World Series

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Barely two weeks ago, it was a foregone conclusion that the 2010 World Series would pit the last two winners of the Fall Classic against one another in a rematch of the 2009 World Series in which the New York Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.

Only a funny thing happened on the Yanks’ and Phils’ date with destiny. Someone forgot to tell the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants of the plan.

There are always lessons to be learned when upsets occur, and the lessons learned by many over the past couple of weeks is that experience, no matter how great the edge, only accounts for so much. Both the Yankees and Phillies had major experience edges over their rivals.

Thus it was a major surprise when first the Texas Rangers eliminated the favored Yankees in six games in the ALCS, a night before the Giants also needed just six games to oust the even more heavily favored Phillies to set up a Giants/Rangers World Series.

The Rangers are in their first ever World Series while the Giants return for the first time since 2002, still seeking their first championship since moving west from New York more than a half century ago.

This is a most intriguing matchup on several fronts.

Thanks to Atlanta’s Brian McCann this past July in the All Star game, the Giants have the home field advantage and will host the first two games as well as a possible Game 6 and 7 as the National League broke their long drought with that All Star game win.

Texas obviously has the much more dangerous offense with power up and down the lineup. Perhaps that huge advantage is why the Rangers have been made the solid favorites to win the Series, opening at roughly -125 to -130 and having already been bet up to as high as -140.

Perhaps part of the reason for their favoritism also stems from their residence in the American League, the better of the two leagues for much of the past decade based on results from regular season interleague play.

When it comes to pitching, the Giants have the overall edge in starting pitching but the Rangers have the best starter in lefty Cliff Lee.

And Lee likely will get three starts if the Series goes 7 games. He has been the best post-season pitcher in recent memory and his reputation has only been enhanced in the 2010 post season.

In two starts against Tampa Bay in the ALDS and another against the Yankees in the ALCS, here are his stats. A total of 24 innings pitched in which he allowed three runs and 13 hits while striking out 34 and walking just 1. That’s truly astounding.

Lee’s strikeout to walk ratio in the regular season was 10.3 to 1. As a means of comparison, Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay (he of the perfect regular season game and NLDS no-hitter) had the second best ratio of 7.3 to 1. Only one other pitcher with more than 50 innings pitched had a ratio of better than 5 to 1 (Stephen Strassburg, 5.4).

The Giants arguably have the next best three starters in ace Tim Lincecum and both Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez. There could be an argument made that Texas’ next two starters, C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis, are at the same level as Cain or Sanchez. But in a Lee/Lincecum matchup, Lee holds almost all of the statistical edges in addition to his post-season experience.

Should the Series go the full 7, we could see three Lee/Lincecum matchups. In Wednesday’s Game 1, Lee and the Rangers are favored by from -120 to -125 over Lincecum and the Giants.

The strategy for betting the Series might well be to back Lee and the Rangers in Game 1 and then back the loser of that game in Game 2. Based on the odds, that would likely be the Giants.

When the Series heads to Texas for the middle three games, the Rangers are playable if favored by no more than -140 except that the Giants would be playable in Game 3 if they lost the first two at home.

In a likely Game 4 rematch between Lee and Lincecum, the Giants would be playable at +200 or higher unless the Rangers are in position to sweep the series. In such a case, the Rangers would be playable on the run line, laying a run and a half to the desperate Giants.

Should the most unlikely scenario unfold and the Giants be in position to sweep the series in four games, then the Giants would be playable over Lee if priced at +150 or higher, a likely price in what is an unlikely scenario.

A reasonable goal for a road team in a 2-3-2 series is to at least split the first two games while away from home. Texas probably has a greater chance to win game one than most road teams historically have because of the presence of Lee.

And therein lies the key to the prediction for the Series.

It’s been well documented that Cliff Lee has struggled in Arlington Stadium in Texas throughout his career, both with Cleveland and Seattle prior to his trade this past July to the Rangers. He did struggle in his first few home starts with the Rangers but then finished strongly with a pair of dominating starts in September.

His three playoff starts this season were all on the road.

If Lee does start three times in the World Series, two of them will be in San Francisco, a renowned park that has long favored pitchers. Lee will likely be favored in all three starts and we can imagine the Rangers winning at least two of them, if not all three.

That would mean the Rangers would have to win two, or perhaps just one, of the other four games in which they would be at a minimal pitching disadvantage at worst while having the clear edge at the plate.

The Giants actually might be better served to match up Matt Cain against Lee and use Lincecum for two starts in which he would have a significant edge over either Wilson or Lewis. But it’s hard to argue with San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy, who has excelled as a skipper both here with the Giants and previously in San Diego.

Because of the combination of Lee’s dominance and post-season experience, the Rangers are the selection to win the World Series although it might take all seven games to do so. A six-game Series is possible because of the Rangers’ edge on offense which gives them multiple options and opportunities to stage late rallies in which they trail.

At a price of -140 or less, the Rangers are worth backing to win the 2010 World Series.

The Game 1 Total of 5½ is one of the lowest in history but it’s still hard to make a case for a high scoring game in San Francisco with a Lee vs. Lincecum matchup. If you don’t have the stomach to play the UNDER, then perhaps you can wait for a more manageable Total such as perhaps a 6½ (or even 7) that we might see in Game 2. Again, the first way to look would be the UNDER.

Back in Texas, the UNDER would be preferred at Totals of 9 or higher while an OVER would be playable at the unlikely Totals (except in Game 4) of 7 or lower. Quite likely we will see Totals of 8 or 8½, in which case the UNDER would still be preferred although without the same enthusiasm as would be present at Totals of 9 or higher.

The Series will be revisited in this column again next week provided there has not been a four game sweep.

 

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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