The Detroit Tigers with twin-aces Justin Verlander and Doug Fister, and the St. Louis Cardinals, baseball’s hottest team, are now the sexy pick to meet in a rematch of the 2006 World Series. After beating the two top favorites in the division series, it makes since for people to be excited about the Tigers and Cardinals. However, a seven game championship series is much different than a five game series, while anything can happen in a five game series, when two more games are added into the equation statistics become a lot more formidable. And when the statistics are brought into the equation, there is a quantitative advantage for both the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers.
The Rangers, as many would expect, are a better hitting team than the Tigers. The Rangers have a team WAR of 38.9 (best of any playoff team) and a team wOBA of .348 (also the best of any playoff team). While the Tigers sit at a WAR of 28.5 and wOBA of .336. Some would argue that seeing Verlander and Fister twice in a seven game series could neutralize the highly talented Rangers’ offense. And I would agree Verlander (7 WAR, 3.12 xFIP) and Fister (5.6 WAR, 3.61 xFIP) are as good as any starter the Rangers have to offer. But great pitchers are not invincible, as shown in the Phillies’ series, with both Halladay and Lee losing starts, as well as, in Tigers’ ALDS series, in which Fister lost Game 1. Many people would be surprised about two facts about the Rangers team pitching though.
Thus, when analyzing the 2011 ALCS it is not a competition of whether the Rangers hitting can be better than the Tigers pitching, it is the fact that the Rangers are the defending American League champions, who are a better team this year than they were last year, as well as, a better hitting AND pitching team than the Tigers, this season.
The matchup in the National League Championships series pits two NL Central Division rivals against one another, and is also a rematch of the 1982 World Series (Milwaukee’s only trip). Both teams needed 5 games to win in the NLDS, and both teams used their respective aces in order to win Game 5. Milwaukee won the N.L. Central by 6 games over St. Louis. Thus, by going by records between two teams in the same division it seems as though Milwaukee is a better team. But some would argue that St. Louis is “hot” right now, by the way the ended up reaching the post-season in the final month. However, both teams won 7 out of their last 10 games to end the season, and each team won 3 out of 5 in the NLDS, so to say the Cardinals are hotter than the Brewers, when each team has won 10 out of their last 15 doesn’t solidify a point at all. Instead, I would much rather look at the season statistics to see, which team looks better coming into Sunday’s Game 1 in Milwaukee. The first and main advantage for the Brewers is that they have homefield in the series, for some teams this is not a huge deal, but for Milwaukee it most definitely is, in the regular season the Brewers were 33 games over .500 at home, while they were 3 games below .500 on the road. In the NLDS the Brewers won all 3 games at home, while losing both games played on the road in Arizona. The second advantage the Brewers have over the Cardinals is they pitch better. The Brewers’ pitching had a team WAR of 18.1 and xFIP of 3.58, while the Cardinals had a WAR of 14.3 and xFIP of 3.79. Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, and Edwin Jackson are good for St. Louis, but not of the same caliber as Yovani Gallardo, Shawn Marcum, and Zack Grienke. However, the Cardinals have already beat a team in the NLDS who’s pitching was much better than theirs, and that was because St. Louis is the best hitting team in the N.L. (34.3 WAR, .332 wOBA). Those numbers were a huge advantage over the Phillies’ bats, but the Brewers lineup that features Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, Nyger Morgan, and Ryan Braun, is only slightly worse than that of the Cardinals. The Brewers have the N.L.’s third best offense (32.9 WAR, .327 wOBA), which over the course of a seven game series could outhit the Cardinals. Thus, the Brewers have two distinct advantages over St. Louis, while St. Louis only has the one slight advantage on Milwaukee.
Most times, in the LCS format the better team comes out on top, for this reason, based on the numbers it is not hard to see that a World Series matchup, between two teams who have never won the big one before could occur. With the Texas Rangers visiting the Milwuakee Brewers (who have home field due in large part to a Fielder homer off Wilson) in the 2011 World Series.
The Mariners entered August 4th with baseball’s 16th highest payroll and the major league low in team OBP of .291. It is common knowledge that the M’s have a wealth of pitching but their league worst hitting has put them in last place of the American League West. Sitting in last place going into last Sunday’s trade deadline the Mariners were clearly sellers. And it would have made sense for the Mariners to attempt to cut some of their 86.5 million dollar payroll by trading their talented pitching in exchange for young cheap hitting.
However, with the way the Mariners’ payroll sets up this was nearly impossible. Four of the top five highest paid players playing for Seattle are hitters and all have nearly immovable contracts. Ichiro (18 million), Milton Bradley (13 million), Chone Figgins (9.5 million, and Jack Wilson (5 million) all have very little trade value and are all hitters, which is what the Mariners were looking to acquire, not trade away. These four players make up over 50% of the Mariners payroll. The Mariners only have 4 pitchers who make over a million dollars, Felix Hernandez (11.7 million), David Aardsma (4.5 million), Jason Vargas (2.45 million), and Brandon League (2.25 million). King Felix is the last player the Mariners would be willing to trade; thus, his salary was not going anywhere. Aardsma missed the entire season, so they could not trade him. League is as cheap of a good closer as you can get in baseball today, and Vargas has been a very solid number 3 starter for the Mariners this season and his contract is not nearly large enough that the Mariners would just want to dump it.
So the Mariners only had one option at the 2011 Trading Deadline if they wanted to get better in the future, to trade their young talented pitching for talented young hitters. This, in fact, is exactly what Seattle did at the deadline, moving Doug Fister and David Pauley to Detroit for Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, prospect Francisco Martinez, and a player to be named. As well as, trading Erik Bedard to Boston for Trayvon Robinson and Chih-Hsien Chiang. Thus, the Mariners only cut some salary by moving Bedard’s 1 million dollar deal, but mainly kept the same payroll in these swaps.
The Mariners gave Detroit a solid starter in Fister, and a solid bullpen guy in Pauley. This is a good move for Detroit, because Fister has an above average VORP of 14.1 and a good FIP that hovers around that coveted 3 mark. Pauley also has good numbers coming out of the ‘pen at 3.32 FIP and over 2 VORP. The Mariners will not lose that much production from losing these two players, because they have many solid arms that can start and come out of the ‘pen that are very similar to Fister and Pauley. Also, Furbush gives them a left-hander that they can use effectively in either the rotation or the bullpen. Casper Wells is really a fourth outfielder and was that for the Detroit, which made him so easy for them to move. However, for a team that hits like the M’s, Wells is a good option. Wells has come into Seattle and made an immediate impact, in only 17 plate appearances he has a VORP of 3.1. Making him their best outfield option batting wise other than Ichiro.
The Mariners also picked up 20 year-old Double-A infielder, Francisco Martinez; who has ton of upside. As well as, the player to be named in the deal is rumored to be one of Detroit’s top pitching prospects, who could easily turn out to be a better player than Fister.
In the trade with the Red Sox, the Mariners gave up injury-prone Erik Bedard, a player they really had no need for, and in exchange received two outfield prospects, one of which has been tearing up the minors like a future star. Trayvon Robinson could very well be a 25 home run guy in the major leagues, which would be immensely important to the pitching-heavy Mariners who have a serious lack of power production. The Mariners only have two players this season with double-digit home runs, Miguel Olivo has 14 and Justin Smoak has 12. Chaing projects as a fourth outfielder fill-in type of player, but not to hammer home the point, the Mariners will take any type of production with the bats that they can get.
To sum up the deadline for the Mariners, they traded away a good starter, an aging risky starter they had no need for, and a reliever and got some serious potential in their returns. The Mariners did everything they could with what they had at the deadline with solid execution, as they continue to look for help swinging the bats.