Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-10-15

10/15/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Top of the 1st
THE (ADJECTIVE NEEDED) ROCKIES
Last night the Arizona Diamondbacks battled the cold, the rain, and the Fogg and they lost to all three. The Rockies won again last night, 4-1 on a miserable night in Denver and I’m at a loss for an adjective to describe them. There are many words to describe their game; their players; and their manager, there are simply no words that can adequately describe their magic. Yes, I know it is Rocktober or Roxtober and it may Soxtober or an Indian Summer in October, but it is becoming increasingly clear it’s not going to be Diamondbacktober and even a Billy-Ball-Whammy can help them.

Last night, it was cold and rainy at Coors Field and the (adjective needed) Rockies were clutch at the plate, steady on the mound, and efficient in the field. At the start of the game, the temperature was 43 degrees and a steady drizzle fell. They came into the game having won 19 out of 20. The incomparable Sean Forman, who has a doctorate in math and runs the statistical website www.baseball-reference.com calculated assuming the Rockies’ regular season winning percentage, that the Rockies had a one in 8,890 chance at winning 19 of 20 games. The probability of a woman giving birth to triplets is only one in 8,000.

We need to find new odds because the (adjective needed) Rockies have now won 20 out of 21 and there is an excellent chance that they will make the “if necessary” Games 5, 6, and 7 totally unnecessary and irrelevant.

The winning hit was a three run homer in the 6th off the bat of catcher Yorvit Torrealba. Learn the name; you will need to know it the rest of this month. These (adjective needed) Rockies, who were one strike away from not even making the post-season, are now one win away from the World Series. They became just the second National League team to win its first six playoff games. The first was the Cincinnati Reds, who won all seven of their postseason games in 1976. These have simply forgotten how to lose.

Since Sept. 1, the Rockies’ Josh Fogg has defeated Brandon Webb, Derek Lowe, Jake Peavy, Chris Young and now, Livan Hernandez.

Even Arizona left fielder Eric Byrnes may have to acknowledge his opponents. Byrnes created a little trouble by saying that the Diamondbacks had outplayed the Rockies, but Colorado had seen “a little luck go their way.” Well, it was Byrnes himself who was lucky in the 1st inning, if you want to call it that. After being roundly booed, he came to the plate with runners on first and second and nobody out. Byrne smashed a liner up the middle that was grabbed by pitcher Josh Fogg who whirled to second to get a second out and the relay was just a tad late to first to get a third out. Yes, Byrnes was lucky he was spared the ignominy of hitting into a triple play.

For you stat heads here’s this info: of the four teams remaining in the playoffs, the team with the lowest batting average, fewest home runs, fewest total bases and lowest slugging average is the (adjective needed) Rockies.

For you history buffs: prior to the (adjective needed) Rockies, the last team to put together a 19-1 run was the 1977 Kansas City Royals featuring George Brett, John Mayberry, Amos Otis and rookie Clint Hurdle, who made his major league debut for the Royals during that stretch. Yes, the very same bubble-gum chewing Clint Hurdle who is managing these (adjective needed) Rockies.

For you Lovin’ Spoonful believers of magic: The Rockies are heading to their first NL pennant in the franchise’s 15-year history because the 2004 Boston Red Sox are the only team to overcome a 3-0 hole to win a best-of-7 postseason series. Boston did it in the ALCS against the Yankees and let me tell you folks, in the 2007 NLCS the Arizona Diamondbacks are not the magical 2004 Boston Red Sox, but the (adjective needed) Rockies are.

Top of the 2nd
THE POST-SEASON
NL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Colorado Rockies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
Gm Date Site Time ET (TV)
1 Thurs., Oct. 11 @ARI COL 5, ARI 1
W: J. Francis (2-0) L: B. Webb (1-1)
2 Fri., Oct. 12 @ARI COL 3, ARI 2
W: M. Corpas (1-0) L: J. Valverde (0-1)
3 Sun., Oct. 14 @COL COL 4, ARI 1
W: J. Fogg (2-0) L: L. Hernandez (1-1) S: M. Corpas (4)
4 Mon,. Oct. 15 @COL 10 p.m. (TBS)
ARI: M. Owings (0-0, 0.00) COL: F. Morales
* 5 Wed., Oct. 17 @COL 8:30 p.m. (TBS)
ARI: B. Webb COL: J. Francis (1-0, 3.00)
* 6 Fri., Oct. 19 @ARI 8:30 p.m. (TBS)
* 7 Sat., Oct. 20 @ARI TBD (TBS)
Rockies lead series 3-0
* if necessary

BILLY-BALL-PREDICTION – Look for Micah Owings not to bat ninth tonight.

AL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Cleveland Indians vs. Boston Red Sox
Gm Date Site Time ET (TV)
1 Fri., Oct. 12 @BOS BOS 10, CLE 3
W: J. Beckett (2-0) L: C. Sabathia (1-1)
2 Sat., Oct. 13 @BOS CLE 13, BOS 6
W: T. Mastny (1-0) L: E. Gagne (0-1)
3 Mon., Oct. 15 @CLE 7 p.m. (FOX)
BOS: D. Matsuzaka (0-0, 5.79) CLE: J. Westbrook (0-1, 10.80)
4 Tues., Oct. 16 @CLE 8 p.m. (FOX)
BOS: T. Wakefield (0-0, 0.00) P. Byrd (1-0, 3.60)
* 5 Thurs., Oct. 18 @CLE 8 p.m. (FOX)
BOS: J. Beckett (1-0, 0.00) CLE: C. Sabathia (1-0, 5.40)
* 6 Sat., Oct. 20 @BOS TBD (FOX)
* 7 Sun., Oct. 21 @BOS TBD (FOX)
Series tied 1-1
* if necessary

WORLD SERIES
Gm Date Site Time (TV)
1 Wed., Oct. 24 AL hosts FOX
2 Thurs., Oct. 25 AL hosts FOX
3 Sat., Oct. 27 NL hosts FOX
4 Sun., Oct. 28 NL hosts FOX
* 5 Mon., Oct. 29 NL hosts FOX
* 6 Wed., Oct. 31 AL hosts FOX
* 7 Thurs., Nov. 1 AL hosts FOX

Top of the 3rd
CRITICAL GAME TONIGHT FOR THE INDIANS
The odd number games are always the big games and tonight’s game comes up particularly large for the Indians. The Tribe shattered the Red Sox aura of invincibility when the scored 7 runs in the 11th inning Sunday morning to defeat Boston, 13-6. It ultimately came down to the bullpen and the Tribe proved that their back-end relievers are better than Boston’s.

The Red Sox set an ALCS record by using 8 pitchers on Saturday, one shy of the all-time LCS mark set by the Mets, Oct. 17, 1999 (15 innings.). Reliever number six was Eric Gagne, number seven was Javy Lopez, and number eight was Jon Lester. It very well may be the last time you read those names this season unless a game goes beyond 19 innings.

The Sox mantra needs to be “Bring it back to Boston.” They need one victory in Cleveland to regain home field advantage and bring the series back to Fenway. The Indians, obviously, would love to take three straight at the Jake. Tonight’s game is particularly critical for the Tribe because they are facing Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Matsuzaka made two starts against the Indians in the regular season, going 1-1 with a
4.26 ERA (6 ER/12.2 IP). He gave up 6 runs on a season-high 12 hits over 5.2 innings in an 8-4 loss at Fenway on May 30, but threw seven shutout innings in a 1-0 victory at
Jacobs Field on July 24 in which he only gave up four hits and three walks.

Dice-K was actually slightly less mediocre on the road this season going 7-8, 4.02 ERA (50 ER/112.0 IP), in 18 starts. His won-lost record of 8-4 was better at home in 14 starts but that was simply a reflection of the Fenway bats of the Sox as his ERA was 4.86 (50 ER/92.2 IP).

Matsuzaka’s biggest weakness is the big inning. He gave up 4 runs or more in an inning 8 times in 2007 and 39 of his 100 runs allowed came in those 8 innings. He only gave up 61 runs in his other 196.2 innings, good for a 2.79 ERA. But the big inning can strike at anytime and he has become increasingly less effective in managing his pitch count.

Jake Westbrook will be focused on pitch count as well. Tim Sullivan of the San Diego Union Tribune put it this way, “Pitching to the Red Sox is like rearranging furniture for a demanding decorator.

If your location is off by so much as a lint ball, it won’t work. If you’ve got another appointment, you’d better cancel. The Red Sox are finicky to the point of fanaticism, a grinding, grating, grueling experience for anyone paid to get outs.”

If you don’t believe me and Sullivan, just ask Rafael Betancourt who pitched magnificently in relief in Game 2. Betancourt needed an eight pitch at-bat, ending with a swing and miss to get Manny Ramirez. He retired Mike Lowell with a 10-pitch at-bat in the 8th and Kevin Youkilis with an amazing11-pitch marathon in the 9th. Betancourt threw 42 pitches in his 2 1/3 innings, 31 for strikes. Of the 32 major league players who averaged at least four pitches per plate appearance this season, three bat for Boston: Kevin Youkilis, Jason Varitek and David Ortiz.

Then there is the fact that when the Sox do swing, they swing at their pitch. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez have combined to reach base in 33 of 46 plate appearances in 5 games of this post-season for an on-base percentage of .717. Big Papi has reached base safely in 18 of 23 plate appearances in this postseason with 8 hits, 9 walks, and a hbp. Ortiz tied an all-time post-season record by reaching base in 10 straight plate appearances beginning in Game 3 of the ALDS and going through his 1st 2 ABS Saturday night. That tied the mark of Cincinnati’s Billy Hatcher in the 1990 NLCS and WS.

Here’s some numbers to ponder: The Red Sox have a 15-7 playoff record since the start of 2004 and have won 12 of their last 15 games. On the road, the Red Sox are 29-35 in the post-season, going 10-6 since Game 5 of the 2003 DS. In the ALCS, Boston is 6-12 away from home but has won 2 straight (Games 6 & 7 in 2004 at New York) since a Game 2 defeat that year at Yankee Stadium. The Sox have lost 10 of last 12 on the road in the ALCS. Boston is now 67-63-1 all-time in post-season play and 13-11 in 24 overall post-season series.

Now throw those numbers out because they mean nothing. Here’s what it comes down to, if the Indians can’t be Dice-K tonight, they put themselves in major difficulty to win this series. Matsuzaka is the weak link in this rotation if, and it’s a huge if, Tim Wakefield is healthy.

If the Tribe doesn’t put together a big inning against Matsuzaka and force Boston into its bullpen again, not only won’t they win, they don’t deserve to win. The Sox on the other hand, just need to win to bring it back to Boston where they will be happy to take their chances.

Top of the 4th
MAKING THE GRADY
Grady Sizemore gave up a University of Washington scholarship to play quarterback when he signed a pro contract with the Montreal Expos in 2000. Acquired by Cleveland as part of a package for Bartolo Colon in 2002, Sizemore made Sox centerfielder Coco Crisp expendable.

His major-league-leading totals from 2006 in runs (134) and extra-base hits (92) dipped to 118 and 63 this season. But in 2007, Sizemore again played in all 162 games, recorded a career-high .390 on-base percentage (101 walks, up from 78 last year), and a stole a career-high 33 bases (up from 22 the previous two seasons).

Top of the 5th
AND IT STONED ME
Brilliant insight from Larry Stone of the Seattle Times: “Milwaukee’s Chris Capuano went 0-12 after a 5-0 start, prompting speculation that he must be hurt. Sure enough, Capuano underwent surgery Friday for a torn labrum in his right shoulder. But that only partially explains his problems, considering that Capuano is left-handed.”

Top of the 6th
PLAYING GREEN
Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Tadahito Iguchi said Saturday he wants to keep playing in the major leagues and is applying for a green card. “I hope to sign with a team where I can play second base throughout the season,” said Iguchi. “No particular team has come to my mind. I want to take my time and speak with my agent,” Iguchi said, adding that he is not thinking about returning to Japanese baseball at this point. Iguchi’s contract with the Phillies expires at the end of the 2007 season. He was traded from the Chicago White Sox in late July.

Top of the 7th
SPORTING NEWS AWARDS
Player of the Year – Alex Rodriguez (NYY)
AL Manager of the Year – Eric Wedge (CLE)
NL Manager of the Year – Bob Melvin (ARZ)
AL Rookie of the Year – Dustin Pedroia (BOS)
NL Rookie of the Year – Ryan Braun (MIL)
AL Comeback Player of the Year – Carlos Pena (TB)
NL Comeback Player of the Year – Dmitri Young (WAS)

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Colorado is one of five major-league teams that have never appeared in the World Series. These others are the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos. The Astros were the sixth member of the club, but they were kicked out of the society last year.

Top of the 9th
CONGRATS TO DUSTY
Dusty Baker was hired as manager of the Cincinnati Reds, agreeing to a three-year deal and hoping to bring the Reds to respectability. 2007 was its seventh straight losing season. Baker, 58, worked in television this past season after the Chicago Cubs fired him after the 2006 season.

Baker becomes the first black manager of baseball’s first professional franchise. He’ll replace Pete Mackanin, who got the job on an interim basis after Jerry Narron was fired in July.

Baker managed the Cubs from 2003 to 2006 and won an NL Central title in his first season. He was a three-time manager of the year during his 10 seasons with the San Francisco Giants and took the Giants and the Cubs to the postseason four times.

Dick Pole, who was Baker’s bench coach with the Cubs, served as the Reds’ pitching coach this season and Baker is expected to retain him in that role.

Bottom of the 9th
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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.