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October 18, 2012

Playoff Prospectus

NLCS Game 3 Recap: Cardinals 3, Giants 1

by Sam Miller

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Guess the MLB.com headline!

a. Carpenter's Handiwork Withstands Rain
b. Carpenter Hammers Giants, Motte Provides The Nails
c. To Build Series Lead, Cards Hire A Carpenter
d. Cards Deck Giants, Carpenter Brings The Lumber
e. Beltran Falls, But Carpenter Finishes The Job

All of these are have an equal amount of carpenter puns! (Answer at the bottom)

***

In August, Chris Young threw 5 2/3 innings for the Mets, allowed eight hits and four walks, and didn't allow a run. In September, Ricky Romero pitched six innings for the Blue Jays, allowed seven hits and walked five, and allowed one run. Throughout the rest of the year, 146 pitchers matched the first parts of those pitching lines—between five and six innings and exactly 12 baserunners allowed—but couldn't match the second part. They all allowed two runs or more.

On Wednesday, Lohse joined Young and Romero, going 5 2/3, walking five, allowing seven hits, but giving up just one run. He is also just the fourth starting pitcher to walk at least five Giants in a game this year; the other three lost. Lohse won. 

Here's the breakdown of the 148: 

Allowed eight runs: 6 pitchers
Allowed seven runs: 13 pitchers
Allowed six runs: 20 pitchers
Allowed five runs: 34 pitchers
Allowed four runs: 36 pitchers
Allowed three runs: 24 pitchers
Allowed two runs: 13 pitchers
Allowed one run: 1 pitcher
Allowed no runs: 1 pitcher

So, as you can tell, if all you knew about Lohse was how many batters he retired, how many he didn't, and how many runs (three) that the Cardinals scored, you'd be on pretty safe ground betting he lost: three quarters of the similar pitchers allowed at least four runs, and most of the remainder gave up three. Yet Lohse walked off to a big ovation. I think I saw him wink?

"Lohse personified the Cardinals in Game Three," said the hometown paper. "He walked that fine line that separates winners and losers in postseason baseball. He could have gone either way. Show weakness and capitulate. Or stand your ground and fend off the Giants on a day when your pitches had more fizzle than sizzle. Lohse dug in. He fought. He won."

How he did it is how he has done it all year. In his career, Lohse has allowed a .766 OPS overall and an .811 OPS with runners in scoring position. This year, he has allowed a .642 OPS overall (much better) but a .507 OPS with runners in scoring position. Pedro Martinez, in 1999, allowed a .536 OPS overall and produced 9.0 WARP

"He's been close to flawless," Jon Heyman wrote this week about Lohse, a pending free agent. "A couple execs scoffed at the idea he could repeat C.J. Wilson's $77.5 million, five-year deal (one said $40 million for three is more like it). But the reality is, Wilson was poor in the postseason, and Lohse is excellent (so far)." That's still true after Wednesday's game but maybe not in a way a GM will be buying. 

***

At some point back there in a podcast or an article or a tweet, I mentioned that Alex Rodriguez, benched by the Yankees, would have had the second-best OPS+ in the opposing team's lineup. (The Yankees were playing the Orioles.) Rodriguez stays benched, but thanks (wrong word?) to Carlos Beltran's injury Wednesday, Matt Carpenter was, for one game, not. And here's the thing about Carpenter:

He would have had the second-best OPS+ in the Yankees' most recent lineup.

Beltran is reportedly going to be ready for Thursday's game. Unless Carpenter's home run bought him more playing time, he'll be on the bench, just as he has been for every other game the Cardinals have played this postseason. [Update: Beltran still questionable.]

***

You are a smart and informed person, so you know that Carlos Beltran was a Rookie of the Year, the most exciting Royal since George Brett, perhaps the best high-percentage basestealer ever, the guy who hit eight home runs in the 2004 postseason, the guy who was a five-time All-Star as a Met, the Gold Glover, the MVP candidate, and probably a deserving Hall of Famer. But in the world, the larger world, the world of people who comment on ESPN articles and YouTube videos, Carlos Beltran is the guy who took a called strike three once. People hate—they just hate—called strike threes. 

Brandon Belt took a called strike three on Wednesday. On the field, this isn't a problem any more than a swinging strike three would be or a pop-up to the catcher would be. Indeed, called strike threes, to an extent, are healthy. Like they say about frequent travelers: If you never miss a flight, you're probably arriving too early to the airport and wasting time. If you never take a called strike three, you're probably grounding into a lot of first-pitch double plays. But the way it looks, it matters, and Brandon Belt... well, Brandon Belt is an above-average defender with a .360 OBP, and he's got to check the lineup card every day. And it wouldn't surprise me if this was because, man, people hate called strike threes. Baseball people especially. They just hate 'em. Brandon Belt, in 27 postseason plate appearances, has five. 

He always looks super mad. He's not getting fooled by pitches. He's just taking close pitches. Does he have a beef? Here are those five calls.

Called strikeouts no. 1 and 2: October 9

Belt postures: in which Belt holds his bat suggestively while Gerry Davis does aggressive wedding-reception dance moves, and in which the parasite in Brandon Belt's stomach gets progressively worse: 

 

Bobbelthead Face:

Pitches:

Neither is the most low or the most outside or even the most low and outside, but both are very near the edge of what left-handers have to protect. Those are pitches that make pitchers wealthy. 

Called strikeout no. 3: October 11

Belt posture: in which Belt can't believe it, this dude over here won't even turn around and look at me while he's calling me out, but whatever, I can stand here and wait all day for you to look at me, pal.

Pitch:

Just the lousiest. 

Called strikeout no. 4: October 15

Belt posture: in which a large number of Giants fans seem happy, Chris Guccione prepares for fisticuffs like a drunken Irishman, and Belt becomes very disappointed because he expected more from Guccione and thought he'd be cool, man.  

Pitch: 

This is near the low end of a strike zone but not near the low end of Chris Guccione's strike zone. This pitch came in the seventh, by which point Belt should have had some idea of the strike zone. 

Called strikeout no. 5: October 17

Pitch: 


This one is pretty clearly in over the plate and probably high enough even for the 6' 5" Belt. Four of the pitches he has been caught on have been, basically, in the same vertical location, though some caught more of the plate than others. If these games are representative of the rest of Belt's season, it might just be something that Belt is going to have to accept. I like patient Belt. I want to keep seeing patient Belt. But the baseball field is a lousy place to try to make a symbolic point. 

*** 

By my math, the team that takes a 2-1 lead in a seven-game series has a 69 percent chance of winning the thing. 

***

Headline answer:

 

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

Related Content:  Kyle Lohse,  Matt Carpenter,  Brandon Belt

7 comments have been left for this article.

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