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For much of last night, it was 1996 again. Or 1998. Or maybe 2000. You had Andy Pettitte getting big outs, a deep lineup grinding away at an opposing starting pitcher, a key break going the Yankees‘ way, a crowd buzzing with confidence, eager to celebrate a clinching. Forget that it was a new building, or that the guy who got the biggest hit not so long ago contributed to a dark day in franchise history, or that the big plays were consecutive bunts, or that Mariano Rivera managed to give up a run. For one night, Aura and Mystique did a show in the Bronx, and when they were done, the World Series was coming home again.

For all the pregame discussion about possibly using CC Sabathia, Joe Girardi made the right decision in starting Andy Pettitte. The dropoff between the two over one game is small, and the Yankees’ ability to start Sabathia against Cliff Lee Wednesday, and perhaps to use him three times in the World Series, is a key to their ability to beat the Phillies. Girardi didn’t necessarily make the win-maximizing decision for one night, but he unquestionably made the championship-maximizing decision.

It didn’t hurt that Pettitte pulled out a start from his dynasty days, pounding the strike zone and spending the whole night ahead of the Angels hitters. Of the 25 men Pettitte faced, 19 started out 0-1, and eight started 0-2. All told, Pettitte threw strikes on nearly two-thirds of his 99 pitches, scattering seven hits and walking one man. When he left in the seventh holding a 3-1 lead, you half expected to see Jeff Nelson come in and Bob Sheppard make the announcement.

Contrast Pettitte’s work with that of Joe Saunders, a similar pitcher by type who on this night threw 83 pitches, 42 of them out of the strike zone. Saunders walked five and got strike three on exactly no one, the latter turning into a real problem for him during the game. Strikeout rate isn’t just a predictor of longevity, it’s a proxy for how much a pitcher can help himself. Saunders, who doesn’t strike out many men, repeatedly started off 1-0 (15 of 22 batters), then would work the count to two strikes without being able to close things out. Saunders got just one swing-and-miss all night, and gave up two hits on 1-2 counts and two critical walks after getting two strikes on Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter in the fourth. The inability to put hitters away killed Saunders last night.

At that, Saunders allowed just three runs, a figure the Angels would have blown by in many games this season. In this postseason, however, the Angels have been killed by the inability of their table-setters to, well, set the table. Chone Figgins and Bobby Abreu each did have a single last night, and each were involved in the Angels’ two runs (Abreu driving in the first, Figgins scoring the second). But the Angels needed more from them, needed them on base more than once apiece. The two combined for a sub-.300 OBP, which is perhaps the biggest reason that the Angels lost this series.

The Angels’ difficulty scoring runs made Mike Scioscia‘s curious decision to bench his most effective lefty-crusher that much more damaging. Mike Napoli has suffered the indignity of being benched when John Lackey pitches, of being repeatedly pinch-hit for by Gary Matthews Jr., and last night was sat down so that Jeff Mathis-who’s been a better hitter than Napoli since at least Tuesday-could play. I might buy the idea that Scioscia was riding a hot hand of sorts, but if that were the case, shouldn’t Figgins, Abreu, or Kendry Morales have been sitting? If you absolutely have to play Mathis, fine; it’s wrong, but go ahead. But you have to find a way to get Napoli, your best hitter against lefties over the past two seasons, into the lineup. Morales, Abreu… hell, sit Vladimir Guerrero. But to not play Napoli in an elimination game against a left-handed starter is a terrible decision, baseball malpractice of the highest order. In an amusing end, Scioscia sent up Matthews to hit for Napoli one last time, with two outs in the ninth. Batting a bad left-handed hitter for a good right-handed one against Mariano Rivera shows a rather disturbing lack of situational awareness.

Scioscia didn’t have a very good game, being slow to lift Saunders in the third-Jered Weaver should have been throwing as early as the second inning-then unnecessarily exposing Ervin Santana to a stretch of left-handed batters in the eighth. Down one run with maybe one inning left, Santana needed to be Brian Fuentes, or perhaps Scott Kazmir. Santana’s struggles against lefties are a career-long thing, and you have to be tactical when one run matters. That Scioscia eventually got Weaver into the game, for one out when down three runs, might have been interesting if I hadn’t been distracted by all the horses running around the outfield. Weaver, probably the second best pitcher the Angels have, got four outs in the last six days of this series. He should have been called upon earlier, and for more, last night.

By the time Weaver came in, the game was essentially over thanks to an eighth-inning meltdown by the Angels defense. On consecutive sacrifice bunts-Joe Girardi gives away outs like they’re Halloween candy-Howie Kendrick dropped a throw and Scott Kazmir threw a ball over his head, turning a 3-2 game into 4-2 and eventually 5-2. The errors, added to Vladimir Guerrero’s brutal baserunning earlier, capped a series in which the Angels belied their reputation for heady play with repeated mental and physical mistakes. Just as the Twins had in the Division Series, the Angels showed that a reputation for playing fundamental baseball doesn’t necessarily mean you always play fundamental baseball. It wasn’t as costly as the no-shows atop the lineup or the weak bullpen, but their poor decision-making and execution were part of why they lost.

CC Sabathia was awarded the MVP of the ALCS, and while Sabathia was terrific in his two starts, I have to assume this means that Alex Rodriguez didn’t make it through the primary or something. Because if he was eligible for the award and didn’t get it, after being the best hitter in the series and having a dramatic extra-inning home run in a key game, that would mean that the voters, of all things, couldn’t come up big in October. And that’s a bit too much irony for Monday.

  • It’s not like Joe Girardi didn’t try to give us a Game Seven. He had his charges lay down three sacrifice bunts, including a particularly dumb one against a struggling Saunders in the fourth inning, and a 2-0 bunt that led to the Kendrick error in the eighth. He also seems to have elevated Joba Chamberlain ahead of Phil Hughes in the bullpen pecking order, which is a bit like deciding Jeff Mathis is better than Mike Napoli if that decision weren’t quite so ridiculous. The Yankees are 7-2 in this postseason in spite of their manager, and given the gap between Girardi and Charlie Manuel, that record may have no place to go but down.

  • In the interest of fairness, I should note that Girardi’s aggressive use of Mariano Rivera in this postseason is completely to his credit. He’s leveraged the additional days off on the schedule to maximize the use of his top relief pitcher. He should do so less at Hughes’ expense than at the expense of others, but it’s a start.

  • Kendry Morales’ 3-6-3 double play in the seventh inning will be forgotten because it came in a loss, but it was the defensive play of the series. I don’t think Morales has much lateral range, but he showed both good hands and a strong arm in this series. He’s at least an average defensive first baseman, and may still get better.

  • In the Yankee clubhouse after the game, maybe 20 minutes after the first pitch, Kenny Albert asked a champagne-soaked Rivera, “Have you started thinking about the Phillies yet?” I would have given anything for this:

    “Yeah, Kenny, that’s what I was just doing, and all these mother******s won’t shut up. My scouting reports are soaked in this crappy grape juice they’re calling champagne. I need to think about whether to throw the cutter to Ryan Howard or maybe go to the knuckleball I’ve been working on. The 15 or 20 minutes we’ve had since the game ended…it’s all wasted time. We’ll never get it back. If we lose the World Series, lose because of a lack of preparation, these guys will have to live with that. Now get out of my face so I can go back to thinking about the Phillies.”

  • New York and Philadelphia. I’m starting to believe in the Curse of Jeffrey Loria. Since Game Five of the 2003 World Series-eventually won by Loria’s Marlins-there hasn’t been an outdoor World Series game played in a place warmer than St. Louis.

I’ll be back Wednesday with some thoughts on the World Series.

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ZacharyRD
10/26
In the Yankee clubhouse after the game, maybe 20 minutes after the first pitch, Kenny Albert asked a champagne-soaked Rivera, "Have you started thinking about the Phillies yet?" I would have given anything for this: You probably mean last pitch.
buffum
10/26
> It didn't hurt that Pettitte pulled out a start from his dynasty days, pounding the strike zone ... Well, pounding the BALL zone and having them CALLED strikes, but hey, that's what professionals do: take advantage of opportunities.
DrDave
10/26
"It didn't hurt that Pettitte pulled out a start from his dynasty days, pounding the strike zone and spending the whole night ahead of the Angels hitters. [...] Contrast Pettitte's work with that of Joe Saunders, a similar pitcher by type who on this night threw 83 pitches, 42 of them out of the strike zone. Saunders walked five and got strike three on exactly no one, the latter turning into a real problem for him during the game. " Exactly. Go back to the Pitch/FX on this one; the difference wasn't in what they were throwing, but in what those throws were getting called -- especially in the first three innings. I'd love to see the alternate history in which those pitches were called based on where they were, rather than on where the ump thought they were. For at least this one game, the bad calls were NOT evening out -- Pettitte was getting the Tom Glavine Memorial Strike Zone, and Saunders was getting squeezed like a python's next meal. That's not to say that the Yanks might not have won anyway; it's just noting that the playing field for this game was badly tilted, and that blaming Saunders for his "inability to throw strikes" is misplacing the blame.
ahemmer
10/26
I would be interested to see a playoffs summary of pitch f/x vs umpire calls. How accurate were the home plate umps? Which team got more calls going their way? Was there a pattern to incorrectness? I felt like the home plate umpire in games 6 was blowing the inside strike, and that screwed Saunders over.
Flynnbot
10/26
i believe the roof was open for both games at Minute Maid Park in the 2005 World Series.
cdt719
10/28
Per, the box scores on baseball-reference and retrosheet, it's actually a tie between St Louis and Houston, with one game a piece in 2004 and 2005 clocking in at 65 degrees at gametime.
juiced
10/26
You can buy a pennant.
Scartore
10/26
I think it's unfortunate that the rating system drops the below comment, "You can buy a pennant." Off the board. Not because its incorrect, simply because doing so deprives the author of more instructive levels of correction for his asinine statement. Of course you can buy a pennant. Everybody buys their pennant, unless I missed the last time an all volunteer team won the world series. The Phillies bought their pennant. Last year the Ray's bought theirs on the discount rack. Back in the 20's the Yankees bought theirs in the "Nobody else is allowed to pay Ruth but us aisle" Y'know what, I hate the fricking Yankees too. I think its the patriotic duty of any red blooded american outside of the NYC or Tampa area to hate the Yankees. But the Yankees did not do anything Evil to win this pennant.
blamberty
10/26
Pounding the strike zone? More like Glavine-ing the strike zone. I'm just wondering how Fieldin Culbreath snuck behind the plate while LA was hitting.
mltepper
10/26
I'm glad I wasn't the only person that noticed that Morales 3-6-3 double play.
granbergt
10/26
What I don't understand is why Saunders started at all, with the rain-afforded opportunity to pitch Weaver on full rest and Lackey on three days rest to wrap up the series. There's no way that the full run of FIP between them (4.04 for Weaver vs. 5.17 for Saunders) is negated by Weaver's fly ball tendencies.
pbconnection
10/26
An I the only one tired of waiting until the afternoon for BP to publish its articles? When I have time to take a coffee break in the morning while drinking coffee at work, that's when I really want to read some baseball. This is turning into an issue that will likely cause me not to resubscribe.
mattymatty2000
10/26
If you have a problem with it I suggest you email them directly rather than posting something here. Their email addresses aren't difficult to find and this isn't the proper place to complain.
aquavator44
10/26
You could wait until your morning coffee break to read yesterday's articles.
WaldoInSC
10/27
See ya.
pbconnection
10/27
Idiots
mglick0718
10/26
Not to go back to my rant last thursday, but I'm again shocked by Joe's crediting Girardi for his aggressive use of Rivera when his failure to do in the 7th inning of game 5 quite likely extended the series by a game. The only rationale for excusing Girardi going to Marte+Hughes with 2 on and a 2-run lead in that game is that no other manager would have done so either.
davestasiuk
10/26
I just reviewed and tallied the gameday pitch data, and from my count it looks like Pettitte had 1 definite and 1 possible strike that were called balls, and 3 definite balls that were called strikes. Saunders had 3 definite and 3 possible strikes that were called balls, and 1 definite ball that was called a strike. The pitch/fx data clearly backs up the complaint that Saunders was getting squeezed, but is a less damning on the "Glavinesque" zone that folks want to ascribe to Pettitte.
davestasiuk
10/26
...through the first four innings, that is.
johnnyangel101
10/26
Nice work. I'd be too lazy to look all that stuff up, but it IS important. The difference in calls between the two pitchers totals six pitches, and, obviously, SIX batters. That's pretty significant, especially if were only counting the early innings. That's an average almost one batter per inning - three pitches the Yankees didn't have to swing at, getting them into better counts, forcing Saunders to come in with an even better, more "hittable" pitch. Conversely, the Halos were forced into worse counts on three different batters, causing them to "have" to swing at "less hittable" pitches because they had a less favorable count. That's a pretty big deal, and would absolutely affect the outcome of an at bat, an inning, and, yes, ultimately, the game.
stepck
10/27
I'm too lazy to do the work myself as well, so I used Brooks Baseball Pitch FX plots. Since I didn't do it myself, I can't comment on the accuracy of the results plots. However, they don't (strongly) support the notion that Saunders was squeezed. (Two pitches up in the strike were called balls; one pitch outside the strike zone was called a strike.) The results do support the idea that Pettitte got a little help with 4 pitches outside the strike zone. Interestingly enough, the location of those pitches was very near the location where Saunders got his "extra" strike called. Perhaps if Saunders had thrown more pitches in that location, he would have gained an advantage there as well?
thegeneral13
10/27
Would be kind of cool to come up with a stat for individual at bats that is similar to expected runs, i.e. one that shows the expected OPS of a batter by count. If you did that, you could weight blown ball/strike calls by the delta in expected OPS for the hitter and figure out which team was most affected by bad calls. Perhaps you could even translate this into the impact on expected runs, and ultimately, WPA. Just thinking this would allow you to properly weight blown calls based on context. Six blown ball/strike calls could be no big deal or a huge deal depending on the situation.
DrDave
10/27
I'm not sure which graph you're looking at. If I look at the all-game chart (so not just Saunders and Pettitte) for that game, I see: 8 NYA called strikes outside the zone, all on the side away from a RHB. 3 LAA called strikes outside the zone, 2 of them very close. (And one called ball, in exactly the same spot as 2 called NYA strikes.) 4 NYA called balls inside the zone (2 up, 2 down) 5 LAA called balls inside the zone, 1 of them not even close to the edge. 5-to-2 errors against counts as getting squeezed for me, though again this is not just Saunders. 8 gift strikes outside the outside corner is Glavinesque. And the five worst calls, in terms of distance of error, all went against Anaheim. Should Saunders have thrown more pitches in the area where Pettitte was getting his bogus calls? If that's not his game, why should the umpire take away his strengths?
stepck
10/27
Tank had referred to the first 4 innings, so I only looked at the plots for Pettitte and Saunders during that period of time. (I also had not looked at the strikezone for all batter plots.) I agree that LAA got ripped off on one pitch. However, that wasn't Saunders, which is what the original discussion was about. (I think that was a Kazmir pitch.) If you want to argue that the Angels got squeezed, then I might listen. However, arguing that Saunders got squeezed just doesn't agree with the data. He was simply all over the place with his pitches. If you want to argue that Pettitte was favored with a generous strike zone, I might go along with that. He also helped himself by not being as erratic as Saunders.
DrDave
10/28
Fair enough. My subjective impression, watching the game, had been that Saunders got frustrated by not getting some calls early, while his opponent was getting very generous calls, and that this messed up his approach for the rest of the game. It's hard to see grounds for that in the data, though, as you note.
Arrian
10/27
So Pettitte gots +1 or +2, depending on the "possible" pitch you mentioned. Saunders got between -2 and -5, depending on the possibles. To me, that doesn't back up tbe claimed "Glavin-esq" strike zone for Pettitte, but it does back up the claim that Saunders was squeezed.
cercle
10/26
Mariano's reply to Albert wasn't quite that harsh, but I did like how he went out of his way to say that not only had he not started thinking about the Phillies yet, he wouldn't be thinking about them today either. "I will start thinking about them on Tuesday."
eighteen
10/26
"For one night, Aura and Mystique did a show in the Bronx, and when they were done, the World Series was coming home again." No, Aura and Mystique did not show up in the Bronx. It was a poorly played game with predictably homer pitch calling and no 9th inning suspense. Joe, we know you're a Yankee fan who wears it on his sleeve. But, please, try to pull together enough objectivity to avoid calling the Bronx the home of the World Series. That's just nauseating.
eastlaker
10/26
Actually, the home of the World Series would be Pittsburgh or Boston
Olinkapo
10/27
Including 2009, Forty World Series will have been played in the Bronx...that's 38% of all World Series. Perhaps that was what Joe was referring to, with a bit of poetic license. Perhaps he wasn't jumping up and down yelling "Go Yankees Phillies Suck! HAHAHAHA! All you Yankee haters can kiss my ass!" Though I could be wrong. I *did* turn off my paranoid self-delusional moron switch this morning.
jdseal
10/27
"World Series coming home"??? Like anytime it is played elsewhere its not a legitimate series? Nauseating. Does he really think that way?? Enough to make me cancel my subscription.
emanski
10/26
Actually 1988 began a solid run of decent weather teams in the WS that went though 2005. Roofs notwithstanding, WS home games by team, weather better than STL - LA 21, OAK 17, ATL 14, SF 8, FLA 7, SD 4, ARI 4, ANA 4, HOU 2, TB 2.
mark1623
10/27
I believe those are total WS games for each team, home and away
Ogremace
10/26
Again we have a comment on managerial disparities having significant effect in the upcoming series. Didn't we learn our lesson with all the Scoscia love coming into this one? Chances are both managers will make typical decisions, a few bad ones and a few good ones. The bad ones might lose a game, the good ones win one. But is Manuel somehow immune to this? Is he going to use Lidge with the game on the line? Because then he automatically fails. I'm tired of comparing managers. It means next to nothing.
oneofthem
10/26
thought about the phillies? who the fuck are the phillies, some minor league team surely.
tooci4
10/26
Whoa there chief, Phils didn't play last night.
oneofthem
10/27
well, only fair that a toolish question gets the same kind of answer
Bogomil
10/26
Why was the comment about the Yankee payroll buried? Seems a pertinent line of analysis. Teh Yankees are playing a game different from any other professional sports team in America/Canada. Consider: o The Yankees have the highest paid player in all of baseball at 6 out of 11 positions (SP, RP, 1b, 3b, C, SS, but not DH (second place), 2b, or the 3 OF spots). More than 50% their positions are filled with the highest paid player. o The Yankees got 48 of their 59 innings (thanks Fangraphs) from guys making $15,285,714, $16,500,000, $15,000,000 and $5,500,000. All 3 starters were 2009 free agent signs. (Numbers from ttp://mlbcontracts.blogspot.com/) o Four of the Top 5 Contracts of all time play for the Yankees (Arod (twice), Jeter, CC, Texeira). That's bought in a way different from the Phillies, Angels, Dodgers, etc. Those teams compete with one another, but the Yankees compete with no one. Other fans can only hope for more Carl Pavanos, Jason Giambi, Javier Vazquez mistakes or injuries.
jman2050
10/27
You'll have a hard time convincing me that most MLB teams can't "afford" to spend on a level comparable to the Yankees. I'm pretty sure the Red Sox, Dodgers, and Mets could easily do so if they wanted to at the very least. Just because they don't doesn't mean they can't, and the Yankees shouldn't be the ones people cry foul at for this.
ofMontreal
10/27
And Cano and Cabrera and Hughes and Chamberlain and Gardner and Coke and Aceves and Wang and Cervelli are all home grown and cheap. And if you do it that way instead of wasting your money on crap, you can afford to buy expensive. Cost of living in NYC is more expensive. Go work there. You'll make 25% more and spend just as much more. And if the fan base of a team doesn't really care about winning, then the management won't either. Boston beats NY half the time and they do the same thing, just this year they got caught on their contracts. And truth be told, Phillie is equal to NY in talent for much much less money.
ofMontreal
10/27
And just to add a little small market thought. What if Cleveland had just fired Wedge 2 years ago instead of trading CC & Lee & Martinez? Who says they wouldn't have won the central? And made much more money? And been able to afford those 2 pitchers? Talent costs money and it's what wins post season games.
Scartore
10/29
To paraphrase Joe from a recent chat, "What were they supposed to do with the money?" Are they supposed to pocket it like the pukes who run the frickin Royals? Field a sub-par team when they have the means to improve it out of some misplaced chivalry towards the poor abused Blue Jays? The reason the Yankees and the Red Sox have dominated the high salary portion of this game is because so many other teams have decided not to compete with them. Or if they have, like the Mets, they've done it poorly.
workermonkey
10/26
the Yankee clubhouse after the game, maybe 20 minutes after the first pitch, Kenny Albert asked a champagne-soaked Rivera, "Have you started thinking about the Phillies yet?" I would have given anything for this: "Yeah, Kenny, that's what I was just doing, and all these mother******s won't shut up. My scouting reports are soaked in this crappy grape juice they're calling champagne. I need to think about whether to throw the cutter to Ryan Howard or maybe go to the knuckleball I've been working on. The 15 or 20 minutes we've had since the game ended…it's all wasted time. We'll never get it back. If we lose the World Series, lose because of a lack of preparation, these guys will have to live with that. Now get out of my face so I can go back to thinking about the Phillies." PLEASE! tell me you saw Jeters' comments to him on the field, i think the question was about how they haven't won since 2000 and haven't made the series since 2003. Jeter replied uncharacteristically and said something to the effect of "you had to go straight to the negative didn't you? thanks for that." it was one of the harsher comments i've ever seen Jeter make and it was totally justified.
rbross
10/27
Funny thing is, most people--players and fans--would consider having not won a World Series since 2000 an extremely short break. I wish my one of my teams had won a World Series that recently.
Oleoay
10/27
With all the steroid controversy, the calls of "Evil Empire", Hail George sending decrees from down high etc, and Jeter tiptoeing his way diplomatically trhough it all, I'm glad Jeter sniped back at the reporters, even if his delivery was a bit tongue-in-cheek.
arfdolph
10/27
Why was the comment about the Yankee payroll buried? Seems a pertinent line of analysis. Teh Yankees are playing a game different from any other professional sports team in America/Canada. Hey, the Yankees play by the same baseball rules as any other team. They (and other high revenue teams) pay millions of dollars to so called small market teams through revenue sharing and luxury tax. If those teams don't use that money to pay for their own top talent or sign helpful middle level free agents or the like, that's not the Yankees' fault.
mark1623
10/27
No amount of revenue sharing can help small market teams get their payrolls anywhere close to 200 million. The yankees pay a 40%
mark1623
10/27
...should say 40% luxury tax, which means A-Rod's 30 million dollar salary causes 12 million in taxes. Padres fans are stoked that our share of that money helped us keep David Eckstein through 2010.
Olinkapo
10/27
David Eckstein? Can we have our luxury tax money back, please?