Tag: 2013 MLB Playoffs

Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Keys to World Series Game 6

Following their victory in Game 5 of the World Series, the Boston Red Sox are now just one win away from clinching their third World Series title in the past 10 years.

The remainder of the series will be played at Fenway Park, and the Red Sox would ideally like to close things out during Game 6. However, the St. Louis Cardinals are a strong opponent, and they are more than capable of winning two difficult road games.

There are a number of keys to World Series Game 6 that will have an impact if we see a decisive Game 7.

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World Series Game 2: Craig Breslow Latest Pitcher to Throw Away Playoff Game

When Boston’s Craig Breslow airmailed a throw to third base in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the World Series, he allowed the decisive run to score for St. Louis. The result immediately drew the ire of Red Sox fans across the nation. Bostonians have a right to be disappointed by the play, but they should not be surprised, as costly errors by pitchers have become a consistent theme in the MLB postseason.

Indeed, Breslow could join an unfortunate fraternity of hurlers who have thrown away baseballs, and with them their teams’ title hopes. The most famous example is Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees. He threw Damian Miller’s bunt into center field in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. The error contributed to the Arizona Diamondback’s comeback and stands as one of the few blemishes on Rivera’s postseason resume.

But there have been more recent occasions that were equally important. The Cardinals have won two World Series in the past decade, but it might have been more had their pitchers been able to defend their position. Jason Marquis’ bobble of a Craig Biggio bunt in Game 4 of the 2005 NLCS allowed the winning run to score in a series the Cardinals would eventually lose to the Houston Astros.

St. Louis took a 3-1 series lead in the 2012 NLCS to the Giants, but squandered a chance to end the series at home in Game 5. The key play? Lance Lynn threw away a potential double-play ball in the fourth inning, leading to four unearned runs in a 5-0 loss. When asked about the play, a dejected Lynn could only offer, “Weird things happen,” according to ESPN.com’s Michael Knisley. The Giants won the next two games in San Francisco to advance to the Fall Classic.

Even in this year’s Series, the Cardinals were victimized in Game 1 when Adam Wainwright miscommunicated with his Gold Glove battery mate Yadier Molina and allowed a routine pop-up to drop between them. But St. Louis has also benefited from fielding ineptitude on the part of opposing pitchers. Their 2006 championship was aided by a World Series record of five errors by the Detroit Tigers pitching staff.

Finally, the 2009 Yankees waltzed into the World Series after a Game 6 victory over the Los Angeles Angels in the ALCS. A close game was made decidedly less so when Scott Kazmir somehow botched a seemingly un-botchable thirty-foot throw en route to a 5-2 loss.

It’s hard to be certain why pitchers continue to make such mistakes. In general, they are worse fielders than the average defensive player, logging a .961 fielding percentage in the 2013 regular season compared to .985 for all other players, according to ESPN.com. The gap is actually greater than the numerical discrepancy shows, however, since pitchers have far less difficult plays to execute than the guys playing behind them.

The low degree of difficulty might actually be the reason for the errors, though. Pitchers can get psyched out by the apparent easiness of a simple throw to a base, especially since they are so accustomed to making one throw over and over againpitches to the plate.

Take Breslow‘s error as a case study. While many have questioned whether he should have even attempted a throw in the first place, the video replay clearly shows an opportunity for an out. Breslow himself explained, “I looked up and I saw that I definitely had a play there,” according to MLB.com.

But the moment he picked up the loose ball behind home plate, an error was imminent. Instead of making a quick throw to third base, he inexplicably took a big crow hop, as if firing to home from the outfield. By the time he actually released the ball, the runner Jon Jay was almost at the base and Breslow had been overthinking the throw for a few seconds. His error was almost predictable.

Baseball fans should keep an eye on pitchers’ fielding abilities as the World Series shifts to St. Louis. It’s typical for pundits and forecasters to size up a playoff matchup by examining the teams’ more obvious assets: the back end of the bullpen, the middle of the lineup, and so on.

But when two teams are as evenly matched as the 2013 Red Sox and Cardinals, it may come down to which team’s pitchers can execute routine throws, especially if history serves an any indication.


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Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Keys to Winning World Series Game 3

With the World Series all tied up at one game apiece and with the series heading to St. Louis, Game 3 will be a pivotal moment. Each team is looking to pick up a lot of momentum with a win.

There are a number of players that each team will be counting on to step up and deliver a strong performance on baseball’s biggest stage.

Each team has multiple keys to winning this game and whichever team has those important players perform best will be the one that walks away with the victory.

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Boston Red Sox: Are Fans Getting a Fair Shake with Joe Buck as Lead Broadcaster?

The World Series, like any league’s championship playoff round, is a time for fans to bathe in the hype surrounding their favorite team. The 2013 World Series involving the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals is no different from any sport in that regard.  

With the advent of the internet, there are of course a plethora of sources available to fans that really want to dig deep on their team’s prospects. On-demand video, blogs, and endless news stories are just a fraction of what’s available.

Having said that, the most important piece of media is the actual coverage of live competitive action. This reality puts a large burden on whichever television network is covering the championship to produce the highest quality and most unbiased proceedings possible.

In the case of the 2013 World Series, that network is Fox Sports, a division of Fox Broadcasting Company and a global media giant with a fairly robust history in covering such climatic sporting events.

This brings us to one particularly perplexing aspect of the 2013 World Series, and for that matter, more than a few that have come before it. In the case of this year’s World Series, Fox Sports selected Joe Buck and Tim McCarver to be their lead announcer and analyst in the telecast booth, respectively.  

These two are of course extremely experienced, as one would assume of any duo selected for such an important event. However, one peculiar aspect of this specific pair as it relates to the 2013 World Series is that Joe Buck has extremely close ties to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Specifically, Buck was not only raised in St. Louis, but also happens to be the son of long-time sportscaster Jack Buck. The elder Buck was the play-by-play announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals for 47 years and it’s probably safe to say one of the biggest individual supporters of the Red Birds.  

Joe Buck, having followed in his father’s sportscasting footsteps, is now a national sportscaster with Fox Sports. He also remains a resident of St. Louis and undoubtedly a huge fan of local teams from the region.    

It is Fox Sports’ designation of Joe Buck as the lead broadcaster for the 2013 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox that begs some serious questions.

First and foremost, one would wonder if Joe Buck could be a truly impartial observer during such emotional proceedings. Surely, Mr. Buck is keenly aware of his potential conflict of interest and likely makes every effort to conduct himself in the most professional and unbiased manner possible.

However, attempting to realistically judge Joe Buck’s impartiality is a highly subjective endeavor and quite honestly shouldn’t even be a conscious piece of something like the World Series.  

The fact is, Fox Sports has likely made a huge mistake in placing Mr. Buck in such a precarious position. The network risks alienating at least half of their prime target audience (Red Sox fans) while also putting a damper on their ability to create the most neutral viewing conditions possiblea scenario which would arguably help them net the largest absolute audience.  

It is of course well known that nothing in this world is perfectnor perfectly fair. That fact being a key reason why sports themselves are so popular to begin with, as they provide an escape for fans from real life hardships. And in the playoffs, this escapism can arguably reach its maximum level.  

In this age of instant feedback, it’s stunning to think that a network with the considerable resources of Fox Sports wouldn’t have already learned, through viewer feedback or a myriad of focus groups, that presenting the most impartial programming possible would be most ideal for an event as emotionally-charged as the World Series.  

Instead, the network apparently believes that designating Joe Buck, a man whose father worked for nearly a half century covering the St. Louis Cardinals, somehow represents their best option for lead broadcaster. All this despite the fact that the season is all but over, leaving a stable of other idle announcers available for the job.  

I’m neither a Cardinals nor a Red Sox fan, but if my team was facing such an unfavorable broadcast scenario I’d be leaning heavily on my local radio broadcast to mark the proceedings.

An immense network such as Fox Sports certainly isn’t going to change its behavior because a few small voices highlight a puzzling and imperfect situation. On the other hand, television networks do have one significant Achilles Heelratings.

Maybe a large dent in that vital statistic would send a strong enough message to Fox Sports and other networks that striving for the most neutral broadcast possible would be a win-win for both networks and viewers.


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How the 2013 Postseason Has Changed the MLB Free Agency Picture

The Free Agent Market could be open for business as early as next Monday, and while it had appeared to be shaping up late in the regular season, it turns out that it was far from settled. 

Pricey contract extensions for Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum, as well as rumored $100 million asking prices for Shin-Shoo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury, indicate that teams may have to ante up big dollars for the best players on the market.  

In addition, several free agents-to-be boosted their stock with strong playoff performances. Others hurt their value by showing that they might not be very good when the games are most important. 

Here’s a look at how the 2013 postseason has changed the playoff picture.


Jacoby Ellsbury: $100 million man

Despite missing nearly three weeks in September with a foot injury, Ellsbury had already done enough to ensure he’d enter the offseason as the top center fielder on the free agent market.

But a $100 million deal, as was suggested by his agent Scott Boras in an interview with CBS Sports last month, seemed steep considering he hadn’t shown the power that made him a finalist for the AL MVP award in 2011. Considering that a similar player, Michael Bourn, got four years and $48 million the previous offseason, a reasonable projection for the 30-year-old Ellsbury would be somewhere around five years and $70 million. 

This is no longer the case, though. Ellsbury, who has been the catalyst for the Sox during their World Series run with a .902 OPS, 17 hits, 11 runs and six stolen bases in 12 games, is doing everything in his power to increase his value.

Pence’s $90 million deal helps, but it’s Ellsbury’s playoff performance that might actually push him into the $100 million territory. 

Carlos Beltran putting injury concerns to rest

Including the playoffs, Beltran has averaged 154 games per season since 2011, his ages 34-36 seasons. After leaving Game 1 of the World Series after robbing a homer with a rib injury, he was back in the lineup for Game 2. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI single to add on to one of the most impressive postseason resume’s of all-time. 

The knee troubles that caused him to miss most of the 2009-2010 seasons appear to be a thing of the past, and he’ll be paid accordingly. It’s his talent on the field that could net him as much as $20 million per season this offseason. It’s his ability to stay on the field—even this late in the season—that will give at least one team enough confidence to give him a three-year deal.


Clutch hitting will overshadow Mike Napoli’s hip condition

There’s no doubt that the degenerative hip condition that caused the Red Sox to pull a three-year, $39 million deal off the table last winter is going to be an issue for Napoli again. But the fact that he started 131 games at first base—his first year as a regular first baseman—and put up impressive numbers during the regular season (.842 OPS, 23 HR, 92 RBI) will make it much less of an issue. 

And if there was still any doubt, consider that the 31-year-old has had several big hits in the postseason, including a game-winning homer against Justin Verlander in the ALCS and a three-run double to open the scoring in the World Series, and he has not been hindered one bit by his hip condition.

The question is no longer whether he’ll get a multi-year deal or not. It’s whether he’ll get two or three years.

Add Brian Wilson to the list of top free agent closers

The former Giants closer didn’t even get a save opportunity during his two-month stint with the Dodgers. But by the playoffs, it was clear that Wilson had returned to form after missing all of 2012 and most of 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery. 

After allowing just one earned run in 13.2 innings over 18 regular season appearances, the 31-year-old was even better in the postseason. As the primary setup man to closer Kenley Jansen, Wilson pitched six shutout innings with two walks, eight strikeouts, a win and two holds. 

Those might be the last “holds” he records for a couple of seasons. He should land a closer’s gig this winter.


“Left Fielder” Jhonny Peralta near the top of the shortstop and third base markets

Peralta returned from a 50-game P.E.D. suspension late in the season to find he had lost his starting shortstop job to defensive whiz Jose Iglesias. The Tigers needed his bat in the lineup, however, so they got creative. 

For the first time in his professional career, the 31-year-old played in the outfield. He also went 11-for-33 in the playoffs with three doubles and a homer. Does it mean he’ll be recruited as a starting outfielder this offseason? Probably not. But that’s only because several teams will be trying to sign him to be their shortstop or third baseman. 

It’s not exactly the deepest market for those positions, which is why Peralta’s suspension will have limited impact on his value. 

Juan Uribe will be a starting third baseman in 2014

The Dodgers gave Uribe a three-year, $21 million deal after a 2010 season in which he posted a .749 OPS with 24 homers for the Giants. But it’s extremely likely that he may have earned himself that third year or a few more million dollars after some clutch hitting in the playoffs. 

Uribe hit a game-winning homer in the deciding NLCS Game 6 win over the Phillies. He also hit a big three-run homer in Game 1 of the World Series. He didn’t do much else, but his impact was clear in front of a national audience. 

Fast-forward to 2013, and Uribe is coming off of a season in which he posted a .769 OPS with 12 homers and has been named a finalist for the Gold Glove award for third basemen. He came up big again in the playoffs, including another game-winning homer in the deciding game of a series. 

Regardless of how bad he was in 2011-2012 (.552 OPS), Uribe shouldn’t have a hard time finding a starting job in what is a very weak market for third basemen. 

Where have you gone, Edward Mujica? 

A 29-year-old All-Star closer who is coming off of a season in which he saved 37 games, posted a 2.78 ERA and walked only five batters in 64.2 innings should be extremely popular this winter, right? Not so much with Mujica. 

If his own team doesn’t have enough faith to use him in anything more than mop-up duty during the playoffs, why would teams interested in a closer look to Mujica ahead of Wilson, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Joe Nathan or Fernando Rodney? 

It’s his own doing after a terrible September (7.1 IP, 9 ER, 18 H), but Mujica’s value has took a tremendous hit in a short amount of time, and the Cardinals aren’t helping by not letting him pitch this postseason.

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Do Carlos Beltran, David Ortiz Punch Hall of Fame Ticket with Epic World Series?

Careful: The question posed above might just be a trick one. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

First, let’s remind readers what Carlos Beltran and David Ortiz have done so far this October in helping get their respective teams, the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox, to the 2013 World Series.

Beltran, 36, has continued to make his case as perhaps the best postseason performer ever (at least on a per-game basis) by hitting .256/.383/.538 with two homers, six extra-base hits and 12 RBI—tops among all players—in his 11 games. He’s done all sorts of Beltran things this month, all of which have helped him reach the World Series for the first time in his 16 years in the majors.

Here’s a refresher:

As for Ortiz, well, the Red Sox’s slugging designated hitter is headed to his third career Fall Classic, but he hasn’t been nearly as hot as Beltran. The 37-year-old Ortiz is hitting just .200 but does have a .349 OBP and .486 SLG, and he’s still come up big in some key spots, as per usual.

Certainly, Beltran and Ortiz have had all sorts of individual postseason successes, to the point where both come complete with their very own October lore.

Consider their career playoff numbers, laid out in table format:

Clearly, if Major League Baseball were to open up a Hall of Fame for October-only efforts, Beltran and Ortiz would be among the inaugural class of inductees.

Which brings us back to that title question: Would an epic World Series performance from either (or conceivably both) punch their ticket(s) to the H-O-F?

To answer that, we have to, of course, consider their regular-season numbers. After all, aside from maybe 1960 World Series hero Bill Mazeroski, nobody gets into Cooperstown predominantly on their postseason résumé—even ones as spectacular as Beltran’s and Ortiz’s. 

Here are their career numbers from April through September:

The quick-and-dirty assessment is that it’s possible, even likely, that neither Beltran nor Ortiz reach the traditional milestones of 3,000 hits or 500 home runs. Still, both have remained extremely productive into their late 30s and could conceivably have another two or three years to tack onto their current digits.

Beltran’s strongest argument is that he’s been among the best players of his generation for the better part of a decade-and-a-half.

For instance, an All-Star-caliber season is considered by FanGraphs to be worth 4.0-plus WAR (fWAR), and Beltran has reached that standard nine times in his 16-year career. Except because he dealt with various injuries at times, he actually reached the 100-game plateau only 12 times—which means he was an All-Star player virtually every single full season. That has him firmly entrenched in the top five among active players in fWAR.

Beltran, by the way, is one of only eight players in baseball history with at least 300 steals and 300 homers. While three of the members of that group—Bobby Bonds, Reggie Sanders and Steve Finley—come up short in terms of Hall of Fame careers, the other four—Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez and Andre Dawson—are all either in or would be were it not for links to performance-enhancing drugs.

Sure, Beltran isn’t quite up to par with each of the latter quartet, but he’s clearly better than the former trio.

And because some like to look at All-Star Games as a way to determine whether a player was, in fact, considered a top performer of his era, and thus Hall-worthy, it should at least be mentioned that Beltran has made eight appearances.

By comparison, Ortiz has nine All-star appearances to his name. Like Beltran, Ortiz also has reached 100 games in 12 seasons, and he’s notched 4.0-plus fWAR four times with two other years where he had 3.8 and 3.9.

That may not be as many as one might expect, but it’s actually rather impressive considering Ortiz gets next to no fWAR credit for defense because he’s been a full-time designated hitter for pretty much his entire career.

Ortiz gets the advantage when it comes to Most Valuable Player voting. He finished in the top five in five straight seasons from 2003 through 2007, with his second-place showing in the AL in 2005 the closest he came to nabbing the hardware.

Beltran, on the other hand, only had two top-10 MVP finishes, with his best outcome in 2006 when he came in fourth in the NL.

Of course, it’s pretty clear that Beltran’s all-around game, including his plus defense in the first half of his career, was severely underrepresented in MVP voting, especially compared to Ortiz, who was arguably the AL’s most dominant hitter in the mid-2000s but also got plenty of support from the RBI-rule community.


The Hall of Fame Decision

So what’s the verdict?

Well, Beltran likely won’t be a first-ballot HOFer, but he should get in within his first few years of eligibility. He’s been too good for too long to keep out, much like Vlad Guerrero, another dominant outfielder whose career overlapped with Beltran’s from the late 1990s and on into this decade.

Like Beltran, Ortiz likely would get in on the merits of his on-field performance. He’s arguably one of the five greatest DHs of all time, right up there with Frank Thomas, Paul Molitor, Jim Thome and Edgar Martinez. Still, he’ll have to face questions about that very DH factor (much like Martinez has), and he’ll also need to overcome an even bigger obstacle—his positive test for PEDs, as reported in 2009. If Ortiz doesn’t make it in, that’s likely to be the reason why.

But putting that aside and focusing purely on production, performance and longevity, Beltran and Ortiz have great cases for Cooperstown already.

Fact is, one more epic effort in the postseason during this World Series isn’t going to be what punches their ticket to the Hall of Fame. While that would only add to their causes and be another feather in their October caps, both Beltran and Ortiz very likely have enough to get in as is. Like, right now.

And yet, they’re still going strong enough to push even closer to that outcome.

A big, fat Fall Classic showing won’t hurt, obviously. But is it necessary? Not likely. Hence the trick part to the question posed above.

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Power Ranking Every Player in the 2013 World Series

The 2013 World Series begins on Wednesday night as the St. Louis Cardinals head to Boston to take on the Red Sox in what promises to be a great series.

The matchup pits two of the most storied franchises in MLB history and two of the most passionate fanbases in the league against one another, as the Cardinals look to win championship No. 12 and the Red Sox push for title No. 8.

On the eve of Game 1 of the series, here is a look at the 50 players who will make up the World Series rosters, ranked from No. 50-1 based on their potential impact in the series and overall production this season.

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Next Steps for the St. Louis Cardinals to Win the World Series

For the fourth time in the last decade, the St. Louis Cardinals are in the World Series. They don’t know whom they will play, but they have locked up a spot in the Fall Classic.

No matter whom they face, it will be a rematch of one of their recent World Series appearances. The Boston Red Sox swept the Cardinals back in 2004, and St. Louis beat the Detroit Tigers in 2006.

The Cardinals have a chance to keep the trophy in the National League yet again and also become the second NL team to win multiple championships this decade.

After beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games, the Cardinals are preparing for the biggest series of the season.

Here are the keys for the Cardinals to bring back the World Series trophy to St. Louis.


*All stats are courtesy of MLB.com.

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MLB Picks: Detroit Tigers vs. Boston Red Sox, ALCS Game 6

The Boston Red Sox own a perfect 5-0 record when playing the sixth game of a postseason series at home, which is important to consider when making your MLB picks Saturday as they try to eliminate the Detroit Tigers in this best-of-seven series at Fenway Park.

Sports bettors will find that the Red Sox are minus-120 favorites in the pro baseball odds, with the betting total sitting at seven in the market.

Let’s take a closer look at Game 6 of the 2013 ALCS from a betting perspective, while offering up a prediction along the way.


Gambling stats via SBR Forum

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Detroit Tigers vs. Boston Red Sox: Keys to Each Team Winning ALCS Game 6

The Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers will wrap up the ALCS this weekend, with the winner advancing to the 2013 World Series.

Boston has an opportunity to put the Tigers away at Fenway Park in Saturday’s Game 6, but earning a date with the St. Louis Cardinals hinges on several, team-specific keys.

Everything from pitch selection and bat control to lineup construction and player psychology is going to influence the outcome. Even with all those variables, expect a nail-biting finish. Four of the first five installments of this series were decided by a single run.

Probable starting pitchers Max Scherzer and Clay Buchholz combined for a spectacular 33-4 record during the regular season. Neither is accustomed to walking off the mound dissatisfied.

The following factors will determine which one does in this must-watch matchup.


*Stats provided by Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise specified.

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