Monday, October 31, 2011

Surreal, Unreal

Yesterday was the St. Louis Cardinals' 2011 World Series celebration. My girlfriend, Linda, and I were in queue to get our tickets on Saturday afternoon at 2:15 pm, then finally bought two at 2:50 pm. Luckily they did not sell out before then, otherwise we would have missed an incredible experience.

Surreal.

We arrived at 1:30 pm, keep in mind the parade did not start until 4. After walking along the parade route for a little while, we could not find any openings next to the railing. We were too late for a front row spot, so we decided to sit on a brick wall in front of some bushes. Not only did it give us a place to sit down over the next two hours while we waited for the celebration to begin, but it allowed us to overlook the enormous sea of red that laid between us and the parade route.

Our spot on the parade route, 1:45 pm
Panorama from our spot on the parade route, 4:00 pm
Unfortunately, the first few photos from the parade were a little blurry, but switching my camera from landscape to sports mode seemed to work fairly well. I did my best to caption each photo based the name on the vehicle or if I could recognize them. Please correct me if I was wrong anywhere.


Less than 24 hours after Tony La Russa made his speech in Busch Stadium, he announced his retirement. I had suspected TLR would hold off on his own contract until he saw where Albert Pujols would land. I was not expecting the announcement at all and now the Cards have an opening for their manager position in 2012.

Unreal.

I read many posts and news articles over the course of the 2011 season questioning if he should retire. Some suggested he should have retired after the 2006 season to finish on top. He showed all his disbelievers by not only exiting on top, but earning his third World Series championship of his managerial career in the most dramatic fashion imaginable.

La Russa managed the Chicago White Sox from 1979 to 1986, the Oakland Athletics from 1986 to 1995, and the St. Louis Cardinals from 1996 to 2011. He ends his managerial career with 2,728 wins (3rd all-time), 2,365 losses, and a .536 winning percentage. He earned three AL Pennants and one World Series title with the A's, three NL Pennants and two World Series titles with the Cardinals, and will almost certainly be inducted to the Hall of Fame.

Congratulations, Tony.
Thank you, from this blog writer and the rest of Cardinal Nation.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Baseball Euphoria

So this is what it feels like to be a winner. I'll be honest, it feels amazing.

Cards celebrate in the locker room after winning World Series, via St. Louis Cardinals Facebook Fanpage

They need to replace the sign along interstate 70 when you cross the bridge into Missouri. It should read "Welcome to St. Louis, Home of the St. Louis Cardinals and Baseball Euphoria."

If you had the privilege to experience everything this season like I did, then you would have suffered from the loss of Adam Wainwright before spring training, endured frustrating blown saves by Ryan Franklin, questioned the authenticity of Albert Pujols's poor start, cherished the production from veteran Lance Berkman, were saddened by every loss earned by Chris Carpenter, coped with the rise and fall from Kyle Lohse and Kyle McClellan, were grateful Jaime Garcia did not have a "sophomore slump," held your breath when Albert was injured in June, exhaled a sigh of relief when he returned in July, wondered why they were battling with the Pittsburgh Pirates for the division, withstood the revolving door of several closers in the bullpen, were skeptical when Colby Rasmus was traded, distressed over the injury-prone seasons of Matt Holliday and David Freese, thoroughly enjoyed when Albert started playing like Albert again, watched with disbelief as the Milwaukee Brewers surged past them for the division lead, looked forward to next season when the Cards were 10 ½ games behind the Atlanta Braves for the NL Wild Card, were hopefully optimistic when the Braves slumped, joyful when the Cards won their final game of the regular season, and elated when the Braves were removed from the picture.

The St. Louis Cardinals entire season had it all.

The Cardinals were underdogs entering every series against the Philadelphia Phillies, Brewers, and Texas Rangers. Different heroes surfaced in almost every series: Jon Jay, Jason Motte, David Freese, Edwin Jackson, Lance Berkman, and Chris Carpenter in the NLDS; Albert Pujols, Jon Jay, Jason Motte, Jaime Garcia, Yadier Molina, and David Freese in the NLCS; and Chris Carpenter, Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, Lance Berkman, Allen Craig, and David Freese in the World Series.

The 2011 World Series had it all.

St. Louis Cardinals Postseason Progress Reviewed, Photo via St. Louis Cardinals Facebook Fanpage

Everyone contributed at some point over the course of the September and into the October postseason, and that is what made this team unique. Baseball drama at its finest.

Congratulations to Tony La Russa and the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Eleven

The St. Louis Cardinals are World Series Champions for the 11th time in their franchise history.

2011 World Series Trophy, via St. Louis Cardinals Facebook Fanpage
Now, if you excuse me, I'm heading to Dick's Sporting Goods with my girlfriend for our Championship gear!

Cards Depend on Carp, Game 7

I am still extremely excited after last night's game, so this post will be brief using an assortment of great links.

Pitchers Hit Eighth: The way most of us watched Game 6...
"This is exactly what the 2011 Cardinals are all about: drama. They’re up, they’re down, they’re underground, but they are never boring. And they LOVE playing from behind."

Beyond the Box Score: David Freese's Game 6 WPA Highest in Postseason History
"The returns are in... David Freese now owns the highest WPA in a WS game. His .953 beats Kirk Gibson's .870."

Beyond the Box Score: Projections Update: Ignore These Projections
"We are no longer in the realm of simple probability. ... We now live in a quantum realm where Texas' and St. Louis' title hopes are both alive and dead simultaneously. It is our very observation of the final out that will collapse the wave function (and possibly the Rangers' bullpen) and present us with one of two realities. ... In other words, just watch the game. Watch history in the making."

FanGraphs: Game 7 Preview: Chris Carpenter vs. Matt Harrison
"Chris Carpenter is starting tonight on only three days rest, while Matt Harrison hopes to do better than the shellacking he took in Game Four. Both pitchers will need to change up how they’re attacking hitters if they want to be successful."


I am a little nervous with Chris Carpenter taking the mound on short rest, but I would have chosen him given the other options (Kyle Lohse, Edwin Jackson, Jake Westbrook). My girlfriend and I will definitely be out with the rest of St. Louis tonight. We want to be part of this moment.

Will Carp be masterful like in game five of the NLDS or will he flounder on short rest?

Carp Flourishing, via USA Today
Carp Floundering, via Steve Creek Outdoors

Roller Coaster of Emotion

I probably could summarize all eleven innings of game six with just one word: Wow!


Source: FanGraphs

FanGraphs chose a different, but equally fitting, word: Baseball!

I tried to explain the graph to a friend last night while I was still experiencing this rush. Picture the graph as a roller coaster. Hop in the car on the leftside of the graph and ride it out until you reach the end.

What a crazy ride.

I want to give this game the dignity it deserves as one of the most intense World Series games of all time and the best game I ever had the opportunity to watch on television. It would have been a close second if I actually was in attendance at Busch Stadium (like my girlfriend's brother, Sam, or Aaron Hooks from Cards Diaspora), but the position would still be reserved for the 1994 All Star game I saw with my father.

Jaime Garcia had a shaky start. He allowed the first three batters to reach base and surrendered a run to the Texas Rangers offense in the first inning. The St. Louis Cardinals quickly responded with a Lance Berkman two-run home run. The 2-1 lead would be very short-lived as Garcia allowed a second earned run in the second inning to tie the game.

Colby Lewis started shutting down the Cards offense one-by-one and Garcia finally seemed to settle down by throwing a scoreless third inning, but he was gone by the fourth in lieu of the TLR bullpen pitching parade (I need to coin that term).

The Cards stopped following lesson number two from my Survival Guide: "Stop making mistakes." Matt Holliday dropped a routine fly ball, Fernando Salas overthrew a force out at second base, and David Freese dropped an infield pop up. These three errors resulted in two unearned runs.

Luckily, the Rangers made a few blunders of their own. Michael Young bobbled a ground ball and Elvis Andrus tossed a ball wide of first base, which pulled Young off the bag. The Cards managed to tie the game with two unearned runs for themselves and exited the sixth inning 4-4.

Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz each homered in the top of the seventh, then scored once more thanks in part to a wild pitch by Octavio Dotel before finally getting out of the inning with the score 7-4.

Derek Holland entered the game as a reliever earlier during the sixth inning. Many thought his pitching had become infallible after pitching an 8.1 inning gem in game four, then 1.2 innings of solid relief in game six. Allen Craig changed their minds with a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth inning to bring the score to 7-5.

Everyone seemed depressed and morbid as Neftali Feliz entered the bottom of the ninth inning. He struck out the first batter he faced, then Albert Pujols came to the plate. The announcers mentioned, once again, this may be Pujol's last at bat as a Cardinal. He delivered with a double, his first and only hit of the World Series outside of game three. Berkman was intentionally walked and Craig struck out, which led to David Freese. He fell behind in the count to 1-2, then tripled to deep right field to tie the game. We move on to 10th!

Jason Motte remained in the game in the 10th for his second inning of relief. He retired the first batter he faced, then allowed a single, and Josh Hamilton swatted a home run to right field with the first pitch he saw. Motte retired the next two batters and exited the inning with a score of 9-7 as the potential losing pitcher.

Darren Oliver entered the game for the Rangers to face against several of the weakest Cardinals hitters. I was nervous. Daniel Descalso singled, Jon Jay singled, and Kyle Lohse hit the weirdest bunt I have ever seen that flew over Beltre's head to advance both runners. Scott Feldman relieved Oliver and Ryan Theriot grounded out, but it sent a run home. Albert came to the plate with a runner third base and two outs. I thought this could be his defining moment, then they walked him. Berkman responded with a clutch single to score the tying run. Onward to the 11th!

Jake Westbrook entered the 11th inning and allowed one single; otherwise, he was great. He provided the greatest WPA among all of the Cardinals pitchers used in the game and the score remained tied.

Freese returned to the plate in the bottom of the eleventh inning as the first batter to face Mark Lowe, the Rangers new relief pitcher. I could tell he was swinging for the fences after he nearly fell over for the first strike, so I decided to retrieve our secret weapon:

Rally "Squirrel"
Meet Harrison. He is our Rally Gerbil since no squirrels were within reach.

Freese worked the count to 3-2, then launched a game-winning and series-tying solo homer to almost dead center field measured at 428 feet. The Cardinals win, 10-9! The stadium erupted as he rounded the bases and was mobbed by his teammates at home plate who proceeded to tear his jersey off his body.

Harrison was rewarded with a pumpkin seed for being such a good luck charm.

David Freese takes a bow after his Game 6 heroics, via St. Louis Cardinals Facebook Fanpage
The World Series will be decided in game seven! Will the Cards take their 11th World Series title or will the Rangers earn their first?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

St. Louis Cardinals Survival Guide

Lessons to learn from playing the Texas Rangers in the World Series.

1) Get on base however you can. "Walks are good."

2) Stop making mistakes. "Errors are bad, especially when the game is on the line."

3) Fly balls are great when they travel 400 feet. "Home runs are good. They score runs."

4) No free passes. "Walks are bad. Seven walks in one game is terrible."

5a) Stop stranding runners. "Every run counts."

5b) Listen to the manager. "Albert is great, but he is not a player-manager."

5c) Can you hear the manager? "Warm up Motte. I said, 'MOTTE!'"

Busch Stadium before Game 6, via St. Louis Cardinals Facebook Fanpage

Good luck tonight, fellas.

Circling the Drain

Will the St. Louis Cardinals follow the last few drops of rain water tonight after game six?

The clouds have not yet lifted, nor have the winds subsided, but at least the rain stopped here in St. Louis. It will be quite cold once again, but the game should be played without any interruption from mother nature. If the first two games of this series is any implication of what may happen tonight (and possibly tomorrow), then this may be a low scoring affair.

Jaime Garcia vs. Colby Lewis, Regular Season 2011
Thursday night will feature a rematch of game two between Jaime Garcia and Colby Lewis. Both pitched amazingly well earlier this series, but the Texas Rangers edged the St. Louis Cardinals to win that game 2-1. Both pitchers had above average seasons with comparable run support, though the numbers suggest Garcia ran into a little bad luck, while Lewis enjoyed some good luck. Pitchers Hit Eighth show the rescheduled game and giving Garcia one more day of rest may work in the Cardinals' favor.

Things are different than before. The Rangers are one win away from being declared World Series champions. The situation is dire for the Cardinals and they need to act now if they want to play again tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

World Series Intermission, Rain

It certainly is good I waited to write this post regarding game six of the World Series.
With persistent rain in the forecast, Major League Baseball has announced that Wednesday night's scheduled Game 6 of the World Series has been postponed. It will be made up on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. CT.
From St. Louis Cardinals Official Site
It's usually a bad idea to back a dog into a corner. The Texas Rangers may want to rethink what they are trying to do to the St. Louis Cardinals. I already wrote about the Cardinals being a good underdog, but I suppose this is inspiration to expand upon it.

St. Louis Cardinals 2011 Season & Postseason
Coolstandings predicted the likelihood of each team's chances of making the playoffs, then continued their calculation into the postseason. The Cards hit their lowest point on August 27th when they had only a 1.1% chance to reach the postseason, then clinched the Wild Card almost exactly one month later marking one of the best comebacks in Major League Baseball history.

St. Louis Cardinals 2011 Postseason
The Cardinals have continued their improbable performance in the playoffs as they knocked off the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers. Both teams were favored to win the NLDS and NLCS, while the Cards entered with only a 35.6% and 45.5% chance, respectively. In particular, the Phillies had the best record in 2011 and were most likely to go all the way to win the World Series.

This is a do or die situation for the Cards. Many are speculating the possibility of Tony La Russa sending Chris Carpenter back to the mound on Thursday on three days rest in light of game six being rescheduled. I hope he sticks with Jaime Garcia as he pitched great in game two and took a no-decision. The Cards lost the game due to a fielding error and an unusually weak offense.

Beyond the Box Score researched how well pitchers have fared in the postseason with only three days rest since 2005. Eight of the 16 pitchers tossed quality starts, but the pitcher's respective team won only six times in that time frame.

When I think about Carp on short rest, it makes me think about his start against the Phillies in game two of the NLDS. Sure, the Cards may have won that game, but he gave up four earned runs over three innings pitched. The bullpen saved him for the remaining six innings by shutting the Phillies down. I am not sure it is wise to rely on the TLR parade of pitchers after game five.

The rain may help rest the Cardinals overworked pitching staff.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Game Five Headache

As per the title of this post, last night's game made my head hurt. 

C.J. Wilson did his best Edwin Jackson impersonation, walking five, but the St. Louis Cardinals offense could not capitalize against the Texas Rangers. They were 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners on base. Of course that value excludes Allen Craig who was caught "stealing" second base in the 7th inning and caught stealing second base in the 9th.


Source: FanGraphs

The Cardinals bullpen finally collapsed so hard that apparently the phones stopped working. Tony La Russa called Lance Lynn to the mound in the bottom of the 8th inning to intentionally walk Ian Kinsler, then pulled him in favor of Jason Motte. It boggled my mind.

The only factors of this game I enjoyed were Skip Schumaker starting in centerfield over Jon Jay and Chris Carpenter's seven inning performance. Skip actually recorded a hit, which is more than Jay has over the course of the entire World Series. Carp may have given up two home runs, but the score was still tied, 2-2, when he exited the game. It was a quality start and I almost wish he kept the ball in the 8th instead of handing it over to the bullpen parade.

I am going to stop and pass the blogging analysis torch to the following blogs before my headache returns. The Cardinals blogging community needs some love after last night, so please give the following articles a read and subscribe.

Beyond the Box Score
Projections Update: Rangers on History's Doorstep

Cardinal 70
Winter is Coming

The Cardinal Nation blog 
Two of a record 65 Cardinals relief changes that did not work

Cards Diaspora
Reaction: World Series Game 5

FanGraphs
Did You Say Motte or Lynn? Ah, Screw it.
When IBBs Attack
Why Was Allen Craig Running?

Pitchers Hit Eighth
Can You Hear Me Now?

Viva El Birdos
Saying not very much at all about the Cardinals' Game 5 loss

Monday, October 24, 2011

Night and Day

I am somewhat happy about skipping yesterday's preview of World Series game four. After both teams scored a total of only eight runs in chilly Missouri, everyone expected the ball to fly off the bat in warm Texas. The St. Louis Cardinals answered those initial expectations by scoring almost twice that many runs by themselves in game three to win 15-7.

The Cards recorded 15 hits in that game, five were by Albert Pujols. Of those 15 hits, four were home runs and Pujols was accountable for almost a quarter-mile of them (3 HR = 1,275 feet total).

I had other engagements earlier in the afternoon and was not completely familiar with Edwin Jackson nor Derek Holland, aside from their above-average regular seasons and below-average postseasons thus far, so I thought I could skip the preview and analyze game four's outcome.

Would the hot offensive streak continue? Oy vey.

The Texas Rangers won, 4-0, and tied the series 2-2. The game almost hurt to watch as a Cardinals fan. Holland completely shut down the Cards offense in 8.1 innings pitched, while allowing only two hits. Lance Berkman was the owner of both hits and he very well couldn't create four runs by himself. Jackson allowed seven free passes over 5.1 innings. Let me emphasize that:

Seven walks.

He was pulled in the sixth inning after issuing two back-to-back walks, then Mitchell Boggs threw a fastball higher than intended, which traveled farther than he wanted. Mike Napoli hit a three-run homer to make the score 4-0, which is how the game eventually ended.

It is amazing how a lineup can be so devastating one day, then so fragile and weak the next. It's like night and day, but that's just how baseball works sometimes.

Game five marks the last game played in Arlington. The outcome will result in a do-or-die situation for the losing team in St. Louis.

Will we see a night or day performance?

Will the Cardinals have a happy flight home tonight or will they face elimination on Wednesday?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pujols Hot in Texas, Cards Win

The St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers relied on pitching for games one and two with cold temperatures in Missouri. Albert Pujols went 0 for six with an error in the ninth inning of game two. He was harshly criticized when he dodged the media. How did he respond in game three?

Albert Pujols, World Series, Game 3
Albert got hot!

I wrote about how he recorded the best performance in a postseason game in Cardinals franchise history against the Milwaukee Brewers in game two of the NLCS. Fungoes wrote about how that same performance ranked him 24th overall.

Albert was accredited with creating 11.667 runs in a 16-7 romping over the Texas Rangers. His postseason performance ranks him 3rd all time. He crushed three home runs in a single game in the World Series, which allows him to go down in history with Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth who also accomplished this feat.




Source: FanGraphs

The Cards were never losing at any point in tonight's game, but Albert's first home run essentially sealed the Rangers' fate in the sixth inning. His second and third blasts did not even appear on the radar, they were just icing on the delicious cake.

Albert Pujols hits HR number three, St. Louis Cardinals Facebook

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rangers Still WS Favorites, Game 3

The Texas Rangers proved they will not go quietly into the night when they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals and tied the series 1-1. The Rangers were favorites to win the World Series when they entered game one, marginal favorites in game two, and favorites again in game three. Beyond the Box Score shows their likelihood to win the World Series has bounced back to their initial level before the series began.

Progressive Likelihood of World Series, Beyond the Box Score
Game three will be hosted in Arlington tonight, but will the Cardinals manage to win any of the three games in Texas? Will the series come back to Busch Stadium?

Maybe I'm thinking too far in the future. Let's just concentrate on tonight.

K. Lohse vs. M. Harrison, 2011 regular season, Fangraphs
Kyle Lohse and Matt Harrison looks almost identical side-by-side. Lohse is a little older and his BABIP indicates a little luck. Without the luck, it shows Harrison has been the better pitcher this year, but only marginally.

St. Louis Cardinals Pitching 2011
Texas Rangers Pitching 2011
Both pitching staffs were comparable in the regular season with the Rangers recording slightly more strikeouts and walks than the Cardinals. Their postseason numbers have been nearly identical thus far, but their World Series statistics are slightly off. Both teams have not been allowing as many runs as usual. The Cards have been striking out batters more often and walking them less often, while the Rangers had the opposite trend.

Each team has scored only four runs over the first two games. That is only an average of two runs per game. Everyone expects the offense to pick up in Texas with the hitter friendly ballpark and warmer temperatures. The pitching seemed so unsatisfactory in the Championship series, yet both teams have recorded amazing numbers overall. The law of averages show it should not last.

After all, it's the law. But who will break the law first, and when?

Friday, October 21, 2011

AATH Now on Facebook

Analysis around the Horn is now on Facebook.



The link can also be found in the Facebook tab below the logo.

All are welcome to join and encouraged to share with your friends.

Rangers Outplay Cardinals, Tie Series

No happy flight to Arlington.

The St. Louis Cardinals were defeated by the Texas Rangers 2-1 to tie the series at one apiece and now heads to Arlington, Texas for game three.

I applaud Jaime Garcia for pitching his best game this postseason (7.0 IP, 7 SO, 3 H, 1 BB) and Allen Craig delivered another RBI single for the second night in a row. He seriously needs to play full-time next season.

Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus were amazing on the field, vacuuming every ball that came near them. I found myself yelling at the television screen on several occasions in frustrated disbelief and admiration.

"Yeah! Nice hit! ... Wait, what?! ... Wow." Something along those lines.

The Cards were leading 1-0 into the ninth inning, but the Rangers did everything they could to stay alive and win. Tony La Russa called upon his "not-closer," Jason Motte, who had been superb in September and throughout the postseason.

Kinsler and Andrus had caused me grief throughout the night, so it seems appropriate it was they who scored the tying and go-ahead runs before the inning ended. Neftali Feliz throws even harder than Motte, which is hard to fathom, so making contact was nigh improbable for the Cardinals final batters.



Source: FanGraphs

The only players on the Cards offense who attained a positive WPA were Craig, Yadier Molina, and Garcia. Garcia is pretty good for a pitcher, but give me a break. Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday were both hitless.

The weekend forecast in Texas ranges from a high of 82°F and low of 59°F, so hopefully the offense warms up.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Unexpected Underdogs

I was perusing Coolstandings and noticed their playoff predictions were incredibly accurate. Their calculations correctly predicted almost every series outcome thus far aside from the ALDS series between the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees. They predicted the correct number of games, but the winner was incorrect. Their only other major miscalculation has been with the St. Louis Cardinals.

National League Divisional Series
Initial prediction: Philadelphia in 4.
Actual outcome: St. Louis in 5.

National League Championship Series
Initial prediction: Milwaukee in 6.
Actual outcome: St. Louis in 6.

World Series
Initial prediction: Texas in 6.
Currently: St. Louis 1-0.
Actual outcome: To be determined.

Beyond the Box Score favored the Rangers in similar fashion, but their calculations made a big swing in the Card's favor in light of their victory Wednesday night. Statistically, the Rangers originally were the favorite to win with a 72.2% chance and now their likelihood of winning is down to 56.8%, closer to a coin toss.

Progressive Likelihood of World Series Victory, Beyond the Box Score
Current Likelihood of World Series Outcomes, Beyond the Box Score
The Cardinals were not expected to earn the Wild Card slot and reach the postseason, but they did. They were not expected to beat the Phillies, nor the Brewers, but they did. They are still not expected to win the World Series versus the Rangers. How long will their tear continue and, if it does, how long will it take non-believers to accept them as a threat?

Cards, Carpenter Win Game One

The St. Louis Cardinals took game one over the Texas Rangers with a 3-2 victory thanks to quality pitching from Chris Carpenter, a timely pinch hit by Allen Craig, and the Cards bullpen. Craig hit an RBI single in the sixth inning to break a tie, which was all the Cardinals needed to win.

Carp pitched six solid innings and kept the Rangers in check aside from a Mike Napoli home run in the fifth inning. It was the Cardinals first quality start since Carpenter shut out the Phillies on Friday, October 7th. It was a low scoring game, but not quite a pitcher's duel as C.J. Wilson allowed four hits and six walks over 5.2 innings pitched. Not quite the performance you would expect from an ace starting pitcher on the verge of free agency.

Jaime Garcia (13-7, 3.56 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 156 SO)
vs.
Colby Lewis (14-10, 4.40 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 169 SO)

Garcia was upset when he was pulled early in his last start, so I hope he avoids pitching himself into a corner tonight. Game two airs tonight on FOX at 7:05 PM CT. A win tonight would ensure another happy flight to Texas.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

2011 World Series Game One

The St. Louis Cardinals will host the Texas Rangers tonight at Busch Stadium for game one of the World Series. Tune in and watch it on FOX at 7:05 PM CT.

Chris Carpenter (11-9, 3.45 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 191 SO)
vs.
C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 206 SO)

Don't let Carp's record mislead you. He has performed quite well this year for the Cards, better than any one else on their pitching staff, and if anyone should beat them, it's him. Yesterday's post spoke of Paul Maholm and his lack of run support, which was also true for Carpenter. He had the 25th worst run support out of all starting pitchers in baseball with 150 innings pitched or more, which is a depressing fact considering he had the National League's best offense behind him in the Cardinals. They averaged 4.70 runs per game over the year, but only 3.91 with him on the mound. His BABIP rose to .312, which would account for some bad luck on defense as well.

I like seeing home runs as much as the next baseball fan, but I really hope there will be more stellar pitching in this series. The Cards certainly appear outmatched, but they should have a chance if they can tame the Rangers offense and keep anything Nelson Cruz hits inside of the ballpark. I predicted the Cardinals will win in six games on my previous blog post.

Rather than risk saying anything else that has already been said or repeat that which I read from other blogs, I want to share with you several of the best blog posts I have read over the last few days. I highly recommend them and hope you subscribe.

Beyond the Box Score

C70 at the Bat

Kevin Dame @ SBN

Viva El Birdos

World Series Probability

I play World Series Superstars and they recently challenged us to predict how each game of the series would play out. A user asked on their forum, "What do you think the odds are that someone will actually pick the entire series correctly game for game?" I attempted to find the answer online, but the majority of the websites I found were either determining how many games the series would last or predicted the betting odds.

I took it upon myself to try to figure this out, but had to consider several items first:
1) It's a best of seven game series.
2) The winner must win four games.
3) There will either be four, five, six, or seven total games played.
4) The series ends when a team wins their fourth game.
5) Consider a team has a 50/50 chance to win a game.

I enjoy statistics, but I was not sure how to solve this scenario with a binomial distribution equation or what have you, so I typed it out by hand. If the following information is accurate and complete, then you have a 1 in 70 (1.429%) chance of selecting the correct outcome.

Feel free to look over my details and let me know if you find any mistakes. My prediction is highlighted in bold red letters. Leave your prediction in the comments.

Four game series (2 outcomes) 4-0
StL wins Tex wins
C-C-C-C R-R-R-R

Five game series (8 outcomes) 4-1
StL wins Tex wins
R-C-C-C-C C-R-R-R-R
C-R-C-C-C R-C-R-R-R
C-C-R-C-C R-R-C-R-R
C-C-C-R-C R-R-R-C-R

Six game series (20 outcomes) 4-2
StL wins Tex wins
R-R-C-C-C-C C-C-R-R-R-R
R-C-R-C-C-C C-R-C-R-R-R
R-C-C-R-C-C C-R-R-C-R-R
R-C-C-C-R-C C-R-R-R-C-R
C-R-R-C-C-C R-C-C-R-R-R
C-R-C-R-C-C R-C-R-C-R-R
C-R-C-C-R-C R-C-R-R-C-R
C-C-R-R-C-C R-R-C-C-R-R
C-C-R-C-R-C R-R-C-R-C-R
C-C-C-R-R-C R-R-R-C-C-R

Seven game series (40 outcomes) 4-3
StL wins Tex wins
R-R-R-C-C-C-C C-C-C-R-R-R-R
R-R-C-R-C-C-C C-C-R-C-R-R-R
R-R-C-C-R-C-C C-C-R-R-C-R-R
R-R-C-C-C-R-C C-C-R-R-R-C-R
R-C-R-R-C-C-C C-R-C-C-R-R-R
R-C-R-C-R-C-C C-R-C-R-C-R-R
R-C-R-C-C-R-C C-R-C-R-R-C-R
R-C-C-R-R-C-C C-R-R-C-C-R-R
R-C-C-R-C-R-C C-R-R-C-R-C-R
R-C-C-C-R-R-C C-R-R-R-C-C-R
C-R-R-R-C-C-C R-C-C-C-R-R-R
C-R-R-C-R-C-C R-C-C-R-C-R-R
C-R-R-C-C-R-C R-C-C-R-R-C-R
C-R-C-R-R-C-C R-C-R-C-C-R-R
C-R-C-R-C-R-C R-C-R-C-R-C-R
C-R-C-C-R-R-C R-C-R-R-C-C-R
C-C-R-R-R-C-C R-R-C-C-C-R-R
C-C-R-R-C-R-C R-R-C-C-R-C-R
C-C-R-C-R-R-C R-R-C-R-C-C-R
C-C-C-R-R-R-C R-R-R-C-C-C-R

Update...
I must admit my shameful inability to count as I originally stated there were 10 possible outcomes in a five game series when there are actually only 8. I corrected the error thanks to UofMWolv25 from Playfish forum. I can now support this claim as well.

Four game series:
One team must win the first four games in a row.
1/2^4 + 1/2^4 = 2/16

Five game series:
One team must win exactly 3 out of the first 4 games, and then win the fifth game.
C(4,3) 1/2^5 + C(4,3) 1/2^5 = 8/32

Six game series:
One team must win exactly 3 out of the first 5 games, and then win the sixth game.
C(5,3) 1/2^6 + C(5,3) 1/2^6 = 20/64

Seven game series:
One team must win exactly 3 out of the first 6 games, and then win the seventh game.
C(6,3) 1/2^7 + C(6,3) 1/2^7 = 40/128

If you add the numerator from each possible series (2, 8, 20, 40), then you get 70.

1 in 70 chance (1.429%)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Should the Pirates Keep Maholm

I have been talking a lot about the Postseason, simply because it's more exciting, but there has been a lot of talk about Paul Maholm lately. In case you have been too caught up with the Playoffs, living under a rock or are simply not a Pittsburgh resident, Maholm has a team option in his current contract worth $9.75 million.

Is he worth that much?
Many fans say, "No." Analysts say, "Probably." The Pirates are a hanging chad so far.

Maholm earned $6.25 million in 2011 or $5.75M, depending on where you look. He posted a respectable ERA of 3.66 and WHIP of 1.29; both of which were better than the league, team, and his career averages; but he has not posted a winning percentage on the positive side (in true Pirate fashion) since becoming a full-time starter in 2006.

His record in 2011 was a dismal 6-14. Many analysts have attributed his high loss count to poor run support. It's true the Pirates offense is lacking, to say the least, but how true is this assumption? The Pirates offense only scored an average of 3.77 runs per game (27th in the MLB), so it certainly seems likely.

Worst RS/9 for Starting Pitchers with 150 Innings Pitched or more, Fangraphs
There were 105 starting pitchers who accumulated 150 innings pitched or more, Maholm had the sixth worst run support over nine innings (RS/9) among them all. Ouch.

The 2011 RS/9 average was 4.59, which left three of the Pirates regular starters below the threshold, one near average, and one slightly above average. It was quite surprising to see Tim Lincecum beating everyone out for the top slot. If an amazing pitcher like Lincecum was on this list, then perhaps Maholm's pitching woes is driven by poor offense as well.

I am not a believer, so let's look over the data.

Maholm's total games started and innings pitched were both below average, but he went on the disabled list on August 19th. Otherwise he would have reached the league averages quite easily. His ERA and WHIP may have been better than average, but those are primitive statistics that rely too much on factors outside of what a pitcher can control. His BABIP and FIP were both slightly better than the norm, which would account for a little bit of defensive luck and explain his good ERA and WHIP scores. His SIERA score is slightly worse than average due to his poor strikeout count and rate.


The five pitchers who had worse run support than Maholm all accumulated a higher Wins Above Replacement value than him, as well as the rest of the Pirates starting rotation. They all recorded better values than him in regard to FIP, SIERA, K/9, and K/BB. The only statistic Maholm really has going for him is K/BB, which was better than average and the top five.

The average 2011 starting pitcher recorded 149 strikeouts at a rate of 6.75 K/9. Maholm was far below those averages with 97 strikeouts and 5.38 K/9. In fact the only Pirates starter who recorded an above average strikeout rate was James McDonald, which explains why he is the only pitcher I enjoy watching and hope the Pirates retain for a while.

Paul Maholm is a pitcher who relies too heavily on luck. He walks batters almost as rarely as he strikes them out, thus he has to rely on ground balls, fly balls, the defense behind him, and praying the ball stays inside the park. All that said, he is still an average pitcher with a WAR of 2.1. If a team values a win somewhere between $4 and 5 million, then he should collect a contract in the range of $8.4 and $10.5 million.

Should the Pirates keep Maholm? That's the 9.75 million dollar question.

Glossary
BABIP - Batting Average on Balls In Play
FIP - Fielding Independent Pitching
SIERA - Skill-Interactive Earned Runned Average

Monday, October 17, 2011

Irony

The St. Louis Cardinals will be facing the Texas Rangers in the World Series on Wednesday with home field advantage. The announcers for last night's NLCS game made a few interesting points regarding how the Cardinals got where they are today.

The Philadelphia Phillies swept the Atlanta Braves twice in September and ended the season with a series record of 12-6. If the Phillies would have opted to lose the final game of the regular season against the Braves, then it would have forced a one game playoff for the National League Wild Card. The Phillies could have faced the Brewers in the NLDS with whom they had a 4-3 record in the regular season, which would have been slightly favorable compared to their record against the Cards, 5-9. Knowing this, losing to the Cardinals in the NLDS was avoidable.

Prince Fielder hit a three-run homer in this year's All-Star game in Arizona and won the All-Star game MVP award. His home run provided the National League with home field advantage at the World Series. Funny how he inevitably helped the Cardinals, the team the Brewers were trying to beat in the NLCS, and gave them home field advantage.

My friend also suggested I should point out how long I waited for my childhood hometown team to make a run for the playoffs. I will continue waiting for the Pittsburgh Pirates to at least cross the .500 hump before I hope for a postseason run. Then I move to St. Louis and the Cards make it to the World Series during my first year with my new hometown team.

Oh, the irony.

Rangers and Redbirds

The Texas Rangers defeated the Detroit Tigers on Saturday to win the ALCS 4-2.

One day later the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers to win the NLCS 4-2.

This Wordle image was created using the all the players on each Championship team's roster with a WAR of 0.5 or higher, then weighted as such.

World Series, St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers (Wordle)

The Cards are my new home team and made a fantastic turnaround from 10 games behind in the Wild Card race in late August to where they are today: National League Champions. TLR may get criticized a lot, but you can't argue with results, especially with all the injuries they had to endure. I will be cheering for them on the outside.

The Rangers ball club appears to be built better with the best team batting average in the Majors (.283), second best slugging percentage (.460), and second most home runs (210). They can hit, run, and have great depth in the bullpen. Ron Washington is a great manager who is both intelligent and very entertaining to watch. This will be the Rangers' second consecutive appearance in the World Series, as well as their second appearance overall, and is among the six Major League organizations who have never won a World Series crown. To top it all off, Nolan Ryan was my childhood idol.

Will the Cardinals win their 11th World Series or will the Rangers win their first?

I'll be honest. I really don't mind who wins the World Series.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Happy Flight

The St. Louis Cardinals just defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 12-6 and won the NLCS 4-2. There were six homers hit in the first three innings, but the ball stayed inside the park from that point onward. That ties the record for most homers in a game, which the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers also tied yesterday.

David Freese received the award for the National League Championship Most Valuable Player. He was great in the regular season and outstanding in the postseason. A lot of credit has to go to the relief pitchers in the Cardinals bullpen since the starting pitching has been so poor as of late.


David Freese, NLCS MVP from ESPN.com

Congratulations to the Cards. Good luck in the World Series against the Rangers.

Have a happy flight home.

Four Run First Inning

How do you silence over 40,000 fans and the entire city of Milwaukee?

David Freese hits a three-run home run.
Cardinals lead game six after the first inning, 4-1. Two homers so far, so I wonder if this will be another slugfest.

Who Will Face the Rangers?

The Texas Rangers embarrassed the Detroit Tigers in game six of the ALCS at the score of 15-5. They will move on to the World Series for the second consecutive year. There were a total of six home runs launched over the course of the game. The Tigers took the lead early, but the Rangers blew them away with a nine run third inning.

Nelson Cruz received the award for the American League Championship Most Valuable Player, and deservedly so. He hit six homers in this ALCS, which is the record for the most in any single postseason. Cruz is the first player to hit six or more home runs in a single postseason in two different years, and he still has the World Series ahead of him.

Progressive Likelihood of World Series Victory, Beyond the Box Score

Who will face the Rangers in the World Series? We may find out tonight. Beyond the Box Score favors the Cardinals.

Current Likelihood of Postseason Series Victory, Beyond the Box Score

The St. Louis Cardinals take on the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park tonight at 7:05 PM ET. The Cards lead the NLCS 3-2 and hope to eliminate the Brewers tonight in game six.

Edwin Jackson (12-9, 3.58 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 148 SO)
vs.
Shaun Marcum (13-7, 3.54 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 158 SO)

It's a rematch from game two where the Cards had won 12-3. I know I have been critical of the Cardinals' managing decisions regarding their pitching lately, but apparently Brewers fans are upset Marcum is starting tonight.

Game two may have been a fluke, according to Kevin Dame's latest visual he calls Paintomatic.

Brewers Cardinals Game 6 Starters by Kevin Dame

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cards Capitalize on Brewers Blunders

Game five between the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers should have been close.
It wasn't.

Cardinals score 7.
Brewers score 1, commit 4 errors.
The Brewers pitching staff allowed four earned runs, but their defense was responsible for the other three unearned runs. The team shared the blame across the diamond with four errors, one short of the postseason record of five. The only positions in the infield who didn't contribute to their failures were the first basemen, Prince Fielder, and catcher, Jonathan Lucroy.

Jaime Garcia seemed to be pitching well, but found himself in a small bind in the top of the fifth inning. Tony La Russa continued his latest managerial trend and called for relief from the bullpen early, pulling Garcia from the game after 4.2 innings and recording only 68 total pitches.

I did not personally agree with the decision.

There were men on first and second with two outs in the fifth inning and Garcia had been sharp up to that point. It was a quality start worthy outing, especially when compared to game one.

Game One: 3 BB,1 HBP, 2 HR allowed, 5/6 extra base hits, 62% strike to pitch ratio.
Game Five: 0 BB, 0 HBP, 0 HR allowed, 1/7 extra base hits, 75% strike to pitch ratio.

La Russa seems to be very excitable after Garcia's meltdown in game one, which probably cost the Cardinals the win. Garcia should not have pitched to Fielder in that situation and La Russa received the blame for it. He seems to have taken that criticism to the extreme to try to prevent a repeat performance.

I understand the desire to preserve a lead, but it makes me wonder how this is affecting the starting rotation mentally. What will happen when the bullpen becomes too tired from being overworked?

Game six lands back in Milwaukee on Sunday where the Cardinals lead the NLCS 3-2.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Brewers Bounce Back in Beer Battle

I like alliteration. Now you know a little more about me.

The St. Louis Cardinals were favorites to win the National League Championship series for the first time going into yesterday's game. The Cards started scoring runs early, similar to the previous two games, but their pitching faltered and eventually lost 4-2.

Regardless of tonight's outcome in Busch Stadium, they will travel to Miller Park for game six; hence, the Beer Battle.

Get it?
Right.
Moving along.

If you read yesterday's article regarding my Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde comparison, then you may be wondering who earned what titles. Randy Wolf did very well allowing six hits and only two earned runs via two solo shots over seven innings. Kyle Lohse could not make it out of the fifth inning. He surrendered six hits (four doubles!) and three earned runs.

Mr. Hyde via Zombify in Picnik
Ladies and gentlemen, we have our monster.

I told you these pitchers were consistently inconsistent and they did not disappoint me. Either they're lights out or in the cellar.

Although I would have preferred the red hat on the good professor, Wolf earned the first quality start of this series. The Cards starting rotation has not seen the sixth inning since Chris Carpenter's shutout against the Phillies on Friday, October 7th. If they want to face the victor of the ALCS, then their starters need to start pitching deeper into the game and stop relying so much on their bullpen.

Tonight is game five and the last game hosted by the Cardinals. It is also a rematch from game one between Jaime Garcia and Zack Greinke. Garcia was on track for a respectable game, then fell apart in the fifth inning. He was responsible for six of the Brewers's runs in that 9-6 loss.

The Cardinals need to prevent the Brewers from winning this mini series in St. Louis if they stand any chance at winning the NLCS.

Tigers Force Game 6

Thursday's night game was a do-or-die situation for the Detroit Tigers. They delivered with a 7-5 victory over Texas, which forces a game six in Arlington on Saturday. Although the Rangers still lead the series 3-2, so the Tigers are still on the brink of elimination.

Justin Verlander allowed four earned runs, eight hits, and three walks over 7+ innings. How do you win when the game is on the line and your pitching is so unusually dismal? (This would be the perfect opportunity to say a line from Day[9]TV, but I will refrain to keep this blog professional. If you understand, then you are awesome.)

Just score more runs than the other team. Brilliant!

Fangraphs

The Rangers allowed four home runs, C.J. Wilson was responsible for three of them. Alex Avila and Ryan Raburn each launched solo home runs, while Delmon Young hit two bombs in the 4th and 6th innings.

To Verlander's credit, his numbers do not give him all the credit he may deserve. He tossed a career-high 133 pitches, 94 of them for strikes. Everything was going quite well. His final pitch actually reached 100 mph on the stadium radar gun, which is uncharacteristically fast for a starting pitcher especially so late into the game. But Nelson Cruz ejected it from the park hitting a two-run home run, his fifth this postseason.

Cruz seems to be vying for his own rendition of Reggie Jackson, Mr. October. The media may give it to him if he keeps this up.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cards Take the Lead

The St. Louis Cardinals are now the favorites to represent the National League in the World Series after they defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 in game three. The Cards now lead the series 2-1 and Beyond the Box Score predicts they have a 65.1% chance to take the NLCS.

Beyond the Box Score
Yovani Gallardo allowed the first five Cardinals batters on base before finally recording an out. The Cards scored four runs before their lineup batted around and the first inning finally ended. Lucky for the Brewers, Chris Carpenter was not sharp either and allowed three earned runs over five innings.

Both teams employed their bullpens past the fifth inning, which led to near-perfect results. The Cardinals called upon four relievers and did not allow a base runner, while the Brewers allowed only one hit and one walk with the use of three relievers.

The Cards essentially won the game after abusing Gallardo in the first inning. Will they keep rolling with their winning ways?

Game 4
Kyle Lohse (14-8, 3.39 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 111 SO)
vs.
Randy Wolf (13-10, 3.69 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 134 SO)

Game four seems like a coin flip. Lohse and Wolf are both fine pitchers, but they are quite inconsistent with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde streaks. So what will we see tonight? A well crafted performance by a professor or an ugly monster?