I was very tempted to write a different title for this post, but I didn’t want to scare away any readers. This edition is a strange one by our usual standards. Why is that? Because Carson Cistulli chimed in saying he’d like to take part. I mean that in the most positive way possible, Carson. It’s been a long season, and tonight is either the last day of baseball, or the eve of the last day of baseball. So let’s have a moment of silent reflection [pause]….and then go on to the roundtable.
Question #1: Brad Lidge’s postseason struggles; are they ‘real’ or just a matter of perception?
Evan Brunell: Perception. It’s okay to blow a game here and there in the postseason. Papelbon has done it. Rivera has done it. Heck, Lidge was nails this postseason until that three-run debacle in Game 4. Pedro Feliz juiced a game-tying home run, and the momentum had swung. Lidge choked, but a major, major part of that choke had to do with the dying quail (and what can you do about those?) off Damon’s bat and the collective team choke of not covering third, which took away Lidge’s dirt-burying slider.
Carson Cistulli: I think you’d be hard-pressed to say that Lidge has struggled in the postseason. Through 39.1 postseason IP (over a span of 11 series), Lidge has recorded 56 K, 15 BB, and only 2 HR-allowed. He’s struck out over a third of the batters he’s faced (56/158, 35.4%). For reference, here’s a complete list of the pitchers who, this year, threw at least 40 IP and struck out a third of the batters they faced: Jonathan Broxton (38%) and Mike Wuertz (33.6%). That’s it. And of course, you’ve got to figure that Lidge is facing better hitters in a playoff series.
Nutso, is what that is.
In terms of “perception,” Brad Lidge did allow the giantest home run ever in a high-leverage playoff situation. That’s gonna color anyone’s perception of Lidge. But as far as performance go, Lidge has been basically as good as you’d want.
Adam Guttridge: As much as I’d tend to say ‘real’ (the reputation just seems overwhelming), the numbers won’t let me. In 40 postseason innings, he’s been positively dominant.
Now, the times he’s been touched have come under some notable circumstances. But the bulk of that reputation comes from 3-4 of the ~40 innings, so we have to keep in mind the size of the sample guiding our intuition there.
That said, do I want to go to Lidge to close out the 9th tonight? Hell no, but that’s much more a reflection of his terrible season than any post-season choke expectation.
Question #2: Did Charlie Manuel make the right move in holding back Cliff Lee given his inexperience starting on three days rest?
Evan Brunell: You know, I was extremely against Manuel’s decision in the beginning, but I’ve come around on it. For one, there was no chance that Pedro Martinez was going to start Game 5. This means that Joe Blanton was likely to start it regardless. So then you’re faced with a decision: Lee, then Blanton or Blanton and Lee?
At that point, if you’re pitching both of them no matter what, don’t you want to put Lee — your ace pitcher — in the best possible situation to deliver a win? That means pitching him on full rest and not yanking him out of his comfort zone.
Carson Cistulli: This is tough. While much is made over this or that pitcher’s “ability” to throw on three days’ rest, it seems like it’s probably a pretty regular effect across the board — an effect that’s hard to detect because of the small samples.
If memory serves, Tango et al wrote about this in The Book. Unfortunately, I don’t have it right here, but Daniel Moroz at MLB Notebook cites it and says that pitchers allow about a half a run more on short rest.
The right question to ask is: Is Cliff Lee plus .5 runs better than the Phillies fourth pitcher? Regardless of whether that “fourth pitcher” is Martinez or Blanton, the answer is probably “Yes.”
Of course, there’s stuff going on behind the scenes, too. Maybe Lee went to Manuel and said, “Charlie, I’m begging you. Whatever happens, don’t make me pitch on three days rest.”
Unlikely, sure. But something like could happen.
Adam Guttridge: I’d go with Lee rather than the alternatives. If there’s anything to being ‘dialed in’ (which, I understand, is dubious), then Lee is it; his postseason thus far has been incredible. A guy like Lee who relies on command and movement moreso than power ought to be fine.
Question #3: Dave Cameron over at FanGraphs writes that Charlie Manuel has “cojones the size of the Liberty Bell.” Eric Nusbaum of Pitchers and Poets praises the strength of Jayson Werth’s soul patch. From all the remaining Phillies on the World Series roster, who has the most notable single feature?
Evan Brunell:Brad Lidge’s mole. It’s like a constant reminder that as perfect as Lidge can appear as a pitcher, there’s always something lurking, waiting to mess it all up.
Carson Cistulli: It’s a tough call between Chase Utley’s hair and Chan Ho Park’s beard. In case no one has noticed, Chase Utley has single-handedly attempted to reintroduce the Wet Look to North America*. And he’s doing a pretty amazing job of it.
*Don’t worry: It’s doing fine in Southern Europe.
That said, how many Koreans have you seen who look like they’ve just entered Month Seven of their Appalachian Trail Experience?
Adam Guttridge: To me, it’s two; the dichotomy presented by the bodies of Utley and Howard.
If we ignore skin color, Howard is the closest thing we’ve got physically to my perception of a modern Babe Ruth. And Utley, who could hide in one of Howard’s shoes, still manages to generate more consistent power than all but a few players around the league. It’s incredible.
Follow-up: How much would you pay Dave Cameron not to have made you think about Charlie Manuel’s cojones? Is it more or less than the amount left on Brad Lidge’s contract?
Evan Brunell: My mind is like a steel trap. It thinks what I want it to think, thus I was successfully able to fend off thinking about it.
Carson Cistulli:The Liberty Bell is pretty big, but it also has a giant crack in it. Is there a Chris Snyder thing going on here that we don’t know about?