After dispatching both the Dodgers and Tigers in hard fought 6 game series, the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals find themselves on the cusp of a title. And while this World Series match up may not have fans all over the country jumping for joy, the mood in St. Louis and Boston will reach a fevered pitch over the next week. So without further delay, let’s dive right in:
“Yadi knows everything about every single hitter, exactly what to throw. If you execute your pitches and throw them where he wants the ball, you’re going to get hitters out, have a better ERA, win the game. I seriously believe that all the success I’ve had is totally on him.” – St. Louis Cardinals’ rookie Shelby Miller
“It’s not just instinct. It’s sense, based on how a hitter’s standing, how he responds to the pitch or two before, and he’s very creative in how he makes his adjustment based on what he sees with the hitter and knowing what his pitcher can do. That’s art.” – Former manager Tony La Russa
“With him catching me, I never had to worry. It’s never like he was back there guessing. He gets to know his pitchers. He got to know me, what I like to do, my strengths and weaknesses. When I got into trouble, what do we need to do to get me out of it? Those are the things he not only has to remember for one guy, but a whole staff. The ability to do that is pretty amazing.” – Milwaukee Brewers’ pitcher Kyle Lohse
The quotes listed above are just a small sampling of the praise that has generally rained down on Yadier Molina over the past 5 seasons or so. He’s widely regarded as the best defensive catcher in baseball thanks to his sublime framing skills, his Howitzer arm, and a glove so soft that Adam Wainwright once described it as a pillow. But can the mighty Molina really lower a pitcher’s ERA while taking runs off the board, as Shelby Miller and so many others claim? Or is there something else at work here? Let’s dive into the data to see if we can catch a glimpse at the inner workings of St. Louis’ finest:
Thanks to a dominating performance by tournament MVP Robinson Cano, some great pitching by the likes of Samuel Deduno and a brilliant bullpen, and some flashy defense, the Dominican Republic was able to complete their quest for the World Baseball Classic title, defeating Puerto Rico 3-0. The WBC final capped a perfect 8-0 run for the star-studded Dominican roster as they outscored opponents by a 22 run margin over the 8 game tournament.
The Dominicans, much like the Japanese in ’06 and ’09, brought a style all their own to the tournament. But where the Japanese brought regimented execution and excelled at the little things, the Dominicans exhibited flair, flash, and some of that Caribbean vibe. Jose Reyes was a bundle of energy at short and he combined with his double play partner Cano to work magic in the middle of the infield. Samuel Deduno and the brilliant bullpen were full of energy from first pitch right until the final arrow out of the quiver was fired by Fernando Rodney. This Dominican team was brilliant all tournament and they are a deserving World Baseball Classic champion. Now onto the all-tournament team:
Seven Fernando Rodney appearances, seven invisible arrows fired into the sky, seven Dominican Republic victories. Could the manager Tony Pena have drawn this up any better? The Dominicans have brought a particular panache to this year’s Classic, showcasing flashy defense, highlight reel homers, and everything that goes with it.
The World Cup of soccer has this great concept that you may or may not be familiar with. It’s called the Group of Death and it’s usually the most interesting group in the entire tournament in part because it has the strongest collection of teams. The Group of Death also derives its name in part from the fact that one or two of the strongest teams in the tournament will be eliminated after just 3 games. Well, Pool C features Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and (hilariously) Spain. Let’s just be honest right now: Spain’s not winning a game in this group. They will be lucky to avoid getting 10-runned three straight times. As for the other three teams, they each have a hefty amount of Major League talent on their respective rosters, and all three expect not only to advance, but to win the group as well. Let’s take a look at which team stands the best chance:
The inaugural Wild Card round (affectionately known as the Coin-Flip Round) takes place today and will feature a pair of exciting games. The first game on the docket matches up the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals with the Atlanta Braves, while game #2 has the Baltimore Orioles traveling to Arlington to take on the Texas Rangers. I suggest you cancel any plans you previously had for this afternoon/evening, because do-or-die baseball is here, which means that last year’s World Series combatants could be eliminated tonight. Let’s start by taking a look at the series over in the National League.
If we’re going to talk about the Brewers, the most appropriate place to start would be with Ryan Braun. The defending NL MVP has been tearing up National League pitching over his last 25 games, hitting .356/.421/.6 with 6 homers, 7 doubles, 18 RBI, while going 7 for 8 in steals. Braun now leads the NL in homers, slugging percentage, OPS, total bases, while ranking 2nd in WAR and RBI. This type of production has vaulted the Milwaukee offense to the top of the National League in runs scored and back into the playoff hunt, which is going to present what may perhaps be the season’s most interesting scenario: What happens with the NL MVP award if Ryan Braun continues his tear for the next two weeks and the Brewers sneak into the playoffs?