Rolls of the Die

I’ve been reading a lot of reactions and analysis of Game Four of the NLCS. The Phillies, of course, lost on a sacrifice fly by Juan Uribe in the bottom of the ninth — a crushing blow to the team’s chances of advancing to the World Series. Many are second-guessing Charlie Manuel, wondering why he chose to go with Joe Blanton rather than Roy Halladay on short rest. Others are blaming Chad Durbin, or third base coach Sam Perlozzo for sending Carlos Ruiz on a suicide mission to home plate following a Shane Victorino single to center.

Me? I’m with Rob Neyer — I don’t think you can focus on any one particular aspect explaining why the Phillies lost. Would the Phillies have been better off if Durbin didn’t walk two and give up two runs? Sure. But relievers give up runs. Would it have been better to hold Ruiz at third with one out? Absolutely. Should Victorino have taken second on Aaron Rowand‘s throw that nailed Ruiz? Definitely.

That analysis relies on hindsight, which we all know gives us 20/20 vision. Chaos theory and all that, we don’t know that if Ruiz is held at third base, that Polanco drives in Victorino and Chase Utley on a double to left-center. Maybe if Antonio Bastardo was brought in instead of Durbin, he ends up giving up three or four runs. You just don’t know, since the playoffs are such small samples of data, prone to the whims of any roll of the die.

Last night’s loss was frustrating. The Giants seem to have a 1.000 BABIP and Cody Ross has a .747 ISO. But there were some good things that happened last night. Every regular got a hit. The injured and struggling Polanco was 2-for-3 with that key two-run double. Ryan Howard smoked a double to left-center off of a left-handed reliever (Javier Lopez) that was owning him every night prior. The team hit .333 with runners in scoring position. They knocked the Giants’ well-respected #4 starter out of the game before he could complete five innings. They handled the Giants’ relievers — outside of Brian Wilson — very well.

As @PhillyFriar said on Twitter:

“Small sample size variance” seems like a shitty consolation at a time like this, but damn if it ain’t the truth.

A couple of bounces the other way… ahh well. We’ll just have to count on the best pitcher in baseball to get the series back to Philly.

Jayson Stark tweeted:

72 teams before this year trailed 3 games to 1 in best-of-7 postseason series. Only 11 came back to win the series.

15.3% seems like a thin number compared to the percentages thrown out before the start of the NLCS, when the Phillies were up into the 60’s. The playoffs are a crapshoot. 60 percenters can turn into 15 percenters in the blink of an eye, and that’s exactly what happened to the Phillies.

The Giants haven’t played much better than the Phillies. Heres’ a quick comparison of the teams so far:

Offense

  • OBP: Phillies .317; Giants .287
  • SLG: Giants .338; Phillies .328
  • RBI: Giants 14; Phillies 13
  • SB: Phillies 4-for-5; Giants 1-for-2

Pitching

  • ERA: Giants 3.34; Phillies 3.63
  • K/9: Giants 10.3; Phillies 9.4
  • BB/9: Phillies 2.6; Giants 3.6
  • K/BB ratio: Phillies 3.6; Giants 2.9

The teams are pretty even statistically, but small sample variance is the reason why the Phillies are down 3-1 instead of tied 2-2 or up 3-1.

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15 comments

  1. Phillies Red

    October 21, 2010 04:17 PM

    Yes to this. Thanks Bill, for trying to (help us all) keep an even keel in a tough spot. Let’s hope some more bounces go our way and we can get this back to philly.

  2. Shawn

    October 21, 2010 04:19 PM

    A lot has been made of Rollins not bunting Werth to 3rd in the 8th. What are the percentages with this? Was Werth more likely to score if he was bunted over or not?

  3. Mike

    October 21, 2010 04:55 PM

    The only small sample size variance that seems to overwhelmingly favor the Giants is RISP.

    SF: 7-27 (.259)
    PHI: 5-28 (.179)

    Grain of salt, though, as it’s practically still even, especially if the Phils turned one of those into hits, which could have won either of Games 1/4.

  4. Bill Baer

    October 21, 2010 05:14 PM

    A lot of people will read Schmidt’s take and assume it’s counter to what “stat geeks” think, but it’s really not.

    He’s saying that the hitter has a lot of control over the outcome of an at-bat whereas pitchers do not. In a roundabout way, he found DIPS theory.

    The difference is that Schmidt and others will attribute that control to intangible stuff — based on nothing but faith — whereas “stat geeks” will attribute that control to well, the fact that hitters are hitters and pitchers are pitchers.

  5. Duane

    October 21, 2010 05:31 PM

    Geezus Bazeezus Bill,
    You are right, but man does it really baste my turkey being down 3-1 to these here Giants. I will never concede them being a better team, because they aren’t, but I don’t think our guys are playing as well as they should. The Giants pitching has been very good, but we have been making just enough mistakes to play ourselves out of the games. Between missed calls, wild pitches, missed catches, base running errors, and bad batting approaches we have found ourselves down in the series. Personally, I would have liked to see Kyle pitch last night instead of Roy. Hahaha you say, I know, but amongst being a Kyle Kendrick homer, had he blown that game last night atleast people would have been like, “well what was he doing out there?” or “I never expected him to do well anyway”. Which is a lot easier to take than Roy giving up that run. Why?? Because you expect Kyle to fail, and you expect Roy to succeed, and getting what you expect is easier to take than getting surprised, sometimes.
    I digress, I am just unhappy. All in all, Posey was good yesterday, the Umps inconsistent, and yada yada yada. Jimmy shoulda bunted, and FOX’s coverage sucks, is it too much to ask for a straight on veiw? So I can tell balls from strikes? That side on veiw is terrible.
    I know these Phils are capable of Magic, and I don’t wanna rule them out, so I won’t. AND I will try to lose with dignity if that is this year’s lot, but man oh man, what a team we SHOULD be. We should truly be trouncing these guys.

  6. Chris

    October 21, 2010 06:00 PM

    I’m a Giant’s fan sent here by a post by Neyer. I just want to say that these Phillies are crazy good! I haven’t had a minute go by that I haven’t thought/worried about my team going up against Philly. Even at 3-1 I know that this is FAR from over.

    However, I will say that this Giants team is worthy of your respect and, IF they win this series, they will be without a doubt the better team. They will have won a 7-game series after splitting 6 reg. season games. That’s a 13 (if it were to go seven) game sample….more than enough to prove “The Better Team”.

  7. Bill Baer

    October 21, 2010 06:02 PM

    That’s a 13 (if it were to go seven) game sample….more than enough to prove “The Better Team”.

    This isn’t true. Averaging about 4 PA per game, 13 games yields about 50 PA per player, hardly enough to yield any solid conclusions. The most telling statistics take 300-600 PA to stabilize.

    From: www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/when-samples-become-reliable/

    50 PA: Swing %
    100 PA: Contact Rate
    150 PA: Strikeout Rate, Line Drive Rate, Pitches/PA
    200 PA: Walk Rate, Groundball Rate, GB/FB
    250 PA: Flyball Rate
    300 PA: Home Run Rate, HR/FB
    500 PA: OBP, SLG, OPS, 1B Rate, Popup Rate
    550 PA: ISO

  8. Max

    October 21, 2010 07:09 PM

    Argh! What’s the Giants actual BaBIP right now? .400? .450?

  9. Scott G

    October 21, 2010 09:31 PM

    Victorino smoked the ball, Ruiz isn’t that fast, Rowand got to it very quickly, and Chase Utley was coming up with 1 out. I think it’s safe to say that if Perlozzo thought about the situation, he probably wouldn’t send him again. I don’t think this situation is second guessed because of hindsight. I think it was wrong from the beginning regardless of whether or not he scored.

  10. Website Optimizer

    October 21, 2010 11:14 PM

    They should have gone with Halladay on short rest and then used him again in game 7 if needed. Halladay is the guy they went out and got and the NLCS is the time to overuse him!

  11. SP

    October 22, 2010 09:20 AM

    Like I posted on another forum Bill, what do you think about pulling Durbin and bringing in Bastardo to face Panda with the runners on 2nd and 3rd no outs?

    This would force Panda to bat from the right side, where he’s horrible. (From bleacherreport in Sept): <<>>

    2010: Vs lefties, he batted .227 (vs .282 against righties) and only a 62 tOPS+ (vs 112 batting as a lefty).

    Next batter, Ishikawa bats .111 against lefties. However, I suspect Bochy would sub in Schierholtz (lefty) who actually hits lefties much better than righties (.294 vs .227). Really the only batter Bastardo would have to be careful with and pitch around.
    Next batter, Torres bats .226 against lefties.
    Then Renteria, who bats about the same vs both, only a .12 difference (.272 vs .284).

    Freddy Sanchez, however, eats lefties alive (.343 vs .276) so that’s when you bring in Madson. Huff only bats 11 points higher vs righties (.286 vs .275) so Madson should not have a situational matchup problem here.

    Summary: Here’s how it’d look for Bastardo: Sandoval advantage, Schierholtz disadvantage, Torres advantage, + Renteria push. Even if Sandoval grounds out/sac fly and 1 run scores , there is now the “double play —> out of the inning” option (obv if sac fly, just intentionally walk Schierholtz to get to Torres with 1st and 2nd). A smarter manager would have attempted to stop the bleeding at Sandoval and not give the Giants such a huge advantage in allowing Panda to bat lefty against Philly’s worst pitcher. What do you think?

  12. SP

    October 22, 2010 09:22 AM

    Meh, it ate my bleacherreport description about Panda:
    “It’s not just that Sandoval’s struggled from the right side this campaign, it’s that he’s looked utterly and comically lost while collecting the numbers to prove it. That’s how you go from the aforementioned and sparkling ’09 version to a slash line of .232/.285/.312 with 25 whiffs in eight fewer trips to the plate.”

  13. Andrew B

    October 22, 2010 12:09 PM

    To SP:

    Yeah, I kinda agree. I was shocked Manual left Durbin in there to face Sandoval, and might have cost the Phils the game and perhaps the series yet. I don’t think it’s even a hindsight thing either, as at the time it seemed like he needed to get Durbin out of there and force Sandoval to turn around. Maybe he just wasn’t aware that Sandoval was more of a switch-hitter in name only.

  14. SP

    October 22, 2010 01:42 PM

    Well looking at Sandoval’s splits, he always bats opposite of the pitcher. Manuel probably wasn’t aware of this fact or he would have brought in Bastardo and I’m betting that Sandoval doesn’t hit a double there (.305 SLG% is abysmal).

    The more and more I see of some of Manuel’s decisions the more I long for a different manager. One that will actually look at the data in all situations like a Buck Showalter. Someone who can still manage personalities but is more of a stat head.

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