CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Player Profile: Kendry... (10/16)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Today: The ... (10/15)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Keep... (10/17)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run... (10/16)

October 16, 2009

Prospectus Today

The Reminder

by Joe Sheehan

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Well, as expected, Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels combined to allow nine runs in 10 innings, the Phillies scored all eight of their runs against left-handed pitchers, and Brad Lidge converted his third consecutive save opportunity.

This is why baseball brings you back year after year after year. Because while the big picture is viewable, while you can see things over the long term, the next moment is completely inscrutable. It fools you again and again. The things that aren't going to happen over a season or a career happen in a game, every day, and they make you get out of your seat and cheer, or slump into it with a sigh. Baseball provides more "I didn't see that coming" moments than any other. It's why the extended postseason works-when you match up baseball teams, any result is within reason. There aren't significant favorites or massive underdogs, there are just great players playing baseball.

Last night, the hitters got the best of two starters who might well both go on to Hall of Fame careers, might win multiple Cy Young Awards, might be the center of a number of championship teams. Kershaw can be unhittable at times, throwing both his fastball and a sharp curve with the same motion, locating each in the strike zone or somewhere else, as he chooses. Hamels is a power lefty who already has a World Series ring on his hand, and not because he was just along for the ride-he was the Phillies' best pitcher one year ago as they captured the World Series. Any analysis of last night's game would have foreseen a pitchers' duel, and for four innings, that's what we had.

Then baseball happened. Kershaw lost the strike zone, then his catcher. An eighth-place batter who plays for his glove hit a three-run homer, and a cleanup man who doesn't hit left-handers popped a two-run double. Suddenly Kershaw wasn't a Wi-Fi Age-version of Koufax, but just a 21-year-old kid with an incomplete beard who had to be sent to his room for not doing his assigned chores.

The game moved on from there, with Hamels getting knocked around himself and departing an inning later, and the game being turned over to the bullpens, a spot that should have favored the Dodgers. It didn't. Phillies relievers pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, stranded a leadoff double in the seventh, scuffled out of trouble after allowing three straight singles to start the eighth, and gave up a single and a walk in the ninth, sandwiched around a double play. The Dodgers batted .400/.444/.467 against the Phillies' bullpen, a great night, but scored just two runs, not enough to win.

That two runs might have been enough had George Sherrill had a better night. Starting the eighth with the Dodgers down 5-4, Sherrill had his worst outing since coming over, walking Howard and Jayson Werth, and then, perhaps trying to hard too throw strikes, surrendering a three-run homer to Raul Ibaņez. Sherrill was the right pitcher at the right time-Hong-Chih Kuo pitched the seventh and is apparently not able to go back into a game after sitting-but he failed on this night, struggling with location and eventually surrendering the runs that would provide the Phillies their margin. This wasn't Jim Tracy putting his charges in a tough spot; Joe Torre pressed the right buttons and on this night, his players didn't quite come through.

I should mention Torre's other decision that was questioned, the one to leave in Kershaw in the fifth. After the home run to Ruiz, Kershaw walked Hamels, which is usually a sign that you have to go get the guy. He bounced back to retire Jimmy Rollins and strike out Shane Victorino, though, leaving Torre with a good-albeit a bit off-lefty on the mound, two outs and two left-handed hitters coming to the plate. It didn't work out-Chase Utley walked and Howard hit a double off a poorly-located fastball-but the decision to leave the southpaw in rather than burn a different left-handed pitcher there was a reasonable one. Kershaw was seemingly righting himself, and the matchups for the Dodgers were favorable. Torre didn't make a mistake there, results notwithstanding.

The Phillies just did their jobs, scoring all eight runs off three swings of the bat, which has been their program all year long. Ruiz, Howard, and Ibaņez all took advantage of hittable pitches, the first two getting ahead in the count, the latter jumping on a pitch after two straight walks. Charlie Manuel didn't exactly get shutdown relief work, but he did aggressively mix-and-match just as he did in the NLDS, save for allowing Andre Ethier to get a free shot against a right-hander in the eighth as the tying run. Scott Eyre had been throwing, and in future games, it would behoove Manuel to make that switch, as Ethier is to the Dodgers' lineup what Howard is to the Phillies-the lefty who should be aggressively attacked with lefty relievers. Ethier's double in the seventh off of Antonio Bastardo isn't enough to change the proper approach to pitching to him.

Almost immediately after the game, I did my weekly Sporting News Radio spot (NyQuil'd up, no less) and was asked about Lidge, about whether his success over the past week would bolster his confidence in a way that improved his performance. I understand why the question would be asked, but I fail to see the connection between short-term results-end results, even as the inputs haven't been great-and the next outing. Lidge has three straight saves, but he's allowed four of 10 hitters to reach base, he has one strikeout and added just one swing-and-miss to his collection last night. He's barely effective, much less at all approaching his 2008 level. The cut fastball may eventually be a weapon for him, but right now it's just another pitch he's not locating very well. The 0-2 slider Lidge threw to Matt Kemp needed to be buried, and instead it was thigh-high. Maybe this is stubbornness, but I don't see anything from Lidge to indicate that he's back in any meaningful way.

The Phillies are in great shape now, with a 1-0 lead and a good matchup as they take on Vicente Padilla. Padilla relies heavily on his fastball and has struggled against lefties his entire career. His numbers since coming back to the NL are strong, and he pitched well against the righty-heavy Cardinals last week, but the Phillies are a different animal. They match up well against Padilla, so well, in fact, that they're in strong position to win today and take a commanding 2-0 lead. By winning last night, the Phillies have dramatically improved their chance of advancing to their second straight World Series.

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

Related Content:  The Who

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

BP Comment Quick Links

Richie

Kershaw vs. Howard was a mistake. He'd thrown a gazillion pitches in the inning by then, had just lost Utley, and as a BP colleague said (agreeing with earlier post by me; coincidence? I THINK NOT!), why is Elbert on the roster then if not for right there?

Oct 16, 2009 10:39 AM
rating: -1
 
prs130

giving in with a fastball was the mistake... girlfriend as my witness, I predicted a hit as soon as the '1' went down.

Oct 16, 2009 10:59 AM
rating: 0
 
prs130

but to answer the question, Elbert's on the roster to pitch the eleventh inning, when there's nobody else left.

Oct 16, 2009 11:01 AM
rating: 1
 
prs130

I haven't watched Padilla since he was a Phillie. I distinctly remember him looking like Roger Clemens right up until somebody got on base... then he started throwing to first and making weird faces and getting shelled. That's just my recollection - can't say if the splits back it up.

Oct 16, 2009 10:58 AM
rating: 0
 
Chomsky
(103)

Torre's real mistake: using Kuo in the 7th against the bottom of the order, and the inferior Sherrill in the 8th against the lefthanded core of the Phillies' lineup.

Oct 16, 2009 11:02 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

It's 9-1-2-3-4, a difficult spot for any clear decision. It happens that Kuo got three outs, leaving him unavailable to face the next two guys. I suppose you could have started with Sherrill, but since he would face zero lefties until Utley and Howard, that's also suboptimal.

Oct 16, 2009 11:19 AM
 
tooci4

Ruiz over Martin is a huge advantage for the Phillies. He gives an extra 100 pts of SLG and far superior defense.

Of course, if you fall into the ESPN trap, Russell Martin is a minor deity, but statistics as well as observation both clearly show that this is a great source of unmentioned advantage for Philadelphia.

Oct 16, 2009 11:33 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Hardly unmentioned. See addendum to today's column for a discussion of the two catchers' pitch-blocking in 2009 - there looks to be about a win's worth of difference between them.

Oct 16, 2009 12:08 PM
 
bflaff

Not sure how much Eyre v. Ethier we may get in this series. Small sample size warnings abound, but Ethier is 3-4 with a double and a HR vs. Eyre and the next guy in the lineup is 4-4 with 2 HRs and 3 walks. Manuel made it clear in the post game that he didn't want Eyre to go near Manny, so the most Eyre would have been in there for is 1 batter. I think Manuel wants to save Eyre if he can to bail out Brad Lidge in the 9th, so maybe Happ gets the call if Ethier comes up earlier in a tough situation.

Oct 16, 2009 12:15 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

The Dodgers' lineup construction, at least last night, puts Ethier in the catbird seat. Only Happ is safe to use against righties, so Manuel can one-batter with Bastardo and Eyre, or leave the righty in.

Now, if Joe goes back to Furcal/Kemp/Ethier/Ramirez/Loney, then Manuel has more options, where he get two of three at some point.

In any case, what Eyre has done against Ethier in four PA doesn't mean anything. The skill sets make it a good matchup for the Phillies. I think Manuel's decision last night is defensible, but I also don't think bringing Lidge in an out early (had Ethier reached) would have been any less appealing than bringing him in to start the ninth. I would have gone after the tying run hard.

Oct 16, 2009 12:50 PM
 
ScottyB

Joe- it's interesting to see Jay kill Torre for the two decisions that you (IMO correctly) support- Kershaw v. Howard and Sherrill v. Ibanez

Oct 16, 2009 12:23 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

We disagreed in chat last night, and nothing changed overnight. Hopefully it makes for interesting reading for the subscribers.

Oct 16, 2009 12:51 PM
 
baserip4

re: ScottyB - this is why baseball is great. People who approach the analysis from the same POV can still come to opposite conclusions.

Oct 16, 2009 12:58 PM
rating: 0
 
amacrae

"There aren't significant favorites or massive underdogs, there are just great players playing baseball."
-Joe Sheehan


"...let's appreciate the drama today, enjoy the fact that the baseball season really did run a full 183 days this time around. Let's just not mistake it for good baseball."
-Joe Sheehan


Joe got up on the "glass half full" side of the bed today.

Oct 16, 2009 13:48 PM
rating: 1
 
drmboat
(754)

And following the power explosion against the 2 of the top 3 pitchers, Padilla and Pedro allow a grand total of 1 run...

Oct 16, 2009 16:25 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Seriously. How can you not love baseball?

Oct 16, 2009 21:17 PM
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Player Profile: Kendry... (10/16)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Today: The ... (10/15)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Keep... (10/17)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run... (10/16)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Every Team's Moneyball: Cincinnati Reds: Go ...
Every Team's Moneyball: Chicago White Sox: T...
Premium Article Some Projection Left: The Moran Mystery
Notes from the Field: Seven Days and 32 Pros...
Spring Training Notebook: Cactus League
Premium Article Rubbing Mud: The Demise of the Two-Out Rally
Some Projection Left: Matuella has Tommy Joh...

MORE FROM OCTOBER 16, 2009
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: Yankees versus Angels LC...
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Left Too Long
Premium Article Player Profile: Kendry Morales

MORE BY JOE SHEEHAN
2009-10-19 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Palate Cleansing
2009-10-18 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Absent Without Leave
2009-10-17 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Keeping You Guessing
2009-10-16 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: The Reminder
2009-10-15 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: The NLCS
2009-10-14 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: A Triple Play of Division ...
2009-10-13 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Completion
More...

MORE PROSPECTUS TODAY
2009-10-19 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Palate Cleansing
2009-10-18 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Absent Without Leave
2009-10-17 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Keeping You Guessing
2009-10-16 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: The Reminder
2009-10-15 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: The NLCS
2009-10-14 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: A Triple Play of Division ...
2009-10-13 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Completion
More...