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Postseason Starts With A Curve

Posted on September 30, 2011 at 6:04 PM
Filed Under: Arizona Diamondbacks | Detroit Tigers | Milwaukee Brewers | New York Yankees | Philadelphia Phillies | St. Louis Cardinals | Tampa Bay Rays | Texas Rangers
Tony La Russa pulled out another of his sleight of hand tricks today, stating that Chris Carpenter would be the Game 2 starter in Philadelphia, sending Carpenter out just three days after throwing a complete game shutout.

There's no doubt Tony has his reasons.  We talked this morning about Jaime Garcia and how he does much better at home, ruling him out of the first couple of games.  It seemed fairly obvious, then, that Edwin Jackson would be the much better choice to go in the second game, until this announcement.  As you've probably heard, Carpenter has never--never, mind you--gone on three days' rest in his career.

Josh from Pitchers Hit Eighth and I were chatting on Google Talk this afternoon and he brought up a point that I hadn't considered, namely that Jackson is more of a fly ball pitcher.  I recall him going to extremes with that in one of his last starts, as balls continued to fly deeper and deeper, but stay in the ballpark.  With Philadelphia's bandbox, those balls would be much more likely to soar over the wall.

However, I wanted to see if that was actually true.  Pulling up his Baseball Reference page, I note that he has been a bit more likely to give up the longball since moving to the National League and that his strikeout rate has decreased.  His GB/FB is 0.64 and his HR/FB% is at 6%, higher than it has been in his last couple of teams.  How much of these numbers are skewed due to the beating he took in Milwaukee, I don't know, but that does have to be considered.  Nevertheless, it does look like he'd be an ill fit for Philadelphia.  He did not pitch in Citizens Bank Park this season and in his one career game there, he gave up five runs in five innings.

I also think this is a good way for TLR to keep the pressure off of Kyle Lohse.  We know that he likes to do that (look at the disastrous attempt back in 2000 with using Darryl Kile as a decoy for Rick Ankiel) and he loves to get the focus on him so that the players can do their jobs without concern.  People are talking about Carpenter and whether this decision is the right one.  They aren't talking about Lohse having to go up against Roy Halladay.

With Lohse and Carpenter, the latter of which treats 100 pitch games are like warmups, going in enemy territory it does seem like the best way for the Cards to steal a game there and have a chance to win it at home.  I'm a little worried that TLR is getting too cute with things and that these kind of moves have a tendency on backfiring, but I understand the logic and it's worth a shot.

Also, per the discussion earlier today, TLR has said that Jake Westbrook will be on the postseason roster, so you can probably go ahead and cross off Eduardo Sanchez, which is too bad because I really think he could make a difference.

Quick plug before I wrap this: you can hear my thoughts on the upcoming series and some on the season that's past on this Popblerd podcast.  Garrett and I have known each other for a couple of years, as internet people know each other at least, and it was good to sit down and talk to him about the squad.  I hope to have him on my podcast sometime this winter so we can have a chat about the San Francisco squad.

Before the 2006 postseason, I remember looking at the path the Cardinals were going to take and thinking that they really had a legitimate shot.  I felt like they could get past San Diego, in part because they always did.  I looked at the Mets and thought that the Cards had the pitching edge in that series because Pedro Martinez was unavailable.  I looked at Detroit and again thought the Cards had the edge because of their pitching and how they were playing, having everyone healthy and ready to go.

I look at this 2011 postseason and, while they don't necessarily have all the edges that the 2006 squad had, I really do like their chances.  Getting past Philadelphia will be tough, but it's a team that the Cards have beaten in the regular season so I don't think there will be as much of an intimidation factor as there might be with some other teams.  Couple that with a fairly experienced squad and I think they can beat Philadelphia in five.

I'm not sure who wins in the Arizona/Milwaukee series, but I think the Cardinals can hang with either of them.  The Cards went 4-3 against Arizona and 9-9 against Milwaukee.  Arizona has a big top two of Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy, but the Cards can counter those and have been able to get to those guys as well.  As for Milwaukee, a matchup against them in the NLCS would be epic.  You know it'd go seven games and all the stops would get pulled out.  The Cards have proven they can beat their aces (though Yovani Gallardo can give them fits) and the Brewers have done damage against the Cards.  Again, I'm not saying that the Cards would definitely win against either of those teams, but I think there's a legitimate case to be made that they could.

Finally, you get to the World Series, and I don't think any team that makes it that far out of the AL doesn't have their own weaknesses.  The Tigers can't throw Justin Verlander every night.  The Yankees drop off after CC Sabathia.  I'm not sold on the Rangers pitching (and, being that the Rays are now beating the Rangers 6-0 in a game that their ace started, there seems to be a reason) and the Rays....well, now, the Rays might make for an interesting time.  They have good pitching and a solid offense to go along with it.  Just on the face of it, I think Tampa Bay will be the toughest team the AL can send to the Series.

I know it's optimistic, I know it's red-colored glasses, but if the Cards can get past Philadelphia (which, admittedly, is a tough but possible chore), I really like their chances.  However, as the players say, we've got to take it one game at a time.  And that game is tomorrow afternoon.  Go Cards!

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