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Tournament of Champions: Round 1, day 2

a full slate of games today --- a pair of Game 1s (2002 v 2005 and 1887 v 1996) and a pair of Game 2s (1888 v 1987 and 1930 v 2000). the writeups come after the jump; if you just want to check out the box scores, they're here:

Game 1, 2002 v 2005
Game 1, 1887 v 1996
Game 2, 1888 v 1987
Game 2, 1930 v 2000

you can follow the tournament at Cardinal70's tracker page.

Game 1

summary by lboros

The 2002 Cardinals will always be among my favorite teams because of their dignity and grace in the face of tragedy. It was sad enough to say goodbye to old friend Jack Buck; saying goodbye to Darryl Kile a few days later was almost unbearable. I had just become a father a few months before, and I kept thinking about Kile's kids growing up without their dad; it took me a long time to care again whether the team won or lost. Had they fallen apart and finished below .500, so bleepin' what? But they didn't fall apart --- that's the amazing thing, a testament to the mental toughness of the individuals in that clubhouse. That was La Russa's finest hour; he maintained an almost impossible balance, honoring the emptiness in his players' hearts --- and his own --- yet still coaxing a fullness of intensity out of them all the way through October. We may debate whether or not the man is blessed (as alleged) with true genius, but that summer Tony demonstrated that, without a doubt, he has wisdom.

The '05 team, by contrast, stands among the greatest disappointments to me. I had my heart set on a storybook ending for Busch II --- a World Series title --- and the Cards seemed well positioned to pull it off. For the first time in 20 years, they went into the postseason with a dominant pitcher --- not to mention the MVP and a lineup rife with All-Stars --- only to get beat handily in the NLCS by a team with no offense. I don't deny that the Astros were a difficult challenge, nor that those Cardinals made their 100 wins look easier than they really were; the team played without Rolen for most of the year and had numerous others (Walker, Sanders, Molina) on the DL for major chunks of the schedule. At times the roster was so threadbare that Mark Grudzielanek, John Gall, or Yadi had to bat cleanup. But that was such a terrible league that the Cards ought to have won the pennant --- and if they hadn't lost their cool in Game 4 of the NLCS (the infamous "Cuzzi" game), they might have closed out Busch II in the highest style possible.

Of course, the 2002 team staged its own maddeningly avoidable Game 4 defeat in the NLCS --- they outhit the Giants 12-4 in that contest but left 11 men on base and lost by a run. Albert Pujols, facing a hittable Robb Nen in the 9th with the tying run on 3d and one out, took an overeager at-bat and struck himself out on pitches he ought to have laid off. Had they won that game and evened the Series at 2 games apiece, I think the Cards would have advanced to the Series; just my intuition.

The '02 and '05 teams both had such revolving-door rosters that it's hard to gauge them statistically. The '02s survived 20 starts from the two Smiths (Travis and Bud), who both had ERAs around 7.00, to finish with the NL's 4th-best ERA; the staff they took into the playoffs obviously was better than that. By contrast, the offense the '05 team carried into the playoffs wasn't nearly as good as it looked on paper (they finished 3d in the league in runs). By October Edmonds' shoulder was shot (the beginning of the end for him); Larry Walker played the entire postseason with a cortisone needle sticking out of his neck; and Reggie Sanders lost assorted shards of ribcage and spine when he fell on the warning track in Game 2 of the NLCS.

Through a quirk of the simulation program, neither Finley nor Kile is available to the 2002 Cardinals in this series; their rotation of Morris, Woody, Benes, and Simontaachi doesn't look so great, so I'll call them the underdogs.

Game 1 lineups:

2002 2005
Fernando Vina, 2b David Eckstein, ss
Edgar Renteria, ss Larry Walker, rf
Albert Pujols, lf Albert Pujols, 1b
Jim Edmonds, cf Jim Edmonds, cf
Scott Rolen, 3b Reggie Sanders, rf
Tino Martinez, 1b Mark Grudzielanek, 2b
JD Drew, rf Abraham Nunez, 3b
Mike Matheney, c Yadier Molina, c
Matt Morris, p Chris Carpenter, p

So much for the dominance of Chris Carpenter; the first four men reach, and he's down 1-0 before he can retire a single man. He contains the damage by getting Rolen, Martinez (on a sac fly), and Drew, but there's more trouble in the 2d --- a double by Matheny, then 5 consecutive singles by the top 5 guys in the '02 order. In just 14 hitters, the Cy Young winner has coughed up 9 hits and 6 runs; yeesh. Sim La Russa '05 sticks with him for some reason, and the hitters start chipping away. They get back 2 in the bottom of the 2d on an RBI double by Sanders and a triple by Nunez; Edmonds doubles home a run in the bottom of the 3d, halving the deficit to 6-3, and Sanders singles another one home in the 5th. Carpenter's still in the game, having retired 9 guys out of 10; three singles and another run in the 6th finally chase him.

Sim Tony '02 has his ace starter on a far shorter leash than his '05 counterpart. He lifts Matt Morris after only 5 innings and turns the 7-4 lead over to former closer Dave Veres. . . . who defends the advantage for only 6 hitters. A homer, three singles, and a wild pitch later, the '05 Cardinals have tied it at 7-7.

Play a hard nine, remember?

Mike Matheny's two-out RBI single in the top of the 7th puts the `02s back in front by a run, and they hold the advantage into the bottom of the 8th. Having already burned his best set-up men (Veres, Crudale, and Kline) to get 6 outs in the 6th and 7th, Sim Tony '02 has to give the ball to Mike Mathews as a bridge to Is'hausen. He walks the first man he faces, John Rodriguez, and then wild pitches him to 2d; Eckstein grounds out, but Walker lines a base hit to send J-Rod to 3d. In real life, Isringhausen would undoubtedly get the call; the simulator lets the hapless Mathews pitch to Pujols, who not surprisingly gets a base knock to drive in the tying run and send the go-ahead run to 3d base. Now Luther Hackman comes into the game --- what will crazy Sim Tony think of next? --- and he coaxes a groundball out of Edmonds, just what he needs. Renteria feeds Vina, who pivots and uncorks a perfect throw that's juuuuust a little late; the batter is safe at first, and Walker comes across with the go-ahead run. For the first time in the game, the 2005s hold the lead.

Isringhausen sets 'em down in order in the top of the 9th, and the comeback is complete: 2005 9, 2002 8. Al Reyes gets the win, Mathews the loss, Izzy the save.


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Game 1

summary by Zubin

On the surface, this series looks to be a giant mismatch. The 1887 Browns have the second-best winning percentage in the tourney; 1996 ranks second to last. 1887 features one of the most amazing player-seasons not only in franchise history, but in all of major league history. Tip O'Neill had a season of unimaginable proportions in 1887, leading the league in every offensive category except stolen bases and walks. You name it, he led it: batting average, .435; on-base percentage, .492; slugging, .691; hits, 225; doubles, 52; triples, 19; home runs, 14; RBIs, 123; runs scored, 167. St. Louis' first big star was also the most feared hitter of his day and famous for his ability to endlessly hit foul "tips" (hence the nickname) until he got one to his liking or drew a walk (which he didn't like to do). Overall the 1887 Browns hit to a .306/ .363/ .413 line and scored 1131 runs, all tops in the league. They also allowed 761 runs and had a 3.77 era, second in the league. 1996, on the other hand, scored 759 runs and allowed 706 runs, both middle-of-the-pack figures.

Still, the series might be close for a number of reasons:

  1. The Browns have to be taken in context. In 1887 baseball's rules changed. Batters had "four called strikes" before being out and five balls before being issued first base. The rule changes resulted in a small explosion in offense that explains Tip O'Neill's gaudy stats. Modern rules apply in this tournament, and it's a safe bet that neither Tip O'Neill nor any of his teammates will match his 1887 offensive output.
  2. While no one on 1996 has Tip O'Neill's star power, Lankford, Gant, Jordan and Gaetti should give the Cardinals solid power that the Browns can't match. The 1996 team outhomered the 1887 club, 142 to 37.
  3. In 1887, players didn't wear gloves. While the 1880s Browns may have been defensive standouts in their time, the sim doesn't normalize defense. Count on 1887 making at least a few costly errors.
  4. Two of the Browns' pitchers, Bob Caruthers and Dave Foutz were not only great hurlers but also great hitters. While one pitched, the other would take a turn in right field. And in 1887 they both had stellar years, each hitting .357 and slugging over .500. Because of this, unfortunately, the sim considers each player only an outfielder --- not a pitcher. That means 1887 will have to rely on the pitching of Silver King almost exclusively.
Here are the lineups. I did some research into the matter, and the 1887 batting order is realistic, to the best of my knowledge. I did find one source that insinuated the heart of the Browns' lineup went O'Neill, Comiskey, and Robinson. However, their PAs per game in the regular season gave me a pretty clear indication how Comiskey typically ordered his guys.
1996 1887
Ozzie Smith, ss Arlie Latham, 3b
Ray Lankford, cf Bill Gleason, ss
Ron Gant, lf Tip O'Neill, lf
Brian Jordan, rf Charlie Comiskey, 1b
Gary Gaetti, 3b Bob Caruthers, rf
John Mabry, 1b Curt Welsh, cf
Tom Pagnozzi, c Yank Robinson, 2b
Luis Alicea, 2b Doc Bushong, c
Andy Benes, p Silver King, p

Appropriately enough, St Louis' first big star drives in the series' first run. In the first inning, after an Arlie Latham single up the middle and a swipe of second base, Tip O'Neill delivers a single to right to bring Latham around. 1887 strikes again in the second when a hit by Silver King is followed by a double by Latham and a Bill Gleason groundball single to make it 3-0. O'Neill and Comiskey go on to load the bases, but Bob Caruthers grounds out to end the inning.

1996 gets on the board in the fourth inning when Ray Lankford walks, steals second, and scores on a Brian Jordan double. Mabry then drives in Jordan with a single to pull 1996 within one. The Browns answer in the fifth. Comiskey singles, steals second. After outs by Caruthers and Curt Welsh, LaRussa calls for the intentional walk of Yank Robinson. But the move backfires when light-hitting Doc Bushong grounds a single to right to score Comiskey. Silver King comes to the plate, an easy way out of the inning for the `96s --- but Pagnozzi (crossed up, perhaps?) lets a ball past him, and Yank Robinson trots in from 3d. 1887 ends the inning with a commanding 5-2 lead.

But 1996 isn't done yet. In the seventh Luis Alicea bloops a double into right-center. A pinch single by Mike Sweeney brings Ozzie to the plate. He hits a shallow fly to center, but Welsh comes on to make a diving barehanded grab, saving a run. The play looms even larger in importance after the next batter, Lankford, drives in Alicea with a single to right; if not for Welsh's snag, the game would be tied. Gant comes up with the opportunity to forge a tie anyway, but he fails to cash it in --- instead he takes strike three looking. The seventh ends with 1887 up 5-3.

Silver King is still on the hill as the Cards take their last shot in the top of the 9th. With one out, Alicea doubles to right-center. McGee (pinch-hitting for Tony Fossas) grounds out to third for the second out, but his old 1980s teammate, Ozzie, follows with a double to right-center that makes it 5-4. Lankford comes to bat; a single ties it, and a homer puts the 96s in front. But he can only roll a grounder to Bill Gleason. Good ballgame; 1887 takes the opener, 5-4.


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Game 2
(1888 leads, 1 game to 0)

summary by Zubin

I am still wondering why the simulator made that goofball decision that cost 1987 game 1. Instead of playing a possible righty-righty matchup in the seventh inning by using a righthanded reliever, the sim brought in Ricky Horton. Three of the next four batters hit the ball hard, and Magrane's good work went down the tubes. I am pretty sure the sim actually takes platoon splits into account. I wonder why Sparky (the artificial intelligence that manages the games) doesn't consider it.

The sim had its interesting elements. Arlie Latham collected 3 hits and a walk but also made 3 errors that very nearly cost 1888 the game; nevertheless, he was named the player of the game. Tip O'Neill would have been my choice. 1888 had four stolen base in five attempts compared to 1887's two of three. Personally I thought Tony Pena had a better arm than that, but I really don't think the sim catcher can be faulted. Instead, I think the high SB counts are a result of not being able to keep Arlie Latham off the bases. In fact, after yesterday's sim I think the keys to this series will be Arlie Latham and Vince Coleman. Whichever one gets on base more often will probably lead his team to victory.

Today Dan Cox will take on Elton "Icebox" Chamberlain. Chamberlain should be easier to solve than King. He was purchased from Louisville at for $4000 or $5000 on September 1, 1988, to more or less replace Nat Hudson in the rotation. He would only go on to pitch 60 more innings in his career, so I'd surmise injury took him down in 1888. In any case, while Icebox Chamberlain only pitched 112 innings for the Browns that year, he did pitch in 5 of 10 possible World Series games. Thus he is chosen as the starter for Game 2.

The lineups change little from Game 1. Steve Lake spells Tony Pena at catcher for 1987, and Jack Boyle does likewise for Jocko Mulligan for 1888.

1987 1888
Vince Coleman, lf Arlie Latham, 3b
Ozzie Smith, ss Yank Robinson, 2b
Tom Herr, 2b Tip O'Neill, lf
Jack Clark, 1b Charlie Comiskey, 1b
Willie McGee, cf Tommy McCarthy, cf
Terry Pendleton, 3b Harry Lyons, rf
Jose Oquendo, rf Jack Boyle, c
Steve Lake, c Bill White, ss
Dan Cox, p Elton Chamberlain, p

Once again 1987 gets on the board first. In the second inning Jack Clark leads of by blooping a double down the left field line. Willie follows that with a single, but Jack is thrown out at the plate in a uncharacteristic display (for Clark) of aggressive baserunning. After Pendleton skies a double to center, Oquendo walks. Steve Lake then answers the call by lining a single to center. Willie McGee scores, and 1987 is up 2-0.

Chamberlain only lasts 3 innings, giving way to Ed Knouff. He, in turn, departs after Tom Herr's two-out walk in the 5th. Clark greets Jim Devlin with another walk, bringing McGee up with a chance to do damage. He delivers with a line-drive double to left center. Herr and Clack both score, and the 1987ers are up 3-0.

Cox, working on a no-hitter through 4, loses his command in the bottom of the 5th. After walking the weak-hitting Harry Lyons, he gives up a single to Boyle and proceeds to walk the pitcher Devlin, batting for himself despite the four-run deficit. Arlie Latham then hits one to center that clears the bases and pulls the '88ers right back into the game. Sim Whitey calls on Lee Tunnell to put out the fire, which he does; '87 Cards cling to a 4-3 lead.

They get a run back in the 6th on a clutch RBI double by Coleman, and Clark plates an insurance run in the 9th on a sac fly. Meanwhile, the Cardinal bullpen slams the door, partially redeeming itself for the Game 1 debacle. Tunnell pitches 2 and a third sterling innings, and Bill Dawley hurls a hitless 8th. He turns a 6-3 lead over to Worrell, who strangles the helpless bottom half of the Browns' order to convert the easy save. The series is knotted at a game apiece.


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Game 2
(2000 leads, 1 game to 0)

summary by lboros

20-year-old Rick Ankiel faces 36-year-old Jesse Haines in this game --- the one-year-wonder vs the long-term plodder.

It's painful to look back on how good Ankiel was in 2000. His strikeout rate that year was the best in franchise history by more than a strikeout a game. He whiffed 10 men per 9 innings. Andy Benes (1997) sits 2d on the list at 8.90 k per 9; Gibson's best mark came in 1970 at 8.39 k/9, the 3d-best figure in franchise history --- and a full 1.5 k/9 behind Rick Ankiel. Moreover, Ankiel's rate of hits per 9 innings (7.05) was the 13th-best in franchise history and the 8th-best since World War II. Gibson only beat that figure 3 times --- and he played in one of the most anti-hitter eras in history, while Ankiel played at the height of the steroid era. Since divisional play began in 1969, only Jose DeLeon and John Tudor sustained better single-season h/9s than Ankiel in 2000.

Between the high k/9 and low h/9, Ankiel was as unhittable in 2000 as any other Cardinal pitcher in any other season --- ever. There's a good argument that he was the most unhittable.

Ankiel's raw strikeout total (194) was 23d-best in franchise history up to that time (Carpenter has since beaten it), and most of the totals ahead of him belonged to Dizzy Dean, Bob Gibson, or some deadball-era hurler who threw 400 innings a year. Since Gibson's retirement (25 years before Ankiel debuted), only 1 St. Louis pitcher --- Jose DeLeon --- had more ks in a season than Ankiel, and only 1 pitcher has topped him since, Chris Carpenter.

We should also note that Ankiel threw 12 wild pitches in 2000, the 23d-highest single-season total in franchise history and the 5th-highest since 1900. . . . it was a long time ago. Nearly all the guys who finished alongside him in that year's ROY voting --- Pat Burrell, Rafael Furcal, Jay Payton, Juan Pierre --- are already on downside of their careers.

His opponent today, Jesse Haines, rarely shows up on the franchise's single-season leaderboard but is everywhere on the career lists: He ranks 2d in wins, 2d in innings, 1st in games, 3d in starts, and 5th in strikeouts. The 1930 season was his 11th in St. Louis, and he was a long way from finished; he would pitch another 7 years for the Cardinals. This was, however, the last year he would pitch enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.

With a left-hander on the mound, the 1930s work Ray Blades into the lineup. Likewise, the 2000s --- facing a right-hander today after the lefty Hallahan in Game 1 --- start JD Drew in right field and drop Renteria to 7th. The full lineups:

2000 1930
Fernando Vina, 2b Taylor Douthit, cf
JD Drew, rf Sparky Adams, 3b
Mark McGwire, 1b Frank Frisch, 2b
Jim Edmonds, cf Jim Bottomley, 1b
Ray Lankford, lf Chick Hafey, lf
Fernando Tatis, 3b Ray Blades, rf
Edgar Renteria, ss Gus Mancuso, c
Mike Matheney, c Charlie Gelbert, ss
Rick Ankiel, p Jesse Haines, p

The 00s put their first two men on base, but McGwire raps into a double play to kill the rally. Ankiel takes the hill and promptly walks the first batter; oh brother, here we go. Adams singles the runner to 3d, Frisch drives him in on a fielder's choice, and then Ankiel walks Hafey a couple batter later and gives up an RBI hit to Ray Blades. 2-0, 1930s. In the 2d Ankiel walks the leadoff man again (his 3d BB in the game's first 8 hitters) and again pays the price, as Haines bunts the man over to 2d and Douthit drives him in on a base hit. The kid's behind 3-0 when he comes to the plate leading off the 3d. Boom! he takes a pitch the other way and drives it into the gap for a double; shades of things to come. Vina knocks him in, and a walk and wild pitch but runners at 2d and 3d with nobody out and McGwire / Edmonds / Lankford due up. They fail to get the ball out of the infield, though, and Haines wriggles off the hook. Wily old coot.

Ankiel, feeling better after his base knock, starts throwing strikes; he breezes through the lineup the next three innings and gets another hit, a single, with 2 out in the 4th to send a baserunner to 3d. Vina knocks him in a batter later, and the 00s are within a run. They threaten again in the 5th: Lankford singles, Tatis walks, and Haines uncorks a wild pitch --- his second of the game (oh the irony) --- to move the runners up; they both score a moment later on Renteria's double. Haines heads for the showers, and the 00s have given Ankiel his first lead at 4-3.

They make it 6-3 the next inning on a two-run bomb off the bat of McGwire. But Ankiel loses the strike zone again in the bottom of the 6th, walking two men to bring the tying run up to bat with 2 outs. Sim TLR 2K calls for Mike James; Ankiel leaves with 0 strikeouts and 6 walks. But he's in line for the win after James catches Douthit looking to end the threat.

Bottomley's solo shot with 2 out in the 7th chases James and pulls the 1930s to within 2 runs. The simulator apparently likes Heath Slocumb as a setup man; for the second straight day he gets waved in to protect a lead, but this time he keeps the enemy in check. After mowing 'em down in the 8th, he turns things over to Veres in the 9th vs the top of the order. Adams grounds out; Frisch whiffs; Bottomley skies one to second; and that's the ballgame. The visiting 2000s win both games at Sportsman's Park to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.