December 11, 2013
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Postseason Play Articles
Following are the one hundred most recent articles for the category Postseason Play .
11/14/2013: Let’s discuss the THT Annualby Dave Studeman
12/11/2013: Alone on the pedestal, Part 2by Jason Linden
12/11/2013: The Applegate factorby Shane Tourtellotte
12/10/2013: All about the latest Bill James Handbookby Dave Studeman
12/10/2013: Though night may fall, play ball!by Frank Jackson
12/10/2013: Roy Halladay retiresby Jeff Moore
12/09/2013: Leverage Index by inningby Dave Studeman
12/09/2013: How far are the Mariners from relevancy?by Brad Johnson
12/09/2013: Prince Halby Chris Jaffe
12/09/2013: Three underrated acquisitionsby Pat Andriola
12/06/2013: Cooperstown Confidential: Ed Charles and 42by Bruce Markusen
12/06/2013: The Athletics get busyby Brad Johnson
12/06/2013: Getting to know Ryan Haniganby Chad Dotson
12/04/2013: Cataloging the non-tendered playersby Brad Johnson
12/04/2013: Alone on the pedestalby Jason Linden
12/03/2013: Mascot fight!by Greg Simons
12/03/2013: Why is a sinker “heavy?”by David Kagan
12/03/2013: The role of fall leaguesby Jeff Moore
12/02/2013: Nationals make great deal for Fisterby Matt Filippi
12/02/2013: The Twins go holiday shopping, but to what end?by Brad Johnson
12/02/2013: The end of the benchby Chris Jaffe
11/29/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Danny Waltonby Bruce Markusen
11/29/2013: The best rookies of the ‘30sby Chad Dotson
11/27/2013: Towards an award prediction systemby Shane Tourtellotte
11/26/2013: MLB’s coffers are overflowingby Greg Simons
11/26/2013: The role of prospects in tradesby Jeff Moore
11/25/2013: Stepping up to the plateby Frank Jackson
11/25/2013: 10 things I didn’t know about player birthdaysby Chris Jaffe
11/22/2013: The end of the road for Chris Carpenterby Chad Dotson
11/21/2013: All the news that’s fit to inventby Azure Texan
11/20/2013: Marcus Stroman, the mythbusting machineby Kyle Boddy
11/20/2013: Welcome to the birthplace of… someone elseby Jason Linden
11/19/2013: 2013 THT awards reviewby Greg Simons
11/18/2013: THT Fantasy has moved to Rotographsby Dave Studeman
11/18/2013: Atlanta gets burned againby Frank Jackson
11/18/2013: The 2014 Hall of Fame VC ballotby Chris Jaffe
11/18/2013: Must See MLB.TV 2013by Dave Studeman
11/15/2013: The best rookies of the ‘40sby Chad Dotson
11/15/2013: Card Corner: Wayne Granger: 1973 Toppsby Bruce Markusen
11/14/2013: 10th anniversary: the A.J. Pierzynski tradeby Chris Jaffe
11/14/2013: The Screwball: The face of championship baseballby Azure Texan
11/14/2013: Player-A-Day: Casey Fienby Brad Johnson
11/13/2013: Player-A-Day: Tim Lincecumby Brad Johnson
11/13/2013: Pitcher performance after batting successby Shane Tourtellotte
11/13/2013: 25th anniversary: Rob Neyer writes a letterby Chris Jaffe
11/13/2013: Houston hoodoo ‘62by Frank Jackson
11/12/2013: It’s The Hardball Times Annual 2014by Dave Studeman
11/12/2013: Player-A-Day: Joe Mauerby Brad Johnson
11/11/2013: Fastball velocity by game stateby Jon Roegele
11/11/2013: The rise of the middle-aged managerby Chris Jaffe
11/08/2013: Player-A-Day: Josmil Pintoby Brad Johnson
11/08/2013: Hall monitor: The case for Andruw Jonesby Chad Dotson
11/07/2013: Big leaguers, bit partsby Azure Texan
11/07/2013: Player-A-Day: Nathan Eovaldiby Brad Johnson
11/06/2013: If he’d only gotten another shotby Jason Linden
11/06/2013: Player-A-Day: David DeJesusby Brad Johnson
11/05/2013: Player-A-Day: David Ortizby Brad Johnson
11/04/2013: Player-A-Day: Jose Dariel Abreuby Brad Johnson
11/04/2013: The Boston (Braves) Marathon of 1928by Frank Jackson
11/04/2013: 10 things I didn’t know about birthdays in 2013by Chris Jaffe
11/01/2013: Taking the close pitch with two strikesby James Gentile
11/01/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Don Baylorby Bruce Markusen
11/01/2013: The best rookies of the ‘50sby Chad Dotson
10/31/2013: The Screwball: Celebrate good times, come on!by Azure Texan
10/31/2013: Player-A-Day: Leonys Martinby Brad Johnson
10/30/2013: Player-A-Day: Jon Lesterby Brad Johnson
10/30/2013: Forecasting the major 2013 awardsby Shane Tourtellotte
10/30/2013: The effect of seeing pitchesby Jon Roegele
10/29/2013: Putting the knock on pitching changesby Joe Distelheim
10/29/2013: Player-A-Day: Ryan Howardby Brad Johnson
10/29/2013: Losing momentum in the sixth gameby Dave Studeman
10/29/2013: Previewing the fall Stars gameby Jeff Moore
10/28/2013: Player-A-Day: Travis Woodby Brad Johnson
10/28/2013: Marquis Grissom: Mr. October Jr.by Frank Jackson
10/25/2013: The blackballing of Dick Dietzby Bruce Markusen
10/24/2013: Player-A-Day: Xander Bogaertsby Brad Johnson
10/24/2013: The Screwball: Put it in neutral?by Azure Texan
10/24/2013: The all-decade team: the ‘00sby Richard Barbieri
10/24/2013: Player-A-Day: Michael Wachaby Brad Johnson
10/23/2013: Earn money watching baseballby Dave Studeman
10/23/2013: Player-A-Day: Jose Iglesiasby Brad Johnson
10/23/2013: 20th anniversary: The Joe Carter gameby Chris Jaffe
10/23/2013: Giants take a risk with Lincecum’s two-year dealby Matt Filippi
10/23/2013: BOB: Nolan Ryan retires…for nowby Brian Borawski
10/22/2013: Where does David Price fit?by Jeff Moore
10/22/2013: Survey says?!?!?by Greg Simons
10/22/2013: ALCS post-mortem: The Fielder playby Shane Tourtellotte
10/21/2013: The best rivalries of 2013by Chris Jaffe
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October 29, 2013
Putting the knock on pitching changesThe overriding picture in my head from this year's postseason is of Jim Leyland, hunched in his Tigers jacket in his last days as a manager, wearily walking his 68-year-old body out to a mound in Detroit or Oakland or Boston. He takes the ball from a pitcher a third his age and gives the kid a perfunctory pat.
Several minutes, several TV commercials and a batter or two later, the scene repeats.
Such is the case in Boston the night of Oct. 13, eighth inning, Tigers ahead 5-1. With left-handed hitter Jacoby Ellsbury coming up, Leyland brings in lefty Drew Smyly to replace reliever Jose Veras. Smyly walks Ellsbury, loading the bases. Out comes Leyland again. How's that Sunday night football doing? Switch back. Al Albuquerque is the new pitcher; he strikes out Shane Victorino, then gives up a hit to Dustin Pedroia, loading the bases. Leyland enters from from stage right, Joaquin Benoit from the bullpen. We'll be back.
And we are, just in time to see David Ortiz grandly slam Benoit, the Tigers, and Leyland's moves.
It feels like it's happened a lot in October baseball, 2013. The manager makes a pitching change, and it explodes. Has it really been that bad? The examples abound:
—Leyland brings in Rick Porcello, relieving Albuquerque, in the ninth inning of Game Two of the ALDS. The first batter he faces is Stephen Vogt. The last batter he faces is Stephen Vogt, who singles in the winning run for Oakland.
—Same series, other team: Oakland manager Bob Melvin replaces Ryan Cook with Brett Anderson, eighth inning, Game Five. Anderson walks Alex Avila, wild pitches in a run, gives up a two-run double to Omar Infante. Ball game.
—Tigers again, this time against Boston. Smyly comes out, Veras comes in to pitch to Victorino with the bases full. Home run, series to the Red Sox in six.
—Let's go to the other league. It's the 13th inning of the NLCS opener, and finally a crucial enough time in a tie game for Dodgers manager Don Mattingly to go to his closer. With two on, one out, Kenley Jansen, the 13th pitcher of the night, relieves Chris Withrow. Carlos Beltran ends the almost-five-hour game with a single and the game-winning RBI.
—And then there was the third game of the World Series Saturday night. Five times Mike Matheny or John Farrell walked out to replace the man on the mound. The first batters the five new pitchers faced went single, single, double, RBI-producing out, double.
I know we tend to remember those dramatic displays of unfortunate pitching changes more than routine displays of competence, so I perused this year's postseason play-by-plays. I was looking at pitchers inserted mid-inning, presumably because the manager felt the new guy had a better shot at the next batter than the incumbent.
The fact is, the success-to-failure ratio of relievers in those circumstances has come down on the side of failure this fall. Starting with the Tampa Bay-Texas play-in game for the last Wild Card, pitchers coming in during an inning have allowed 27 hits (nine for extra bases) in 93 at-bats—a .290 average. Hitters have touched them for an on-base percentage of .336.
On the other hand, they've struck out 27 of the 106 first batters they've faced and induced five double plays.
(I have no idea how pitchers called on mid-inning do over a whole season, but for purposes of comparison, the major-league-wide batting average this year was .253, and the OBP was .318.)
As for the two teams still alive:
The Red Sox have changed horses midstream 28 times in the postseason and put out the next batter 18 times. Their relievers are just 50-50 in such situations in the World Series.
The Cardinals? Over the whole postseason, they've given up seven first-batter hits and a walk in 21 plate appearances. In the Series, Matheny has called for help in the midst of an inning eight times. The result: three batters retired, two singles, a walk and two homers.
Sometimes, when you go to the fireman, you're playing with fire.
Posted by: Joe Distelheim
October 22, 2013
ALCS post-mortem: The Fielder playIt was the top of the sixth inning in Game Six of the American League Championship Series, and the Detroit Tigers were in a very good position. Victor Martinez had just driven in two runners to put his team up 2-1. He and Prince Fielder were on the corners, and nobody was out. Detroit had a chance for a blowout inning to break the game open, and excellent prospects of at least one more run across to widen its lead. Win Expectancy, depending on your source, hovered somewhere between 79 and 80 percent. Beyond that hovered Justin Verlander, ready to take the ball should Detroit tie the series and force a deciding Game Seven.
Then Jhonny Peralta hit a ground ball, and it all came undone.
You're probably familiar with the play by now, but if you aren't or want a refresher, you can check the replay and follow my summary. The grounder went to Dustin Pedroia at second, who moved into the basepath intending to tag Martinez. Martinez held up, trying to avoid the tag long enough for Fielder to score and Peralta to get to first—but Fielder had stopped midway between third and home. Pedroia caught Martinez as he tried to dodge around on the infield grass, then threw to Jarrod Saltalamacchia at the plate. He ran down Fielder, who barely moved back toward third until the catcher got close, then made a dive that left him several feet short of the bag. Saltalamacchia tumbled over Fielder, making the tag for the double play.
It was a disaster play for the Tigers, though possibly not an absolute one given the four runs Boston would score in the seventh to snatch away the game. Despite Peralta alertly taking second on the rundown, Detroit got nothing more out of the inning. Fielder's base-running brain-lock seems inexplicable: of all the players in baseball, he is probably the last one you want hanging between bases, asking for a rundown.
Obviously he should have done something different. But what, and how much would it have helped?
I decided to take an analytical look at the question, using The Hardball Times' own Win Probability Inquirer. The WPI, in case you haven't used it yourself, can take a combination of bases, outs, inning, score, and run environment, and calculate the Win Probability for that state, as well as the change between that state and another one. I ran some Fielder-related scenarios through the algorithm.
To start, let's orient you with what did happen. The WPI says that before the rundown play, the Tigers had a 79.65 percent chance to win the game. After the double play, that had dropped to 64.61 percent, a drop of 15.02 percentage points. That's a big drop for a single play happening in the middle innings. (This assumes a run environment at Fenway Park of 4.5 runs per team per game. It was 4.56 during the regular season, and the WPI works in half-run increments.)
Fielder could have made two different choices: go all-out for home, or stay at third. We'll look at the aggressive play first.
The worst-case scenario there is that Pedroia still makes the play on Martinez, then throws home to cut Fielder down at the plate, while Peralta has to hold at first. This would drop Detroit's Win Expectancy by 16.28 percentage points. Should he get Martinez but Fielder beats the throw, putting the Tigers up 3-1 with one out, the WE drop is just 1.23 points. Pedroia's play would have to succeed at least 91.6 percent of the time to produce a better play for Boston than what did happen. Watch how long Martinez keeps away from Pedroia, and it won't seem that likely he could pull it off.
Pedroia would have a couple other choices himself. He could forget the elusive Martinez and throw home to nail Fielder, or he could pivot and start a very probable double play. The play at home would drop Detroit's WE by 9.48 points; the double play, by 4.25 points. (This hints that Boston should have been playing in, but that is a much more complex question, one I'll dodge.) Assuming the DP comes off all the time, and that runners don't take extra bases on any rundown that occurs this time, Pedroia would have to throw Fielder out at least 63.7 percent of the time to make coming home the better play. It's pretty obvious from the video that that's the better option.
Pedroia could instead go for the best of both worlds: tag Martinez, then throw to get Fielder coming home. To be better than taking an automatic 4-6-3 double play, this would have to work at least 20.1 percent of the time. Martinez used up vital time dodging Pedroia, around a second and a half. (Time index 0:34 on the video link above.) Fielder got a good distance down the line before holding up while Martinez and Pedroia were still dancing. Had he kept going, he probably scores. At best it's close at home, with the distinct chance that Fielder could jar the ball loose while knocking Saltalamacchia into his own dugout.
No matter what happens as Fielder is coming home, Detroit stands to lose Win Expectancy barring some unlikely defensive misplay. Should Fielder just have hugged third base?
No. Fielder staying at third while Pedroia starts the double play lowers Detroit's WE by 14.50 points, while if Pedroia can only get the force it falls an even six points. Boston would have to turn the two just 40.9 percent of the time to reach break-even against Fielder getting thrown out at home. That DP should easily be 90 percent sure or more, so it's a bigger error for Fielder to stay where he is.
In fact, staying at third for the DP is almost as bad as what he did halting halfway down the line, by 14.5 lost points to 15.02. The reason for this is that, with two outs, a runner on third (Fielder) is not much more valuable than a runner on second (Peralta). Both players come home on very many base hits, and there's no opportunity for a sacrifice fly. According to the Expected Runs Matrix for 2013 at Baseball Prospectus, second with two outs has a Run Expectancy of 0.3054, third with two outs 0.3527. (That is actually a historically wide margin between the two, despite the current low run environment.)
I broke down a play in last year's World Series where Prince Fielder was sent first-to-home rather unwisely on a no-out double. Perhaps Fielder learned the wrong lesson, because in this situation he should have gone aggressively for the plate. Taking off the double play was a greater benefit to his Tigers than getting tagged out was a loss.
If he was heeding the advice of third-base coach Tom Brookens, it would mark the second time in a big postseason spot that coaching misled him, after Gene Lamont sent him against the Giants. Lamont's mistake wasn't critical in what ended up a sweep by San Francisco. Brookens, if he was telling Fielder what to do, made a much more important blunder, but we'll likely never know if that was the case.
The more probable scenario is, it was Prince Fielder's goof, one big enough to draw tittering comparisons to his own weight. He didn't goof on the biggest stage, but he helped insure that his team wouldn't reach that biggest stage this year. With a subpar regular season and a downright weak playoff stretch, Fielder didn't need to give Tigers fans added reasons to start regretting the $200 million-plus contract that brought him to Detroit. But he did.
If that's too depressing a note on which to end this, I can do better. Boston executed when given an opportunity. Do that often enough, and you'll find yourself taking a champagne shower on live television.
Posted by: Shane Tourtellotte
October 05, 2013
WPS recap: LDS, 10/4/2013As busy a day of October baseball as we can have. Opening ceremonies will be cut short so we can move straight to the game action.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Pirates 0 1 2 0 2 0 1 1 0 7 Cardinals 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 (Series tied 1-1) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Pirates 7 31 28 3 14 5 3 1 0 Cardinals 13 4 5 5 8 8 7 1 1 WPS Base: 143.6 Best Plays: 36.6 Last Play: 0.1 Grand Total: 180.3
These aren't just getting boring as baseball games. These are getting boring as examples of what makes a boring baseball game. One team gets ahead early, and never lets the other one get close again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The most interesting thing about this game may have been the wind. It was fooling fielders all day. Deceptively mild-mannered fly balls suddenly took off like Superman and leaped tall fences in a single bound, or sometimes without bounding at all. The final insult was the infield pop that somehow carried past David Freese, letting Marlon Byrd take two bases on his hustle. (He'd score on two productive outs.)
The vaunted St. Louis performance with runners in scoring position deserted the Cardinals today. Pittsburgh shut them down, zero for five. The bigger part of the story was that the Pirates allowed them so few RISP opportunities.
With three other games to cover, I won't burn many more bits on this one. It does put Pittsburgh squarely back in the series, which puts the legions of Pirates fans squarely into the action for Game Three on Sunday. From what we heard from them in the Wild Card knockout game last Tuesday, that should be worth our attention.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Rays 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 Red Sox 0 0 0 5 3 0 0 4 X 12 (Red Sox lead series 1-0) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Rays 5 15 5 24 5 2 1 4 0 Red Sox 12 11 6 76 14 0 0 0 X WPS Base: 181.1 Best Plays: 38.7 Last Play: 0.0 Grand Total: 219.8
This game had some actual juice, at least for an inning, because it had something the previous six in this series did not: a lead change. A bizarre lead change, but a thorough one that turned the spigot of excitement right back off by the next inning. I will get to the original inning in a bit.
Once again, we see how deceptive early impressions can be. Jon Lester strikes out the side to open the game—he actually struck out his first four batters—but gave up a home run in the second, and another in the fourth, to pop the bubble of invincibility. His counterpart Matt Moore didn't allow a hit through three, sparking that idle hope in the bosoms of myriad baseball fans. And then the fourth inning happened to him.
The Tampa Bay Rays are known these days as a smart team, smart in the front office, in the dugout, and on the field. But their defense in the fourth inning wound up two steps behind on every big play. Wil Myers let David Ortiz's deep fly ball drop for a ground-rule double. With the score tied, they let Jonny Gomes score from second on Stephen Drew's dribbler to first base. Then Sean Rodriguez overran Will Middlebrooks' ball hitting off the Green Monster and had it ricochet behind him, letting Drew score. Then catcher Jose Lobaton's dropped third strike kept the inning alive long enough for a fifth Boston run.
It was almost like midnight had struck, and they had turned back into the Devil Rays. It was also time for the big trend of the playoffs to resume, as Fenway fans began the derisive chant of Myyyyy-errrrrs! What hath Pirates fans wrought!
There was immediate suspicion that the Boston bullpen had coached Myers off the fly ball that he had lined up, then pulled away to watch bounce over the fence. Myers said otherwise: "I saw Des [Desmond Jennings] out of the corner of my eye and backed off. It was totally my fault." I'll take him at his word, that he's not covering by obeying the unwritten baseball rule that you don't talk about your opponents disobeying the unwritten rules (it makes you look whiny).
Then there's that other unwritten rule: Don't show up the other team by stealing in the late innings with a big lead. Jacoby Ellsbury did that in the eighth, his Red Sox up 8-2, on the way to piling on four more runs. That's something else the Rays may just have to shrug off.
But if David Ortiz takes a heater off his elbow tomorrow, we may have seen a reason or two why today.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Dodgers 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 3 Braves 0 1 0 1 0 0 2 0 X 4 (Series tied 1-1) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Dodgers 22 13 14 15 7 27 43 29 40 Braves 5 25 5 31 5 4 30 3 X WPS Base: 317.1 Best Plays: 49.9 Last Play: 7.5 Grand Total: 374.5
Yes! Finally! Thank you! It may not have been a great game, but it was a good game. It stayed close all the way through the middle innings; when one team finally leaped out to a multi-run lead, the other came back immediately to close the gap; even scoreless innings had enough action to hold a spectator's interest. The highest Win Percentage Added play of the game, in fact, was the double play that got Atlanta out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh.
The pivotal play that most may remember is Atlanta substitute catcher Gerald Laird throwing out pinch-runner Dee Gordon on a ninth-inning steal attempt that quelled an L.A. rally. The play was awfully close: Shortstop Andrelton Simmons had his glove on Gordon's back as the ball was arriving, but it came off about the time the ball went into the glove. To my eyes, he had the ball and contact; to others, it wasn't clear-cut at all. That one could be picked over for a long time, depending on whether the Dodgers wish they had this game back.
After the Myyyyy-errrrrs! affair in Boston, it was good to hear a brief positive chant in Atlanta. Freddie Freeman, being talked up by the announcers as an MVP candidate, got a nice Fred-die! from the hometown folks early in the game, though it wasn't repeated, as Mr. Myers' chant was.
Craig Kimbrel came on for a four-out save, his first ever in the postseason, which gives me a chance to make an observation about him. In his three-plus seasons with the Braves, Kimbrel has recorded 139 regular-season saves, with 50 this year. If he stays healthy, there is every reason to believe he will have over 40 next year and put his career total past 180.
And at the end of the 2014 season when he does that, he will still be younger than Mariano Rivera was when he got his first major-league save. At 652 lifetime saves, Mariano is the king, but it may be that the heir is already among us. A lot of things have to go right for Kimbrel, but it would be tough to get off to a better start on the long chase.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Tigers 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 A's 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 (Detroit leads series 1-0) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Tigers 38 2 4 5 4 6 2 9 3 A's 4 16 8 4 4 10 33 26 17 WPS Base: 195.8 Best Plays: 39.3 Last Play: 3.9 Grand Total: 239.0
And we go right back to the old pattern, with a moderate variation near the end. If you watched the Dodgers and Braves to the final pitch, took a quick bathroom break, then tuned into the Tigers and A's, you missed the Detroit offense. They jumped on Bartolo Colon early, then fizzled out as though exhausted by the effort. Oakland closed the gap in the seventh on Yoenis Cespedes' home run, so the last few innings were less of a WPS drought. The damage was done, though, and could have been undone only by a stirring comeback. The A's didn't have that in them.
Max Scherzer broke the recent pattern of pitchers dominating in the first inning, then coming unwound soon after. He compiled nine strikeouts through five innings, 11 for all seven that he pitched, and was one-hitting the A's after six. Colon did settle down after the first, holding Detroit scoreless the next five innings, so he completely reversed the pattern.
An idle thought crossed my mind as I watched Colon face Prince Fielder: Is this the greatest combined weight of pitcher and batter ever to face each other in the majors? Probably not. I think CC Sabathia has the edge in mass on Colon, or at least did at one time. CC, though, looks big and solid, but Bartolo is just sloppy fat.
There was a weak "MVP!" chant for Josh Donaldson when he first came to bat. Given the presence of Cabrera on the same field, the weakness can be understood.
Miguel Cabrera is obviously hurting. A ball he hit in the eighth inning went off Donaldson's glove at third. For most batters, this would have meant reaching on an error, but Donaldson calmly tracked down the ball, threw to first, and still got Cabrera by a couple of steps. If his hitting is as badly affected—and the announcers watching his plate technique believed so—he may actually be an impediment to the Tigers right now.
Jhonny Peralta, back from his Biogenesis suspension, pinch-hit in the ninth inning. The Oakland fans gave him a lusty round of boos. The same Oakland fans whose starting pitcher that night had been one-time suspended PED user Bartolo Colon. I reserve further comment.
So it took four games today, but we finally got a pretty good one. One hopes it won't take another quadruple-header to produce a fun one, but if we need it, we've got it. Pittsburgh and Atlanta evened up their series today, meaning all four series will be playing on Monday. So we get to do this again in three days!
Sleep? What's that? You can sleep in November.
Posted by: Shane Tourtellotte
October 04, 2013
WPS recap: NLDS, 10/3/2013The playoffs move into high gear, beginning with the National League.
Wednesday night's win by the Rays punctured a potential bit of trivia. Had Cleveland taken the game, it would have meant that all eight teams remaining in the playoffs were "original" teams, ones that had been around since the American League became a major league in 1901. Tampa Bay was the only expansion team to make it into the postseason. (The tiebreaker against Texas technically does not count.) They have their work cut out against the Old Guard, but that begins Friday.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Pirates 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 Cardinals 0 0 7 0 1 1 0 0 X 9 (Cardinals lead series 1-0) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Pirates 5 5 5 3 3 1 0 0 0 Cardinals 7 24 49 0 1 0 0 0 X WPS Base: 98.1 Best Plays: 37.6 Last Play: 0.0 Grand Total: 135.7
There isn't too much to say about a game that is effectively over before the 16th out is recorded. Unless, of course, you have a rooting interest, but then the things you'll say are pretty obvious and, in the case of Pirates' fans, obscene. I'll find another direction, such as making this a lesson on how the WPS Index functions.
The Cardinals' third inning is exactly the most boring way to score seven runs, at least according to WPS. All the runs came in on eight players reaching base consecutively, from Adam Wainwright's leadoff walk to David Freese's three-run single-plus-error.
WPS likes outs interspersed with its baserunners, to keep expectations swinging and produce a "sawtooth" pattern on a Win Expectancy graph. There was virtually no suspense in A.J. Burnett's meltdown, no point at which you could think he was in position to squeeze free. It was an efficient way to kill a ballgame.
And it did kill this game. Pedro Alvarez's home run to open the fifth inning earned a WPS score of 1.4. That's a hair below what the second out of the game netted (1.5). When a home run is more ho-hum than a top-of-the-first grounder to the pitcher, things have gotten out of hand. As a further, and final, example, 14 of the last 15 plate appearances in the game produced a score of 0.0.
Desperate Pittsburgh boosters could point to the Cardinals' batting average with runners in scoring position as a ray of light. St. Louis went 2 for 10, a far cry from the incredible .330 they put up in the regular season.
Ah, but we know better than to stop looking there. The season triple-slash line for Cards' RISP was .330/.402/.463. With a homer, two walks, and a hit batter pitching in, they went .200/.385/.500 on this afternoon. Their OPS was better than the season average. No solace there, Buccos fans.
There was some suggestion by the broadcast crew that Carlos Martinez would have been wiser to eat the ball rather than throw to first on his eighth-inning play that amazingly nipped Russell Martin. They feared the ball getting away, giving him a free base, setting up a big inning.
Really? With an eight-run margin, the difference between a runner on first or on second is minuscule compared to that between a runner on first and a runner out. You want the outs, and you should be taking a chance like that. Don't listen to 'em, Carlos!
One final tactical quibble was manager Mike Matheny sending in late-season closer Trevor Rosenthal to pitch the ninth with an eight-run cushion. In his defense, I note that Rosenthal had last pitched six days earlier, and he might have needed a little work to prevent rust. Of course, St. Louis knew they wouldn't be playing until Thursday, so maybe they could have set up an intrasquad scrimmage, as Boston reportedly did, and given Rosenthal his maintenance work on Tuesday.
Just a thought to fill the cavernous vacuum of interest left by this game after the third inning.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Dodgers 0 2 2 1 0 1 0 0 0 6 Braves 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 (Dodgers lead series 1-0) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Dodgers 5 27 22 10 7 6 1 0 0 Braves 5 13 13 17 4 2 5 3 3 WPS Base: 142.5 Best Plays: 31.5 Last Play: 0.6 Grand Total: 174.6
This one toyed with us a little more but still ended up the fifth postseason/tiebreaker game in a row below average excitement. Had the Braves not been making some threats in the second through fourth innings, this game could have been almost as low on the WPS Index as the Pirates and Cardinals.
Baseball does not reveal its patterns quickly. How many of us, after watching Kris Medlen strike out the side in the first, were thinking he'd be knocked around for five runs in the next three innings? Clayton Kershaw, on the other hand, while doing almost as well in the first on less dominant stuff, had the horses for the long haul, with a dozen strikeouts in his seven frames.
If the game had been closer, Evan Gattis could well have been remembered as the goat. Missing a diving attempt at a fly ball in the top of the second inning to let Los Angeles' second run across was forgivable. Getting hung out far, far off first on a fly to right and doubled off by Yasiel Puig in the bottom half was inexplicable. But if you're going to have a bad night, have it when it doesn't matter so much. We'll see how Gattis shakes off the experience.
The Dodgers tacked on a run in the sixth, which I wouldn't mention except for the Braves reliever who gave up that run, Jordan Walden. I did not recognize the name, but I recognized the delivery. I saw him at PNC Park earlier this year during a baseball tour that I wrote up here at THT. He had the same odd crow-hop off the rubber just before releasing the ball. Good to see that: April connects to October, the season ties itself into a bow for me.
There's no way I wouldn't mention Brian Wilson's stint in the eighth because, good Lord, that beard. If he were blond, he already would have joined ZZ Top.
Don Mattingly followed Matheny's lead and sent his closer to the mound with a large, non-save lead. It had been four days since Kenley Jansen's last appearance, so the rust argument holds less water. If it was just to keep him sharp, it may have backfired, as Jansen had to throw 25 pitches to finish the game.
Join us tomorrow as we run down all four playoff games across both leagues. One of them's going to be an exciting one. Law of averages, right? Right?
Posted by: Shane Tourtellotte
October 31, 2012
WPS recap post-mortem: two plays in Game TwoThe World Series is over, a lot sooner than most fans were hoping. We're now stuck in that twilight zone where we can either look forward to the 2013 season, or backward to the season that was. I don't have my glasses with me right now, so five months ahead is just a blur. I'm looking backward, thank you.
Firstly, a couple pieces of unfinished business from WPS Recap. Prime among those is to congratulate the San Francisco Giants on their victory. May that flag fly forever.
Next, Game Four was exciting enough to rescue the World Series from being the least interesting Series of all time, as measured by the WPS Index. I failed to mention where it did end up: fifth least-exciting all-time, better than the 2007 Red Sox sweep, but not quite as thrilling as the 1928 Yankees sweep. I could nudge 2012 ahead on the basis of Pablo Sandoval's three-homer game to begin the Series ... except that Babe Ruth had a three-homer game to end the 1928 Series. Fifth place it is.
Now for the post-mortem that the title promised. The crucial game of the Series, if a sweep can be said to have one, was Game Two. Scoreless through the seventh-inning stretch, it was there for either team to take. Had Detroit done so, the complexion and psychology of the series changes markedly, and who knows what happens. That means it's time for, yep, second-guessing!
(Technically, I did touch on one of these matters in the original WPS Recap. I nearly made a between-game post of the second one, but I thought I had been writing quite enough THT Live articles. There, now you can second-guess me on something: that's The Circle of Life.)
The first turning point came as the Tigers rallied in the top of the second. With a hit-by-pitch Prince Fielder on first, Delmon Young doubled into the left field corner. When the ball ricocheted away from Gregor Blanco, third base coach Gene Lamont waved Fielder home. Blanco's long throw sailed over Brandon Crawford, but Marco Scutaro had trailed the play. He reined it in and threw on to Buster Posey, whose quick sweep tag got Fielder a foot short of the plate.
I reported on Thursday night that the break-even mark for sending Fielder in that situation is 87.2 percent (given the 2012 Run Expectancy numbers). Here's another figure to give you some perspective: The break-even mark this season for stealing third base with two outs was 87.8 percent. One of the archetypal bonehead plays in baseball; something players are coached to avoid and lambasted for forgetting; one of those old saws from the proverbial book that is actually dead-on correct. That play is just a tiny bit worse than sending the runner home on a no-out double.
Now, it is possible to be too hard on Gene Lamont for this snap decision. The factor that made sending Prince Fielder so obviously dubious—that it's Prince Fielder, lugging Prince Fielder's weight around the bases—would have worked against him had he halted at third. He would have had a similarly diminished chance of reaching home on a two-hop grounder or a medium fly ball. We could conceivably be lamenting how Lamont clogged up a rally by holding Prince at third, and how three straight teammates failed to bring him home. (Delmon Young got stranded on second, after all.)
It was still a mistake, but it was a mistake of aggressively going for an early run. Given how Detroit's bats were limp noodles for most of the series, it's easier to forgive, or at least understand, in retrospect. Of course, most of that power outage was in the future when Lamont windmilled Fielder home. It was a bit early to be acting desperate. On the whole, it was a blunder, but not something so stupid that it should haunt Gene Lamont forever. (Given the sweep, it probably won't. Had this happened in a Game Seven, though ...)
The second pivot point came in the bottom of the seventh inning, the game still scoreless. San Francisco loaded the bases on a single, a walk and a sacrifice bunt that turned into a hit when it rolled to an unmolested halt a few inches inside the third-base line. Bases loaded, no outs, tie game: That's a jam.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland had two options: He could play the infield in, hoping to cut off the run while risking a greater chance at a big rally, or set the infielders at double-play depth, trading one run for two outs. He did the latter, and got what he was playing for, a 4-6-3 twin killing that still made it 1-0 Giants. He strongly defended his tactical choice after the game. "We were absolutely thrilled to come out of that inning with one run," he told reporters.
One post-game analysis, by Ben Lindbergh at Baseball Prospectus, supported Leyland's call. He used Run Expectancy to compare the presumed optimum results of the defensive orientations: two out, man on third, one run scored for double-play depth; one out, bases loaded, no runs scored for playing in. The double play dropped the Giants' RE from 2.260 to 1.363, while a force at home would have lowered it from 2.260 only to 1.537. Lindbergh thus advised everyone to put away their pitchforks.
I'm going to keep something pointy at hand, myself.
Run Expectancy is an excellent tool for measuring general situations, especially those early in a ballgame. When the game is late and close, however, its general applicability gets overwhelmed by the specific situation. When that happens, analysis is served better by looking at the more complex but more precise Win Expectancy numbers.
Fortunately, there's an app for that, and it's right here at The Hardball Times. I fed the situations into Dave Studeman's Win Probability Inquirer. I assumed a run environment of 4.0 runs per team per game—the average in the majors this year was 4.32, and AT&T Park is a pitcher's park. These were the results.
Base/Out/Score Situation SF's Win Probability Bases loaded, no outs, 0-0 0.830 Man on third, two outs, 1-0 0.796 Bases loaded, one out, 0-0 0.738
Both optimum results improved Detroit's chances, but the comparison is clear. Getting the force at home gives Detroit a 9.2 percent boost; the run-scoring DP was just 3.4 percent. (I also checked the plays with a 3.5 run environment, and the spread was even wider.) It's difficult to balance the probabilities of getting these optimum results with the risks that both defenses, especially the infield in, offer. If you are hoping for the best, though, the infield in gives you a much superior best to hope for.
There's one other factor in play. Leyland was content to play a run down to San Francisco, a team whose bullpen was one of its greatest strengths. Maybe his team's two-run homer while down seven in the ninth the previous night affected his estimation of the Giants' pen, but one can argue he should have been working to avoid having any deficit to make up against those relievers. As it unfolded, Detroit did not score against the bullpen Giants, in that game or for the rest of the World Series.
That is how Game Two got away from the Detroit Tigers: a little too aggressive in the second, a little too conservative in the seventh. It's tough and kind of unfair to argue perfect causality in a contingent game like baseball, but a run here, a run there, and pretty soon that's the ballgame. And just maybe the whole season.
Posted by: Shane Tourtellotte
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