How Did it Happen?

I mean seriously…the team with the best pitcher and the best hitter in the world just got swept in the World Series by the team whose co-ace (Tim Lincecum) was so horrific that he got relegated to the bullpen. The Tigers only held a lead for about 15 minutes of one of the games – it’s like they were never even in it, even though the games started off close.

How does that happen?

For starters, so to speak, one of the reasons I gave why the Giants could win was crucial. Last week I pointed out that Giants’ starting pitcher Matt Cain is just as good a pitcher as Justin Verlander. Turns out that in this series, EVERYONE was better than Justin Verlander. Game 1 was supposed to be the game when Detroit put down a marker, when there big stars shone, and when Verlander was going to get redemption for his other World Series appearance in 2006 when he got knocked about.

The problem with Verlander is that he gets the jitters, and it takes a while for him to get himself under control. The problem with THAT, in game 1, was 5 runs conceded in 4 innings, and the consequent evaporation of the Tigers’ mojo after their barnstorming 4-game drubbing of the geriatric Yankees.

Not only that, but the Giants did it with a pitcher who’d become an afterthought. Barry Zito – left off the 2010 rosterImage because he was, well, rubbish, , had returned. (Tim Lincecum meanwhile had gone the other way – from stud to dud with an ERA over 5 during the regular season.) Game 1: the limp-armed Zito versus the Tiger offence on the one hand, and flame-throwing Verlander versus the Giants anaemic offence on the other.

It should have been no contest.

And really it wasn’t, as the Giants gave an 8-3 spanking from which the Tigers never recovered. Pablo Sandoval, who’d hit 16 home runs all season (that is to say, about half as many as any self-respecting power hiter would consider a minimum), hit 3 in game 1. Noodle-armed Zito had his curveball from 2002 moving so far out of its running lane it should have been disqualified, and Lincecum emerged from his chrysalis as an unhittable reliever. Now, Sandoval’s not a complicated dude, so you could argue Verlander shouldn’t have kept throwing him fastballs to tee off on, but all the same, the Tigers just ran into a perfect Sandoval-Zito storm that no-one could have realistically predicted.

The fact that the next three games were decided by a total of 5 runs implies that this was a series-on-a-tightrope, that it could easily have gone either way. But scores can be misleading, especially in the postseason when pitchers are given far less rope by their managers to recover from a couple of wayward pitches, and the pitching is on average of a far higher standard than during the regular season.

Game 2 for example was a 2-0 Giants win, and yet they had 10 baserunners during the game to the Tigers two. And it always looked as though the Giants were going to win the game, whereas the Tigers never really looked in control. Evidence for that are the figures for batting averages with runners in scoring position. That is, the batting average purely for those at-bats when hitters had a runner on second or third base. In those situations the Giants batted .333, while the Tigers managed a paltry .125.

ImageWhat it all seems to boil down to, is that the San Francisco were – and are – a better baseball team than the Detroit Tigers.

This is a tough one to swallow for a culture that idolises speed over intelligence, and power over doing the little things well, but that was the difference between the two sides. The Giants had a gameplan that they executed almost to perfection, holding Cabrera in check and fellow slugger Prince Fielder to a humiliating 1 for 16 hitting line. They had gameplans for every hitter, and their hitters stayed within themselves – not trying to muscle everything, working the count and laying off bad pitches.

Well, OK…intelligence, doing the little things well, and a fat third baseman who hit three home runs in a game for only the fourth time in World Series history.

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