And That Happened

Phillies 9, Mets 7: Unassisted triple plays are cool and all, but they’re really more about luck than anything else, aren’t they? You hit the ball to just the wrong place at just the wrong time and bam-bam-bam it’s over. Oftentimes the middle infielder who turns the thing isn’t even 100% sure he’s done it until he looks around a bit, tags a guy he forced out just to be sure, etc., because it’s really more a matter of reflex than anything else. It’s sort of like most inside the park home runs (like the one Angel Pagan hit earlier in this game): happenstance or maybe a bad play on the part of the opposition makes it possible. So, even though I’d love to rag on Jeff Francoeur for hitting into one of these things or praise Eric Bruntlett for turning it, blame and credit has to go to chance more than anyone.

Cardinals 5, Padres 2: Before people start talking about how wrong the Sox were to release Smoltz, or how much worse the NL is than the AL, or how the release motivates Smoltz or any of that, let us just remember that yesterday’s strong performance (5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 9K) came against the worst offense in baseball, playing in the friendliest pitchers’ park in baseball.

Cubs 3, Dodgers 1: The Cubs salvage one, as Jake Fox goes 4 for 4 with a homer and two RBI. Game story: “[Ryan Dempster] credited his breakfast of ‘pancakes and a little bowl of whip-your-butt cereal’ for his solid outing.” I can only assume he got the cereal from this chick. UPDATE: Sadly, the nice lady in Los Angeles who advertised her butt-whipping services has taken her ad down. Still, it’s L.A., so if you’re interested in getting “the Ryan Demptser treatment,” I’m sure there are still many places you can find such a service.

Yankees 8, Red Sox 4: Three game series between the Sox and Yanks: 58 runs scored, game times of 3:57, 3:17, 3:13, and not one single extra inning. Watching the Yankees play the Red Sox is like watching WAC football from the 1980s. If the AL East is the best baseball has to offer, baseball can friggin’ keep it.

Athletics 9, Tigers 4: Jack Cust hit two homers, Landon Powell hit one, and Brett Tomko of all people continues to pitch like an ace. The win brings him to 98-101 for his career. For purely subjective reasons — including the fact that Tomko is my age and the fact that I have a soft spot for journeyman swingmen, I’d like to see him even up that record before the end of the season.

Orioles 5, White Sox 4: Mark Buehrle has had one decent start since his perfect game (which the Sox lost, but that’s neither here nor there). Beat up again yesterday for five runs on eleven hits in five and a third, one wonders what the heck has happened to the guy. He’s not walking a ton of guys. He’s just getting pounded. As for the Sox, they just played six against the Royals and Orioles at home, and they split those. You’d think that a playoff team wins four or five against those teams. If they finish one or two behind the Tigers, that little stretch may look pretty big in hindsight.

Rangers 4, Rays 0: Scott Feldman was on (7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 11K). Chip Caray and Buck Martinez weren’t, however, so instead of this game, I watched . . .

Indians 6, Mariners 1: The Tribe beat up on Felix Hernandez, chasing him in the four-run sixth inning and Fausto Carmona (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 8K) looked better than than I’ve seen him since 2007. Jhonny Peralta iht an RBI single, ohmered, and reahced on error and came ohme to score.

Rockies 4, Giants 2: Jiminez beats Lincecum, and the Rockies have extended their wild card lead over the Giants by taking two of three thus far in the series. This is a wraparound, though, so the Giants have a shot to get back where they were on Friday morning with a win tonight.

Twins 10, Royals 3: Mike Cuddyer homered twice. Kyle Farnsworth, the man whose presence in the pen required that Alex Gordon be sent down to Omaha — gave up five runs on five hits in one inning of work.

Reds 4, Pirates 1: With this won the Reds are now .005 points ahead of the Pirates in the Central! This one is going down to the wire, folks! Pirates starter Kevin Hart: “I don’t think you’re going to win a lot of games at this level throwing the ball like I did today.” He’s right. And just imagine how bad a day it would have been for him at the Major League level.

Nationals 8, Brewers 3: I mock the Reds and Pirates, but the Brewers are closer to them in the standings than they are to the Cardinals. As for the Nats, a win tomorrow in the finale of this series and they’ll be at .500 since the break. Not bad for a team that has rarely looked as bad this season as their record indicates.

Blue Jays 8, Angels 3: I think the Jays, at least when Halladay doesn’t start, are like the AL’s version of the Astros for me in that I can rarely find anything on interest in their box scores. Something fun from the AP story, though, was the fact that Vladimir Guerrero fouled off a pitch that bounced in the dirt in the ninth. He’s Vlad, though, and that’s just what he does.

Braves 7, Marlins 5: Brian McCann provided the bookends to the scoring in this one with a three run homer in the first and a two-run single in the eighth which proved to be the game winner.

Diamondbacks 7, Astros 5: Arizona halts a seven game losing streak. The Dbacks drew five walks, which was a big deal, because before those, not a single player on the team had walked since last Monday.

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Comments

  1. MooseinOhio said...

    As I was watching the Sox last night I was wondering what happened to the drag bunt.  Ellsbury would have had a greater chance of getting on base trying to reincarnate Mickey Rivers than looking almost feeble against Sabathia’s curve ball.

  2. Kelly said...

    When I left on vacation, the Cubs were in it and the Twins were toast.

    Now?

    Cubs are dead in the water and the Twins, through the Tigers’ and White Sox’s inability to do anything, are still hanging around.

    And the Vikings have Brett Favre.

    It was an interesting week in Minnesota.

  3. ecp said...

    You commented on Michael Cuddyer hitting two home runs, but neglected to mention that he hit them both in the same inning????

  4. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Huh. I hadn’t even realized he did that, ecp.  On that game I mostly just scanned the box score and didn’t pay super close attention to when the homers were hit.

  5. Drew said...

    Man, I was expecting at least some kind of reference to Francoeur being the ultimate out machine here.  I guess that horse has long since been beaten to death.

  6. Sara K said...

    It’s clear what has happened here…signing with the Cardinals activated the power stored within Smoltz’s facial hair.

  7. Alex Poterack said...

    Although it’s true that unassisted triple plays are almost entirely a matter of luck, it should be pointed out that there is one man who deserves a large amount of blame for the one the Mets hit into: Jerry Manuel.  If he didn’t send the runners in the 9th, Bruntlett wouldn’t have even been able to catch Francoeur’s liner, let alone get three outs out of it.

  8. Jack Marshall said...

    8 miserable starts from an over-40 pitcher coming off an injury and the Red Sox were “wrong to release Smoltz”? That has to be the worst Monday morning quarterbacking I’ve read in a long, long time. They should have released him sooner. Based on the data they had, cutting him was the only rational decision. What Smoltz does from here on is irrelevant; decisions cannot be judged on subsequent unpredictable events.

  9. Todd said...

    @ Jack Marshall- except that Smoltz’s peripherals were quite good. He was striking people out and wasn’t walking them. He had an xFIP of 4.39. He was getting insanely unlucky at stranding runners, to the tune of a 56.9 LOB%. His HR/FB rate was also abnormally high at 16.5%, as was his BABIP (I don’t know what it was with the Red Sox alone, but including his start with the Cards it’s .389). This was all covered at THT before the Cards even signed him: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/blog_article/smoltz-dfad/

    All the signs were there, if only the Red Sox were interested in looking at them. That they did not reflects very badly on their supposedly sabremetrically adept management.

  10. Jack Marshall said...

    A good example of how sabermetrics can blind some people to reality. I went to two of Smoltz’s games and watched the rest: he was getting clobbered. Many of the outs he did get were clocked. How many pitchers get a 9th start after pitching to an 8 ERA for the first eight? How many of those were over 40, coming back from surgery, and pitching with a team that had any other options? If Smoltz had gotten another start, there would have been pitchforks and torches on Yawkey Way.

  11. Kevin S. said...

    Weird, people were saying the exact same thing about Ricky Nolasco the first half of this year.  Did he find some secret sauce in Nawlins?  Or did his luck just revert?

  12. Bill said...

    I only noticed “iht”, and thought it was a casual typo but I re-read the recap and only then got the Peralta reference.  Nice little laugh to end my long day.  Sorry if I’m ruining the intentional subtleness there but that was good.

  13. Jack Marshall said...

    Arghh. Smoltz was not having “bad luck!” He was throwing meatballs. On a couple of them, I actually winced on the swing. He was throwing medium speed fast balls down the center of the plate, repeatedly. How is that “bad luck’?

  14. APBA Guy said...

    Remember the Red Sox use BOTH statistics and observation (scouting). So as a neutral observer, I can say that:

    - Smoltz was indeed getting clobbered. You simply can’t pitch to the results he was obtaining in tha AL East and keep your job
    - His secondary stats did indicate that improvements were likely forthcoming
    - The Red Sox judged that the level of expected improvements indicated by the secondary stats would not yield a better option for the team than the return to the rotation of Dice-K and Wakefield
    - Given that, they released Smoltz knowing he would likely find a chance to pitch elsewhere
    - A rotation of Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, Wakefield and Dice-K with Penny in reserve was a justifiable judgement on their part

  15. Todd said...

    If you read the linked articles and still believe that, then there’s little to say save that you would do better predicting Smoltz’s ERA from this point forward to be around his xFIP of 4.39 then his ERA of 8+.

    I imagine that if Smoltz pitches that well or better down the stretch, the response will be that he changed something. To that end, I already saw an article on the MLB.com news feed that said that the Cards think he was tipping pitches in Boston.* That doesn’t really jive with the idea that he was simply serving up meatballs (nor does a good K rate…), does it? Such explanations are easy to make after the fact. I would rather place my trust in explanations that can make such predictions *before* the fact (as xFIP has been shown to do successfully, though unfortunately I don’t know where to find the studies). And, as a Cards’ fan, I would also like to express my thanks to Theo Epstein for bowing to the ignorance of the larger fan base, if his main reason for cutting Smoltz was indeed fear of “pitchforks and torches” on Yawkey Way.

    *I’d like to think that’s a subtle way for the Cards’ FO to poke fun at the Sawx’ FO.

  16. Todd said...

    @APBA Guy- it’s definitely possible that the Sawx thought all of their other options were preferable, though Penny, Dice-K, Buchholz, and Wakefield all have significantly higher xFIPs then Smoltz. We would expect to see improvement from Buchholz, given his youth, and Wakefield’s knuckling ways seem to consistently lead to outperforming his xFIP, so it’s understandable to put them in the rotation ahead of Smoltz, especially since Smoltz likely doesn’t have as much stamina. But Penny and Dice-K are pretty clearly worse, and I’m sure the Sawx could have made use of Smoltz out of the bullpen, as the Cards will likely do in the playoffs. I don’t know whether Smoltz had expressed a disinterest in going into the bullpen in the regular season for the Sawx the way he did before signing with the Cards, though.

  17. Kevin S. said...

    Jack, a quick glance at Smoltz’s PitchFx ( http://www.fangraphs.com/pitchfx.aspx?playerid=115&position=P ) shows that his velocity and movement was fairly consistent with the previous two years, as does his swing profile data.  Are you so convinced still that he was throwing meatballs (ignoring MGL’s claims that it’s not possible to distinguish that in such a small sample), or could it be that because he was getting hit around, you assumed it was because he kept serving ‘em up?

  18. Jack Marshall said...

    The Cards are welcome, and good luck to them. I believe Smoltz was just one more in a long line of players who wilted under the pressure of playing in Boston. And I will recall this thread when the final stats are in. In particular, I will cherish having in print someone actually citing statistics to deny that a pitcher was getting raked, when the actual events involved were res ipsa loquitur to the contrary. “No, regardless of how it appeared on the field, from the stands, and on television, the pitcher was not actually hit hard!” This is the next “logical” step from the Dice-K argument: “Yes, he was 18-3 with an ERA under 3 and a low OBA, but the stats prove he had a lousy year.”

    And this is why Joe Morgan and Rob Dibble can still have jobs.

  19. Todd said...

    I never said Dice-K had a lousy year last year, though it certainly wasn’t as good as those surface stats indicated (5.1 BB/G is never a good thing). This year, he is having a lousy year. Admittedly, he’s been hurt and all, but if age and such can be held against Smoltz, that can be held against Dice-K. For that matter, Dice-K’s ERA is similar to Smoltz’s with Boston this year. Why isn’t the conclusion that Dice-K is wilting under the pressure in Boston, or that he’s washed up?

  20. Jack Marshall said...

    And Kevin—-I SAW the games! I’ve played baseball! I know what a batting practice fastball looks like! I can tell the difference between a good pitch that gets hit and a “special delivery,” letter high, over the plate straight fastball from a tiring old pitcher! I’ve seen thousands of games and and home runs! I can tell when a ball is pulverized! If the stats say anything other than what I saw happened, the stats are the problem.
    Yeesh.

  21. Kevin S. said...

    And human perception is in no way, shape or form fallible, especially if there are results to color it.  I played the game too, Jack.  Don’t you dare use that tired saw as a defense for your argument.  You claimed his fastball velocity was “medium speed.”  It barely changed from the last two years, when he was extremely effective while healthy.  Is the speed gun wrong, too?  Are your eyes better than radar?  Was your vantage better than the computer tracking the movement on his pitches?  Doubtful.

  22. Jack Marshall said...

    Todd: clarification…I wasn’t referring to you specifically with the Dice-K comment. Dice-K, I think it’s pretty clear, was sub-par physically…I will be surprised if he doesn’t pitch much better when he returns.

  23. Greg Simons said...

    “I believe Smoltz was just one more in a long line of players who wilted under the pressure of playing in Boston.”

    I despise it every time I hear that line of B.S.

    The guy who has won more post-season games than any other pitcher in history, who was both a dominant starter and closer for two decades, who is a borderline Hall-of Famer, can’t handle the special and particular pressure of playing in Boston?  Puh-lease.

    So now it’s not only that he’s old and worn out, it’s that he couldn’t handle the unique claustrophobic, panic-inducingatmosphere generated by the Fenway denizens?!?!  Give me a break.

  24. Jack Marshall said...

    Smoltz was handed the ball in the first game of a pivotal series against the Yankees. It was a potential turning point in the season. He needed to prove himself after a series of poor starts. He knew the pitching staff was stretched, and his team was injured.

    He came apart like a cardboard belt in the rain. I have been told by people close to the club that he “was trying too hard.” I believe that’s called “choking.”

    Oh—he’s not a borderline HOF-er…he’s a lock.

  25. Greg Simons said...

    Because the true greats, the ones that can handle pitching in Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, never fail?  Teddy Ballgame always came through when the game was on the line?  Babe Ruth always blasted the game-winning homer?  Roger Clemens won every key game he pitched for both squads?

    Wait, they didn’t?  They “choked” sometimes?  But aren’t they infallible New England gods and New York deities?

    Guess not.

  26. Darrel said...

    There’s room of course for theological debate but I do believe that there are proponents that have put forth the theory that on the same day the Twins complete a series sweep and Michael Cuddyer hits two HRs in the same inning that the apocalyspe is not far off…

  27. Greg Simons said...

    Todd, as a fellow Cardinal fan, I’m quite happy with Smoltz’s first game as a Redbird.  At the same time, I certainly don’t expect him to be that good in future outings.  But I’ll take it while it lasts and hope he does a good job out of the bullpen in October.

  28. Todd said...

    I agree that one start, especially against the Padres in Petco, does not prove anything, but it also doesn’t change the fact that the Sawx were wrong to release Smoltz, and the Cards will reap the rewards.

  29. Michael Caragliano said...

    The embedded Brave hits into an unassisted triple play, but I guess it didn’t kill the rally, technically. Go ahead, you’re entitled- laugh it up, fuzzball. The only way the Mets season hits a strata of rock-bottom lower than this is if emergency starter Aaron Heilman tosss a perfect game next weekend.

  30. Todd said...

    It’d be nuts to think he could be that good every time out, but he’ll be a huge upgrade over unWell-emeyer, and I look forward to us being able to use him, rather than McClellan and/or Motte, as the primary righty out of the bullpen in the playoffs (aside from Franklin, of course… although Smoltz would probably actually be a better closer, but no way LaRussa changes horses midstream like that).

  31. Jack Marshall said...

    Kevin S.—-I can’t believe I’m having this discussion. You guys are really saying that that John Smoltz’s last game with the Red Sox, in which he gave up 7 runs in his fourth, and his final, inning, culminating in Melky Cabrera’s home run, can be more adequately analyzed by figures than by a relatively sophisticated observer watching the game, including the assessment of whether a pitcher’s pitches are easily hittable or not, despite the fact that they were, in fact, HIT, and whether the balls thus hit were hit WELL, despite the fact that, you know, they appeared to leave the park mighty fast. Hilarious. “Are you going to believe me or your own eyes?” Heck, why attend the games at all? It’s all an illusion!

  32. Todd said...

    Jack, why did Smoltz look so good against the Padres yesterday? Playing in Petco, against the Padres, etc., doesn’t make his pitches look better. And he looked damn good. What’s the difference?

    My explanation is that anyone who Ks 7 in a row is going to look good, regardless of how good of a pitcher they are overall. And anyone who gives up 7 ER in an inning will look bad, regardless of how bad of a pitcher they are overall. Thus, I rely on other data to make my determination. What’s your explanation?

    By the way, did you know that Jon Lester gave up 8 ER in 4 1/3 IP against the Rays earlier this year? Big game against a division rival, and he clearly couldn’t handle the pressure. The Sawx should DFA that choker.

  33. Greg Simons said...

    I considered many of the same qualifiers you cited, Craig, but, as a Cardinals fan, I’m just happy Smoltz pitched well and the Redbirds won.  I certainly don’t expect a similar performance next time.

  34. Greg Simons said...

    I think we may be finding some common ground here.  I don’t think anyone said he was pitching “great,” just not so poorly that an 8.32 ERA accurately reflected his true skill level.  Making the same quality pitches over a longer period, like a full season, would most likely lead to an ERA somewhere around 5.00-ish.  It will be interesting to see where his numbers fall at the end of the season.

  35. Jack Marshall said...

    Todd: AGREED! Believe it or not, I DO think a 5.00 level of pitching could easily translate into an 8 ERA over an unlucky 8 game stretch. And I think a 5 ERA is not what the Sox wanted or could accept from John Smoltz.
    <whew!>

  36. Todd said...

    5.00-ish might be what I’d expect if he’d stayed w/ the Sawx, but w/ the move to the NL and a more pitcher-friendly park (admittedly, I’m too lazy to check whether Busch actually is more pitcher-friendly then Fenway, but that’s my impression), I’d expect it to be more like mid to low 4s.

  37. Greg Simons said...

    I thought about the league differential, as Craig mentioned in his original post, and I didn’t go back to see what others said his FIP, etc. were to this point.  I’ve heard Busch is a slight pitchers’ park, so maybe 4.50.  Of course, as has been mentioned several times already, in 40 IP – which is about what he’ll throw from here on out – the difference between, say, 5.00 and 4.25 is only about three runs.

  38. Jack Marshall said...

    Smoltz looked better against the Padres because he WAS better, by definition. Baseball is a results- based activity. The comparison with Lester is weak—-Smoltz pitched badly in every one of his games except (arguably) the first, in which he finished strong, and the game against the Orioles, when he was rained out of the start before he had a chance to fall apart. I overstated the Smoltz as choker point: there are a lot of reasons why he may not have performed well with the Sox. He may not have been ready. He may not be able to go more than three innings regularly. He may be through, or he may have been putting too much pressure on himself, as the people with club tell me. But I think the “he was pitching great, but all those bats just happened to run into his pitches” theory doesn’t make the list.

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