Thursday, October 02, 2008

Zen Dayley: Vlady the (gasp) inhaler, and the concept of "Cub it up"

(Yes, it's OK to root for a Milwaukee-Tampa Bay World Series, just for the mental picture of Fox Sports executives doing a 2 1/2 tuck off the catwalk at Tropicana Field.)

Red Sox 4 Angels 1 (Boston leads 1-0): Vladimir Guerrero doing his best Bengie Molina on the basepaths is as good a jumping-off point for a belated wrapup of Day 1 of the MLB Playoffs.

A commenter over at Yahoo! Sports' Big League Stew commented that it's a damn shame almost no one saw Guerrero play in Montreal, back when he could run. It's not a shock that he got thrown out going first-to-third on a hit, since Baseball Prospectus 2008 noted that "his baserunning speed is all but gone." Still, there's reading something in a book marketed to statheads and then there's seeing it unfold in an October game.

Meantime, Trail, B.C.'s Jason Bay (hey! he began his career in the Expos organization until the franchise got Seliged) hit the game-deciding homer for the Red Sox. We're all proud of him, liberal guilt over how he was used to make Manny Ramirez look bad notwithstanding.

(As for the other Canadians: Russell Martin also homered, but Ryan Dempster got jocked.)

The upside for the Sox is they might be able to win this series without Josh Beckett at his best. For Game 2, it depends on what you put more stock in -- Daisuke Matsuzaka getting hit hard in his only start against the Angels during the regular season, but he's also pretty much untouchable on the road (2.37 ERA, .178 opponents' average.

"Regular season" is the operative word. The Angels are fast becoming the Ottawa Senators in double-knit unfirms. There are the great regular seasons followed by playoff linen-soilings, plus the lameness. David Eckstein has changed teams four times since the Rally Monkey was broken out, and it painfully unhip then.

Dodgers 7 Cubs 2 (L.A. leads 1-0): The phrase "Cub it up" (terrorist fist jab to Terp's Take) could move into wider circulation if Carlos Zambrano and Co. can't deliver a W in Game 2.

(Martin and Andre Ethier, L.A.'s two best hitters who actually played a full season in the NL, are 8-for-13 and 6-for-13 respectively vs. Zambrano. Expect to hear this a 1,000 times in the next 12 hours.)

Dodgers righty Chad Billingsley could handcuff the Cubbies on Thursday night. A Roy Halladay comparison seems a bit glib at first blush, but he had 201 strikeouts and gets more groundballs than he did in his first full season in 2007, and he's only 24 years old.

The opener pointed up the big matzo ball the Cubs have hanging out there: No left-handed power. They really probably should at least think about benching Kosuke Fukudome and his .379 slugging percentage. Their most reasonable facsimile of a lefty power bat is either Mike Fontenot or Jim Edmonds. One weighs 160 lbs., and the other is 38 years old.

Random thought: What kind of odds could you have got two years ago betting there would be a playoff game where Ryan Dempster threw the first pitch and Greg Maddux threw the last one?

No what happens, this series is really all about the Yankees.

Phillies 3 Brewers 0 (Philadelphia leads 1-0): There's not much point in going too deep into this game, since it was over by the dinner hour. There's a strong case that the Phillies, between the Brewers' bobbles and Brad Lidge's nervous ninth, got kind of lucky.

CC Sabathia, who will start a pretty much do-or-die Game 2, has actually got better pitching on three days' rest. The Brewers, between CC Sabathia and Prince Fielder, are the husky gentleman's pride and joy (what else would you expect from a team from Wisconsin?) Truth be known, their batters could be going cold again. Did everyone forget what got Ned Yost fired in September?

White Sox vs. Rays: Tampa Bay in four seems like a pretty good form pick; Baseball Digest Daily is calling a sweep.

The Rays get more runners on base, field better than the White Sox and their bullpen isn't followed around by men in fire-retardant suits. To use a hockey analogy, offensively, they are last season's Pittsburgh Penguins -- the team who didn't have their top guns together all the time. Despite that, they won 97 games, and have home field advantage straight through the World Series.

Basically, this is a contrast between one team that puts a lot of runners on but doesn't bring them around as well it could, and one team that doesn't get enough on, but brings them in. The White Sox hit those 235 homers, but one pet theory is a team that ranks higher in home runs (first) than it did in runs scored (fifth) is doomed in the playoffs, when teams can shorten their rotations and bunch up the relief appearances among a few guys.

It's cute how the White Sox still play 1990s-style baseball, right down to the black uniform tops and superannuated Ken Griffey Jr. in centrefield. Come to think of it, Junior actually won't be that far from Ponce de Leon's mythical Fountain in Youth down there on the Gulf Coast. Yes, Griffey threw a runner out at the plate in the San Diego County Credit Union AL Central Tie-Breaker, but he didn't hit much after the trade.

(Among all the contradictions in our life, one is having sleeping problems tend to flare up right around the time of the baseball post-season. I'll try to be more timely tomorrow.)

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