Monthly archives: October 2007
Clint Hurdle Is a Stupid, Stupid Man and Other Observations
I spent the last night of the World Series with a raging 103-degree fever, and yet I had more brain cells at my disposal than did the manager of the Colorado Rockies.
Before game three Clint Hurdle said, "I don't think it's a coincidence. I think this game drips with irony...God's fingerprints are all over a lot of things There's a battle that can be on your hands, but there's a battle that can be fought, and just as importantly there's a battle that could be won." And apparently, it is a battle that can be lost miserably.
Aside from not knowing the definition of irony except for the Alanis Morissette connotation, Hurdle puts way too much blame on god and not enough on himself. Hurdle is not much for "The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves" mentality (though admittedly, the man who stated this, Cassius, had himself killed amid a battle that was not quite overthat might be taking the motto a bit too much to heart). Though his players struggled almost to a man and were overmatched in the Series, the last three games were within their grasps until late into the game. I have to think that the many, many boneheaded moves by Hurdle helped do in the Rockies at least as much as his team's lackluster play.
Hurdle's devotion to his starting pitching no matter the circumstance was one of the most befuddling strategies he constantly employed. In game four, Hurdle stuck with starter Aaron Cook, who had not pitched since August 10, so long, one had to wonder if Cook had naked pictures of his manager. Cook's spot was due up in the bottom of the fifth with the Rockies trailing 2-0 with 14 outs left in their World Series life. Cook ended up bunting perfectly for a hit, but that is no excuse for a bad decision. Cook was left in until the top of the seventh when he gave up a leadoff homer to series MVP Mike Lowell. Cook's last start longer than six innings was July 31. How long can you rely on a pitcher starting his first game off of the DL when you are at the brink?
When the Rockies finally scored and were down to six outs, who did Hurdle turn to to pitch the eighth? Brian Fuentes, the man who gave up three runs in the disastrous eighth the day before. Fuentes' first pitch was deposited in the left field bleachers by pinch-hitter, Bobby Kielty. This turned out to be the difference in the game. Hurdle's devotion to Fuentes to pitch the eighth reminds me of Jim Fregosi's misplaced reliance on a worn-out Mitch Williams to close out games in the (for me) disastrous 1993 Series.
Hurdle's next decision was to pull Fuentes, mercifully, for closer Manny Corpas, a man that Hurdle neglected to even get into the game when it was close the night before. Corpas' only other appearance came in game two with two out in the bottom of the eighth with the Rockies trailing 2-1. Corpas is the best pitcher he has in the pen so no problem there, and Corpas struck out Manny Ramirez to end the inning, so the move worked.
However, at the same time Hurdle pulled a double-switch, a feat I was impressed he could accomplish, putting Jamey Carroll at second base. Sounds fine, except that all Hurdle accomplished with the double-switch was to move the pitcher one spot down in the order and at the same time remove one of best batters ostensibly, Kaz Matsui, while ensuring that a man (Carroll) who batted .225 with a .617 OPS batted before the end of the game. The final inning featured at-bats by the catcher, Carroll, and Seth Smith, a player with eight career major-league at-bats prior to the postseason and no career home runs or RBI.
"God's fingerprints" indeed!
In my flu-induced stupor I mistakenly thought the Red Sox had to win by a large amount (at least six runs) to register the most lopsided win in World Series history. Silly me, I ran the numbers today and lo and behold, the 2007 World Series comes in at number one.Here are the worst series sweeps by average margin of victory:
The 2007 playoffs end with yet another sweep. That's the fourth in six series. In total just 28 of 41 total possible games were played. Aside from the seven-game ALCS, just one extra game was played in the other five series. 28 is the fewest played in a postseason since baseball went to the three-round system in 1994, and the fifth fewest by percentage of possible games since baseball turned to divisional play in 1969:
Baseball has a lot to answer for here. They had eight days off this postseason. That has been eclipsed only by the earthquake World Series in 1989, the rainout-infested 1975-76 playoffs, and the first season with three rounds of playoffs:
Of the games broadcast on TBS, only one game above the minimum were played. I wouldn't be surprised if the networks forced baseball to go to a seven-game first round next year. Surely, they no longer have any excuses given the number of off days this postseason.
I can't blame Matt Holliday. The entire Colorado offense was lulled to sleep.
However, Holliday, who did go four-for-four and collected all but one of the Rockie hits, epitomized his teams night when he was picked off first to end not only the eighth inning but the final of many stillborn Colorado rallies of the night as the Red Sox won game two, 2-1. It was the first time that Jonathan Papelbon had ever picked off a runner in his admittedly somewhat brief career.
It was an inexcusable poor play, an unfortunate play for someone who is arguably the best player on his team. Holliday got caught leaning toward second base though his lead off of first was not that large. Somehow, as Papelbon threw to first, and the pitcher admitted that pickoff call came from the bench, Holliday hovered a few feetor probably the nine feet that TBS had been emblazoning across the bathpaths during their broadcastsand seemed, more than anything else, surprised by the throw. He ended up being picked off by a few feet.
There's plenty of blame to spread around on this team, but Holliday because of this play and the off day, might become the poster child of the Rockies offensive malaise, their purple haze if one speaks McCarverian. I think this loss has to hurt the Rockies more than the monumentally lopsided game one that was so ridiculous that it could be dismissed out of hand.
The Rockies become just the fifteenth team to score two runs or fewer in the first two games of a World Series. Those teams won just five of fourteen Series while being swept five times. So you could say they have the same odds of being swept as winning the series based on historical results:
Now, the Rockies return home with a ton of pressure on their shoulders, and game three starter Josh Fogg does not inspire a tremendous amount of confidence.
Of the 42 best-of-seven series that started out 2-0 for the home team, ten or almost one quarter ended up a sweep. Almost three-quarters ended up a series win for the leading team. Here are the results broken down:
And it doesn't get much better for the Rockies even if they win game three. One quarter of those teams ended up losing their next two, and two-thirds ended up losing the series eventually.
Which bring us to game four, the game that potentially evens the series if Colorado wins game three (or ends the series if the loss game three). That game will be a total crapshoot with Aaron Cook returning from a two and one-half hiatus versus Tim Wakefield replacement John Lester, who started just eleven games this year, the last coming over a month ago when he lasted just four and one-third allowing seven hits and five runs (4 earned).
By the way, if anyone else was sicked by the Fox "interview" of Taco Bell's CEO who just happened to be at the ballpark, please joing me in avoiding Fox programming and sponsors whenever possible. I have never been to Taco Bell so I have to go the extra mile. I already gave up on 24. As if Fox repeatedly mentioning the pointless stolen base promotion and not only repeatedly replaying the play itself but a micked coach's explanation of the promotion was not enough. It was a new low for a network that came into its own by aiming low. To Tim Mcarver's credit, he called them shills albeit while making another cringe-worthy pun, this time to Curt Schilling's name, but it was the highlight of his broadcasting career for me.
Finally, the Baseball Analysts have a great piece on how Red Sox fandom has changed over the years. As someone who lived in Boston at the cusp of the Shaughnessy-induced tragic fandom period, I found it very helpful in explaining the evolution of the so-called Red Sox Nation. Thanks to my friend Murray for the link.
Look on the Bright SideóRockies Still Winners in 21 of Their Last 23
We've been kickin' ass for 200 years. We're 10 and 1!
Blame rust from an eight-day layoff, the bad weather, a muddy field, or relative incompetence. Whatever the reason, the Red Sox scored the biggest game one victory ever in a World Series and one of the most lopsided playoff wins ever, 13-1, over the once-red hot Rockies.
Here are the most lopsided World Series game ones of all time by margin of victory (MoV):
Note that any team that won by ten or more in game one ended up losing their Series.
Yesterday's game was no, however, the most lopsided game one in any playoff series. The Cubs beat the Padres, 13-0, in game one of the 1984 NLCS. The Cubs, of course, ended up losing that series as well:
It was also not the most lopsided World Series game of all time. That honor goes to the '36 Yanks, who beat the Giants 18-4 in game four of the World Series. Those Yankees, arguably one of the best teams in baseball history, won the Series four games to two, so forget about the lopsided victory jinx:
The most lopsided playoff game of all time is even more ridiculous. The Red Sox beat the Indians, 23-7, in game four of their 1999 division series. Yesterday's mismatch comes in tied at number nine:
Let's say the Sox sweep the Rox. Could it be the most lopsided World Series of all time? They would have to outscore Colorado by almost four runs a game for the rest of the series to do so. The record falls to, oddly, a team that ended up losing the Series in historic fashion, the 1960 Yankees. Most of the series at the top of the list went more than four games. The most lopsided sweep was the Called Shot Yankees over the Cubs in 1932. They outscored Chicago by 18 runs:
A Series of Congratulatory Regrets
Reporter: What's your prediction for the fight?
(Quote in title from Benjamin "Dizzy" Disraeli)
So here we are (finally) at my wife's favorite part of the season. I told her the other day, "No more than seven more games," and she couldn't be happier. Given my sterling reputation for predictionsI picked the Yankees beating the Phils, I will now pick the eventual winner.
And the survey says .Red Sox in six.
I will be pulling for the Rockies but I just think that the Red sox are a far more talented team from a far more talented league. I know that the Rockies are the hottest team this side of the 1914 Miracle Braves, but just don't see that continuing. I was going to say Sox in five but the pitching changes in game four changed my mind. The Sox left Tim Wakefield off their roster and will replace him in game four with inexperienced John Lester. Meanwhile, Aaron Cook returns to pitch game four for the Rockies after a two and one-half month hiatus. That game could be one big crapshoot. And it will hurt Boston to have to sit either Ortiz or Youkilis for the three non-DH games in Denver, but not that much. The Rockies at least get Spillborgh's bat in the lineup but then again, they keep Taveras in so it's a wash.
Besides this is an instance in which the six and one-half game difference between the two is meaningful given the talent gap between the two leagues. Teams facing playoff opponents who were at least five games worse in the regular season win about 60% of the time and the series goes about five games. In the World Series, that's a 53% winning percentage and a five and one-half game series.
Here are the World Series results for teams playing opponents five or more wins worse than themselves:
Here are the results in all playoffs series:
By the way, Lester will be just the 28th pitcher to start in the Series after starting fewer than a dozen games in the regular season. The last was David Cone eleven years ago and before that the unbelievable Marty Bystrom for the 1980 Phils.
Here are all said pitches with their results for the seriesL
Now, here all playoff pitchers with fewer than 12 starts in the given regular season:
I had the weirdest dream last night. The Indians were trailing by one run in the seventh when one of the best baserunners of his era was held up at third by a career-backup catcher turned third base coach on a ball hit to the outfield. And then hordes of orcs from the Red Sox Nation led by their second baseman Gollum and then the Indians manager Eric "Denethor" Wedge lost his mind and all control of the game. The Red Sox Nation prevailed, chased Frodo Tulowitzki into the Rockie Mountain, and nabbed his one ring.
Then I woke up andbang! the first part came true.
The Indians are now left a shell of a team.
Skinner will likely be firedor will become the cynosure of the locals which is what all third base coaches desire.
Wedge will have to answer questions as to his implacable reliance on weak-hitting Franklin Gutierrez while former Red Sock Trot Nixon languished on the bench, and what the hell was he thinking leaving Rafael Betancourt in for an inning and two-thirds to soak up seven runs!?! Betancourt stayed in for four outs and five runs after the monstrous home run by that dainty, newly-minted Eckstein, Dustin Pedroia. He got to face Pedroia an inning later and gave up another big hitthis time a double with the bases loadedbefore Wedge mercifully gave him the hook. And even though Kenny Lofton had a decent series, who would think that an outfield with Kenny Lofton in left and a rookie Pat Sheridan in Gutierrez in right could cut it in the ALCS even with one of the best young players in the game in center (Grady Sizemore) to balance them out?
Casey Blake's game fell apart after he hit into a double play to end the seventh. His error to lead off the bottom of the seventh opened the floodgates. The whole team looked like the pre-Kelly Leak Bad News Bears on a Jason Varitek fly ball down the left field foul line that bounced into the stands for an automatic double after three fielders circled and missed it. At least the Bears had Tanner to throw a "God Dammit!" and a glove to inspire some sort of emotion after the play.
So it at least was a great seventh game for two-thirds of the game. That Skinner-Lofton play was the turning point. Really, the game started with the Red Sox charging out of the gate 3-0 after three. The Indians climbed back 3-2 after six. And then the debacle followed.
In the end it was among the most lopsided deciding games in a playoff series ever. It is the worst since the 15-0 pasting the Braves put on the Cardinals in game seven of the '96 NLCS. Those Braves were also down three games to one before two big blowouts (14-0 in game 5 and 15-0 in game 7) and one close game (3-1 in game 6). The ReD Sox won 7-1, 12-2, and 11-2 in the last three games.
Here are the most lopsided deciding games in a playoff series all time:
It was also among the most runs allowed in a deciding game ever:
And now we have to wait three days for a World Series featuring a club the nation appears not to care aboutat least from the abysmal NLCS ratings, a team that will have an unprecedented eight-day layoff against what Boston thinks is baseball's version of the Patriots. I hope and pray that the Red Sox lose, but it pains me to root for an expansion team that used a wild cardactually a playoff for the wild cardto get to the playoffs. I have to root for Colorado, but I can't say I am thrilled about it.
File this under the most ironic quote of all time. Hey Hank, how did you get your job?
"Where was Joe's career in '95 when my dad hired him?" Hank Steinbrenner told The New York Post. "My dad was crucified for hiring him.
At least Torre won with the "great team he was handed". Also, Torre won almost half of his 2067 career managerial wins before he joined the Yankees (i.e., 894 of 2067). Torre is eighth all-time in wins but still would be 62nd if you eliminated his Yankee career. He managed for parts of fifteen seasons for three different clubs before he became a Bronx institution. Do your homework, Hank!
The jury is still out on how well Hank Steinbrenner will do with the great team he has been handed. So far, I am not impressed.
Hurry Up and Wait
We wait two days for a game and we get this? Josh Beckett put in a great performance while McCarver and Buck eulogized Joe Torre. And now have to wait another two days for a gameat least this one's a valid travel day.
Meanwhile, the Rockies await the AL victor. They'll be waiting for eight days. That's longer than it took to play 33 World Series. When the Orioles swept the Dodgers in the 1966 World Series, the final game was played just one week after the end of the season. You could replay that series in real time while the Rockies wait to play their next playoff game.
It's the longest that any team has ever had to wait between series and is the second longest gap for any postseason team. San Fran and Oakland's 12-day wait after game 2 of the earthquake-interrupted 1989 World Series is the only longer wait between playoff games:
This will be potentially the longest postseason in history. Only a sweep will avoid tying or setting a new "record" for postseason days:
It won't be the latest a postseason will end, but ut could be the second latest:
The number of days it is taking to plat a game is the highest for any postseason without some sort of problem due to weather or some other kind of act of god:
And there will potentially be the most off days this postseason outside of the 1989 earthquake Series and the constantly rained out 1975 playoffs:
And still they can't expand the first round to seven games. Go figure.
The Rockies Win the Pennant! The Rockies Win the Pennant!
Yeah, it does not sound quite right, does it? But, it's true. The Colorado Rockies will play in their first World Series whenever baseball gets around to letting them play again. What is it eight days? Blimey!
You've already heard that they are the first team since Big Red Machine to sweep their first two series. Back in 1976, however, that would net you a World Series crown. Today all it gets you is a ticket to Palookaville or rather Cleveland in eight days.
Here are all the playoff teams that have sweep their way through the postseason:
Note that the average winning percentage for these teams .659 which translates into 107 wins in a 162-game schedule, 17.5 games better than the Rockies.
But as you know the Rockies are having an historically unusual season. They are just one of 18 teams who have won 21 of 22 games. Here are the rest:
Should they win game one even after such a long layoff they would become just one of 11 teams to win 22 of 23 and just the third since 1936:
Let's say the Rockies roll over whomever should represent the AL (Cleveland), not only would they become the first team to sweep three straight playoff series, they would be the first team since 1916 to win 25 of 26. Here are the only teams to do it:
One might expect the Rockies to fold in their first World Series, but what have other teams done in their first try? Here is the year that each franchise first made the Series, what their record was that season, and what the outcome of the series was:
Note that newbies were on a roll. They had won four straight from 1992 to 2002 and then the Astros went pfft in the 2005 classic. Overall, teams win in their first World Series 52% of the time, and win 4.7 games to their opponents' 3.8. So the Rockies may still be longshots to sweep but there is no reason to think that their first time in the Fall Classic will leave them starstruck.
A Rockie Cave
No fountain from its rocky cave
Tonight the Rockies all but tied up the Nation League crown, breaking a 1-1 with a three-run Yorvit Torrealba home run in the sixth. You are going to hear plenty of comparisons being drawn between the D-Backs and the 2004 Red Sox, the only team to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game playoffs series. They famously came back to beat the Yankees in the '04 ALCS en route to a World Series crown.
The only problem is that the Sox had games four and five at home. Arizona must now win two in Colorado before they return to the friendly confines of the former BOB, and then they have to win two more. The Red Sox started a comeback at Fenway, and the Yankees were all but done by the time they returned home for games six and seven.
And the Red Sox were not facing a team as hot as the Rockies, winners of 20 out of their past 21. There have been just two teams since 1953 and just 24 all time to match that clip (see below). The odds are that this series ends in Denver, most probably Monday night.
Tim McCarver Makes TBS Look Good and Other Thoughts
As Fox returned to the postseason broadcasting schedule tonight, I finally appreciated the hacks at TBS. McCarver and Buck stopped watching the actually game even before it got out of hand in the fifth. The Fox crew was more interested in who would be starting game four for the rest of the game than they were in the rest of the game. Buck makes Chip Caray's nepotism seem much more palatable.
No one on Fox questioned leaving Sabathia in to soak up eight runs in under five innings except insofar as it would affect game four. While they were recounting the connections that Indians manager Eric Wedge has with the Red Sox, they missed the fact that Wedge was prepared to hand the game over to the Red Sox without so much as a "By your leave" with none out in the fifth. Why question sticking with an ineffective ace considering it's not the playoffs or anything?
Meanwhile, some random stats as the Rockies and D-Backs get underway:
The Rockies are just the 11th team in baseball history to finish the season at 13-1 or better in their last 14. Just three others have done it since 1891, and of those just one won the World Series, the '65 Dodgers. The 1960 Yankees are the only team to finish the season with fourteen straight wins, but they had a very interesting swan song in the Series. Here are all of them:
Colorado is also just the 53rd team to go 18-1 at any point in the season. None of the teams above can claim that. Here are all the teams to do it in the last 100 seasons:
Two More Years! Two More Years!
And an option for a third, yet!
Amid rumors ranging from his dismissal to his beautificationby the largely uninformed national press who turned him into a modern-day Will Rogers for fifteen minutes and purported threats that he would take no less than a new two-year contract, Charlie Manuel re-signed with the Phils for two years at $1.5 per year plus a club option for 2010. This equates to signing a player after a career year.
Many Phillies fans, angered by the teams quick hook in the playoffs and Charlie's quick hook with Kyle Kendrick in game 2, were calling for the manager's head. During the playoffs, the Phils reverted to their previous undisciplined selves. Their hitters swung early and often and more than a few (Utley and Rowand in particular) looked overmatched. Relief pitchers faltered. They scored eight runs in three games with five home runs.
The Phils were in a hard spot. It looked like the Phils were set to let Manuel go after three years of near misses. This team always looks for a scapegoat at the end of an unsuccessful season, and they had GM Pat Gillick's former manager Jimy Williams as athe bench coach, but their late-season surge coupled with an historic collapse by the Mets got them the division title they have been seeking for fourteen years. Many have even theorized that the NL Manager of the Year award would come down to Manuel and Arizona's Bob Melvin, with Manuel getting the edge from most.
Given these factors, even if the Phils wanted to get rid of Manuel, it would be a dicey move to do so. Only one manager has been relieved of his duties after winning his division and the MoY award, and that was Davey Johnson, who was let go because of friction with Baltimore's owner Pete Angelos. The Phils reportedly didn't want to give Manuel more than a year since Gillick's contract ends next year and he plans on retiring.
Now he has a two-year deal, and the Phils have displayed a reluctance to terminate a managerial contract early. Which may mean that Manuel will be around until the next GM's term begins even though his contract is for a fraction of what, say, Adam Eaton is making.
The option of year three just keeps the Phils' options open, which is how they approach every decision. So now that Manuel's contract is settled, they can start looking at free agents like J.C. Romero, Aaron Roward, and Kyle Lohse. Meanwhile rumors swirl that both assistant GMsheir apparent Ruben "No Comment" Amaro Jr. and once golden boy Mike Arbuckleare being considered to succeed Walt Jocketty in St. Louis.
Meanwhile, the world awaits Joe Torre's dismissal/resignation. The Yankees were plagued by insects in game two, bad umpiring in game four, and poor hitting throughout. First, they helped drive starter Chien-Ming Wang from the game erroneously calling a foul bunt attempt a hit batsman to load the bases in the second. The failed to call on double windup by Paul Byrd saying time had been called. They missed a catcher's interference call with Hideki Matsui at the plate. There was a miscall at first in the sixth as well: Grady Sizemore hit a chopper to first and first base ump Gerry Davis said pitcher Mike Mussina came down on the bag late after receiving the toss. The naked eye and many replays clearly showed it was a bad call.
Even if the ball had hit Shoppach, he was attempting to bunt at he time and according to the rules it is a strike:
From 6.08(b), given he was attempting to bunt, it is a strike. It is doubly a strike from 6.08(b)(1) since it was in the strike zone. You could even argue 6.08(b)(2) could be invoked since the batter flinched at the last minute after offering at the pitch though that's a judgment call.
Basically, you can't throw your body in front of the ball while batting and then expect to be granted first base when a hittable ball hits you, except if Fieldin Culbreth and his ever shifting strike zone is behind the plate.
So now we are left with a TBS nightmare in the NLCStwo expansion teams from the middle of nowhere that no one really cares much about and a young Cleveland ballclub facing what will be a heavily favored Red Sox team. Given that I got one right in the first round, I am ready to spread my stench all over the LCS. I'll say Red Sox in six and Rockies in six, with the Sox taking the World Series crown in seven.
Phils-Rockies: Game 3 Open Chat
I finally get to wear my Phillies 2007 NL East Champs shirt, and it is on the night that they most probably will be eliminated.
As you have heard, one team in 21 tries has won a best-of-five after falling behind 0-2 at home. That was the 2001 Yankees. The Phils have better worse odds just to win the division, but how many times can they come back.
Two-thirds of those 21 teams who fell behind 0-2 at home have been swept out of the series in the third game. With the Cubs at the brink of elimination as I type, and the Phils, Yanks, and Angels down 0-2, this has been rather a lackluster division series round so far.
the only interesting thing about the lopsided series is that it might be the first time ever that all four series ended in sweeps. The Phils are the only one of the four potential sweepees who lost at home, so the odds for the other three are slightly better, but not much. 62% of the teams down 0-2 on the road went on to lose game three at home.
The most sweeps in the LDS round is two, done seven times including the last two seasons. Should all four LDS series end in sweeps it would mark the first time that a postseason witnessed four sweeps. The most is three, done three times (1995, 1998, 2005, and 2006).
So it might be that the most exciting thing that will happen is what won't happen: the trailing teams won't win and baseball will witness a new "record".
How's that for a Phils fan's pessimism?
The Worst Day in Playoff History
And silly me, I thought that was October 23, 1993, the infamous Joe Carter game.
But after three abysmal, lopsided contests yesterday, there is not much to discuss really. For Phils fans, you can see all of the problems that plagued them earlier in the season bubbling right back to the top, Charlie Manuel not staying with a starter long enough, ineffective middle relievers, too many strikeouts.
For the Yankees, you have question why Torre would put a still somewhat close game in the hands of two pitchers who, combined, pitched fewer than 16 innings for New York this season, two guys who were not on the team until the first week of September. It was 7-3 before Ross Ohlendorf and Jose Veras pitched and 11-3 after.
And for Cub fans, maybe you start talking about the curse of Augie Ojeda.
But I am left to wonder if yesterday's execrable ballgames constituted the most lopsided day in playoff history. Overall, the winners beat the losers by 18 runs (30-12) yesterday or six runs on average.
It turns out that it is no better than fourth. The worst was five years ago today when in four games the winners beat the losers by 24 runs. That day the Cards beat the D-Backs at home 6-3, the Braves beat the Giants 10-2 in the former PacBell Park, the Twins beat the A's at home 11-2, and the soon-to-be world champion Angels eliminated the Yanks 9-5 at home.
Here are the most lopsided days in playoff history:
Of course, there were four games that day. Which day witness the most lopsided day based on the average score?
That would be October 10, 1999, when the Red Sox beat the Indians 23-7 at Fenway in the only Division Series game that day. The Red Sox then won the series in a wild 12-8 at the Jake. The Sox then lost to world champion-to-be Yanks in the ALCS.
As for the day with the most lopsided playoff games on average when at least two games were played, yesterday ties for #10:
By the way, I will be hosting a chat session for the Phils swan song tomorrow night. If anyone actually made it to the end of this post, came and kibitz, nosh, and generally make snarky comments about Charlie "I Need a Friggin'" Manuel.
Blame it on Gatorade (Donít Blame It on Me)
It wasn't rust, flatness, or just a bad day, it was Gatorade that killed their bats!
Colorado closer Manny Corpas "Delicti" was reportedly captured by the TBS cameramen pouring a liquid that was possibly Gatorade on the front of his uniform and then rubbing dirt on the spot prior to entering the game. He then went to that spot repeatedly during the game. However, any tampering was not evident due to the Rockies black Chico's Bail Bonds-esque softball T's.
Before you start ranting like Mortimer "Mor-Tay" Duke at the end of "Trading Places" demanding that they reopen the stock market, er, replay the inning, the Phils could have faced their own relieversJoe Table, perhaps?, or even worse the world's greatest choking closer, Trevor Hoffman, and still they wouldn't have scored the two requisite runs to keep their hopes of winning the game alive. Especially when the plate ump was ready to punch Ryan Howard out on a ball that is a half foot inside. It just wasn't their day. It remains to be seen whether this is their series, however.
One thing is for sure, losing the first game at home in a best-of-five puts the "favorite" team at a severe disadvantage. The Rockies now have to go no worse than 2-2 over the rest of this series with potentially two of those games at home. In order to advance The Phils have to go no worse than 3-1 to survive, which means they have to win at least one road game.
Maybe we should blame the best-of-five format.
In the history of the best-of-five, when the team with home field advantage in the first game loses that game, they lose the series over two-thirds of the time and get sweep a third of the time.
Here are the series results per scenario when the home team loses game one of a best-of-five:
It's only slightly better for road teams. After losing game one on the road, the average team wins a best-of-five series just 62% of the time. Then again, they are typically the inferior, or at least lower-seeded, team. Overall, a team that wins game one win the best-of-five series 67% of the time. That's tough.
Now, the Phils must rely on a pitcher who was in Double-A three months ago. The Rockies also have a rookie pitcherone with less experience than Kyle Kendrickgoing, but then again, they are up 1-0 on the road.
Should the Phils fall behind 2-0 in the series, the odds getting even steeper. Just one team, the 2001 Yankees, were able to overcome an 0-2 deficit at home in a best-of-five series (over the A's in the ALDS). That's one winner in 21 tries or just under 5%.
That's better odds than the odds were of a team overcoming a seven-game deficit with seventeen left to play before the Phils did it this year. But, how many historic marks do they need to challenge? Let's just win today, baby.
By the way, here are the results for home teams that trailed 2-0 in a best-of-five series all time. Two-thirds end up getting sweptYikes!:
And by the way, road teams fair only slightly better. They still lose 79% of the time when they fall behind 0-2 and are swept 62% of the time. Overall, falling behind 0-2 in a best-of-five results in a series loss 86% of the time.
By the way, did anyone catch, the Charlie Manuel postgame gaffe? Speaking to reporters with Cole Hamels on the dais to his left, Uncle Chahlie opined that the Phils, and I am paraphrasing here, that "We just have to lose again tomorrow". Hamels started howling, and after a moment to recalibrate, Manuel corrected himself, "I mean win". It's nice to see that Manuel can keep them loose even in this pressure situations. Willie Randolph could have used a bit of that in the final week of the season. (That's the nicest thing I have ever said about Charlie Manuel.)
Roster of Woes
Pat Gillick seems to believe it is still 1978. He set the Phils roster for their division series with the Rockies at ten pitchers and three catchers.
Remember when teams had the luxury of carrying three catchers? That's because games then rarely went over three hours and teams rarely employed more than two or three pitchers per game. Those days only exist in the mind of Peter Gammons today.
There's a reason why teams typically carry 12 pitchers, because they can easily go through five or six in a game. Playoff games today are epic, four-hour marathons with starters pulled early and relievers pulled quickly to get any perceived advantage possible.
On average, slightly over nine pitchers (9.11) are used per team over the short history of the Division Series. But the Phils are in the clear since they will have ten. Remember that that is the average and includes everything from lopsided sweeps to series that went the full five games.
Keep in mind that NL teams have used just over thirteen position players in the average Division Series (13.47). That means that the Phils will have less than one extra pitcher but almost two position players more than the average.
Given that the Phils pitchers especially certain relievers are quite often very ineffective. They are already limited since J.C. Romero, the setup man, is the only lefty in the bullpen. Now, they will have to cannibalize their fourth starter for long relief. I know that dropping Adam Eaton is the big story because of his contract, but I would rather have J.D. Durbin as an option in the pen. If this series goes deep, it might become an issue for the Phils.
Re. carrying three catchers, my fears that Carlos Ruiz would not be ready for the postseason given his HBP in the season finale. Therefore, the Phils are taking soon-to-be free agent Rod Barajas with them. My response is if Ruiz is not ready to go, you carry two catchers, the two healthy ones. Ruiz is not that impactful a player that you waste a roster spot for him. Mike Piazza he aint.
I assume that the fifteen position player includes Tad Iguchi who filled in admirably when Chase Utley was hurt but who is relegated to pinch-hitting due to Utley's presence. I would think they would get more use out of, say, Francisco Rosario, who owned a 1.50 ERA in September. I would activate Iguchi to DH in the World Series, but now I'm getting ahead of myself.
Now's the time for my fearless predictions that are invariably wrong:
NL Div Series: Phils over Rockies in four; Cubs over D-Backs in five
Obstruction of Justice?
He Missed The Tag!
I want someone to explain to me what Tim Mcclelland was thinking when he made the call that ended the Padres-Rockies wild card playoff marathon last night or rather earlier this morning.
The Rockies had just tied the Padres at 8-8 in the bottom of the thirteenth inning with a Matt Holliday triple. With Holliday on third and none out, closer Trevor Hoffman intentionally walked Todd Helton to face weak hitting utility infielder Jamey Carroll, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
Carroll hit a fly to right and Holliday broke for home. The ball and the runner arrived almost simultaneously. Holliday slide headfirst as he approached the plate and saw an opportunity to score by tagging the back half of the plate. Catcher Michael Barrett's left foot slide out to the left as he received the catch, blocking the plate entirely. As Barrett tagged Holliday, he took out the runner's left hand and Holliday took a face flop in the dirt and then seemed to be stuck to the dirt. The ball came loose, however, and after a momentary hesitation, plate umpire Tim McClelland called the runner safe. The winning run scored and the Rockies were celebrating while Holliday tried to remove his face from surface of Coors Field.
Sound good, right? Late inning heroics for a hot team that won fourteen of their last fifteen, including the one-game playoff, to advance to the official postseason. It sounds like a great Cinderella story. Let's cast Scott Bakula as Holliday.
The only problem is that he never scored. Repeated replays showed that Holliday never touched the plate. McClelland initially made the right call waiting for the play to reach resolution, but grew impatient as Barrett attempted to retrieve the call and decided that, eh, thirteen innings is enoughlet's call it a game.
There is no excuse for the call. If McClelland believed that Holliday touched home, then when the ball came free the ump would have called him safe. He did not. If he believed that Holliday missed the plate (as he did), McClelland would have waited for one of two things to occur: either Holliday reaching back to touch the plate, which never happened, or Barrett tagging Holliday, which came after the safe call.
There is actually one other thing that could have occurred: Holliday could have vacated the field believing that he had scored. However, this is covered by rule 7.08k:
Rule 7.08(k) In running or sliding for home base, he fails to touch home base and makes no attempt to return to the base, when a fielder holds the ball in his hand, while touching home base, and appeals to the umpire for the decision.
The only other thing McClelland could have been thinking was that Barrett interfered with Holliday and didn't allow he access to home, but Barrett according to the definition of obstruction was in the act of fielding the ball and was just doing his job:
OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.
Barrett did not completely block the plate by sliding his left foot until the ball was at home. So even though obstruction is a judgment call, that would be a hard one to sell. Besides I saw no indication that McClelland called obstruction on the play. If he had, why would he have hesitated to call Holliday safe.
The only excuse is that McClelland blew the call and intentionally did so to avoid, as my friend Chris put it, the grief of calling the runner out. There was nothing in the rulebook that turned his hesitation into a safe call. It was McClelland's attempt not to become Don Denkinger.
In that respect, McClelland succeeded: everyone is talking about the Rockies instead of how he screwed up the call, everyone but a minutiae monger such as myself. He wasn't even mentioned in ESPN's recap of the game.
However, Dekinger, it should be remembered, was just doing his job. He missed the call in the 1985 World Series but he did it (apparently) with a clear conscience and no ulterior motives to the play one way or the other. Here, McClelland made a call that he must have know was the wrong one just to avoid controversy.
McClelland such be investigated, and if this is the case, he should be summarily fired. His excuse-me bow-out call does more damage to the image of the umpires than a gross miscall like Dekinger's.
I await the rampid miscalls in the true postseason. More camera time for Steve Palermo
By the way, can we disabuse the media of this believe that Trevor Hoffman is the greatest closer of all time just because he is the career leader in saves, baseball's most dubious stat. Again they made this obligatory reference when Hoffman entered the game. He left with just one batter out, Carroll on the sac fly, three runs allowed, and a loss. If Hoffman is among the top ten best relievers all time that would be quite magnanimous. He is probably not even better than third today with Mariano Rivera, the true "greatest closer", and Billy Wagner both active.
Finally, I have to update the table from yesterday for the least days in first for a division/league winner. The numbers I ran yesterday included all playoff teams and all days that they held a playoff spot, including wild card, not just in first place. Here's the updated list and the Phils drop to a third-place tie:
The Team to Beat!
Man, I never thought they could do it until Harry the K announced that the Mets were down by four runs and then Jimmy Rollins manufactured a run out of a single, two stolen bases, and fair-to-middling line drive so-called sac fly.
I stay say that Rollins was incorrect in spring training when he said that the Phils were the team to beat in the NL East. The Mets were the team to beat, and both the Phillies and Mets did that aplenty in the last three weeks.
Even an old curmudgeon like me who picked the Phils to win 75 games had to be touched by the way they won this game and how the team responded to the fans. It was an electric feeling that comesunfortunately for the Philsevery decade or so.
I am left with the images of the typically stoic Pat Burrell leading the charge on the field as the celebration started, of the players making the rounds well after the game high-fiving and spraying fans with beer/champagne/fire hoses/whatever they could get their hands on, of Rollins turning up the speed to nab his record-setting triplebaseball's fourth quad-20 playeramid cheers of MVP! MVP! MVP! I am not Rollins' biggest fan, but I have no problem with him winning the award. Call me a homer.
How far can this team go? As an NL fan, I would be pulling for these guys since they'll be the best matchup for whichever Goliath escapes from the ALCS. I could also see their pitching collapse and their getting swept out in the first round.
But it doesn't matter
Screw 1964! I wasn't even born, neither were most of the players (sorry, Jamie Moyer). It can now be considered officially buried.
What these Phils accomplished, with an assist from the floundering Mets, was astounding and historic. No team had ever come back from seven games back on September 12 until these Phils. From that point on the team went 13-4 while the Mets went 5-12. They swept series with the Mets three times and finished with an eight-game win streak vs. their rivals.
Was it the worst collapse ever? Let's see
I looked at the daily standings all time and I selected the teams that a) lead their division or league by at least five games and b) lost that lead by the season's end. Then I looked at the worst "Collapse Ratio". That is, their games remaining (prorated to 162 games) divided by their games ahead on the given date.
Guess which two teams came in one and two? It's no surprise, but the order may be (and I know people had large tables but give me a breakmy team finally won something):
So now the Phils division/league winner with the fewest days in first in a non-strike year since 1871. Actually, the tieit's kizmitthe '64 Cardinals:
Oh and by the way, those Cardinals won the World Series. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more, say no more.
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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