Starting the World Series on the Right Foot
With the clock just past midnight Eastern time, Pedro Feliz caught out number 27 in foul territory behind third base. Brad Lidge threw a perfect ninth for the save, a 3-2 victory in Game 1 for the Philadelphia Phillies. Cole Hamels threw seven strong innings, allowing only two runs on a Carl Crawford solo home run in the fourth, and on an RBI double in the fifth inning by Akinori Iwamura. Hamels got B.J. Upton to ground into two rally-killing double plays in the first and third innings, and was similarly divine throughout his seven innings.
Let’s go over some of the game highlights.
Was It A Balk?
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Carlos Pena hit a grounder to Ryan Howard, who is not known for his great defense. Expectedly, he had some trouble fielding it and Pena reached base safely. As Hamels was about to deliver his first pitch to the next hitter, Evan Longoria, Pena broke for second base. Hamels, seeing Pena break for second perhaps a moment too soon, threw towards first base, and Howard threw to second base where shortstop Jimmy Rollins applied the tag in time for the out.
As soon as Hamels threw over, the entire Rays bench screamed “Balk!” but that alone isn’t enough to hand out a verdict. They’re biased, of course. But my initial reaction was that it was a balk, and the replays seem to agree, though the balk rule is so unclear that we’ll never really know.
I’ve already read a lot of whining about the strike zone of Tim Welke, but he was relatively consistent and was about even on the questionable calls. Most people are probably basing their criticism on that horrible strike zone graphic FOX uses. It seems like their graphic plots the pitch where it’s caught, not where it crosses the front of home plate.
Click the the thumbnail below for a larger view of Welke’s strike zone, courtesy Brooks Baseball.
If my understanding of the graph is correct, it is from the catcher or umpire’s perspective, and the labels are to be taken from the hitter’s perspective (i.e. “tba-Called Strike” means that a Rays hitter took a strike).
I manually counted, and here’s what I came up with:
- Phillies hitters: 6 balls called strikes, 5 strikes called balls
- Rays hitters: 5 balls called strikes, 5 strikes called balls
Pitching, Pitching, Pitching
- Both teams’ starters: 13 IP, 3.46 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 9 K
- Both teams’ bullpens: 5 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.80 WHIP (Phillies 0.00), 8 K
Aside from two of the Rays’ relievers — left-handers J.P. Howell and Trever Miller — pitchers were throwin’ heat in Game 1. Check out the chart below that shows the average and maximum fastball speeds throughout the game:
Pretty bad, right? In his defense, it’s hard to hit when you’re not getting thrown anything. A recap of the pitches he saw tonight:
- First inning vs. Kazmir: Two outside sliders, swung at both, grounded the second one to second base.
- Third inning vs. Kazmir: Inside fastball taken for a ball, outside slider swung at for strike one, fastball over the plate (hittable) fouled off, slider low and outside swung at for strike three.
- Fifth inning vs. Kazmir: Two low and outside sliders taken for balls, high and outside slider taken for ball three, outside fastball swung at for a strike, outside slider swung at for a strike, outside fastball, change-up, and slider fouled off consecutively, high and inside fastball taken for ball four.
- Seventh inning vs. Howell: Inside curve ball taken for strike one, curve ball in the dirt for ball one, curve ball in the dirt swung at for strike two, curve ball over the plate (hittable) fouled off, outside fastball taken for ball two, outside fastball taken for ball three, low and outside curve ball swung at for strike three.
- Ninth inning vs. Miller: Outside slider swung at for strike one, outside slider taken for ball one, fastball over the plate (hittable) taken for strike two, high fastball taken for strike three.
He had three hittable pitches, two of which were fastballs, but were mixed very well with a heavy diet of breaking pitches. It’s very, very hard to take advantage of hittable fastballs when you’ve been seeing nothing but 75-85 MPH breaking pitches since the playoffs started.
Howard was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, which isn’t good, but you can’t blame the guy. The Rays have made up their mind that if the Phillies are going to score runs, Chase Utley and Pat Burrell, who sandwich Howard in the lineup, will have to lead the charge.
Fried to a CRISP
Although Carlos Ruiz did knock in Shane Victorino with a ground-out in the fourth inning, the Phillies never capitalized on some easy scoring opportunities throughout the game:
- Second inning vs. Kazmir: Shane Victorino singled and Pedro Feliz walked to put two runners on with no outs (1.53 runs expected). Chris Coste hit a fly ball to right field for the first out. Carlos Ruiz walked to load the bases with one out (1.59 runs expected). Jimmy Rollins hit a fly ball to center fielder B.J. Upton, who threw home and catcher Dioner Navarro successfully tagged out Victorino to end the inning.
- Third inning vs. Kazmir: Jayson Werth leads off with a double to right field (1.15 runs expected). Chase Utley grounded out to second baseman Akinori Iwamura, moving Werth over to third base with one out (0.97 runs expected). Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell both struck out to end the inning.
- Fourth inning vs. Kazmir: Victorino and Feliz both singled to put runners on first and second with no outs again (1.53 runs expected). Chris Coste grounded out to first baseman Carlos Pena, advancing Victorino and Feliz to third and second, respectively (1.42 runs expected). Ruiz got that RBI ground-out mentioned above, and Rollins struck out to end the inning.
- Fifth inning vs. Kazmir: With two outs, Howard walked, and Burrell reached on an error to put runners at first and second with two outs (0.46 runs expected). Victorino grounded out to end the inning.
- Seventh inning vs. Howell, Balfour: With one out, Utley singled, then stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch (0.97 runs expected). Howard struck out, and Burrell walked to put runners on the corners with two outs (0.48 runs expected). Victorino struck out to end the inning.
- Ninth inning vs. Balfour: With one out, Werth doubled to right field. Utley was intentionally walked to put runners on first and second with one out (0.92 runs expected). Howard struck out and Eric Bruntlett popped up to Iwamura to end the inning.
Obviously, the Phillies need to cash in on these opportunities at least some of the time if they have any intent on winning the World Series. Cole Hamels can’t pitch every game, so three runs will likely not be adequate enough until Game 5.
Run expectancies courtesy the Run Expectancy Matrix at Baseball Prospectus.
Game graph courtesy FanGraphs.