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October 7, 2010

Playoff Prospectus

Thursday LDS Game Projections

by Eric Seidman

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The postseason is now officially underway, and while PECOTA didn’t peg the exact results in the first three games, they were exciting nonetheless. Then again, I don’t think any projection or prediction lent credence to the idea that Roy Halladay would kick off his Doctober with a no-hitter—and one of those real­ no-hitters, not the cheap ones with five or more walks. Cliff Lee continued his playoff success by holding the Rays to just one run after a potentially scary first inning. And while the Yankees-Twins matchup wasn’t pretty from a pitching standpoint, it was certainly entertaining. But that was yesterday, and today we have three more matchups to discuss: the Rays and Rangers square off at 2:30 p.m. EST, the Twins host the Yankees at 6 p.m., and the Braves visit San Francisco for a 9:30 p.m. Two Game Twos. And Tim Lincecum’s post-season debut should make for quite the fun Thursday.

For those who didn’t get to read Wednesday’s article, stop what you’re doing and go read it! one of the things we will be providing on a regular basis throughout the playoffs is PECOTA projections tailored to each specific game. The Krang-sized brain in Colin Wyers’ head made the process possible, and the projections take into account the expected rates of the batters and pitchers given the pitching matchups, which team is at home, as well as how hitter- or pitcher-friendly the park plays.

The projected outcome of each event is determined by the Odds Ratio, which I use in my simulations, and which I have explained in past articles. To give a simple example, if Jay Bruce is projected by PECOTA to make an out in 62.4 percent of his plate appearances, but Roy Halladay is projected to generate outs at a 67.2 percent clip, a matchup between these two will result in an out 64.6 percent of the time. For an example of the overall process, the Rays were projected to score 3.85 runs Wednesday to the 3.52 of the Rangers, primarily because they were at home at Tropicana Field, which was the fifth hitter-friendliest park during the regular season this year per our park factors. Additionally, the system considered David Price to be more capable of preventing runs against the Rangers lineup than it did of Lee’s ability to hold the Rays at bay.

With that in mind, each day we will be providing the projected slash lines of each starting lineup—based on what we expect the lineup to be at publishing time – based on the pitcher it will be facing, as well as the projected runs scored for each team and how that translates into the likelihood of each team winning the game. I’ll also note anything that stands out in the data.

 

Rangers (C.J. Wilson) at Rays (James Shields)

Projected Runs Scored: Rangers 4.13, Rays 3.64

Projected Odds of Winning: Rangers 55.79 percent, Rays 44.21 percent

 

Rangers vs. James Shields

 

NAME

BA

OBP

SLG

Elvis Andrus

.260

.303

.408

Michael Young

.288

.322

.468

Josh Hamilton

.283

.320

.503

Vladimir Guerrero

.296

.324

.505

Nelson Cruz

.257

.297

.468

Ian Kinsler

.278

.322

.480

Jeff Francoeur

.261

.287

.433

Jorge Cantu

.259

.293

.434

Bengie Molina

.279

.296

.457

 

Rays vs. C.J. Wilson

 

NAME

BA

OBP

SLG

B.J. Upton

.227

.329

.364

Jason Bartlett

.262

.333

.389

Carl Crawford

.271

.335

.424

Evan Longoria

.240

.330

.410

Ben Zobrist

.234

.330

.382

Dan Johnson

.223

.342

.367

Kelly Shoppach

.201

.294

.338

Carlos Pena

.198

.334

.366

Sean Rodriguez

.215

.290

.348

 

Isn’t that interesting? Not only did the Rangers technically upset the Rays in the first game, but they are ever so slightly projected to win a second game on the road. The big reason is, as evidenced by the slash lines, the performance of James Shields. Though “Big Game”—not sure how he got that nickname before the Rays were actually good—is a lock for 33 starts and 200 innings each year, he was worth one win under replacement this season. Of the 45 pitchers with 200 or more innings pitched this season, Shields posted the second worst SNWP at .419 and the worst ERA at 5.18. Many have already questioned the decision to go with Shields over Matt Garza or even Wade Davis, and the fervor with which the topic has been discussed is only growing after a Game One loss.

 

Yankees (Andy Pettitte) at Twins (Carl Pavano)

Projected Runs Scored: Twins 4.98, Yankees 4.78

Projected Odds of Winning: Twins 51.97 percent, Yankees 48.03 percent

 

Yankees vs. Carl Pavano

 

NAME

BA

OBP

SLG

Derek Jeter

.323

.355

.471

Nick Swisher

.274

.329

.465

Mark Teixeira

.305

.352

.515

Alex Rodriguez

.299

.348

.514

Robinson Cano

.323

.342

.504

Marcus Thames

.272

.305

.465

Jorge Posada

.295

.343

.477

Curtis Granderson

.291

.328

.486

Brett Gardner

.284

.324

.419

 

Twins vs. Andy Pettitte

 

NAME

BA

OBP

SLG

Denard Span

.314

.369

.460

Orlando Hudson

.313

.367

.476

Joe Mauer

.342

.401

.512

Delmon Young

.309

.334

.471

Jim Thome

.275

.370

.493

Michael Cuddyer

.300

.352

.477

Jason Kubel

.291

.340

.470

Danny Valencia

.308

.352

.472

J.J. Hardy

.295

.345

.469

 

Here we get another tidy storyline as the Yankees face off against Carl Pavano, who gave the Bronx Bombers four years of nothing while collecting quite the hefty paycheck. Then again, half of the current Yankees squad wasn’t even on the team when Pavano signed the contract or played out the final year of said deal, but hey, if the media says this is a storyline, who am I to question that? Once again, the Twins face a left-hander, and even though Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia have different styles of pitching, the platoon effect could prevent Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, Denard Span and Jason Kubel from being their usual effective selves.

Then again, PECOTA really does not think highly of Pettitte, which likely has something to do with his age, so the platoon effect might not be as substantial as I initially thought. Either way, this game projects to be high on runs from both teams, which doesn’t seem like a stretch after Wednesday night’s contest.

 

Braves (Derek Lowe) at Giants (Tim Lincecum)

Projected Runs Scored: Giants 4.03, Braves 3.19

Projected Odds of Winning: Giants 60.17 percent, Braves 39.83 percent

 

Braves vs. Tim Lincecum

 

NAME

BA

OBP

SLG

Omar Infante

.266

.310

.374

Jason Heyward

.227

.311

.343

Brian McCann

.263

.325

.408

Derrek Lee

.247

.323

.385

Brooks Conrad

.207

.257

.316

Alex Gonzalez

.234

.273

.364

Nate McLouth

.229

.297

.359

Rick Ankiel

.214

.272

.338

 

Giants vs. Derek Lowe

 

NAME

BA

OBP

SLG

Andres Torres

.278

.328

.434

Freddy Sanchez

.318

.342

.447

Aubrey Huff

.300

.347

.469

Buster Posey

.293

.331

.444

Pat Burrell

.269

.347

.439

Juan Uribe

.277

.308

.436

Jose Guillen

.282

.313

.425

Pablo Sandoval

.312

.344

.467

 

If the 60 percent likelihood the Giants win this game seems high, consider that Vegas also has them with approximately 60 percent odds. It isn’t as if PECOTA is going out on a limb here. Also consider that the Braves team taking the field today is vastly different than the team that ranked highly in our third order standings for most of the year. Lincecum is projected to have a field day with this lineup, and it’s fairly easy to see why. With all due respect to Alex Gonzalez, Rick Ankiel, Nate McLouth, and Brooks Conrad, they aren’t the types of hitters that Lincecum is going to be as careful as possible against.

The projections for Giants hitters appear to be just the opposite, as Derek Lowe isn’t exactly an ace on the level of Halladay or Lincecum. While Lowe brings an average skill set to the table, he is unlikely to completely dominate this lineup. Then again, there were several players on the Giants that played over their head, who may be due for some regression, but even with a performance decline, this game appears to be about as sure of a thing as is possible in a projection for one game.

So who do you think will win? Do you think Pettitte will be able to hold the Twins more at bay than PECOTA does? And what about the Braves lineup—will it mirror the anemic level of production tabled above?

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

Related Content:  Carl Pavano,  The Who,  The Process

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