The Phillies Go to Hollywood

One of the “responsibilities” of blogging about your favorite team is that you need to put up fresh content in a timely fashion. Sometimes, I’ll start jotting down my thoughts on the game before the game is over. Tonight, for instance, I started writing after Ryan Madson gave up the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. I said, among other things, that the Phillies should blame themselves as much as they should blame the umpires (for the non-interference call on Dexter Fowler).

Then the Phillies, as they have so often done over the last few years, staged an epic comeback. Last night, a lot of Phillies fans made deals with supernatural beings to ensure a victory for the good guys. I can’t imagine too many of us still had souls to spare for Game Four. But whatever we offered tonight was enough, as the baseball gods smiled down on us. The Phillies matched the Rockies’ three bottom of the eighth runs with three in the top of the ninth to take the lead. Game, set, match.

Ctrl + A. Backspace.

I have never been happier to completely scrap my work.

As with Game Three, Four was a real nailbiter. The Phillies carried a one-run lead into the sixth inning, padded it to two runs, then it was back to one run by the top of the seventh. The bottom of the eighth saw some strange events, some lucky Rockies hits, and a lot of frustration with Ryan Madson. Then we had the comeback in the top of the ninth. The tension in the bottom-half. The jubilation when Lidge got the third out.

I like to think the win probability charts I post here from FanGraphs are not just indicative of, well, win probability, but of a fan’s emotions throughout the game as well. Look at the graph above and you can get a good idea of what Phillies and Rockies fans alike were going through. It’s not healthy!

Ryan Howard got the big blow against Huston Street, but credit has to go to the hitters ahead of him for working the count. Even Greg Dobbs, who led off the inning by striking out, saw five pitches. Rollins saw six and singled. Utley saw seven and walked. Howard saw four. Jayson Werth, after Howard’s game-tying double, saw six pitches before driving in the go-ahead run.

When Shane Victorino made the second out of the inning, after Rollins singled, the Rockies had more than a 96% chance to win the game. After Werth drove in the Phillies’ fifth and final run, that percentage was all the way down to 19%. That’s a 77% shift between four batters.

Controversy

When we Phillies fans were throwing objects at our televisions and shouting expletives during the bottom of the eighth, there was a controverisal play that was indicative of the way the entire playoff landscape has looked this season.

Dexter Fowler was on first base, and as Todd Helton seemed to do all series long, he hit a weak grounder in the middle of the infield that caused havoc. Fowler bolted for second base, Utley charged in and fielded the ball in Fowler’s base running path. The speedy Rockies center fielder hurdled Utley — and made physical contact with him — and evaded the tag. Utley quickly flipped the ball behind him to Jimmy Rollins, covering second base. The ball ticked off of Rollins’ glove and both runners were safe.

Charlie Manuel came out to argue with the umpires for not calling interference. Here is MLB’s official interference rule on the matter:

INTERFERENCE
(a) Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play.

By even the loosest definition of the terms, Fowler obstructed, impeded, hindered, and/or confused Utley, so he should have been out. Instead, no interference was called and Fowler eventually came around to score on a weakly-hit Jason Giambi single to left field.

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UPDATE: On MLB Network, Matt Vasgersian claimed that the TBS replays showed that Fowler never made contact with Utley. I find that hard to believe and still don’t see what they supposedly see. But at any rate, it’s still interference according to the definition above: “impedes, hinders or confuses”.

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Umpires have been making extremely poor calls throughout the playoffs, no matter which series you pick. I can’t recall the last time the umpiring has been so blatantly poor in the playoffs. The Jeffrey Maier incident comes to mind, but that’s just an isolated incident and not a trend.

What’s Next

The Phillies stay westward as they will meet up with the Los Angeles Dodgers for a rematch of last year’s NLCS, only this time the Blue Crew has home field advantage.

Cole Hamels will pitch Game One of the NLCS on Thursday, while the Dodgers are still setting up their rotation.

The Phillies won only three of the seven games against the Dodgers last season, but they didn’t do much better last year, winning four of eight. On first glance, the Dodgers seem to have the advanage pitching-wise, but the Phillies have the better hitters, fielders, and runners. We’ll see if that holds up — check back tomorrow for a series preview.

Game graph above courtesy FanGraphs.

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4 comments

  1. eh

    October 12, 2009 09:53 PM

    he didn’t hurdle him, he jumped ” over” him to Utley’s Left.

    Still can’t believe Tracy didn’t go to a lefty to face Howard. Managers stick with ” closers” way too often.

    Phillies need to drop Rollins.he’s been horrible all year. It’s not going to happen, but against a legit good team like the Dodgers, you could pay.

  2. Bill Baer

    October 12, 2009 09:56 PM

    Who would replace Rollins, though? Cairo? Bruntlett? Even Rollins at his worst is better than either of those two and that’s just offensively. Defensively, he’s still above-average with the potential to be great, as he was last year. And he’s an above-average base runner.

    Good point on the L-L match-up. I don’t know why Tracy chose to stick with Street when he had Beimel out there.

  3. eh

    October 12, 2009 10:06 PM

    drop him in the line up i meant. hit him 8th. or even 9th.

    Let’s Victorino hit first, and Ruiz 2nd, who gets on a ton.

    Howard was career 3-10 off Beimel, but still Street is terrible, and Howard can’t hit lefties.

  4. Bill Baer

    October 12, 2009 10:23 PM

    You’re right about the lineup — it could use a shake-up.

    According to the Lineup Analysis Tool from Baseball Musings, your best lineup is:

    Utley, Howard, Victorino, Ibanez, Werth, Rollins, Feliz, Pitcher, Ruiz

    That lineup is about .3 runs per game better than the current lineup. Over the course of a 162-game season, that’s ~49 runs or ~5 wins.

    The worst lineups bat either the pitcher or Rollins first.

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