The French call it “joie de vivre” which, loosely translated, means to delight in the unexpected pleasures in life, or literally, the joy of living. Yesterday afternoon, I called it a Justin Verlander curveball.
In last evening’s piece, I predicted a rough night for Detroit starting pitcher, Doug Fister. Not because Doug Fister doesn’t have a Major League-quality skill set, but because the skills he possess appeared to diminish in value vs. the type of hitters in the Texas Rangers line-up. Since many of you wouldn’t be reading the note until this morning, I noted it would either look foolish or prescient. Doug Fister pitched 7 innings, gave up 2 runs, and got the win the Tigers desperately needed. Place a mark in the foolish ledger.
As the Tigers are finding out, the Rangers line-up, in terms of top-to-bottom strength is very similar to the New York Yankees. Sure Nelson Cruz has been a one-man wrecking crew in the first two games, but would it surprise anyone if instead it had been, Josh Hamilton, or Adrian Beltre, or Michael Young, etc? Unlike the other three teams left in the playoffs which have six or seven hitters playing the supporting character role to two elite hitters (possibly three in the Cardinals’ case depending on how you rate Lance Berkman) the Rangers have seven well-above average hitters, all of whom can don the leading man role on any given day.
What I wrote on Friday morning hours before the Milwaukee Brewers were hosting the Arizona Diamondbacks in a Game 5 elimination contest looked awfully silly/careless when a look in the morning newspaper revealed Yovani Gallardo would actually be taking the mound for the Brewers. I had relied on Milwaukee’s stated reasoning for starting Zach Greinke, on short rest, in Game 2 of that series, wrote the newsletter issue late at night Thursday on the West Coast, and then sent it out Friday morning. While the lede looked silly when Milwaukee decided to save Greinke, the body of the issue would not have changed. I would have made the identical points about Greinke – that is, I think he’s the best (not the most valuable) starting pitcher in baseball even if his traditional statistics hide that. Whether that’s true or not isn’t really important – as I mentioned to one reader who e-mailed me, it’s like arguing about the relative merits of Jessica Biel vs. Jessica Alba. If you’ve got either one of them in your starting line-up, you’re not coming out on the losing end of any argument. My point is that Zach Greinke is terribly underrated by both fans and, perhaps more importantly, oddsmakers.
In poker, there is a concept called “misplaced aggression.” It’s a fairly advanced concept in the sense that a beginning player would first learn that “aggressive poker is winning poker” and that realization only comes after a good deal of playing. Often at the poker table, the end result of misplaced aggression is that the aggressor is left in a situation with only two outcomes; he will either win a small pot or lose a big one. Three times in their last two games, when a victory would have advanced them to the National League Championship Series, the Phillies were victims of their own misplaced aggression. Hunter Pence tried to steal second with nobody out, Chase Utley tried to go from first to third on a routine grounder to shortstop in one game and steal second with one out in the other. Both of Utley’s base kills occurred in late stages of the game with the Phillies down one run. All three cases of aggression tested the throwing arms of reigning (and multiple) Gold Glove winners Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina.