A-Rod's decline was predictable.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
No superstar of this era has a more complicated relationship with the fans and the media than Alex Rodriguez. Barry Bonds was perhaps a more controversial figure, but he clearly relished his ability to antagonize the media and whether you loved him or hated him, he was comfortable with who he was in the eyes of the establishment. A-Rod, on the other hand, has never seemed very comfortable in the limelight, frequently coming off as awkwardly ill-at-ease in his role as one of baseball's biggest stars.
More A-Rod myths
Here are three other common misconceptions about Rodriguez.
• His Rangers contract was bad
At 10 years, $250 million, his contract was unprecedented and completely warranted. In 2001-2010 dollars, the Rangers paid an amount that should have been expected to yield 80.5 WAR. ZiPS projected A-Rod to provide 82.0 WAR. FanGraphs says he provided 71.5, some of the missing WAR being due to his premature move to 3B. A-Rod's contract was incredibly large because no free agent before or since had as much expected future value.
• The deal hamstrung Texas
The Rangers paid Rodriguez $22 million a season he was there. If A-Rod had played for free, the Rangers' payrolls over those three years would have been roughly the same as the Mariners' over that period, $40 million more than the Angels' and $100 million more than the A's. Getting three MVP-type seasons for $22 million apiece was a bargain. In 2003 alone, the Rangers spent $33 million on players worse than replacement-level.
• He's a playoff choker
His .838 OPS in the playoffs is below his regular-season standards, but most stars don't hit as well in the playoffs because of the superior opponents you see in the postseason. (It's also identical to Jeter's career .838 playoff OPS.) He's not hitting meaningless homers -- win probability added (WPA) takes into account game situation and Rodriguez has 0.03 WPA per career playoff game, just below Ichiro, Duke Snider and Harmon Killebrew, and just above Babe Ruth, David Ortiz and Hank Greenberg, none of whom has ever been described as a choke artist. By WPA, his 2004 ALDS performance was the second-most valuable playoff series for a hitter in major league history.
Rodriguez long ago entered his decline phase and after his fifth consecutive year in which he had a worse slugging percentage and OPS than the year before, it's almost certain that not only have we already seen A-Rod's best, but it's also looking very small in the rearview mirror. Generally speaking, the idea that players get worse when they get old is about as uncontroversial as an admonition to not put your hand on a hot stove, but the fact that A-Rod is worse at age 36 than he was at 31 has practically been a scandal this season.
In some respects, this is probably expected. Anything surrounding A-Rod, whether it be comical stories such as his paintings of himself as a centaur or more serious issues such as admitting past steroid use, will immediately explode into something much bigger. I can't imagine the amount of ink that would be needed to mock A-Rod if he supplied gift baskets and signed baseballs to his late-night paramours, as another Yankee infielder reportedly does. But just how unusual, if at all, is A-Rod's decline in recent years?
To answer this, I fired up the good ol' ZiPS projection system and requested it re-project Alex Rodriguez's projected 2012 OPS at various points in his career, with the knowledge of actual league factors and park factors, something ZiPS would not have access to at the time. One of the most useful things about projection systems is that they contain gobs of data on how players have aged historically and can provide useful information in a dispassionate manner.
Projected after his age 24 season, his final one in Seattle, ZiPS projected A-Rod to have a .779 OPS in 2012, given knowledge of the Yankee Stadium factors and the level of offense in 2012, compared with his actual OPS of .783. After his last year in Texas, ZiPS projects a 2012 OPS of .766. ZiPS projected an .824 OPS for A-Rod coming into this season, but that was a function of actual league offense and Yankee Stadium park factors being lower than expected, the reconfigured A-Rod projected 2012 OPS being only .799.
In other words, A-Rod's decline in recent years, culminating in his career-worst 2012 season, is in no way anything unusual or unexpected. While his current playoff slump seems extreme, it's no worse than what teammates Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher are going through, and they are all much younger.
That said, don't expect the next few years to be any kinder to A-Rod. Here's a glimpse at his ZiPS projections over the rest of his contract.
Projections (BA/OBP/SLG, HR)
2013: .256/.339/.425, 16
2014: .251/.328/.405, 13
2015: .249/.317/.393, 11
2016: .241/.302/.364, 9
2017: .238/.292/.352, 8
As you can see, things project to get much, much worse for Rodriguez, and that projection leaves him with 704 homers, well short of the all-time record, something many people once thought was a fait accompli.
While stars tend to age better than non-stars, they're not immune to cruel, somewhat arbitrary nature of Father Time. A-Rod's decline looks magnified in part because Derek Jeter has aged extremely well. Rodriguez, at his peak, was better than all but a very few players in baseball history, but like all things in the world, the older generation inevitably must give way to the new one.
A solution to Girardi's replay request.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
There is a baseball rule, 9.01 (c), that gives umpires discretion to deal with situations not anticipated: Each umpire has the authority to rule on any point not covered in these rules.
The reason this was created, of course, is because stuff happens. A skunk might waddle out from underneath the stands and interfere with a batted ball. A UFO could swoop onto the field and impede the baserunner. Bigfoot might run onto the field and run over the center fielder as he gets set to catch a fly ball. There's nothing in the rule book about a skunk or a UFO or Bigfoot, so the spirit of 9.01 (c) is to give the umpires the discretion to do what they can to get the call right.
Major League Baseball officials need to reset their vision of what they are searching for, in their Quixotic search for a flawless, loophole-less replay system, and use 9.01 (c) as the philosophical foundation: Just do everything they can to get the calls right when they can, short of balls and strikes, especially in postseason games.
If umpires do that, then they can avoid the type of embarrassing situations like the one that popped up in Game 2 of the Tigers-Yankees series.
With two outs in the top of the eighth inning, Nick Swisher threw to second base in an effort to surprise Omar Infante, and after Robinson Cano dove to tag Infante, slapping him in the chest with his glove, it never occurred to Cano that Infante might be called safe -- right up until the moment that Cano heard the crowd react to the "safe" signal from second-base umpire Jeff Nelson.
Cano's head spun around, with incredulity, because he knew what replay would confirm within 30 seconds: Nelson had blown the call, badly. The fans at Yankee Stadium saw the replay and booed loudly; everyone in the Yankees' dugout quickly became aware that the call was missed. Instead of being out of the inning with the Tigers' lead at 1-0, Detroit's rally continued, and the Tigers tacked on two runs.
This is an emotional time for Joe Girardi. His star hitters are floundering, and he helped his longtime shortstop off the field with a season-ending injury Saturday night after a blown call cost the Yankees at least one run early in Game 1. In the midst of all that, he is coping privately with the recent death of his father, whose funeral is today.
So it really shouldn't be a surprise that when Girardi went to make a pitching change in the eighth inning after Nelson's blown call, he was fuming and informed Nelson that he had botched the play. When Nelson told him to "let it go," Girardi said, the manager's temper boiled over, and he was ejected.
An hour later, after Phil Coke closed out the Yankees, Girardi was still fuming, saying out loud what many club officials believe: Major League Baseball needs to evolve and embrace instant replay.
" … [It] is different if it's 1-0 than 3-0," Girardi said. "It's a lot easier for a reliever to relax. He knows if he makes one mistake, it is still 3-1. I am not saying we win the game if the call [was] right. I am not saying that. And I am not saying if the call was right last night, that we win the game last night either. But in this day and age there is too much at stake, and the technology is available. That's what our country has done. We have evolved technology to make things better.
"I don't have a problem with their effort. [Nelson] hustled, he tried to get there. I understand that. But it's an easy thing. It takes 30 seconds. It's easy. You hear how quickly a crowd reacts.
"Yeah, let's have instant replay. And not just, not just home run, fair, foul. Let's have instant replay."
Nelson, to his credit, acknowledged the mistake in speaking with a pool reporter. "The hand did not get in before the tag, the call was incorrect," Nelson said.
It all felt very pathetic and unnecessary. Everyone knew what the right call should have been, and yet there was no mechanism in place to make that happen. For the integrity of the competition, it should have happened. For Nelson's sake, it should have happened.
Joe Torre, baseball's executive vice president, spoke after Girardi and restated the sport's current position on replay and expressed the concern over keeping the game moving and about unanticipated consequences for opening up the use of instant replay.
"We have to make sure we don't have any knee-jerk reaction," he said. "We settle this tag play at second base, and all of a sudden we find, you know, something else comes up and something else comes up, and the game goes on and on forever and forever.
"We're looking into it. We're not saying it can happen, but right now we haven't really come to any conclusion on what's the best way to go about it and not make the game drag and go longer than they are going already."
Major League Baseball has been engaging in internal debate -- for a very long time -- about the specific details of how enhanced replay would be implemented. There has been a lot of haggling over which plays would be subject to review and how umpires would handle the placement of runners in situations when calls were reversed.
It's a puzzle that has infinite layers, which is why they are overthinking the whole thing.
Look, using instant replay for balls and strikes and check swings would be crazy and unworkable. But short of that, replay should be viewed as a tool to help the umpires get calls correct whenever possible. A tag play on a runner diving back into second base. Fair ball/foul ball calls. A question of whether a ball was trapped or caught.
Baseball could provide the umpires with the same kind of communication device used in the NFL now: If replay officials -- such as a fifth umpire in a stadium booth -- saw on replay that a call might be wrong, they could contact the umpires on the field and tell them to stop the game while a disputed decision was confirmed or overturned.
In some cases -- as with the NFL -- replay wouldn't really be a help. For example: We still don't know if Matt Holliday touched home plate in the 2007 playoff between the Padres and Rockies.
But in cases like we saw Sunday, when there was a terrible call made and everyone was powerless to stop it, MLB should take the opportunity to get it right, which is what everyone generally hopes for. The umpires want to get it right. The players and managers and coaches want the calls to be right. Fans -- generally speaking -- want the calls to be right.
If more replay was put into place, then yes, MLB's fears would be realized from time to time -- there would be some instances in which replay failed to resolve arguments.
But there would be many more situations when replay would help, when the call was right and actually reflected what happened in the competition. Nobody is arguing that there is a perfect replay system to be found. But it is apparent that enhanced replay would help more than it would hurt, in keeping with the spirit of 9.01 (c).
Girardi's pleas for more replay shouldn't be confused for a suggestion that the Yankees lost because of the blown call. He was just as blunt in discussing the horrendous performance of his hitters as he was in talking about the replay.
The more that Alex Rodriguez puzzles over how to get to fastballs, the more locked up he seems to become. It's as if Curtis Granderson had never seen an off-speed pitch before the past four days. Robinson Cano's body language is terrible, as he copes with the frustration of the longest postseason hitless streak in history (26 at-bats). And the harder that Nick Swisher tries, the worse he gets.
The Yankees' .205 batting average is the second-lowest through their first seven postseason games, trailing only the .199 of the 1962 team. The 2012 Yankees are tied with the '62 team in fewest runs scored through the first seven games of the postseason (20).
From ESPN Stats & Information: Postseason totals for notable Yankees
Granderson: 3-26, 14 K
Rodriguez: 3-23, 12 K
Swisher: 4-26, 8 K
Cano: 2-32, 4 K
Total: 12-107, 38 K
Combined BA: .112
Combined OBP: .179
The Yankees' bats are still asleep, writes David Waldstein. Time continues to take a toll on the Yankees, writes Tyler Kepner. The struggles of Rodriguez and Cano illuminate the risks of the mega-contracts.
The Yankees have come unhinged, writes Bob Klapisch.
The Tigers are primed to end the Yankees' season, writes Bob Wojnowski.
Jose Valverde says he'll be back as closer. Phil Coke got the job done at game's end, writes Lynn Henning.
From ESPN Stats & Info, how the Detroit pitchers got it done:
A) They had five strikeouts on changeups, most in a game since May 2011. Eight total outs on that pitch, which Anibal Sanchez held back to use as an out pitch; of 37 total two-strike offerings, only seven were changeups, but six of those seven resulted in outs (and one missed the zone).
B) Repeatedly got the same Yankee hitters out with pitches in the same spot. Russell Martin hit three pitches all down and away out of the zone. A-Rod's three outs were all on the outside edge, although different pitch types. Granderson's two K's were both changeups high and outside. And so on.
C) Of seven baserunners, five came with two outs, and Ibanez's leadoff single was spoiled by a botched hit-and-run.
D) They kept the ball down at the knees. In Sanchez's two postseason games, 47 percent of all pitches have been in the lower third of the zone or below it; during the final month of the regular season, those pitches had crept up to the middle (35 percent down overall). As a result, the batting average for Sanchez's two October opponents is just .174, down 50 points from September and almost halving the .331 he allowed in August.
ERA for Tigers' starting pitchers this postseason
Max Scherzer: 0.00
Justin Verlander: 0.56
Doug Fister: 1.35
-- Four straight starts without allowing ER
Dracula won Game 1, fending off a late comeback attempt by The Wolfman, with some bullpen bullets from Trevor Rosenthal, Mitchell Boggs, et al. Bernie Miklasz believes Mike Matheny was too slow in pulling Lance Lynn.
David Freese and Carlos Beltran are carrying the Cardinals.
The Giants started to come back but couldn't finish it off, writes Henry Schulman. Roberto Kelly, the Giants' first base coach, was out. The Giants can't seem to solve their home-field hex.
Melky Cabrera is gone and forgotten, writes Mark Herrmann.
From ESPN Stats & Info: David Freese has 25 RBIs in his first 25 career postseason games, which is tied for second in MLB history. Lou Gehrig holds the record with 32 RBIs in his first 25 postseason games.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Cincinnati Reds have offered Dusty Baker a short-term deal, but he wants a long-term deal, writes Hal McCoy.
2. Jason Kubel could be the odd man out in the Arizona outfield.
3. Mark Wiley could join the Rockies' organization.
4. There is speculation here that if David Ortiz doesn't get a two-year deal with the Boston Red Sox, the Texas Rangers could be an option. I don't think so: It'd be difficult to carry Ortiz and Michael Young on the same roster.
5. The Baltimore Orioles shouldn't stand pat this winter, writes Peter Schmuck.
6. The Red Sox interviewed Tim Wallach for their managerial job the other day, and they are going to interview Tony Pena and DeMarlo Hale, writes Rob Bradford.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Info
5: Ejections for Joe Girardi this season -- four have come against the Tigers.
8: Carlos Beltran career home runs in the NLCS (14 total in playoffs). He is now tied with Steve Garvey for the second most in NLCS history (Albert Pujols is first with 10).
14: Double-digit strikeout games in Yankees postseason history (by 10 pitchers), most all time.
18: Straight postseason games that Miguel Cabrera has reached base, tying Hank Greenberg for the longest streak in Tigers history.
Most intriguing matchups in ALCS, NLCS.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The most intriguing matchups in the upcoming league championship series:
1. The Cardinals' immortality versus the Giants' immortality
The Cardinals have been on the bad side of four match points in the last 13 months, and after Friday night's madness in Washington, they are still standing, with championship rings to show for it, and they have earned the right to believe that they cannot lose.
Before St. Louis' reign began, the Giants were champions, having gone to the brink of elimination at the end of the 2010 season, before rolling through the Rangers in the World Series. This season, the Giants grew from the Melky Cabrera adversity, and after losing their first two games in the postseason, they came back to beat the Reds -- in Cincinnati, no less. They have earned the right to believe they cannot lose.
This is like Dracula versus the Werewolf. The team that wins this series is going to need a wooden stake, some garlic and silver bullets to finish off the other.
With two outs in the ninth, the No. 7 and 8 hitters delivered for St. Louis. The Cardinals refuse to lose, writes Bernie Miklasz.
2. The Yankees versus their rotation jumble
Once again, being the No. 1 seed is actually a disadvantage for the Yankees. Because they started their series against Baltimore one day later than Detroit opened against Oakland, the Yankees have to begin the AL Championship Series with a 24-hour turnaround, without the benefit of getting their rotation in order.
While Detroit appears to have Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer all lined up and ready to go, with each able to be fully rested for their starts, the Yankees' staff met late Friday night to figure out how to make the best of a bad situation. Andy Pettitte will start tonight on full rest, but then the Yankees will have a bunch of imperfect options for Game 2 -- Hiroki Kuroda on short rest, or David Phelps, or the slump-ridden Ivan Nova, or Derek Lowe.
If they start Phelps or Nova in Game 2 to buy Kuroda more time to rest up for Game 3, then CC Sabathia would start Game 4 -- and would have to start Game 7, if necessary, on short rest. Joe Girardi will have rotation complications throughout the series.
3. Miguel Cabrera versus the Yankee Stadium dimensions
Cabrera is strong enough to hit the ball out in any park, in any direction. But no park in baseball is better suited for his style of hitting than Yankee Stadium, because Cabrera has incredible opposite-field power and those are the most inviting parts of the ballpark in the Bronx. Before the start of the Tigers' series against the Yankees last year, he chatted during batting practice about how great it would be to hit in Yankee Stadium all the time, and joked about how many home runs he would hit if he played there. Yankee Stadium can hold down a lot of right-handed hitters, but not Cabrera, if he gets some pitches to hit.
4. Bruce Bochy's bullpen management versus the Cardinals' lineup depth
The San Francisco manager might be the best in the majors, along with the Orioles' Buck Showalter, at handling his bullpen, at finding the right matchups. But as the Giants face the Cardinals, it will be more difficult for Bochy to pick and choose because of the depth of the St. Louis lineup, from Carlos Beltran to Matt Holliday to the incredibly underrated Allen Craig to David Freese.
5. Buster Posey versus Cardinals manager Mike Matheny
In the division series the Reds pitched around Posey, the Giants' best hitter, until they couldn't -- when he came to the plate with the bases loaded in Game 5 and crushed a grand slam. With Hunter Pence batting behind Posey, Matheny will work to steer around Posey as much as possible.
6. Trevor Rosenthal versus the radar gun
Every October, a relief star is born -- like in 2002, when the baseball world got its first look at Francisco Rodriguez. This year, it's the Cardinals' Rosenthal, who has been mixing a 100 mph fastball with a devastating breaking ball and dominating hitters. In 3.1 innings, he has struck out six hitters, and he'll get more chances against the Giants.
7. Yankees' hitters versus their swings
Curtis Granderson hit a home run in the final at-bat of his ugly series against the Orioles, and maybe that'll give him a chance to turn the page and get reset -- and many of his teammates will need the same. The Yankees' hitters looked awful against Baltimore, with the exception of Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki and Russell Martin. For the Yankees, getting Robinson Cano back on track will be the biggest lineup priority over the next week.
8. Prince Fielder versus Boone Logan and Clay Rapada
You can bet that most of Fielder's at-bats in the Tigers-Yankees series will come against left-handers -- Pettitte and Sabathia at the start of games, and in the sixth and seventh and eighth innings, against Logan and Rapada. Fielder is 1-for-5 in his career against Logan, and 0-for-2 against Rapada. Keep this in mind, too: In five career plate appearances against Rafael Soriano, the Tigers slugger has two homers and a walk.
9. Joe Girardi versus the Alex Rodriguez questions
Up until now, both Girardi and Rodriguez have handled this situation as well as possible. Girardi has been honest and direct with the veteran All-Star while choosing to pinch-hit in Games 3 and 4 against Baltimore, and then benching him in Game 5, and Rodriguez has told reporters that while he's not happy to be sitting out, he knows it's about winning -- and about looking in the mirror. This hasn't become a debilitating distraction for the Yankees, yet.
The Tigers' rotation is made up of four right-handed starters, and Rodriguez has looked utterly helpless against right-handed pitchers -- he's 0-for-12 with nine strikeouts in this postseason. The guess here is that Girardi will give Rodriguez a chance to play his way back into the lineup in Game 1 tonight, against Doug Fister, who doesn't throw as hard as teammates Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer or Anibal Sanchez; Fister's average fastball velocity this year is 89.1 mph. If Rodriguez responds and swings his way out of his funk in Game 1, that'll earn him more chances going forward. If Rodriguez really struggles again, then Girardi can move on, in good conscience, and play others, whether it be Eric Chavez or Jayson Nix or Eduardo Nunez.
10. The Giants' rotation versus pitch counts
Although San Francisco found a way past the Reds, scouts say Matt Cain looks like he's not close to 100 percent, and that Madison Bumgarner is not throwing well. Barry Zito didn't get through five innings in his start in Game 5. We tend to think of San Francisco as a team with dominant starting pitching, but in the first round, the Giants got only 22 2/3 innings in five games from their rotation. They will need more in this round. So far, the Giants' rotation has zero quality starts this October, writes John Shea.
11. Justin Verlander's drive for destiny versus the Yankees' aura and mystique
Verlander is likely to start Games 3 and 7, if necessary, at a time when it appears he has learned to work through his postseason adrenaline issues. Over his last six starts, he has allowed just three earned runs, and his dominance of Oakland on Thursday night was the best pitching performance in these playoffs. Verlander sets the bar very high for himself: He said in the spring that he wants to do everything he can to build a Hall of Fame résumé, and beating the Yankees in this round and winning the World Series could be the next notches in his belt. The Yankees' many stars have faced him so many times that they aren't going to be intimidated by him -- but will their aging, slowing lineup find a way to beat him? We'll see.
A lot of the Yankees' hitters actually have pretty good numbers against him: Derek Jeter is 13-for-36, Martin is 5-for-12. Raul Ibanez, on the other hand, has had his problems, with just three hits in 29 at-bats.
12. Jose Valverde versus the long season
The Detroit closer tends to do his work on the ledge, and he seems even closer than ever this October to falling off: Talent evaluators say his stuff flattened out late this season. At some point, the Tigers are going to need him to take them across the finish line, something he could not do against Oakland on Wednesday night.
The Tigers are turning to unfinished business, writes Shawn Windsor. The Tigers believe, writes Tom Gage.
The death of Max Scherzer's brother has motivated him, writes Pete Grathoff.
After the Orioles were knocked out, O's manager Buck Showalter spoke to his players, and a little while later, he was still fighting to hold in his emotion as he talked about what Baltimore had accomplished.
"It's always real tough to talk to them after the season is over because there is always another game, and it is not goodbye to this group, it is 'see ya later.' They have a very well-deserved rest. And I am not going to go into what was said to them, but I am sure they now think it's a little tougher on me than them.
"But they are a special group. You know, you don't know how many times you are going to pass this way, and, you know, they got a grip on ... like a lot of young people, they know they are not bulletproof, and we talked way back in spring training in our first meeting, and they bought into each other. And they were good teammates and people that our city and organization can be proud of. And we'll see them again. It's been about as much fun as I have had in the big leagues watching how they play the game every day, the standard they held themselves to and the way they raised the bar in Baltimore with each other. It was about them. They cared about pleasing their teammates and playing to a certain standard."
Peter Angelos says the Orioles will be back next year.
The ball that either did or didn't hit the foul pole joined Jeffrey Maier in Orioles' lore. Mark Reynolds and Nate McLouth want to be back.
Sabathia recorded his first career postseason complete game.
From Elias: He had 199 regular-season wins before his first winner-take-all postseason win.
Complete game in postseason game by Yankees pitchers, since 1960:
2012 -- CC Sabathia versus Orioles
2000 -- Roger Clemens versus Mariners
1962 -- Ralph Terry versus Giants
1961 -- ****** Ford versus Reds
1960 -- ****** Ford versus Pirates
1960 -- ****** Ford versus Pirates
From ESPN Stats & Info, how Sabathia won:
A) Orioles hitters were 0-for-12 with seven strikeouts in at-bats ending with the slider. Sabathia led MLB with 136 slider strikeouts during the regular season.
B) Orioles hitters were 0-for-13 with eight strikeouts in at-bats ending with a pitch down in the zone or below, including 0-for-10 against the slider. All seven slider strikeouts were down in the zone or below.
C) Orioles hitters were 0-for-10 with six strikeouts in at-bats ending with a pitch out of the strike zone, including 0-for-6 with four strikeouts with the slider.
• Walt Jocketty met with Dusty Baker on Friday, and will meet with him again next week. Joey Votto doesn't want the Reds painted with a failure brush.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Red Sox began their manager interviews. Their pursuit of John Farrell remains under a cloak of secrecy.
2. A parcel of land that could someday be the site of a baseball field was purchased.
3. Braves GM Frank Wren got a contract extension.
4. The Athletics are likely to retain some of their veterans.
By the numbers
From ESPN Stats & Info
1: stolen base in 36 career postseason games for Mark Teixeira.
14: wins in winner-take-all games for the Cardinals, most in MLB history.
15: LCS appearances for the Yankees, most in MLB history.
70: straight postseason games started since 1997 for Alex Rodriguez before snapping that streak Friday.
93: wins, 0 losses for the Yankees when leading after eight innings at home in the postseason.
800: different players have hit home runs in the postseason after Michael Morse did so in the third inning.
1924: the last year a team based in Washington, D.C. won a postseason series (Washington Senators won World Series).
Dings and dents
1. Mike Adams is scheduled for surgery.
Brewers in play for Josh Hamilton.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Milwaukee Brewers are a small-market team with a big-market mentality, backed by a fan base that has turned out in big numbers and inspired owner Mark Attanasio to think big. The Brewers made the bold midseason play four years ago for CC Sabathia, and then two years ago, Milwaukee aggressively traded some really good young players for Zack Greinke.
So keep all that in mind this winter, when it's possible that the offseason dominoes will fall in a way that puts the Brewers in play for Josh Hamilton, who will be the most noteworthy free-agent position player.
Here's the bottom line: If the Texas Rangers or some other team steps up and stuns the baseball world by giving Hamilton a whopper deal of four-plus years for $100-plus million, then the Brewers will almost certainly would be out of contention for the center fielder.
But if the concerns about Hamilton -- about his ability to stay in the lineup, about his off-field history -- constrain the bidding for the All-Star into conservative offers, that would shift Hamilton's potential deal into the financial neighborhood of the Brewers, who really aren't in a position to give a massive contract to anyone.
Milwaukee's priority going into the offseason is to add two starting pitchers capable of absorbing a lot of innings. But general managers expect a sellers' market for free-agent pitchers, because there are so few options, and because the sport is generally flush with dollars. The bidding for veterans like Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson is expected to be robust. Some agents and general managers, for example, believe that even at age 34, Lohse could get a deal in the range of $60-75 million. The Toronto Blue Jays are looking for starting pitching, and so are the Kansas City Royals, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels, etc.
The Brewers, then, could look to take a different route in trying to improve for 2013. They could target cheaper pitching options and spend their available money to upgrade an offense that was very underrated in 2012. Milwaukee led the National League in runs, because of the greatness of Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, who had an incredible season of 80 extra-base hits and should get a lot of top-10 votes for NL MVP. Norichika Aoki isn't going to win the NL Rookie of the Year, in all likelihood, but he should get placement on ballots after hitting .288 with 81 runs and 30 stolen bases.
So long as the market on Hamilton is conservative, with the Rangers and other teams limiting the number of years and dollars they'd be willing to commit to him, then the Brewers could dangle a deal not very different than others. And Milwaukee would be able to offer something that nobody but the Rangers can: a comfort zone comprised of people whom Hamilton knows well.
Johnny Narron has known Hamilton for 20 years and has served as his mentor and accountability partner as he rebuilt his baseball career, before leaving the Rangers to become the hitting coach of the Brewers last winter. This is what Gerry Fraley wrote last fall about Narron's departure for the Brewers, after Narron was passed over for a job as hitting coach within the Rangers' organization:
Narron accepted that decision. At the same time, Narron and Hamilton talked about the future. Narron wanted to be a hitting coach, but he did not want to abandon Hamilton.
"Go for it," Hamilton told him.
"I wanted to see him get that shot," Hamilton said as he recounted the discussion during the playoffs.
And what of not having Narron at his side?
"It'll happen sometimes," Hamilton said. "I'm ready for it."
Hamilton and Narron had a few more conversations in recent days. Hamilton never wavered. Each time, he told Narron to take the job if it were offered.
"Josh and I have a deep relationship," Narron said. "I feel we have both benefitted from our relationship. When I talked to him about this, he was extremely excited for me. That helped me feel good about it."
Narron said Hamilton can handle the change. And Narron will not sever the personal tie. Narron said Hamilton can call any time he feels the need. Changing uniforms does not change a relationship.
Jerry Narron, the Milwaukee bench coach, has also known Hamilton for years. As some executives around baseball have prepared for the market this fall, this is what a lot of them lack about Hamilton: information.
They don't have a strong sense of Hamilton's daily struggle, about how much of an issue his past addiction is. With the Narrons in their organization, the Brewers will have more of that information than any other team, besides Texas, to help them make a decision on what kind of risk they feel comfortable with in extending an offer. (Presumably, there will be a lot of behavior clauses built into Hamilton's next contract, as there were for Greinke, who had walked away from baseball in the past.)
If the Brewers added Hamilton, this is what Milwaukee's lineup could look like:
1B Corey Hart
2B Rickie Weeks
C Jonathan Lucroy
SS Jean Segura
There are other factors that could make the Brewers attractive to a prospective free agent. They travel fewer miles than any other team -- about 52,000 total -- during the season. They play their home games in a park with a retractable roof, on grass, so the weather is never an issue. They have an excellent atmosphere for home games, because the place is nearly full all the time; Milwaukee drew almost 3 million fans this year. The organization has a reputation for having strong baseball people.
If Hamilton is looking for change -- but also for a place where he can feel comfortable -- the Brewers would have a lot to offer.
St. Louis-San Francisco
Matt Holliday is not a dirty player, but San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy best described Holliday's slide: illegal. Holliday regrets that he didn't start his slide a step earlier.
The takeout slide at second base has been in a steady evolution through the years. Check out this slide by Joe Morgan in the 1972 World Series, which is something you'd normally see out of NFL defensive backs.
For the Giants, payback was sweet, writes Henry Schulman. The baseball gods had Scutaro's back, writes Ann Killion.
Ryan Vogelsong was outstanding, writes Alex Pavlovic.
In five starts since Sept. 16, Vogelsong has a 0.93 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and allowed only one homer (ESPN Stats & Information).
From ESPN Stats & Info, how Vogelsong beat the Cardinals:
A) Vogelsong matched a season high by recording nine outs with his off-speed pitches. He did not allow a hit against an off-speed pitch.
B) He threw 14 changeups, getting six outs with the pitch. He threw 11 of the 14 (79 percent) for strikes. The Cardinals put five of Vogelsong's changeups in play and hit just one out of the infield.
C) Vogelsong retired all seven hitters he faced with runners in scoring position.
D) Eighteen of the 23 pitches he made with runners in scoring position (78 percent) were on the outer half of the plate or further outside, compared with 64 percent in all other situations.
Chris Carpenter lasted only four innings.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Info
4: Wins, zero losses for the Giants on weekdays this postseason (0-3 on weekends).
6: Number of runs Cardinals lost by in Game 2, their largest postseason margin of defeat since 2009.
.378: Career postseason batting average for Carlos Beltran, the highest all-time (min. 100 PA).
The Yankees' thought about Brett Gardner going into the postseason was that there just wasn't enough time for him to get properly prepared to start in the field and that he would be used only as a bit piece -- a pinch runner, a defensive replacement. But the offensive slumps of Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano have been so pronounced that it will be a shock if Gardner is not in the lineup today. He'll play in place of Granderson or Swisher.
Benching Swisher would be a good idea, writes John Harper. The Yankees seem no match for Justin Verlander, writes Bob Klapisch.
Verlander is poised to bury the Yankees, writes Drew Sharp. He has blossomed as an ace, writes Tom Gage.
Jim Leyland wants to see how Jose Valverde feels before using him as closer.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Tony Pena interviewed for the Boston Red Sox job on Monday.
2. The Washington Nationals have talked with Adam LaRoche about a multi-year deal, but it's more likely that LaRoche is going to test the free-agent market this fall. He could be the object of a bidding war between Washington and Baltimore; the Orioles have had internal discussions about possible first-base targets among the free agents.
3. The Red Sox are not raising their ticket prices.
4. The O's must decide whether to keep Nate McLouth.
5. Dusty Baker completed his talks for a two-year extension. There's still work to be done, writes Mark Sheldon.
6. Longtime Minnesota Twins official Jim Rantz is retiring.
7. The Rangers' Mike Olt is going to play winter ball.
8. Mike Berardino wonders: Should the Marlins trade for Alex Rodriguez?
9. The Philadelphia Phillies hired Wally Joyner.
Early standouts in the AFL.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Arizona Fall League's 20th season began on Tuesday afternoon, and through the first three days I've seen four of the six clubs, two games apiece. Here are some early impressions on prospects who've stood out. Bear in mind I haven't seen Peoria or Surprise yet, and that these are preliminary impressions of players I'll see a few more times over the next week or two.
• Kaleb Cowart (Los Angeles Angels) has been the most impressive prospect overall through these two days, showing great, quick hands at third base along with a plus arm, and good bat speed resulting in some hard contact. A switch-hitter, his left-handed swing does leave him vulnerable to changeups because he loads his hands so deep, pulling them way back even as the rest of his weight is shifting forward, and he has struck out at least twice against right-handers who fed him two-strike changeups.
• Nick Castellanos (Detroit Tigers) has been the best pure hitter so far, showing no difficulty hitting better velocity or adjusting to off-speed stuff, making hard contact to all fields. He's played two games in right field with no obvious trouble so far, and he's a good enough athlete that he should be able to learn the position quickly. I still think the Tigers would be better off leaving him at third and putting Miguel Cabrera at DH, or at first base with Prince Fielder at DH.
• Javier Baez (Chicago Cubs) homered in his first AFL at bat, a bomb that landed about halfway up the giant batter's-eye structure in center field at Salt River Fields; it was as loud a hit off the bat as you're likely to hear. Word travels fast, and Baez is now seeing more off-speed stuff and more pitches away that he can't pull, mostly because his swing is so hard and so fast that he's unable to control it once he starts it.
• Chris Owings (Arizona Diamondbacks) has a problem similar to Baez's, but without the crazy raw power. Owings has great bat speed and very good plate coverage, but has very little patience and doesn't get himself into enough hitter's counts. He's a no-doubt shortstop, and it won't take much OBP to make him a big league regular, but he hasn't made much progress in this department since high school.
• Jarred Cosart (Houston Astros) has been the most impressive pitcher I've seen, sitting 94-97 mph in his outing on Tuesday night with a hard curveball at 79-82 and a changeup with good arm speed in the lower 80s. He still cuts himself off during his delivery, but he isn't firing as hard across his body as he used to. His command was behind his control, as he was mostly around the plate but often missed the target.
• Tyler Chatwood (Colorado Rockies) started against Cosart and showed good velocity (93-96) but had no plane on the pitch, so hitters managed to square it up without much trouble. His curveball remains sharp, but the lack of fastball plane or a decent third pitch really holds him back. He's listed as 6 feet tall on the official roster, but by that measuring stick Randy Johnson would come in at 7-foot-5.
• Slade Heathcott (New York Yankees) showed his somewhat maniacal style of play on Wednesday night, trying to bowl over the catcher on a play at the plate (it didn't work), doing a somersault after making a diving catch in center, and running out a potential game-ending ground ball that led to the tying run scoring. Heathcott has great bat speed and a smooth, easy left-handed swing, although I'd like to see him keep his hands back a little more and get more torque from his hips. His one weakness at the plate so far has been fastballs up and/or in.
• Because I know you'll ask: Dellin Betances (Yankees) threw 89-93 with well below-average command, touching 94 once, with a below-average slider. He had no consistency with his release point.
Two more Yankees: Zach Nuding threw 91-95 with a fringy slider, not as wild as Betances but still showing iffy command. Right-hander Mark Montgomery threw 90-93 with a short, hard slider that he'd even throw down and in to right-handed batters; there's some effort in that delivery, but the ball appears pretty late out of his hand.
• Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers) and John Stilson (Toronto Blue Jays) have both been scratched from the AFL. Puig had surgery to treat a staph infection in his elbow.