Quick World Series Thoughts
Before Game 1 tonight, I fired up some quick thoughts on Twitter that I wanted recorded. Here they are:
Want several things known before the WS begins: 1. Think it’s better to sit Vlad, start Murphy and have Vlad PH for pitchers in NL games? about 7 hours ago via web
2a. I’m a Cliff Lee fan-boy…but aren’t the Giants the right kind of team to get him? Right-handed, not too patient? Stay with me… about 7 hours ago via web
2b. I know the SF hitters suck, but to hit Cliff Lee, wouldn’t you want RH hitters who attack so they aren’t always behind 0-1, 0-2, 1-2? about 7 hours ago via web
2c. People are writing about this series like Games 1/5 are in Texas’s pocket. Lincecum (and the SF bullpen) is too good to assume that. about 7 hours ago via web
2d. Lee is really, really good, but I just want to allow for the possibility that he might give up runs to a Major League Baseball team. about 7 hours ago via web
3a. Rangers are favorites (and should be), maybe 55-45. Won’t be shocked with any outcome (save a sweep either way). Should be close/fun. about 7 hours ago via web
3b. That said, odds of Tex or SF in 5, 6, 7 are fairly close, so I’ll just pick one. SF in 6. MVP: Matt Cain. LVP: Everyone not watching. about 7 hours ago via web
To be fair, I wasn’t expecting this:
Also being fair, I’m really smart. But here’s what I was thinking:
1. Vladimir Guerrero is bad in right field. That’s why he doesn’t play there during the season, and that’s why this is even an issue. In San Francisco in Games 1 and 2, the Rangers will be facing Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, both right-handed. Guerrero hit 0.287/0.328/0.482 against right-handed pitching this season. He hit 22 home runs in 442 at-bats. David Murphy, who can actually run around in the outfield, hit 0.298/0.368/0.479 against right-handed pitching this season, with 11 home runs in 305 at-bats. Is that worth playing someone as bad as Vlad in right field? Guerrero would make for a big-time pinch hitter in the late innings also, giving Ron Washington a better option than Jorge Cantu or Jeff Franceour. I understand that all of these guys are right-handed and Murphy is a lefty, which adds to bench flexibility; I just think it’s more important to have the best players playing most of the game. Also Guerrero is better against right-handed pitching than Murphy is against left-handed pitching, if that makes sense regarding roster flexibility.
2. I get the Cliff Lee obsession. I’m one of its founders, leaders, rallying members, etc. The guy is awesome. But it’s not automatic. It’s not “give him the ball and let’s get C.J. Wilson a 1-0 lead.” It’s not “we only have to win 2 of 5 because Cliff has 2.” Lee beats people by being in the zone and getting ahead in the count. Then he can throw whatever he wants (wherever he wants, the reason he’s really good); therefore, not letting him get ahead would be a good thing, and the Giants are not the planet’s most patient baseball team:
Also, I thought being right-handed heavy would help, but oops. Lee was absolutely brutal on right-handed hitters in 2010, even more so than lefties (RHB: 0.227/0.243/0.348 / LHB: 0.281/0.294/0.411). In conclusion, who cares if the numbers don’t back up the logic? Tonight, the hypothesis equaled the results and I’m genius, so stick it. Or I’m really lucky…you can pick.
3. Baseball is a funny game. Those who read this blog know that we need a lot of data to really understand what’s happening. Any 7-game sample of data has a lot of randomness. Why should the World Series be any different? For example, I still think the Yankees are better than the Rangers and the Phillies are better than the Giants. But that’s not what the playoffs discover; they find out which team is better in these seven games. If the Pirates played the Yankees in a best-of-seven series 1,000 times, the Pirates might still win 30 percent of the time. Putting two teams that are more evenly matched only makes that percentage closer. I don’t think I would ever say that an underdog in the playoffs has less than a 40 percent chance of winning their series.
When sabermatricians talk about luck, it’s not always about the breaks of the game; it can also be about random variation within a player’s own talents, and collectively, a team’s talents. Texas was “unlucky” tonight to have Bad Cliff Lee; doesn’t mean Lee is a bad pitcher. 80% of the time he probably throws a gem, but that’s not the Cliff Lee Texas had tonight. So whatever…”Giants in 6, Matt Cain” is as good a choice as “Rangers in 7, Nelson Cruz” and 100 other combinations. That’s why they play the games, and that’s why this is so fun.