Well, it’s finally here.
After another ridiculously long regular season and two rounds of playoff action mostly dominated by the guys on the mound, the World Series begins later today at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
There aren’t many people who picked the SF Giants and the Texas Rangers to be the last two teams standing, but if you’re of the mindset that pitching wins ball games, you won’t be surprised to hear that Tim Lincecum will face Cliff Lee in game one of the Fall Classic.
A day after Philadelphia’s (and formerly Toronto’s) Roy Halladay pitched only the second no-hitter in playoff history, Lincecum struck out 14 in a 1-0 win over Atlanta – he’s now 2-1 in three starts with a 1.93 ERA and five walks to 30 strikeouts. That’s a pretty solid stat line, and it’s basically what you’d expect from the 2008 and 2009 Cy Young winner…but the other guy is even more impressive.
Over the past two postseasons Cliff Lee has been lights out, boasting a 7-0 record with a 1.26 ERA in eight starts; this year he is 3-0 with an ERA of 0.75 and a 34-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is just crazy stuff.
It’s a matchup that almost seems to be a tribute to the 2010 MLB season, dubbed the “Year of the Pitcher” by many.
It’s not all Lincecum and Lee though – both clubs will need their starting rotations and their bullpens to be on top of their games in order to really make a go of it. There are a possible four games in San Francisco (because the NL won the All Star Game), but will the Giants be able to turn that home field advantage into something? That will also be a big key to the series – which team will upset the other in their own ballpark?
Sometimes when you get to the finals, it’s not always the two "best" teams that find their way to the end – in this case though, we’re seeing the MLB’s top offense in Texas facing the best bullpen in the two leagues in San Fran, who had the lowest combined ERA in the regular season.
Looking at the postseason stats so far, the Giants have a narrow edge in the pitching category with an ERA of 2.47 to the Rangers’ 2.76, holding opponents to a .199 batting average to Texas’ .208. On the other side of the ball it’s not as close though, as the Rangers have October’s most powerful offense with 17 home runs and 59 runs scored to Frisco’s six homers and 30 runs. They’ve also got a batting average that sits 50 points higher than their World Series opponents.
Going by those stats, I expect the Rangers to overpower the Giants bullpen – maybe not Lincecum, but he won’t be starting every game. This is a Texas team that shouldn’t have had much of a shot against New York, whom they dispatched in six games mostly due to their ability to swing the bat effectively.
Something to watch for is the designated hitter rule coming into play – the Giants don’t really have one for the games in Texas, while the Rangers will have to risk possible defensive mistakes from 35-year-old DH Vladimir Guerrero in the outfield for the games in San Fran.
Vladdy hasn’t really played defense in a while, but it looks like they’ll be starting him in right field, or Triples Alley, as you may have heard it called.
As Yahoo! Sports’ David Brown of Big League Stew says, it’s another example of the “all hands on deck tactics” that we see in the playoffs – you don’t want to take a 29-homer, 115 RBI guy out of the lineup, so you find a way to get him out there!
I’m predicting the Rangers in six.
Other World Series headlines:
With the “big name” teams out of the picture, The Dallas News wonders if America (and by extension, Canada and the rest of the world) will be bored with the “unknown” Rangers/Giants…
Apparently former Giant and current Ranger Bengie Molina is eligible for a World Series ring no matter what happens, says The NY Times.
ESPN reports that after going with an all-veteran umpiring crew last year for the first time in a while, there will be two rookies this time around.
Also from ESPN, Vlad Guerrero is one of the two comeback players of the year for 2010…