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October 14, 2009

Prospectus Today

A Triple Play of Division Series Post Mortems

by Joe Sheehan

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It feels like we deserved more than this. A week ago, three of the four postseason series seemed so evenly matched as to defy prediction. Two of those three did just that, but not in the way expected. The Cardinals scored six runs in three games en route to being eliminated by the Dodgers, and the Red Sox weren't much better in being swept by the Angels. The Twins, as expected, went down to the Yankees despite mostly holding down the game's best offense.

The way the Rockies/Phillies series played out caused it to dominate this space over the last couple of days, so let's wrap up the other three now, in order of their conclusion…

Cardinals/Dodgers

I can't say I was a huge fan of the idea that Vicente Padilla should start ahead of Chad Billingsley in the postseason, so his seven innings of shutout ball Saturday in eliminating the Cardinals was something of a surprise to me. It may be that we have to add Padilla to the long list of players who cross leagues and see their performances change dramatically. Padilla had 59 strikeouts and 42 walks in 108 innings for the Rangers before they released him in August, and a ratio of less than two to one in just shy of four years in Texas. For the Dodgers, Padilla struck out 38 men and walked just 12 in 39 1/3 innings, and tacked on four strikeouts and a walk Saturday.

In the wake of the game, there seems to be a sense of panic emanating from St. Louis, an idea that an ill-timed three-game losing streak is somehow indicative of a fatal flaw in the team's construction. The Cardinals should try to improve-every team should try to improve-but we didn't learn anything new last week. The Cards didn't have a great offense during the season, right around average overall, which is damning when you start with one of the best hitters in baseball history. Even since acquiring Matt Holliday, offensive malaise wasn't unheard of: they scored seven runs in three games against the Astros in August, 11 runs in five games in the third week of September and 13 runs in six games about two weeks ago. They thrived in 2009 in spite of their offense, rather than because of it, and that they scored just six runs in three games against an excellent run-prevention staff doesn't tell us anything we didn't know a week ago. Heck, no one was castigating the team when they had 26 outs and the 27th one in the air Thursday night. The Cardinals faced a slightly better team and lost three straight, and that it happened in October doesn't make it special.

The word "protection" keeps coming up, so let me throw something out here: you protect a great hitter from the front, not from behind. You protect Albert Pujols by having the guys ahead of him be on base all the time, which forces the opposition to pitch to him in a way that no amount of batters behind Pujols ever will. The Cardinals failed badly at this in 2009, getting a .360 OBP from the leadoff spot-not bad, not great-but just a .316 mark from the second spot. More than anything, the Cardinals need an OBP guy, preferably an infielder, to bat high in the lineup so that Pujols bats with runners on base that make walking him intentionally a non-starter.

Well, and so that your offense doesn't suck. The Cards were fourth in the NL in batting average but just ninth in OBP, because they never walked. They had a .327 OBP in the three games of the NLDS. They need more baserunners, especially since the 2010 pitching staff will be hard-pressed to duplicate the run prevention of the '09 one.

The Cardinals are one of the top organizations in baseball, and losing three games to the Dodgers doesn't change that. The core talent is in place for another strong season, and what they have to do is tweak it, rather than make wholesale changes.

As far as the Dodgers go, they played well and caught the biggest break of the series, so instead of winning in four or five they did it in three. Joe Torre's love of Ronnie Belliard, which hampered his team in the first round, would now become an asset with the Phillies' Cavalcade of Southpaws around the corner. Torre showed tremendous flexibility in administering his exceptional, deep bullpen, and a level of aggression-exemplified by lifting Randy Wolf early in Game Two-that will serve the Dodgers well. In fact, given Charlie Manuel's generally strong performance to date, it may be this series, rather than the Cardinals/Dodgers one, that provides the most tactical oneupsmanship.

Red Sox/Angels

Loosely speaking, I liked the Red Sox in this series because I felt that they had the edge in the front of the rotation and at the back of the bullpen. What happened was that John Lackey outpitched Jon Lester, Jered Weaver outpitched Josh Beckett, and the Red Sox bullpen was terrible in a way that cost them one game and damaged them in the other two. It was just three games, but in those three games the Angels outplayed the Red Sox in every possible way. Their pitchers held the Sox to a .158 average, four extra-base hits, and eight walks, and while the vaunted edge in stolen bases didn't materialize-the Angels stole three bases in four attempts-the timing of the steals was high-value, and the Angels' defense far outpaced that of the Sox.

The surprise wasn't that the Angels won, because these two teams were evenly matched. The surprise was how much better the Angels looked in winning. As with both NL Division Series, the brevity of the series doesn't tell the whole story, as the Angels were tied in the eighth inning of one game and trailed by two in the ninth of another. The idea that the results of short series don't provide significant information about one team's quality stems from the fact that success or failure in close games isn't necessarily connected to team quality. One team can win a few close games over another by outplaying them for a short period of time-that's baseball-without that necessarily being meaningful. The Red Sox and Angels are as evenly matched today as they were last week, but the Angels played better baseball for three days, and they move on.

Amid the Angels' comeback in Game Three, one decision stood out. Following Bobby Abreu's double in the ninth that cut the lead to 6-5, Terry Francona elected to have Jonathan Papelbon intentionally walk Torii Hunter, loading the bases for Vladimir Guerrero. To walk one right-handed hitter to face another is a rarity; you might do it with less than two outs with an eye towards a double play, or as a road team needing to create a force at home plate to prevent the winning run from scoring on a tag play. You would even do it if there was a large gap in ability from one batter to the next, although that situation often brings with it the likelihood of a pinch-hitter.

Here, we had none of those. That the decision failed to produce a positive outcome for the Red Sox-Guerrero lined a game-winning single-isn't something on which it should be evaluated. No, it should be evaluated based on the likelihood that it would lead to one, and it seems clear that it was at best a slightly negative decision, and maybe worse than that. The presence of small-sample split data that showed Guerrero was 1-for-11 lifetime against Papelbon, upon which the decision was presumably made, is not valuable because of the error bars on 11 at-bats. Moreover, whatever advantage may have been gained by pitching to Guerrero instead of Hunter was negated by putting a runner on first base, loading the bases. Papelbon's margin of error was reduced, the edge of facing a free-swinging hitter clipped by the need to throw strikes rather than force home the run. Facing Hunter with a base open would have been much more advantageous, with the ability to get the eager Hunter to chase pitches, with the downside likely being no more than the same walk that was issued intentionally.

Terry Francona makes so few tactical errors that this one stands out, and it certainly doesn't mean he's a poor manager. Unlike Jim Tracy's work in the NLCS, the decision here was wrong, but not egregious. Moreover, the Red Sox didn't put themselves in as strong a position as the Rockies did, and more of the late rally can be pinned on a pitcher, Papelbon, who was having the worst season of his career-albeit still a good one.

The Red Sox got beat for three games, twice by starting pitchers, every day by the Angels' lineup. As with the Cardinals, a three-game losing streak at the wrong time doesn't warrant sackcloth and ashes. The Red Sox are as well-run a franchise as there is in sports, and they have no reason to go crazy over their loss. They won 95 games in the toughest division in baseball and can rightly call themselves one of the four best teams in the game. Like the Cardinals, they could use some tweaking, most notably as regards The Escape Hatch. David Ortiz was one-for-the-series, and both his lineup placement (fifth and sixth, or two to three spots ahead of J.D. Drew, a vastly better player two years running) and the use of him against lefties (he's hit .216/.301/.424 against them the past two seasons) are ridiculous given what we've seen for the last two years. Francona needed to hit for Ortiz in the ninth on Friday, when the Sox were trying to beat Brian Fuentes, but he wouldn't do it. The Sox commitment to Ortiz as an everyday DH is one reason why their season ended without a trip to the World Series in each of the past two years, and how they address that issue is one of the biggest challenges in getting back there in '10.

For the Angels, this series served as a reminder that John Lackey is a terrific starting pitcher, that Bobby Abreu is one of the smartest hitters alive, and that no matter how the Angels win baseball games, it will be attributed to speed and defense. Everything I would have said a week ago about them still applies, except that they now face a team, in the Yankees, against whom they have an edge in starting pitching. I would like to think that the Angels' dispatching of the Red Sox (and the memory of the in-season reversal between the Yankees and the Sox, after a spate of "are they in their heads?" stories) will keep us from reading about the Angels' similar success against the Yankees in the past. Those series don't mean much, but the Angels' rotation and their newfound affection for getting runners on base do. The ALCS is basically a coin flip.

Yankees/Twins

I'm pretty sick of writing about bad umpiring, which is maybe the biggest reason I ended up not bothering to write about the Friday games last week, the decision that led me to keep pushing back writing about the AL series until today. The call by Phil Cuzzi that turned a Joe Mauer double into a foul ball left an awful taste in my mouth, as much because the general reaction to it, and all the failed umpiring over the last week, has been so disappointing. The code that you don't blame the umpires, that you take blame for losing, may be honorable, but it doesn't serve the game.

That the Twins didn't score after having the bases loaded in the 11th and no one out became a cop-out, became a way of saying, "Well, they failed." They did fail, but that doesn't make the massive error any less important, any less game-changing. Managers and players protect umpires in these situations, I can't tell out of fear or loyalty or habit, and it's one very big reason why the situation never improves. As I commented yesterday, I was out watching the game, and it was hard to not feel a little dirty, a little cheap, when Mark Teixeira's game-winning homer left the yard. You shouldn't have to feel that way when your team wins, but when that win is in no small part-regardless of what the players say-because middle management turned up into down, it just sits wrong.

The Division Series round went one game over the minimum, which is as misleading a fact as you'll find. Of the 13 games, just one in each series was effectively decided before the eighth inning, while five featured ninth-inning runs that either tied the game or broke a tie. The Twins got swept, but they had a two-run lead with two outs to go at one point, then had the bases loaded with no one out against a rookie pitcher (having been jobbed of a probable run by that hideous call) in the 11th. A night later, they led in the seventh, then had first and third and no one out in the eighth before Nick Punto failed to pick up his third-base coach and wiped out the rally. Oh, the mistake was all Punto, who never looked up at Scott Ullger until it was too late in a situation where an aware ballplayer-carrying the tying run with no one out and the middle of the lineup coming to the plate-has to consider the entire situation when rounding third. He failed, and the impact of that failure on the Twins' chance to win that game was massive-with first and third and no one out, a team can expect to score nearly two runs; with a runner on first and one out, about half a run. It was the biggest mistake of the Division Series round not made by Jim Tracy, and yes, it was bigger than the error by Matt Holliday.

The Punto play was the latest in a long, long line of miscues made by the Twins over the last two weeks. Because the AL Central race was the last one going, because it involved a playoff game and some day baseball and then the Twins advancing, fans have gotten to see a lot of Twins baseball these last few weeks. It is my hope that this spotlight will end the meme that the Twins are successful because they do the blessed "little things" better than most teams. The Twins are, in fact, a terribly error-prone team, particularly on the bases, that features some of the worst plate approaches in the game. Their success over the last few years has come about basically because they have had the best roster core in a division that simply doesn't have very many good players, and one of the organizational strengths-producing league-average starting pitchers-has come in handy. Winning 83-88 games with a low payroll doesn't mean you do the little things, and the connection made between the two is as delusional as batting David Ortiz in the middle of a lineup.

As long as we're killing storylines, well, there's Alex Rodriguez. Short memories abound, but five years ago, in his first postseason series with the Yankees, Rodriguez almost single-handedly beat the Twins with a great week. Not long after, he watched the Red Sox celebrate a historic comeback on the Yankee Stadium field and was stuck with a wildly disproportionate amount of the blame for that occurrence. Since then, the idea that Alex Rodriguez, one of the dozen greatest players in baseball history, is somehow unable to play well in the postseason has become a dominant theme in his career. Well, it was never true, and the only way to make it true was to define Rodriguez's postseason career as running from Game Four of the 2004 ALCS though whatever day you were filing your nonsense.

I want to not care. I want to be above it, safe in the knowledge that my evaluation of Alex Rodriguez cannot possibly be affected by a week's worth of at-bats. But for his sake, and for the sake of my sanity as a baseball-loving person living in New York-it's actually an emotion completely disconnected from being a Yankee fan-I want him to keep hitting, because I just don't want to hear about it any longer.

One last note on this series. Delmon Young saw 44 pitches, one of which hit him. He swung at 28 of the others. The idea that he's turned some kind of corner is laughable.

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

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

BP Comment Quick Links

drmboat
(754)

In the last paragraph...did you mean "swung at 28 of them"? Context would be nice too...I mean, I'm too lazy to look up how many postseason PA he had. I'm guessing 12-16, which would put him at roughly 3-4 pitches/PA. That seems pretty reasonable to me...

Oct 13, 2009 23:41 PM
rating: 2
 
thegeneral13

To answer your question, he had 14 plate appearances. Less one pitch and one PA for the HBP and you get 43 pitches in 13 PAs, or 3.3 pitches/PA.

But I don't think pitches/PA is the right way to think about it. I could average 3+ pitches per PA in the majors by simply standing in the batter's box and not moving. Delmon struck out 5 times in 12 AB's, so he starts with a nice buffer of 3+ pitches per PA in > 1/3 of his PA's just by having at bats so terrible he doesn't even put the ball in play.

His problem is that he isn't selective enough, so he never walks and makes either weak or no contact when he swings. Joe's stat about his swing % is a good way to show that he's not making progress in that area. This is no better exemplified than in game 3, when he swung at the first two pitches he saw and hit two shallow popups.

Oct 14, 2009 07:17 AM
rating: 3
 
arcee555

Based on performance, the AL West is a better division than the AL EAST. Why is that so hard to accept?

Oct 14, 2009 01:19 AM
rating: -2
 
slimandslam

Because one season's worth of head-to-head record is only part of the "performance" to which you refer.

Aggregate third-order winning percentage, 2009:
AL East: .539
AL West: .520

Oct 14, 2009 03:54 AM
rating: 6
 
mattyc33

Hallelujah! I have been saying for years that having runners on base is more important to protecting a strong hitter than having a good hitter behind him. But this is the first time I have read it in print ("print" being a loose term).

Oct 14, 2009 05:45 AM
rating: 3
 
Travis Leleu

Agreed with mattyc. I think this is one of the smarter "casual" comments I've ever read in an article. Kudos, joe!

Oct 14, 2009 08:54 AM
rating: 0
 
RayDiPerna

Actually, this point is made frequently in stathead circles.

I've been making the point myself since 1996 or so.

Oct 14, 2009 10:52 AM
rating: -2
 
sjd0378
(555)

Great write up, Joe. A question - do you consider the Punto baserunning mistake bigger than the Holliday error due to the fact they still had to register only one more out and Franklin just couldn't get the job done? Just seems that the Holliday miscue directly costs the Cards a tie of the Series and the difference between 1-1 and 0-2 is pretty significant whereas the Twins are already down 0-2, trailing late in a Series they lose more times than not.

Oct 14, 2009 06:55 AM
rating: 0
 
jlefty

damn, beat me to it.

Oct 14, 2009 07:28 AM
rating: 0
 
jlefty

Punto's baserunning gaffe greatly decreased the chances of the twins scoring a run in the 8th inning of game 3 in a series in which his team was down 2-0 and highly over-matched as far as postseason matchups are concerned.

If Holliday makes the catch he could/should/has to make, the game is over immediately and the Cards even the series at 1. I guess your point comes in the fact that even with his error, the cards were still set up favorably--runner on 1st with two outs. But can you really just ignore the aftermath? Fact of the matter is that they ended up losing a game that was all but over. It wasn't all holliday's fault that they lost, but he pretty easily had it in his power to give his team a win.

Oct 14, 2009 07:27 AM
rating: 0
 
SaberTJ

Mathematically, Punto's mistake cost his team more expectedruns than Holliday's error produced for the Dodgers.

Oct 14, 2009 07:51 AM
rating: 0
 
jlefty

At the time it happened, yes. But why ignore the results, if they are there for us to observe like in the case with Holliday (in Punto's case we can only postulate and look at expectancies). The fact that the Cards lost the game necessarily makes Holliday's error more costly. It shouldn't have been more costly than Punto's because Franklin should have been able to recover easily enough, but it absolutely was. Their Win Expectancy is 1 if he makes that catch, not so with Punto.

Holliday's play denied the Cards a 100% WE and the end result was 0% WE, Punto's play denied the Twins a 60% WE and the end result was also 0.

Basically, my point is that Punto's play in isolation may have had a larger numberical difference in win expectancy, but going from roughly 60% (if punto stayed at third) to 33.2% is less important than going from 1 (if holliday makes the catch) to 86.9%, especially when the end result is a loss.

Oct 14, 2009 18:56 PM
rating: 0
 
baserip4

RE: sjd0378 - Look at the run expectancy. Going from 1st and 3rd with no one out (1.76) to runner on 1st with 1 out (.53) costs your team more expected runs than going from end of game (0) to runner on first with 2 outs (.22). So Punto's boner was worth 1.2 runs while Holliday's miscue worth -.2.

Oct 14, 2009 07:44 AM
rating: 1
 
SaberTJ

Exactly

Oct 14, 2009 07:52 AM
rating: -1
 
elm
(41)

Yes, true, but I think sjd and Joe Lefko's point is that not all runs are created equal. A loss of .2 runs at a pivotal moment that might have flipped the series (I would disagree on this point, but let's assume it for the sake of argument) might be more important than the loss of 1.2 runs in a series that was already essentially over.

Oct 14, 2009 07:56 AM
rating: 1
 
Dave Pomerantz

Minor quibble - Loney ended up at 2nd on Holliday's drop, not first. Run expectancy is .32, not .22.

Oct 14, 2009 09:14 AM
rating: 1
 
Stevis
(549)

Given the end of game situation, shouldn't you be looking at win expectancy?

Oct 14, 2009 10:34 AM
rating: 3
 
Brock Dahlke

Even as a diehard Twins fan, I was beginning to get sick of all the "doing the small things right" bull crap. Every year there is one thing that the Twins end up doing well, however it never seems to be the same thing from year to year, but it has never been "playing small ball". So its my hope that these last few weeks will finally put that folly to rest, and hopefully people will see what we actually do well, like batting with runners in scoring position last year, to having 4 batters have incredible years this year to keep us afloat.

Oct 14, 2009 07:59 AM
rating: 0
 
yankee

Excellent analysis Joe. I really enjoyed your summation of the Yankees-Twins series. I felt the same way you did after the blown call on Mauer's hit, it sort of cheapened the Yanks win. I also agree about all the ARod chatter. It may make for a good story, but it's not true. After game four of the 2004 ALCS championship, ARod stopped hitting along with Sheffield.
The Yankees also had no pitching depth. I think the Angels will be tough to beat. What do you think of Giradi's three man rotation ? .
Thanks
Paul

Oct 14, 2009 08:13 AM
rating: -1
 
Saroff

Joe- I'm sure we'll see analysis of this in the Yanks/Angels preview but, how does Lackey/Weaver/Saunders represent an edge over Sabathia/Burnett/Pettite?

The Yanks have a lower ERA+, strike out more guys per nine, and give up less HRs per nine. They do walk more per nine (particularly AJ Burnett), but not so much more as a troika as to to give the Angels "an edge".

If you want to talk about edges in this series, talk about the Yankee bullpen, the Yankee offense or the Angels manager's seat, but starting pitching has got to be at least a wash.

Agree/Disagree?

Oct 14, 2009 08:19 AM
rating: 3
 
Patrick

I don't necessarily disagree, but your analysis should be done with Kazmir, not Saunders. Sabathia is the best starter in this series, but I'd take Weaver over Burnett. Kazmir and Pettitte are a wash, but because the Angels have a bunch of lefty-killers in their lineup, Pettitte could have a tough time in this series.

Oct 14, 2009 08:39 AM
rating: 0
 
Saroff

Doh! My bad. Kazmir it is...

Oct 14, 2009 08:56 AM
rating: 0
 
Saroff

Doh! Doh!

Looks like Scioscia will go - Lackey/Saunders/Weaver/Kazmir against Sabathia/Burnett/Pettite/Sabathia saying about Saunders: "Joe has the tools to pitch in that stadium."

I actually think this may have swung the advantage to the Yanks. I wonder what tools Scioscia is talking about.

Oct 14, 2009 14:56 PM
rating: 0
 
Aaron Whitehead

"Delmon Young saw 44 pitches, one of which hit him [...] The idea that he’s turned some kind of corner is laughable."

Sure, but did he swing at the one that hit him? That's progress!

Oct 14, 2009 08:39 AM
rating: 6
 
thegeneral13

True enough, though fouling a ball off his own groin might be an offset.

Oct 14, 2009 09:06 AM
rating: 1
 
Evan
(47)

I'd heard people before that umpires were clearly favouring the Red Sox, or clearly favouring the Yankees, because MLB told them to. It always seemed like such an abusrd notion. Even if MLB gained something rom favouring those teams, the fallout from such a scheme being exposed would far outweigh any concievable benefit.

But then came Mauer's foul ball, and my first thought was that somebody bribed Phil Cuzzi. He was in a perfect position. His view was unobstructed. Cabrera actually made contact with the ball just to make it more obvious. Given how easy it would have been to make that call properly, that has to be the worst call in the history of baseball.

Oct 14, 2009 09:34 AM
rating: 2
 
flyingdutchman

You're just ahead of me, Evan!

Cuzzi's could not have simply blown that call. There is no way that happens.

I believe that Watergate was a conspiracy, as well as the Lincoln assassination and the whole Guy Fawkes business, and that's it. Almost everything else is tinfoil hat territory....but Cuzzi didn't just blow that call. I can't see how it's possible.

Take a look at the video again. He even takes just a short, split second before making the call.

And besides, I can't even construct a scenario in which he simply didn't see that ball land fair, and in that sense it stands out from every other call I've ever seen. Sometimes, when I see a horrible umpiring gaffe, I react "That is the worst call I've ever seen!" From now on I'll exclaim, "That's the second worst call I've ever seen!"

Cuzzi used to be an NL-only ump, and he's from New Jersey. The most parsimonious explanation for that call is that he grew up a Yankees fan and is thus semi-consciously prone to making pro-Yankee calls, especially at a Yankees home game.

The second most parsimonious explanation is that he was paid. There is a lot of pressure on the Yankees to win in their brand new upscale shopping mall.

The third most parsimonious explanation, I guess, is that he just botched it. If any of these scenarios are true then he should be fired. That was a joke.

Oct 14, 2009 09:57 AM
rating: -1
 
flyingdutchman

Oops, sorry - wasn't a Yankees home game....still!

Oct 14, 2009 09:58 AM
rating: 0
 
Patrick

You were right the first time. Game two was in New York.

I was joking later that night about how MLB/TBS would prefer the Yankees to advance because it would mean higher ratings and more money. Joking is all the farther I'm willing to take it right now, but it was one of the more suspicious calls I've ever seen in baseball.

I wonder if Cuzzi needed to see the replay to see that he was wrong or if he knew it before that. I can envision a scenario in which he was so sure it was going to be foul while in the air that he made the call in his mind prematurely and was too proud/scared to reverse it. It's too bad nobody on the Twins argued or asked the umps to convene.

Oct 14, 2009 11:59 AM
rating: 1
 
npb7768

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoBI-WOJh7Q

The clinched-fist reaction of the Yankees fan at 0:41 was priceless...

Oct 14, 2009 11:27 AM
rating: 0
 
jdtk99

I think your critique of the twins not doing the "little things" suffers from a lack of a definition of the "little things".

If you are talking about baserunning they are above average 3 years running based on BPs own statistics. And this should not be judged on a 3 game series anymore than hitting or pitching.

Oct 14, 2009 09:48 AM
rating: 4
 
Brock Dahlke

I do know that the Twins are above average baserunning, but with all the blunders that they do make, if they could limit them to a degree, then they could be an outstanding baserunning team. I watched them throughout the year, I am not basing this off of the few massive blunders made in the series with the Yankees. These mistakes happened consistently throughout the year, either from not paying attention, to being overaggresive, to just being too slow.

Oct 14, 2009 10:22 AM
rating: 0
 
arcee555
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

To slimandslam

The AL west has a better overall winning %. They beat the AL East head to head. And we are only talking about one season.

so again I ask, Why is that so hard to accept?

Oct 14, 2009 11:29 AM
rating: -4
 
amazin_mess

Yeah - that Jeteresque fist pump was great!

Cuzzi was bribed.

Gotta have the Yanks win it all again.

Oct 14, 2009 11:59 AM
rating: 2
 
TGisriel

To indulge further in the pro-Yankee umpiring conspiracy theory, I offer, from the 1996 ALCS, Jeffrey Maier.

Oct 14, 2009 14:32 PM
rating: 2
 
jonstebbins

Or Knoblauch's "tag" of Jose Offerman in 1999.

Oct 14, 2009 20:34 PM
rating: 1
 
akachazz

Great article. Worth the wait. Sorry I was clamoring for this article earlier this week; I just needed my fix.

Oct 14, 2009 12:46 PM
rating: -1
 
Samhain31

Actually, Wolf was pulled early in Game One.
Kershaw was the Game Two starter

Oct 14, 2009 12:50 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

I know. I think my brain was protesting the Wolf --> Kershaw ordering.

Which is almost as bad as the NLCS rotation...

Oct 14, 2009 15:32 PM
 
antoine6

Are you implying that not pitching a lefty with a 129 ERA+ against the lefty-heavy Phillies until Game 4 is a bad decision?

Oct 14, 2009 18:06 PM
rating: 1
 
mafrth77

Guerrero has had trouble with real hard throwers. his 1-11 against Papelbon reflects that as much as any samle size fluke.

Oct 14, 2009 14:05 PM
rating: 0
 
Eric M. Van

Joe, this is by and large an exemplary summary, with one glaring exception and one minor quibble.

And I have to give you credit for sticking with your guns re the supposed demise of David Ortiz. But the fact remains that after you called for his benching here and in SI, after you were so certain of his washed-up uselessness, he hit .281 / .383 / .579 in 201 PA, a line entirely predictable from his season to that point (I can say that because I did just that at the time, based on his hitting an almost identically valuable .285 / .364 / .616 in 173 PA from June 6 to the day the PED scandal broke).

Which means that his failure to hit in this series, like virtually all his teammates, is as meaningless as all the other small samples you correctly dismiss. They probably should start platooning him rather than Drew against tough LHP, but the notion that they desperately need to dump him (as opposed to looking to upgrade him, say, with a major trade for Price Fielder), or that they should have PH Brian Anderson for him on Friday night, is just wack.

The minor quibble involves dismissing A-Rod's post-season performance -- indeed, his whole career in the clutch -- as random variation. A-Rod was a terrific post-season player through 2004 ALCS game 3, then was awful until this year, and now is terrific again. Meanwhile, his regular season "Clutch" (as measured by FanGraphs) was an average +.25 wins per year before and after (in his playoff years) and -1.06 in between. That doesn't strike me as random; that's bipolar, and I think you'd grow to be very old indeed before you replicated that pattern replaying his career in Diamond Mind. I think the mistake everyone makes re "clutchness" is thinking it's a trait variable rather than a state variable. A-Rod's neither a clutch player or a choker in the long run (like nearly everyone else), but I honestly think he's a guy whose confidence swings to such extremes that his performance, one way or the other, is unlikely to be attributable to chance at any point in time. As long as he's feeling good about himself the Yankees are going to be a little tiny bit scarier.

Oct 15, 2009 02:45 AM
rating: 3
 
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