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Saturday, October 18, 2003

MY WORLD SERIES PREDICTION: BOLD OR INCREDIBLY FOOLISH?

I think some people are giving the Yankees a little too much credit and the Florida Marlins not enough. The Marlins are a good team. A very good team. Under Jack McKeon they've been the best team in baseball.

It's been pointed out a bunch of times that the Marlins are very similar to the Angels in the way that use their speed and put the ball in play and I think that's somewhat of a valid comparison. But I think the perception that the Marlins don't strike out as much as the other teams in baseball is a little off the mark. I have to admit until I really investigated it was a perception I shared. MLB teams struck out an average of 6.34 times per game. Under Jack McKeon the Marlins are just below that average with 6.11 K's per game. So I'd say the Marlins are really nothing special in terms of keeping the strike outs to a minimum; the Anaheim Angels are still in a class by themselves in that department.

However when the Marlins do put the ball in play, particularly when its Pierre or Castillo, I think their speed does put a lot of pressure on the defense. My advice to the Marlins in this series would be to hit the ball up the middle whenever possible. Boone and Johnson are good defenders but Jeter and Soriano aren't. (Not to mention Bernie Williams in CF.) Jeter doesn't have a lot of lateral range and Soriano makes errors of every variety.

When it comes to running the basepaths and testing the opposing teams defense with speed the Marlins are ready, willing, and able but not all that successful. The Marlins showed a willingness to run during the regular season and lead MLB in stolen bases with 150. Unfortunately they were also caught 74 times for a crappy success rate of 50.67%. In this way they are like the Anaheim Angels who were third in SBs but only had a rate of 52.72%. (Tampa Bay was 2nd and stole only 8 times fewer than Florida and had an awesome 70% success rate.)

So why the hell am I picking the Marlins?

First of all because, unlike Dusty Baker and Grady Little, Jack McKeon knows how to handle a pitching staff. He doesn't leave his guys in there longer than he should and that in turn also allows him to really get the most out of a pretty versatile rotation by enabling him to use guys on their throwing days. He's getting the most out of his arms in the post-season without putting a massive amount of strain on those arms. He also has a good bullpen at his disposal and has turned what could have been a problem, with Looper and Urbina swapping closing duties, into an advantage.

I think the Marlins may have another advantage in that Pudge has called a countless number of games against the Yankees and knows most of their current lineup fairly well. The same can't be said for Posada's knowledge of the Florida lineup.

Behind the Marlins pitching staff is arguably the best defense in baseball. The Yankees hit a lot of balls to the left side and Derek Lee and Luis Castillo are going to be able to suck most of those balls up.

But more than anything I'm picking the Marlins because they are hot. Hot in the same way that the Angels were last year. They are scoring a lot of runs right now with an aggressive offense (is that an oxymoron?), they have a hot pitcher in Beckett, and the rest of the staff and the bullpen is holding their own.

I also think the Yankees will have some trouble getting themselves motivated after spending themselves in what was the biggest series of their lives. I don't think I've ever seen the Yankees so emotional. Joe Torre and Mariano Rivera especially. I sincerely believe they care less about winning the World Series than beating the Red Sox.

I'm also skeptical that, as good as Rivera has been, the Yankees can continue to get by with their bullpen of one.

PREDICTON: MARLINS IN SEVEN. WS MVP: MIKE LOWELL.

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