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Some Thoughts On Day 1 Of The 2011 MLB Playoffs

Way to call the game, Naps!
Way to call the game, Naps!

I don't want to set a precedent, here. I don't know if I'm going to be doing daily playoff posts, the way that I did a year ago. I can't predict how much time I'm going to have, I can't predict how much energy I'm going to have, and I can't predict how much inspiration I'm going to have. I'm pretty well worn down from the regular season, and my job's a bit more demanding than it used to be. So.

But I'll do playoff posts when I can, however often that may turn out to be, and tonight, I can write a playoff post. So here is a playoff post, on the 1⅙ games of playoff baseball that I watched! Follow along if you also watched, or if you did not.

(And check out Baseball Nation for further coverage!)

  • The ceremonial first pitch in Texas was thrown out by Cooper Stone, the young son of Shannon Stone, the Rangers fan who died in that horrifying accident over the summer. Stone's pitch was to be caught by Josh Hamilton, and it brought a lot of people to tears when Stone fired a strike and then hugged Hamilton after he approached. It doesn't mean much to say it was the most touching moment of the day, since it wasn't a day of touching moments, but it was one of those things that people are going to remember long after the details of the game that followed are forgotten.

    And yet...I get it. I really do. I can see how this made for such a special moment. There was a lot of emotion flowing forth. But I just can't shake the nagging sense that this is a little weird. It's been just a few months since Shannon Stone died trying to catch a baseball that Hamilton tossed in his direction. Here we had Stone's son throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to the man indirectly responsible for his father's death. Don't you think that's weird? I think that's weird. Not completely weird, but a fraction weird.

    A lot of people loved the moment. A lot of people thought it was a good thing for the Rangers to do. Cooper Stone, his mom, and Josh Hamilton thought it was a good thing to do, and their thoughts are the most important. I won't make too big a deal of this. It's just, yeah. Maybe it's me that's weird.

  • There is a legitimate case to be made that Buck Martinez is the worst announcer in Major League Baseball. Obviously this isn't one of those things that we can measure objectively. We can't prove that Buck Martinez is the worst announcer in baseball, or the third-worst, or the sixth-worst. But we can suspect it, and we can argue strongly in support of it. So, Buck Martinez might very well be the worst announcer in Major League Baseball. And here he is, announcing in the playoffs. I try so hard to tune out the announcers in national broadcasts, and most of the time I succeed, but sometimes I do not succeed, and when Buck Martinez got through my auditory forcefield and into my brain, he made a mess of the place. Dragged in mud and knocked over a vase and everything. Buck Martinez's announcing is like a wet muddy dog.

  • A lot was made of Joe Maddon's risky decision to give the Game 1 nod to Matt Moore over Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis. Moore, after all, was a rookie with all of 9.1 innings of Major League experience, while Niemann and Davis were more established. I think the ballsiness might be a bit overblown, though. Moore obviously has phenomenal stuff, while Niemann is still dealing with a back injury and Davis is bad. The signs were kind of pointing in Moore's direction.

    But anyway, Moore getting the start reminded lots of people of Bob Wolcott in 1995. Wolcott had six starts of Major League experience when he was asked to take the hill in Game 1 of the Mariners' ALCS against the Indians. Wolcott allowed two runs in seven innings and won. Moore allowed zero runs in seven innings and won. So similar.

    The similarities kind of end there, though. See, Moore is terrific. He's the best pitching prospect in baseball. At his best he's virtually unhittable, and between double-A and triple-A this year he posted a K/9 of 12.2. Wolcott was not terrific. Between double-A and triple-A that year he posted a K/9 of 5.2. In the Majors, it was 4.7. Wolcott went on to throw just over 300 innings in his big league career, and his ERA+ was 81. Wolcott did not have a lot of success.

    It was not a miracle that Matt Moore beat the Rangers today. It was a miracle that Bob Wolcott beat the Indians.

  • In the bottom of the second inning in Texas, the TBS broadcast started talking about the shadows between the mound and home plate, and how difficult they were making things on the hitters to pick up the ball. I don't doubt for one second that shadows between the mound and home plate make it more difficult to pick up the ball. People wouldn't talk about the shadows all the time if they didn't do something. But just minutes before the broadcast started talking about the shadows, the Rays put up a three-spot on C.J. Wilson, and Desmond Jennings flew out to the track. You have to pick your God damn spots.

  • This is where Delmon Young hit his first-inning home run off CC Sabathia:


    This is where Delmon Young hit his home runs during the regular season (via Hit Tracker):


    This is where I insert a Yankee Stadium joke.

  • Kelly Shoppach debuted in the Majors in 2005. Since 2005, 431 different hitters have batted at least 1,000 times. Here's the strikeout rate leaderboard:

    (1) Mark Reynolds, 33.1%
    (2) Kelly Shoppach, 33.0%

    That's a higher strikeout rate than Adam Dunn. That's a higher strikeout rate than Jack Cust. That's a higher strikeout rate than Wily Mo Pena, Miguel Olivo, and Russell Branyan. That's a higher strikeout rate than everyone but Mark Reynolds, barely. I don't know why I'm bringing this up now since this doesn't really have anything to do with Kelly Shoppach's two home runs off C.J. Wilson, but I guess I'd like people to be more aware of Kelly Shoppach's strikeout-proneness. He's posted about the same contact rate at the plate overall as hitters have posted against Michael Wuertz.