The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Everyone remembered

It feels like a whole bunch of people in Miami remembered today that they're from New York and that, oh by the way, they're Yankees fans too. It feels again like much of the Marlins home field advantage for games 3, 4, and 5 will be lost because so many fans will be cheering for the Yankees. Time will tell...

Here's my quick overview of the World Series and prediction...

If you've found your way to this site on the web, I'm sure you're aware of who the key players are, so I won't get into that (it's getting late and I have to be up early tomorrow) here. Instead I'll review what I think the relative strenghts are for each team.

Depth and experience are the two biggies. How much of a factor this will play remains to be seen. The Yankees hold a humongous advantage over the Marlins in nearly every way you could measure experience. On the field and in the dugout nearly all of the Yankees have been here before. They're used to the big stage, the media attention, thre pressure, and the whole thing. I'm not sure how much that will matter though. The Diamondbacks and Angels came into the last two World Series without much World Series experience and they both walked away wtih titles.

The depth advantage for the Yankees extends to the bench, and that could be crucial, particulary for the games in Florida, where the importance of pinch-hitters and defensive replacements will likely be critical.

Speed and possibly fate are the big advantages in the Marlins favor. Some might argue that talent also favors the Yankees, but it's at best a stretch to say that any team could have more talent than a team with a $180 million payroll - 50% more than the second highest payroll in the Major Leagues this year (Red Sox at around $120 million).

The Marlins obviously have more speed than the Yankees - and at nearly every position. Like with the Yankees experience, I'm not sure that this will matter in the Series. If it does, the Marlins are likely to shock the world and win this series. As has been the case nearly all season, if Pierre and Castillo can get on base and run, or at least distract the pitcher, it should set up some nice opportunities for Rodriguez, Cabrera, Conine and crew to drive in some runs.

Although I'm sure our SABR readers and other analytical minds won't agree, since it's not measurable, the Marlins seem charmed. Will this continue in the World Series? We'll see. No one thought much of the Jack McKeon hiring in May (I know I was against it), but he's worked magic. Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera have been special too. No one knew - no one expected it, even the Marlins. If the front office really expected those two to contribute so much, they would have had both up for the entire season. Another key move for the Marlins this year was picking up Chad Fox. No, he wasn't an offseason free agent acquisition or even part of a deadline deal trade. He was picked up off of waivers. The Red Sox didn't want him anymore... the Red Sox didn't want him in their bullpen. Unbelievable! And Fox has been good for pretty much every big out the Marlins have asked of him since he was signed.

I'm sure many will think this is a homer pick, but I'm taking the Marlins in 7. I also think Dontrelle Willis will surprise the baseball community with two solid starts and a good appearance or two out of the pen and end up as the World Series MVP.

Dontrelle was at his best this year (when his arm was strong too) when team's saw him for the first time. Having watched Willis pitch a few times this year from right behind home plate, I'm sure it will take the Yankees batters a few turns through the lineup to pick up the ball well and then they'll still have to deal with his decent stuff. Plus Dontrelle should be tough on a lefty or two coming out of the bullpen (and if he's not, the Marlins are stuck with Tejera as their only other lefty out of the bullpen).

I realize that choosing Dontrelle as the series MVP is going out on a limb, especially since he's cooled off since the All-Star break, but I think someone else other than Cabrera, Rodriguez, Lowell, Conine, or Pierre will need to step up (along with those guys) in order for the Marlins to win four more games. Dontrelle could be that guy if he controls his emotions and stays focused on the mound.

Besides, there doesn't seem to be a guy in the world who's happier to be where he is, so I'd like to see him do it.


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