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Sunday, October 29, 2006
any team can win?
looking on yahoo, i found an ap article titled "cardinals show any team can win series." the article is technically correct, but the idea of it is wrong.
if you've watched baseball the past ten years, you've seen a pattern of teams with low victory totals winning the world series.
chalk it up to luck, they say. the team with more victories is better.
not so fast! it turns out that this pattern is exactly what should happen, because the types of teams that do well in the playoffs are different from the types of teams that do well in the regular season. the cardinals exemplify this difference perfectly.
in the regular season, you face tons of crappy pitching. the players that succeed in that environment are (1) good pitchers and (2) power hitters.
strike 'em out and hit the home run.
you can generalize this to teams. the yankees were the power hitter variety. the padres were the good pitcher variety.
the playoffs is completely different. in the playoffs, you're gonna be facing good pitching. good pitchers get power hitters out.
david eckstein is the poster boy of the good playoff player. people say it's because he has heart, or toughness, and he has those things, but the reason he wins is he has the particular skills that are most valuable in the playoffs.
no 1, defense. defense is way more important in the playoffs, because you have good pitching. good pitching leads to weak contact, which leads to fieldable balls. no 2, contact hitting. good pitchers are harder to make contact against. if you can't make contact, you can't succeed, no matter how hard you can hit it.
the third thing is he plays the game to win. he doesn't swing at crap. he runs the bases well. he understands the value of the out.
the entire cardinals team is like this. yadier molina: great defense, contact hitting. ronnie belliard: good defense, contact hitting. so taguchi. albert pujols.
pujols is a power hitter who also makes great contact. this type of player is the most valuable in the playoffs because he has power that he can do something with. he can hit it and it goes a long way. this type of player is very rare. he also plays great defense.
scott rolen. great defense, good hitting.
jim edmonds has the defense but he does not make contact. still, it's good to have the power threat in there somewhere, to put some balance in the lineup. compare to jermaine dye last year.
chris duncan is not this type of player but the cardinals won anyway.
what about pitching? in the playoffs, control is much more important. jeff weaver, chris carpenter, and jeff suppan all have great control. anthony reyes had some issues but the tigers swing so much he was able to get it together and pitch a great game. the tigers have a lot of talent but they got in trouble because they walked people. the errors made it worse.
the beauty of baseball is that when played at its highest level, it becomes a strategy game. it becomes much more important for your pitcher not to walk people. it becomes much more important for your batters to be selective. it becomes much more important to be aggressive on the bases, but it also becomes more important to avoid stupid risks.
baseball at its highest level is a beautiful game, and the cardinals showed us why.