Monday, October 27, 2008

The World Series, take II

The Monk is thinking that the Rays look alot like the '06 Tigers. Young upstarts who won the AL pennant and tanked in the Series. The Tigers whupped the A's in the ALCS (the only ALCS sweep during the three-round playoff era 1995-present) and were favored over the 82-win Cardinals in the Series. The Cards had the Tigers scouted extremely well, outpitched the kitties and won the Series in five. The Phils have the Rays scouted extremely well (Pena and Longoria have whiffed in almost 1/2 of their combined at bats), have outpitched them, and are in line to win the Series in five.

Since the '06 season, the Tigers have honked badly -- 88-74 in '07, a seven-win dropoff from '06 and six games off the wild card pace; 74-88 and last place in the AL Central this year as three starters from the '06 AL champs (Verlander, Rogers, Robertson) combined for a 27-41 record and ERA over 5.

Are the Rays en route to a Tiger-like downfall? Unlikely -- the Rays have good young players and a better overall pitching staff than the kitties. Consider that the Rays' fourth starter this year (Andy Sonnanstine) will be the #5 in '09 because David Price will surpass him. But their weaknesses (bullpen gaps, hitters' soft spots) have been exposed in the last six games dating back to game 6 of the ALCS. And the Rays play in a division even tougher than the AL Central.

Don't underestimate the Yanks or RedSawx. The latter (to The Monk's chagrin) is one of the three or four best-run franchises, has a great farm system and good young talent. The Yanks have a solid farm system with some top talent, and ridiculous financial resources. Remember, the Sawx won 95 despite a subpar Beckett who missed 20% of his starts, a collapse by Buchholz, Big Papi's various injuries, and have three top-of-the-rotation quality pitchers who are under 30 (Matsuzaka, Beckett, Lester).

The 89 wins the Yanks compiled was surpassed only by the Sawx, Rays, Phils, Cubs and Angels. If that's unimpressive, consider that the Yanks lacked Posada for 2/3 of the year (and he was hobbled when he did play), Matsui for about 1/2 the year, played with a CF who had a sub-.650 OPS, lost their top starter Chien-Ming Wang (19 wins in both '06 and '07) in mid-June, had Darrell Rasner, Sidney Ponson and Carl Pavano start 42 games, and were still in the thick of the playoff chase until Joba Chamberlain went down in early August. And they'll be deep in the Sabathia sweepstakes that could start as soon as tomorrow (first day for free agency filing is the day after the WS ends).

Oh yeah, the BluJs won 86 this year despite losing McGowan for just under 1/2 the season, have a perennial Cy Young contender (Halliday) and two very good pitchers who are 27 and 23 (Marcum, Litsch). That's a good starting four even after they lose Burnett after his career year.

So don't write the Rays in as the new dynasty in the AL East. But that division should be a war zone for years to come.

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