October 04, 2010

Baseball !!!

A Lesson in Lens Flare From The Giants' Official Photographer

The San Francisco Giants won the National League West Division Sunday, the last day of the 2010 regular season. They improved on last year's record of 88-74 by an additional four wins, ending the season with the second-best record in the National League at 92-70. This is a good thing.

The National League's Pittsburgh Pirates, Major League Baseball's weakest club, won 57 games this year. It takes, unarguably, the assembling of a fair amount of talent to win more than a third of the games your team plays against the best ballplayers in the world. Sadly for true Pirates fans, a fair amount of talent is no match for the exceptional amount of talent assembled on the better teams in the National League.

Giving the Pirates a pass, the worst teams in baseball will win roughly four of every ten games played each year, and the best teams not quite six of every ten, with all the other middling teams spread somewhere in between. Every additional win over 81 wins is harder and harder to achieve. Winning 100 games in a 162-game season, just a fraction more than six of ten, is a relatively rare phenomenon in baseball, rarer than a pitcher winning 20 games or a batter hitting 50 home runs, singular accomplishments in themselves, and it didn't happen this year. The Philadelphia Phillies won 97, not quite as good a season as Pittsburgh's was bad, but certainly marking them as the favorite to advance in the playoffs leading to the World Series.

Great pitching, solid defense and some timely hitting is an age-old formula for winning baseball. The Giants benefited from the best pitching in baseball this year and a surprisingly solid defense, but only an average offense.

The San Diego Padres, built along the same lines as the Giants, had superior pitching and defense this year as well, and only five percent fewer runs scored than the Giants — not a horrible offense surely, not Pittsburgh horrible or Houston horrible or even Mets horrible at scoring runs, but no dynamo of offense like Cincinnati or Philadephia or Atlanta, either, — and it was almost inevitable that at least one team of that sort would advance to the playoffs. Being in the same division, the Padres and the Giants met 18 times during the year, and the Giants very average offense showed, throughout the season and again this past weekend, that it could win one of three games against the very best pitching in baseball. The Padres took the season series against the Giants 12-6, and they won this past weekend's series 2-1. Even excellent Giants pitching wasn't enough against the Padres this year: Jonathan Sanchez gave up one hit, a single, in seven innings against the Padres back in April and lost 1-0 to Matt Latos. A few weeks later he faced the Padres and Latos again, and gave up three hits in eight innings and lost 1-0 again, too. Latos, the Padres pitcher, won both games, and drove in the only run himself in the second game with a two out basehit. In the last game of the season Latos and Sanchez faced each other yet again, and this time it was Sanchez with the unexpected hit, a triple (!) that positioned him to score the first, and as it proved, the only necessary run of the game that clinched the National League West Division title for the Giants.

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