October 25, 2002

Going back to Anaheim, 3-2

The Giants pounded the Angels into submission, winning game 5 16-4.

Which means they take a 3-2 series lead back to Anaheim for game 6 on Saturday.

San Francisco hitters combined for 16 hits and 6 walks, including 3 doubles and 3 homers.

And 6 Giants had 2 or more hits, including 3 guys with 3 hits.

Jeff Kent finally decided to show up, hitting 2 homers and a double and driving in 4 runs.

Barry Bonds continued to be superhuman, going 3-4 with 2 doubles and a walk, putting his post-season hitting line at .350/.576/.975(!).

Giants' starter Jason Schmidt looked pretty good early, but started struggling in the 5th inning and fell apart so quickly that he wasn't even able to finish the 5th and become eligibile for the win.

San Francisco relievers stepped in and finished the job, going 4 1/3 innings and allowing only 1 run off of 3 hits.

Felix "Iron Man" Rodriguez pitched 1/3 of an inning, continuing his streak of playing in every World Series games so far.

3 different Anaheim pitchers, starter Jarrod Washburn and relievers Ben Weber and Scot Shields, gave up at least 5 runs.

Shields had not pitched in almost a month and needed 49 pitches to get 5 outs.

Definitely a real butt kicking by the Giants, who showed why the have the best offense in baseball (according to me at least).

The series now shifts to Anaheim and the Angels need to win 2 in a row.

Certainly doable.

Russ Ortiz goes for the Giants in game 6 and he did anything but inspire confidence in Giants fans with his horrible performance in game 2.

If the Angels can win game 6, they would be looking at either Livan Hernandez (who didn't look good in his first start either) or Kirk Rueter (who looked good, but who I still think is a bad bet to succeed against the Angels).

For the Angels, Kevin Appier will be on the mound for game 6 and will have to improve upon his performance from game 2 if they have any shot at winning.

If the series gets to game 7, Mike Scioscia might have a decision to make.

I read a report that scheduled game 7 starter Ramon Ortiz is having some problems with his right wrist and may not be able to make the start.

In which case I guess John Lackey would get the call on 3 days rest?

I am not really sure what the Angels would do in that situation.

If I were Scioscia and I was feeling especially daring, I might think about calling on Francisco Rodriguez to start the deciding game.

But the chances of that happening are probably just slightly better than me getting the start (I have a decent knuckleball and pinpoint control with all my pitches).

Did anyone see Dusty Baker's kid (I think his name is Darren) almost get killed at home plate?

He was picking up a bat while a couple of Giants were coming around to score runs and if it weren't for J.T. Snow scooping him up, he would have been a pancake.

I saw Dusty's reaction, which was basically him putting his head in his hands and probably thinking "oh boy, my wife is gonna be pissed at that."

Good thing he is going to Anaheim, maybe she will forget by the time he comes home.

In non-World Series news...

It looks like the Mets and Devil Rays have found new managers in Art Howe and Lou Piniella.

I really do not think either hiring is very good for the teams involved or the managers.

Art Howe is a decent manager, but that Mets team needs a lot of help and I don't think he is the guy to give it to them.

He is stepping into a pretty big mess; big contracts, old players, lots of declines and a pretty bad team in 2001.

I would be surprised if he lasts more than a couple of (non-playoff) seasons.

I haven't heard whether or not the Mets will have to give the A's some sort of compensation for Howe, but if they do, that's just a bonus for Billy Beane who is probably just as happy to have Howe gone and Ken Macha as the new skipper.

In Tampa, the lowly Devil Rays have decided to spend about $4 million a season on Lou Piniella.

This from a team that has always had one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.

It just seems strange that a team won't spend money on players, but will make their manager one of the highest paid in baseball.

Lou is stepping into an even bigger mess than Art Howe, as the D-Rays are probably the worst organization in baseball and have never been even remotely successful.

Sweet Lou doesn't strike me as a very patient man, which is exactly what he is going to have to be to not lose his mind watching the losses pile up in Tampa.

They have some very good, young prospects in the organization, but most of them are a minimum of 2-3 years from doing anything significant in the big leagues.

I read a report that Seattle is going to receive outfielder Randy Winn as compensation for Piniella, which would be a pretty good pickup for the Mariners.

Winn hit .298/.360/.461 in 607 ABs with Tampa Bay this, including 14 homers, 9 triples, 39 doubles and 27 steals.

He is also a good defensive player, capable of playing center field (as he did this year) or left field, which is his likely spot in Seattle.

Lou in Tampa might not be the greatest idea in the world, but it sure will be interesting.

I put the OVER/UNDER on "total bases pulled out of the ground and thrown by Piniella in 2003" at 5.5.

October 23, 2002

Okay, so I was wrong

I made some predictions in this space yesterday, after game 3 of the Angels/Giants series, that didn't quite go as I planned.

But, I am not one to shy away from criticism (well, I am, but I said it yesterday, so it is tough to hide it), so here is exactly what I said:

"I think this series is over and the Anaheim Angels are the going to be the World Champions.

They face Kirk Rueter tomorrow and I don't think he will make it out of the 3rd inning.

So, that'll make it 3-1 and I just don't see the Giants winning 3 in a row."

All right, so I'm not all knowing and omnipotent.

Rueter pitched pretty damn well, although he did give up quite a few hits (as he usually does).

His final line?

6 IP

9 Hits

3 Runs

2 Strike Outs

0 Walks

The 9 hits were about what I had in mind, but I was thinking more along the lines of 3 IP and 6 or 7 runs.

But, as always, what the hell do I know?!

Game 4 was an excellent game.

The Angels are now completely afraid of pitching to Barry Bonds in any kind of dangerous situation.

They once again intentionally walked him IN THE FIRST INNING!

On the night, he went 0-1 with 3 walks.

Francisco Rodriguez took the first loss of his Major League career, dropping him to 5-1 in the post-season.

He gave up 1 run, although it was unearned as a result of a Bengie Molina passed ball.

Francisco (I refuse to call him K-Rod or F-Rod or whatever) did manage to get Barry Bonds out, which is pretty special at this point.

So, now this series is really a best of 3 and the Angels have homefield advantage.

Game 5: Jason Schmidt (13-8, 3.45 ERA, .524 SNPct) vs. Jarrod Washburn (18-6, 3.15 ERA, .658 SNPct)

Game 6: Russ Ortiz (14-10, 3.61 ERA, .550 SNPct) vs. Kevin Appier (14-12, 3.92 ERA, .558 SNPct)

Game 7: Hernandez/Rueter vs. Ramon Ortiz (15-9, 3.77 ERA, .584 SNPct)

I say Hernandez/Rueter because I heard Dusty Baker's post game interview and he didn't sound real sure about Livan starting game 7, and I can't say that I blame him.

I would make a new prediction, but, well, you know how my last one went.

I guess I will just stick to the original prediction that I made in my World Series Preview and Prediction article, which is Giants in 7 games.

A few notes unrelated to baseball...

A lot of people sent me emails regarding yesterday's entry and two topics in particular.

1) Jennifer Aniston's butt and the picture link that I provided.

Apparently a lot of people clicked on the link I provided, hoping to see the picture I was talking about and they ended up somewhere other than the picture.

I am not sure what happened, I guess something went wrong with the link.

I think I have fixed the problem.

So, here is a new link to the picture that I was talking about in yesterday's entry (don't worry, it is not pornographic!): Click here for the picture.

2) The bulletin that my "Community Advisor" posted in the dorm bathroom.

A lot of people were wondering whether or not I took some comedic license and changed some things around to make the bulletin sound funnier.

I assure you I did not, it is 100% word-by-word, letter-by-letter, what he wrote on the actual bulletin.

And to answer a question that at least one loyal reader had, I am not included in the group of people leaving their feces in unflushed toilets and leaving trash and food in various non-trash and non-food places!

Other than that, not much else to report.

Oh, one final thing.

Gambling is bad kids, particularly gambling against Kirk Rueter.

And particularly gambling against Kirk Rueter and losing!

The Fat Lady is warming up...

As much as I hate to say it (I am a Giants fan and I picked them to win the series), I think this series is over and the Anaheim Angels are the going to be the World Champions.

They took a 2-1 lead tonight, after once again scoring in double digits, beating the Giants 10-4.

They face Kirk Rueter tomorrow and I don't think he will make it out of the 3rd inning.

So, that'll make it 3-1 and I just don't see the Giants winning 3 in a row.

Tonight's game was such a non-competitive game that it ruined a planned Baseball Primer article!

I was in an online chat with about 10-12 other guys and the transcript of the chat was supposed to be posted as an article on BaseballPrimer.com (similar to this one from the NLCS).

But, by about the 4th inning, the baseball conversation in regard to the actual game we were all watching had been completely ruined.

We started talking about the relative value of a great defensive first baseman (not that great).

After that, we moved on to discussing the all-time great seasons by relief pitchers (there are tons).

Then we started discussing Kirby Puckett's current troubles (still baseball related chat, but just barely).

After Kirby, the conversation moved to college football and specifically the biggest stadiums (now we are officially done discussing baseball alltogether).

Then we started discussing various things in relation to my major here at the U of Minnesota (now we are completely done with anything sports related; it is journalism by the way)

At some point we started discussing Jennifer Aniston's butt (extremely great, although some people in the room were not all that impressed by the picture I supplied).

And finally, with the game most likely not even on the television sets of most of the room members, the subject of Atheism was brought up and discussed in some depth.

I guess even the most hardcore baseball geeks lose interest in a blowout game at some point.

So, to all the women that say they always wonder what guys think about...that's basically it: baseball, football, college majors, Jennifer Aniston's butt and religion (and in that order, apparently).

Finally...

This has absolutely nothing to do with baseball, but it is just too good not to post for you all to see.

I live in a dorm at the University of Minnesota.

My floor has a student "Community Advisor" that lives on the floor and sort of runs things.

Here is the exact, word-for-word bulletin/note that he posted inside of the men's bathroom yesterday (I stole one of the many copies of this bulletin, so as to accurately reproduce it for my audience):

********************************************************************************************

REQUESTS FROM YOUR COMMUNITY ADVISOR

Please respect this floor as I respect you and your room

1) Flush the toilet when you are done using it! The floor would appreciate not looking at others feces before they use the toilet.

2) Do not leave trash in the hallway or bathroom. There are multiple disposal areas on the floor designated for garbage and the hallway and drinking fountain are not on the list.

3) Do not dispose of food in the sinks or drinking fountain Dump unfinished food in the garbage or flush it down the toilet.

If you gentlemen do not abide by these three requests I will begin documenting and directing attention toward things that I am sure you would like to keep to yourselves.

One person can ruin it for the entire floor.

Thank you to everyone that has respected these already, please continue to make this is a pleasant environment to live in.

If there are questions please come talk to me.

Andy

********************************************************************************************

Yep, that's dorm life for ya.

Feces in unflushed toilets.

Trash in the hallways.

Old food in the drinking fountains.

Threats of revealing things that "you would like to keep to yourselves." (read: sex, drugs and rock & roll)

And a Community Advisor that suggests flushing unfinished food "down the toilet."

October 21, 2002

Two down, five to go?

First of all, I want to let everyone know that part 2 of my article, "Minnesota Twins: A Plan for the Future" is now up and available for you to read over at BaseballPrimer.com.

And if you haven't read part 1 yet, well, what the #%&! are you waiting for?!

Also, if you haven't checked out my World Series Preview and Prediction article yet, you can do so by clicking here.

Wow, that some game last night, huh?

Before I talk about anything else, I have to discuss what Mr. Bonds did in the 9th inning.

That home run was quite possibly the most titanic blast I have ever seen.

I saw the replay like 20 times and I still don't think I saw where it landed.

Tim Salmon pretty much had the same thoughts as I did when he saw what Bonds did.

Right after the homer, the camera flashed to Salmon on the top step of the dugout (he had been replaced in RF by Alex Ochoa) and Salmon (very clearly) said, "My god! That is the furthest ball I have even seen hit..."

I was going to do a "Top 10 ways you know the homer is an absolute BOMB!" list, but I could only think of like 2 or 3 ways.

So, here is the list anyway:

3) The camera tries to focus on the flight of the ball and you can see the moon in the middle of your TV screen.

2) The umpire throws the pitcher a new ball before the homer gets to the outfield.

And the #1 way you know the homer in an absolute BOMB! is...

1) It actually silences McCarver and Buck for more than 2 seconds.

David Letterman I'm not.

For those of you who haven't been checking the "Bonds Playoff Tracker" on the left side of this page...

First of all, shame on you.

Secondly, Superman is currently sporting a .909 slugging % and a .528 on-base %.

And I am loving every minute of it.

A few other thoughts on the game...

Francisco Rodriguez continues to be magnificent, throwing 3 no-hit innings last night, with 4 strike outs and 0 walks.

His numbers for the post-season:

13 IP

4 Hits

19 K

4 BB

1.38 ERA

.095 Opponent Avg

5-0 Record

Un-freaking-believable.

Both starting pitchers were completely horrible last night, lasting a combined total of 3 2/3 innings and allowing 12 runs off of 14 hits, including 4 homers.

John Lackey came on in the 3rd inning to relieve Kevin Appier and ended up pitching 2 1/3 innings.

I am not sure exactly what this does to the Anaheim rotation the rest of the way.

Lackey was scheduled to start game 4, but I am not sure now.

I would think that he could still make the start because he only threw 32 pitches last night, which is probably sort of like throwing on the side between starts.

Chad Zerbe came on in relief of Russ Ortiz and did a very nice job, going 4 innings to save a complete bullpen drainage.

6 different San Francisco pitchers got into last night's game and not a single one of them was able to strike out an Anaheim hitter.

I have been talking in my previews of each Anaheim series about how Anaheim "doesn't strike out," but I didn't mean it 100% literally!

When you total 37 at bats as a team without striking out even a single time, you are going to get some hits and that is exactly what Anaheim did.

Speaking of Anaheim getting hits...

Kenny Lofton's defense in center field has gone from great to good to decent to laughable in about 3 seasons.

He never had much of a throwing arm to begin with and the great speed and range that he once had is now dimished quite a bit.

Plus, he seems to have a bit of a problem getting the ball from his glove to his hand with having it fly 3 feet away from him.

Kenny, if Dusty asks you if you want to DH in games 6 and/or 7, say yes this time and save yourself and your team some trouble.

How bad must a team's bench be when the designated hitter is hitting in the 9th spot in the lineup AND it is Shawon Dunston!?!

Paging Damon Minor...

I am not sure what Dusty was thinking leaving Minor off of the playoff roster for any of the rounds and especially in the World Series, when the AL team has homefield and you might need to use a DH 4 times.

Troy Glaus has been awesome this post-season (.349/.404/.837 in 43 ABs) and last night I was taking a look at his career stats and I found them pretty interesting.

Glaus' first full-season in the Majors was 1999.

He hit .240/.331/.450 with 29 homers in 551 at bats.

Okay, pretty good full-season debut for a 22-year old.

He has been a full-time 3B ever since and here are his numbers:



Year ABs .AVG .OBP .SLG HR BB

2000 563 .284 .404 .604 47 112

2001 588 .250 .367 .531 41 107

2002 569 .250 .352 .453 30 88



That is one weird career progression.

He had his best season in his 2nd year and has declined in both seasons since then.

Actually, if you start with 1999 as his first year (which it was) and just reverse everything after that, it looks like what I would consider a normal career progression.

Let's try it...



Year ABs .AVG .OBP .SLG HR BB

1999 551 .240 .331 .450 29 71

2002 569 .250 .352 .453 30 88

2001 588 .250 .367 .531 41 107

2000 563 .284 .404 .604 47 112



If Glaus had done that, instead of his actual downward progression, I think we would be talking about a future (or current) superstar.

In the "revised" version of his career, his batting average, on-base % and slugging % are on the rise throughout.

He ups his home run total every year and his plate discipline gets better and better.

My point? Nothing, as usual.

Although I guess my point could be that "timing is everything"?

That's all for now.

Next game is Tuesday night, in San Francisco.

Livan Hernandez vs. Ramon Ortiz.

The Giants need a win pretty badly in this game, otherwise they are looking at being down 3-1 after Kirk Rueter takes his beating in game 4 (and yes, that is an official Aaron's Baseball Blog Prediction).

October 19, 2002

World Series Preview and Prediction

Before I get to my preview of the World Series, I just want to remind everyone to go check out my article, "Minnesota Twins: A Plan for the Future" over at BaseballPrimer.com.

It is part 1 of a 2-parter and I think you will all enjoy reading it.

Okay, on to the preview...

San Francisco Giants (95-66) vs. Anaheim Angels (99-63)

Pitching Matchups:

Jason Schmidt (13-8, 3.45 ERA, .524 SNPct) vs. Jarrod Washburn (18-6, 3.15 ERA, .658 SNPct)

Russ Ortiz (14-10, 3.61 ERA, .550 SNPct) vs. Kevin Appier (14-12, 3.92 ERA, .558 SNPct)

Livan Hernandez (12-16, 4.38 ERA, .450 SNPct) vs. Ramon Ortiz (15-9, 3.77 ERA, .584 SNPct)

Kirk Rueter (14-8, 3.23 ERA, .547 SNPct) vs. John Lackey (9-4, 3.66 ERA, .520 SNPct)

Schmidt vs. Washburn

Ortiz vs. Appier

Hernandez vs. Ortiz

Team Stats (League Ranking):

Runs Scored: San Francisco 783 (3) / Anaheim 851 (4)

Runs Allowed: San Francisco 616 (2) / Anaheim (1)

Defensive Efficiency: San Francisco .7194 (4) / Anaheim .7314 (1)

Team EqA: San Francisco .283 (1) / Anaheim .265 (5)

Relievers' Adjusted Runs Prevented: San Francisco 48.2 (2) / Anaheim 68.0 (1)

My Thoughts:

These are probably the best teams from each league.

Yeah, I know, that isn't exactly a shocking thing to say about the two teams in the World Series.

But, neither of these teams actually won their division and it is somewhat common for a team that is very clearly not the best team in the league to get hot in the playoffs, catch a few breaks here and there and advance to the Fall Classic.

This time however, these teams are pretty clearly the class of their respective leagues.

Anaheim led the AL with a .636 Pythagorean Winning Percentage (which is a calculation of a team's expected winning %, using their runs scored and runs allowed).

And San Francisco led the NL at .618.

Plus, both teams played in the best division in their league, the AL and NL Wests.

On the surface, the success of both teams looks rather similar.

The Giants scored the 3rd most runs in the NL and allowed the 2nd fewest, Anaheim scored the 4th most runs in the AL and allowed the least.

However, Pac Bell Park does funny things to the Giants' numbers because it was one of the most pitcher friendly parks in all of baseball this year.

Which means the Giants hitters are actually quite a bit better than their stats would tell you, and the Giants pitchers are quite a bit less impressive.

Check out the San Francisco home and road hitting splits:

at Home = .258/.339/.409

on Road = .273/.350/.471

Add in the fact that most teams tend to actually hit slightly better at home and you have yourselves a dramatic dip in raw offensive numbers as a result of Pac Bell Park.

And the same thing goes for the SF pitchers' home and road splits:

at Home = 3.03 ERA

on Road = 4.09 ERA

The Giants were third in the NL in runs scored, which is an absolutely amazing stat considering the severity of Pac Bell's affect on hitting.

With home ballpark taken into account, they were clearly the best offensive team in the National League and very likely the best offensive team in baseball.

And their pitching, which allowed the second fewest runs in the NL, well, they were actually pretty average.

Without adjusting to context, the Giants appear to be good offensive team and a good pitching team.

In reality however, the Giants are a phenomenal offensive team and a middle of the pack pitching team.

With the Angels, what the numbers tell you is pretty much what you get.

Their home park plays slightly in the hitters favor, but not anything significant.

They are a team that is very good at preventing runs and a fairly good at scoring them.

Of course, during the post-season, they have been pretty damn good at scoring them too.

Okay, so the matchup is:

Great Hitting/Decent Pitching vs. Decent Hitting/Great Pitching

Who wins?

Well, most baseball "people" and the majority of cliches will tell you that great pitching beats great hitting.

In my preview of the Braves/Giants series I posed that same question and came to the conclusion that in that case, the great hitting was so great that it would beat the great Atlanta pitching.

The Giants did beat the Braves, although it was the only first round series that I correctly predicted, so I didn't really end up looking that smart because of it.

On the other hand, the Angels offense has been looking almost unstoppable in the playoffs thus far.

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.

That is a theory.

The walks and 3-run homer believer in me says that teams reliant heavily on batting average can get extremely hot at times and can go into extreme slumps at times, and that the Angels post-season hitting thus far has just been one of those extremely hot times.

One person that is certain not to go into a slump is Barry Bonds.

Sure, Barry could go zero for the World Series, but I have a feeling he is going to be seeing an awful lot of intentional passes, which means no matter how many hits he gets (or doesn't get), he is going to be on base a ton.

I can't say that I blame Anaheim if they decide to "pitch around" Mr. Bonds, although I am not so sure it is the best strategy in the world.

If the Giants have a man on second base and first base open with Bonds coming to the plate, walking him is a no-brainer.

But there are going to be times in this series when Mike Scioscia decides to walk Bonds intentionally or "unintentionally intentionally" in situations that aren't "no-brainers."

Basically, unless Scioscia suddenly gets really brave, the Giants are going to have a spot in their lineup that simply does not make outs and even though being scared to pitch to Bonds is understandable, not allowing him to at least make some outs, is a huge disadvantage.

Rob Neyer of ESPN.com talks about this exact issue in his column previewing the World Series.

Here is part of what he said:

"You see, there's a sort of "hidden cost" to walking Bonds every time, which is that he won't make any outs when he walks. Sure, if you pitch to him he's going to kill you with his walks and his home runs and his batting average.

But mixed in with all that bad stuff will be at least a few outs. If you don't pitch to him, he's going to kill you with the walks, and there won't be any outs mixed in."

Rob also suggests that Scioscia doesn't like to intentionally walk people and thus will be more willing than, say, Tony LaRussa was, to pitch to Bonds.

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."

Certainly an understandable thought, like I said.

In a close game, if you tell me the next two batters are going to be Barry Bonds and Benito Santiago, I am pretty sure Benito Santiago is going to be hitting with a man on first base via the walk.

But there is a large difference between an understandable strategy and a correct strategy.

If Bonds starts getting walked in bunches, the Giants are getting 11% of their lineup almost totally free from making outs.

As the great Earl Weaver said, "Your most precious possessions on offense are your twenty-seven outs."

For a really great look at when and in what situations Scioscia should walk Bonds and when he shouldn't, check out "Dear Mike, You Should Walk Barry When..." at BaseballPrimer.com.

So, one key issue in this series is going to be the amount of times over 50% that Barry Bonds is on base, while another big key is going to be the bullpens.

At this point, Anaheim is basically working with a 4 man bullpen, with Francisco Rodriguez, Troy Percival, Ben Weber and Brendan Donnelly.

Scott Schoeneweis also made some relief appearances in the playoffs, but I don't foresee him doing much of anything, except for possibly coming in to face Bonds if Mike Scioscia suddenly gets frisky.

Percival is going to be great, that much we know.

The real question is, will Francisco Rodriguez continue to pitch like he has or will he come back down to earth a bit?

I talked about Rodriguez's abilities in greater detail in an earlier entry, but suffice it to say that it is unlikely he will come back down to earth much more than he already has, because, simply, he is really this good.

I do think that one of the main reason's for his incredible success in the post-season thus far, in addition to his great stuff, has been the lack of preparation and scouting the other teams have had for him.

The guy pitched a grand total of 5 innings in the big leagues prior to the playoffs and I think it is possible that the Yankees and Twins were simply not prepared to face him.

Or at least that's what the Giants better be hoping.

The Giants have a pretty good bullpen of their own, including their own dominant closer in Robb Nen.

The Giants also have their own version of Francisco Rodriguez to bridge the gap between starter and closer, in Felix Rodriguez, who struggled a bit during the regular season, but who has been fabulous in the playoffs.

In addition to the closer and setup men, the Giants have a couple of quality right handers, just like the Angels have in Weber and Donnelly.

The Giants pair is Jay Witasick and Tim Worrell.

And they have their very own lefty specialist, once again just like the Angels, in Scott Eyre.

So both teams have a dominant closer, a great setup man, 2 good right handers and a lefty specialist.

Other than those 10 pitchers, I wouldn't expect to see anyone else appear in relief in a game that isn't a complete blowout.

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.

Okay, so that covers the relievers.

What about the starters?

When I first started writing this preview I thought Kirk Rueter was going to be starting games 2 and 6.

I was going to write about what a bad decision this was for the Giants and how I thought Rueter was the worst possible starter for them to throw against the Angels.

It looks like Dusty Baker, or at least someone on the Giants, had pretty much the same thoughts that I did about Rueter's chances against Anaheim, because he is now slated to start only one game in this series, game 4.

I thought Rueter would be/will be bad against the Angels for two main reasons:

1) He doesn't strike anyone out.

This is a disadvantage to any pitcher, against any team, but it is specifically a disadvantage against a team like the Angels who rarely strike out.

You throw Rueter against the Angels and you might end up with only 1 or 2 strikeouts in a game and that means a ton of balls are going to be in the hands of the San Francisco fielders.

And putting balls in play is what got Anaheim to this point.

2) He throws left handed.

In the regular season, here are Anaheim's hitting splits against righties and lefties:

vs righties = .278/.336/.425

vs lefties = .292/.351/.451

The Angels are simply a much better hitting ballclub against left handed pitching.

And in the playoffs, that has become even more apparent.

vs righties = .312/.352/.528

vs lefties = .363/.394/.588

Now, the Angels have hit very well against whatever armed pitcher happened to be pitching against them lately and the playoffs are obviously a very small sample size to be making judgments based upon.

However, when a team is significantly better against lefties in the regular season AND they hit .363 against lefties in the post-season, well, let's just say I think the Giants are making a great decision only letting Rueter start one game.

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.

What about the other 6 games?

One of the fun things about a seven game series between teams that each use 4 man rotations is that you get repeat matchups of each of the first 3 pitching duels.

Washburn and Schmidt are going to hook up in game 1 and game 5.

Appier and (Russ) Ortiz are going in game 2 and game 6.

And (Ramon) Ortiz and Hernandez will be matched up in game 3 and game 7.

But, take it from a Twins fan that saw Joe Mays dominate the Angels and beat Kevin Appier in game one of the ALCS and then lose the exact same pitching matchup in game 5, what happens in the first matchup doesn't always mean much when the second game comes around.

While checking out the career stats of some of the players involved in this series, I found some incredibly interesting things about Jason Schmidt's performance.

Schmidt has pitched over 100 innings in a season 5 different times.

Check out his strikeout rates in those seasons:



Year Inn SOs K/9

1997 188 136 6.5

1998 214 158 6.6

1999 213 148 6.3

2001 150 142 8.5

2002 185 196 9.5



Okay class, which of those numbers are not like the rest?

Schmidt has always been an above average strikeout pitcher.

But in the last two season and specifically this season, he has been striking out significantly more batters than he ever had in his career.

Looking at the numbers, it seems fairly obviously that it has something to do with the San Francisco Giants.

Since joining the Giants in the middle of last year, here are Schmidt's combined numbers:



Inn SOs K/9

251 261 9.4



Not so coincidentally, Schmidt's two stints with the Giants are the only two times in his career that his ERA has been under 4.00.

It was 3.39 in 66 innings with SF last year and 3.45 in 185 innings with them this year.

As I said before, Pac Bell is a great place for a pitcher, so that certainly has a lot to do with Schmidt's lower ERA.

But the strikeouts are playing a big part too.

It seems to me that Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti deserves some credit for producing the Giants' game 1 starter.

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.

Giants against lefties this year:

Barry Bonds .384/.556/.976

Jeff Kent .366/.439/.669

Okay, I have to stop here.

Seeing Bonds with a .976 slugging % against lefties makes me shake my head every time, it is simply amazing.

Jeff Kent absolutely murders lefties also.

Reggie Sanders .289/.358/.537

Benito Santiago .276/.341/.474

So you have 4 players, arguably the Giants best 4 hitters, and they all hit very well against lefties, significantly better than they hit righties.

Add in David Bell (.263/.333/.416 vs lefties in '02) and J.T. Snow (.229/.382/.429) who both hit as well or slightly better against lefties than they did against righties and you have 6 San Francisco hitters that do pretty well against southpaws.

Rich Aurilia struggled big time against lefties this year, hitting only .241/.276/.336.

I am not quite sure what took make of his struggles though, because he hit .322/.359/.650 against them last year and .286/.368/.521 against them in 2000.

The 8th everyday Giant is Kenny Lofton.

Lofton did very well against lefties since coming over to the Giants mid-season, hitting .300/.378/.475.

But those numbers came in only 40 total at bats, which is an incredibly small amount of playing time to make judgments on.

Before coming to the National League, Lofton hit only .217/.289/.261 against lefties in 69 at bats with the White Sox.

So he had 40 very good at bats and 69 very bad at bats this year against lefties, which doesn't tell you a whole lot.

Of the 8 everyday Giants players, 2 of them (Bonds, Kent) are incredible against lefties and 2 more (Santiago, Sanders) are significantly better against lefties.

2 others (Snow, Bell) about as good against lefties as they are against righties.

Aurilia has been awesome against lefties in prior years, but horrible against them this year.

And Lofton has pretty much always struggled against them.

There is going to be a 9th Giant hitter, a DH in the first game and a pitcher in the 5th game, but who knows which DH Dusty will go with.

Add that all up and I think Jarrod Washburn is probably in for some trouble.

He is going to have to pitch to Kent with Bonds batting behind him and Kent crushes lefties.

And if he walks Bonds, Santiago and Sanders are batting behind him and were both very solid against lefties in 2002.

Okay, so far I would give the Giants the edge in each of the Washburn/Schmidt matchups and the Angels the edge in the Rueter/Lackey game.

The games 2 and 6 pitching matchup is extremely evenly matched.

Two good right handed starters.

Both won 14 games this year.

Both had ERAs in the mid-to-upper 3s.

Both had Support Neutral Winning %s around .550.

So how do you decide whether Kevin Appier or Russ Ortiz has the better chance of winning?

Well, let's take a look at what they have done lately.

Here are the playoff starts...

Ortiz:

1) 7 IP, 2 ER vs ATL

2) 5.1 IP, 1 ER vs ATL

3) 4.2 IP, 4 ER vs STL

Okay, so he has 1 good, 1 bad and 1 decent.

Appier:

1) 5 IP, 3 ER vs NYY

2) 5 IP, 2 ER vs NYY

3) 5.1 IP, 2 ER vs MIN

3 decent starts for Appier, but for whatever reason, he has become a 5-inning starter in the post-season.

Let's take a look at how they finished the regular season...

Ortiz in August and September:

11 Games Started, 7-3 with a 2.62 ERA in 79 Innings Pitched.

Appier in August and September:

11 Games Started, 5-4 with a 3.41 ERA in 66 Innings Pitched.

Both pitchers were pretty good down the stretch, but Ortiz was a little bit better.

Appier struggled, particularly in September, going 1-3 with a 5.08 ERA.

He hasn't finished 7 innings of work in a start since September 4th.

That said, this is a very evenly matched set of pitchers.

If I had to give the edge to one of them, it would be to Russ Ortiz because he has outperformed Appier over the last couple of months and Appier seems to be having some problems going deep into games.

Which brings us to the final pitching matchup of the series.

Livan Hernandez and Ramon Ortiz will hook up in games 3 and 7.

One of the downsides to a straight 4 man rotation for a 7 game series is that your #1 starter usually does not get a chance to start game 7.

Now, obviously, this is only a downside if the series goes to a game 7.

If this series does go to a game 7, the pitching matchup will feature two guys with a lot of question marks.

Ramon Ortiz was very good during the regular season and was likely the Angels 2nd best starter and one of the top dozen or so starters in the American League.

In the post-season thus far, he has been knocked around a little bit.

1) 2.2 IP, 6 ER vs NYY

2) 5.1 IP, 3 ER vs MIN

That 2nd start, against Minnesota, doesn't look that bad, but consider Ortiz gave up 10 hits in those 5 innings.

2 games is not enough to make predictions based upon and Ortiz has been very solid the entire season, so I would expect him to pitch reasonably well in his two World Series starts.

His opponent, Livan Hernandez, I am not so sure about.

If you look at his regular season numbers over his career, Livan is not the kind of guy you want starting in the 7th game of the World Series.

He is basically a "innings-eater" type of starter, who gives up a lot of hits and a lot of runs, but who can eat up innings and be valuable at the back end of a pitching rotation.

Last year he ate up 227 innings and had a 13-15 record with a 5.24 ERA

This year he devoured 216 innings with a 12-16 record and a 4.38 ERA.

Like I said, certainly a valuable guy to have on a pitching staff, but those aren't the numbers that cry out "Game 7 starter."

In the post-season though, Livan has been a completely different pitcher.

If you include this year's post-season, along with his previous experience with the Marlins in 1997 and the Giants in 2000, here are Livan's career totals for post-season:

7 Games

51 Innings

4-1 Record

2.82 ERA

In this year's post-season, Livan has been a little more vulnerable, giving up 17 hits in 16 innings, to go along with 5 runs.

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?

Youneverknow.

Let's recap the pitching matchups.

I would give the slight edge to Jason Schmidt against Jarrod Washburn and Russ Ortiz against Kevin Appier.

I would give a small advantage to Ramon Ortiz against Livan Hernandez and I would give a huge advantage to John Lackey versus Kirk Rueter.

Giants = small edge in 4 games.

Angels = small edge in 2 games and huge edge in 1 game.

As you can see, I expect this series to go 6 or 7 games.

I am definitely rooting for the Giants, but in the back of my mind I am thinking about how dominant the Angels have been this entire post-season.

I think the starting pitching matchups are pretty even.

I think the Angels have a very small advantage in the bullpen.

I think the Angels have the DH/Bench advantage.

But, I think the Giants are the best offensive team in baseball and become even better when Barry Bonds is getting walked almost every time to the plate (which I think is what will happen during this series).

In short (which is funny to say, since this article is like 500 pages long), I am predicting that the guys batting behind Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent will get enough hits in important situations for the Giants to win this series.

Considering I am relying upon a 37-year old catcher, a right fielder with a career .196 playoff batting average and a first baseman who can't hit, that may be one of the dumber predictions I have ever made.

Anyone who has read my predictions on the AL and NL division and championship series could tell you that me making bad predictions is nothing new (for the record, I am 3-3 so far predicting the winners of series).

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

Prediction: Giants in 7

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