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October 20, 2009

Prospectus Today

Putting the Drama in Drama Season

by Joe Sheehan

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This postseason becomes a bit more ridiculous with each passing day. Counting the AL Central playoff, we've had 21 games since the regular season ended on October 4. Five have gone to extra innings. Three saw the lead change hands after one team was down to its final out. In 14 games, the tying or tie-breaking run has come to the plate in the ninth inning. Yesterday featured six lead changes, two extra innings, and the Phillies winning a game that they trailed through 26 outs-for the second time in just six games. It was a day that could make baseball fans out of people who had never heard of the game, or just remind the devoted of why they keep coming back.

Angels/Yankees

Short-sequence offenses are the best way to score in the postseason. When you're facing better pitching, the proper approach isn't to play smallball and string events together in the hopes of adding a single run to your total. No, you want to score as many runs as you can in as few swings of the bat as possible. The Yankees were 5-0 this postseason coming into yesterday because they hadn't allowed their opponents to hit a home run. For all the talk of the Angels' approach to the game, they swept the Red Sox in part because they roped nine extra-base hits to the Sox' four, and nearly doubled the Sox' slugging average.

Yesterday was an object lesson in the principle. Seven of the game's nine runs scored on homers. The others scored when a triple was knocked home and on a double off the wall. Earl Weaver would have been proud. Scattered among those long hits were a baserunner being picked off, a caught stealing directly in front of a home run, and a runner making an egregious baserunning gaffe that erased his own double. The only things being manufactured were outs.

In the end, the Angels overcame their mistakes by hitting baseballs very far. Howie Kendrick isn't someone you expect to go deep-he hits a homer every 60 at-bats or so-but he broke up Andy Pettitte's shutout in the fifth and breathed life into a dying Angels season with a shot to left. I didn't see it at the time, but I'm wondering if there wasn't a warning sign there; Pettitte had been very good at burying the cutter in on right-handed batters in the early innings, but the pitch to Kendrick seemed to catch more of the plate than is optimal. An inning later, Pettitte left a cutter in just about the same spot, and Vladimir Guerrero tied the game.

This is admittedly a second guess, and something I wasn't entirely sure of while watching the inning unfold. But the more I think about it, the more I look at the situation after the Abreu walk, consider the depth of the bullpen, where Pettitte was, I think the move was to go to Joba Chamberlain for the two right-handed batters. I can't kill Girardi for this-we'll get to that later-but the entire Guerrero at-bat had a sense of impending doom about it. It featured seven pitches, three throws over to first, a mound conversation, and the whole thing lasted five minutes before Guerrero ended it, violently. Chamberlain's skill is getting right-handed batters to swing through his fastball and over his slider; maybe he should have been facing Torii Hunter and Guerrero given the skill sets involved.

An inning later, Girardi did go to Chamberlain, but that didn't work. Kendrick tripled off the right-field wall and came home on a sac fly, then an Erick Aybar double knocked Chamberlain out of the game. Even given that outing, I think Chamberlain was the right call in the sixth.

After the Yankees' fourth solo homer of the day tied the game in the eighth, the Angels got another big extra-base hit to start the bottom of the inning, as Bobby Abreu crushed a ball into center field that caught Melky Cabrera shifted over to the left-center gap. It was an easy double or a hard triple, but Abreu split the difference, running 25 feet past second into no-man's land. A relay throw from Derek Jeter to Mark Teixeira covering the bag wiped out a scrambling Abreu. Not that it's ever a smart play, but with no one out you simply cannot make a baserunning out like that when you're the winning run.

The Angels got two more big blows in the game, both Jeff Mathis doubles. After squandering a leadoff two-bagger in the tenth by not hitting another ball out of the infield, the Angels won in the 11th when Mathis crushed a ball off the warning track in left-center, scoring Kendrick to keep the Angels in this series. He's about the last guy you would have expected to be a hero-Mathis, once a top prospect, has a career batting line of .200/.277/.320 in five seasons-but on a beautiful afternoon in Southern California, he was once again the guy who had hit .284/.364/.463 as a 20-year-old in the Texas League.

The Angels won this game with their bats. However, Joe Girardi had to make a number of decisions that called into question his handling of his personnel, and served to remind everyone that the Angels have a significant tactical advantage in this series. I mentioned Pettitte, but the first clearly questionably decision game in the eighth inning. After Chamberlain surrendered the double to Aybar, Girardi removed him in favor of Damaso Marte with Chone Figgins coming up. Marte retired Figgins, but was then removed in favor of Phil Coke to start the bottom of the eighth. Girardi burned both his left-handers in succession to get two outs, and while he got those two outs, had left himself down two pitchers for the process. There's been no discussion of a Marte injury, and there's simply no skill advantage that Coke could have over Marte that would justify losing a bullet in this fashion.

This move would be all but forgotten in the 11th inning, when Girardi started the inning with David Robertson, watched him get two quick outs, then brought in Alfredo Aceves to pitch to Kendrick. The outcome is irrelevant; that Kendrick singled and Mathis doubled turns a lot of eyeballs to this move, but it was inexplicable in the moment and remains so nearly a day later. Girardi didn't provide a specific explanation for the decision, citing "matchups," but the moment didn't call for a tactical answer. You don't sweat skill-set or style information when you have the platoon advantage with two outs and no one on. You don't need a specific kind of out; you need an out. As with choosing Coke over Marte, preferring Aceves over Robertson may have had its roots in an information-filled binder, may have even been the best way to get one specific out, but the marginal value gained by the change was dwarfed by the way it squandered resources. You cannot use your two left-handed relievers for four pitches over back-to-back batters in the seventh and eighth innings, and you can't waste relievers in extra innings by emphasizing some kind of "matchups" over resource conservation.

Joe Girardi is not a good tactical manager, and while I've defended his bullpen usage during this postseason, there's no defense for what he did yesterday. He's overmanaging more with each passing day, and even a roster as strong as that of the Yankees is breakable.

What's interesting is that Girardi made one or two moves I actually liked in this game, but even those came with costs. He correctly pulled Johnny Damon out of the game with the winning run on third base and one out in the 10th. Unfortunately, because of the earlier decisions to use Brett Gardner and Jerry Hairston Jr. in the DH slot, he had to give up the DH to do so, sliding Hairston into left and putting the pitcher into the lineup, batting third in the 11th inning. If he's doing to look to take Damon out of games, he might consider using Freddy Guzman rather than Gardner to pinch-run for Hideki Matsui, saving the better outfielder for a different role.

I thought Girardi's use of Mariano Rivera after the Mathis double opened the 10th was correct. As in Game Two, the Angels had two switch-hitters and a left-handed batter coming to the plate, and Rivera is, with the two lefties having been used, the best choice for that sequence with the game on the line. As it turned out, the subsequent decision to put Hairston in the game forced Rivera to be hit for in the top of the 11th, and set up the game-ending rally in the bottom of the inning. Taken as a whole, there's no major mistake in the sequence; it's the sum of smaller decisions-running Gardner rather than Guzman, then hitting Hairston for Gardner against Brian Fuentes in the 10th with two outs and a runner on first, maybe a spot to save the bullet-that added up to a problem. Girardi could have allowed Rivera to bat in the top of the 11th with two outs and no one on, rather than use Francisco Cervelli, who had little chance of starting a rally. I suspect Rivera's heavy use over the first three games of the series, even with the offday, mitigated against this, and I think Girardi wanted to be careful about overworking him.

There was an idea, at the start of this postseason, that the Yankees were a clear favorite. Perhaps that was the case, but when you look at their last two weeks, you see a team that hasn't exactly put the hammer down. They won CC Sabathia's two starts handily; in the other four games they went to extra innings three times and had a one-run lead after eight in the other. Had they won yesterday they would have been in line for another of those sweeps that is far from dominant. Instead, they send their ace to the mound today, and at least some players have to be hoping that Sabathia pitches well enough to keep their manager from having to make any decisions harder than "windbreaker or bare arms."

---

  • I've tried to not write about broadcasters too much. This is made easier by the fact that I tend to watch the games with the sound off. Yesterday, though, I listened a bit, and I heard something that I do want to point out.

    After Kendrick tripled in the seventh, the producers cut to a replay of Kendrick's swing and his trip around the bases. Over this shot, Tim McCarver went into a soliloquy about "triples being earned," with the implication being that Kendrick got a triple rather than a double because of how he ran on the play. The replay, however, showed the exact opposite. Kendrick didn't bust it down the first-base line; he tracked the ball with his eyes and ran at about three-quarters speed, then appeared to convince himself that he had a homer, and actually slowed a bit as he approached first base. Finally, past first, he accelerated to top speed and busted it from there to third.

    This was all clear from the video. If you want to see how hard someone's running, watch their arms and face. Kendrick didn't make good time to first base; he didn't Cadillac it, but he didn't run hard, and to use a replay of his running to first to argue that "triples are earned" is equivalent to me using the score of yesterday's game to argue that the Yankees can complete their sweep tonight. It's absolutely horrible broadcasting, a shining example of making up a storyline and then forcing the facts to fit it.

    Baseball fans deserve better than that.

  • Why does Mike Scioscia keep hitting for Mike Napoli? In each of his last three starts, Napoli has been pulled from the game for either Gary Matthews Jr. or Maicer Izturis. I might defend the decision to hit Izturis for him yesterday, as the need for contact with the go-ahead runner on third and one out is pretty high, but when you're batting Matthews for anyone, you're giving away value. Napoli hit .253/.327/.455 against RHPs this year, and is at .250/.348/.484 against them in his career. Matthews' numbers are worse than Napoli's in both cases, and he's been famously terrible ever since the career 2006 season that made him a gajillionaire. Jeff Mathis' heroics aside, Scioscia should stop hitting Matthews for Napoli immediately.

  • Mariano Rivera's decision to field Aybar's bunt and try to throw out Mathis at third base called to mind his disastrous play in Game Seven of the 2001 World Series, but this was different. With a one-run lead and a runner going to second, as was the case eight years ago, you take the out. With a tied game and the runner going to third, the tradeoff isn't as clear, and you're more justified in trying for the lead runner. The decision was the mistake back in Phoenix; it was the execution-Rivera was on the bunt quickly and had a good chance of making the play, but he rushed the throw, one-hopping it past the bag. The comparison of the two plays makes sense, but note that the mistake was different in each case.

  • After that play, Scioscia did not run for his second catcher (he has a third, Bobby Wilson, on the roster) with Reggie Willits. He also did not have the contact play on with first and third and no one out, so when Figgins grounded sharply to first, Mathis held. The two decisions work in concert with one another-you either have Willits and the contact play, or neither-so there's consistency. With that said, Scioscia probably should have gone the other way and run Willits while putting some kind of play on. It's a close call, but the game is on third base, and you have to try to end it right there.

Phillies/Dodgers

I'm not a baseball expert… no, wait, I kind of am a baseball expert, so here's my take. If you can play .500 ball in games in which you trail with one out left, you'll probably win the championship.

That's the story of the Phillies' postseason so far, and last night, unlike their Game Four win over the Rockies, you can't point to the opposing dugout for a reason. Joe Torre managed his rear off last night, using Hong-Chih Kuo differently than he had all season because that's what he needed to do, correctly leaving George Sherrill in to face Ryan Howard in the eighth, and putting his best pitcher on the mound with the game on the line.

The Phillies won anyway. They won because their bullpen bounced back to provide three shutout innings, including the best work Brad Lidge has provided so far. They won because they have Matt Stairs, who will always make a pitcher beat him, and who will take a walk if he has to. They won because Jonathan Broxton made an awful mistake, hitting Carlos Ruiz, at the worst possible time. They won because Jimmy Rollins, despite tacking a terrible postseason onto a lousy regular season, can still destroy a thigh-high fastball. Rollins' game-winning gapper was as hard hit a ball as we've seen this October. The former MVP has now featured prominently in all three games the Phillies have won with ninth-inning rallies, which illustrates his importance to their offense.

Unlike the ALCS game, which featured a lot of tactical intrigue and managerial mistakes, this game was really all about the players, from Ryan Howard hammering a 3-1 fastball for an early 2-0 lead, to a two-out rally by the Dodgers that was their first sign of life since the eighth inning of Friday's game, to Matt Kemp going up the ladder to hit a long homer, to Manny Ramirez playing a Shane Victorino double into a triple-but then saving his team with a shoestring catch in the sixth-to the Sherrill/Howard showdown, to Ryan Madson pitching out of trouble in the eighth, to the ninth-inning rally that may have turned this series for good. Joe Torre and Charlie Manuel pushed and pulled and did what they could, but this game was settled between the lines, where one very strong lineup found yet another way to beat one very strong bullpen, and move one very big step closer to one very big feat: repeating.

---

  • We've been so focused on the horrific umpiring around the diamond this year that it's gone mostly unremarked that the ball-and-strike calls have been their usual mess. Ted Barrett had a tough game last night, and I'll cite just two examples, the 1-2 to Randy Wolf in the sixth, which was right down the middle, and the 0-1 breaking ball to Howard in the bottom on that inning. Forget using the TBS box to gauge anything, and just watch the pitches and the calls. The strike zone is as random as ever.

    By the way, do you think it ever would have been leaked that a lot of umpires are injured right now (thanks, Rob Neyer) if the ones on the field weren't making such a mess of things? How many umpires are injured by the end of other seasons? Maybe the real story here is that umpiring is an old man's game when it should be a young man's game, or that the depth or the MLB umpiring pool can't sustain a few injuries?

    There's no connection between the horrible umpiring we've seen and the umps being injured, and the leak here is as much the story-how convenient that this would come out now-as the details involved. The solution is a replay system along the lines of what college football has, with constant booth reviews by an umpire with complete authority to reverse calls. Hey, if nothing else it would keep some of the injured guys off their feet.

I'm chatting at 2 p.m. We'll talk more about both these series then.

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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One Flap Down

I thought the 2-1 pitch to Howard in the bottom of the first was the key blown call in the game. It was clearly a strike (practically in the middle of the TBS box), and instead of 2-2 the count was 3-1, and Howard hammered the next pitch out. You could see Wolf have a nice discussion with Barrett while Howard circled the bases.

Oct 20, 2009 11:17 AM
rating: 1
 
One Flap Down

Here's a screengrab of that pitch:

http://twitpic.com/m9hv5/full

Oct 20, 2009 11:29 AM
rating: 1
 
Rob Moore

According to the screengrab the count should have been 1-3 at that point.

Oct 20, 2009 11:32 AM
rating: 0
 
DLaRoss

That's about par for that game. The strike zone was the size of an ant for about the first half, and then it went from "small" to "pure guesswork."

Oct 20, 2009 11:50 AM
rating: 3
 
JParks
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

A game that turned with two outs in the ninth and a first inning 2-1 pitch was the key? The umpire then proceeded to throw a cookie down the middle to the best power hitter in the NL? C'mon, the whining around here about the umpires is becoming insufferable. It's always been a part of the game and personally I like the fact that the umpires tend to punish the whiners.

Oct 20, 2009 11:32 AM
rating: -6
 
One Flap Down

The key *blown call*. I was surprised that Joe cited two bad ball-strike calls in the sixth without citing this one. And short of a bad call on a 3-ball count, the difference between 3-1 and 2-2 is the most pronounced of all counts.

And as for the bad calls being "part of the game", well I think the "human element" argument has been pretty much discredited beyond reproach. I tuned in to watch the Phillies vs. Dodgers, not Ted Barrett vs. the strike zone.

Oct 20, 2009 11:41 AM
rating: 3
 
JParks
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

I don't understand your human element argument. It's not really an argument - it's a reality that the strike zone varies from umpire to umpire, from game to game, sometimes batter to batter, and the good pitchers and hitters tend to get calls that journeymen don't.

The good hitters, pitchers, and catchers deal with it, the bad ones, not so much.

To me it's a very good test of the character of a young pitcher when he doesn't get the call on a close pitch. Some whine and complain, and others show a little mental toughness and try to make the next one better.

Oct 20, 2009 12:13 PM
rating: -8
 
mglick0718

You're kidding, right?

Oct 20, 2009 12:58 PM
rating: 0
 
JParks

Kidding about?

Oct 20, 2009 13:19 PM
rating: 0
 
JParks

Maybe character isn't the right word. I think scouts/pitching coaches/etc. typically refer to it as "makeup" or "mound presence". Basically the ability to focus, not get rattled by events outside their control such as fielding miscues, bad calls, weather, crowd noise, etc., put the negative behind and focus on making pitches rather than glaring at the umpire or shaking their heads

Oct 20, 2009 13:38 PM
rating: 1
 
dtung

The issue was that Ted Barrett was not consistent with his strike zone at all and both teams really had no idea what would be called a strike. It was the worst umpiring behind the plate I have ever seen

Oct 20, 2009 13:36 PM
rating: -1
 
bldxyz123

Okay, but between Blanton and Wolf, who is the "good pitcher" and who is the "journeyman"?

Oct 20, 2009 14:16 PM
rating: -1
 
JParks

Obviously they are both well past journeymen but I don't think it's a wise move to show up the ump on national TV in the first inning when you are the one that just made a two-run mistake. And clearly he was able to adjust and hold it together against a very good lineup despite the umpiring.

My point was really that OK, we all know there is variability in the calling of balls and strikes, it can clearly have a pretty big effect on a game, we all know that at this point, do we have to hear about it in every gamestory and seemingly half the comments?

I still have not seen hard numbers/analysis on anything like

a) How many missed ball/strike calls per game?
b) Are the missed calls always "one way" or do the umpires consciously or unconsciously try to "make up" for missed calls?
c) Any pitcher or team clearly getting more breaks on missed calls?

Instead we get "Well as a Dodger/Phillie/Yankee/Angel fan it looks to me like..." or ridiculous kvetching like "I felt ruined by last night's game" when it was by all accounts a classic postseason game.

Even if the pitch trak/etc is not 100% accurate I would think it could be used at some level to help answer the questions above.

Oct 20, 2009 14:57 PM
rating: 1
 
bldxyz123

I'm holding back as much as I can about the strike zone, and the trends I thought I observed. Being partisan to the Dodgers will certainly not make me unbiased, and so I'll leave it at this: We need to abolish Pitch Trax, because it bears no relationship to the effective strike zone.

Let me be as idealistic as possible: the strike zone is what the umpire says it is, and trying to show what the strike zone ought to be is a disservice to the fans. I felt ruined by last night's game, but nothing was more to blame than the fact that I had seemingly objective evidence in front of me that the ball-strike calls were going more to the Phillies than to the Dodgers (my biased view: I saw a ton of bottom of the zone strikes that Blanton got calls on and Wolf did not).

Get rid of that, and replays of close calls... or change the umpiring to reflect the ideal. But showing the gap between the ideal and the actual umpiring is ruining the whole thing.

Oct 20, 2009 12:03 PM
rating: 0
 
PhillyFriar

I think it's overkill to call it "the key blown call," but it was certainly awful.

Barrett seemed to be giving substantial leeway to pitchers who hit the catcher's mitt -- while this always happens to an extent, Barrett took it to the extreme. Wolf was missing his spots early and left a couple of pitches over the middle of the plate... which were promptly called balls, because Martin moved his glove. Later that inning, Blanton was hitting his spots 4 to 5 inches off the plate, but getting the calls.

The situation reversed itself later as Wolf began hitting his spots and Blanton ran into control problems, but whatever the case, it was awful all the way around.

Oct 20, 2009 11:58 AM
rating: 1
 
casey

It seemed to me like Barrett allowed his frame of reference to change with the catcher's alignment. The screen capture supports that, since Martin is lined up outside and is reaching across for the ball.

Oct 20, 2009 12:01 PM
rating: 1
 
Nowhereman

In general, baseball fans deserve better than Tim McCarver. I have no idea how he's been a broadcaster for so long. He is absolutely horrendous. My favorite example is a Yankee game from 2002 or 2003, shortly after Giambi was signed to his massive deal--McCarver chastised Giambi for drawing a walk, saying that it would be better for him to swing at bad pitches to try and hit a home run, because you don't want a slow runner on base "clogging things up" for the faster runners behind him. In more general terms, McCarver tries to use idiotic word play far too often, usually by repeating a word twice in one sentence but in different contexts. I can imagine McCarver saying something like "Jimmy Rollins just stole second base, but I tell you what, this guy has been a *steal* for the Phillies. What a great player." You're not clever, Tim McCarver. I know I've been rambling for a while hear, but I really can't stand the guy. I'm glad the majority of games have been on TBS so far so I don't have to listen to him or watch the game on mute.

Oct 20, 2009 11:17 AM
rating: 2
 
Nowhereman

And apparently I can't spell =). "I've been rambling on for a while *here*"...

Oct 20, 2009 11:19 AM
rating: 0
 
Dr. Dave

I don't typically defend McCarver, who has become a fingernail on the blackboard of broadcasting, but I have to say that he was a much better (and more enjoyable) broadcaster in the dim past, working Mets games. Even then, the difference was clear between his enjoyable local broadcast approach and his national broadcast approach. How can you be pompous and ingratiating at the same time? He somehow manages it...

Oct 20, 2009 11:39 AM
rating: 1
 
Rob Moore

I'm a Dodger fan so I'm sure I'm biased, but the balls and strike calls last night were some of the worst I've seen, and I think they were overwhelmingly weighted against the Dodgers. I checked Pitch FX and the data is identical to the TBS box, so you can use the two interchangeably. I'd like to see someone do a pitch FX analysis of the calls and quantify the effect of inconsistent strike calls. Randy Wolf was horribly sqeezed in the early innings, and Blanton got every call at the margins of the low zone over the same period. Also, Manny Ramirez had some questionable strike calls off the inside edge of the plate. It was a great, classic game and I hate that the umpiring sticks in my mind after so many memorable plays on the field.

Oct 20, 2009 11:25 AM
rating: 2
 
emanski

Blanton definitely got into trouble because of Barrett's tiny/inscrutable strike zone. Believe me, before Rollins changed the outcome of the game, Phillies fans were ready to write the exact same paragraph you did with the names changed.

Thing is, with Barrett having as awful a game as he had, the Dodgers had every chance to win that game. If Barrett makes different calls, we're in a completely different timeline, with a completely different game. There's no way to know what would have happened. All we do know is in the game that did actually occur, the most influential thing was Broxton blowing the save.

Oct 20, 2009 12:04 PM
rating: 0
 
Rob Moore

The thing is, Blanton was getting frustrated at not getting calls that were "balls" according to pitch trax. It would be interesting for someone to crunch the data. I'm certainly not objective enough to trust my memory of the action but it would be instructive to know for sure.

Oct 20, 2009 12:24 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

You cannot use the TBS Pitch Trax. I don't understand why, but it's calibrated wrong and has been all month. It's OK vertically, but way off, all the time, laterally.

Oct 20, 2009 13:17 PM
 
bldxyz123

Strange. Had you said the opposite, that it was OK laterally, I would have subjectively understood and agreed. But my main (possibly biased) impression was that I saw Pitch Trax say that early inning pitches Wolf through, solidly in the bottom of the box, was having strikes called as balls, and that Blanton, hitting equally low spots in the bottom of that Pitch Trax box, was getting those called as strikes.

Someone else said it was the same data as Pitch FX. True or false? Either way, I'd rather not have had Pitch Trax up at all last night, as it gave me something to focus on (negatively, at that) besides the actual game being played.

Oct 20, 2009 14:22 PM
rating: 0
 
Christopher Miller
(88)

the TBS trax is not "hard" installed in the parks and is calibrated before each broadcast by an op who runs the system once a week (at best) during the regular season. Pitch FX is "hard" installed in each park, is calibrated as needed throughout the season, and is operated by teams who are stationed in each park for every game. If TBS can't get on the field to do a good calibration before the game, the results are abysmal--an outcome I observed firsthand during a Sunday TBS broadcast this season. They use the PFX data, but they display using their own calibration, so the two are not the same.

Oct 21, 2009 09:02 AM
rating: 1
 
J Scott

As a Yankees fan I'm pretty much on board with everything Joe says about Girardi's decision-making in this game. Still, even in their totality I don't think they cost the Yankees the game. As has become common in the post-season, we just don't hit (HRs notwithstanding). Following Posada's tying HR in the 8th, I don't think there was a single well struck ball the rest of the game. Not a one. No answers here. Just an observation.

Oct 20, 2009 11:26 AM
rating: 0
 
bflaff

Re: Mariano and fielding bunts. After that Game 7 in 2001, any plays involving Rivera fielding bunts kind of stand out, and since them I've seen him blow that play enough times to think that it's actually a good strategy to use against him.

Oct 20, 2009 11:39 AM
rating: 1
 
MIDAS

I think it was Torre`s mistake to let Wolf hit two on two out in 6th inning.Even though It was 4-2 already and Philies starts next inning from top of their order it was time to use Jim Thorme to try to extend lead and use Kuo to face lefties from the start of the inning.

Oct 20, 2009 12:16 PM
rating: 0
 
daleylama

Tim McCarver has been jamming his pre-fab commentary over contrary video evidence his entire broadcasting career. Joe Morgan is the other eggregious offender on this front. Morgan is also too often guilty of tap-dancing around evidence that shows he's wrong, or just making something up. These are the two worst ever! If you put a gun to my head and asked me to choose one, I'd have to say pull the trigger!

Oct 20, 2009 12:17 PM
rating: 1
 
3n2sports

You obviously have not been watching the action on TBS. I used to think these guys were horrendous, but now I think I've had the word redefined for me. Thanks Buck Martinez.

Oct 20, 2009 12:37 PM
rating: 1
 
Nowhereman

I'm not sure if I would rank Buck Martinez as worse than Tim McCarver. They're both terrible... as best I recall, McCarver annoys me more when he speaks but Martinez speaks louder and more frequently. =)

Oct 20, 2009 13:13 PM
rating: 0
 
Matt Kory

At least Martinez can speak english.

Oct 20, 2009 15:11 PM
rating: 0
 
cliffvoliva

Glad to see others are also annoyed by the commentary that falls out of the mouths of Tim McCarver and Buck Martinez.

My take on the two is that Martinez adds very little to a broadcoast (he usually gives you a tired, drawn-out play-by-play during a replay), while McCarver simply makes each broadcast worse that it would have been on its own.

I wish I kept a diary (not really) on the latter so I could back up what I'm about to say, but I would say in every broadcast over the last three years that McCarver has been a part of, he has made 2-3 remarks that later in the game prove his stupidity.

If I recall correctly earlier this season when St. Louis was on the tube, McCarver was agreeing with the manager (an oddity) of the other team by saying you should always walk Albert Pujols with two out because Ryan Ludwick can't hurt you. The very next pitch, BAM, three-run homer! I laughed so hard I cried. Thanks, Tim...

Oct 20, 2009 15:33 PM
rating: 0
 
3n2sports

Has anyone followed the umpiring link and looked at the injuries? Four of the dozen or so injuries listed have concussions. Somebody call up Will Carroll, it might be time to start advocating better equipment for the guys calling the game...

Oct 20, 2009 12:36 PM
rating: 2
 
jkaplow21

Was at the Phils/Dodgers game and a couple of things I was thinking from a Phillies fan perspective:

1. Hated leaving Blanton in to hit with Ruiz on first. One more inning max of a barely effective Blanton was not worth the AB.

2. I was even more pissed that Feliz, Ruiz and Francisco couldn’t go anything against Kuo. Seriously, why is Feliz on this team? Terrible move by Torre that paid off.

3. Why Eyre then Lidge? Why not start off with Lidge and then bring in Eyre to face Ethier?

Oct 20, 2009 13:11 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

1) Manuel wants to get as much from the starters as he can. When you also consider that he doesn't have a RHB he can send up there to drive in Ruiz from first--that player just doesn't exist on his bench--letting Blanton bat makes sense.

2) Kuo is effective against righties and lefties. It was a good move to leave him him against three hitters who don't exactly crush southpaws.

3) You could do it either way. I think Eyre vs. Hudson and Furcal is a little stronger than Lidge vs. those two, and Lidge, once in, stays in. I suspect Manuel was hoping Eyre would get both SHs, nibble around Kemp and pitch to Ethier.

Oct 20, 2009 13:23 PM
 
SamHughes

Ben Francisco is a decent RHB. Manuel may not have wanted to use him then as opposed to later, but it wasn't out of the realm of possibility for him to knock in Ruiz from first. He hit 15 HRs in 405 ABs and slugged .447.

Oct 20, 2009 14:08 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Yeah, he wasn't a realistic option in that spot because Manuel isn't going to use him that way. Thought it was obvious, but OK, I'll spell it out.

Oct 20, 2009 14:33 PM
 
DLaRoss

Feliz is on the team because he is an excellent glove at a tough defensive position. His batting is passable at best, but that's a trade they're willing to make. It's not like their lineup is desperately hurting for help.

Oct 20, 2009 13:58 PM
rating: 0
 
Lyford

"a shining example of making up a storyline and then forcing the facts to fit it."

In other words, it was a typical Tim McCarver performance. He doesn't have another mode, does he?

Oct 20, 2009 13:15 PM
rating: 0
 
Rob_in_CT

"Taken as a whole, there's no major mistake in the sequence; it's the sum of smaller decisions that added up to a problem."

Yep. I've largely been pro-Girardi, but he's taken a step too far with his management in the playoffs. He's burning through relievers too quickly (though I appreciate his clear intention to use Mo rather than lose a game with a lesser pitcher) and, though I didn't pick up on it at the time, he should have pinch run with Guzman instead of Gardner (I was ok with pinch running and trying to steal, though I'm not all that happy with him going on a 0-1 count). Taking out Robertson, who looked excellent, for Aceves was just the final little mistake.

Of course, if the offense had managed to get a hit RISP, this wouldn't matter.

Oct 20, 2009 13:43 PM
rating: 0
 
BobbyRoberto
(907)

I agree with MIDAS. I was looking for Torre to pinch hit for Wolf with two on and two out in the top of the 6th, then turn it over to the pen for the bottom of the 6th. Instead, he let hit Wolf, didn't add on any runs, then got just one more out from Wolf, while he allowed a run and two baserunners. At the time of the at-bat, I wondered how short Wolf's leash was if he got into trouble. If it's short, pinch-hit for him there and try to add on some runs.

Oct 20, 2009 14:25 PM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

The thing about pinch hitting for Wolf is that Wolf is one of the best hitting pitchers in the game. Career line of .181/.227/.261. Not phenomenal, but you do you expect to get out of a pinch hitter? I can't find cumulative numbers for this, or any year, but I know the old saw is that hitters generally hit worse as pinch hitters than when they are simply in the lineup. So how big was the trade-off really?

Oct 20, 2009 15:35 PM
rating: 0
 
LukeKasdan

With Pitch FX in every ballpark, shouldn't umpires ball/strike calls be tracked and graded so they're held to account?

The strike zone is defined in the rule book -- and not really open to interpretation -- and if you can't get it right 95% percent of the time you shouldn't be behind the plate.

I'd like to see a push for retiring players to move into umpiring. Clearly there are skills (footwork, reading balls, hand/eye coordination and split second reactions) that would translate.

Oct 20, 2009 15:54 PM
rating: 1
 
emanski

In criticizing umps, there is usually some confirmation bias at work. Umpires in general do acceptable work, and the existing rules work fine with an error rate that is likely acceptable in just about any field. Barrett's strike zone judgment seemed poor, but like Jonathan Broxton, he could have just been having a bad day. I think it's a mistake for us to make too much of it - a great many fans, for example, had never heard of Phil Cuzzi or Ted Barrett before, but now they know all about them?

Camera angles are notoriously unreliable, and the PitchFX machinery has margins of error. MLB could and should judge umpires on how well they call balls and strikes over periods of months or years, but in one game, or even three, it's overreaction. If my team had lost, I'd be ticked, no question. But calling for radical changes to the way the game works? That's for the NFL.

Oct 20, 2009 16:19 PM
rating: 0
 
Mountainhawk

And damnit, we are not going to emulate the most popular, successful sports league in the world.

Oct 20, 2009 16:44 PM
rating: -1
 
emanski

Football is the most popular sport because it is the best for betting, not because they make game-altering rules every few years.

Oct 20, 2009 17:36 PM
rating: 2
 
Mountainhawk

And it's best for betting because they change the rules constantly to ensure that the game remains balanced and no small group of teams will dominate.

Oct 20, 2009 17:47 PM
rating: 0
 
strupp

Which is why the Steelers and Patriots have appeared in 6 of the last 8 Super Bowls, the Eagles were in 4 straight NFC championship games and 5 in the last 8 years, The Cowboys and Niners played in NFC Championship games for 3 straight years against each other, and one team in 5 out of 6 years...

Can we do the Salary Cap next?

Oct 20, 2009 18:52 PM
rating: 0
 
seagertp

The umpires are not doing acceptable work tonight AT ALL. They are AWFUL.

We wouldn't tolerate this level of umpiring in our local youth league. Missed tag outs. Missed force outs.

What game are they watching?

Oct 20, 2009 19:11 PM
rating: 0
 
Dr. Dave

Confirmation bias? We've had PitchF/X data for several years now, and the confirmaton of how often umpires get it wrong -- and how those errors are not uniformly scattered -- is clear. These playoffs simply focus extra attention on what happens in every game.

You say "Camera angles are notoriously unreliable", as if they were somehow intrinsically less reliable than the weird (single) angle umpires get. You say "PitchFX machinery has margins of error", as if human umpires don't. You're complaining that automobiles only go 20 mph when all you currently have is a broken-down old nag.

As for "MLB could and should judge umpires on how well they call balls and strikes over periods of months or years", I couldn't agree more. And the answer is "they ALL fail, compared to the machine". I can't imagine what you think would be a "radical change to the way the game works", when the only difference would be that the ump announces what the machine said, rather than his own guess.

Oct 21, 2009 04:51 AM
rating: 1
 
emanski

Well I disagree that that is best, though the NFL might not. Forced competitive balance, such as it is, is manipulative more than virtuous.

For such a data-dependent crowd, it seems a lot of people are making judgments about the umps based on emotion and limited observation. IMO far more NFL games are decided on subjective interpretations of rules than should ever happen in a sporting contest, but at least football has a game structure in which play results are routinely nullified for one reason or another.

Introducing result nullification into baseball via instant replay would be a drastic response to a relatively small problem that we've dealt with successfully for hundreds of years. I don't agree that the game is so broken that it needs that dramatic a fix.

Oct 20, 2009 18:22 PM
rating: 1
 
LukeKasdan

I'm not looking for an automated system, just some more transparency into the process by which the umpires are held to account.

Why shouldn't we expect umpires to be held to the same standard of performance as others on the field -- their performance quantified and mistakes reviewed so they can understand why they missed an objectively wrong call and how they can be in a place to make the right call the next time around?

Oct 20, 2009 18:38 PM
rating: 0
 
WholeLottaGame

And as we debate the bad umpiring, Tim McClellan blows a call by saying Swisher leaves 3rd early when his foot is clearly still on the bag when the ball is in Hunter's glove.

Oct 20, 2009 18:31 PM
rating: 0
 
One Flap Down

What makes it worse is that AT NO POINT did McClelland look at Swisher while the ball was in the air, while Hunter made the catch, or after the catch was made. Nor did, in the one wide-angle shot Fox showed, any of the other umpires look at Swisher when the ball was caught.

It reeked of a make-up for the earlier blown call in the inning on the pickoff play, but I'll chalk it up to just general incompetence.

Thinking about it, I have the perfect solution for both of baseball's glaring PR disasters: STEROIDS FOR UMPS!

Oct 20, 2009 18:47 PM
rating: 0
 
strupp

And the umps are about to blow a GREAT play by Napoli

Oct 20, 2009 18:54 PM
rating: 0
 
elm
(41)

I'm a Yankee fan, and I'm horrified by what McClelland just did: how is Cano not out? What possible justification can there be for that call?

Oct 20, 2009 19:02 PM
rating: 0
 
Nowhereman

I just saw that too. He must have been expecting the fielder to tag Posada and stopped paying attention to Cano or something. Just another terrible call. I can't remember a single postseason series over the past 15 years that has had umpiring nearly as bad as this postseason has had across every series. Maybe the Marlins/Braves series with the Eric Gregg/Livan Hernandez incident, but that's about it.

Oct 20, 2009 19:04 PM
rating: 0
 
elm
(41)

Given McClelland's explanation of what happened--he was expecting a situation where both Cano and Posada ended up on the bag at the same time so he just assumed Cano was on the bag--suggests that he was ignoring the thing that Joe and others have long said make baseball the best sport in the world: anything can happen.

This is also the best explanation I've heard for Cuzzi's blown call: he was so expecting the ball to slice foul and was so surprised when it didn't, that he called it foul without really thinking.

The umpires need to stop letting their assumptions prevent them from actually watching the game. And what happened to the umps getting help from their fellows: surely one of the other 5 umps saw that Cano was not on the bag?

Oct 21, 2009 05:45 AM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

Glad that didn't turn out to screw the Angels.

Now....how about that ALCS? What was that about it not being over after 2-0 Joe?

Yankees in five and Yankees over Phils in five.

What a postseason.

Oct 20, 2009 22:43 PM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

And on the umps, I am totally with the movement to bring on the machines. These guys have been putrid. They have mailed it in this entire postseason.

Oct 20, 2009 22:45 PM
rating: 0
 
Rob_in_CT

Man, that was bad.

Swisher was picked off - called safe.
Swisher scored on a sac fly - erroneously called out (makeup call?)
Posada and Cano out at third, but only one was called out (this one was by far the most egregious).

All in the same inning, IIRC. That's impressive, and not in a good way.

Oct 21, 2009 05:44 AM
rating: 0
 
yankee

After the Yankees defeated the Twins, I thought an added bonus would be not having to listen to Skip Carey and Ron Darling, but I forgot how inane McCarver can be. I agree with Joe's analysis on the Yankees. Maybe Giradi should play more DMB.

Oct 21, 2009 08:53 AM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

Darling's ten times better than any Yankees announcer.

Oct 21, 2009 09:35 AM
rating: 3
 
yankee

I don't know if he is "ten times better than any Yankee announcer" maybe he is. Let's just say that Skip Carey would make any broadcasting partner sound worse.

Oct 21, 2009 15:42 PM
rating: 0
 
Tarakas

So far, this is the least interested I have been in the post season in years. I find "Yankees add two best free agents to high payroll team, then win in post season" not a particularly interesting narrative, nor do I have a lot of interest in the Dodgers and Phillies replaying the 2008 NLCS. I'm glad Joe and some of you seem to be enjoying the games, but I'm pretty much waiting for off-season transaction time.

Oct 21, 2009 09:52 AM
rating: 1
 
amazin_mess

Same here Tarakas. This entire season has sucked.

Oct 21, 2009 12:44 PM
rating: 1
 
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