Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Your 2017 Playoff Guide: Beat LA!

Obviously, really late, but I had to post this title!  Short rumination on the playoffs rooting interests for this Giants fan.  Plus, as usual, then I expanded to touch on the starting pitching.

[P.S. I added during lunch time of October 24, 2017]

ogc thoughts

Obviously, rooting for the Astros this post-season.  I would have been just as happy if the Indians had become AL Champs again.  They almost did it, petering out at the worse time:  against the Yankees.   I would have also been happy with the Twins, I'm long over the fact that Dan Gladden won a World Series with them and the loss of Joe Nathan.  I would have been OK with the Red Sox, they took Sandoval's big contract off our hands.  Yankees, meh, always against the Yankees, they are the Dodgers of the AL for me.

Obviously, rooting against the Dodgers!!!  But this was a tough year for NL rooting, as only the Nats would be a team I would root for, double since Dusty was the manager (wow fired after two great seasons of winning, just not winning playoffs).  Clearly, did not want to be rooting for NL West, sorry, I don't go for "representing" the NL West.  Hard to switch from tough competitor to rooting for.  Though, if I had to chose one, I would root for the Rockies over the DBacks or Dodgers, now that Tulo is no longer there (grew up A's fan hating the Giants, and proud of it) and since they hadn't won a World Series yet (unlike DBacks and Dodgers).  And the Cubs got their World Series last season, they can wait another 100+ years, as far as I'm concerned.

Astro's Aces vs. Dodgers Aces

Now, can the Astros beat the Dodgers?  Dodgers appear to be relying on Kershaw and Yu to lead the way for them, and they are a good 1-2 punch.  Kershaw can be good and Darvish has been great in limited playoff starts (as most starters are limited since most teams don't repeat that often) 3 of 4 are DOM, one MID, but they don't really have a good rest of the rotation.  Hill and Wood are bad and ugly, and one could argue who is the ugly one.  Plus, Kershaw has had an unsteady history of starts, so one has to wonder how well he will do in his first World Series start.  Plus, LA has had a long rest between series, and while healing rest is good, sometimes teams lose their mojo with extended rest.

Verlander and Keuchel are a great 1-2 punch for the Astros.  Unfortunately, Verlander has had horrible World Series starts previously, in 2006, as a young starter, and in 2012, against the Giants as the undisputed ace.  He has been great, however, in most other playoff starts, 2.29 ERA in the ALDS and 2.57 ERA in ALCS, 16 starts of evidence vs. 2 out of 3 bad World Series starts.    In addition, he had horrible starts in his first two playoff experiences in 2006 and 2011.  But in 12 starts since then, he has had 8 DOM starts, 2 DIS, and 2 MID, very good stats.  Keuchel has had 4 DOM in 5 playoff starts, and had a bad BABIP start in the 5th.  They have as much cred as the Dodger's 1-2, and both seem equally matched.

McCuller Could Be Difference

McCullers could be the big difference in this series.  He was pretty good in his playoff start last season (DOM), and one strikeout away from a DOM in his other start, plus in relief, was one IP away from a DOM had it been a start.  And he's facing Hill, most probably, who, as I'll get into below, has been bad in the playoffs, Peavy-bad.

The negative is that he had a 4.25 ERA during the season, but he has a 3.60 ERA in his three partial MLB seasons, plus 3.14 FIP for his career, plus 3.10 FIP for 2017, meaning that his 4.25 ERA does not reflect his peripherals, and given his low HR/9, so it is all on his .332 BABIP and bad sequencing.  Game 3 should be a sure win in most scenario simulations one could run given his playoff history and career overall numbers.

The key for the Astros is whether Verlander can outpitch Kershaw in Game 1.  If Verlander can win, the Astros look good to go 2-1, with the McCullers start, maybe 3-0 to start the series if Keuchel can perform great again.  And with a 1.78 ERA as a starter in the playoffs, looks possible, as Yu has a 3.52 ERA in his 3 DOM out of 4 starts, though 2.00 ERA in his 3 DOM starts, so 3 out of first four games will be tough matchups, except for the McCullers' start, much like the Giants in 2010 when they faced the tough Phillies rotation, except that we had a better starter in Sanchez than they had in Blanton.

Kershaw vs.Verlander

As much of a question mark Verlander is, Kershaw is arguably just as big a question mark, perhaps bigger.  While Verlander has been elite (75% DOM in last 12 playoff starts), Kershaw has been up and down, in spite of quality pitching, in his performances.  Shows how fine the line is between quality and middling.

In addition, Verlander has given up at least 3 runs in only 2 of his last 11 playoff starts, a much better record than Kershaw.  Plus, in an elimination start against the Yankees, which is about as high pressured as you can get outside of the World Series, he dominated the high powered Yankees for 7 innings.  So the Dodgers should not scare him.   His only negative is his poor World Series history of performance.  This Yankee's start suggest that he can do well now.

And Kershaw, of course, has no World Series experience to speak of, so the question might be more accurately presented as which ace starter will blow up more than the other?  Verlander, who has a history of being blown up in the World Series, 2 of 3, or Kershaw, who has a history of coming up smaller in the playoffs.

Especially compared to Verlander in, say, last 11 starts:  Verlander has a 1.61 ERA in his last 11 playoff starts, Kershaw, who has 8 DOM, no DIS in his last 11 starts, and yet still has a 4.54 ERA in his last 11 playoff starts (5.17 ERA if you go to 12 starts), Kershaw has been downright average or worse for extended periods in the playoffs.  Dodgers got to be hoping that Verlander stinks again, as they don't know what they'll be getting from Kershaw, and if you go by history, it is a coin flip.  This uncertainty, both in games 1 and 2, makes the back half of the rotation key to the series.

Back of Rotation is Key to Series

McCullers is great as a #3 and Morton is not too shabby of a 4th starter for the Astros.  He has not had great starts, but his manager had managed him so that in 3 of his 4 playoff starts, he did not give up more than 2 runs.  He had one legit DIS start, and in his other DIS start, his manager took him out 0.2 IP before he would have had a 3.  BABIP start there.  But there is no shame here, #4 starters are usually not that great, as we'll see with the Dodgers, as well.  And he has a 3.86 ERA over the past 5 seasons, though only 4.18 ERA over the past 3.

And Morton is not necessarily the #4 starter.  Peacock also had a start in these playoffs (got blasted) but he's a quality starter, with 3.22 ERA in 111.2 IP, but they are probably going to use him in relief, where he had a 1.77 ERA in 20.1 IP, though even there, not so good in these playoffs.  McHugh is another available starter, 3.55 ERA during the regular season, but 4.08 ERA for his career, 4.03 ERA for his last three seasons with Houston.  But last season, two playoff starts, 2 PQS and 0 PQS (for a DIS start), so I would bet that he pitches relief.  Given that they went with Morton in Game 7, have to think they will go with him in World Series, but they might use Peacock too (however, in my opinion, unlikely to, given how well Peacock has done as reliever this season) and perhaps McHugh.

On the Dodgers side, who are their #3 and #4 starters?  Hill, Woods, and perhaps Maeda.  Stripling would be a dark horse here, as well.

Hill has 6 career playoff starts, and he has 2 DOM and 4 DIS starts.  That's horrible and he's their #3 starter.  But, and it's a big one, he has only given up more than 3 runs in only one start because he's been pulled early and fast, so that the damage is minimized.   And that could work for the Dodgers because they have had a great bullpen.  Still, he's facing McCullers, who has been very good in the playoffs, even in pressure situations, like his relief appearance.  On the other hand, World Series is a whole different level of pressure, as Lincecum and Cliff Lee found out in their first 2012 World Series start.  Still, quality suggests that McCullers is clearly better than Hill in the #3 spot.

Wood, as probable #4, has one career start, and that was in the Cubs series, a DIS start, though only one out away from a 3 PQS start.  And he has a 5.25 ERA in his career in the playoffs.   But he was great as a starter in 2017, and pretty good last season, so he has the capabilities to do well, he will just need to perform on the biggest stage baseball has to offer.  And he's off to a bad start just from a playoff perspective, suggesting that he will get blown out in his first start, whereas Morton showed a lot of fortitude with his Game 7 masterpiece against the powerful Yankees, and all the momentum the Yanks had going for them, winning 3 of 4 before that game.

Maeda has been great in relief this season, but in 3 playoff starts in 2016, he had 3 DIS starts.  Hence why he's in relief this season.  He was wild and gave up a lot of hits as a starter, whereas he has been a shutdown reliever for an inning in 2017.  And Stripling only had 2 starts in the 2017 season, but has been good as a reliever, only one bad relief appearance out of 7.  And that is it, the Dodgers don't have much in the tank after their great 1-2 punch of Kershaw-Yu, which is matched by Verlander-Keuchel.

Overall, Astro's Rotation Looks Prime for Win

So the two teams appear to be matched up well, in terms of starting pitchers, each with good credentials as well as the negatives involved for each.  Verlander and Kershaw has been pretty good in the playoffs, Verlander a bit better overall, but horrible in the World Series, and Kershaw has been nothing like his regular season version but still pretty good, and yet still not that great, on the performance side with only 8 QS in last 15 playoff starts.   Their starts can run the gamut, with either as likely to pitch elitely as pitch poorly, so you don't know what you are going to get from them.  I would lean to Verlander simply because he's been here before and been doing very well regularly, whereas Kershaw has not been a shutdown SP in the playoffs, but there's no sure bet here on who will win.

Keuchel vs. Yu looks like a pitching duel waiting to happen.   Those starts are likely to be the ones to highlight before the series, as sure gems.  Though, you never know what happens to pitchers when it's the World Series, will the jitters get to them.  Both have been studly so far though.

McCullers vs. Hill could be the decider, depending on how the first three games go.   You can manage Hill all you want to minimize his damage, but 4 DIS starts is a telling stat, much like it was for Peavy (and why I preferred not to re-sign Jake, though it ultimately worked out, as we probably don't even make the playoffs without him).   McCullers, however, came up big in his relief in Game 7, had pushed to be the starter, and said that he would have pitched more innings if he could.  Reminds me a lot of Bumgarner in gamer attitude.  You gotta like Astros chances in game 3.

If Verlander beats Kershaw, and Keuchel can outpitch Yu, McCullers could make it 3-0, forcing the Dodgers probably to start Kershaw on short rest for Game 4 against Morton probably, then Verlander-Yu (tough call), but then Keuchel-Hill (probably Astros win and Series win).

It could go the other way as well.  If Kershaw and Yu wins, it would be Dodgers 2-0, and McCullers should be able to outlast and outperform Hill to make it only 1-2, instead of 0-3, which would be big swing as well.  At 1-2, then you got toss-ups again, Morton-Wood (toss-up), then Verlander-Kershaw (toss-up), then Keuchel-Yu (toss-up), only to end up with McCullers-Hill again (Astros), though that will depend on the Astros winning 2 of the 3 toss-ups, to get to there.

More likely, the first two games are split, leaving it 1-1 for McCullers-Hill, and an Astros win likely in the bag for 2-1 series lead, then the toss-ups again, Morton-Wood (toss-up), then Verlander-Kershaw (toss-up), then Keuchel-Yu (toss-up), only to end up with McCullers-Hill again (Astros), needing one win of three from Morton-Verlander-Keuchel plus a McCullers win for an Astros World Series win.

In any case, a seven game series would greatly favor the Astros as that would mean that McCullers would face Hill twice in the series, two pretty sure wins, leaving the Astros needing to split Verlander-Keuchel starts, which is good odds, plus whatever Morton can contribute.

Dodgers Bullpen:  Advantage or Not?

Dodgers' bullpen could be a deciding factor in this series.  Their starters have not been going full games, averaging less then 5.5 IP per start.  And their bullpen has a 3.38 ERA for the season, and if they got a lead in the 9th, Jansen has been lights out, 1.32 ERA.  Houston's bullpen, not so much, with a 4.27 ERA overall, so it looks like the Dodgers have a huge advantage here.

But this is much like the comparison of the Giants bullpen in 2012 vs. the Reds, where the overall relief numbers were a bad comparison, but counting only the guys the Giants were rostering, very similar.  The Astros bullpen for the ALCS series is most likely their World Series roster, with Giles as closer (not too shabby lights out at 2.30 ERA himself, 11.9 K/9, 3.95 K/BB; just not as superlative as Jansen), Peacock, Musgrove, Devenski, Harris, Liriano, Gregerson, and McHugh.  For the relievers (including Peacock's relief appearances in the regular season), the seven of them had a collective 2.62 ERA over 315.2 IP, so they were very good, just that they had a lot of bad relievers in the mix too.

Similarly for the Dodgers too, the seven guys they had in the NLCS - Jansen, Cingrani, Fields, Maeda, Morrow, Stripling, Watson - had a collective 2.61 ERA, basically the same ERA.  However, Cingrani had a 2.79 ERA for the Dodgers but career ERA of 3.95, and 4.53 ERA over the past three seasons.  Have to expect some regression to the mean, as he has a 0.00 ERA in his first playoffs ever.  Maeda is another question mark, with a 2.25 ERA during the season as a reliever, but overall 3.80 ERA for his career and 4.60 ERA in the playoffs, though better as a reliever.

However, one could do the same to the Astros too, Musgrave has much worse career numbers, and all the relievers save for Gregerson has horrible stats for the playoffs, and Liriano seems to be there for experience than anything else, as his career numbers aren't good for two seasons now, his career numbers are average both career (4.15 ERA, 5.05 ERA last two seasons) and playoffs (4.07 ERA).

A potential difference maker is the Astros starters as relievers.  Peacock had a 3.22 ERA as a starter and McHugh had a 3.55 ERA as a starter.  Even Morton had a 3.62 ERA as a starter.  And starters generally pitch better in relief than they do as starters, though that is also a mental switch that not all starters are able to make.  In any case, the Astros bullpen is stacked with pitchers who had great pitching performances in 2017, though not necessarily great playoff performances, and that has to be respected by the Dodgers.

Both teams have bullpens with great 2017 performances, but there are some regression to means expected for some of them, but not enough to say one bullpen overall is better than the other.  And given the newness of everything to most of these players, there have been a lot of poor playoff numbers as well.   I don't see the Dodgers bullpen being significantly better than the Astros other than at closer, as Jansen has been superlative both in regular season as playoffs, and Giles has not been shut down in the playoffs.

But if the Astros starting rotation can bring the lead to the back of the bullpen, Jansen's greatness is minimized.  And the flip side of Jansen > Giles is that the rest of the Astros bullpen is better than the rest of the Dodgers bullpen, and include starters who were very good in 2017, so the Astro's bullpen is built to keep the starter's lead safe for Giles to save.

Seager Problems

Another potential factor:  Cory Seager being out for injury, he was replaced by Charlie Culberson as the starting SS in the NLCS.  Yes, that Charlie Culberson, who has never played a full season in the majors, he of lifetime .231/.272/.324/.595 batting line.  Replacing Seager's great .295/.375/.479/.854 batting line.  Of course, Culberson hit well in replacing Seager, showing some of that Giants playoff magic, so you never know.

It appears that Seager will definitely be back, though the key points here is that he hasn't faced live pitching in a while and so he'll need to get his rhythm back, plus the manager noted that he has felt as good as he has in weeks, but Seager ended the season on a huge down note:  .333/.374/.394/.768 in August, .210/.286/.358/.644 in Sept/Oct, as well as only starting 20 of last 30 games.

Either way, he looks like a potential hole in the lineup, so it will be interesting to see where he will bat in the lineup, given these circumstances.  If he's in key lineup spots, that will hurt the Dodgers if he don't produce.  And he has mainly batted 2nd, a very key (if not the key, per some research on lineup construction) batting spot for a slumping player who has lost his hitting rhythm.

The main positive here for them is that Seager could have just been tired at the end, and resting during the NLCS could have rejuvenated him for the World Series, changing a big minus into a huge plus, if so.   Interesting to see how he responds.  But have to be worried if Dodger's fan because Roberts said that Seager might DH the Houston games, meaning that his rehab is not totally over, that he's still iffy due to his injury, enough to have to hedge their statement by mentioning the DH.

Also: Kershaw vs. Bumgarner

Someone tweeted that Kershaw had more quality starts than Bumgarner since the 2013 season, 8 vs. 7.  Of course, Madison had his 7 in only 8 starts, Kershaw had his in 8 out of 15 starts, a fact he neglected to state.   That's pretty bad for any team's #1 starter, barely over 50% QS.  And in PQS analysis, Bumgarner had 6 DOM in 8 starts, but the key here is that he had no DIS starts, only 2 MID starts.  Kershaw was actually basically as good, with 11 DOM and only 1 DIS start in 15, with 3 MID.

His problem is that he gave up at least 3 runs in 8 of those 15 starts, belying his DOM stats, which reflects his QS issue.  The fact is, PQS is not the end all and be all, but is a good start of any broad analysis of starting pitching performance.  But you can't ignore the performance for specific pitchers either, a good PQS is generally a good sign of a good performance, but it is not assurance of a good performance either, as Kershaw's history shows.   And Kershaw's full history would add a DIS and MID start, making his stats look even worse in terms of dominance.   Some pitchers just have problems in high pressure situations, no matter how good their stats look, that's just life.

Though, if you limit him to his last 9 starts, he's similar to Bumgarner with 7 DOM of 9 starts, no DIS.  But Kershaw has a 3.76 ERA in those 9 starts, Bumgarner 1.17 ERA in his last playoff starts (and that don't include his 5.0 IP relief appearance).  Seems pretty clear who is better,   And that 3.76 ERA shows how middling Kershaw has been as a starter, in spite of his DOM performance, as PQS only covers how well his peripherals are, but sometimes pitchers underperform their quality stats by giving up too many hits and homers while getting the DOM's.

Go Astros!!!  You've beaten AL, now Beat LA!!!


[Note:  I was about to comment with this, but it's so long, I really should just add to the post, so here goes]

Of course, it would have helped if I had gone to check the probable pitchers!  Of course!

Game 1:  Keuchel vs. Kershaw
Game 2:  Verlander vs. Hill!!!

That sent me down an interesting path.  Houston was only 21-24 against LHP in 2017.  But they still hit .274/.337/.455/.791, so it is not like they aren't good against LHP. Also, they weren't challenged all that much in 2017, only 33 games against teams over .500, whereas LA had 69 games.  Of course, facing Rockies and D-Backs was big part of it.  But Houston was 18-15 vs. .500+ and LA 36-33, so Astros has been better against good teams.

Ah, there we go, Hill has 2.77 ERA in Dodger Stadium this season, 4.06 ERA on the road.  And 2.33 ERA for his career in Dodger Stadium.  He's Kershaw there.  But then he's been even better in Minute Maid Park, with a 1.19 ERA there.

OK, there we go, Yu Darvish has a 4.84 ERA in Dodger Stadium, 2.16 ERA in MinuteMaid.  I guess it was all Yu and not Hill.

Keuchel has never pitched in Dodger Stadium, but he's a good pitcher and it's a serious pitcher's park, so he should do well there (then again, see Yu).  Should be a great matchup, mano a mano, both great pitchers.

I don't know how many Dodger pitchers I've looked at where basically they are great in Dodger Stadium, but basically average anywhere else.  The park just makes even average pitchers good, good pitchers great, great pitchers Gods.  Kershaw has a great 2.73 ERA on the road, but outstanding 2.04 ERA at home, for his career.  But Yu, not so much, so it does vary.

But Verlander vs Hill!!!  That's going to be a turning point, much like Verlander vs. Zito was.  Once Zito won that, it was all downhill for the Tigers.  The Astros should not be on a similar decline, but if Kershaw prevails and Verlander fails, the Astros are down 0-2.

I'm not sure what the thinking of the Astros are with Keuchel then Verlander.  Neither has ever pitched in Dodger Stadium, though.  This would position Keuchel for game 5 at home, and Verlander game 6 in LA.  And perhaps that's it, Keuchel has been much better at home than on the road (though that's probably true for most pitchers not on the Rockies).  Verlander is at least still good on the road, for his career.

No announcements on Game 3 starters, though I can imagine it is not Yu for Dodgers, since it'll be in Houston, though if they are that worried about him in LA, Game 3 would place him as Game 7 in LA, so perhaps he'll be Game 4?

Not so sure about the Astros, because I don't know them at all.  If it were me, McCullers would be Game 3 (and I admit I don't know much about their pitchers, so this is just based on what's he's done so far, admittedly VSSS, in the playoffs), but he wasn't even the best pitcher in the rotation in 2017 among the remaining guys, as Peacock, McHugh, and Morton had better ERAs during the season.

Didn't cover McHugh above, but he had two bad starts last season in the playoffs (2, 0 PQS) but had a nice long relief for them in Game 3 against Yankees, 4 shutout innings (recurring theme?  McCullers did that too, this is similar to how Lincecum was used in 2012, Bumgarner in Game 7).  And he does have a nice 3.47 ERA at home.   But, hence why I didn't discuss much, two series, only used in relief once.  So I don't see why they would start him now, unless there is some way they can analyze how McHugh would do against these Dodgers without performance data (now that would be cutting edge!).

Thus, given the Astro's usage during these playoffs, I would think it would have to include Morton, who has started three times.  That leaves McCullers, McHugh, and Peacock as the most likely other starter, since these were the only ones starting so far and were on the ALCS roster.

While Peacock was used as a starter in the Boston Series, they went with McCullers as starter in the Yankees series, then used McCullers in long relief of Morton in Game 7.  Plus, unlike McHugh, who has pitched well in these playoffs (albeit once), Peacock has three bad appearances, a short DIS start lasting 2.2 innings, then two relief outings where he gave up a homer in each appearance; fortunately for them neither changed the game's outcome, both were laughers, in both direction.  I don't see how Peacock would start, though I understand why he started in the first series, he had a great season, earned it by having ERA almost as good as Keuchel (3.00 ERA), and was better on the road than at home this season, but he seems to have a bad case of the jitters, though it would be his coaches to make that type of declaration.  So McCullers look like the most likely 4th starter, though not necessarily Game 4 starter.

Side note:  for some reason, I see a lot of BABIP games for the Astros starters, it was that saber who joined the Astros staff, who discussed how BABIP does matter in the minors, so perhaps their cutting edge insight is utilizing pitchers who normally would not make the majors because of their high BABIP, but they are able to wring out baseball value through other metrics, like low BB and/or high K; a very high K help obviates a high BABIP, for example.

Morton got the Game 3/7 call in the last series, and that would set up Yu-Morton in Game 3, Wood-McCullers in Game 4.

Frankly, I'm surprised that Morton even started Game 7 over McCullers (since McCullers still pitched anyway), since he didn't even last 5 innings the first two starts of the playoffs, but they apparently used the Giants strategy from WS Game 7, using their so-so starter to eat some innings (and won with Morton pitching well), then throwing out their good starter to get good pitching, they didn't bring in any relievers, keeping with McCullers.

McCullers great at home (2.39 ERA), horrible on the road (4.97 ERA), for his career, so that would be a good reason to pitch him in Game 4 at home and avoid the road situation in Game 7.  Morton has only one start in LA, 4.50 ERA, plus career road ERA of 5.25, but he had a 3.34 ERA at home, 4.17 ERA on the road this season.  So those would be reasons for Morton 3/7 and McCullers 4.  Plus, they got Peacock and McHugh to pick up the slack should Morton implode again.

McCullers had bad 5.14 ERA on the road this season, but his KWERA was 3.57 and FIP was 3.01, so a lot of it was bad BABIP, which was a high .348, but he's been high (.351) for his career, so maybe that's just who he is.  (For example, Bumgarner's BABIP has been above .300 for much of his early career).  That's the thing with FIP and all the other great saber tools, you need to know what they are trying to do and what assumptions there are, and if the pitcher don't fit the assumptions, you can bash your head in until you are blue, but he'll perform what he performs, regardless of the rules and assumptions.

So I'm wondering if the Dodgers got the upper hand now with the rotation.  Kershaw-Keuchel then Verlander-Hill, probably 1-1, maybe 2-0 Astros, as Kershaw has been more vulnerable at home (it's all relative) with 2.58 ERA, but only 2.03 ERA on the road.  But generally, for his career, it has been reversed.  But more likely 1-1.

Then you got Morton-Darvish, which looks like a Dodger win, unless Morton can pull out another good start, maybe he's getting more comfortable with pitching in the playoffs?   That would put them up 2-1, with McCullers-Wood up, which looks like the Astros, for 2-2.

Then that leaves Keuchel-Kershaw, Verlander-Hill, Morton-Darvish, needing to win 2, and that looks good for the Dodgers, unless Keuchel can pull out a win in either start against Kershaw.   Basically, Verlander is wasted against Hill, and that is the general way teams structure their rotation, so nothing against Houston, you put your best guys up first, but with Hill up instead by the Dodgers, almost feel like they should go with McCullers in Game 2, Verlander Game 3.  But you never know, maybe Hill finally puts one together, and you need Verlander to do it for you.  Not every  move deserves a counter-move.  Still, this moves puts the Dodger's best pitcher outside of Kershaw pitching Game 7 for them.

But this rotation switch is very interesting, the only way I can see this working for Astros is if they skip someone (Morton?) and go to Keuchel in Game 4 on short rest.  As crazy as that may sound, he only threw 145.2 IP during the regular season, so his arm could be fresh enough to do that now.  And none of these threw over 150 IP, other than Verlander, who was working for Tigers before.  But they had Verlander pitch with 4 days rest in Game 4 of the Boston series, so it is not like they haven't done that before.  Though, then, it would be 2 straight starts with only 4 days rest, to Game 7.

If they do that, maybe with Morton in Game 3 and McCullers in Game 6, you got Keuchel-Kershaw, Game 1, Verlander-Hill Game 2, Morton-Darvish Game 3, Keuchel-Wood Game 4, at which point, looks like 2-2, Verlander-Kershaw Game 5 (coin flip if good Verlander), McCullers-Hill Game 6 (should be Astros), then Keuchel-Darvish Game 7.

Of course, the options change greatly for Games 3-4-5 depending on what happens in Games 1-2, so I guess that's why they are waiting, but I found it interesting to ponder the possibilities.

Go Astros!  Beat LA!!!


  1. Game 1 did not disappoint! Kershaw had a coming out party for his World Series debut, finally delivering the performance expected out of him. As a Giants fan, I've been comforted by the fact that he has failed as often as he's been good, in the playoffs, but now I'm worried.

    Still, only 2.96 ERA during these playoffs, even with this great start, so he'll need to do it again in his next start, presumably Game 5, as I would have only expected him to pitch Game 4 if they were down 0-3, and now with this win, can be at worse, 1-2. He's had good starts like this before, only to fall back to Earth.

    Keuchel did well, just not as well (4 PQS vs. Kershaw 5), and that's all you can do, fling your best and see how it works out. Did not work out for Houston this time.

    Thinking more about the Addendum I added to the original post (see above), I should have added that the Astros also mixed things up with their rotation. I noted how LA went with Hill #2, which is still a huge surprise (but, as I outlined above, could work out well for them), but the Astros also mixed things up by going with Keuchel first and Verlander second, as Verlander has been on a great run, with 1.23 ERA in starts these playoffs.

    It fits the rotation based on the ALCS, but they did go with Verlander/Keuchel in the ALDS. They probably switched them in ALCS since Verlander relieved in Game 4 of ALDS and only had 4 days rest if he started Game 1 of ALCS.

    Beating Kershaw is a tough battle, even in the playoffs, so you save Verlander to help better ensure a win in his start, as Darvish, as good as he is, is no Kershaw. And Keuchel has been able to pitch great as well, so you never know, and many were wondering which Kershaw would show up.

    It is just the Dodgers countered the Astros counter move by swapping Hill for Darvish, setting up the same scenario for them, better ensuring a Darvish win (as Morton and McCullers are clearly not equals to Verlander or Keuchel), while punting the Hill start on the assumption that Kershaw will come through with the win (which he did). And like with the Astros, Hill has pitched well before (just not in the playoffs), so maybe he could steal a win for the Dodger Blue, which could push the Astros to the brink down 0-3, assuming Darvish wins.

    I have to think that if the Astros win game 2, then they will go with Morton, since he's been their go-to starter, and pair McCullers against Wood in Game 4 to better their chances of winning Game 4, but if they lose and are down 0-2, go with McCuller since he has performed well so far.

  2. Wow, what a Game 2! The momentum shifted back and forth so wildly and furiously over the late innings that I almost got whiplash!

    Verlander did not disappoint, 4 PQS, had a no-hitter going deep into his start, but homers did him in again. But 3 runs in 6 IP, that's considered a quality start, just not a good start, and yet not bad either.

    Hill stepped up and had an even better start than Verlander. He was on pace for a 4 PQS start when Roberts took him out after 4.0 IP. He was only at 60 pitches, and just needed one more inning to reach the 5.0 IP to earn a 4 PQS, but instead he gets a 0 because he was pulled.

    This is where sabermetrics come into decision making: at this point, he had gone through the lineup twice, and the general rule is that hitters start to have an advantage on the pitchers the third time through the lineup.

    This is where I remind people that sabermetrics only tell part of the story. Sabermetrics is great at identifying areas of improvement in baseball that was previously unknown by human intuition. But it is good for broad generalizations, not as always as good for specific scenarios.

    And each game is its own scenario. Here, the Dodgers braintrust should have trusted their coaches experience and knowledge to know whether Hill was done or not. Much like Dusty should have let Russ Ortiz continue to pitch, instead of following the book and bringing in his bullpen. Each out is precious and you don't know absolutely for sure which reliever will deliver, though history is a great guide, as each day is different.

    Of course, I don't know Roberts' reason for taking Hill out (at least not yet, imagine reporters will ask him, no time to find out yet). Maybe they thought he was done.

    But it don't look like that. He only gave up a walk in his last inning (then IBB to face Verlander), got two strikeouts as well. Unless they saw something indicating he was weakening badly, I would have at least given him the opportunity to get the win (traditional manager thing to do) by facing at least one batter in the 5th and see how far he can get.

    I suppose there was some value in giving Maeda a clean inning to start, but if you are going to relieve, you have to know how to handle stressful situations like inheriting men on base.

    1. Instead, the Dodgers bet on their bullpen... and lost. Of course, Jensen had been unstoppable up to now, but you knew it had to end at some point. Morrow too. Especially for a 2 inning save from Jensen. I mean, I get it, and yet, every out is valuable, maybe if they got that extra inning from Hill, then Jensen would only pitch one inning and save the game. Instead, he threw 29 pitches.

      Also, I don't know who LA relies on in the late innings, but from his prior lack of usage, Fields seemed a strange choice for the first guy in extra innings. In two playoff seasons, LA has hardly used Fields at all. I get that if you are on the roster, expect to get used, but this move reminds me of how Dusty placed Pedro Feliz, who he hardly used at all in the playoffs, as the starting DH in Game 7 of 2002.

      One, you clearly don't think much of his abilities up to now, based on lack of usage in two seasons of playoffs. Plus, his Game Leverage Index was close to 1, showing that he wasn't used much in stressful leverage situations in 2017. Pretty stressful pitching in a tied game in extra innings. Two, Fields don't have that long a history of doing well.

      Then again, Roberts put himself in that situation by using up all his other relievers beforehand, partly due to his decision to take out Hill after 4. It did not help that Stripling only faced one batter in his appearance, and though he wasn't used in high leverage this season, he was last season. That left him with three guys he could go to, Fields, Cingrani, or McCarthy.

      And McCarthy, in spite of being a long time established pitcher, never had the good fortune to pitch for a good enough team that made the playoffs (and that he was healthy for, I assume that's why he wasn't used last season). Still, they are paying him $12M/season (from what I recall), more than Fields or Cingrani, who had a below 1.0 game Leverage Index (meaning junk time pitching).

      McCarthy is a starter, so Roberts should have just gone with McCarthy starting the 10th, and see how long he can hold out, like Bochy did with Petit. Yeah, McCarthy did lose the game, but if your choices are a long established starter, a reliever you don't trust enough to use more than once in each playoff series, or a reliever you only trusted with garbage time in the regular season, you go with the starter. That was the best choice at that point, even if it does not work out.

    2. Wow, not a lot of pitchers entrusted with late inning usage. I don't know what the ranges are, but they only trusted four guys enough for 1.2+ gmLI: Jensen, Watson, Wood, Baez. Morrow was close at 1.16. And Fields was close to Morrow at 1.08.

      I guess they could have gone with Wood, but he's their expected Game 4 starter (though not enough to announce him yet). And Baez is injured, I guess, since he wasn't used. And they had used Watson, Morrow, and Jensen in the late game situation. It just didn't work out this time.

      Houston had even less trust in their relievers. Only Giles, Harris, and Devenski had gmLI above 1.2 (in fact, they are all over 1.5). Liriano and Musgrove were the only other ones above 1.0. So maybe Fields wasn't as bad a choice as I described above, though I would still say McCarthy should have been the better choice, given he's a long time starter.

      Because the Astros had Verlander go 6 innings, they were able to throw their best relievers at LA, going with Harris, Musgrove, Giles, then ending with Devenski (1.66 gmLI, even higher than Giles, the closer).

      Meanwhile, LA was forced to go to the end of their bullpen, and that cost them. The guys LA trusted went 5 innings and gave up only 2 runs, which is good enough, just not good enough when a good pitcher like Verlander is pitching. The back end of the bullpen gave up 4 runs in 2 innings.

      Of course, the Astros closer almost cost them too, he gave up 2 runs, as they extended him beyond one inning as well. Looking over his usage, they barely used him beyond 1 inning, unlike Bochy, who would use the closer (and other relievers) more often for beyond 1 inning, so that they are prepared in the playoffs.

      These managers are sure rolling the dices in these playoffs.

  3. OK, Astros has announced McCullers for Game 3 starter and Morton for Game 4. Dodgers have announced Darvish for Game 3, but nobody for Game 4, but given Wood is the only possible other starter not to pitch in Game 2 (both Maeda and McCarthy did), not sure why they just didn't announce him already, unless they are still contemplating pitching Kershaw in Game 4, so that he can also pitch in Game 7 if necessary.

    Maybe if they lose with Darvish and is down 1-2, they don't want to risk starting Wood and being down 1-3, and try to "ensure" a win with Kershaw pitching. And given he was DLed this season, his arm does not have as many innings as other seasons, and is fresher.

    Per Baseball-Reference.com game log, however, the Dodgers have never used Kershaw with 3 days rest (i.e. 4 days between starts). So if they do that, it will be something interesting to see if Kershaw is okay with that few days of rest.

    Should be good Game 3, Darvish vs. McCullers, but Dodgers have advantage.

  4. Interesting factoid: Astros are 6-0 in the playoffs so far in Houston.

    Got that from here: http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/21169929/your-guide-world-series-game-3-home-field-advantage-boost-houston-astros-lead-los-angeles-dodgers

    Also: When the World Series is tied 1-1, the Game 3 winner has gone on to win 69 percent of the time (62-28).

    Also notes Darvish last 5 starts, 0.88 ERA; but first 6 were 5.34 ERA. As I had noted, his ERA was horrible at home, and 3 of the first 6 starts were at home, where he got beat like a drum. But he had a great last start of the season, and been good in the post-season.

    He has also been great on righties, not so much lefties.

  5. Now 7-0 at home, as they won a thrilling game, 5-3, behind some good pitching, particularly reliever Brad Peacock, showing some feathers there, getting the save in World Series. Springer almost made it a laugher, just missing a grand slam homer that would have ended the tension, coming maybe 5-10 feet away, but ending short because it was hit to basically dead center.

    McCullers mostly delivered, though only 2 PQS, so I guess not really, but he did as well as I had hoped he would, but Darvish really blew it and put the Bums behind, never to catch up. Yu got his first DIS start in the playoffs, bad place to get it, doing it in the World Series.

    LA did chose Wood for Game 4, facing Morton tonight.

  6. Wow, what a great battle between Wood and Morton! Wood had a no-hitter until the homer. Morton was basically his equal. Better by PQS, Wood was only a 2 PQS, though only 0.1 IP from a 3. Morton had a 5 PQS, yet Houston still lost. That's the fickleness of PQS, as there is no way to see what the bullpen will do. And the Astro's bullpen flambed the game in the 9th.

    I would say they lost when Hinch decided to use Giles to pitch in the 9th. I understand wanting to show confidence in your closer. But he's been horrible all playoff long now, Hinch should have went with someone who has delivered, though I guess that is Houston's problem right now, most of them are not delivering, and Hinch already used two of them, Harris and Devenski. And I guess Giles makes a lot more sense than Mosgrove, who was not all that great in the regular season.

    If there's one Achille's Heel for the Astros, it is their bullpen, as they were forced to use to add Liriano, Mosgrove, and Gregerson, all relievers with mid-4 ERA during the season. While they had very good relievers, they also have middling ones, and if LA can get into that meaty section, they win. That's on the GM and the front office, they should have been dealing to get a boost in their bullpen, and instead they got an old Liriano.

    And with Giles, a key component of the good relievers, unable to pitch even competent innings at this point, the Astros are very handicapped, negating all the positive stuff I noted above for their bullpen.

    That's where sabermetrics still fail, there is no way to analyze the heart of a pitcher when the highest pressures come in, whether externally, like the World Series, or internally, when it plays on a pitcher's mind. And it was clearly playing on Giles mind, he was bouncing pitches, he could not get his mechanics down at all.

    This belies the saber notion that you can hand the ball to any pitcher and expect him to be able to handle the pressures of being a closer. And, one can never tell what happens when any particular person is placed in the playoffs, or World Series, how they react. There is measurement of heart yet.

    Looking over the names, I think I would have rolled my dice with McHugh, who is usually a starter, and who had good stats in the regular season. Better to see what he can do, instead of watching Giles implode again. At least McHugh had pitched well in 2 of 3 appearances over the past two years.

    And not using Giles here has an easy answer: it was a tie game, not the time to bring in your closer.

    Now the Astros are 2-2 facing a 2-3 deficit as LA has Kershaw up against Keuchel. Astros has to hope that Kershaw has his usual glitches in his starts (only 8 of 16 quality starts) while Keuchel pitches deep into the game, and close out with Harris and Devenski, and maybe use McHugh or Peacock as closer. This was no time to go to usual usage patterns, each game is immensely important, cannot give up any wins, and Morton deserved a win for this start, he should only use Giles, say, if Astros were winning 6-1 instead. This is no time to baby him and give him support by throwing him into the lions, as the lions have been eating him up.

    The good news for Astros fans is that even if Kershaw dominates for a Game 5 win, the matchups for the following two games are Verlander-Hill and Darvish-McCullers. So not all is lost, they should have a great chance to win the final two games, should it get that far, but, of course, the devil is in the details.

    Go Astros! Beat LA!!!

  7. Wow, what a Game 5!!! It was like they were playing in Colorado, as I felt that no lead was safe, not even 3-run leads, as both teams lost 3+ run lead all through the game.

    Both starters stunk with 0 PQS Disaster starts, as neither made it to 5 innings, and it was not a manager's decision either, both earned their being pulled from the start.

    Kershaw was one out away from a 2 PQS, though, so there's that. But Keuchel pitched better, as he had a 3 PQS potential, but was just giving up too many hits and runs, being BABIPed, and got pulled in the 4th, very early.

    And the pitching was so bad that I need to honor the relievers who made an appearance and not give up any runs of their own: Watson, Stripling, Gregerson, Harris, and the game winner, Joe Musgrove.

    Plus, Maeda allowed his two inherited runners from Kershaw to score, and Harris, though with no ER, allowed his inherited runner from Peacock to score, so his outing was not that clean after all, and should be removed from the clean list above.

    I would also note that only Musgrove had a clean inning of relief, the others had only one or two outs, so who know what would have happened if they had to get 3 outs? Though I would note Cingrani did get 3 outs, in relief of Morrow, and only when he was stretched out to the next inning, gave up a homerun.

    Guessing here, but Cingrani probably wasn't asked to pitch over an inning much previously during the season by Roberts, much like Jansen, who wasn't asked to pitch over an inning much either (him I checked earlier). Roberts did not learn from the Master, Bochy, while playing for him or observing from afar, Bochy would push his players to be ready to go over an inning if needed during the regular season, so that they are not thrown by needing to do it in the playoffs.

    Lastly, all the Dodger fans (especially the guy who runs the MLB Stats) will have to eat crow, after declaring Kershaw's greatness after his Game 1 efforts and telling everyone to back off after that start. Well, now they can back off, Kershaw came up small on the biggest of stages, it will be hard to scrub the stench of this start from his career record now.

  8. Game 6 starters are Verlander and Hill. Should be an Astros win, but as this series has shown, expectations is not always going to be the results. Not even close. So Astro fans should not count their chickens quite yet, but enjoy the fact that Verlander should deliver the goods.

    Who would think that the best starters so far are Hill, Wood and Morton, and that's probably because none of them has pitched a second start like Kershaw, who had a great first start, only to falter badly. Hill will need to pitch well again if LA has any hopes of winning this series, as I would expect Verlander to do well.

    Verlander has had 12:3/20 for a 60% DOM and 15% DIS in the playoffs. However, after hiccups in his first two playoff seasons, in his last four playoff post-seasons, he's 9:1/12 for a 75% DOM and 8% DIS, which is what you expect from elite pitchers like Verlander (and Kershaw). He's not only playoff tested, but he is playoff tough.

    However, he has a 6.43 ERA, and while 2 DOM and 1 DIS in 4 starts is not bad, he has given up 5+ runs in two of those four starts, plus 3 runs in his last, so he has really delivered in only one of his four World Series starts. But at least he has the DOMs, he was just hurt by those homers in his last start, which was a DOM, but the only two hits he allowed were homers which scored all 3 runs. So there is ying-yang here with him, the bad with the good. Still, a lot more good than bad

    Hill, on the other hand, had only one playoff appearance, with the Cubs in 2007, before making the playoffs with the Dodgers the past two seasons. He has actually pitched well, but for whatever reasons (probably third time through the lineup), the Dodgers took him out before he reached 5.0 IP. If you go by straight PQS, in 7 starts, 5 DIS and 2 DOM starts. But all four of his LA DIS starts, while conventional DIS starts, he was pitching well and appears to be the 'victim' of sabermetrics gone amok, with LA pulling him when facing the lineup a third time, relying solely on the saber rule of hitters figuring out pitchers by the third time they face that pitcher in the game. He was striking out a good number of batters, while not walking many, and so had 3's and a 4 lined up, had LA allowed him to pitch.

    Of course, that's the rub, maybe if they had allowed him to pitch, he would have been beaten like a drum. But that is where your coaches should have the ability to see whether your pitchers got it or not, and if the pitcher is going well, you keep him in there. They allowed him in last year's playoffs to reach 22 batters faced, but have cut him off at 18-19 in these playoffs. But the two times they let him get to 5 IP, he had two DOM starts, so they seem to monitor him to some extent.

    But mostly, if they are stopping him by the similar number of batters faced, that's a rote number, much like the stupid PAP that we had to hear about from Baseball Prospectus until they stopped, about pitchers and 100 pitches, which is now a fait accompli because few managers dare to go beyond 100 pitchers, other than Bochy/Righetti.


    1. And I'm not sure why the Dodgers are doing this, unless it is related to his arm somehow. During his career, he has mostly gotten through the lineup 3 times and he was very good in those 3rd times, and particularly good in the last two seasons, while with the Dodgers. He has pitched 40 games the past two seasons into the lineup the third time, and the OPS is under .500. And that's 40 starts out of 44 total starts that they allowed him to go through batters the third time.

      So they have been allowing him during the regular season, but for some reason, have not been allowing him during the playoffs. I see no evidence that he's that particularly bad the third time through, particularly during his time with LA, in fact, he's been very good, it is the fourth time that things get really squirrelly. Now, perhaps it would be clearer if I could see every game that made up these, maybe there is a sharp dichotomy, maybe half the games he had a .200 OPS but in the other half around .800? I guess that would be reason enough, but to just pull the guy, without a coach saying that he's doing poorly, that's gotta be maddening to the pitchers.

      If I was Hill, I would be pissed off totally (as reportedly he was when he was taken off the mound in Game 2) and not that eager to re-sign with the Dodgers. And he'll be a cautionary tale for any FA pitcher coming to LA, that they are a saber-Frankenstein run amok, letting the machines run everything. It will be interesting how this affects pitchers' desire to join the Dodgers.

      Of course, if it somehow works (Astros hasn't won anything yet), this is all moot for a while, but as much as sabers want to label coaches as slow, they are made up of mostly ex-players who share the same feelings. I can't imagine that there are many players who are so accepting of saber that they will accept sitting down because most of the time most pitchers in that situation would give up hits. Many pitchers will think, "but not me, I'm good."

      Another confounding factor in this series regarding pitchers is that many pitchers are complaining about how slick the balls are, that they were changed for the World Series. It is almost like the MLB decided to screw with both saber-driven teams, which used analytics to find pitchers who could do wonderful things with their pitches, like spin, and then give them slick balls which makes it apparently almost impossible for them to throw any of their wonderful pitches, as both closers rely on such pitches, and without them, they are hittable pitchers, same with almost everyone else, except Verlander who still has a great fastball, and maybe Hill and Morton, two crafty pitchers. Of course, Wood ruins this narrative, as I don't think he has that great a fastball, but I don't really know his repertoire. And maybe it is just good enough.

  9. FYI, I have seen the Giants coaching moves, I'll comment on it fully soon, but I'll throw this thought out, since I've seen nobody go down this route.

    Most commenters have said how this move eviscerates Bochy's staff and thus is a rebuke to him. And Bochy noted how much of a friend Righetti is and how much he contributed, stating no 2010/12/14 without him. One headline noted that Bochy is on the hot seat.

    However, my first thought was this: this is a Bochy power move. Remember, when he got here, he pretty much had to accept all the existing coaches, including Righetti, Gardner, and Wotus. From what I recall, the only choice he got was being reunited with Flannery, who had been fired by Padres management when THEY put Bochy on the hot seat and was basically punishing him, and trying to push him out.

    So what happened here is the following. Righetti and Gardner are out, pushed to front-office positions they probably didn't want in the first place. Righetti had said previously that he would love to be a manager, in an interview, not in the front office. Wotus, who has been the bench coach forever, is pushed to 3rd base coach (perhaps also a punishment for the weak Giants defense in 2017?). Bam Bam Muelens, one guy Bochy had brought in himself, promoted to the key bench coach position that has been a leaping board for a managerial position, which is not what many a Giants fan would do, as they blame the Giants anemic 2017 offense on Bam Bam. Also, Decker out as assistant batting coach. Lastly, Augie stays as 1st base coach, and he probably is more a management selection, much like Wotus, than a Bochy selection. Oh, and Nevins is out of a job.

    So my take is that Bochy, while maybe on a hot seat (I doubt this narrative, 3 in 5 speaks loudly, Giants management of this era would not embarrass him while he's under contract), is finally getting to remake the staff more the way he wants. Wotus replacing Nevins (plus Augie remaining) was the compromise for Meulens getting the bench coach and Rags/Gardy out, allowing Bochy to find and hire a new hitting coach and a new pitching coach.

    Oh, and Matt Herges, formally of the Dodger's minor league coaching corps, joins as the new bullpen coach, replacing Gardner. Have to assume that is also a Bochy compromise with Evans, allowing Evans to poach a Dodger with knowledge of their systems and methods, and stealing, er, implementing best practices, perhaps much like when they hired John Barr.

    OK, maybe I won't have much more to say, I'll post this comment as a blog post in the coming days, see what else I have to say/think.

    1. Oh, and I would love to hear your thoughts on this, either way.

    2. I forgot to add this thought: while I agree with others that Bam Bam is being groomed as a manager in training, he is not necessarily Bochy's replacement.

      If my first take is correct, in this narrative, the Giants FO is giving Bochy a chance to remake the staff more in his image, and Bam Bam definitely is being groomed as a manager, which is a goal of his. But that don't necessarily mean he will get the job when Bochy's contract end, they could go and reward Wotus for years of service, or, more likely in my thinking, they might be wanting to promote Augie as the manager in training, as he has risen through the ranks of the minors. Then again, so had Decker, and he got pushed out after one year as a Giants coach.

      And I don't know which is the right interpretation of the move, to be clear. I only wanted to note that this was my first reaction when I heard the news. I was kind of wanting to wait to see who would be announced as the new coaches before commenting, but maybe they are wanting someone on the staffs of the two teams still competing. They got an LA insider, maybe they want an Astros one now? Then again, Cubs beat them last year, so no interest in their people? Then again, maybe they were but were rebuffed. Or maybe they felt that the Cubs had a hot team last season, and that's why they won, but that they regressed to their mean this season. Again, just a lot of thoughts on my part, not sure yet which opinion I'll land on, but for now, I see this as pro-Bochy moves, not against.

  10. And, of course, Verlander loses the lead again. But this time, his teammates could not tie up the game and take the loss credit off his name. Dodgers take Game 6, forcing a Game 7 for all the marbles.

    And it wasn't like he didn't pitch well. He had a clear 5 PQS start, and only gave up 3 hits and 0 walks, while striking out 9. But he somehow gave up 2 runs, enough to lose.

    Hill was good again, for 19 batters instead of 18 this time. He was one out away from a 4 PQS DOM start, four outs away from a 5 PQS. But PQS rules states that unless the pitcher reaches 5.0 IP, he gets a 0 DIS start. If this type of usage continues, that rule might have to change.

    I'm curious what Hill really feels about all this, hopefully he'll leave LA and tell all some day.

    Ugh, Utley, still haunting Giants fans dreams...

    1. Verlander now has a 0-4 record in the World Series. I guess that's the karma when you dump your college girlfriend after over a dozen years of dating, in order to date a super model that he's (I believe) engaged to now.

    2. I saw a saber comment saying, who says pitching wins championship (or something to that effect). This made me realize why the Billy Beane comment about his sh!t not working in the playoffs resonates so well with other sabers, this is what they believe based on the results from their strategic planning.

      That is the key weakness of these strictly saber thinkers. No wonder why they think it is all random, if you don't understand the power of having a strong starting rotation that can strike out a lot while walking few and not giving up many homers and hits, then you are going to pick up pitchers who are good enough to win when you have enough offense, but who are not dominant pitchers. These pitchers can't win games for you reliably, but are good enough that their offense can win for them.

      But you get into the playoffs, and the other teams do have good dominant pitchers, and your offense is unable to win for you, and your pitcher is unable to win for you, and so you lose. And blame randomness for this.

      These sabers don't understand that some players have "IT" and some don't. It is that unmeasurable (up to now) gamer-tude that separates the men from the boys.

      I know this to be true because I didn't have it, and I've read about this issue in sports. Some call it the yips, which is the extreme form of it, but somewhere in the brain, fear takes over and all the years of muscle memory and fine playing when it is regular stuff, is lost in the bright lights of the biggest stage.

      If all you look for is good stats, then you don't know if your guy will perform for you or not in the biggest stage. That's the randomness you will find in the playoffs, and of course, your stuff won't work then.

      Those who look for both good stats and good minds will find that their efforts will bring more results. Maybe not 3 in 5, but I would think, eventually at least the one, which is all most fans really hope for when the drought has been longer than 20 years.

      And as I've been trying to show with my PQS analysis over the years, it is not enough to be a good enough pitcher, which, for example, the A's seem to specialize in.

      Not that there is no value in these pitchers, as Zito showed in 2012, there can be value. In fact, looking at his past playoffs, he delivered more times than not, more so than Hudson ever did in his playoff career.

      But the point here is that in baseball, there is a way to control whether you win or not, and that is by having a well pitched game. That's obvious and easily said, but obviously hard to do and not something you can just conjure up.

      So the goal has to be to grow, develop and control a starting rotation of guys who deliver a lot of dominant starts, while also looking for that "baseball IT" that pushes players to greatness.

      The Giants found it in Cain, Lincecum, and Bumgarner. Hopefully they find it again in a pitcher they draft (unfortunately, don't think either Beede or Bickford have it; in fact, I'm surprised that nobody in the Giants scouting team figured out that Bickford appears to be a pothead, luckily they were able to convert him into Will Smith, though that was more Susac's value than Bickford, I think). As much as I like him, I'm not sure if Samardzija has it, and Cueto is also off and on himself. Gamer-tude is hard to find.

    3. As the Giants learned, having even a great homerun hitter is not enough to win it all, multiple times, over franchise history.

      But having the pitching that can dominate, from Christy Mathewson to Carl Hubbell to Tim Lincecum to Matt Cain to Madison Bumgarner, well, that can get you a shiny ring at some point.

      This listing made me realize that as much as the Giants are known for homerun hitting outfielders, they have also been known for innovating and unique pitchers, from Mathewson's fadeaway pitch (now screwball) to Hubbell's screwball (his hands were so twisted, that he could not hold his hands to his side, the palm would face outward) to Juan Marichal's high kick to Gaylord Perry's greaseball to Lincecum's acrobatic pitching motion, the Giants have a lot of iconic pitches and pitching motions.

      Never knew this until researching for this that Mathewson held the seasonal record for strikeouts in the NL for a long time, from 1903 to 1961, when Koufax passed him up. So for a long period, it was a pair of Giants atop the record for most career homers (Ott) and most strikeouts in a season (Mathewson). Mathewson probably also held the career record until Warren Spahn passed him up (would have to check details, but it looks like that).

    4. Wow, apparently Marichal also threw the screwball! Hubbell was Giants farm director for years and, blaming the screwball for his arm problems (two specialists says that's not the reason, though: http://sabr.org/research/hubbell-s-elbow-don-t-blame-screwball), never taught it in the system.

      According to the article, there is pain involved with throwing the screwball, and today's pitchers can use two-seamers and circle-change-ups to do the same thing, which is allow the pitcher to pitch effectively against the opposite handed hitter, and thus the screwball will probably never come to prominence again.

      So the screwball has had a huge prominent role in Giants baseball history! Our three greatest pitchers prior to this Golden Era, Mathewson, Hubbell, and Marichal.

  11. As expected, Game 7 starters are McCullers and Darvish. If their performance so far in the series holds, McCullers beat Darvish easily, as Darvish was a deer in the headlights in his Game 3 start and gave up a LOT of hits, ending his evening quickly.

    But he was great during the playoffs up to that start, so he should be pretty good again.

    McCullers was actually off himself, walking 4, but was good enough to hold the scoring to 3 runs in 5.1 IP. But he had a 2.08 ERA in the playoffs prior to that. This should be another great well-pitched game between two good pitchers, much like yesterday's game 6.

    And with it being Game 7, we might see Kershaw (he was warming up in the bullpen yesterday!) or Keuchel today as well, as reliever, as it'll be all hands on deck since it is a season ender. Morton is another name that we might see as well.

    LA will be digging deep, especially with Jansen going 2 IP yesterday for the save, the first time in the World Series that he didn't give up a run to the Astros when he had to pitch over 1 IP. Plus Morrow pitched again, and he was so tired that he was giving up runs during the Houston segment of the series. The one day rest helped him, as he pitched well yesterday, but one has to wonder if pitching again the next day will yield another tired Morrow. Lots of stories to follow in this final game.

    1. To finish up my thought, I think Darvish should be able to straighten himself out. He's been very good in the playoffs, but the World Series is a huge leap in pressure, and it appears he was too amped up and gave up a lot of hits. That happens, like it did to Lincecum in his first start, whereupon he did well in his second start (just realized, that was his last playoff start...).

      Still, you don't know, these are humans we are dealing with, something sabers like to ignore, the numbers on the computer printout does not necessarily happens in the playoffs. There are probably more Peavy's in the playoffs, good to great pitchers in the regular season, who aren't so good in the playoffs, than gamers like Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner has been (and I'll throw Zito in there too, I was looking over his career, and he was good with the A's as well as his one offseason with the Giants; maybe he would have been better than Dirty in 2010, though Sanchez actually pitched well enough, 50% DOM but then 50% DIS; Zito had 50% DOM/20% DIS in 10 starts, but he was one out away in two starts from converting to DOM, so he was close to 70% DOM, which is great).

      And it's an art, because how do you measure the heart of the player? This is like the challenge of projecting a high school player as a pro, then as a major league player. It is such a leap to each level.

      Similarly, the pressures of being a pro, then a major leaguer, then a playoff player, then as a World Series player. Each person breaks down at different points. While some are able to play each game like any other game.

      The Giants had that in both starters as well as bullpen, first group of Wilson, Romo, Casilla, Lopez, Affeldt, then the Core Four from then of Affeldt, Romo, Casilla, Lopez, where Affeldt, who probably should have been the closer by performance, was the key stopper for our team, coming in somewhere in the middle and shutting down the other team's key rallies. We have been missing his presence since he left. Will Smith I assume was supposed to be his replacement, but now with Dyson in the mix, we might have two of them. If Smith and Melancon can come back the same after surgery, we will have a great 1-2-3 punch of Smith, Dyson, Melancon in the back of the game. The question is whether they have IT or not.

      Melancon has been pretty good for the most part, except for one crucial screwup in Game 5 of the 2013 NLDS. He's been fine in the 6 playoff games since.

      Dyson has also been good enough except for his blown Game 5 experience in ALDS in 2015.

      And Smith had a similar experience for the Giants in 2016, blowing Game 4 against the Cubs in that bullpen meltdown that is much like the one we experienced in Game 6 of 2002 World Series.

      So we will see who will rise and who will fall, assuming we make the playoffs with these guys. I think we can, but, then again, I thought we were making it this season too.

    2. Also, I think McCullers has that heart, that gamer-tude. This game should be a capper for a great series, but will it be two well pitched games again or two pitchers are who knocked around by the offense, is the question.

      Meanwhile, Darvish has had 3 DOM and 1 DIS in 5 starts, which is pretty good, but like Verlander, spotty overall, as he is 2-3 in the playoffs. Can he will a win? He has done it before, but not reliably.

      To be fair, McCullers also has a spotty record as a starter, with 1 DOM in 3 starts (no DIS at least), but with two great long relief outings that he did well in, ignoring the IP requirements, he got a 4 in each outing, only missing the 5 due to not reaching 6 IP. Those relief outings suggest to me that he handles pressure pretty well, he's flexible enough to jump in and contribute without fear of failure with the change in role.

      But these are just my thoughts, that's the beauty of sports, you don't know how the human element will exert itself into the game, giving that variability that lends itself to the saying, "that's why they play the games."

    3. Also, to be fair, the Astros has been 1-2 in McCuller's starts. So we'll see.



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