Monday, September 29, 2014

Royals, A's Pitching Match-Up: Who's the Big Game Pitcher?

Even though the Yankees aren't in the playoffs, I'm pretty stoked heading into the baseball postseason. I think, I've watched enough ball this year to be at least somewhat familiar with most of the teams that made it, and I think they are 10 very good teams. Indicative of this are a pair of intriguing pitching match-ups with the upcoming wild card games. On Tuesday, you have the A's and Royals squaring off, with Jon Lester for the A's opposing James Shields for the Royals. On Wed., it's Pirates vs. Giants with Edison Volquez for Bucs facing Madison Bumgarner for Giants.

Today let's focus on the Lester Shields match-up. Let's get this out of the way up front: For some reason, James Shields has earned the nickname "Big Game" James, obviously a homage to the great Laker forward James Worthy - who helped his team win like five championships. James Shields' teams have won zero championships, and his postseason numbers aren't even good. He's 2-4 with an ERA near 5 in 5 post season series.

In contrast, Lester, who the A's traded for midway through this year, at least in part for his stellar postseason work with the Red Soft last year, is 6-4 with a 2.11 ERA in 8 series over the course of four years. Okay, so who's the big game pitcher here? Plus, Lester beat cancer.

Both pitchers had very solid, good regular seasons, but based on post-season histories, you'd have to go with Lester heading into tomorrow night's game-at least as far as the pitching match-up goes. But, there's also a lot of other stuff going on. Neither the A's or the Royals finished particularly strong. Especially so for the A's who had like the best record in baseball until they made the trade for Lester, which everyone thought was great - except for the wheels came off their offense, which despite what the stat heads will tell you almost certainly had something to do with giving up force-of-nature Cuban star Yoenis Cespedes. in the trade.

Plus, we've got got A's general manager Billy Beane's famous "My shit don't work in the playoffs" history going against him, although this team in particular seems to have been constructed strictly for a postseason run.

So, here's my prediction: Beane's shit continues to not work in the playoffs and the A's are one and done. I'm not saying Lester is going to pitch bad, but here's the twist I think we'll see - James Shields will actually pitch himself up to his nickname - and thus earn it after-the-fact of it being given to him. Does that make sense? Probably not, but either does baseball half the time.

Good luck to everyone involved in the postseason!

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