With the 2011 postseason underway, predictions and analyses have been batted around almost as much as the Boston Red Sox’s starting pitchers were in September. Yet, no matter what Major League Baseball analyst John Kruk and his cohorts say on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight Clubhouse,” fans would do well not to blindly follow the words of TV personalities — too often these “experts” are proven drastically wrong.
Instead, I’ll try and determine which team would hold up the best on baseball’s most pure and fundamental stage: the Little League World Series. In doing so, I’ve boiled down what makes a winning Little League Champion to two elements: speed and pitching.
Anyone who has watched a Little League game knows it’s a game of damage control, which often develops into a contest of who can dish out the least amount of walks. Due to a lack of sluggish base runners at this level, any time a player gets on base they’re almost guaranteed a trip to third base, because there isn’t an effective way of stopping kids from running wild. Getting to first is the hardest part about getting to third base. Limiting the free passes can go a long way to getting the win. Thus, the small, speedy kid is much more than a pinch-base runner in the Little League dugout. The offense lives and dies by the wheels of these kids.
Thus, the best way to prevent the opponents’ run production is to keep speedy runners off the bases. To accomplish this, beyond simply not walking batters, Little League teams often find it beneficial to put their playoff hopes on the shoulders of a prolific strikeout pitcher. Striking out a batter eliminates any errors that the team’s defense could and, at this level likely will, commit.
All together, our Little League Champs need batters with speed and pitchers with a high count of strikeouts, coupled with a low walk tally.
Which brings us to a Detroit Tigers-Philadelphia Phillies MLB World Series. The Phillies clearly have the pitching to beat anyone in the playoffs and also rank first in the league in stolen base percentage. Detroit, for its part, ranks first among AL playoff teams in triples, showing that they know their way around the bases. They also have just enough pitching depth to make it to the World Series, opening up a possible Roy Halladay vs. Justin Verlander Game 7 duel.
While a Milwaukee-Detroit or a New York-Arizona Series would be just as exciting, I’ll be rooting for my “Little League World Series” picks to come through. And in between games, I might just watch “The Sandlot.” After all, during October we get to see baseball at its finest.
<i> McAndrew is a member of the class of 2015. <i/>