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2006 World Series Preview!
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World Series Preview: To Hedge or not to Hedge
by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
October 20, 2006

Tigers: 95-67, 822 RS/675 RA
Cardinals: 83-78, 781 RS/762 RA

Playoff Central
Final Standings

Before the season started, Scott was extremely high on the Detroit Tigers, projecting them to win 88 games and the AL Wild Card.  While I certainly did not share his enthusiasm, when I noticed that the online sportsbook I use was giving 100:1 odds on the Tigers winning the World Series, I brought this fact to my brother's attention.  After some urging, I convinced Scott to put a dollar on the Tigers.  Why not?

Once The Tigers had appeared in the ALCS, Scott informed me that it would shortly be "decision time" for him.  I knew exactly what he meant.  Back in 2002, I predicted that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would win the Superbowl before the season started.  But once I saw that they were going to face the Oakland Raiders' impressive West Coast offense in the Superbowl, I decided to hedge my bet, and I walked away with much less profit than I should have.

So before Scott even asked his question, I told him not to do it.  I told him that he would regret hedging his bet, that there's a pride factor to sticking with your guns and being able to say that you were one in a million who thought that the Tigers might win the World Series this year.  And I told him that should the Mets advance to the World Series, it would be hard to hedge his bet effectively anyway, as New York teams get favored in the playoffs no matter what.  The odds just wouldn't be there.

But as we all know, the Metropolitans did not make the World Series.  If Scott decides to wager money on the Cardinals, he can get nearly 2:1 odds in doing so.  I now actually consider the issue objectively: Should Scott hedge his season long Tigers bet with a countering bet on the Cardinals?

With the pitching rotations now set, it appears that he should.

The Tigers are supposed to have an advantage with all of their rest, yet Jim Leyland has squandered it and cobbled together a disastrous order for his pitching rotation.  Jeremy Bonderman not only has the best Fielding Independent ERA of the Detroit starters; he has the third best in all of baseball.  Bonderman has also been the club's second-most dependable starter so far in the postseason.  Yet for some reason, Leyland has held him back for game 4, ensuring that he starts only one game in the series.

Less egregiously, yet a factor nonetheless, Leyland has failed to stagger his rotation.  Bonderman and Justin Verlander are right handed power pitchers, while southpaws Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson use more guile and finesse.  And yet Leyland has the like pitchers going back-to-back thrice if the series goes seven games.  This benefits any team that gets to see the same type of stuff two days in a row, but it especially benefits a Tony LaRussa platoonerific lineup.  Someone like Chris Duncan might get to start back-to-back games rather than play sporadically throughout the series.  The disadvantage of rust removed from a platoon situation, it becomes a huge percentage play.

And let's not forget that LaRussa was forced into starting a rookie for the pressure packed game 1.  Leyland chose to go with his least experienced pitcher in this situation.  In every respect, Jim Leyland has scoffed at his advantage coming into the series and decided to level the playing field for his mentor and friend.

With the Tigers' pitching edge dulled, it doesn't take much of an examination to realize that their offenses are pretty much even.  The 41 extra runs scored by the Tigers this year can be explained away by the DH rule and Chris Shelton's April.  Actually, the Cardinals' deep bench makes the DH rule favor them greatly, and the Tigers' home field advantage becomes lessened.  Being able to insert an extra Scott Spiezio, John Rodriguez, or Chris Duncan into your lineup on a given night could certainly mean the difference in a game, as could the ability to leave in a starter for one extra inning with the Cardinals' thin, tiring bullpen.

So with the series much more even than most people think, a hedge on Scott's part would make sense.  With the near-2:1 odds on the Cards, I would put $20 on them.  That way, Scott would win almost $80 if the Tigers win and almost $40 if the Cardinals do.  The integrity of his initial pick is still there, but the guaranteed money is pretty nice, too.

As for myself, I think that Tony LaRussa's unusual postseason maneuvering, which backfires most years, is due to catch fire.  We've already seen glimpses of this so far this postseason, with the most recent move being the walk of Shawn Green to load the bases in Game Seven.   LaRussa will be Midas this series, and that will be enough for the Cardinals to triumph.

Prediction: Cardinals in seven               

     



Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, IL, and can be reached at keith@baseballevolution.com.

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