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Final thoughts on the NLCS and our first peek ahead to the World Series

Oct 24, 2010, 1:10 AM EDT

NLCS Giants Phillies Baseball

We’re going to have plenty of time between now and Wednesday night to break down the Rangers vs. the Giants. For now, some general impressions and observations, both of last night’s NLCS clincher and the upcoming World Series:

  • Jonathan Sanchez’s third inning meltdown in which he walked Placido Polanco, plunked Chase Utley and then sparked the little pushing shoving thing may have been the best thing that happened to the Giants all night. Sanchez can be good, but when he’s bad, he’s really bad, and he looked bad last night. If he doesn’t lose his head like he did, maybe Bochy leaves him in. But he was obviously rattled, and replacing him with Affeldt, Bumgarner and Lopez ended up being the key to the game. The Phillies couldn’t touch ‘em;
  • Ryan Howard’s  final strikeout is going to stick in Philly fans’ craws all winter. The fact that his $125 million extension doesn’t kick in until [gulp] 2012 is going to stick in it even longer;
  • I didn’t have a strong rooting interest here, but as I watched each game of the NLCS I definitely found myself pulling for the Giants. As a result, I was happy that they won Game 6. The only real downside to it: no Game 7 tonight. Because remember, no matter who you’re rooting for, more baseball is always better than less baseball;
  • The storylines to this World Series are many, but the one I like the best so far is that Bengie Molina may very well be in line to collect a World Series share no matter who wins. He was beloved by his Giants teammates before the trade, and it’s common for someone to get their postseason cut even if they left the team before the season ended. Maybe there’s a rule against it here. Maybe Molina will just give it to charity anyway. Still: very cool. Or at least it will be until Buck and McCarver start beating it into the ground once the Series starts;
  • You’re going to hear a lot about the low TV ratings this World Series is going to bring in the coming days. And it may bring low ratings. I don’t care and if you care at all about baseball, neither should you. Warrant and Creed sold more albums than the Pixies and Pavement ever did and the popularity of the former doesn’t diminish the greatness of the latter in any way. This is an evenly matched series pitting two teams with a bevy of interesting and exciting players against one another, many of whom aren’t all that well-known by the general public. If people don’t watch, that’s their loss. Besides, many of the same people who will be wringing their hands over the ratings are the same people who wring their hands over the Yankees or the Red Sox being in it all the time. Some people complain about everything;
  • As for the series — which, again, we’ll certainly be breaking it down more in the coming days — I’m left with a strong first impression that the Rangers are going to take it. They have the best pitcher going in Cliff Lee, the much, much better offense and the better defense as well. Predicting baseball is a sucker’s game so I won’t do it, but I think Texas looks decidedly stronger;

I guess the last question is whether I and other non-partisans will develop a rooting interest here. Like I said above, both teams are likable, so in some ways I’m just rooting hard for baseball here in a way I probably haven’t for several years. Really, I pick some reason to either love or hate a World Series team every year. For example, last year I rooted for the Phillies because I can’t bring myself to root for the Yankees in any situation. In 2007 it was the Rockies because to hell with Red Sox Nation. In 2006 it was the Tigers because of ancient Tigers DNA in the recesses of my body and my distaste for Tony La Russa. You get the idea.

Here, though, I can’t identify a strong reason to pull for either team over the other. I’m willing to take arguments in either direction.

  1. Reflex - Oct 24, 2010 at 1:25 AM

    I’ll go Giants, but it won’t bother me either way. I like both teams, but Tim Lincecum is local here in the Seattle area, and really, its been since the New York days since the Giants have last won it all. But if Texas wins I’ll be happy as well, Cliff Lee was fantastic here in Seattle and its amusing that he’s now lead two teams in consecutive series to the WS. Would hate to see him lose both times.

  2. schoenbaum - Oct 24, 2010 at 2:03 AM

    Funny, all of he pundits picked the Phillies as well…

    • schoenbaum - Oct 24, 2010 at 2:05 AM

      In fact, all of the pundits picked the G-MEN to finish fourth or last in the NL West…

      • schoenbaum - Oct 24, 2010 at 2:05 AM

        Maybe it is time to stop listening to the pundits…

      • Mark - Oct 24, 2010 at 8:32 AM

        It’s not really that hard to believe they were at that time. Based on the team the Giants had at that time, they were a third/fourth place team. Burrell didn’t join till May, and he hit like he did as a Philly after 1 1/2 lousy years in TB. Huff was coming off a lousy year, but he rebounded in a big way. Torres wasn’t on anybody’s radar, and it took an injury to Rowand to give him an everyday spot IIRC. Even then he put up a career year too.

        Everything worked out for them, and they still only won the division by a game. It’s very likely that if those 3 had produced as expected they would have been a third or fourth place team.

  3. schmedley69 - Oct 24, 2010 at 2:19 AM

    I had zero confidence in Howard during that last AB. I thought the only way that he would get on is if he were beaned. There was no doubt in my mind that he would strike out. He is a complete head case at the plate right now. He is in for a long off-season. He wanted to be one of the highest paid players in the league, but he came up small when it counted. Phillies fans will not let him forget it. Ruben Amaro sure likes to overpay guys. I wish Pat Gillick would have stayed on a few more years.

    I don’t know who to root for in the Series. The Giants fans are probably more long-suffering and more deserving. Dallas is a football town.

    • solidzac - Oct 24, 2010 at 4:30 AM

      Dallas is a football town.

      With the Cowboys on the brink of total irrelevance and the Longhorns out of the National title hunt, one happy effect of the Rangers making the World Series might just be the creation of a bunch of young baseball fans in Texas.

    • God Himself Can't Make Me Root for W's Team, But Fiorentino Might - Oct 24, 2010 at 4:42 AM

      That “complete headcase” just hit 318/400/500 for the series. In this series, only Ross and Werth were better. But he gets the goat horns ’cause, OMIGOD!… NO RBIs! and 12 K’s! ‘Cause for many of us, sadly, apparently “clutch hitting” is still real and “productive outs” are still where it’s at. 21st century, man, 21st century.

      • schmedley69 - Oct 24, 2010 at 9:29 AM

        There’s no denying that he is a different hitter when there are men on base. He really came up small in RBI situations. When you sign a $125 million deal, there is a lot of pressure on you, and I think he is feeling that pressure.

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Oct 25, 2010 at 10:03 AM

        Utley sucked worse than Howard in this series. He just was lucky enough not to get the 27th out.

  4. granted42 - Oct 24, 2010 at 2:19 AM

    As a Giants fan, I’m surprised (and elated,) that they were able to beat the Phillies. They matched up well on pitching, but the Giants clearly had the lesser offense. That’s why they play the games instead using stats to decide who moves on in the postseason. Likewise, the Giants and Rangers are pretty even on pitching, but the Rangers clearly have the advantage on offense. Let’s play the games and see what happens. I have no animosity toward the Rangers or their fans, so I’m going to enjoy this.

  5. nfieldr - Oct 24, 2010 at 2:36 AM

    Not to pick nits (ok, maybe a little nit)… but shouldn’t that headline read “… our first PEEK ahead”?

  6. leboyfriend - Oct 24, 2010 at 2:38 AM

    I am basically a Giants fan and wanted them to win tonight. But how can you hate a team (the Rangers) who, when they won the ALCS, showered everyone w/Ginger Ale because a teammate has an alcohol problem? What to do? What to do?

  7. jhu1997 - Oct 24, 2010 at 3:12 AM

    I’m with you on everything but the defense comment. Modern metrics show the Giants to be a much better defensive team. For example, http://www.fangraphs.com/teams.aspx?pos=all&stats=fld&lg=all&type=1&season=2010&month=0

  8. mangothefruit - Oct 24, 2010 at 6:01 AM

    One interesting thing; the pitching in this series was almost completely evenly matched. Giants had a 3.06 ERA with 56 strikeouts and 1.170 WHIP. Phillies had a 3.08 ERA with 56 strikeouts and a 1.196 WHIP.

  9. thimsen7 - Oct 24, 2010 at 8:43 AM

    Going for the Giants to win for Bobby Thompson.

  10. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 24, 2010 at 11:25 AM

    The series that Ryan Howard had is proof positive that stas don’t always tell the story. Sure, his #’s look good. Like the jackass above whose douchebag name is a rip on me writes…Ryan’s BA/OBP/SLG was the third best of the series. But was he really the third best player? He came up with men on first and second quite a bit, and he didn’t even move the runners once. Not only didn’t he get a hit…he didn’t move the runners. Sure, with two outs and nobody on, he was a double machine. But that just doesn’t cut it when you are THE BIG PIECE. You have to hit with RISP. I would rather he have hit .200, but had even ONE hit with RISP…know why? Because considering that 3 of the 4 losses were ONE RUN LOSSES, we would be watching a game 7 tonight if he had just gotten ONE big hit. Not a Home Run. Not even a double. A simple single would have brought home a run or two. Like the guy on twitter kept telling me…Ryan Howard is having a great postseason. And quoting those #’s. Ryan Howard isn’t supposed to hit .300. He’s supposed to drive people in when they are on base. And he didn’t do his job. Period. He’s not Ichiro. His job isn’t to get on base. His job is to produce runs. and he choked every single time he came up with runners in scoring position.

    If you are a stat sheet, EXCEL guy, then Ryan had the third best postseason. If you watched the series with your own two eyes, and used your common sense, there’s no other way to describe his series than to say this…In a series full of Phillies goats, Ryan Howard was the biggest one.

    • Richard In Big D - Oct 24, 2010 at 1:40 PM

      I thought you were done until spring training! You know, it’s not nice to make promises and then not keep them. But, yeah, now I remember who made the promise…

    • Bochy's Head/Timmy's Bong - Oct 24, 2010 at 2:11 PM

      First, two comments regarding Fiorentino calling me “the jackass above whose douchebag name is a rip on me:”
      1) You’ll note I’ve changed the name as it’s now old, and it’s time to move on; and,
      2) I’ll reserve the right to bring it back next year, as being called a “jackass” by Fiorentino is hardly a negative.

      Now, re: Howard…
      I’m not arguing that Howard was the third best player in the series. I am arguing that the notion that he “choked,” that this series somehow reflects poorly on his character, is ridiculous. His series was only bad if you believe in the myth that there are “clutch hitters.” They don’t exist. Fairy tale. And its long past time the flat-earthers get over it.

      As the by now old refrain goes, there are “clutch hits,” but there are not “clutch hitters.” In short, we know there are guys who have the ability to get on base or to hit for power because we can show that some hitters do those things in a consistent way far beyond what random statistical variation would suggest. Not so with “clutch hitting.” Despite numerous attempts, using all kinds of different definitions of “clutch hitting,” no such ability has been shown. In general, hitters who do well in clutch situations are generally just better overall hitters than those who do not, but no special “clutch” gene is in evidence. Or, at best, it might be argued that the selection process is already in the rearview. That is, if you didn’t have some “clutch” ability, you wouldn’t have made it to the majors anyway.

      Thus ARod was a “choke artist” (of course, only by ignoring his early years when he was very “clutch”) until last year he magically became clutch (again), but this year he reverted to being a “choke artist” again. Howard, too, for a “choker,” has had remarkable postseason “clutch” moments.

      One big hit with runners on might have turned the series. I reject the notion that because Howard didn’t get it, he is unworthy of his $125M contract extension (I think he is unlikely to be worthy of it, but that remains to be played out and has everything to do with normal aging and nothing to do with his clutchiosity, or lack thereof).

      I understand that “clutch” and “choke” are great story arcs. So is Santa Claus. Time to grow up.

      • Bochy's Head/Timmy's Bong - Oct 24, 2010 at 2:24 PM

        Oh, and I now await Fiorentino’s rebuttal… his, what 8th, 9th, 10th, post? since promising to go away until spring training.

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Oct 25, 2010 at 10:08 AM

        Speaking of Santa Claus, Christmas came early this year. Fioretino whines for getting it all wrong, Then, I don’t have to bother responding directly to the whines b/c he’s called out by all the other observant readers. I take a nap. I wake up and read it all again. I watch an amazing World Series. I take a nap. Life goes on. Life is good.

  11. Chris Fiorentino's Rash - Oct 24, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    If the whole team plays poorly, it doesn’t take much to be the third best.

    • Richard In Big D - Oct 24, 2010 at 1:42 PM

      Cute screen name, but remember: Chris Fiorentino IS a rash, on the ass of this blog.

  12. sailcat54 - Oct 24, 2010 at 2:05 PM

    It wasn’t that long ago that neither the Giants nor the Rangers were being contemplated for berths in the World Series. Both teams have punched above their weight in order to get here, despite the pundits’ predictions. Now that the Yanks and Phillies are going home to rest up for spring training, it’s time for us to watch what I (not a pundit) am going to predict will be a terrific Series! Great pitching, strong fielding, and clutch hitting!

    A few beers, some brats, and a couple of scrappy teams playing the only sport worth watching! It’s going to be an outstanding week!

  13. wonkypenguin - Oct 24, 2010 at 10:51 PM

    I’m taking the Giants because I have a distaste for Josh Hamilton and his religiosity. But that’s a pretty lame reason for cheering against someone so really, I’m just looking forward to the matchup and the fact that it ISN’T Yankees/Phillies.

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