We Know Who Will Win!Posted: September 24, 2010
What to look for in the last week of September
Don’t you think it is interesting that there are close races in baseball after playing 150 games? We have about 10 games or so to go and that gives us an opportunity to look inside to determine who will win and who will lose.
The following are a few places for us to look.
1. The team that advances will do so on a bunt.
Don’t kid yourself. MLB teams say they don’t like to bunt because statistics suggest that it isn’t as effective as other options. That may be true, but the team that wins in a sprint can put pressure on defenses. We are in a 10 game sprint. The reason why I love the bunt is because it provides the perfect storm of execution and pressure.
As a third baseman I know that my ability to read a bunt will determine how much pressure is placed on our own pitcher. If I make the play then our pitcher gets to concentrate on attacking the next batter. If I make an error in judgement then the pitcher now has his back against the wall. Some pitchers have a unique ability to rise to this challenge. I would say 98% don’t. Of course a fan may look up stats and say that 98% is way to high. But I am not looking at the failure or success rate of getting an out. I am looking at the pitcher’s heart.
Pitchers are the center of controversy when it comes to wins and losses. They are the ones who have to stand in front of the cameras and explain what happened. Pitcher’s know that and they fear that.
2. The team that wins this race will win with a relief pitcher.
One or more of these next 10 games will depend on a middle relievers ability to get a single out. I am not talking about a stopper, set up man, or closer. I am talking about a middle reliever who is used in a match-up or someone who has to come in the middle innings unexpectedly. I think of guys like Russ Springer and Trevor Miller when this comes to mind. In Houston we had Brad Lidge and Dan Wheeler. Those were easy choices. It was Trevor and Russ who had to come in the game when the win or loss was going to be decided. Their ability to rise to that challenge and have confidence under pressure is why we won games down the stretch.
3. The manager that tries and match-up pitchers and batters will lose.
The toughest part of a manager’s job is proving to his team that he understands what it takes to win with the current team. Most managers do not manage the game the same way down the stretch. Instead they all of a sudden start using different strategies that could be explained to the fans. This is all good for the fans, but it is inconsistent with the players. We can tell if a manager is putting us in the best position to win or covering his butt. As a rule of thumb, if you start seeing a manager match-up more than usual, then he is managing not to lose instead of managing to win.
In this last week I want you to watch the play on the field for these signs. What is amazing about baseball is that the fan who has never played a day in the Big Leagues can learn how to watch a game. Pay special attention to the player’s demeanor. Pay the most attention to what the manager looks like when the camera’s pan into the dugout. Your assignment is to find specific instances where a team wins or loses a game. Not in hind-sight! Notice the pace. Understand why a pitcher is effective. Watch to see if the batter is putting himself in positions to get a good pitch.
I will be watching the Padres and Giants the closest. My pick in the beginning of the year was San Fransisco. Why? The pitching staff was number 1. The manager was number 2. Bochy is the same no matter what happens on the field. Watch him. He already knows what he is going to do.
The second series I will watch is the Rays and Yankees. I said the Rays will win and I still believe that. Why? Because Joe Maddon puts that team in a position to win every single game. He is consistent and those guys never deviate from their brand of ball.
Now that you have your keys and assignment you can start watching the best baseball of the season! I am fired up. Lets see who has character and who folds!