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October 16, 2010

Playoff Prospectus

Saturday LCS Projections

by Eric Seidman

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Wait, the Yankees won?! I decided to turn in for the night as C.J. Wilson led comfortably, 5-1. Even though Robinson Cano had just homered, the game had that feel of being practically over. I wake up and lo and behold, I see a headline about being able to hear pin drops as the Yankees stunned the Rangers. That will teach me to make assumptions about games before they actually end! Today we get to see a game from each series, as the Rangers look to even things up at home, while the Phillies and Giants kick off their championship series with, hyperbole included, possibly the greatest playoff pitching matchup of the last decade: Tim Lincecum vs. Roy Halladay.

Below are the projections for the Phillies and lineups:

Giants (Tim Lincecum) at Phillies (Roy Halladay)
Projected Runs Scored: Phillies 4.09, Giants 3.68
Projected Odds of Winning: Phillies 54.77 percent, Giants 45.23 percent

Giants vs. Roy Halladay

Name

BA

OBP

SLG

Andres Torres

.243

.279

.401

Freddy Sanchez

.284

.305

.431

Aubrey Huff

.269

.306

.451

Buster Posey

.264

.295

.433

Pat Burrell

.242

.298

.421

Juan Uribe

.247

.272

.419

Cody Ross

.250

.285

.422

Pablo Sandoval

.279

.305

.447

Phillies vs. Tim Lincecum

Name

BA

OBP

SLG

Shane Victorino

.278

.339

.446

Placido Polanco

.302

.346

.454

Chase Utley

.270

.355

.454

Ryan Howard

.229

.319

.406

Jayson Werth

.238

.332

.398

Jimmy Rollins

.279

.338

.458

Raul Ibanez

.257

.327

.426

Carlos Ruiz

.269

.347

.430

PECOTA expects the Phillies to win, which makes sense, as in a matchup of pitchers as talented as these, any slight advantage in the other areas will be magnified. Here, the home-field advantage comes into play, as does the ability for several Phillies hitters to avoid strikeouts in their own true talent levels. Why does this matter, you ask? Well, the reasoning deals with how Lincecum’s main strength is the mighty whiff, and in computing the odds ratio for the likelihood of a strikeout occurring against low-K hitters like Victorino, Polanco, Utley, Rollins, and Ruiz, it seems that Timmy’s strength is a bit neutralized. This also explains how hitters like Howard, Werth, and Ibanez have such relatively low outputs.

Think of it this way: Polanco’s strikeout rate—which is SO/(PA-BB-HBP)—from a true talent standpoint is 7.1 percent. Lincecum’s comes out to be 27.9 percent, while the league is obviously below that at exactly 20 percent. Then, using the home-field advantage for strikeouts, which is a five-year rolling average of home strikeout rate minus road strikeout rate, we subtract .011 from Polanco’s total. This means the odds ratio is computed by using a 20 percent league, the 27.9 percent Lincecum, and the now 7.09 percent Polanco. In this case, the home-field advantage doesn’t do much as strikeouts are consistent. After getting the number, the park factor for strikeouts at Citizens Bank Park, are added to the output. Our park factors are additive and this provides the end number.

For a player like Polanco, a strikeout is going to occur far less frequently than it would for someone like Howard, and because of that PECOTA expects more balls to be put in play. Polanco’s strong suit is putting the ball in play, and his rate of hits against Lincecum’s rate of allowing hits tilts in the hot corner helmsman’s favor. Simply put, Polanco’s line looks solid because he doesn’t strike out. Howard, on the other hand, strikes out a ton, and when a high-strikeout batter meets a high-strikeout pitcher, what do you think happens most of the time? Strikeouts! Which means that the power output will be high relative to the BA and OBP, but that the BA and OBP will be very low since they are penalized for all of those strikeouts. Werth strikes out less than Howard but a similar result is expected.

This game was going to be close no matter how one sliced it, but PECOTA does foresee the Phillies taking a 1-0 lead at home. What about the Yankees and Rangers? Will the Rangers finally win a home game?

Yankees (Phil Hughes) at Rangers (Colby Lewis)
Projected Runs Scored: Rangers 5.25, Yankees 4.84
Projected Odds of Winning: Rangers 54.04 percent, Yankees 45.96 percent

Yankees vs. Colby Lewis

Name

BA

OBP

SLG

Derek Jeter

.303

.365

.477

Nick Swisher

.258

.349

.463

Mark Teixeira

.286

.370

.513

Alex Rodriguez

.280

.365

.510

Robinson Cano

.313

.354

.521

Marcus Thames

.254

.313

.458

Jorge Posada

.273

.355

.472

Curtis Granderson

.272

.338

.473

Brett Gardner

.267

.337

.421

Rangers vs. Phil Hughes

Name

BA

OBP

SLG

Elvis Andrus

.289

.361

.462

Michael Young

.315

.371

.513

Josh Hamilton

.306

.370

.535

Vladimir Guerrero

.328

.376

.557

Nelson Cruz

.279

.345

.497

Ian Kinsler

.308

.382

.528

Jeff Francoeur

.290

.339

.478

Mitch Moreland

.289

.350

.483

Bengie Molina

.315

.351

.516

PECOTA thinks the Rangers will head to New York with a 1-1 split, but it also projected them to win last night’s game. Then again, they were winning last night’s game, and comfortably so, until all hell broke loose. Given the low probability of a rally like that occurring, I feel safe saying PECOTA didn’t miss the game, or get it wrong, it just didn’t anticipate late-game heroics. The system doesn’t like the starting pitching matchup very much, forecasting over 10 runs, but this has a lot to do with the run environment itself and not necessarily the hitter-friendliness of The Ballpark in Arlington.

 So what say ye? Will the Phils get up 1-0 while the Rangers tie everything up?  

Eric Seidman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Eric's other articles. You can contact Eric by clicking here

1 comment has been left for this article.

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