After the Red Sox defeated the Rays in four games and the Tigers needed five games to finish off the Athletics, the two teams will now square off in the ALCS. Amazingly, this will be the first matchup ever between these two teams in postseason play. Game 1 will begin at 8:00 p.m. ET at Fenway Park in Boston and will be broadcast on FOX.
With first pitch still a few hours away, here’s a quick look at the pitching matchup and some random notes:
The Tigers used Max Scherzer in relief in Game 4 of the ALDS while Justin Verlander went eight innings in Game 5, so Anibal Sanchez will get the Game 1 assignment against Boston. That’s not such a bad thing, as Sanchez led the American League with a 2.57 ERA during the regular season. Still, he’s coming off a shaky outing in Game 3 of the ALDS during which he allowed six runs (five earned) on eight hits (including three home runs) over just 4 1/3 innings. Keep in mind that he gave up just nine home runs in 182 innings during the regular season.
The Red Sox are unsurprisingly going with Jon Lester to open the series. After posting a 3.75 ERA during the regular season, the 29-year-old southpaw allowed two runs (on two solo homers) and struck out seven over 7 2/3 innings in a Game 1 victory in the ALDS. He’ll be going on seven days’ of rest.
While the Tigers used Jhonny Peralta at shortstop in Game 5 of the ALDS, Jose Iglesias will be back at the position for the series opener. This means that Peralta will have to contend with the unique quirks of the Green Monster in left field, but he said yesterday that despite his inexperience in the outfield, he “doesn’t think it will be tough.”
With Sanchez on the mound for Detroit tonight, we should see Daniel Nava in left field for Boston. The Tigers will only throw right-handed starters during the series, so John Farrell will have to pick his spots for Jonny Gomes.
Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.
The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?
Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.
The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.
I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.
ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.
MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.
Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: