Monday, October 4, 2010

2010 ALDS and NLDS notes and oddities

By Rick Morris

^ It’s always exciting to take a look at the emerging stars getting ready to make their October debuts each fall. The headliners are strong MVP candidates in each league (Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto), a leading Cy Young candidate this season (Matt Cain) and a two-time defending Cy Young winner (Tim Lincecum). They head up a strong cast of hitters (Jay Bruce, Nelson Cruz, Jason Heyward, Aubrey Huff, Ian Kinsler, Brandon Phillips, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Michael Young) and hurlers (Madison Bumgarner, Aroldis Chapman, Johnny Cueto, Neftali Feliz, Tommy Hanson, Jonathan Sanchez, Brian Wilson and CJ Wilson).

^ According to Wikipedia, there has never been a World Series that did not include at least one “old-line franchise” (a team that existed before the first modern expansion of 1961) and this year will be no different since only first-round opponents Tampa Bay and Texas do not fit the criteria.

^ Here’s the strangest baseball stat of the year: since the divisional round of playoffs was instituted in 1995, this will mark only the third time that has not featured either Charlie Manuel OR Bobby Cox managing a team but not both of them. Cox skippered the Braves to the divisional round from 1995-2005, while Manuel managed the feat for Philly from 2007-10. In addition to 2006 being a year absent either of them and 2010 featuring both of them, the only other year to break this pattern was 2001, when Manuel joined Cox in the postseason as the manager in Cleveland at the end of their run.

^ This year, the National League is replicating the American League’s previously-unmatched feat of 1997. In that year, all four AL skippers (Mike Hargrove, Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella and Joe Torre) brought World Series managing experience to the postseason. This year, all four NL managers (Dusty Baker, Bruce Bochy, Cox and Manuel) have been on the biggest stage.

^ Depending on the LCS matchups in each league, here’s some of the juicy storylines that could lie ahead: Baker vs. the team that allowed him to leave after he won the 2002 pennant with them (San Francisco), a faceoff of two of the game’s ascending stars who were once traded for one another (Tampa’s Matt Garza and Minnesota’s Delmon Young) and Texas against the team that has gone 8-1 against it in previous playoff games (the Yankees).

^ While the Reds-Phillies series has a strong “1970s flava,” strangely enough, they only met once that decade when both were riding high. That series came in 1976, when the Big Red Machine blew through Philadelphia at the height of their powers. The Reds also made the playoffs in 1970, 1972-73, 1975 and 1979, while Philly got there in 1977-78, 1980 and 1983.

^ Minnesota is trying to undo a record of recent futility against the Yankees in this round (with losses in 2003, 2004 and 2009). They may take some solace from the fact that other teams in a similar position overcame their demons last year. The Yankees, who had been owned by the Angels this decade in October, won the ALCS from them, while LA only made it there in the first place by finally breaking through against Boston.

^ Speaking of Boston, many casual fans may find this postseason strange because it does not feature both the Red Sox and Yankees – but the reality is that they have both been represented only eight of the 16 times since the ALDS came into being in 1995. Of those eight appearances, four of them came in the five years between 2003-2007, with Boston’s miss in 2006 standing as the outlier in those years.

^ Analysts are taking note of Philadelphia’s attempt to become the first NL team since St. Louis in 1942-44 to win three straight pennants. Who holds the NL record for consecutive pennants? The (then-New York) Giants from 1921-24. So an NLCS between the Giants and Phillies could see San Francisco giving an early defense of that record.

^ Joe Girardi is attempting to win a second consecutive World Series. This is a fairly rare feat for a manager. Since the start of the League Championship Series in 1969, it has only been done by four managers: Joe Torre (1998-2000), Cito Gaston (1992-93), Sparky Anderson (1975-76) and Dick Williams (1972-73). Just to show you what a weird, weird decade the 1970s were, think about this: the As actually had a threepeat from 1972-74, but with a different manager the third time around (Alvin Dark) – and the Yankees had a repeat in 1977-78, but with Billy Martin and Bob Lemon as the managers, respectively, in those years.

^ Most analysts put the Yankees, Rays and Phillies towards the top of World Series contenders entering the postseason. If the Yankees and Phillies hook up in a rematch of last year, they’ll be matching up as nine pairs of teams have done (Cubs/Tigers in 1907-08, Giants/Yankees in 1921-23, As/Cardinals in 1930-31, Giants/Yankees in 1936-37, Cardinals/Yankees in 1942-43, Dodgers/Yankees in 1952-53, Dodgers/Yankees in 1955-56, Braves/Yankees in 1957-58 and Dodgers/Yankees in 1977-78). If the Rays and Phillies make it there as they did two years ago, they’ll be creating a matchup much more rare: only three times before have franchises returned to play each other in the World Series with a year in between their last meeting (As/Giants in 1913/15, Cardinals/Yankees in 1926/28 and Dodgers/Yankees in 1953/55).

^ Among the eight teams in the 2010 postseason, there are six potential World Series rematches of past battles. The teams that have met the most times are the Giants and Yankees, who squared off in 1921-23, 1936-37, 1951 and 1962. The only championships for the Giants came in the first two World Series in 1921-22, while the only one contested between these games after the Giants moved to Frisco was in ’62. The next most common World Series matchup between this year’s playoff teams is between the Braves and Yankees. They met in 1957-58 while the Braves were still in Milwaukee and again in 1996 and 1999. The other pairings that have occurred more than once are Reds-Yankees (1939, 1961 and 1976) and Phillies-Yankees (1950 and 2009). The ones that have occurred once are Braves-Twins (1991) and Phillies-Rays (2008).

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