What the Rockies Can Learn From the Rangers
If you’ve been watching the World Series, and you really should be, you might have noticed that both the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals are playing much better baseball than the Rockies did this season. About this you would be correct. And that’s part of why I love the postseason: no matter how awful my team was in the regular season, I know I’ll get the chance to see somebody get it right before it’s all over.
I’d just like to point out a few things that the Rangers have done well, specifically adjustments they made between their 16-7 loss on Saturday and their 4-0 win on Sunday. Adjustments any team who has an interest in winning would be wise to imitate.
1. Take Square Pegs Out of Round Holes
Ron Washington’s decision to play Mike Napoli at first base on Saturday was a costly one. It wasn’t Napoli’s first career start as an infielder, but he primarily plays catcher, and it showed. Wash didn’t want to take Napoli’s bat out of the lineup, so he put him at first in order to keep the offensive production and give Yorvit Torrealba a chance to start. In the 4th inning, Napoli made a throwing error that cost an unearned Cardinals run. Of course, any time the other team scores 16, you don’t look too hard at one play in the grand scheme of things. But the defense was sloppy overall for Texas on Saturday, and the Napoli error got that ball rolling. All was to put to right on Sunday with Napoli back behind the plate and Mitch Moreland at 1st. The entire defense ran more smoothly, committing no errors after a 3-error night on Saturday. You know Jim Tracy would have kept playing Napoli at 1st over and over without seeming to understand the problem.
2. Pitch Better
Okay, this might seem self-evident, but I’m not sure it is to the Rockies. They have a really hard time recovering from a bad pitching performance. Jason Hammel got stuck inside a months-long pitching slump this summer and only a bullpen stint brought him out of it. Jhoulys Chacin can have a string of multiple tough starts. Most discouragingly, nobody except Kevin Millwood really seemed to know what to do after a bad start. Derek Holland came to the mound for the Rangers on Sunday, and not only redeemed a terrible Matt Harrison outing, but redeemed his own struggles earlier in the play-offs. He mixed his speeds and pitches expertly, and nearly got a complete game shut-out. It took guts, confidence, and a game plan for him to come out and do that. That’s what pitchers on a winning team do.
3. Get In It to Win It
Attitude is everything, and the Rangers have been the very definition of that in this World Series. Despite the fact that most people gave them an edge going in, they’ve been slightly outplayed by the Cards. But they never give up. Even in Saturday’s game, when the Cards scored 16, the Rangers scored 7 of their own. They came back to win last Thursday’s Game 2 in the final inning. They come out on the field every day expecting to win, and when they don’t, they figure out why and change their approach. They don’t whine or point fingers; they just play better.