Defense is critical, home-field less so and other LDS lessons
With the first round of this year's major league baseball playoffs now behind us, here are five things that we learned from the just-completed Division Series that could reverberate in the coming League Championship Series.
The Rangers staked
These Rangers will run. Including both members of their outfield platoon, only four Texas regulars had fewer than eight stolen bases this season, and two of them were Guerrero and Molina. As a team, Texas was seventh in the majors in stolen bases. The only playoff team to rank ahead of them were the just-eliminated Rays. The Yankees, meanwhile, were dead last in the majors in caught stealing percentage, throwing out just 15 percent of attempting basestealers, so expect the Rangers to keep on running in the ALCS.
Which is to say that the Phillies' H2O rotation is as good as their reputation would have you believe. Sure,
Consider this: The Rangers will only get one Cliff Lee start in the first six games of the ALCS, if it goes that long. The Phillies, on the other hand, will only have one game
Entering the Division Series, the defending world champion Yankees appeared to be in serious danger of a first round exit. Sure they had the major league's best offense and
As it turns out, the Yankees swept the Twins and Sabathia's solid Game 1 outing was actually the weakest of the three from the Yankees' starters. Pettitte looked like the photo on the box in Game 2, needing just 88 pitches to get through seven strong innings, and Hughes, despite pitching at home where he'd struggled during the regular season, came up looking like nothing short of the next Pettitte with seven shutout innings in the clinching Game 3. The Yankees will need one start from Burnett in the ALCS, but that will likely come against the Rangers' fourth starter
There were 15 games played in the four Division Series this year. Road teams won 11. Home teams won just four. Of those four home wins, two came behind Roy Halladay's no-hitter and
Meanwhile, the Rangers-Rays series was the first playoff series in major league history in which the road team won every game. Since the 2-2-1 format was adopted for the 1998 postseason, teams with home-field advantage have won 47 of 88 Division Series, a .534 winning percentage. Given that the team with home-field advantage typically has the better regular season record (though not always as the wild card teams can't have home-field advantage), that's not a terribly impressive or convincing performance. The implication is that home-field advantage is more than a little overrated.
The currency of baseball is the 27 outs each team is allowed to make over the course of a nine-inning game, and every missed opportunity to cash in one of your opponents outs simply makes them richer. Such was the case for the Braves and Reds in the NLDS. Each made a whopping seven errors, the Reds doing so in just three games, the Braves in four.
Though the Reds were doomed from the start -- if they hadn't kicked away Game 2 they just would have had to face Roy Halladay again in Game 4 -- the Braves' errors made the difference in a tightly contested series in which every game was decided by a single run. The only run in the Giants' Game 1 victory scored when
Of the four remaining teams, the Rangers made the most errors in the Division Series with five. The Phillies and Giants made three each. The Yankees made none. Their regular season error totals broke down among similar lines, with the Rangers making the most of the four teams and the Yankees making the fewest in the majors.