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Monday, September 29, 2003

CLOSE RACE

Delgado and A-Rod finish the year effectively tied with 32 WS, the lowest year-end total in over a decade. (Boone's third with 30 WS.)

Hudson, Loaiza, and Halladay are also tied with 23 WS, with Foulke fourth at 21 WS, and Pedro fifth with 20 WS. (Pedro yet again dominates the WS/GS, however.)

The biggest surprise for me is Hideki Matsui leading AL rookies with 19 WS. Berroa's a full win back at 16 WS, and actually tied with Oakland's Eric Byrnes. A bunch of promising young guys are back sitting around 14 and 13 WS (Rocco, Gerut, Crawford, Teixeira).

In the race nobody wants to talk about, Pujols finishes ahead of Bonds, 41 WS to 39 WS. (Remember James' quote about guys with 40 WS seasons not winning MVP? It's going to happen again.) Sheffield's third with 35 WS.

Eric Gagne finishes a solid first in the pitching department with 25 WS, followed by a gaggle of starters (Prior, Schmidt, Livan) with 22 WS. Livan's teammate Vazquez is just behind them at 21 WS.

Scott Podsenik finishes first among all NL rookies with 22 WS, with Webb behind him at 17 WS, and second-half sensation Marlon Byrd third with 16 WS. (A couple of guys sit between Byrd and D-Train Willis with 14 WS.)

Go here for the details.

GOING DOWN IN A BLAZE OF (NOT SO MUCH) GLORY

Someone finally came to their senses, and fired Jerry Manuel after another disappointing White Sox season. (Now all they have to do is get rid of Kenny Williams.)

Mike Hargrove's gone, too.

If I'm Larry Bowa, I'm not answering the phone anymore.

THE POST-SEASON IS HERE! TIME FOR ATLANTA TO BLOW!

This is the twelfth consecutive year the Atlanta Braves have made it to the post-season; an amazing feat. It's almost as amazing as the fact that in only in one of those years, a strike shortened year at that, have they been able to go all the way. That's about a 9% success rate in the post-season. Why do the Braves suck so?

The answer lies in the Braves complete inability to win close games in the playoffs. By close games, I am referring to a differential of three runs or less. For the sake of length here I'll just use the Braves losing appearances in the '92, '96, '99 World Series to illustrate my point.

Here are the scores in Atlanta's '92 series loss vs. The Toronto Blue Jays.

Game 1 : Atl 3 Tor 1
Game 2: Atl 4 Tor 5
Game 3: Atl 2 Tor 3
Game 4: Atl 1 Tor 2
Game 5: Atl 7 Tor 2
Game 6: Atl 3 Tor 4

Using the three run differential rule, all but one of these games (Game 5) was a close game. Of the five close games, Atlanta lost 4 of them and all of them by a single run.

Now let's have a look at Atlanta's '96 matchup against the Yankees.

Game 1: Atl 12 NY 1
Game 2: Atl 4 NY 0
Game 3: Atl 2 NY 5
Game 4: Atl 6 NY 8
Game 5: Atl 0 NY 1
Game 6: Atl 2 NY 3

4 of the 6 games here are close games and Atlanta managed to lose all of them being outscored by only 7 runs over these 4 games. In the games that weren't close (Games 1 and 2) Atlanta manages to come out on top.

Lets see if the Braves had learned their lesson when they had their re-match against the Yankees in the '99 World series.

Game 1: Atl 1 NY 4
Game 2: Atl 2 NY 7
Game 3: Atl 5 NY 6
Game 4: Atl 1 NY 4

3 of these games are close games and, once again, Atlanta manages to lose all three. And just to demonstrate how consistent this pattern is lets have a look at Atlanta's NLDS appearance last year against the Giants.

Game 1: Atl 5 SF 8
Game 2: Atl 7 SF 3
Game 3: Atl 10 SF 2
Game 4: Atl 3 SF 8
Game 5: Atl 1 SF 3

In this five game set two of the games could be considered close games and hey(!) Atlanta lost both of them. Atlanta managed to outscore the giants 26-24 but because of those close games they lost the series.

What's the problem here? At first I thought Atlanta's bullpen was the culprit. But its not. Its the failure of Atlanta's starters to be able to win those close games. In the aforementioned series appearances ('92,'96,'99, and the 2002 NLDS), there are a total of 14 close games, of those 14 games Atlanta's starters took the loss in 9 of them. (Galvine alone has 4 of the losses.) Atlanta's starters are being outdueled in the post-season.

John Smoltz has been excellent in the post-season with a career record of 12-4. However, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine have not been so excellent; Glavine has a 12-15 record while Maddux is no better with an 11-13 mark. With Maddux and Glavine throwing a huge chunk of Atlanta's post-season innings I think we've found our culprits. That's not to say these two have been awful in the playoffs, Maddux has a 3.23 ERA and Glavine 3.44, but they seem to have a knack for being outpitched in those close contests. I'm not sure if it has something to do with them being finesse pitchers or perhaps other pitchers raising their games against these guys but there you have it.

With Glavine now in a hell of his own making in New York and Maddux moved to the back-end of Atlanta's rotation it'll be interesting to see if Atlanta can break its post-season jinx. Although teams who rely heavily on their offense almost never win in the post-season and I think this goes to explain the WS in '95 that Atlanta did win against Cleveland. (Without a long statistical analysis I'll just say its because Cleveland's starting pitching kinda sucked.)

PRE-SEASON PREDICTIONS

I know this is meaningless, but here's how I ranked all the teams back in March. You'll just have to take my word for it (hopefully, my naivity will prove my sincerity).

AL EAST AL CENTRAL AL WEST
BOS CHW OAK
NYY* MIN SEA
TOR CLE ANA
BAL KC TEX
TB DET
*wild-card winner.

I thought Boston had enough on the field and in the brain-trust to beat the Yankees this year, and like last year Boston remains a statistically stronger team. That said, I can't say I'm overly surprised that these five AL East teams finished in the same order for the sixth straight season. I don't think the Yankees can make it to World Series this year. Jeter can't keep making miracle plays despite his otherwise shittiness in the field. (A litlle off topic: I can't wait for 2005 when those New Haven Ravens are Toronto Blue Jays... that team is going to kick ass.)

I didn't expect much from the Twins (my AL disappointment team)... although I also didn't think they'd (finally) be smart enough to put Santana in the rotation, either. As for the White Sox, I thought a good season from Thomas (my AL comeback player pick--in fairness, another White Sox was my NL comeback player pick, and Robbie Alomar didn't fare nearly as well), and a big season from their ace pitching acquisition--who knew it would be Loaiza?--would be enough in that division. Tony Pena gets AL Manager of the Year for exceeding all expectations with that Royals club. (And does Baird deserve executive of the year for finally stopping to answer his phone whenever the call display came up "B. Beane"?)

By July, I had Seattle as the World Series favourites, which just goes to prove how pointless mid-season predictions can be. (They were my AL surprise team--although their second half collapse wasn't exactly what I had in mind.) I don't think too many people are surprised that the Angels didn't fair nearly as well this year. (Will Carroll made the point that over the past ten years the Angels have had the highest percentage of injuries of any MLB team, except for one year when most of their guys stayed healthy. Wanna guess which year?)

NL EAST NL CENTRAL NL WEST
PHI HOU SF
ATL CHC* LA
MON STL ARI
NYM CIN COL
FLA PIT SD
MIL
*wild-card winner

Yeesh. I missed the boat on Florida, and it still angers me to see that Loria owned franchise breathing new life. As for the Braves, they were essentially the club I expected the Phillies to be. As for the Phillies, they get what they deserve for sticking so long with Bowa (at least the Marlins had the good sense to fire their crackpot manager.) They need a professional, inspiring manager who can get the most out of his veterans. Cito, dust off that resume.

I've already talked about the Astros, and I think Jimy Williams' future in Texas should be in doubt. They got further with less with Dierker. The Cards were favourites of many, but without any pitching behind Morris, they were my "disappointment" pick.

Hey, I called this one perfectly. (The Dodgers were my NL surprise team.) Good luck to Barry and the Giants.

And for the fall classic....
OAK v. SF = SF!!!!

That's still the potential match-up I'm most looking forward to, although according to ESPN, I'm in a definite minority.

I'll post my pre-season player picks tomorrow so you don't die of boredom all at once.

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