began. Yet they then turned around and beat the Yankees in 4 games and swept the A's. Is there any explanation for that? Their pitching has been outstanding, but it's the same pitching that got slapped around by the KC Royals a couple of weeks ago. The Cardinals couldn't buy a win down the stretch. They lost 7 games in a row at one point and saw their lead over the Astros dip to 1/2 a game. Their bullpen gave up leads in 5 consecutive games over the last week of the season. Why is their bullpen now seemingly impregnable? I don't know. I wish I had some answers for you, but all I can say is that the post season is (to use a baseball metaphor) a whole new ballgame.

The Tigers enter the World Series as prohibitive favorites. Like the Mets they won well over 90 games. However unlike the Mets, they did it in a much harder league. They have the best starting pitching in the American League and they have enough hitting to win. The only question will be which team will show up. Will it be the Tigers who swept through the first half of the season like a house on fire or the team that limped home after the all-star break? Will it be the team that got swept at home by the Royals or the team that has won seven straight playoff games? If the Tigers play somewhere near their best, then this should be a short series.

I think the most amazing thing about the playoffs so far has been the performances of two former yankees who failed miserably in their playoff appearances in the Bronx. Kenny Rogers has two wins and has yet to be scored upon. Jeff Weaver has a win and has pitched very well in his three starts. Weaver had an ERA over 7 in three games for the Yankees, including giving up a game winning home run in extra innings to the Marlins in the yankees last World Series appearance. Rogers ERA in the three playoff series that he pitched for the yankees were 9.00, 12.00 and 22.5. Rogers' other NY playoff experience with the Mets was equally as bad. His ERA with the Mets was over 7.00. Explaining the success of these two pitchers in the playoffs is like trying to explain the appeal of Paris Hilton. She's famous for nothing and yet is in the press every day. These pitchers have no history of success in the post season and yet have been huge factors in the current success of their respective teams. Go figure.

The facts all point to a Tigers win, but given the absolutely unpredictable nature of the this years playoffs, I have to predict a Cardinals win. I know it doesn't make any sense, but so little in this years playoffs has. The Cardinals in 6. That's my call. It's really going to suck having to listen to Tony LaRussa proclaim his genius, but then again listening to another story about how Jim Leyland is the sole reason for the Tigers turnaround is just as annoying a concept. Is there anyway for these teams to manage themselves?

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