Thursday, October 28, 2010

The ace theory

Baseball is unpredictable — because pitching is unpredictable.

Cliff Lee (foreground) and Darren O'Day combined
to allow six runs in the fifth inning Wednesday.
Consider Wednesday night's World Series opener — Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum, two of the best starting pitchers going.

Lee wasn't sharp at all. Lincecum was better, but not a lot better. Darren O'Day, death to right-handed hitters (181/.233/.303), gave up a three-run bomb to Jose Uribe. None of this was to be expected, just as nobody expects to get broadsided in an intersection, but both are always possible. Stuff happens. It's baseball.

And that's the problem with relying on an ace.

Lee is now 7-1 in his postseason career, which is pretty darn good. His 7-0 meant nothing on Wednesday.

The Yankees signed CC Sabathia to a big contract to be their trump ace in Octobers, and he was all of that in 2009. This year, he was the least effective of their playoff starters.

The Phillies won the World Series in 2008 with Cole Hamels as their No. 1 guy. In 2009, Hamels (whose secondary numbers indicated that he was just as effective) moved down to No.2, and they lost the Series. This year, he was down to No. 3, and they lost the NLCS. At this rate, if the Phillies sufficiently strengthen their rotation so that Hamels is their fifth starter, they'll miss the playoffs completely. The Braves of the 1990s had multiple aces; only once did Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz translate to a World Series title.

Twins fans, irritated by their favorites' repeated lack of playoff success, may look at the top of the rotation and put the blame there. But signing Lee or trading for Zach Grienke isn't a guarantee of success.

1 comment:

  1. Good points. Speaking of Grienke, what would you give up for him? I expect him to require more than the Mariners were asking for Lee last summer. Hicks, Slowey, and Gibson?