Monday, June 1, 2009

The Finals, and How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Rehab Assignments

I'm going to start with Ervin Santana. I've covered this previously, but Santana probably doesn't recognize his own fastball. Where he used to overpower hitters with a 94 mph average fastball, he now averages a flat 90 mph. The movement, particularly late break, which he used to generate swinging strikes and weak grounders, is almost completely gone. His slider, a devastating pitch last season, is missing most of its horizontal break and he's having a harder time throwing it for strikes.

In other words, Ervin Santana needs one of two things, maybe both:
  1. Another, longer rehab assignment where he regains confidence and arm strength.
  2. Tommy John surgery.
The rehab starts should be a no-brainer. The TJ surgery is another story. Regardless, I don't like the way the Angels handle surgery for their pitchers. The front office has given away months and years of seasons with (worthless) rehab and DL stints before giving in to surgery. Ligaments don't really heal, at least not the way we view muscle regrowth. They need to be slowly rehabbed over months, or receive some sort of surgical intervention. Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar are two pitchers who screwed around with "rehab" before finally getting surgery and resuscitating their careers.

So, Ervin...this season is probably screwed anyways. Get the surgery and play strong in 2010.

As far as the team, I maintain that they'll be fine if they can fire off 7 or 8 wins in a row. Their win over the Mariners came when they held a 2% chance of victory, while their loss the night before came when they held a 97% chance of winning. Betting on baseball is stupid, as both games should make quite clear.

On the other hand, if they continue to struggle to stay above .500 for much more than another month, they're in trouble. I don't think Texas' rotation or defense are likely to hold up, but they're playing .800 ball against the West, and two months of that might be all they need. The Angels need to improve their 9-12 record against the West if they plan to make the playoffs.

Beating Seattle seems like a good way to start.

NBA Finals

Deep down, you know this kid misses Shaquille.

Lakers and Orlando. Both teams looking for titles without Shaqtus. The NBA's newest star facing off against one of the most storied franchises in basketball, a franchise with the most fundamentally sound player since Michael Jordan.

One coach has a porn stache. The other has some sort of Zen bullshit going on.

Whoever wins this series is going to win despite coaching, not thanks to coaching.

If I'm Phil Jackson, I force Orlando to run their offense through Dwight Howard. Play good perimeter defense and force the ball into the post to Howard. If he picks up 40 points, that's fine. Look at the benefits. Howard is huge and will get tired if he has to hold up an offense for 40 minutes a game. He's foul-prone. If he has to sit, they lose their most potent offensive weapon. Moreover, Howard presents the biggest matchup issue for the Lakers. But he also has the least potential on the offensive end...he can't shoot threes, he can't hit free throws, and he doesn't have the high post moves that Gasol has.

Play perimeter defense. Seriously. Derek Fisher should see very little playing time in this series if Jackson knows anything about basketball.

Force the Magic to run their offense through Dwight Howard and the Lakers win the series in 6.

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