17 October 2006

The NLCS: As My Stomach Churns...

First off, thank god for the rain. Never mind resting the pitchers, I need a break. Some numbers:
  • Both teams have won two games and lost two. You knew that already. Both teams have been shut out once. You might not have made the connection, but you knew about each one. Both teams have scored a total of 19 runs.
  • Out of 35 innings apiece (both have led one game at home in the ninth), Mets starters have pitched 172/3 innings, Cards starters 222/3. In all four games, the team that left the starter in longer won. Edge Cards. We all knew the Mets rotation was a major weak point heading in, so no surprise there. Also, pitchers tend to get yanked earlier when they're like, already losing, so please accept this complementary grain of salt.
  • Incidentally, the Mets have made 13 pitching changes, the Cards 14. Tells me... the bullpens are pretty even?
  • Cards' catcher Yadier Molina, who bats eighth, is their only regular starter batting over .300 for the series. But if you like you can count him as two guys over .300 because he's batting .462, which is more than enough to go around. The Mets, on the other hand, have their three, four and six hitters over .300, with only young David Wright's abyssmal sub-.100 performance holding them back. That group inludes a .400 man of their own in Delgado. So even though the teams have scored the same number of runs, the Mets appear to have a big offensive edge. But the Cards have 33 base hits to the Mets' 32, so not really. And the Cards have drawn 17 walks to the Mets 16. So I guess no edge there.
  • The Mets have commited three fielding errors, the Cards two. Whatever.
The book on the Mets was always that the strength of the team isn't the starting pitching, it's the power in the middle of the lineup and a damn fine bullpen. Now we've learned that those two need to be firing on all cylinders for this to work; the relievers can't throw the batters on their backs and vice versa. After all, the Mets have lost two games: game two when their bullpen let them down, game three when their bats let them down.

Bottom line: other than the Cards having more durable starting pitchers (surprise!), this is a highly competitive series between two seriously flawed, incredibly evenly-matched teams. I have no idea who's going to win, but I feel positive it's going to seven.

I'm also fairly certain that the victor will emerge bruised, battered and scarred, only to be eaten alive by Detroit, who, if I'm not mistaken, are in the Bahamas right now, watching the NLCS on a fat plasma and sipping fruity drinks out from under paper umbrellas. Oh, they'll lose game one to the rust-shaking process1, but after that it's smooth sailing. I say if the Cards take the pennant the Tigers beat 'em in five; if the Mets win it, Tigers in six. Maybe I'm biased, but I think I can see the Mets having the tenacity to scratch out one more win, whereas I picture the Cards just laying down like they always seem to eventually.

Oh, and by the way, MVP of game four? Darren Oliver, who didn't throw a single pitch. Why? Because, after unfortunately allowing two inherited runners to score when he first came into game three, he proceded to pitch 6.0 shutout innings, giving the remainder of the bullpen one more day to rest up for the then-presumed-imminent Oliver Perez rescue mission.2 Stripes earned.

Let's go, boys.

  1. Obvious analogy: the 2001 Lakers waltzing through the West only to take their first and only loss of the entire postseason to the Sixers before waking up and waxing A.I. and the boys. [Return]
  2. Obvious analogy: Tim Wakefield in game three of the 2004 ALCS. [Return]

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