Since the national media has decided to take a holiday from critical thinking during these 2006 MLB Playoffs, choosing instead to go with the inane partisan blather of Jeanne Zelasko and Kevin Kennedy, and the even more inane albeit nonpartisan blather of Tim McCarver and Eric Byrnes, I'm going to step in here and offer my two cents on the World Series from here on out. Disclaimer: I'm a Cards fan, a huge one, and although I will offer up actual arguments, supported in many cases by statistics, as opposed to mere "storylines" supported by greed masquerading as frontrunnery, I make no representation of impartiality. In fact, if the Cards start chugging cock between here and Game 7, you can count on these entries stopping, immediately, to the chagrin of just about no one.
In the pregame coverage for Game 1, FOX did its best with the shitty hand it was dealt. With the denizens of both coasts retreating en masse to the refuge of one-hitters and reruns of 24, FOX tried to spin the storyline of Detroit as the team of "Destiny" and the standard-bearer of a city undergoing a renaissance.
Sorry to rain on the parade, kids, but while it's not too late for the Tabbies to pull out a victory in this Series, they're going to return, either to celebrate or to recuperate, to a city in its death throes. In 2005, US automakers slashed 110,016 jobs. GM and Ford combined to announce 60,000 layoffs in November 2005 alone. Just last month, Ford announced another 10,000 layoffs, these to salaried workers. And early this month, just as the "Motor City" was gearing up for the Tigers' joyride through the American League playoffs, General Motors broke off talks for a partnership with Renault and Nissan. It's just a matter of time--likely months, not years--until Toyota surpasses GM as the world's largest automaker. A recent press release revealed that GM is planning the release of its first hybrid sedan in 2007--a mere six years after the worldwide release of the Prius, and a full decade after its release in Japan. And yet, the General Motors advertisement/conceptual art installation in Comerica Park's left field still boasts an extended-cab, four-door red pickup truck bookended by an equally huge blue SUV, the two framing a fountain that might as well be spewing pure gasoline into the chilly Detroit night whenever a player wearing the Olde English "D" goes yard.
And with most of America tuning in and tuning out to the latest envelope-pushing joint from Lil' Jon and/or Shakira, don't expect Aretha or anybody like her to put Motown back on the nationwide entertainment map any time soon, either.
In other words, the whole "Detroit Renaissance" storyline is cute, it really is: But it is completely unsupported by reality. So take that, Jeanne Zelasko, who began postgame coverage of the Cardinals' dramatic Game 7 NLCS victory over the Mets with a list of excuses for why the Amazin's choked against "The Worst Team Ever To Play in the World Series." And also, Jeanne, take my advice: no amount of time and money spent in the salon and in the plastic surgeon's chair is going to make you hot, so please stop trying. The shit is tragic.
Anthony Reyes beating the tar out of Justin Verlander was the big story of this game. Prior to the game, no less an expert than ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski predicted that Reyes "didn't have much of a chance against Detroit's 17-game winner and Rookie of the Year Justin Verlander." Wojo, you'll recall, is one of ESPN's vaunted panel of experts, none of whom predicted a Cardinals victory in the WS, and only one of whom even predicted that the Cardinals would be able to beat the San Diego Padres in the NLDS. Oops.
But was the notion that Reyes "didn't have much of a chance" defensible? Only if your understanding of the game is so basic that you can only conceive of a pitcher's talent in terms of Wins and Losses. Let's take a stroll down memory lane and have a quick look at the peripheral stats of Reyes and Verlander. VERLANDER
In 118.2 minor league innings spread between A+ and AA ball in 2005, Verlander had 10.36 K/9 and 1.98 BB/9, with an ERA of 1.29 and a WHIP of 0.91. I'll be the first to admit that those numbers are hot. But the sample is limited, and after three years of college at Old Dominion, you sort of expect a high draft pick to mow down hitters at the lower levels of the minors.
So what about in the bigs? Verlander tossed 186 innings during the 2006 regular season in addition to 11.1 at the end of last year. His rates over that span are 5.97 K/9, 2.96 BB/9, 2.01 K/BB, 1.35 WHIP, 1.02 HR/9, and a 3.83 ERA. Damn fine for a rookie, no doubt, particularly for a rookie in the AL, but his peripherals hardly scream "dominant."
And what about over the second half of his first full major league season? Was he still lights out, or did he tire? I'd say the latter. Emphatically. His ERA in the second half was 4.54; his WHIP was an atrocious 1.55; his opponents batted an even .300 against him and his K/BB was 2.03. He complained of shoulder fatigue down the stretch, which could have contributed to his poor late-season numbers, and which wasn't at all surprising considering his 186 regular season innings were more than 70 more than he had ever pitched in a season at any level. But all we heard about coming into the Series was how "well rested" he was. And of course those 17 Wins.REYES
The Cardinals, owners of the majors' best starting ERA in 2005 with a rotation that lost only over-the-hill Matt Morris in the offseason, gave their organization's golden arm a little more time in the minors.
Reyes threw 239.2 innings over two seasons and three levels in 2004 and 2005. In these innings, his rates were as follows: 10.38 K/9, 2.03 BB/9, 0.79 HR/9, 1.10 WHIP, 3.57 ERA. Verlander's rates surpassed Reyes' in every category except K/9 and HR/9, but not by much. To the extent Reyes' rates sagged behind Verlander's, he could be excused for having to have pitched against AAA hitters, something Verlander has never done. Also, Reyes' 3.57 ERA was a little bit unlucky considering his sterling rates, and could easily be explained by the fact that the Cardinals' farm system, particularly at the upper levels, is virtually barren of talent, either defensive or offensive. In sum, though, Reyes was more dominant than Verlander over a much larger sample size; he gave up fewer homeruns than Verlander; and his control, while not as tight as Verlander's, was still very, very good.
And what about his rates in the majors? In his 98.0 regular season major league innings in 2005 and 2006, Reyes has averaged 7.53 K/9 and 3.49 BB/9, with a 1.26 WHIP. His K/BB is 2.16. ERA: 4.41. The one real fugly number is his 1.59 HR/9 (ouch). That being said, Reyes surpasses Verlander, handily, in some pretty primary pitching categories--Dominance (K/9), Command (K/BB), and WHIP.
Based on these numbers, an insightful analyst might have analyzed the matchup something like this...
Verlander's had tremendous success at a young age at the major league level, but he tired down the stretch of this season and complained of shoulder fatigue, which is the worst thing any pitcher, particularly a 23 year old pitcher, can complain of. He's thrown more innings this season than in any other season in his career, by a wide margin. In the second half he made every hitter who faced him a .300 hitter, and he's never demonstrated an above-average ability to strike out major league hitters.
Reyes has very limited experience at the major league level, but he's had flashes of brilliance. Nevertheless Reyes had tremendous success at every level in the minor leagues, and his ability to strike batters out has been superior to Verlander's in both the minors and the majors. Although Reyes demonstrated an uncanny ability to keep the ball in the yard in the minors, he's gotten taken deep well more than his fair share in his brief major league experience, which has contributed to him giving up far more earned runs in the bigs than his great skills would indicate he should.
The one area in which Verlander is hands-down better than Reyes is in control, where Verlander's (barely) sub-3.00 BB/9 could already be considered elite, while Reyes 3.49 indicates that his control is still a work in progress.
Both are extremely talented young pitchers, and they have similar skill sets. Verlander might seem to have the leg up, given his well-publicized success this year, but if Reyes can find a way to keep his ball in the strike zone and out of the bleachers, he stands just as good a chance to have success tonight against an impatient and largely punchless Detroit lineup.
Instead, we get nonsense from McCarver like "Arm goes up, ball goes down" (in this case for Jeff Weaver) and Reyes, an "unknown," doesn't stand much of a chance against Detroit's 23 year old ROY ace.
We all saw what happened. After Yadier Molina and Dave Duncan tipped off the not-too-bright Reyes that the Tigers were teeing off on his crappy changeup, he went to his smoking fastball and at one point mowed down 17 batters in a row. Reyes' superior ability to locate his fastball as compared with his changeup resulted in precisely what we said he needed to take his game to the next level: Control. Further, it was little surprise that the flat-hatted Reyes wasn't plagued by the home run ball while pitching against a team whose top slugger knocked just 28 bombs out of the yard during the regular season, and which plays in one of the most notorious pitcher's parks in the majors.
Of course that isn't what we got. What we got was more post-game befuddlement from the clueless FOX crew.