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Live Game Blog | Game 5 NLDS | Giants vs. Reds

By bullpenbrian - October 11, 2012 - 1:23 pm Leave a comment.

What a terrific comeback by the Giants who become the first team in the National League to win the NLDS after losing the first 2-games of the series…not to mention, doing so in this one-year format where they had to play the last 3-games on the road. Outstanding.

Buster Posey’s fifth-inning grand slam made the difference as part of a 6-run inning against Reds starter Matt Latos. Cincinnati had plenty of chances, including having the game-tying runs at the plate in four consecutive innings. It was too little, too late from the Reds who could never finish off the Giants after leaving the bay up 2-0.

“The Reds did not lose this series, the Giants won it.” -Ron Darling TBS

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NL Regular Season Awards Ballot

By bullpenbrian - October 8, 2012 - 10:45 pm Leave a comment.

Here’s my regular season awards ballot for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. As a member of the Cubs chapter I have a vote for the National League awards.

Below I’ve listed my selections and the date at which the awards will be announced by the BBA. Agree or disagree? Let me know!

October 15: Connie Mack Award (manager of the year)

-Davey Johnson, Washington Nationals: Many thought the Nationals would play above .500. Some even felt the Nats had an outside shot at contending. But no one figured Washington would win the most games in the majors (98). Not to mention, if Davey Johnson wasn’t already a HOF manager, having led his fourth different organization to the postseason makes him a lock for Cooperstown. Honorable mentions: Bruce Bochy, Giants – Dusty Baker, Reds – Ozzie Guillen, Marlins (JK!)

October 16: Willie Mays Award (rookie of the year)

-Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds: .270/.331/.498, .817 OPS. Frazier doesn’t lead any offensive categories among rookies. He didn’t play in the most games or receive the most national attention. But none of that keeps him from being the best rookie ballplayer in the National League. He played a huge role for Dusty Baker by filling in for long stretches for an injured Scott Rolen and later an injured Joey Votto. He played solid defense at multiple positions. He hit well enough to bat from the middle of the lineup. And while Frazier may not lead any one particular category offensively, he is near the top in just about all of them for rookies. He’s definitely not the flashy pick of a Bryce Harper, but he is the best rookie for my money. Honorable mentions: Wade Miley, Diamondbacks – Bryce Harper, Nationals – Wilson Rosario, Rockies.

October 17: Goose Gossage Award (top reliever)

-Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves: (3-1, 1.01 ERA) 42/45 saves. Seven earned runs allowed in 62.2 innings, including 116 strikeouts. Three home runs allowed and a .126 average against. A 0.65 WHIP. These are just ridiculous numbers. Cuban Missile Aroldis Chapman is a close second despite pitching 10 more innings than Kimbrel. But Atlanta’s fireballer allowed half the number of runs and walks than Chapman did closing for the Reds. Honorable mentions: Chapman, Reds – Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies – Tyler Clippard, Nationals.

October 18: Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young)

-RA Dickey, New York Mets: (20-6, 2.67 ERA). Dickey pitched the most innings (232.2) with the most strikeouts (230) and tied for the most starts (33) of any NL starter. He won 20-games on a (74-88) Mets team. Good enough for me. Honorable mentions: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers – Johnny Cueto, Reds – Matt Cain, Giants.

October 19: Stan Musial Award (MVP)

-Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants: .336/.408/.549, .957 OPS. Posey carried the Giants to the postseason in the wake of Melky Carbrera’s PEDs suspension by winning the batting title and sporting a sparkling .957 OPS, second only to cheater Ryan Braun’s .987 OPS, while playing in 114-games at the most demanding position. Honorable mentions: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates – Yadier Molina, Cardinals – David Wright, Mets – Aramis Ramirez, Brewers.

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On Behalf Of The NL, Another Gift For the Cardinals

By bullpenbrian - October 6, 2012 - 3:20 am 2 comments.

Do you know what the Phillies, Brewers & Braves all have in common? They each rolled over and died in the NL playoffs against the Cardinals. For good measure we can add the Rangers from last year’s World Series, too.

I suppose at some point I’ve got to give the Cardinals credit, which I begrudgingly did after St. Louis won the championship last year. But for goodness sake, why is it teams forget how to pitch effectively, field the ball and hit in the clutch against the Cards?

Is St. Louis really that much better of a club than its opponents, or is the opposition simply giving games away the way I believe they are?

Let’s go back to last October…

Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt & Roy Halladay allow a combined 14-earned runs against St. Louis in the NLDS. In the decisive Game 5 Philadelphia committed more errors (2) than runs scored (0) finishing off its pathetic series (1-2) at home and essentially put a clown nose on its 102-win regular season.

The Brewers were then outscored by 17 total runs in the 6-game NLCS series while committing an unheard of 9 errors…NINE! And despite the most home wins in the majors during the regular season (57), Milwaukee went just (1-2) at Miller Park in the series.

In the Fall Classic the Cardinals outscored the Rangers by 8-runs, thanks in large part to a 16-7 drubbing in Game 3 at Texas. But the Rangers then blew a 3-run lead after 7 innings and a 2-run lead in the top of the 10th in Game 6.

In fact, the Cards were down to its final strike before David Freese delivered his game-tying triple in the bottom of the 9th…and then a game-winning walkoff home run in the bottom of the 11th. And to make matters worse, Texas made 8 fielding errors in the 7-game series…EIGHT!

And what did we see Friday in Atlanta? The Braves, with the highest fielding percentage in the league, committed 3 errors leading to 3 unearned runs in a 6-3 loss.

The Braves also had not lost behind its starting pitcher, Chris Medlen, in his last 23-starts–the longest such streak in modern baseball history! Not only that, but the Braves also had home field advantage in the 1-game play-in but still blew it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not fuming over the Cards’ performance. Heck, I wish the Cubs were half the opportunist St. Louis has been in the postseason. But what the heck’s going on with the rest of the Senior Circuit?

Is it just my personal dislike for the Cardinals that’s preventing me from validating St. Louis’ October success…or am I not the only one who’s ticked the rest of the National League is pulling a choke job worthy of the Cubs’ approval?

Heaven help me if the Nationals fall in line with the rest of the NL when it comes to finishing off the Cardinals. But quite honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they do…everyone else seemingly has.

Maybe St. Louis is just that good…or maybe not? Either way, I just wish somebody would make the Cardinals earn a postseason series instead of giving it away. At least then I could live with it.

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Infield Fly Changed Game, But Not Outcome For Braves

By bullpenbrian - October 6, 2012 - 2:59 am Leave a comment.

The infield fly call was a bad one, and I don’t care if it was technically the right call within the rules.

It’s a judgment call by the umpire…and his judgment was off, which is evident in the replay. The umpire’s call came too late to begin with, and unfortunately, killed what could have been a game-changing rally for Atlanta.

But it’s hardly the reason the Braves lost the game. Three fielding errors led to three unearned runs…and the Braves lost by those three unearned runs 6-3. That can’t happen in the postseason, especially when you’re statistically the best fielding team in the league, as the Braves are.

“Ultimately I think that when we look back on this loss, we need to look at ourselves in the mirror,”… “We put ourselves in that predicament, down 6-2. You know, that call right there is kind of a gray area. I don’t know. But I’m not willing to say that that particular call cost us the ballgame. Ultimately, three errors cost us the ballgame, mine probably being the biggest.” –Chipper Jones

And let’s not forget the Braves were the beneficiary of a late timeout call at the plate in the second inning, one which gave David Ross another cut…the result of which landed the next pitch in the bleachers for an early 2-0 lead.

That particular bad call actually changed the game on the scoreboard, whereas the blown infield fly ruling did not.

The Braves, not the umpires, decided the outcome of this game, and per the usual, the Cardinals were happy to take advantage.

However, hats off to Fredi Gonzalez for handling the loss with class. He didn’t gripe or complain (at least from what I heard) but simply shouldered the blame for his team’s poor fielding.

I can only hope Davey Johnson won’t have to do the same following the NLDS.

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Wild Success For Wild Cards

By bullpenbrian - October 4, 2012 - 5:00 am Leave a comment.

I’ve posted before how the standings on July Fourth are typically a good indicator of which teams will make the playoffs.

I wasn’t so sure the addition of a second wild card would affect the postseason races all that much over the final three months, but it certainly has with the season drawing to its dramatic close on Wednesday.

Here’s a quick look at the division leaders on the Fourth of July: Yankees, White Sox, Rangers | Nationals, Pirates, Dodgers.

And the wild cards: Orioles, Angels…Giants, Reds.

As we can see, only two of the division leaders went on to close the deal (Yankees, Nationals) and only one wild card team (Orioles) finished where they were on July Fourth.

The Giants and Reds, of course, ascended to division titles and the Rangers still slipped in as a wild card. Even the Cardinals, winners of the second wild card, were just a game back of its place on July 4.

So nearly half the field in postseason-position on July Fourth didn’t make the cut (White Sox, Pirates, Dodgers & Angels).

What’s more, three other teams reached the postseason despite a sub .500 record at the Fourth of July (Detroit, Oakland & Atlanta). Coincidentally, all three were in third place in their respective divisions at the time.

One could argue a second wild card did little to spice up the races considering all three AL division titles were decided by 3 or fewer games…the NL East was a close race in the Senior Circuit…and the other two NL divisions were blowouts anyway.

But the beauty of the second wild card, however, kept postseason hopes alive in those tight division races with teams fighting for home field advantage and to avoid the single elimination wild card play-in game.

The wild cards also made for meaningful baseball games among teams like St. Louis, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Tampa and Anaheim…not to mention, held out hope during the collapse of division leaders on the South Side of Chicago, Chavez Ravine, Texas and Pittsburgh.

In its first season the extra wild cards have been everything baseball fans, including myself, had hoped it would be…perhaps making those Fourth of July predictions much more precarious than they use to be.

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Has NHL Not Learned Anything From MLB Labor Disputes?

By bullpenbrian - September 17, 2012 - 5:05 am Leave a comment.

The stupidity of the NHL lockout is breathtaking. It’s the fourth time since 1992 the league has shutdown, and the third time it’s happened under Commissioner Gary Bettman’s watch.

The last lockout cost the league (and its fans) the entire 2004-05 season. But to the league’s credit, major changes prevailed during negotiations that set the course for the sport to reach an all-time high in popularity in the United States after years of clinging to any sense of relativity among the country’s other professional sports leagues.

At last, the NHL reached the cusp of entrenching itself as a major contender for sports fans’ attention. For all intents and purposes, NHL hockey in the States has never been better…until now.

The latest lockout that began Saturday at midnight puts all that’s been gained over the past seven-years in jeopardy of being lost. And if that sounds like a familiar tune, it should.

Major league baseball, of course, has seen its fair share of work stoppages. It took two hands to count all the strikes and lockouts from 1970 (eight) to the most damaging stoppage in 1994, which brought on the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in 90-years.

Baseball’s eventual implementation of revenue sharing and luxury taxes did help stabilize the industry, but fans felt so spurned by all the bickering between players and owners that attendance plummeted 20-percent when the league finally resumed play in the spring of 1995.

It took years for baseball to recover, and had it not been for the steroid infused home run chase in 1998, it could have easily taken much longer.

Perhaps, what baseball (and Bud Selig) doesn’t get enough credit for is the deal the two sides struck in August of 2002 on a new tentative collective bargaining agreement. Although the deal came right down to the deadline of a player’s strike, no games were lost, and the season carried on without a work stoppage.

Since then major league baseball has seen continual growth including setting year-over-year attendance records and a steady rise in the game’s popularity, not only within the States, but globally.

What more does the NHL need to know about the damaging effects of a work stoppage that they couldn’t learn from major league baseball, or from their own past for that matter? How could hockey let this happen again?

Does the NHL not realize another lengthy lockout risks damaging its reputation beyond repair, or that the almightily dollars both sides are squabbling for won’t be there like it once was?

Baseball, thankfully, did realize the negative magnitude of another labor dispute, found a way to strike its ‘historic’ deal in 2002, and is now thriving.

That very same opportunity still exists for the NHL—if a deal is reached before losing any regular season games. But if they don’t, and regular season games are lost, and so too is the Winter Classic, good luck rebounding a second time.

It seems the NHL may be misjudging its recent success as having weaved its way into the fabric of the American sports landscape, which is a huge mistake. Hockey has always been, and remains, icing on the cake for the average American sports fan. The masses can live without it, unlike the big-three: NFL, MLB & NBA.

There isn’t a home run chase that can save the NHL from another drawn out work stoppage, and even if one could, hardly anyone will be paying attention. The only answer remains the obvious one–labor peace.

Shame on the NHL for thinking otherwise.

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Weighing In On Stephen Strasburg

By bullpenbrian - September 6, 2012 - 2:15 am 6 comments.

The Nationals have the best record in the major leagues (84-52) and a Magic Number of (19). They ‘re 7.5 games up on Atlanta with four weeks remaining in the regular season–the division crown is all but a formality.

More importantly, Washington is fit to win the NL pennant, unless of course, they were to shut down their best pitcher for the rest of the season.

I understand Steven Strasburg is a huge investment. I understand the Nationals want to protect that investment. But if the decision is left up to me, he pitches the remainder of the season, including the playoffs.

That doesn’t mean I throw caution to the wind with Strasburg. Instead, I’d limit his workload; less innings and fewer games started down the stretch (as suggested by Tom Glavine).

There’s no question postseason pitching is a different animal than the regular season. Every pitch matters, and nearly every pitch is thrown with maxed-out effort. Is that a risk worth taking with Strasburg? I think it is, and here’s why.

A chance to win the World Series should be cherished. So much has to go right to reach such heights and so much cannot be controlled. There’s no guarantee the Nationals find themselves in the same position next year, or even in the coming seasons–with or without Strasburg.

Power-pitching is gold in October. It’s the difference-maker. It’s exactly what Strasburg should be for the Nationals. Shutting him down greatly limits that often fleeting opportunity to win now on a team poised to reach the Fall Classic.

“I’m not sure any of us understand, but it’s the right thing to do,” said Nats manager Davey Johnson.

I don’t think it’s the right move, and judging by Davey’s comment, he doesn’t think so, either.

Johnson himself is a fantastic manager. In fact, I’d consider him a saving grace if Washington sticks to its guns about shelving Strasburg. But good managing is hardly a replacement for a power-pitching ace like Strasburg in any postseason series.

Not to mention, if the Nationals don’t win the NL Pennant the thoughts of ‘what might have been’ could haunt this club for a long, long time. And that’s the last thing I want on my mind if I’m a member of the Nats organization.

When the time’s right to win, you go for it. You don’t play for next year and you don’t play scared. That’s how championships are won.

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MLB Trade Tracker 2012

By bullpenbrian - July 31, 2012 - 7:00 am 1 comment.

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New MLB Schedule Reduces Fake Cubs vs. White Sox ‘Rivalry’

By bullpenbrian - July 12, 2012 - 12:05 am Leave a comment.

You won’t hear negative feedback from baseball fans on the new proposed interleague scheduling plan that shortens ‘natural rivalry’ series from its current six-game format to four-games in most seasons.

What baseball fans want most in season scheduling is fairness, which is exactly the aim of the proposal to begin in time for the 2013 season.

I’ve never bought into the ‘natural rivalries’ anyway. The Cubs & White Sox are hardly rivals. Same can be said for the Mets & Yankees, Reds & Indians, Dodgers & Angels and so on…

Baseball fans have never confused these series as true sports rivalries, which can only be born from great competition among two teams on the playing field–not in the marketing department of MLB.

Rivalries develop over time, beginning most often during the regular season and then further progressing during playoffs series.

What they’re not is ‘natural’.

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Cubs Wish | All Star Game

By bullpenbrian - July 10, 2012 - 4:15 pm Leave a comment.

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