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Tuesday
Oct262010

World Series Picks

We've been asking around for World Series Picks... Here are some of the highlights:

Jonathan Scippa (http://www.rlyw.net)

World Series Champion: Texas Rangers
Games: 5
World Series MVP: Cliff Lee

Overview:
The Texas Rangers offense will be too much for the San Francisco Giants as Nolan Ryan's team looks to earn it's first World Series title in franchise history.  As good as the pitching has been for the Giants, especially the bullpen, Josh Hamilton and co. will be even better.  But the surprising effectiveness of the Rangers' starters behind Cliff Lee will be the story of the Series.  Proving they can shut down arguably the most potent offense in the league in the New York Yankees, the Rangers' starters will quiet the Giants' bats, winning the World Series in 5 games.

David Pinto (http://www.baseballmusings.com

World Series Champion: San Francisco Giants
Games: 6
World Series MVP: Tim Lincecum

Overview:
I will revise if the Rangers decide to use Cliff Lee three times

Bill Baer (http://www.crashburnalley.com)

World Series Champion: Texas Rangers
Games: 5
World Series MVP: Cliff Lee 

Overview:
While the Giants were busy taking advantage of a dormant Phillies offense, the Rangers' offense was clicking on all cylinders, averaging more than six runs per game in the ALCS against the Yankees. The Giants' starting rotation certainly has a tough task ahead of them with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero, Nelson Cruz, and Michael Young. Meanwhile, the Rangers also have a formidable starting rotation led by Cliff Lee, who has a 34-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the 2010 post-season. Although the playoffs are a crap shoot, I don't see the Giants putting up a fight against the Rangers, who may have flown under the radar as the most well-rounded team in the playoffs.

World Series Champion: San Francisco Giants
Games: 7
World Series MVP: Tim Lincecum

Overview:
I like the Giants in seven games, but not because of anything tangible. Sure, their pitching staff is excellent, and their offense is (on paper) still a bit underwhelming, but after watching how they played in that excellent six-game series against the Phillies, I can't help but buy into the Giant bandwagon. The whole concept of "just enough" applies with these Giants, because, for whatever reason, this offense of scrap-heap plucks and a pitching staff of one superstar and a bunch of roleplayers has made it this far, and I can't help but think it's for a reason.
Tuesday
Oct262010

The Resurgence of Pat Burrell

By now, most people are familiar with the Pat Burrell's story of redemption. After winning the World Series with the Phillies in 2008, he was sent into free agency. Eventually, he signed on with the Tampa Bay Rays, the team he helped defeat in the Fall Classic. GM Andrew Friedman committed two years and $16 million to the right-handed slugger.

It seemed like a good fit at the time. Since he was in the American League and would be a designated hitter, Burrell's liability as a defender was nullified. All he needed to do was hit. And he didn't do that. At all. He finished the 2009 season with a .304 wOBA, 57 points below his career average -- easily the worst season of his career.

The Rays hoped it was simply a fluke season and that Burrell would be able to rebound in 2010. In 24 games with the Rays, Burrell hit for a paltry .282 wOBA and was quickly released. The Giants, with a need for a power bat in a shoddy outfield, had nothing to lose and took a flier on Burrell.

That seemed like a poor fit at the time. The spacious outfield in AT&T Park seemed like too much for the brick-footed Burrell to cover, and the fences too deep for him to deposit fly balls behind. Additionally, Burrell appeared to be in the last chapter of his Major League career -- at least as a starter.

Burrell quickly caught fire. Joining the team in early June, he finished the month with a 1.021 OPS, including five home runs and three doubles. Given the poor month of July he followed up with, his June production seemed fluky. However, in August and September, he hit six home runs apiece and drove in 35 combined runs.

What revived Burrell?

It appears to be that, in 2009, he was simply unable to hit soft pitches. As a Phillie, he had always been known for his ability to turn on an inside fastball. On the other hand, he was known for a "butt jut" on inside breaking balls. When he read the spin of an inside breaking ball, his feet would remain planted, but he would arch his back so that he almost looked like a backwards C at home plate.

In 2010, he regained his ability -- or timing, most likely -- to hit the soft stuff.

Burrell's in-play slug on soft pitches, 2009Burrell's in-play slug on soft pitches, 2010

As the heat maps above indicate, he hit the soft stuff almost anywhere it was thrown, but had significant improvement on inside pitches.

Oddly enough, almost all of his production the past two years has come against right-handed pitchers. Burrell's calling card as a Phillie was his ability to mash lefties. Since departing, his platoon splits have headed in the polar opposite direction.

Burrell's in-play slug vs. RHP soft pitches, 2010Burrell's in-play slug vs. LHP soft pitches, 2010Against right-handed pitching in 2010 (all types of pitches), Burrell's .399 wOBA ranked in the 98th percentile among Major League hitters with at least 100 plate appearances. Against lefties, his wOBA dropped to .297 in the 47th percentile. 

If the Texas Rangers are wondering how they should pitch Burrell in a key spot during the World Series, they should strongly consider going with harder stuff -- if possible, thrown by a left-hander.

Monday
Oct252010

wOBA Leaders from 7th Inning On

MLB wOBA Leaders from 7th Inning On (Min. 150 PA)

Here are the top 15 wOBA leaders in late innings for 2010.  World Series participants Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Aubrey Huff make the cut.