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Tuesday, October 11, 2005


This Is It (NLCS version)

So the pundits are atwitter about the Astros taking the NLCS in six or seven games. Check out the split in predictions over at ESPN, and roll your eyes at the time you just wasted by visiting their site (a site that symbolizes everything undemocratic about the web). Around cyberspace, the case is being made that the Astros take this series based on the strength of their top three starting pitchers. For most of these guys, I am assuming that their predictions, like the predictions of a Padres victory, are based on a very specific set of factors and a series of events happening, one-two-three. But any amateur historian can tell you that events in a series never unfold in a clean, precise manner; there are simply too many other factors that can interfere, not the least of which is the will of an individual. For the past three days, I sat and stared at this computer wondering what a usually wordy fellow could say. I wanted to take a look at the stats, Cards vs. Astros, pitcher vs. hitter, etc., but I just couldn't muster the desire to consider them, although they do seem to give the Cards and edge. I just had an intuitive sense that they just didn't matter anymore. This is October, and things often happen differently than graphs and statistical analysis can impart. All of the players on this team are capable of doing their job well, and at this point we fans need to go more on faith than as much as anything. Ryan made perhaps the best statement I think can be made about the Cardinals and the playoffs over at Birdwatch today. Read it, accept it. Alright, my inability to say anything in fewer than a thousand words just won't let me stop with that. Here's a little bit of analysis I'll offer in a few lines of thought. Let's go back to the four games played in the Braves/Astros NLDS series and consider a few things. The Braves put up 21 runs to the Astros 25 runs. Had the Astros had a better lineup, they might have scored 50 runs against a Braves bullpen that would have looked bad on the Royals this year. Four relievers came on to get four outs after Hudson left after 6 2/3 innings. To get those four outs they faced 13 batters, gave up 5 earned runs and 4 walks. In game three, Jorge Sosa left with his team trailing 2-3 against Oswalt. After Sosa's six innings, three relievers came into the game. These three quasi-professionals surrendered 4 earned runs, faced 6 batters, and got ZERO outs. You know what happened in game four. Hudson left with a 5-1 lead and the Astros came back to win in 18. Clearly, the series MVP for the Astros goes to the Braves bullpen. Okay, so the Braves pen stinks, what does this mean for the Birds on Bat? Well, it means the Astros' starting three pitchers weren't the deciding factor in that series. In fact, outside of Tim Hudson's lousy series, the Braves starters held their own with the Holy Trinity and gave their team a chance to win. No Astros' starting pitcher escaped with less than three earned runs, although Pettitte and Oswalt pitched well in their starts. If the Braves offense (which is not as good or as clutch as the Cards, in my opinion) can touch them for a minimum of three runs, the Cardinals offense should be able to match that. We may see a few games where the final score is 3-2 or 4-3, but the advantage goes to the Cards in game like that. Oswalt, Clemens, Pettitte, Biggio, and Berkman (the last two, with Ensberg make up the sum total of the Stros' offense) are competitors, fierce competitors, but so are Pujols, Walker, Edmonds, Sanders, Eckstein, Carpenter and on and on down the lineup. The Cardinals aren't going into this series playing like the team waiting out the course of the season and avoiding injuries through September, they're going in to this with a focus and intensity unmatched and unknown by most. They're not going to loose a series to a team that outmatches them only in the top of the starting rotation.
Sports writers LOVE good starting pitchers, especially when there are three of them on one team. They give these trios snappy titles a la "The Big Three." Don't get me wrong; Pettite, Clemens and Oswalt are very good and very integral to the 'Stros succes this year. Still methinks their power alone to win this series is overestimated by the CW.
absolutely. they ESPECIALLY love Clemens and Pettitte, probably their former Yankees status is a big factor
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