Cardinals and Tigers and A's, oh my!

First off, who would have figured that after losing 8-4 in Game 1, the Detroit Tigers would go on to win the next three games (the last two each by 5 runs or more) and win the ALDS 3-1. Basically the answer to the question was the pitching. Not only did the series feature today's 5-inning perfect game for Jeremy Bonderman, who in 2003 managed only 6 wins and a 5.56ERA, but also rookie reliever Joel Zumaya throwing 102mph fastballs just a couple innings after starting rookie Justin Verlander threw 100, and the guy who has that chain of roasted chicken restaurants massacuring the guy who kills birds more as a hobby.

In fact, if it wasn't for Derek Jeter (who's Yankee fame will only rise after this year) going 5-5 in Game 1, its unlikely the Yanks would have one a single game. The famed Murderers Row was silent... the last time a Murderers Row was this quiet, George W. Bush just got elected Governor of Texas. Alex Rodriguez reminds us while he may be a fantasy stud, he's no Albert Pujols... A-Rod in his last 12 at bats didn't get a single hit, and his average over the last 12 postseason games is .098 (4-41) with no homers or ribbies. To be fair everybody except Posada (and Jeter, both of whom were batting .500 in the ALDS) sucked in this series. Big Unit didn't perform up to par either, and newcomer Cory Lidle was, well, Cory Lidle (hint: when a pitcher who has a 4.74 ERA in the National League also had a 5.75 ERA his last AL stint, and you have the opportunity to sign him to your AL team in need of a strong pitcher, pass on the opportunity).

So now its shakeup time in the Big Apple. That A-Rod and Johnson are likely on their way out is the obvious choice. Replacing Joe Torre is less obvious. The dude has a .608 winning percentage over eleven seasons (including a .599 winning percentage and a ninth straight (!) AL East title), and has been behind the Yankees bench while 91 other managerial changes have taken place. I don't think that Torre should necessarily go anywhere, but that it should be unofficially made very clear to him and the team that next season they go into the All-Star break with the AL East lead firmly in hand, or Torre gets the axe: and no less than a World Series appearance will save him. This is also decidedly unfair, but that's what you get for being a Yankee coach. (ESPN radio a few months ago said "you are a manager for one of the 29 other MLB franchises, and you get the call from Big George saying that you are wanted to replace Torre and helm the Yankees: do you do it?" The callers were about 3-2 in favour of telling Steinbrenner to go sit on an egg, the pressure just isn't worth it. I was in the minority opinion: you have to be a pretty big baseball fan to know the manager of the Mariners or the Marlins (Team USA manager Mike Hargrove and Fredi Gonzalez, Joe Girardi until a week ago), but everybody who doesn't even keep much track of baseball knows who Joe Torre is. The Yankees I think its time to drop are Giambi, Sheffield, and at least two starters who are 6'5" and under. The Yankees need to concentrate on some killer middle-relievers (Scot Shields and Kyle Farnsworth come to mind) and at least one position player who can play short-ball when the need arises. [er, we are talking about the Bronx Bombers, right? -ed]

But that's probably best for another post. Since I didn't get the time to do a post on previewing the division serii, I'll do a brief preview of the ALDS: (NLDS to come later, after I finish mourning the fate of the Dodgers)

Detroit Tigers versus the Oakland Athletics:

Nobody was more surprised than me to see Oakland not only beat Minnesota, but destroy them over the course of three games. Oakland's two basic strengths are their strong pitching, and the resurence of Frank Thomas. If Harden can stay healthy and in control for the rest of the postseason, and Loaiza can be as effective as he was when he obliterated Canada, the Athletics are going to make things hard on this years breakout team. Duchscherer and Halsey are dangerous middle relievers in their own right, and when Huston Street is on top of his game he's very difficult to beat. I still say though that Detroit's offense is on par with the Twins, and Oakland was lucky that Minne's pitching didn't come through for them. I just can't get as excited about Oakland's offense. Milton Bradley is an awfully streaky player, and his current hot streak is due to end soon. Eric Chavez is solid but not particularly spectacular, and Jason Kendall is the archtypical defensive catcher. Nick Swisher and Marco Scuturo simply don't impress me. Kendall and Bradley are the only Athletics to break double digit stolen bases in '06 (11 and 10, respectively), and while I love Bobby Crosby as much as the next guy, Oakland might be in some trouble.

The Tigers may only have one guy with more than 9 stolen bases, but that one guy is 20-SBer Carlos Guillen. Detroit has 3 guys with slugging percentages over .500, and while they don't have Big Hurt's 39 homer season, they have twice as many 19-or-more home-run hitters than Oakland can field. Shut down Thomas or have him slump or face injury, and Oakland has no fall-back plan. Detroit meanwhile has Magglio Ordonez and Pudge Rodriguez available, even if Inge and Guillen start having an off-series.

Don't get me wrong, this looks to go at least 5 games if not all 7, but Detroit is going to come out of this on top.

Coming up next on Third Edge of the Sword: previewing the National League Championship Series, an update on my baseball pool results, and asking if there was a way for the Twins and the Dodgers to have made it onto the next level.