Baseball Playoff’s Big Whiff

As a baseball fan, I’m really trying to get into this year’s playoff’s. I would really like to tout the greatness of this season’s Final 4. I just can’t do it. I will always remember the 2006 Playoffs as the year without a great team. After the past 2 years, which culminated with the epic stories of the Red Sox and White Sox finally winning a world championship again, a letdown was apt to happen, but I had not expected it to go to this extreme.

Let’s start with the National League. Something needs to be done here, as the NL has been in free-fall for a few years now. Sure the Mets have an excellent offensive team, but it’s hard to fathom John Maine and Steve Traschel starting games in the LCS. The Cardinals have 3 former AL pitchers, Carpenter, Weaver, and Suppan fronting their rotation. Like many other former hurlers from the AL, these three have found success in the NL. It would be an interesting study to conduct on how pitchers fared over the past 5 years when they moved from one league to the next. I’ve got to think that this study would just expose even more how weak the National League has become.

No matter if they win or not, the Tigers will be the story of the 2006 season, with their revival taking place only 3 seasons after one of the worst clubs in basebll history were wearing the same uniforms. This team in no way matches the last Tiger world series team, though. The 1984 TIgers were great up the middle, with the greatest double play duo of all-time (Trammell and Whitaker), plus catcher Lance Parrish and center fielder Chet Lemon. Add to them Kirk Gibson and top-notch starting pitchers, Jack Morris and Dan Petry** and it’s amazing that the Tigers only won a single world title. Unlike Pudge Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez, who are not at their peak powers, every player I listed from the 1984 Tigers was between the ages of 26-29. The 2006 team does have a couple great young pitchers in Verlander and Bonderman, but the only place where the current Tigers outshine the 1984 team is in the bullpen.
(**In case you don’t think of Petry deserving to be on this list, keep in mind that he had 95 wins by the age of 26.)

The Tigers have been similar to the 2005 White Sox in winning 7 of 8 to get to the Series. I think it’s been a lot easier road, though, as the 2005 Red Sox and Angels were better clubs. I think this was the worst A’s team that qualified for the playoffs in the Billy Beane era. Yankees fans would probably echo that it was the worst team they have had since Joe Torre had taken over for Buck Showalter. Outside of Gane 4, we’ve had few moments of classic playoff intensity. A Tigers/Cardinals series is going to be big ratings loser not only because neither team is in a large-market, but also because they just don’t have much sizzle. FOX must be asking itself, where’s the “Cowboy Up” or “OzzieBall” for this year? I will watch the World Series as usual, but my mind has already wandered to next year.

13 thoughts on “Baseball Playoff’s Big Whiff

  1. 1.  I think there are so many parallels between the ’06 Tigers and the ’05 White Sox it’s almost eerie.

    1. They both throw a solid pitcher at you every night.
    2. They both came out of nowhere to dominate the AL Central.
    3. They both stumbled late in the season although the White Sox held on to the division.
    4. They both have power all the way through the lineup with middle of the lineup guy being probably their best hitter, but not a superstar/alpha dog. (Konerko, Magglio)
    5. Both had a bust on the scene power arm out of the bullpen (Jenks, Zumaya) with a revival year guy (Jones, Hermanson) and similar supporting bullpen cast.
    6. Their managers are more newsworthy than their players.

    It seems like the list could go on forever.

    1 major difference. ’06 Tigers are a feel good story, and very likeable. The ’05 White Sox, were, um, nevermind.

    A couple of random notes/opinions.

    The best division in baseball was the AL Central.

    The most overrated division in baseball is definitely the AL East.

    The most underrated division in baseball is the AL West.

    NL pitching is horrendous!!!

  2. 2.  “Yankees fans would probably echo that it was the worst team they have had since Joe Torre had taken over for Buck Showalter.”

    2000, anyone?

    I love how people will make claims off the top of their head. That’s why I can’t take this section of Baseball Toaster seriously.

  3. 4.  “How are the Mets and Tigers not great teams?”

    Regarding the Mets anyhow, a few words: “Game four starter Oliver Perez.”

    As much as it pains me to say this, the Mets were a great team, but injuries have turned them into a very good team—at least right now, this minute.

    I would further submit that ANY team starting either Neifi Perez or Endy Chavez in a playoff game is automatically not great.

  4. 5.  Speaking as a Yankee fan, I don’t think there would be more than a handful of very uneducated Yankee fans who would think that this was the weakest Yankee team since Torre took over. That’s absolute nonsense.

  5. 6.  Yanks had a weak rotation this year to be sure, but the lineup was killer. And the bullpen was pretty decent.

  6. 7.  Let me begin my rebuttal by saying “who took my wallet?” Now after that kind of beginning, you have to take me seriously!

    OK, now that I’ve got that out of my way, let me state that this year’s Yankees were not only flawed in the starting rotation, but their defense was very spotty as well.

    The 2000 team had Clemens, Pettite, and El Duque starting for them, who all have been excellent in the post-season. The Big Unit doesn’t have it anymore, while Wang was in his first season on this stage. While the bullpen is always going to be solid when it begins with Mariano, 2000 had an extremely nasty Jeff Nelson and playoff stud Mike Stanton.

    Yes, the Yankees 2006 offensive lineup was spectacular, but in the playoffs, I will generally put my money on the team with the superior pitching and defense, which the Tigers had. Now, I was still stuck on picking the Yankees since I chose them at the beginning of the year. I definitely deserve a slapdown for that.

    The Mets have a dismal starting pitching staff. This is the worst starting pitching I’ve ever seen in a League Championship. Please someone enlighten me on a worse group.

    In regards to the Tigers, I realize that I’m on shakier ground saying they are not a great team. I guess I just can’t see them beating any of the past World Champions over the past 15 years, except for maybe the 2003 Marlins. This year’s Tigers, if they win it all will be like Larry Holmes. Champion, but their competition will take away some of the lustre.

  7. 8.  The Yankees defense turned a higher percentage of balls in play into outs than all AL teams but the Tigers, and this was far and away their best defensive team of the last 5 years

  8. 9.  I was comparing the 2006 Yankees to the 2006 Tigers, defensively. The difference between 1 and 2 in this category was huge, as I think the Tigers were vastly superior in this category.

    As I’ve proven in the past, I’m not someone who goes beyond the basic numbers, but I have to think that the Yankees pitching stat, especially Wang, helped New York greatly on this staff. I look at their lineup and I just don’t see any superior fielding types on this team. Defensively, I would take the White Sox over the Yankees at almost every postion, no matter what this stat tells us. Ballpark and pitching effects have a lot to do with this stat.

  9. 10.  8

    … and they had that improved defense through the SUBTRACTION of Matsui and Sheffield for most of the year, and in SPITE of A-Rod’s troubles at third.

    If A-Rod goes, I’m still in favor of a “defense-first” 3B manning the position, especially if they build their staff around Wang and the lessening-strikeout rates of Mussina and Wright.

  10. 11.  Actually before you compared the defenses, you described the defense as “very spotty as well.” Not a big point, but in terms of defensive efficiency being pitching and ballpark related, true, but in this case, misapplied; the outfield defense was actually better than the infield, so there goes much of your Wang argument. Further, when you say you don’t see any superior fielding types, I think you overlook Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera, who both had great range numbers in 2006 using just about every defensive system. Combined with Johnny Damon providing average defense in center, and Jeter continuing to act as a league average ss after his troubles as a young ss, they actually became fairly strong up the middle. In terms of your park effects/white sox argument, I’d ask if you may not overate this year’s white sox defense due to its 2005 success. They suffered an overwhelming 2 percent drop in defensive efficienc while the Yankees improved 1 percent, actually very large and statistically iimportant numbers. They both played in the same ballparks as 2005. To say the defense wasn’t pretty/very good this year would have to be false

  11. 12.  Alarsky,

    I can’t argue most of your points. I still think the A’s, Twins, White Sox, and of course, Tigers have better defenses, but I don’t have the stats to back it up. While I’m generally on the Stats side, I guess on this one I would go with the scouts.

  12. 13.  Almost every team had glaring weaknesses. I thought le Tigre had the best all around team, with the fewest weaknesses.

    I like John Maine as a pitcher. It’s starting stiffs and frauds like Traschel and Perez and possibly Darren Oliver that is the issue for the Mets.

    As for the Cards – feh.

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