Tuesday, October 23, 2012

No. I won't make a prediction for the World Series.

There is a widely held truism that "You Can't Predict Ball" and few teams have provided more evidence in support of that axiom than the San Francisco Giants over the last few years. In taking a look back at the 2010 season we recall that in the spring, the odds-on favorite to win the NL-West was the Colorado Rockies. Well, as it turned out they finished nine games back in third and it took a Jonathan Sanchez late inning double off of Mat Latos in game 162 to ink the Giants as Champions of the NL-West.

As surprising as that was, it was merely the beginning of one of the most unlikely playoff runs in my memory. The collection of "misfits, cast-offs & has-beens" that comprised the 2010 Giants confounded the predictions of the "experts" time and again. Nearly every "insider" at ESPN and SI predicted the Braves would best the Giants in the NLDS. They didn't however predict Tim Lincecum's Game One 14 strikeout gem. Neither did they predict the frying pan glovework of fill-in player Brooks Conrad nor did they predict the heretofore unheard of managerial faux-pas of Bobby Cox in leaving Derek Lowe in just a wee bit too long.

Yet again the Giants would enter a series as the underdog. Conventional wisdom, such as it is, held the Phillies as the chalk pick to advance to the World Series. As shown, each and every ESPN "expert" had the Phillies picked to win in convincing fashion. Yet again, the "insiders" failed to predict a career .260 hitter in Cody Ross making the vaunted Phillies rotation look like a High-A club. Neither did they predict a series of Phillies errors in key situations nor did they predict that the supposed murderers-row of perennial all-star position players on the Phillies side would be so effectively silenced. Up to and including the final out wherein Ryan Howard was left standing, mouth agape, as the final strike whizzed by him without a swing.

And so to, as the Giants entered the World Series, the "experts" predicted that the Rangers rotation and power hitting lineup would take the measure of the Giants.   The lone standout, Jim Caple being the one among them to pick the Giants. Once again the experts failed to predict a masterful manegerial performance by Bruce Bochy. They didn't predict an 11-7 slugfest in the game one "pitchers duel" between Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee. None of them saw coming the 9-0 drubbing in game two with seven runs scored off of Texas' "shutdown" bullpen. Neither did the predict a Game three in which all runs would be scored off of homers. They certainly didn't predict that the 4th youngest player to start a World Series would pitch eight shutout innings allowing only four hits against the powerful Texas lineup. And finally, I'll reckon that none, not even Jim Caple, would have predicted that the Series winning 3-run homer would be hit off of Cliff Lee by Edgar-Freaking-Renteria.

Which brings us to 2012, a season that began with a mix of predictions for the NL-West. Depending on what you read the Giants & D-Backs and to a lesser extent, the Dodgers shared the mantle as pre-season favorite. Though many doubts remained as to how significant a role Buster Posey would play after his 2011 injury. Those doubts would prove to be unfounded. But there would prove to be other roadblocks. Lots of them.

After notching just a single save, Brian Wilson went down with a season-ending elbow injury requiring his second Tommy John surgery. "The Giants are done!", they said, "Hand the NL-West to the Dodgers."

Then Guillermo Mota was popped for his second PED violation resulting in a 100 game suspension. "No way can the Giants bullpen survive this", they said, "It's the Dodgers season now."

Then All-Star Game MVP and favorite to win the NL MVP and batting title, Melky Cabrera was popped for a PED violation. "Oh, forget about it now. The Dodgers have got this."

But the "experts" didn't predict that Buster Posey would not only play in 148 games but that he'd have MVP caliber numbers in doing so hitting .385 with a 1.102 OPS in the 2nd 1/2. Nobody, including the player in question would have predicted Marco Scutaro hitting .339 with an .809 OPS in the 2nd 1/2. They didn't predict that Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affledt, Javier Lopez and Clay Hensley would amass a combined 52 saves! The "experts" certainly didn't predict that the Dodgers trade deadline blockbuster would result in a drop in the standings from 2 back to 6 proving that when when one trades for a bunch of expensive, under-performing Red Sox you run the risk of creating a team of expensive under-performing ex-Red Sox.

The bruised & battered Giants entered the post season as underdogs to the Cincinnati reds and promptly found themselves at a 2-0 deficit in the best of 5 heading to Cincinnati. The "experts", and frankly damn-near everyone else predicted that the Giants were sunk. Nobody predicted Ryan Vogelsong leading a 4 hitter allowing just one run to bring the series to 2-1. The "experts" certainly didn't predict that Barry Zito would play the role of unlikely ace with Tim Lincecum in a supporting role as super-reliever in an 8-3 pounding to even the series at 2 each. Finally, few if any, predicted Mat Latos (hahah!) would be on the mound for a 6 run explosion in the 6th inning that would serve as the final nail in the Reds coffin allowing the Giants to advance.

Yet again, the Giants would enter a series as the near-unanimous underdog this time to the Cardinals. Yet again the Giants would spot their opponent a nearly insurmountable lead in the series. Yet again, the Giants, as we've just witnessed, would defy the predictions of the "experts", would defy all statistical models, would defy mother nature, would defy common sense and would defy history itself in coming back from the brink for the second time winning their 6th consecutive elimination game in a single playoff run for the first time in baseball history.

And so it is, as the Giants enter the 2012 World Series, they do so as underdogs to the Detroit Tigers. The "experts" with the exception of Jayson Stark, have Detroit as the favorite. Lou Pinella once said that "Statistics are like a bikini. They show a lot, but not everything." and statistics, a badass right-hander in Justin Verlander, a triple-crown winner in Miguel Cabrerea backed up by "no-slouch himself" Prince Fielder might in fact favor the Tigers. All of which makes me really glad that writing this blog is a hobby and that I don't make a living as a baseball "expert" because history and the Giants have shown us, in no uncertain terms, that you can't predict ball.

No comments:

Post a Comment