Baseballistic
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This Weekend’s Baseballistic Discoveries

This was an exciting weekend for any baseball fan, both on and off the field.  On the field, some playoff races were being decided in the final moments, including one that had a very surprising, and perhaps ironic conclusion.  Off the field, more details were released about the Jason Grimsley scandal, one that is quickly becoming interesting and potentially harmful.  Here’s a basic summary of what happened on this action-packed, final weekend of the 2006 baseball season.

We’ll start with what happened on the field.

First stop: the AL Central.  

The champagne Joe Mauer and the Twins popped is now doubly-bubbly

Going into this season, most people would have predicted that the White Sox would repeat as AL Central champions, and perhaps as World champions.  That changed however, when the Detroit Tigers got off to a great start and maintained it through three-quarters of the season.  Jim Leyland’s team quickly became the clear-cut favorite to win the division, although the White Sox, and this year’s great Cinderella story, the Twins, were well within striking distance.  When the Tigers faltered in late-August and September, the White Sox slowly gained ground, but the Twins advanced rapidly.  Early on in this final week of the season, the ChiSox were eliminated from playoff contention, and the Twins and Tigers would decide who would conquer the Central and who would win the Wildcard.  Most people expected the Tigers to win the division, and make the Twins wild, but come Sunday, it was the other way around.  As I predicted a month ago, the Royals would be the Royal Spoilers (see: Royal Spoilers — in the Kansas City Royals category).  KC beat Detroit in extra innings today, and the Twins defeated the ChiSox, giving them the AL Central crown.  We can debate for hours about whether the Tigers’ downfall was the greatest collapse in MLB history, but I’ll take the “no” side, because they are still in the playoffs thanks to the Wildcard.  Still, it’s the Twins who are celebrating wildly, while the Tigers, though Wild, have to be more than a little disappointed about not winning the division.

Next stop: AL West

The A’s got some much-needed momentum on Sunday afternoon

The Oakland Athletics clinched the AL West crown earlier this week, eliminating the Angels’ Angels of Anaheim from the playoffs — I swear it’s the name that ended Anaheim’s division winning streak.  Going with a lax lineup for the first three games of a meaningless 4-game series in Anaheim, the A’s were defeated in each of the first three contests.  Manager Ken Macha apparently decided that the A’s really needed to win the finale to have any momentum going into the playoffs, so he put out most of the regulars for Sunday’s game.  It worked, though the Halos kept pace for most of the game.  It was a thriller — there’s no other way to describe the 11-10 A’s victory, that needed one extra inning.  While the game probably provided the A’s with plenty of momentum, it taxed their pitching staff, because starter Rich Harden was shelled by Anaheim’s bats — Harden’s first failure since returning from a long-term injury.  With the A’s facing the Twins in the ALDS, any momentum that they gained will be crucial, because the Athletics never play well at the Metrodome.

Next stop: NL West

Grady Little’s Dodgers got their momentum in San Francisco

The Dodgers came into their finale series against the Giants seeking to clinch a playoff berth.  They did that.  They also picked up more and more momentum as the weekend went on.  The Padres are the NL West champions for the second season in a row, but it’s the Dodgers who are looking like the NL’s best playoff team right now.  LA is coming into the postseason on a 7-game winning streak capped with a 3-game sweep of the Dodgers’ archrival, the Giants.  There’s nothing better than celebrating a playoff spot in your rival team’s stadium’s visitor’s clubhouse — and nothing worse if you’re a fan of the team who is sitting in the home clubhouse, contemplating why they missed the playoffs.  As a Giants fan, I’m bitter about having my team get taken advantage of by their rivals, but I have to admit that the Dodgers are playing darn good baseball right now.

Still with the NL West… 

Jake Peavy’s Padres will look to take advantage of the struggling Cardinals

The Padres meanwhile, have a great opportunity to go far in this season’s playoffs.  The San Diego pitching is as good as ever, and having won the NL West again, the Padres get to play the Cardinals, who might be baseball’s worst playoff team right now.  While San Diego’s pitching is peaking, St. Louis’ is dropping lower and lower everyday.  If San Diego can enter and exit the Gateway Arch with at least one victory in between, the Friars will have a great chance of reaching the NLCS … and possibly going all the way to the World Series.

Final Destination: Playoff Predictions

AMERICAN LEAGUE
ALDS 1: Oakland at Minnesota

The Twins have the edge in this one, both because Oakland struggles at the Metrodome, and because they have Johan Santana.  Santana will pitch Game 1 and Game 5 (if necessary).  That means the Twins are quite likely to win the first and last (if necessary) games of the series.  If it goes 5, the Twins are the favorite to win.  If it goes 3, the Twins are the favorite because they’ll have probably won Game 1.  If it goes 4, a 2-0 edge leaving Minnesota should be all this year’s Cinderella team needs.  The Twins starting rotation is better at the top and a little worse in terms of depth than the Athletics’.  The Twins bullpen is unmatched in baseball, which means the A’s are a step lower.  The Twins bats are hard, possibly impossible to shut-down, while the A’s sometimes suffer from offensive woes.  Overall, the Twins are clearly the better team.

Prediction: Twins in 4

ALCS 2: Detroit at NY Yankees

It’s hard to pick against the Yankees in the playoffs, but I’m going with an upset in this series.  The starting pitching is pretty even in this series, although I think the Tigers might have a little more depth in that aspect of the team.  The relief pitching arrow is leaning so hard toward Detroit that it might break off.  While the Yanks have baseball’s best closer in Mariano Rivera, the lead-up to him is shaky at best; the Tigers on the other hand have Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney who are two of the premier set-up men in baseball.  At the plate, the advantage is clearly with the Yankees.  I think however, that the Tigers pitching depth will be enough to calm down the Yankees bats.  This one should be a great series, and I think it’ll go the distance.

Prediction: Tigers in 5
ALCS — Twins at Tigers — Twins in 6

NATIONAL LEAGUE

NLDS 1: Dodgers at Mets

The Mets are the NL’s best team, but the Dodgers have all kinds of momentum going into this series.  The starting pitching is about even in quality and in depth.  The bullpens are both very good, with Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner, two of baseball’s premier closers, anchoring them.  The offensive edge goes to the Mets, because their lineup has much more depth from 1-to-9, than the Dodgers’.  Since these two teams are about even in all but the offensive aspect of baseball, I think this series will be very close, and could go 5.  In the end, the Mets’ bats might be too much for LA pitchers to handle.

Prediction: Mets in 5

NLDS 2: San Diego at St. Louis

The Padres have been struggling a little at the plate lately, but they’ve made up for it by sporting some of their best pitching of the season in September.  Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Woody Williams, David Wells, and Clay Hensley combine to give San Diego one of the deepest starting rotations among this year’s playoff teams, and the bullpen, anchored by Trevor Hoffman, is great at holding leads.  The Cardinals will need to escape their recent slump very quickly if they plan on having any success in this series.  If they don’t, and I have a suspicion that they won’t, the Friars could be celebrating come the end of Game 3.

Prediction: Padres in 4

NLCS — Padres at Mets — Mets in 7

WORLD SERIES

Based on what I’ve predicted above, it’ll be the Twins against the Mets.

Prediction: Twins in 5

MVP: Johan Santana

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Time for a rapid topic change.  We’re moving off the field now, to the latest revelations in the Grimsley-gate scandal.

Jason Grimsley is accusing many of baseball’s current stars of using PED’s

Whether you think Jason Grimsley is looking to save baseball from becoming a sport where steroids bring victory or that he’s just a pain in the backside, people are going to listen to everything he has to say for a long time.  The latest revelations in Grimsley’s accusations of steroid/HGH/PED use in baseball place several fan-favorite stars on the hot seat.

Roger Clemens, rumored to have used steroids in the beginning of the season is the most important and possibly the most suprising name on the list.  Could the Rocket’s fuel have been steroids?  The others include to of Baltimore’s best players: Brian Roberts and Miguel Tejada.  Maybe Roberts’ strange power decline had a non-injury-related reason?

It’s hard to say if any of this is true, but Jason Grimsley has the baseball world all-ears right now.

_______________________________________________________________

Let’s get out of the pessimistic mood caused by the Grimsley-gate scandal and move on to some TRIVIA!

Here’s the answer to yesterday’s question…

Q: Who was the last Minnesota Twins player to win the MVP award?

A: Rod Carew in 1977

And today’s trivia question…

Jason Grimsley played for quite a few teams during his career.  Which of the following 4 teams was NOT one of them?

  • Philadelphia Phillies
  • Cleveland Indians
  • Colorado Rockies
  • Baltimore Orioles
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One Response to “This Weekend’s Baseballistic Discoveries”

  1. Wow, at least somebody isn’t writing off the Tigers just yet. After watching all 12 innings and 4 hours, 40 minutes of yesterday’s game, I am dead on the inside… It was a huge let-down to lead the division for the vast majority of the season only to lose it on the last day of the season. However, this should restore a sense of urgency in the Tigers and a very hungry/angry team will be headed to the Bronx for game one.


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