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October 13, 2009

Prospectus Today

Completion

by Joe Sheehan

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If you followed last night's in-game roundtable, you got the visceral reaction to Jim Tracy's decision to allow Huston Street to face Ryan Howard in the ninth inning with the tying runs on base and two outs. (You got something similar if you follow my Twitter account, @joe_sheehan.) In the interest of analysis, let's let the data do the talking this morning.

Ryan Howard is the best left-handed batter in baseball against right-handed pitching. There is no one better than him, no one. He hits for average (.319 in 2009, with a .339 BABIP) and power (.372 ISO, with an extra-base hit every six at-bats) and posts an acceptable walk rate (about one UIBB in ten PA) for a very good OBP of .395. The specifics have bounced around a bit from year to year, but his 2009 numbers against northpaws are a good match for his career numbers: .307/.409/.661, .338 BABIP, about a 10 percent UIBB rate. The only hitter you might prefer at the plate with a right-handed pitcher on the mound in Albert Pujols, although the 2009 version of Joe Mauer is in the discussion as well. Howard is simply a devastating force against righties, one of the very best in memory at hitting them.

When a left-hander is pitching, Howard is a bad hitter. In 2009, he batted .207 with a .299 BABIP, striking out in nearly a third of his plate appearances. He had an ISO of just .149 and inferior walk and extra-base hit rates. It was the worst full-season performance of his career against left-handers, but not that out of line with his 2007 and 2008 lines. (In 2006, Howard posted a .368 BABIP against lefties, which boosted his overall line against them to .279/.364/.558. That stands out as a fluke.) For the three-year period covering 763 plate appearances, Howard has batted .219/.308/.379. Whereas his comps are singular-Albert Pujols-when a righty is on the mound, it's a different story when a lefty pitches. In terms of his overall effectiveness against lefties, he hits a bit like Pedro Feliz and Cristian Guzman did this year, or Jack Wilson before his trade to the AL.

At around 7:45 p.m. Mountain Time last night, Jim Tracy needed one out to get his team a second win in the Division Series, to push them to a deciding fifth game. He had Albert Pujols, more or less, at the plate, and he had the option to turn Pujols into Pedro Feliz just by walking to the mound and tapping his left arm. With one move, he could have dramatically increased his team's chance of getting an out, winning the game, flying back to Philadelphia on the heels of a dramatic comeback victory.

And as we know, he didn't do it. Jim Tracy chose to face a batter with an 1100 OPS instead of one with a 700 OPS. That, more than anything else that happened, is why the Rockies lost.

William Burke raised the point in the roundtable that Street had a large reverse-OPS split in 2009. Let's examine that. Bil was right, factually: Street was very effective against left-handed batters in 2009, allowing a .167/.227/.265 line to them in 111 plate appearances. Right-handers hit .217/.244/.375 in 129 PAs. But while the OPS gap is large, it is entirely due to the difference in batting average on balls in play and what happened on fly balls, neither of which is indicative of Street's actual skills. Street allowed a .300 BABIP and five home runs to righties, just .195 and two bombs to lefties. Dan Malkiel ran the numbers and found that the underlying rates of batted balls allowed don't support these splits-they're a fluke. Moreover, Street's non-contact data clearly shows him to have been more effective against right-handed batters: he struck out 36 percent of the right-handed batters he faced, and walked just three righties unintentionally all year long. Compare that to 21 percent of lefties struck out with six unintentional walks allowed in fewer PA. Street is clearly much more effective against right-handed batters.

This is supported by his career data. Street has allowed nearly identical batting averages on balls in play in his career to hitters on both sides of the plate. However, he has struck out a higher percentage of righties and walked them at about half the rate he's walked lefties. He's also allowed much more power-a .151 ISO and 16 homers-to lefties than to righties (.082 and nine). There is no way to read Street's track record and conclude that he's more effective against left-handed batters, and even a cursory look at his pitching style would support that as well.

In the interest of being thorough, let's note that since he returned to the majors as a full-time reliever in 2006, Joe Beimel has held left-handed batters to a .301 OBP with an extra-base hit in about every 14 at-bats.

Given all of that information, how much do you have to believe in the closer myth to have allowed Street to face Howard with the season on the line? You have to believe, basically, that the skill involved in closing games, getting the 27th out, is so large that it makes up the difference between the very best hitter in the game, one of the best in history, and a mediocre shortstop. Even that may be generous, as it doesn't consider that Howard's line against lefties included a lot of ABs against guys like Tom Glavine and Johan Santana, fastball/changeup pitchers who come over the top and don't specialize in getting lefties out. Beimel is a different animal, as his stats show.

A manager's job is to put his team in position to win, and he does that by putting his players in the best possible position to succeed. Tracy didn't do that, and in fact, he aggressively made the situation worse for Street and the Rockies. You can argue that Street "failed" in some sense, but the guy was asked to do something-get Ryan Howard out using his right arm-that hundreds of pitchers have been failing at for half a decade. He didn't have to be in that situation. I've probably used the "it's called playing the percentages" line a couple of hundred times, but last night is the first time I can honestly say that a team would have been better off with Montgomery Burns in the dugout than with the manager they had. Tracy made just about the maximum possible error you can make, calling to mind a Buffalo Wild Wings commercial more than a guy who's probably going to get a nice piece of hardware this winter.

It's funny…because I missed Beimel's cameo in Game Three, I wrote a couple hundred words in Monday's piece that I had to immediately retract, words that castigated Tracy for not using Beimel in the ninth inning. As it turns out, the entire paragraph could have been written after yesterday's game, nearly verbatim, and been completely correct.

There's one absolute when you face the Phillies-don't let Ryan Howard face a right-handed pitcher in any kind of game-critical situation. Tracy's in-game tactics flew in the face of that, and so he doesn't get to fly to Philadelphia. The team, the organization and the fans all deserved better.

---

Tracy's failure overshadowed another entertaining game that featured strong starts by both Cliff Lee and Ubaldo Jimenez, another set of quality at-bats such as we saw Sunday, more Charlie Manuel bullpen juggling, and at least one play I've never seen before. Setting aside Howard for the moment, let's note that the Phillies' rally started with another hit by Jimmy Rollins and was extended by a walk to Chase Utley. They had to get the inning to Howard for Tracy to fail, and they did just that.

I'm getting a lot of enjoyment watching Manuel, who in my eyes made Tracy look even worse right after the ninth-inning rally. With the Rockies due to send three lefties and a switch-hitter to the plate, Manuel passed on bringing in his closer, Brad Lidge-a move that would have been automatic in all but a tiny percentage of games in the past decade-and started the ninth with lefty specialist Scott Eyre, who basically has never closed. Eyre wasn't effective, allowing a pair of singles before giving way to Lidge, who retired Troy Tulowitzki to end the series, but he was the best man for the job regardless of his career saves total. It was a beautiful moment; Manuel watched his team get three runs in part because his counterpart made a mistake, and then he himself showed what the right play would have been minutes later.

Because of Lidge's season-long ineffectiveness, Manuel has been forced to go away from a closer-centric bullpen. Lidge has closed two games in a row, but the first was largely due to circumstance-Scott Eyre's injury in the seventh was the trigger event-and the second he was hardly used as a capital-C closer, but rather in a matchup setting. I don't think for a second that Brad Lidge is a reliable high-leverage option; I do think that he can be used tactically against right-handers because his slider is mostly still an effective weapon against them. If Manuel keeps him in a protected role, the Phillies are going to be much better off than if he decides it's 2008 again. All we really know about Brad Lidge off of this series is that Troy Tulowitzki is lost against him. (Tulowitzki took a hanging slider on 1-1 that he'll probably be seeing in his dreams until spring training.)

Carlos Gonzalez had a ridiculous series, which doesn't mean he's certain to be a star, but he had so many good at-bats against left-handed pitchers that you have to like his chance to become an everyday player. He has every tool-he nearly gunned down Jimmy Rollins at third base in the third inning, in addition to all the bat work-and he showed skills in 2009 that haven't always been there. Before this series, I would have taken Dexter Fowler every day and twice on Sunday; now, I'm less sure, in part because the Rockies have put Gonzalez in center and Fowler in left, clearly ranking them that way defensively. A team with the contact staff the Rockies have needs a good defensive outfield, and the Rockies have two-thirds of one lined up for the next five years.

Gonzalez had another big game, but Fowler had maybe the best moment, leaping over the back of Chase Utley during the Rockies' eighth-inning rally to avoid both a tag and an interference call. The move may have startled Utley into a bad throw that allowed Fowler to reach second, a key play in the Rockies' mooted comeback. I had never seen a baserunner make that kind of play before, and I probably wouldn't recommend it again as the risk of injuries to both players as well as the likelihood of an interference call are high, but it was the highlight of the night.

Before all the late-inning machinations, Cliff Lee was putting together another virtuoso performance, his second of the series. He wasn't able to complete the game, and because it all went bad when he left, we got a glimpse of just how big the gap is for the Phillies between the guys who start and the guys who come in later. They need good starts, deep starts, to win. They survived two bullpen failures in this series because the Rockies did a mostly lousy job with runners on base, because they got a critical umpire mistake in Game Three, and because Jim Tracy was awful. They can't count on any of those things in the NLCS, where they'll face a better offensive team with a much better manager and see four starts by lefties in the first six games.

If baseball games were six innings long, I'd take the Phillies against any team in baseball except maybe the Yankees. At nine innings, their chances just aren't the same.

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

67 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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thenamestsam

Rob Neyer in his chat today was asked whether this was the wrong decision, and said that while he agrees in principal that having Howard face a lefty is better, Tracy won a lot of games with Street this year, so leaving him out there was the right move. Is that the dumbest argument in history?

Oct 13, 2009 10:11 AM
rating: 3
 
Matt Kory

I expect more out of Neyer. Maybe being employed by the WWL is causing his brain to atrophy.

Oct 13, 2009 12:32 PM
rating: 0
 
Polfro

Last night's post-game shows on TBS and MLB featured a total of nine "analysts" grouped around two tables. NOT ONE of them questioned Tracy's non-use of Beimel against Howard.

Now you know why I read Baseball Prospectus.

Oct 13, 2009 10:12 AM
rating: 2
 
jkaplow21

"He wasn't able to complete the game, and because it all went bad when he left, we got a glimpse of just how big the gap is for the Phillies between the guys who start and the guys who come in later. "

Really? These editorial comments just make me roll my eyes. Lee came out with 2 men on base and the Phillies best reliever, one of the best in the league came in. He was the only one to allow any runs. The other "guys who come in later" didn't allow one run. The Phillies bullpen ERA was 14th in the league, more than a half run higher than the Rockies.

If you want to say that he gap between Lee and ANY releiver is huge, you'd be on money. But making that comment focusing on the Phillies pen when their best guy came in and the other two guys didn't allow a run is ridiculously biased interpretation.

Oct 13, 2009 10:15 AM
rating: -1
 
prs130

Madson made one bad pitch (to Torrealba). If Giambi can fist one into left field, well, fine, that's baseball. And the bad pitch to Torrealba came after some serious squeezing from the HPU. Cliff Lee started Fowler off with three strikes, and was rewarded with a 3-0 count. Madson got squeezed a couple times and the 'mistake' to Torrealba has to be considered in context.

Oct 13, 2009 10:31 AM
rating: 0
 
Steve D.

I'm typically a big supporter of Joe's stuff, but I do find it funny that the guy who he continually touts (probably correctly) as the Phils' best reliever, Madson, does not get mentioned by name as the guy who allowed the rally and supposedly epitomizes an embattled bullpen. And of course prs130 is right; that rally consisted of a four-pitch walk that should have been a 1-3 count, a weird ground ball play, a bloop, and one legit hit.

Also, CarGo almost threw out Victorino early in the game, not Rollins.

Oct 13, 2009 11:24 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

A bullpen in which Ryan Madson is the best reliever isn't a very good bullpen. Madson is a good, 3.00-3.50 ERA guy, the kind who should be the second- even third-best guy in a good pen.

And I wrote a mash note to Madson for his work against Helton about 24 hours.

Oct 13, 2009 11:32 AM
 
hessshaun
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Well, there are many different ways to look through the glass. One of them is this. You know you are good when someone hates you.

And there is a gross, deep seeded hatred for the Phils from one Mr. Sheehan. Why that is, I don't know, but I am curious. Here are some of my theories but I must state that this is only conjecture and I am still sifting through the pile for some truth. Maybe some fellow readers can help me out?

1. Mets fan?

2. He has a great friend who is a complete ahole Philly fan?

3. He wore another team's jersey to Vets stadium one time?

Those would be my three guesses as to why he dislikes the Phils and all of them are justifiable reasons. That is where I would like to start. Also, I just want everyone to know that I fully support his dislike for the Phillies, because if we all liked the same team, this would ESPN.go.com and not Baseball Prospectus. But seriously, I am more curious than anything else and not trying to be a jerk. I always enjoy reading his pieces, Phil bashing or no Phil bashing.

How about some Behind the Story, Baseball Prospectus biographies? You know, some of the authors favorite teams, general hatred, greatest moments stuff? You are all great writers and I am sure it would be entertaining.

Finally, I am very happy to see that all the Round Table members chose the Dodgers for two reasons. It helps to preserve my expectation levels much like insulin keeps diabetes in check. Being an all Philadelphia fan for 30 years kills the sports psyche and it's a painful burden. With that burden, in lies a false confidence called superstition. You picked the Dodgers last year and I like the consistency. Surely if they make it past this round they won't be favored against either AL team... again.

Great write up.

Oct 13, 2009 12:11 PM
rating: -23
 
Richard Bergstrom

I was going to reply, then I realized that this Phillies fan would just irrationally boo me too.

Oct 13, 2009 14:30 PM
rating: -1
 
eighteen

I had always thought Yankee and Red Sox fans were the most obnoxious and loud-mouthed. Then I got a BP subscription, and was introduced to Phillies fans.

Oct 13, 2009 15:19 PM
rating: 1
 
Bob

For what it's worth (not much), some friends of mine and I came up with a quasi-scientific "douche-bag quotient" to measure the obnoxiousness and offensiveness of individual and entire teams' fans. Phillies fans scored the highest, followed by Yankee fans, Mets fans, and Red Sox fans.

Oct 13, 2009 15:25 PM
rating: -1
 
DLaRoss

As long as Mets fans are on the list too, I suppose I can't complain.

Oct 13, 2009 15:30 PM
rating: 0
 
Bob

I'm actually a Mets' fan myself, but yeah, booing your own players on a regular basis doesn't help.

Oct 13, 2009 15:46 PM
rating: 0
 
hessshaun
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I would have to agree with that. The problem is, no one talks about it when you are that fan because you get lumped into a category. It's the same reason the media talks about Philly fans in the same manner that they pile on A Rod in the playoffs. It's just too easy.

Generally, you will notice that the level of douche is directly proportional to the winning percentage of said douches team. It's not a difficult equation because when someone isn't winning, they aren't talking.

Oct 13, 2009 16:21 PM
rating: -4
 
Richard Bergstrom

The Phillies had a low winning percentage when their fans were still booing Schmidt, Schilling, etc. I think your winning percentage argument is due to sample size.

:)

Oct 13, 2009 17:08 PM
rating: -1
 
hessshaun
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If you equate booing to douchery, then yes, we are douches. Just out of curiosity, how does Philadelphia booing Schilling make you feel or how does it effect you?

Oct 13, 2009 19:05 PM
rating: -4
 
Richard Bergstrom

I just used Schilling for alliteration purposes. I also Phillies fans have booed some people with good cause (like Drew) and others with less of a good reason (like Rolen). Now, I've never been to a Phillies game, so can only go by what I've read and occasionally seen on TV, but for whatever reason, the Phillies fans are hard on their players.

Then again, I'm a Cubs fan and can't really talk much the last few years...

Oct 13, 2009 22:21 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

Having been to a lot of Phillies games and seeing a number of games in other stadiums, I don't think Phillies fans are particularly hostile towards players any more so than any other team in the northeast, at least.

The Rolen example is a bad one, because he got booed for allegedly turning down a much larger deal with the Phillies (the reports were 10/$140MM back in 2002, but who knows if tht was true) on the basis that they were not trying to win. Meanwhile, they are the only team other than the Red Sox and Yankees to have winning seasons every season from 2003-2009. The rejection of big money to play in Philadelphia because he did not understanding the tremendous talent they were acquiring and drafting as they rebuilt-- that's why he got booed.

The portrayal of Philadelphia fans in the media is very contrived. There is talk radio in Philadelphia, and a dose of that will knock a few points off your IQ, but you hear the same kind of stuff on New York talk radio, too. Every city has those stereotypical stupid, drunkard, fat, sunburned fans sitting up the nose bleed seats telling every player he is a bum. The difference is the screen time that they get in national media makes it seem like the city is crawling with them.

Oct 14, 2009 05:49 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

I knew about the contract, but my understanding is that Rolen was regularly being booed before that because he was not a superstar/Schmidt type.

I've never lived east of Purdue, and I don't really listen to talk radio, so all I've ever gone by is online articles, newspapers.. heck even the "Baseball Hall of Shame" series had a section on it.

But yeah, each team has its stereotypes. The perception of Cubs fans have changed dramatically over the last decade, especially as the White Sox and Cardinals have won World Series and our fanbase has gone from "lovable losers" to "often booers"

Oct 14, 2009 08:57 AM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

How about Booing McNabb on draft day.

Or booing Santa Claus?

Oct 14, 2009 13:07 PM
rating: -1
 
hessshaun

Santa Claus was drunk. McNabb was alcohol and wrong but what are you going to do?

Rolen was complaining in the media as was Schilling. And so was Schmidt for that matter. Rolen still gets booed here. Schilling still has really strong ties to the area. Schmidt lives in Florida but loves the fans and the feeling is mutual. I don't think I heard a negative thing about him in the last 10-15 years other than the fact that I think he is baseball's version of Namath. The man likes to throw them down.

Oct 14, 2009 15:45 PM
rating: 0
 
tooci4

Any ranking that doesn't have Red Sox fan on the top is completely invalid.

Oct 13, 2009 19:33 PM
rating: 0
 
prs130

I thought Cliff Lee finally figured out Carlos Gonzalez in their last encounter... first pitch at chin, second pitch at outside corner, repeat. And I haven't seen him hit a decent curveball either.

Oct 13, 2009 10:24 AM
rating: 1
 
akachazz

Hey guys.

Did I miss Sheehan's article about the other division series's, is it still forthcoming or did it get scrapped?

Oct 13, 2009 10:28 AM
rating: -2
 
vtadave

Should be interesting to see how Joe Torre sets his rotation. Will he go with this?:

Wolf, Kershaw, Padilla, Kuroda, Wolf, Kershaw, Padilla - Vicente Padilla in a deciding Game 7 against Ryan Howard and Chase Utley?

or this?:

Wolf, Kershaw, Padilla, Wolf, Kuroda, Kershaw, Wolf

Can't wait to read BP's take on this series.

Oct 13, 2009 10:29 AM
rating: 0
 
faithdies

Wolf has murdered the Phillies everytime I've seen him pitch against them. It just seems like the Phillies don't like medium speed/breaking ball lefties. That's completely from memory and with no stats to back it up, haha.

Oct 13, 2009 11:25 AM
rating: 0
 
bugbear

Baseball-Reference, man. He's faced them 3 times since he's left, and was hit around once this year (6 ER in 6 IP) but was solid in the other two starts.

Also, the Phillies bullpen will look significantly better if Chan Ho Park is back and at full health. He was (quietly, it seems) our best reliever this year, and often went 2 or 3 innings. Happ will likely be in the pen all series too, and Blanton should be there some. The situation will only be dire if Charlie sticks with Lidge in the 9th.

Oct 13, 2009 11:40 AM
rating: 2
 
Vinegar Bend
(477)

Tracy may have been "playing the percentages" a la Monty Burns in the sense that Howard is 3 for 10 with a double, triple, homer, and 3 walks against Beimel (.300/.462/.900).
If he doesn't understand sample size, he may have genuinely thought he had a favorable matchup with Street in there.

Oct 13, 2009 11:44 AM
rating: 6
 
Saroff

Joe - agree with you 100% on last night and every time you make this point. "There's one absolute when you face the Phillies—don't let Ryan Howard face a right-handed pitcher in any kind of game-critical situation."

Let's play this out with your favorite team in a perfectly realistic situation - one that Joe Girardi may have this month...what if it is the most game critical situation and what if that right hander is Mariano Rivera?

Top 9th. No Outs. Game 7 of the WS. Yankees 5 - Phillies 4. Bases Loaded. Ryan Howard up. Mariano Rivera on the mound. Mo has pitched to one batter and gave up a broken-bat infield hit on an 0-2 count. Only pitchers left in the bullpen are Chad Gaudin, Damaso Marte and Phil Coke. (Given the stakes and situation all other starters/relievers are burned).

Rivera actually has a tiny reverse-split. (OPS of .586 against RHB, .511 against LHB).

What do you do?

If you leave him in, does your opinion change if you have better options than Gaudin still available?

I leave Mo in. And, I probably leave him in in all cases, unless I have Phil Hughes still available.

Anyone else?

Oct 13, 2009 11:58 AM
rating: 5
 
hessshaun

You can't take Mo out and for a number of reasons. First and foremost, self preservation. You take out a "still great" legend and lose the game, he would never live that down and lose his job. I would imagine a fair share of fans in the greater NY area would literally like his head on a platter as well. If your ship sinks and Rivera is the Captain, the people are more understanding. Gaudin, Marte, and Coke would all need new cities next year.

Oct 13, 2009 12:17 PM
rating: -2
 
Saroff

Fair point - Shaun - I should have made my question more explicit.

Assume your only goal is to win this single game.

Oct 13, 2009 12:22 PM
rating: 2
 
rweiler

Mariano Rivera isn't a a typical pitcher since he relies so much on a 'cut fastball' that is very effective against left handed batters. I'd let Rivera pitch against Howard even if Pill Hughes was available. Hughes is also right handed and not nearly as effective against left handed batters.

Oct 13, 2009 12:25 PM
rating: 0
 
Saroff

Agreed. Should also be clear in my answer. If Hughes was avail, I would bring in Coke for Ryan Howard and then turn to Hughes for the next 8 batters.

Oct 13, 2009 12:28 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

I suspect that because Rivera's skill against left-handed batters, over his career, is about as extreme as Howard's skill against righties and his platoon differential, I would leave him in. We're basically talking about the outer edges of the curves here.

Great, great question.

Oct 13, 2009 12:43 PM
 
ccmonter

This an "exception to the rule" scenario.
Of course, this is an extremely unlikely scenario.

How did the Phillies load the bases with 0 outs in the 9th and Mariano has only pitched to 1 batter?
Ok, I'm nitpicking. Mo could have loaded the bases himself on three "bad hits".

Oct 13, 2009 12:55 PM
rating: 0
 
DLaRoss

CC Sabathia put runners on first and second before abandoning his bid for a complete game. All the other starters and relievers saw at least two innings of work in the previous day's 19-inning nail-biter, except for David Robertson, who broke his leg in an ill-advised attempt to cross the street in front of Yankee Stadium.

Oct 13, 2009 13:50 PM
rating: -1
 
ccmonter

CC. should not have been there in the 9th, having given up 4 runs already. So let's assume the score was 1-0 instead.

CC. should have stayed in to face Utley and Howard.

Oct 13, 2009 14:03 PM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

Mo is the exception that proves the rule. If you have a RH relief pitcher who is not as good as Mariano, then you use a lefty.

Oct 13, 2009 15:30 PM
rating: -1
 
Rob_in_CT

Mo isn't a normal RHP. He kills LHB, just kills 'em. Plus, even leaving out platoon splits, he's just plain awesome. So no, you don't take him out in favor of Phil Coke.

If Mo were a little more normal and if Coke was, say, Billy Wagner, then it gets interesting.

Oct 14, 2009 05:50 AM
rating: 0
 
Saroff

Fair point - Shaun - I should have made my question more explicit.

Assume your only goal is to win this single game.

Oct 13, 2009 12:21 PM
rating: 1
 
hessshaun

Kind of relates to my point above and the use of the word "legend". Even without the aide of knowing that he has been in that same position before, and failed, or knowing that he has been on the featured stage many nights, I still go with Mo. His splits are nice regardless of all the intangibles and prior experience factor. You know he can make his pitch.

Oct 13, 2009 12:29 PM
rating: -1
 
TomPerdu

Not a realistic scenario. If the Yankees are winning 5-4 in the 9th, Mariano's coming in at the beginning of the inning.

Rivera's about 70 points of OPS better against LHP than RHP. That's comparable how to Howard's 400 point platoon differential?

Oct 13, 2009 12:49 PM
rating: 0
 
thenamestsam

The Platoon split may not be as dramatic, but I think Joe was making the point that Rivera destroys lefties to roughly the same degree that Howard destroys righties. It just so happens that Mo also destroys righties.

Oct 13, 2009 15:25 PM
rating: -1
 
mglick0718

Surprised no one mentioned what I thought was Tracy's failure before the obvious Street/Beimel fiasco, which was not leaving Betancourt in to start the 9th. That would have left him the more palatable (in Tracy's mind) option of bringing in Beimel when Utley/Howard came up without showing up your closer by removing him, not to mention worrying about what would happen if Beimel didn't get Howard out. Completely ridiculous bullpen management all around.

Oct 13, 2009 13:17 PM
rating: 2
 
rossbschauf
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With all due respect to the great writers and analysis on this site: will anyone at BP, in perhaps an "ombudsman-like" objective role, address this simple fact:
In the last four postseason series, the consensus view of the BP cognoscenti has been that the Phillies would lose each series. The consensus view was Milwaukee over Phillies; Dodgers over Phillies; Tampa over Phillies, and here, in the most recent series, at the very least a significant portion if not consensus view was Rockies over Phillies.

Reading through the chat transcript from last night, the next consensus prognosis seems clear: BP consensus is that the phillies will lose to the better team for the 5th straight series.

Will any objective ombudsman-like figure address this as an attempt at a salient, reasonable and non-reactionary viewpoint -- not one of BP's bias, but of interest in addressing how BP's analysis could point to a completely wrong prediction in so many successive series, moreover to the obvious discomfort of certain BP analysts?

Oct 13, 2009 13:27 PM
rating: -4
 
Vinegar Bend
(477)

what would be the point?

Oct 13, 2009 13:42 PM
rating: -1
 
R.A.Wagman

I think Joe mentioned quite clearly in his quick take series preview piece last week. What matters is the analysis - the prediction is futile. If you find his analysis faulty, bring that up. If you don;t like his predictions, well, he seemingly doesn't either. Happy baseball!

Oct 13, 2009 13:46 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Because we really, really, really hate the Phillies. No, Philadelphia. The people are dirty, rude and simple. The women are ugly, the ground covered in the people's waste. The food is vile, the architecture dull and uninspired. The city's last contribution to the world was the construction of a road leading out of it.

If being wrong about some baseball series, as a collection of 25 "men" luckbox their way to success thanks to a combination of weak opponents, godforsaken umpiring and Biblical weather...if our being wrong about these events calls the world's attention to the cesspool filled with vermin that is Philadelphia, then it's been well worth it.

From the first online exchange between Clay Davenport and Gary Huckabay, through nearly a million books sold and a billion Web pages fed, BP has had but one goal: eradicate Philadelphia, its citizens and its admirers.

With God's will, we shall succeed.

Oct 13, 2009 13:55 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom
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Joe, I know that comment is supposed to be satirical and over the top, but I didn't find it all that funny.

-1 and a thumbs down.

Oct 13, 2009 14:26 PM
rating: -4
 
eighteen

Of course you didn't. Joe forgot to mention Philadelphia's also the place humor goes to die.

Oct 13, 2009 15:25 PM
rating: 4
 
hessshaun

Actually, I like Joe, and that comment made me like him even more. I appreciate that he took the time to write that out and put some effort into it. BP is the place where baseball humor goes to die. Some people take this way too seriously and I am not talking about the staff. It's their job.

I just wonder why Joe dislikes the Phils, that's all. I am a fan of his and that won't change. I guess the moral of the story for me is this. Who cares? To me, the answer to that question would just make my reading more enjoyable because there are emotions invested in everything that you do in life. It's one more angle to look at something and that's why I am here in the first place.

Cheers, and we have at least 12 games left this year fellas!

Oct 13, 2009 16:54 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

All things considered, I think Joe was harder on the Rockies and their bumbling than on the Phillies.

Oct 13, 2009 17:09 PM
rating: 2
 
hessshaun

Agreed.

Oct 13, 2009 19:08 PM
rating: 1
 
sanott

Philadelphia, wonderful town, spent a week there one night!

Oct 13, 2009 17:21 PM
rating: 0
 
Vinegar Bend
(477)

"city's last contribution was the construction of a road leading out it"
that's gold -- I'm going to use that one on my Dallas friends

Oct 13, 2009 14:37 PM
rating: 1
 
emanski

So Howard showed unprecedented poise, Manuel's managing was surprising (in a good way) and Brad Lidge managed not to blow 2 games in a row, and Phillies win. Pretty exciting.

Phillies fans, watching Comcast Sportsnet but bored with an endless Ricky Bottalico rant against umpires and a little afraid of what Darren Daulton might say next, think, "Let me go online and check my favorite baseball analysis site, which I pay to read, baseballprospectus.com." And they read this: "Dodgers in six. If I'm wrong, it's because the number's high."

Joe's recap of the game today, I thought, was good. But that comment last night was a sucker punch. Jim Tracy managed terribly, no question. Beimel should have been in there, but he wasn't - and Howard still deserves credit for coming through in a clutch situation, which is, after all, the only reason we watch, and what made that game so exciting.

Here's the thing about Beane's infamous axiom: if analysis and reason don't work in the playoffs, then if you are going to make a prediction, why make it so boldly? I mean, Joe was saying it's the playoffs, that accurate predictions are really difficult - but the Phillies are *definitely* going to lose!

I suspect it is possible that a team that is 14-4 in its last 4 playoff series has some chance of winning the next one and not just because of luck, or because they don't shatter like Devil Rays in cold weather. I don't really believe that any fan, reading that comment last night, if it were about his or her team, would say, "Hmm, objectively speaking, interesting analysis."

That's not to say an angry rant against Joe Sheehan is called for. But if generalities are at odds with good analysis, then why is it ok to drop all Phillies fans in one bucket? There are rude fans of every team, except maybe the Cardinals. You can't say all Southerners are dumb because you know a dumb Southerner, can you? So lay off Phillies Nation. Pick on specific jackasses. And hey: Phillies in 7. If I'm wrong, it's because the number is too high.

Oct 13, 2009 18:01 PM
rating: 8
 
Richard Bergstrom

Um... well, this is an analysis and prediction site... so it makes sense to make a prediction. The alternative is what, ignoring the series?

Even if it's harder to make a prediction, or because of the short nature of a series, there's more of a chance that a logically sound prediction loses to luck... so, similarly, it's more likely that BP's prediction doesn't match the results... yet then people extrapolate those predictions that don't work out to imply all BP analysis is seriously flawed.

Then, there's probably a bit of a proprietary element to it too. Let's say you have a system... We'll call it RICOLA... that works well for a large majority of player and team projections. Perhaps RICOLA doesn't factor in certain elements with the correct weight, but overall, it does a very good job. Let's also say that those elements it can't factor in are hard to measure, like team chemistry, bullpen optimization, etc. Do you discard the projections of your own system if that system "mostly works"?

Oct 13, 2009 22:18 PM
rating: -1
 
Bob

As Billy Beane said (and Nate Silver explained): this shit doesn't work in the playoffs.

In a five or seven game series in October (as in June), unfortunately, the best team doesn't always win.

Oct 13, 2009 13:59 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Derek Jacques
BP staff

I'm not objective, and I'm definitely not "ombudsman-like," whatever that means, but I will point out that BP's Playoff Prospectus for this series was for the Phils to win in 4 games (odd coincidence, that), so that's an odd concept of "consensus" that you're sporting.

Personally, I was rooting for the Rockies last night, not because I preferred them in the series or dislike the Phillies, but because I wanted one more night of baseball on the 2009 schedule.

Oct 13, 2009 15:17 PM
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

Yeah, I wouldn't call it a consensus opinion. Eric Seidman picked the Phillies in his series preview, and Clay's playoff odds had the Phillies favored too (and has them heavily favored against the Dodgers).

Joe picks against the Phillies a lot. And it's true that the 3rd order projected standings tend to understate the Phillies at times due to the fact that (a) any run estimator (EqA in this instance) will not always account for the benefits of having a top-heavy lineup like the Phillies, especially with the best OBP guy batting before the best SLG guy, and (b) Manuel manages his bullpen pretty well before the 9th inning, and so they strand a lot of runners. Using 3rd order records instead of 1st order records or regular W-L records will get you more accurate estimations of team quality overall, but that does not mean every team will be better estimated by 3rd order records.

But the supposed bias across the board from the writers does not exist-- keep in mind Eric and I are both phans ourselves.

Oct 13, 2009 15:32 PM
 
ScottyB

The BP method of analysis (which I think is superior and for which I happily pay a subsciption fee to read), like any other perspective, has blind spots. BP tends to over-rate the A's and the Indians and under-rate the Angels and the Phillies. They do not do this out of spite, but because there is no perfect machine.

Oct 13, 2009 15:33 PM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Eric Seidman
BP staff

I picked the Phillies to win 3-1 in the NLCS preview. The Phillies won 3-1. There may be some odd decisions here from time to time--like Milwaukee over Philadelphia--but not everyone here hates the Phillies. In fact, Matt S and I are pretty hardcore Phils fans.

Oct 15, 2009 08:38 AM
 
DLaRoss

Even setting aside the "let's stick with our closer" idiocy, how do you pitch to Jayson Werth after the game is tied? There are two outs, a runner's in scoring position, first base is open, Werth's had a superb season, he's already got a homer in the game, he's a right-hander when your pitcher on the mound is a guy who specializes in getting lefties out, and thanks to a double-switch, the pitcher's spot is up next! In what reality does it make sense to throw the ball within five feet of him?

Oct 13, 2009 13:36 PM
rating: 6
 
Richard Bergstrom

After watching this series, I wonder how much the outcome would have changed if Morales had remained as the Rockies closer after Street came off the DL.

If the idea to move Morales to a setup role was to have an extra left-handed reliever, then Tracy should be faulted for not using Morales/Beimel against Howard each time he came up to the plate.

Also, you have to fault Tracy for not using Smith and Iannetta more. Sure, Torrealba got a lot of clutch hits, but if Smith and/or Iannetta had played more, the Rockies might have scored more runs and negated the need for a clutch hit.

Oct 13, 2009 14:20 PM
rating: 0
 
kjohnson

Joe, what does the research say about allocating playing time in the play-offs? How should players' performance over the last few years versus this season as a whole versus recent weeks and months be weighed? At what point is a hot streak or slump significant versus when is it chance?

Oct 13, 2009 15:44 PM
rating: 0
 
jkaplow21

I admit, some Phillies fans here, like me, are irrational. You can't fight the numbers and BP definitely has the numbers on their side. Clearly Joe and the gang ran this series through their heads like, oh, a million times, and the most likely outcome is that the Dodgers win it in 5 or 6. Just check out the post season probabily page to check their work.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/statistics/postseasonodds.php

Win DS Win CS Win WS
LAD 100.0000 32.3828 12.8439
PHI 100.0000 67.6172 36.1041

Oh wait, this simulation must have not pitched a lefty against Howard. Let's pretend it doesn't exist...

Oct 13, 2009 18:13 PM
rating: -3
 
faithdies

This got out of hand quickly.
Joe, even though I took issue with your initial analysis of the Phils/Rockies series I don't think you deserve this lambasting.

Oct 14, 2009 08:58 AM
rating: 0
 
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