4. The Rays are an extremely well-rounded teamJoe's piece is on the NL, and his point about the Brewers reflects a change in tune from his thoughts a couple days earlier, perhaps reflecting the enthusiasm he saw in Miller Park last weekend even as the Brew Crew went down in defeat:
The Rays aren't going to crush their opponents. They don't have a shut-down ace (though they might when David Price is ready for his close-up). They don't have a don't-let-him-beat-you masher in their lineup (though Evan Longoria could quickly mature into such a hitter). They don't really even have a closer (though curse-spewing Aussie Grant Balfour could assume the role before the postseason is over). They scored just 4.78 runs per game in the regular season, which was a lowly ninth in the AL, and didn't score more than six in any game of the ALDS. They aren't going to beat their opponents into submission; they're just going to out-play them.
The Rays were second in the AL in walks, led the league in stolen bases with a respectable 74 percent success rate, and were the best team in the majors at turning balls in play into outs. Speed, patience, and defense are perhaps the must undervalued skills in the game, and the last has a very large effect on pitching, which is a large reason why the Rays allowed 1.7 fewer runs per game this year than last. The Rays were also second in the AL in one-run wins (to the Angels, who ironically fell one-run short last night) and led the league in extra-inning victories.
One way to look at those stats is to say that the Rays are a team balancing on a razor's edge. Another is to say they're a team that wins games on the margins by being one step faster on the bases and in the field, by tracking down one extra out, and extending their own half of the inning by one extra at-bat, and by not allowing their opponents to plan around their one big bopper or their ace starter. Akinori Iwamura, Dioner Navarro, and Carlos Peña were the top Tampa hitters in the ALDS, but Longoria and Upton both had multi-homer games. Their bullpen allowed one run in 11 2/3 innings while striking out 13. James Shields, Scott Kazmir, and Matt Garza are each capable of a dominant pitching performance. The Rays are dangerous because, while none of their players is going to single-handedly destroy their opponent, they're all capable of hurting them, and the opposing team never knows where the blow are going to come from on any given day.
4. Despite the early exit, the CC Sabathia trade was worth it for the Brewers.Amen to that.
They may miss Matt LaPorta down the road, as not having him limits their options for future trades, but the Brewers would not have made the postseason without Sabathia, and making the postseason has been a great moment for this franchise. After such a disappointing 2007, in which they blew an 8 1/2-game lead in the NL Central, there was a risk that another such season would jade a fan base just as the products of the farm system were coming together.
By winning a tight wild-card race, bringing October baseball back to Milwaukee and generating towel-waving, Thunderstick-banging excitement for a weekend, owner Mark Attanasio and GM Doug Melvin showed the fans that the Brewers could take the next step, a decision that will resonate for years.
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