Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Braves nearly swept Giants in Division Series
As Joe Pawlikowski writes, the Braves chose a lousy time to stop scoring runs:
You might not have known it from their NLDS performance, but the Braves had one of the NL’s best offenses in 2010. They certainly bookended it in the wrong way, scoring 3.7 runs per game in April and 3.4 runs per game in September/October. But from May through August they absolutely crushed the ball, scoring 5.03 runs per game during those 109. Unfortunately for them, it was the April and September versions that showed up in October. That resulted in just nine runs in four postseason games, forcing a first-round exit. It wasn’t hard to see it coming.
When the infield crumbled, so did the team. Omar Infante did a good job replacing Jones at first, but fell hard in September. Prado didn’t help matters by playing hurt. That left Brooks Conrad to fill in. He had a good season as a utility guy, but he gets exposed in regular duty. At first it was his arm strength, which necessitated a move to second. Then it was his Game 3 performance. Lee did his best, but he simply could not carry so many ineffective and injured players.
The final point against the Braves was the pitching they faced. They might have averaged those 4.56 runs per game during the season, and their peak might have suggested an even better performance was possible. But that all changes when facing Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner ...
Everything Pawlikowski writes is true. The Braves couldn't put as much talent on the field in October as they could from May through August (and July, particularly). The Giants' starting pitchers are fantastic.
But we must be careful, when discussing such things, to avoid leaving a patina of inevitability.
Yes, the Braves scored only nine runs in four games.
The Giants scored 11 runs.
All four games were decided by one run. The Braves could almost easily have won the series in four games. Almost as easily, the Giants could have swept the Braves, or the Braves the Giants.
My sincere belief is that Bruce Bochy managed his team slightly better than Bobby Cox managed his. I have been castigated for this opinion by Cox's supporters. I might be wrong. Either way, I will say this: The managing was the third most important factor leading to the outcome. The talent on the field was the second most important factor. And first was cruel, kind, completely blind luck.