October 28, 2002

All Hail The Rally Monkey

Just like that, another season comes to an end.

After about 2,500 games and countless memories, the Anaheim Angels defeated the San Francisco Giants, becoming the 2003 World Champions.

As a Giants fan, okay a Barry Bonds fan, I am a little disappointed.

But this Anaheim team is a very deserving champion.

They took took out the Yankees.

They disposed of my poor Twins.

They defeated the best team in the National League.

They didn't do it with front line starting pitching or an offense built around walks and the 3-run homer.

And that's the beauty of baseball.

A team can win with a 20-year old phenom in the bullpen and an offense built around a bunch of doubles hitting hackers.

And they can beat a team with the best player in the world, perhaps the best player in the history of the world.

Barry Bonds finished the 2003 World Series with a .471 batting average, a .700 on-base % and a 1.294 slugging %.

Those are freakish numbers.

And yet, even though Barry was avoiding outs 70% of the time and averaging 1.3 bases every time he didn't walk, the Giants lost the series.

But why?

A few obvious reasons...

1) Starting pitching.

Here are the San Francisco starters' totals in each game:

G1 - 5.2 IP / 3 R

G2 - 1.2 IP / 7 R

G3 - 3.2 IP / 6 R

G4 - 6.0 IP / 3 R

G5 - 4.2 IP / 3 R

G6 - 6.1 IP / 2 R

G7 - 2.0 IP / 4 R

TOTAL - 30 IP / 28 R

Giving up almost a run per inning in a World Series is just not a good way to go about winning it.

Yet, despite pretty bad, or at least very mediocre, starting pitching throughout the first 6 games of the series, the Giants had a chance to win game 7.

Dusty Baker's decision to go with Livan Hernandez instead of Kirk Rueter probably cost them the game.

I can't say that I would have made a different choice than Dusty, mostly because I predicted before the series that Rueter would be knocked around by the Angels.

But, he pitched pretty well against them in game 4 and pitched well against them in game 7 (4 IP, 1 H, 0 R) after coming into the game as a reliever.

Livan struggled in the first inning, but managed to wriggle his way out of trouble without any damage.

He gave up 1 run in the second.

In the 3rd, he loaded the bases with the first 3 batters of the inning, gave up a bases clearing double to Garret Anderson and couldn't record an out in the inning.

And that was basically the ball game.

2) Relief pitching.

The Giants had one of the better bullpens in the National League his year.

However, their bullpen was, at best, inconsistent in this series.

Felix Rodriguez gave up 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th in game 2.

The ball game was tied at 9 when Rodriguez entered the game, the Giants ended up losing 11-10 and Rodriguez took the loss.

Jay Witasick came into game 3 in the 4th inning with the score 5-1 Angels.

He promptly gave up a walk, single, single, single, before recording an out, at which point it was 8-1 Angels.

And then there is game 6.

With the score 5-0 Giants, Russ Ortiz left the game with 2 men on base and was replaced by Felix Rodriguez.

Rodriguez gave up a homer to the first batter he faced, Scott Spiezio, and the score was suddenly 5-3.

In the bottom of the 8th inning, score still 5-3 Giants, Tim Worrell gave up a leadoff homer to Darin Erstad, making the score 5-4.

He then gave up 2 straight singles and was yanked from the game in favor of Robb Nen.

Nen came in and gave up a double to the first batter he saw, Troy Glaus, making the score 6-5 Angels.

Like I said, the Giants pen was inconsistent.

They were very solid in several of the games, but they completely blew game 6, gave up the winning runs in game 2 and allowed game 3 to completely slip away from the Giants.

3) Barry Bonds' teammates.

When a guy hits .471 and slugs 1.294 during a series, he has done pretty much all he can.

And when the other team decides that he is so incredible that they would rather just give up trying to gain outs during his plate appearances and they simply decide to walk him, well, his teammates have to do their job and drive him in.

Benito Santiago simply was not able to do what he did in the NLCS, which was drive Barry in the numerous times he was on base.

After hitting .300/.364/.600 with 2 homers and 6 RBIs in the NLCS, Santiago hit only .231/.300/.231 with no extra base hits in the World Series.

He did manage to drive in 5 runs, which looks nice on paper.

But, considering the amount of times Barry was on base for him to drive in, he could have had a lot more.

And he ate up a lot of those "extra" outs that Barry provided, by hitting into several key double plays.

The San Francisco bench was absolutely horrendous in this series.

Shawon Dunston, Tom Goodwin, Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Pedro Feliz, the bench players in this series (and the DHs in game 1, 2, 6 and 7), had a combined 24 at bats.

In those 24 at bats, they managed only 3 hits, which comes out to a .125 batting average.

The lone bright spot was Dunston's homer, but other than that, they were less than useless.

Some of the blame for that goes on the players' shoulders, but a lot of it must fall upon Dusty Baker.

He was not without options, or at least option.

Dusty chose to leave Damon Minor off of the playoff roster for each and every round.

Now, Damon Minor is not going to be confused with Jason Giambi (or even Jeremy Giambi) anytime soon, but he would have been a much better option than the group of blech that the Giants trotted out as designated and pinch "hitters" throughout this series.

Here are the regular season numbers of the four guys who did make the playoff roster and the one guy that did not:

Dunston = .231/.250/.286

Goodwin = .260/.321/.338

Shinjo = .238/.294/.370

Feliz = .253/.281/.336

Minor = .237/.333/.445

Minor's on-base % was significantly higher than 3 of them and slightly higher than Goodwin's.

His slugging % was 75 points higher than Shinjo's and over 100 points higher than the other 3 guys.

A .237/.333/.445 stat line isn't anything to get excited about, unless those other 4 guys are the alternatives.

Minor's numbers did come in a limited number of MLB at bats this year (173 ABs), but his minor league record shows that he is a consistently good hitter.

2001 (AAA Fresno) = .308/.380/.554 with 24 homers in 406 ABs.

2000 (AAA Fresno) = .290/.394/.537 with 30 homers in 482 ABs.

Dusty made a mistake leaving Damon Minor off of the playoff roster and it probably cost him a couple of runs, maybe a game, and possibly a World Series.

Okay, enough about what the Giants did to lose the series, what did the Angels do to win it?

They hit, hit and hit some more.

Anaheim hitters combined to hit .310 in the series.

So, while the Giants were out-walking and out-homering them, the Angels continued to do what they have done all season, which is simply get hits.

They even managed to hit for some power too.

They hit 7 homers and 15 doubles in the 7 game series.

Troy Glaus won the series MVP while hitting .385/.467/.846 with 3 homers and 8 RBIs.

Tim Salmon also did extremely well, hitting .346/.452/.615 with 2 homers.

Scott Spiezio tied the all-time record for most RBIs in a post-season and hit .261/.400/.522 with 8 RBIs in the World Series.

David Eckstein got on-base at a .364 clip, Darin Erstad slugged .500 and even Bengie Molina had a key hit or two.

And the Angel that struggled the most in the series, Garret Anderson (who hit only .281/.281/.313) managed to get the biggest hit of the series, his bases clearing, 3-run double in game 7.

Not only did their "regulars" hit well, their bench players had some success too.

While Shinjo, Goodwin, Feliz and Dunston were combining for a .125 average, Shawn Wooten, Benji Gil, Orlando Palmeiro and Alex Ochoa combined to go 6-12, a .500 average, including a couple of doubles.

If you read my World Series Preview and Prediction article, you know that I predicted the Giants to win in 7 games.

I was obviously wrong about the Giants winning, but I was right about the series going 7 games, so I was curious to see what things I got "wrong" in the preview and which things I got "right"...

"I think it is possible that a team that has an offense based almost entirely upon batting average, as the Angels do, might actually have an advantage in the post-season, when the pitchers probably tend to walk a few less people and home runs start becoming a little harder to get."

Well, call me a believer.

At least in this case.

In the last few years I think more and more teams have been building their offenses in the Billy Beane mold, walks and homers.

This Anaheim team is certainly a point against that type of offense and I suspect it will be duplicated, just as any successful strategy is in sports.

"I think it is possible that Scioscia will pitch to Bonds a reasonable amount of the time, at least at the start of the series, but I do not think it will be the case as the series progresses.

The further the series goes and the closer Mike Scioscia gets to seeing the championship light at the end of the baseball tunnel, the more he is going to be thinking, "I am not going to let Barry Bonds beat me.""

I think I was pretty much right about this.

Rob Neyer discussed before the series that he felt Scioscia would be more willing than others to pitch to Bonds.

I respectfully disagreed, not because I know Mike Scioscia or anything, but just because I know how scared I would be to pitch to Barry Bonds in a World Series.

Bonds ended up walking 13 times in the 7 games, which is a World Series record.

"Overall, I would give a slight bullpen edge to the Angels.

I think Percival is a little bit more reliable than Nen and I think that if Francisco Rodriguez is pitching anything like he has thus far, he is better than Felix Rodriguez.

The other 3 guys for each team are essentially a draw."

I already talked about the problems with the Giants' pen.

I definitely did not expect Felix Rodriguez, and to a lesser extent Robb Nen, to have so much trouble in this series.

"I would expect the Giants to lose game 4, but of course, predicting the outcome of a series is tough enough and trying to predict one game is just silly."

Well, I am glad I put in that little disclaimer at the end, although I must admit that I was pretty sure Kirk Rueter would get rocked in game 4.

"The other game 1 starter, Jarrod Washburn was great this year, winning 18 games with an ERA in the low 3s.

He is most likely the best starting pitcher on either team.

But in looking at how the Giants do against left handed pitching and how the Angels do against right handed pitching, I think the Giants would be my picks to win games 1 and 5.

I think Jarrod Washburn is probably in for some trouble."

This is the prediction I am most proud of.

I thought coming into the series that the Giants would do very well against Jarrod Washburn and he combined to go 0-2 with a 9.31 ERA in the series.

And the Giants did win games 1 and 5.

"So, which Livan Hernandez will show up?

The innings eating guy who gives up a lot of hits and a lot of runs in the regular season?

Or the playoff pitcher, who gives up less hits and lowers his ERA by 2 runs in the playoffs?

If I knew the answer to that question, I would be in Vegas right now, placing a nice, fat bet.

I am going to guess that the regular season Livan shows up for one game and the playoff Livan shows up for the other.

The big question is obviously, which guy shows up in which game?


And this is the prediction I am least proud of (okay, maybe this and the Rueter one).

I went against all my normal feelings about "clutch performers" (I don't generally believe in a such a thing) and hopped on the "Livan is good in the post-season" bandwagon.

And, as I talked about already, Livan pretty much stunk in both of his starts.

The lesson here is that even someone (me!) that prides himself on looking at the statistics and thinking about the "evidence" when deciding on things can sometimes get swayed by results that occur in small sample sizes, like Livan Hernandez's 51 career playoff innings prior to the World Series.

"I am sticking with Superman and counting on his friends to get the job done and drive him in.

Prediction: Giants in 7"

Well, sticking with Bonds was a good idea, and J.T. Snow had himself a very nice series.

But Santiago and Reggie Sanders couldn't get the job done.

I mean Sanders was pinch hit for by Tom Goodwin!

The Anaheim Angels are the 2003 Champions and another great season has come to a close.

The one thing that keeps popping into my mind is that I cannot believe there won't be any more baseball games this year.

Well, that and one question...

When do pitchers and catchers report?

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