Earlier today, ESPN Radio analyst Orel Hershiser, Baseball Tonight analyst Curt Schilling and Baseball Tonight host Karl Ravech previewed the 2012 World Series in a media conference call. Here is the replay.
Q. Given what we’ve seen thus far, do you think that either the Giants or the Cardinals would have a slight edge over the Tigers going into the World Series? Is one team in the National League better suited to take on the Tigers than the other?
OREL HERSHISER: I think it’s really hard before Game 7 to say that because you don’t want to be right or wrong. It’s really stupid to analyze one or the other. All of a sudden, the other team wins and they might not beat them. I think that anybody who ‑‑ they’re going to have to have short swings. They’re going to face a team that has outstanding right‑handed fastballs. I think that the balanced lineup is a little bit better on the San Francisco side as far as left‑right.
As far as right‑handed predominant in the middle, Posey and Hunter Pence, you’re going to face all right‑handed starters with the Tigers. So those two guys will have to try to drive in runs. In the middle of that lineup, it’s going to be a little harder. Where Beltran’s switch hitting ability helps the Cardinals a little bit.
I really think that both lineups match really well. I think that St. Louis‑Detroit is probably a series that could end up having a little bit more offense in it, and then the San Francisco series, because of the ballpark, San Francisco‑ Detroit, because of the two ballparks, you could have a lower scoring series.
CURT SCHILLING: I don’t think either of those National League teams will have an advantage over the Tigers. I think any advantage that either of those teams might have will be neutralized by the Tigers starting pitching. Scherzer, Fister, and Verlander right now pose significant problems regardless of the side of the plate these offenses are going to hit from. They’re all three throwing well.
The big question will be the back end of the bullpen for the Tigers. Both bullpens on the National League clubs are rock solid. Obviously, I think St. Louis has probably one of the better power bullpens that we’ve ever seen when you’ve got a kid, a minor league kid coming up into the sixth inning, throwing a hundred miles an hour as your leadoff in the bullpen, you’re sitting pretty deep.
They have a lot of confidence, and clearly Mike is managing, I feel, a lot in the way that Tony did last year which was how quickly can I get to my bullpen, but not have it be too early? We saw what they did last year, and I think that they’re set‑up nicely this year. I think the hurdle for anybody in this World Series will be the Tigers pitching.
KARL RAVECH: I don’t think Curt mentioned Sanchez. I would agree with what Curt said, and I think these two teams are kind of beating up other each other, and Detroit is rested and feeling good about their series with New York. But I think they go in as the favorite over either of the two teams from the National League.
Q. I was wondering, the Tigers look pretty well balanced on both pitching and the offense, defense. They look pretty strong. If they do win the World Series, do you think this will be Jim Leyland’s perfect victory? I know he’s said on the record he won’t retire at the end of the year, but I was wondering if this would be a perfect opportunity for him to exit with a World Series ring?
OREL HERSHISER: It’s only a perfect opportunity if he wants to do it. Because I think this guy wants to die in his spikes. He’s an amazing man to have around baseball. It would be sad to have him go. This is the father, your grandfather, your brother, your best friend that can air you out all in one body. He’s just a fantastic guy to go in and chat with. When you get to go in during games, you don’t hear anything bad out of the locker room from the players.
They’ve struggled in the years going up‑and‑down and end up on top. But during that time, there is nobody ever abandoning ship. But his best friend or good buddy Tony La Russa went out on top, maybe Jim would want to do something like that. But he sounds like a guy that wants to just keep on going.
CURT SCHILLING: Yeah, I was allowed to do that and walk away when I chose to. That’s what makes it optimal for him. If this is what he wants and he wants to walk away, it’s perfect.
Either way, win or lose when he walks away, it will have to be great. He’s had an amazing run, and he’s had a significant impact on the game. So, I think win or lose, his legacy is safe when he walks away.
KARL RAVECH: Yeah, I would just add that having worked with a variety of guys that have come in and out of the game and gotten back into it, whether it be buck or Bobby or Dusty or Ozzie for a while, that unless they have sort of scratched that managerial itch and whether winning the World Series is all he needs or winning another one is all he needs, that is a hard blood to get out of your system.
I know that many of the guys want to go back into it. I think Jim at his age and what he’s been able to accomplish maybe at that point where he says, sure, I won, and I walked away. But the challenge in that clubhouse with Terry Francona, they want to go back. I mean, Terry won two World Series and was burnt out. It took him about a year to say I’m not burnt out anymore.
So that, like Orel and Curt said, it’s got to be a Jim Leyland issue. But sure, the answer to your question is yes. There can’t be a better time to walk away than when you’re walking away on top.
Q. My question, Curt and Orel specifically, and Karl can weigh in, when you watch the Tigers with Verlander and Scherzer, does it bring you back to what the World Series used to be with the dominant pitcher? Curt, when you won in ’01, and Orel when you won it, and in the last couple of years, the number of bullpen changes, it’s who can get to the bullpen fastest. With the Padres and Verlander and Scherzer, what’s that make you think? Does that dominance bring you back to a different day in baseball? Does that not get back to both of you with a starter that goes seven or eight innings?
CURT SCHILLING: Well, to me any dominant starter, the first stat that they care about is innings. Because I think when you are dominating like Justin is, you end up looking and your numbers end up looking good because of the amount of innings you put out.
And Karl’s right, I forgot about Anibal Sanchez. Certainly those two guys are the big names in October, because we strikeout guys, the power guys, and it makes them different. But with Sanchez, and Fister, they aren’t thumbers.
It’s a very unique thing. If you think back to the last 10, 15 World Series, can you name a rotation with two full power guys at you? Even in the heyday of the Braves, you feared Smoltzy, but that was it. It wasn’t more concern, but it was different for on the offenses. You can understand with hitters, the one thing you didn’t want in October was the power guy with command. That doesn’t necessarily mean ‑‑ you think about Orel, you don’t think about strikeouts. You think about the down sinker, which was power.
I haven’t seen anything this deep from that rotation’s perspective, this deep. And they’re not throwing the ball well, and that is not to be underestimated. They’re feeling good as a unit, and this is a fun time to be in that mix.
OREL HERSHISER: I agree with you, Curt. And I think the strikeout is a huge, huge weapon, and Schill knows that better than anybody. Any time you can make the opposing team have to go to the dugout without moving a runner up 90 feet, and you can do that up to the 7th, 8th or 9th inning, you have a huge advantage in the game.
When you have a strikeout staff like the Tigers do, that is the thing that’s going to make them favored against either of the National League teams. The National League teams are going to come in there with their rotations limping a little bit. We don’t know how Matt came in, how he feels. It doesn’t look like he has the same zip and sharpness, and we’ll see in Game 7 how he responds to that. Carpenter’s not strong, and a hundred percent healthy. He’s working hard. There are a lot of inconsistencies to the other rotations.
Where the Tigers are bringing in a rotation that’s not only throwing well, but they’re on a confidence high. They just carried this team. If you look at their games, they scored four and five runs sometimes to win the game or even sometimes eight. But they’ve only needed one or two, if you look at the opposing team’s total. So they’re going to be able to pitch through the flat, offensive days, and still win games.
CURT SCHILLING: I want to add to what Orel said. We talked about power pitching in October. I think there’s a time to hopefully help you understand why. If you think about what we’ve seen in the postseason and what we watch, there is no other environment where a walk is a rally, except October. Somebody gets a base runner on, and you immediately think of the potential.
When you can strike hitters out at a higher rate, you negate the potential leadoff walk as a weapon, because now the team ‑‑ generally for strikeout guys like Verlander, and Tate as well, Scherzer, you don’t stream together two, three, four hits off these guys often if ever. So the leadoff walk has to be part of your rally.
You look at these guys, and these guys don’t lack command. But when you can strike a guy out with a runner on third with less than two outs, when can you try to and do it, that is the thing that separates power pitchers. They can get a strikeout in a strikeout situation where everybody knows the hitter doesn’t want to strikeout. They can still get it. That for me is the big reason.
OREL HERSHISER: I’m looking at stats right now and strikeouts per game. They’re the only team averaging nine strikeouts a game, I think. So they’re mowing people down.
KARL RAVECH: One other thing. The great thing about having a series and Verlander in it, is to see what impact the credit Cardinals or Giants have when they beat him. The power pitcher wins the World Series, but when you beat that power pitcher, it changes the entire World Series.
CURT SCHILLING: It’s a seismic momentum shift. When you play that guy out there, you play a Gibson or a Koufax, if you were to beat a Hershiser in the World Series, it’s not just one game. It’s because if you think back to some of the World Series where Smoltzy pitched, and first some guys in ’01, we felt good because we had our team going. And the other team felt bad because we had R.J. All of a sudden, if you neutralize that, it’s bigger than one win.
OREL HERSHISER: Curt, you won’t blow your own horn, but they could beat Verlander, and all of a sudden here comes Sanchez and Fister, and it’s kind of like the combo that you guys were together, you and R.J., and there’s been other combos like that. So I think that beating Verlander, like Karl said, is going to be a huge momentum shift, and will crush the Tigers a little bit. They wake up the next day, and have another guy that’s throwing 95 on the mound with a short breaking ball and a great changeup.
Q. I think last year we saw the Rangers bench may not have been set up too well?
KARL RAVECH: I don’t look at home field as being huge when you have pitching like the Tigers do. The National League will have four games at home if they extend it to seven. But I think those guys can neutralize that. When you look at San Francisco and St. Louis, you are looking at two of the great home field ballparks. Not necessarily translates into wins and losses, but in the National League they may be one and two as far as playing in front of your home crowd.
But I know Curt and Orel, certainly Curt, the favorite part for them was not necessarily winning a World Series game which was great, but winning a World Series game on the other team’s home field is even better. And I know Verlander would relish that.
CURT SCHILLING: So I think it’s just a fundamental, inherent ‑‑ I don’t know if it’s a flaw in the system. But you build American League rosters around a nine‑man lineup and a pitching staff. You have your second catcher, and you have your utility players who don’t see much action unless you have injuries with the National League lineup, the 25‑man roster is built for those 25 guys to potentially be in the game every day.
If you think about the rangers bench, so to speak, they had a legitimate, every day, 150 game lineup to run out there which was incredibly powerful.
So you don’t see as much of a platoon or an appearance from the deeper part of the rosters in the American League, because that’s not the way the other teams are built.
In the National League with these two clubs, especially if you look at being able to plug and play some guys who, Carpenter and Descalso, and guys that can contribute and be comfortable doing that. It’s a very different mentality. Now I’m a pitcher, so that’s a much better question to talk to for like a utility guy.
But the rosters are built differently, but to win differently. But at the end of the day from a home‑field advantage perspective, home field is inherent to your starting pitcher. Justin Verlander has home‑field advantage wherever he takes the ball. He has home‑field advantage over whoever he is pitching against, and whatever the opposing pitcher is.
OREL HERSHISER: I would say the home‑field advantage, and I think Curt called it perfectly, I think the Tigers when you think about the bench, you talk about all the pieces that Jim Leyland has to toggle in and out, and you watch Garcia who has done an unbelievable job. Alburquerque has done a good job off the bench, Quintin Berry has done a good job off the bench. They also play left field. They have been platoon the catcher with Avila who is a lot healthier now because Laird has been playing against lefties.
So they have a National League kind of roster, and they have a manager that’s very adept at using the roster, and very, very good at that. The key to the depth though won’t be the bench, I don’t think, as far as defense and as far as pinch hitters for the Tigers and stuff. But when the Tigers bring people out of the bullpen, and Jim wants to pinch hit and move pieces because of offensive moves, what pitcher does he have to bring in? Because we’re going to look at the depths of their bullpen, and that could end up being the key.
CURT SCHILLING: I think that’s a hundred percent correct. The biggest question for me, who is Jim Leyland going to turn to in the ninth inn to go get the biggest outs? I played with Jose Valverde. He’s a good kid. I love him to death. He’s out of gas. This is like watching Mitch Williams in 1993 again. He’s out of gas. He’s throwing the ball without command inside the strike zone. I can’t see him coming in to get the big out. Game 1, if they need two outs in the ninth, I don’t know that he’s the guy.
OREL HERSHISER: Their best closer might be their starter if their starter’s got less than 110 pitches. If this Tiger team wants to play behind in the National League game, now you’ll get into the Dotels, and you might have to use Coke a little early, and you might have to use Valverde for sure in the ninth, and it just continues to show the Achilles heel.
Q. Just touching on Verlander. What do you think his legacy will be if he helps the Tigers win the World Series?
CURT SCHILLING: I think he’s going to keep defining it. It’s something we’re going to be watching written over the next five to seven years. This guy, when you hear that term once in a generation, we’re watching it right now. This is just another chapter in it.
I said it to Karl last week, that my belief was at game 5 of the division series to get the start that he made. The light switch went on for him before that game. He understands what it is now and how to do it. I think that and I remember it for me and remember watching Randy Johnson do it, and watching him turn that light switch on. I think he hit that point.
I think going forward that you’re looking at a guy who eight innings and 12 punch outs will be his expectation regardless of the day that it starts.
KARL RAVECH: You’re talking about a guy born in ’83, and he’s not barely into his prime. I think the fact that we can look back to his career, he had the light switch from when he threw his no‑hitter, and thought about pitching at 91 miles an hour when he left the bullpen, that’s what he started the game at instead of throwing 95 to 101. Then he learned about pitching, and he went to the point where the league adjusted back to him. He said I can’t just throw 91 now. Now he comes out and throws 94 to 96, but he knows he has that other gear.
I think the third stage, what Curt’s talked about, is the fact that he’s learned how to deal with the anxiety and the pressure of the bar that he’s raised for himself, and all the expectations around. He knows how to deal with that internally and preparing himself to be able to go out in those games and perform knowing that everybody’s expecting him to perform. I think he has to fight through that in the past in the big games and the pressure situations and the playoffs.
CURT SCHILLING: To add to that, one of the things to appreciate here is so often you see and hear people doing whatever they can do to find an angle on a superstar and a negative angle. This is the case of an incredibly God‑given talented athlete who wants to be greater. I think that makes him very, very different and very special.
It’s not enough to want it. You have to understand how to do it and execute on it. We so rarely see that. To see it for me as a pitcher, listen, I love it. His starts are a must‑see TV because you have a chance. I thought this year you had a chance to see something every time he took the ball. Now in October, I think it’s the same.
KARL RAVECH: I think in order to establish a legacy in baseball in this country, you really need to win World Series. And until Justin does that, his legacy will not be what it should very well be if he wins the World Series. Obviously, he’s positioned himself and his team, and the owner has done enough to surround him with players to make that happen.
If you talk about legacy and somebody you talk about 10, 20, 50, 100 years from now, Justin needs to win the World Series. I think he realizes that, and that is the way the culture operates here in the United States.
Q. Let me take you back to October 2006 when Detroit swept Oakland and they faced the Cardinals. They played seven games against the Mets. The Cardinals came in fired up and Detroit didn’t have any answers for that. What can they do this time? It’s the same situation?
KARL RAVECH: I think we talked about that last night, what happened to Detroit in 2006 is that for some reason they forgot how to catch the ball. They had spent the whole year doing it adequately. They get to the World Series and committed eight errors in five games, many of which ended up costing them games.
To me, in 2006, you never want to call a World Series champion a fluke, but Detroit lost that series as much as the St. Louis Cardinals won that series from somebody that sat there and watched every pitch of every game. You only hope for both teams and the in this case, that mistakes don’t determine the outcome.
But Detroit’s pitchers in particular forgot how to field and throw the ball to first base. That will certainly be something that gets talked about, but I don’t think it’s something that you need to say let’s hope that’s different. You can just about be assured it will be different. That’s what 2006 and the World Series was all about.
OREL HERSHISER: I think as a person that actually played in the games too, Karl, is the speed of the game is different. Your mind is different. The adrenaline flows different. When you have such a long layoff with weather and scheduling like the Tigers had in 2006, they went from practice speed, to game speed, to World Series game speed, and I think it caught them. That’s what we saw.
Jim Leyland is having a scrimmage with the guys. He said to the offensive players, I didn’t care if you swung the bat or not, I just want you seeing 95 mile‑an‑hour fastballs. I want you to see a changeup change speeds. I want you to see a big league breaking ball. It’s so hard to simulate that. Baseball is a routine sport. It’s an experiential sport.
When you lose the routine and the experience of seeing that fastball or fielding that groundball or hearing the fans yell as you’re trying to communicate with your buddy on a pop‑up, you lose that sensitivity that puts you right on the edge of being the best.
So the Tigers are going to have to be prepared for that after this long layoff.
CURT SCHILLING: I think there is a poetic justice to a lot of this stuff, and you hear things happen for no reason. If you look at what happened to the teams in ’04, down 3‑0, and we came back. In ’07 we were down 3‑1 to the Indians, and we were able to reach back. There are still a lot of guys on that team that are able to reach back to the ’04 experience. It was something that I think helped us.
I think Jim Leyland being there in ’06 and understanding what happened, and I agree with Orel, you can’t take a week off and show up and be sharp unless you do some things differently. I think this is Jim Leyland learning from the experience, understanding what happened.
Because if you think about what’s going on around the World Series and the timing and weather and things, we could potentially be in the same exact situation. So he’s doing the things he learned from the last time that I think he thinks bit him in the butt to make sure they don’t happen again, which I think is pretty cool.
Q. I was wondering what you thought of Cabrera’s Triple Crown and the accomplishment that it is, and maybe why it’s so relatively getting little attention considering how rare it is?
OREL HERSHISER: I think it’s unbelievable what he accomplished and it hasn’t been done for 45 years. I got to watch him in this last series. I was there in person and down by the cages during batting practice. He’s a hitting savant. That doesn’t only mean talent. He works really hard at it. So he’s just an absolutely amazing hitter.
He rarely gets fooled. If he gets fooled once, he’s going to be on the pitch the next time. And really as a pitcher, you’re trying to beat him to spots, and Schill had the ability to beat people to spots because of his roster. But my ability was more to say they’re looking for this, but can I make it move and get it off the barrel of the bat.
So he’s a very, very hard hitter to get out what he’s established, I hope he wins the MVP, because what Mr. Trout did was absolutely amazing. But when somebody doesn’t do something for almost 50 years and then you do it, you’ve got to be the team and the guy.
CURT SCHILLING: I agree. Savant is a great word, because I see and played with a guy in Manny Ramirez, and I think Orel was around him as well. There are an immense amount of similarities. I think it tends to fly into public opinion in this way. These guys that are great, generally tend to be not just the most gifted but the hardest working. These guys are in the film room. They’re in the batting cage. This is an unbelievably grueling and grinding schedule.
I played against and with some guys that played in the NFL and played in Major League Baseball as well, And they talk about how tough the Major League Baseball schedule is. To do what he did, it’s amazing for a couple reasons. The most important to me is that he excelled every day of 162‑game season for the best players in the world. That’s an amazing thing.
But it’s also, I don’t know that it’s getting as little attention as maybe it should or did. We’re in a different time now, and I think the evolution of sabermetrics, I think you saw some push back from that crowd this year in down playing how big of a deal this was. Not that it wasn’t a big deal or as important as it was many years ago, because the three most important categories aren’t batting average, home runs and RBIs.
You can see that in the pull and tug between the Trout and Cabrera camps this year. I think a lot of it was based on that. Mike Trout had a season no one’s ever seen before. I honestly believe that is getting as underplayed as anything this year.
I mentioned that at the end of the day for me, I went with Mike Trout as my MVP, and people take that to mean I’m against Miguel Cabrera. Nothing could be further from the truth, but I think we saw two unbelievable seasons.
The Triple Crown is a time thing as much as anything, because if he has this season last year, he doesn’t win the batting title. If he has this season three years ago ‑‑ from 2010 to this year, this is his worst offensive season and he won the Triple Crown. So there is a lot of timing involved.
That’s not to down play the achievement, because it is amazing, but we’re in a different place now with statistics.
Q. Game 7 tonight, and it’s probably doubtful that Holliday even plays. What are the chances that the credit cards can beat San Francisco?
KARL RAVECH: What are the chances that the Cards can get San Francisco? It’s going to start in the middle of the field, then we’ll see how they pitch in the beginning. Then we’ll see how the offense has performed. But I don’t think it’s going to come down to just having Holliday in the lineup or not. I think it’s going to come down to the two teams playing. We play 162 games and the championship is decided by one game. We’re playing a seven‑game series, and it’s just as close.
CURT SCHILLING: I’ve been in situations where someone’s been in or out of a lineup on both sides of the fence. As a pitcher, it’s nice that I don’t have to prepare to pitch against Matt Holliday. But Matt’s not that tough to prepare for from the standpoint of he’s going to swing the bat.
So from a game planning perspective with Matt Holliday in the lineup, the only thing I know is he’s a guy that I’m not going to walk. He’s a guy that’s going to put the ball in play. If I have the stuff to make him do thing that’s he doesn’t want to do, hit the ball weakly, I almost want him in there.
Or if I’m the guy, I don’t know how Matt Cain feels so the biggest impact is going to be on what Matt Cain thinks it should be. But I can’t imagine after this game if the credit card nationals were to lose, and say if they had Matt Holliday, they would have won. The game just doesn’t work like that.
I also think that players severely undervalue their impact on being in the lineup. One of the thing that’s Cal Ripken said during his streak was that he believed that his presence in the lineup was enough to warrant him doing whatever he could do to be in there. I’m not so sure I don’t feel the same way about Matt. Having Matt in that lineup, lengthens that lineup and make it’s tougher to face. Even a Matt Holliday at 80% is still better than 99% of the guys in the big leagues.
I was one of the guys that was surprised last night when he didn’t pick them up. Because I know this: He’s playing for one of the toughest players that I ever played against in Mike Matheny. As a veteran player, if I wanted to be on the field, I would be on the field. I didn’t get the feeling that he was too intent on getting out there.
I’m not calling him out. Obviously, his back has to be literally crippled in my mind if he’s not going to be walking out there tonight.