Results tagged ‘ Elvis Andrus ’

2010 World Series Primer

World Series 2010 Small Logo.jpgAfter spending the last few days hearing the media churn on relentlessly about the lack of a so-called “marquee presence” to add to the World Series appeal, I think I’m finally ready to do my part and help those with questions to wrap their collective heads around the actual point of the postseason. That being:

The team that keeps winning gets to walk home with the trophy.

It’s a remarkably simple concept. And for a league that has preached the virtues of parity for years, this should be a celebration of sorts.

Years of work to help bridge the gab between MLB’s richest and poorest, and even those stuck in the middle, has finally paid off with a Fall Classic that has historic implications.

Despite the fact that the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants have not been as fortunate in October as the dragons they slayed to get to the World Series, neither team was ready to roll over and allow a rematch of last year’s series.

This World Series matchup contains not only great storylines but also great human interest stories.

For Texas, there is the well-chronicled comeback of Josh Hamilton, followed up by Rangers ownership’s faith in manager Ron Washington, who made some poor personal decisions but was allowed to stay the course and lead his team to the World Series.

For San Francisco, there is the clutch hitting of late season waiver claim Cody Ross, Then there’s the slim margins of victory that have led to a brand of baseball that Giants fans have dubbed as “torture.”

And of course there is Brian Wilson‘s beard.

The two teams are not complete strangers. A 15-7 lifetime Interleague mark favors the Giants, who have won seven games in a row over Texas and claimed victory in 11 of the last 12 regular season battles between the two teams.

After 50 years and two cities in the league, the Rangers started this run through October by defeating the Tampa Bay Rays to win their first postseason series in franchise history. Then they came just one big New York inning away from sweeping the much vaunted Yankees right out of the American League Championship Series.

Mays Catch.jpgStill playing in New York, the Giants last won the World Series in 1954 over the Cleveland Indians. It was in that series against the Tribe that Willie Mays made his historic catch at the old Polo Grounds.

The Giants moved out west in 1958, but have been unsuccessful in three trips to the World Series while in San Fran. A very different Giants club was just five outs away from a winning it all in 2002, before the Anaheim Angels rallied to take Game 6 and then went on to win a decisive Game 7 the next night.

The Rangers first joined the American League in 1965 as the
second incarnation of the Washington Senators, relocating to Texas prior
to the 1972 season.

As you might have gathered, these are two completely different clubs. The Giants are strong on pitching and rely on timely hits, while the Rangers hit the ball with authority, run the bases well and rely on key pitching performances to hold opponents in check.

Texas has left-hander Cliff Lee, one of the biggest weapons on the mound in recent memory. With his October work over the past two seasons, Lee is cobbling together one of the best postseason résumés in the history of baseball.

As good as Lee has been individually, the San Francisco pitching staff has been collectively. Giants hurlers boast a 2.47 ERA in 91 playoff innings and have held opposing hitters to just a .199 average thus far this postseason.

When it comes to offenses, the Rangers appear to have an edge there. Texas hit .276/.338/.419 and scored 787 runs as a club in 2010, while San Francisco’s team slash line was .257/.321/.408 with 697 runs scored.

Since they have the luxury of the designated hitter, the AL team should hold the advantage upon a cursory evaluation of the team offensive statistics. There is a rather vast chasm between the hitting exploits of Vladimir Guerrero and those of Giants pitchers and pinch-hitters. So take it all with a grain of salt.

The Rangers and Giants both hit exactly 162 home runs as a team in regular season. Texas, however, utilizes the speed game more than their NL counterpart, stealing 123 bases to San Francisco’s 55 this year.

Texas has put on a postseason power display while running wild on the basepaths thus far in October. As a team, the Rangers are hitting .281 with 17 homers and 59 runs scored in 11 playoff games. Led by Elvis Andrus‘ seven steals, the Rangers have swiped 15 bases and been caught just twice this postseason. That gives the Texas offense a rare balance of power and speed. 

Offensively, the Giants have not exactly been the biggest run producers in October. Through their first 10 postseason games, San Francisco is hitting .231 as a club and averaging just 3.0 runs per game. Their defining work with the bats seems to come in the clutch, with 15 of the 30 Giants runs coming with two outs in an inning.

Cody Ross has been the man the Giants have turned to throughout the postseason. He’s shown not only a flair for the dramatic, but an ability to give his team a lift when it’s needed the most. Ross has broken up three different playoff no-hitters with solo-homers. His heroics in the NLCS netted Ross series MVP honors.

The Game 1 Pitching Matchup:

Cliff Lee WS.jpgA pair of Cy Young Award winners will lock horns in the opening contest, which pits two distinctly different styles against each other.

Trying to write economically about Cliff Lee’s postseason career is probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Where do you start?

How about his absolutely unheard of 34/1 K/BB ratio this postseason. Or maybe his six game postseason winning streak, second only to Bob Gibson in baseball history. Or maybe the fact that Lee (1.26) possesses the third lowest ERA among all pitchers with at least five postseason starts, trailing the likes of Sandy Koufax (0.95) and Christy Mathewson (1.06).

Lee (3-0) tamed the Yankees bats as a member of the Phillies World Series squad last year and did it again for the Rangers in this year’s ALCS. He brings a streak of 14 consecutive scoreless innings into tonight’s start, and has struck out 10 or more batters in each of his three playoff outings with Texas. One more 10+ K performance would give Lee the most in MLB postseason history (6).

Tim Lincecum WS.jpgTim Lincecum has been putting together a fine playoff run of his own for the Giants, twirling a dominating two-hit shut-out against Atlanta in Game 1 of the NLDS before splitting a pair of decisions against the Phillies in the NLCS.

Lincecum (2-1) has piled up 30 strikeouts in 23.1 innings so far this postseason The aptly dubbed “Freak” is a former first round draft choice who has been silencing critics throughout his career. Nine teams passed over the hard throwing yet slightly built Lincecum in the first round of the 2006 draft, fearing his body would never be able to hold up under the incredible strain of his mechanics. If his early results are any indication, Lincecum is doing just fine, thanks.

Two Cy Young Awards later, the 26-year-old Lincecum is anchoring the pitching staff which turned in the best ERA (3.36) in all of baseball this season. Lincecum will need to channel the same kind of electric performance that he turned in against the Braves in the NLDS to get keep the high-powered Rangers offense in check. That makes a nice segway to the…

Series Keys:

San Francisco — The Giants will need more strong pitching from Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and rookie Madison Bumgarner in order to lay the foundation for success in the series. Texas has Hamilton, Guerrero, and Nelson Cruz among other very capable sluggers who can turn the game around with one swing of the bat.

If they can avoid a barrage of Rangers longballs and maintain some semblance of order on the basepaths, then there is a chance that San Francisco could minimize damage long enough for their offense to produce the necessary run support. I wouldn’t count on the bats breaking out in a big way for the duration of the series, but the Giants should be due for at least one big scoring night.

Freshman catcher Buster Posey has made himself right at home in his playoff debut, racking up a franchise rookie record with 11-hits so far this October. Veteran bats Aubrey Huff – who led the Giants in most offensive categories, Pat Burrell – who enjoyed a renaissance after returning to the NL at midseason, and Pablo Sandoval will all need to do their part to help generate the support that Lincecum and company will need.

San Francisco has one of the deepest bullpens in the NL, and have used it to their advantage throughout the playoffs. Anchored by the bearded-wonder Brian Wilson, the Giants got seven scoreless innings out of the pen in the NLCS clinching win against Philadelphia. Suffice it to say, manager Bruce Bochy would like to avoid doing that on a nightly basis.

The Giants have gone 4-1 on the road this postseason, but they want to grab the early series lead in order to make the most of the homefield advantage that was provided by the NL’s victory in the All-Star Game. The Giants can ill-afford to see the series shift to Texas with the hot-hitting Rangers up 2-0.

Texas — If Lee and/or C.J. Wilson can give the Rangers an early lead in the series, then there is a chance the Rangers can bring the series home and do some real damage. Hamilton hit .390 with 22 homers and 57 RBI’s in Arlington this season and is coming off ALCS MVP honors. His presence in the lineup will be a clear and present danger to the Giants hopes of quieting the Rangers run scoring attack.

The Rangers red-hot lineup will force Bochy and the Giants to pick their poison. Nelson Cruz (.371-13-42), Vladimir Guerrero (.315-16-63), and Michael Young (.307-16-55) likewise enjoyed the home cooking for a Texas club that batted .288/.352/.447
at home during the regular season. Luckily for the Giants, this series starts with the Rangers playing the visitor’s role.

I mentioned the Giants had the lifetime advantage against the Rangers during Interleague matchups, but the Rangers enjoyed their slate of games against the NL in 2010. Texas went 14-4 in Interleague play, while the Giants finished 7-8 against the AL this season.

At the back of the bullpen for the Rangers is the electric right arm of 22-year-old rookie closer Neftali Feliz, who strangely enough has not registered a save in the postseason. His early work was definitely shaky, with five walks and a home run allowed over his first three appearances. Feliz bounced back with scoreless frames in his final two outings against the Yankees, but if the Rangers are going to edge the Giants in close contests then Feliz must be ready to slam door.

What’s the price tag for Teixeira?

I’m going to make a departure from talking about the quest for the holy rotation, and take a moment to look at a free agent race the Braves will not be taking part in. That would be the courting of premier first baseman Mark Teixeira.

There have been a few rumors, but nothing really to report in the way of offers just yet. With plenty of time left, and the Winter Meetings still a couple of weeks away, the teams that are serious about signing Teixeira are going to have pony up some serious cash for a long term commitment. 

It’s been reported
that Miguel Cabrera‘s 8-year $153 million contract is thought to the jumping off point for any offers submitted for Teixeira’s services. It seems logical to me. Teixeira’s physical conditioning and gold glove defense add two aspects that are not present in Cabrera’s list of attributes. Statistically, Cabrera holds the edge in career batting average, at .309 to Teixeira’s .290. Otherwise Teixeira has the lead in both homers (203 to 175) and RBI (676 to 650). The two players are practically identical in OBP (Cabrera leads .381 to .378) and dead even in slugging (.541). For those wondering, Teixeira has played in 24 more games, so this statistical analysis is pretty spot on.

The biggest difference (on paper anyway) in the two players is Cabrera being three years younger than the 28-year old Teixeira. While an eight year deal is likely to see Teixeira give what should be the prime years of his career for the club that signs him, it is worth noting that he has already turned down an 8-year $140+ million extension from the Texas Rangers. That prompted the trade that brought him to Atlanta in July of 2007.

tex_fist_pump.jpgAtlanta GM Frank Wren stated that the Braves made Teixeira and agent Scott Boras an offer that would have given the first baseman a salary that was among “the highest in baseball.” It seems pretty clear after the trade with the Angels that it was likely the length of contract where the two sides could not come together. No one knows exactly what that means, but I’d project that any deal with the Braves was probably worth about $19 million per season. Not exactly underwhelming in and of itself, but there may be a team out there willing to pay more. If knowing that the previous offer was an eight-year pact, would the Braves go shorter in duration? We may never know.

What I do know is that the Braves traded a considerable bundle of talent to the Texas Rangers, a team which has gotten markedly better rather quickly. They may even trade what was once the center piece of the deal, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, this off-season. They have plenty of depth at catcher. Anyway you look at it, the Rangers made off much better than just receiving compensation picks in next years draft. Shortstop Elvis Andrus hit .295 with 54 stolen bases at AA, while starter Matt Harrison went 9-3 with a 5.49 ERA in 15 starts for the Rangers.

This is the point I would usually stop because I’ve seen enough, but there were two more prospects in that deal. Perhaps the brightest spot for Texas will be righty Neftali Feliz, who won 10 games at two stops and struck out 153 batters in 127.1 innings. More sickening? He surrendered just three homers in doing so. Lefty Beau Jones looks destined as a career in relief, but his low to mid-90s fastball and plus curveball show it could become a nice piece of the puzzle in Arlington within the few years.

One of these days, I am going to stop laying out the merits of this deal in hindsight. It was a risk/reward deal from the beginning, and the Braves gave themselves at least two shots to win with Teixeira. It didn’t work out. Not all trades do.

Getting back to the subject at hand, the race to sign Teixeira looks to have at least five possibilities that we know of. The Angels, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Washington Nationals – as of yesterday, and perhaps the Baltimore Orioles. Rest assured though, we all know that the words “hometown discount” will not be factoring in to any deal for the last two teams on that list. And the word “discount” will not be making an appearance in any deal Teixeira ends up signing… in case you were wondering… which you shouldn’t be at this point.

It’s hard to handicap the sweepstakes in my view. I could see Boston. I could see a return to the Angels. Then the Nationals had to go and make me wonder. One place I don’t see being Teixeira’s plans is the Bronx. He just doesn’t strike me as a New York kind of guy. Then again, a teary-eyed Jason Giambi didn’t when the Yankees bounced Oakland out of the post-season in 2001. I reserve the right to be wrong.

Ok, I’ll say that Mark Teixeira is a member of the Boston Red Sox.

Merry Christmas Red Sox Nation.

Till Next time,

G-Mc