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Before The Game

Keith Law: Braves in FOUR? Oh, we’re going to get hate mail…

Joe Sheehan: I can see the Mets winning a game…I just can’t
fathom which one, or how.

Rany Jazayerli: The chances for a Braves’ sweep are about as high as
that of a career revival for anyone who has appeared in a 1-800-COLLECT
commercial.

Greg Spira: Why on Earth wouldn’t they win a game? Play the series
out in Strat-O-Matic 1,000 times, and the average outcome will probably be
Braves in seven games. Predicting sweeps of any kind with two relatively
close matched teams goes against logic.

JS: But they’re not that closely matched. They were separated by six
games in the regular season, and that’s the regular season. In the
postseason, it’s all about the front-line talent, and the Braves have that
over the Mets. The Mets are a deeper team.

GS: I’m not sure where that difference is, except in the starting
pitching. The Mets clearly have the better everyday players (as a result of
the Braves’ injuries), offensively and defensively, and probably a very
slightly better bullpen overall.

Yes, the Braves’ front four starters are significantly better than the
Mets’ starters, but the Mets’ starters are all solid and reasonable; it’s
not like they’re the Rangers. And, despite their performance during the
year against the Braves, the Mets’ main offensive weakness has been against
left-handed pitchers.

KL: True, but they’re hardly the Braves. Al Leiter is
inconsistent, Kenny Rogers is gimpy, Rick Reed is
taterrific…oh, wait, that three-hitter against a
Giles/Kendall/Sprague-less Pirates changes everything, right
Mr. McCarver?…Masato Yoshii is flammable…

Meanwhile, the Braves had two of the top five–arguably top three–starters
in the National League this year, neither named Greg Maddux or
Tom Glavine.

My objection is that it takes very little for a four-game sweep to go
awry. If one Met starter turns this into a battle of bullpens, it’s
basically a toss-up, depending on which relievers appear in the game and
how tired they are. Braves in five seems a lot more likely to me. If the
point is just that this is a bigass mismatch, though, Braves in four makes
that case better.

The one other thing with which I disagreed in that writeup was the mild dig
at Kevin McGlinchy. He was decidedly mediocre in the first half,
but in the second half, he was quite good: 26 innings, 28 baserunners, 23/5
strikeout-to-walk ratio. Maddux, in fact, was much worse in the second
half, with 129 baserunners in 92 1/3 innings and a 62/16 ratio. I know it’s
barely comparable, and second-half stats don’t mean a ton, but I just
thought that the comment was undeserved.

RJ: 1) The Braves are the better team.

2) The Braves’ talent distribution is better suited for postseason play:
the bench is the worst part of the team.

3) That still doesn’t mean predicting a sweep is wise.

If we assume the Braves have a 60% chance of winning each game, the chances
for a sweep are 13%. There is a way to predict the winning percentage of
two teams, given their winning percentages against the league; Bill James
wrote about this in the early Abstracts. I think, just off the top of my
head, that a six-game difference in the standings wouldn’t translate into
more than about a .550 winning percentage, but we’ll call it 60% because of
the Braves’ frontline talent.

So they have a 13% chance of a sweep. Does that mean you should predict
one? Let’s put it this way: if I were a betting man, I would jump at the
opportunity to bet against the sweep.

And I think everyone is overlooking just how significant the Braves’ OBP
problems are. You’ve got Gerald Williams, Bret Boone, Jose
Hernandez
, Eddie Perez and the pitcher – that’s five spots in
the lineup without even a .340 OBP. The Mets, 1 through 7, have no one
worse than a .361 OBP. That’s an enormous difference, and by itself reason
enough to think the Mets won’t go away in four games, or even in five.

Michael Wolverton: This got me curious to check out the
probabilities. In case anyone else is interested:

Braves in 4: 13%
Braves in 5: 21%
Braves in 6: 21%
Braves in 7: 17%
Mets in 7:   11%
Mets in 6:    9%
Mets in 5:    6%
Mets in 4:    3%

That’s assuming Braves beat Mets 60% of the time in a game, all games are
independent, etc. All unrealistic assumptions, of course.

It’s interesting that, if you accept the 60% number, "Braves in
5" is as good a prediction as any other. I would have thought that the
safe money is always on a six- or seven-game series, except for a drastic
overmatch situation (e.g., a Texas team vs. anybody in the postseason).

In order for a sweep to be the best prediction probability-wise, the Braves
would have to beat the Mets at least 75% of the time in a game.

Chris Kahrl: It seems people have conceded the Mets’ defensive
superiority far too easily. Whatever the Mets’ perceived advantages in the
infield–and I think they’re overstated–aren’t the Braves’ advantages in
the outfield just as significant? Is the difference between John
Olerud
and Ryan Klesko really that big a deal? I’m reluctant to
concede Piazza’s a better glove than the Myers/Perez combo. The Robin
Ventura
versus Chipper Jones argument seems to be the only one
where the Mets have a clear advantage defensively.

After The Game

JS: Oh…here’s another reason: because Bobby Valentine is too
unbelievably stupid to hit for Rey Ordonez when he’s the tying run
with two outs in the ninth inning.

RJ: Funny… I actually thought that Valentine’s willingness to
pinch-hit for Ordonez when losing late could be the key to the Mets’
chances in this series, since their lineup 1-through-7 is pretty solid.
Don’t the Mets have any backup infielders on the roster?

One small point: if Benny Agbayani pinch-hits, he gets the
intentional walk to bring up…Bobby Bonilla? At that point, do the
Mets have anyone who’s a big upgrade on Ordonez?

(Mind you, with the tying run on base, it’s still the right move to get
Ordonez’s sorry butt out of there. Put Bonilla at third base and Ventura at
shortstop if you have to, but get to the bottom of the ninth first.

JS: Uh…no. Bobby Cox would never intentionally walk the tying
run
with his dominant closer on the mound so he could give the
winning run a chance to bat.

Jeff Hildebrand: Nope. Costas mentioned that Luis Lopez was
left off the roster for this round of the playoffs. If that’s really
correct, I’m stunned by Valentine’s stupidity. Amused, but stunned.

GS: Melvin Mora is the backup shortstop. Yes, it seems like
he’s an outfielder, but he was playing shortstop at Norfolk everyday before
he was called up at mid-season.

JS: That’s actually not such a bad idea, given that Valentine has
apparently decided that Ordonez hits in any and all situations. Lopez is
really a wasted roster spot, in much the same way Luis Sojo is on the Yankees.

I actually forgot about Shawon Dunston, who was still in the game at
this point. He’s actually a great person to have on this team, and would be
the natural choice to play shortstop.