Monday, October 04, 2010
The End Of The Season, The Start Of The Postseason: Thoughts After 162 Games
- I was disappointed but not entirely surprised by the sort of year the Angels posted. The problems with the bullpen showed up early, from players who were expected to be and in fact were regulars. The real sad surprises of 2010 were Kendry Morales' broken leg that sidelined him for the balance of the season, ineffective offense from Bobby Abreu, the collapses of Erick Aybar and Jeff Mathis, the failure to transition effectively to the majors by Brandon Wood (who is on his way to being one of the worst offensive position players in history), the long-predicted decline by Joe Saunders, and a dreadful year by Scott Kazmir. That the Angels did not elect to return Eddie Bane to his head of scouting role is not too surprising, since some of these failings can be laid squarely at the feet of the man now occupying the GM's chair, the former head of player development, Tony Reagins. The team's 80-82 finish means they get a protected draft pick in 2011, which they will need.
- The Dodgers' 2010 was in many ways more baffling to me. If there is a reason to think that Matt Kemp should have so thoroughly regressed, I would like to know what it was. He ended the season with more strikeouts than hits, posted the lowest OBP of his career, and posted the worst full-season UZR/150 of his career. Of course, he wasn't the Dodgers' only problem; the rotation was a patchwork quilt outside of Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw, whose improvements (though somewhat uneven in Bills' case — he had a poor April and June) amounted to its only bright spots. Hiroki Kuroda — whom I falsely remembered as being injured much of the year — managed to pitch nearly 200 innings while keeping his ERA to an entirely respectable 3.39. The rest of the rotation was a mess, with Vicente Padilla actually spending scads of time on the DL, the Dodgers picking up Ted Lilly for no discernible reason, and John Ely up and down to prove why he doesn't belong in the majors (just yet?) after a very promising start. With the McCourt divorce case 90 days (at least) from its first resolution, the team's ability to manage its payroll is seriously in question for the first time since McCourt ownership started.
- The NL West and Wild Card races went down to the final day, and were both exciting. The Braves beat the Phillies 8-7 in a game that at first looked like a blowout after Atlanta's offense made it an 8-2 lead after six. The Phils treated it as a spring training game, trotting out a sequence of relievers in unaccustomed order, but it became a nail-biter late as Tim Hudson faded in the seventh, and the bullpen leaked runs, though not so many that the team lost.
That set up the prospect of David Pinto's massive tie scenario, wherein Atlanta, San Francisco, and the Padres all end the season with 91-71 records. This would have meant a game 163 between the Giants and Padres in San Diego to determine the NL West winner, and the winner from that would have to fly to Atlanta to determine the Wild Card. But as the Giants blanked San Diego 3-0 behind Jonathan Sanchez and four innings' worth of relievers, the Giants took the NL West flag, and the next games start on Wednesday with the Braves as the NL Wild card.
Similarly, even though the Yankees made it to the postseason, their 8-4 loss to Boston combined with a 3-2 Rays victory over the Royals (in 12 innings) means the Bronx Bombers won't take home a division flag this year. Small victories, right?
- Firings: It's that time of year, of course; the biggest news is that Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel are out in Flushing, with the team announcing a search for GM and manager, respectively.
- Pirates manager John Russell is out after three seasons; I had to scratch my head for a bit, because I didn't remember who got the job after Jim Tracy left.
- Ken Macha will not return to Milwaukee after two losing seasons. Word has it that he did not have a good relationship with Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, but as always, those sorts of things can be overlooked if the team is winning. I wouldn't be surprised to see him land in Pittsburgh.
- Contrariwise, Kirk Gibson will retain the helm in Arizona for at least another year.
- Postseason predictions: My picks for the ALDS series are the Yankees and Rays, though I am rooting for Minnesota; however, the Twins will be without the services of first baseman Justin Morneau, recovering from the effects of a concussion incurred during a June game.
In the NLDS, I like the Reds and Phillies to advance; despite the problems Ryan Howard has shown against lefties, Philadelphia is still the class of the NL, though the distinction isn't as great as it once was. The Giants should be grateful they made the postseason, and the same is true of the Braves. I wager both series should be over in four games.