We Know Who Will Win!

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.

Your Assignment

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!


11 Comments on “We Know Who Will Win!”

  1. Steve Stein says:

    I’ll be watching for the Massive Tie scenario – 3,4, or even 5 teams with 93 wins in the NL. (http://baseballmusings.com/?p=58426) But that would take a Phillies collapse, and I don’t think it’ll happen (see your remarks about pitching). If pitching wins titles, the Phils have it sewn up.

    I don’t really care about the Rays-Yankees because they’re both in the playoffs. When they meet for the AL championship, then I’ll pay attention. I think the latent health problems might come back to bite the Yanks, though they’re finally putting a major league starting lineup on the field.

    But thanks for giving us the assignment – now I’ve got a few new things to watch for.

  2. K9 says:

    call me biased, but from what i’ve noticed over the last 150 games ( give or take) and more so in the past few weeks, the Rangers have #s 1 and 2.
    i think they also have #3, to be totally honest.
    I am watcing the NL west VERY closely, as said the Padres would go on, and those pesky Rockies always seem to make a run.
    And keeping an eye on the AL east- keep your enemies close- since thats who the Rangers play first.

    Love races that come down to the wire! makes it more fun ( IMO)


    • Playoff races are really fun. We get to see the true heart of a team once they get into the playoffs. Teams that are satisfied get bounced early. Good stuff K9.


      • Chad Reist says:

        Hey Morgan, Hope all is well. This is Chad Reist from Manhattan Beach Hurricanes. It was great to see you a few years back at spring training in Florida. Wish we had more time to catch up.
        Drop me a line sometime. Im living in San Diego with my family now. I wasnt sure if you are still around these parts or not.
        Take care.
        Chad Reist

  3. lisa gray says:

    i like your #3

    i sure wish a whole lot of managers liked your #3

    i don’t watch much AL because of my undying opposition to the desecration that is the DH. but i sure nuff will be watching giants/padres/reds

  4. Will Cohenrs. says:

    Hi Morgan,

    I really enjoy reading your blog overall. I read it very often when you were updating more frequently. I hope you haven’t grown tired of posting and that you’re just busy with more important things.

    Anyway, in regards to this post, I am a huge Yankees fan and I think that you picked the Rays for more than just the Joe Maddon reason. He is a great manager, for sure, but I also would like to know what you think about the Yankees and their management, because that obviously factored into your decision.

    Personally, I think that the Yankees management has been very poor recently. You wrote in an earlier post that you learned from Joe Girardi the value of properly resting players. This has become such a focus for the Yankees in the past few weeks that I think it has had a negative effect on their play.

    There have been instances of real injuries– to Swisher and Gardner, who legitimately needed rest to recover, but there have also been guys like A-Rod who have been getting days off because he was injured earlier in the season.

    It feels like the Yankees are babying their players. I’m in no way saying that every player should play everyday, but where did the days of 155-160 games played in a season go for some of them? Is A-Rod too old and injury prone to play everyday?

    The management has decided that these games are already meaningless, not trying to win the division and forgetting that the magic number is still 3 to clinch the wild card. I’m not saying that they are going to collapse, but this has to be a recipe for collapse if there is one. They knew they were facing the Red Sox and Rays a number of times at the end of the season and yet they are playing with no urgency to win, playing numerous substitutes and minor leaguers and dropping 4 straight.

    I realize I have now run my mouth, but I would sincerely love to hear your thoughts on the situation. I value your opinion very much and hope that you will write a post about how the mind set of the team is being effected if at all.


  5. Dan Duran says:

    How ’bout the team that wins PITCHER will hit a triple to start a two-run rally and ignite the spark that carries his team to a Division title and their first playoff berth since ’03!

    We’re in this thing! LOVE October baseball!!

    Hey Morgan, have you seen Ken Burns’ new Baseball “10th Inning” documentary? Absolutely brilliant!

  6. lisa gray says:

    dead right about #3

    bobby cox shouldn’t have pulled kimmel, a better pitcher, for a lefty to face a lefty

  7. Ed M says:

    So my beloved Yankees are down 3 games to 1 to the Rangers and the end appears near…

    -Joe Girardi, who I like very much, has very nervous body language in the dugout – rocking side-to-side. It’s not like Leo Mazzone (past Braves pitching coach), who rocked fwd/bkwd all the time. It’s “new”, or I didn’t notice it during the regular season.
    -Props to the Rangers for creating runs and/or uncomfortable situations for the Yanks. A double steal early in the series (Game 1?). Advancing from 1B to 2B on a deep fly to CF in game 4. It made Girardi call for an intentional walk to create a double-play situation (1&2 w/1-out). Only problem was Burnett missed his next pitch location by more than a foot and Molina planted the ball in the LF seats.
    -Andrus (Rangers SS) made a great play in game 4. Bases loaded, ball hit in hole between SS & 3B. He made a diving/sliding backhand to get force at 3B. Yanks got a run, but the Rangers got an out & ended up working out of the inning without giving up any more runs.
    -Rangers look young, energetic, unafraid.

  8. Eric Jones says:

    Hey Morgan,

    Its Eric from Austin. I just saw that Bagwell decided to resign as th hitting coach in Houston. I’d love to see you back in the dugout. Get it done broski.

  9. Tom says:

    I’m with Eric…come on back to H-Town.

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