WS Coverage: Game Four Thoughts

Several things stood out to me about last night’s game, so I’ll touch on them each briefly with the patented notes post.

1. I’ll give Charlie Manuel this – the man has cojones the size of the Liberty Bell. No matter how many times he had to watch Brad Lidge melt down on the mound this year, he remained convinced of his abilities to get critical outs in a high leverage situation. It doesn’t get much higher leverage than last night’s ninth inning, and Manuel put his trust in Lidge again. Lidge was one strike away from justifying Manuel’s confidence before it all fell apart. As bad as he’s been this year, I’m not sure the Phillies had a better option for that spot, which is one reason why the Yankees are planning a parade right now.

2. If there was one glaring lesson from last night’s game, it was how quickly a dominating pitcher can get humbled. Joba Chamberlain looked like he was at the top of his game, blowing away Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez with 97 MPH fastballs. After getting ahead of Pedro Feliz with two swinging strikes, Phillies hitters had missed on the six of seven swings they had taken against Chamberlain that inning. And then Feliz hit one out of the park to tie the game.

Fast forward to the ninth inning, and Lidge had no problems dispatching Hideki Matsui and Derek Jeter. All three strikes to The Captain were of the swing-and-miss variety, as Lidge showed the stuff that caused Manuel to still believe in his closer. And then, after getting to within one pitch of ending the inning, he allowed the next four guys to reach base and lost the game.

Forget hindsight – at the moment of their failure, both Chamberlain and Lidge looked great. There was nothing to suggest that a problem was lurking. They were throwing the hell out of the ball, and then they got hit. Trying to predict the future is really hard.

3. Joe Girardi has made a lot of small mistakes in the playoffs, but he got one thing right that dwarfed all of those – the decision to use a three man rotation has given the Yankees a huge advantage. Just like in the ALCS, 84 percent of the innings thrown by Yankee pitchers have been handled by CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera. Eighty-four percent. Expect the trend to continue tonight – Girardi knows who his horses are and he’s planning on riding them to a World Series title.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

62 Responses to “WS Coverage: Game Four Thoughts”

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  1. Mike Ketchen says:

    Dave,

    As a long time reader of Fangraphs I truly respect you guys opinion a lot, So I am really curious on your take as to the trade off Girardi is making. Riding his premier pithcers the team has long term intrest in Burnett and CC. I know we play for championships but in your opinion is the motto win the ring and worry later? Could he be starting a trend that kind causes other teams who handle with care to reasses? Thanks for any reply and keep up the good writing.

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    • Steve says:

      so you think ONE start on 3 days rest with 100 off days to follow, will have “long term” implications on AJ Burnett?

      don’t you think that is, well, insane?

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      • Mike Ketchen says:

        Steve,

        It is not “ONE” start per say, its the fact that for the first time in his career Burnett has gone over 200 IP back to back and further more he is now past any IP he has ever had. The point of my question was is this one championship wort it if is say hypothetically cost him +1WAR of value over the remaining life of the contract. It is strictly an opinion thing hence why I asked. But hey, if Burnett gets hurt next season I am sure you will simply be on here to point out how dumb the contract was for the Yanks given his injury riddled past.

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      • Steve says:

        but you are implying that before tonight, Girardi has “ridden” AJ Burnett.

        he hasn’t. he’s simply made all of the scheduled starts that a #2 starter would make in a postseason where his team goes deep. before tonight, there was nothing “discretionary” about his usage.

        it’s a good question with regards to CC, but i guess i was just confused when it came to AJ. in my opinion, he is only being “ridden” for one start.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Everything is a trade-off. The benefit of increased odds of winning it all are worth some extra risk. How much? That’s a preference thing, really. Add in the fact that the actual amount of risk that is being placed on the pitchers is tough to quantify, and it’s probably rational to lean towards the benefit and away from the cost.

      Without better evidence that there’s a real cost to pitching on short rest, it’s the right call – especially for a team like the Yankees who can absorb an injured pitcher’s contract without a significant problem.

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    • Vode says:

      Mike, he didn’t go with a 3-man rotation for the year, just for the postseason. This is the first time anyone not named CC will go on short rest. Everything’s gonna be alright.

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      • Mike Ketchen says:

        Vode,

        Did the Sox go with a 3 man rotation in there runs? (And I am a Sox fan not a Yanks fan btw) I think my point may be getting lost or perhaps I should have explained better. The way they are using CC and Mo and Burnett to shoulder most of the load goes against what has become common practice in the last few years with more pitchers being handled very carefully. All I wanted was opinion if it was logical for teams to make this trade off (one WS vs the remainder of contracts) that is all.

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      • Steve says:

        but did the Sox have all of these extra off-days?

        it’s apples to oranges if you don’t factor that in.

        i think you are asking a very interesting question about the trade off.

        i just think you are missing the SPECIFICS of this situation a little bit. the Yankees have used a 3 man rotation, but for the most part, it’s because the schedule allowed them to do this.

        Mo has a lot of appearances, but he has also had a ridiculous amount of off-days.

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  2. longgandhi says:

    Manuel’s confidence in Lidge in all likelihood would have been justified had Lidge gone with his best pitch – the slider. He did not throw a single one to Teixeira or ARod and all the baserunners reached base on fastballs.

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    • Tom B says:

      lidge throws a large percentage of his sliders in the dirt. you can’t do that with a man on 3rd, which is why damon’s play was HUGE.

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      • dorsal says:

        He HAS to do that though no? It’s his pitch….the one that make him who he is today. You can bet he’s crying in his coffee this morning having not thrown it. If I’m going down, I’m going down with my best.

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      • longgandhi says:

        Lidge threw 563 sliders this season, yet only 4 of his 1143 pitches went for wild pitches. I think the percentages greatly favor a strikeout or a groundball out as the likely outcome over a wild pitch. He should have been throwing his best pitch. What Damon had done is largely irrelevant.

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      • dorsal says:

        Thanks for that longgandhi. Shouldn’t we also take into account passed balls? I looked for that that myself, I must be a poor searcher of stats.

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      • chuckb says:

        longgandhi’s absolutely correct. The likelihood of a hit there was much greater than the likelihood of a wild pitch, particularly w/ Ruiz behind the plate. At that point, if Lidge decided not to throw the slider simply b/c Damon was on third, he made a colossal mistake. He has to make the pitches and have faith that Ruiz will block the ball. The concern over wild pitches that the media has when there’s a runner on third is overblown. Though they happen, it’s much more likely that a batter will get a hit when the pitcher’s not throwing his best pitch.

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  3. Seideberg says:

    Joba threw one bad pitch. Lidge melted down.

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    • Rob in CT says:

      Thankfully! Joba collected himself after his mistake and got an out. An easier out than Tex, ARod and Jorge, but not a pushover either. That’s the best I’ve seen him look in a while.

      And of course Mo chewing through 3 outs in 8 pitches was sweet.

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    • Chris says:

      Lidge didn’t “melt down” . He threw the pitches that were called by the catcher, which unfortunately included three fastballs when slider would have been more likely to succeed.

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      • Jeff says:

        You don’t blame the catcher for calling pitches. Then, we might as well award Cy Youngs to catchers.

        He could have easily shaken off pitches OR better yet, make better pitches. The double to Arod was in a terrible place unlike the first pitch strike that was located on the inside corner.

        I’m sure Ruiz didn’t call for a fastball right down Broadway and I’m sure as hell he didn’t call for a HBP to Tex. (Did you even factor that in?)

        If you don’t call that a meltdown, then what is?

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      • Chris says:

        “Meltdown” means is not executing. He executed the pitches that were called, which were the wrong pitches, whether they came from the catcher, the dugout or Tim McCarver.

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      • Steve says:

        the only way you know he “executed” is if you know the location where those pitches were supposed to be. which you don’t.

        are you suggesting the catcher “called” for a HBP on Teixeira? of course not.

        he threw Alex a cookie. that’s not executing.

        what a silly argument.

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  4. TheUnrepentantGunner says:

    spot on dave, as several of your last articles have been.

    i would have to put Lee vs Burnett at 60-40 for the phillies, probably very high as far as splits go, but the short rest for burnett + Lee being dominant makes me about as confident in a WS Game as i can get.

    from a yankee hater perspective though, the next two games are solidly 55-45 yankees, especially as it should be only Sabbathia on short rest again, something that doesn’t seem to bother him over the short run. dont know about the home-road thing being a big deal (and not just because 3 out of 4 games to date have been road wins), between the small samplesize of the phillies having a better road record (and i think pythagorean record too?) as well as the unique dimensions of New Yankee stadium i’d treat each game as more or less neutral.

    So to estimate, .6*.45*.45 = 12.1 chance for the phillies and 87.9% chance for the yankees.

    Still, it’s why we watch the games right?

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Wow, how is it that we came to the exact same rough guesstimate numbers? It’s not even perspective – I’m a big (though nominally objective) Yankee fan.

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      • TheUnrepentantGunner says:

        well if it makes you feel any better, I try to be objective, but am also a Phillies season ticket holder, who is more than a little self satisfied that I helped David Wright drop an easy popup in foul ground this year, leading to a multi run inning instead of a 0 run inning, and thus helping the hated mets lose yet another game this year.

        (by the way, I never ever thought that calling “I GOT IT!” with 2-3 other people in the right cadence would cause david wright to think that we in fact, had it, and thus lead to my brief flash with sports center fame.

        I maintain a WPA of ~=+ .007 for the phillies this season, and want a piece of a playoff share.

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    • Jeff says:

      I read your other posts and I have no idea where you are getting your numbers…

      and you can’t just treat home field as neutral because there is a reason (although unquantifiable) that teams have better home than road records.

      I really believe it is folly to put numbers of winning probabilities. I think the best way to go about is it to heavily factor starting pitching but even then, it’s a crap shoot.

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      • TheUnrepentantGunner says:

        well the initial assumption wernet my actual numbers, just a way of saying that no one should be shocked (if the yankees were to win a season long series with the phillies 86-76) that the phillies would win a world series 43% of the time. Furthermore i explained that it doesnt matter which games Cole, Pedro, and Lee pitch but it matters more HOW MANY games they pitch, so those numbers were illustrative.

        Furthermore, how heavily can you really factor starting pitching? Obviously pretty heavily, but maybe not as heavy as you think. The best season over the last 10 years was from Dave Cameron’s not-so-secret crush in 1999. That was a 10 win season over replacement. Over 36 starts how much does that really tilt the odds? Does that truly make 1999 pedro 22% more likely (8/36) than average to win a start he pitches? How do you quantify that world series games by definition are not average, with well above average lineups and typically opposing pitchers?

        While we know that historically playing at home improves winning odds by 3%, we don’t know fully why, except that we are quite sure that a big piece of it is that savvy general managers build their teams around their park, even if their construction is misguided (see the mid 80′s cardinals).

        What if it just so happens that the ideal park for the 2009 phillies just happens not to be CBP? What if the lineup (loaded with left handed power hitters) *really* enjoys hitting towards that short fence in NYS in right field? We only have 162 games of data + postseason, but we know the phillies, at least in the 2009 incarnation, have at least a reasonable chance that they are at least as good on the road as at home, even factoring in the other team’s home superiority.

        If you accept that the home team wins 52.5% of the time, then the home team would win 85 out of 162 games over the season, with a standard deviation of 6.3 games one way or another. The phillies are over 1 sigma away from that. So either their season has been a meaningful (but not completely insane) aberration that would regress or we can instead pencil in a softer 50-50 split for phillies games. I chose the latter for personal preference reasons. I refuse to give cliff lee a massive 63-37 split (which i would have to do with home field advantage), and punish pedro as a 42-58 split or so, (though he might be tired of hearing who is daddy is by now).

        I think my numbers have been, and continue to be both reasonable, defensible, and inexact. Finally, i looked at BP postseason odds. I was within 3% at the start of the series, and am now a full 5% at this time. Either my math is excessively sloppy, or the mistakes in their calculations (and they are surely there) lean a different way than the mistakes in my very rough calculations.

        I welcome all intellgent and continued critiques.

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  5. Tom B says:

    the biggest thing I notice about the game last night? These umps have NO CLUE where home plate is. Low corners in AND out of the strikezone were a 50/50 flip last night on if it was gonna get called or not.

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  6. Game 4 was riddled with “A-Rod is 1-11″, “A-Rod is 1-12″ and “A-Rod is 1-13″ in the world series talk. It’s too bad that 0-8 of A-Rod’s “slump” came in consecutive games, one of which was pitched by Cliff Lee, who shut down everyone except Derek Jeter in Game 1. How come nobody is ragging on Teixeira, who is hitting almost as bad as Nick Swisher? Can’t we lay off A-Rod, who has been an absolute beast in the post season outside of two games? No one has ever had 8 bad at bats in a row before, right?

    I wonder if it does any good to mention that A-Rod had an “unclutch” 2-R HR in game 3 and game winning double in the top of the 9th today. I guess hitting in the clutch doesn’t count as being clutch. It’s all about being David Eckstein and hitting .400 with a .390 OBP and .400 SLG.

    Cause you know, WPA is a made up stat created by nerds in their mother’s basements, right?
    ____

    For the record, here is A-Rod’s WPA by game in the WS:
    1: -.096 (Teixeira and Damon weren’t much better and Cliff Lee pitched an amazing game)
    2: -.090 (Pedro, Howard, Damon and Utley were all worse; Werth had a -.087 WPA in game 2)
    3: +.165 (third best amongst all players in game 4)
    4: +.280 (second to only Pedro Feliz in game 4)

    That’s a cumulative +.259 WPA in the World Series. Four of those = 1 win; by proxy, A-Rod’s .259 WPA showing over four games means that he’s helped the Yankees win one of them. Please Tim McCarver. Keep complaining.

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    • Steve says:

      you are preaching to the choir here, Jeffrey.

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      • I know. Just saying.

        Sigh. If only baseball was run by robots.

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      • Steve says:

        then what would we talk about?

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      • We could then complain about malfunctioning robots. It would be fun.

        As our blog’s mission statement says:
        We are but four humble men who love sports, but hate sports commentary. Peter Gammons is our hero and John Madden is our enemy. If you were to ask us our purpose, our answer would be simple: “We are forever locked in Mortal Kombat for the souls of sports fans everywhere. Statistics are our science and ‘the immeasurable character of men’ is the obsolete religion of blind faith. Our job is to prove that God doesn’t exist and that athletes are merely cold, metal machines with no souls or heart.”

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  7. Dan says:

    Joe Girardi’s best managerial decision came when he accepted the job as the manager of the highest salaried team in baseball. Not too many teams have 3 starters you can work like this to this kind of effect. All three are free agent signings.

    Yes, this is a sour grapes Phillies fan.

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  8. Also, I love how Tim McCarver ranted about how Joba needed to keep throwing the heater — he did and poof. Yard. God I hate T. McC

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    • Rob in CT says:

      To be fair, the issue was location more than pitch selection. A fastball located down and away would have been fine, but he missed by a good foot, and the pitch ended up right in Feliz’s wheelhouse.

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      • Lucas A. says:

        Exactly. He blew away Werth and Ibanez on fastballs, so to me it didn’t seem like a bad decision to throw Feliz one on 3-2. The problem was that Posada wanted it away, and it came inside.

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      • Why not keep him off balance with the slider?

        His fastball has been awful this yr

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      • Steve says:

        b/c the count was full and he had yet to throw a slider for any sort of strike (swinging or called). don’t want to walk the guy in a 1 run game, and his fastball was HUMMING. he was blowing people away.

        he missed inside. it happens.

        (this comment is not directed at you) but sometimes bad things can happen without anyone deserving any “blame”. sometimes the hitter just beats you.

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      • Throwing your best pitch in a close game when you’ve thrown a bunch of heaters when that heater is generally poor or throwing another heater cuz it worked earlier…hmmm.

        Maybe we can start Jose Molina more because Jose Molina had a great game a few days ago.

        Past success is not indicative of future success when its is predicated more upon luck than quality.

        Hell, I’m sure I could throw a few fastballs that would fool a pair of MLB batters. Doesn’t mean I should continue doing it…

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      • Steve says:

        dude, i have no idea what you’re talking about.

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      • Jeff says:

        He already threw 2 sliders before the fastball and none of them were close.

        The fastball is a lot easier to control than the slider and you don’t want to walk the tying run with the go ahead run on deck.

        “His fastball has been awful this yr”

        That’s because he was a starter all year. He took off velocity as a starter and his fastball had a wFB of -21.0 as opposed to positive values the year before.

        Again, it was all about location. How many times did T. McCarver yap about the inside corner as Feliz’s wheelhouse? The fastball needed to be elsewhere. He probably should have thrown it earlier in the count with 2 strikes instead of two consecutive sliders.

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      • longgandhi says:

        If you watch the first two fastball’s Joba threw him, Feliz was very late. He just doesn’t have great batspeed. The fastball was the right pitch to throw. This is very similar to the Leyritz homer off Wohlers in ’96: he knew a fastball was coming and got lucky enough that the pitch was in the only place he could hit it.

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  9. siul narud says:

    Do you guys really believe it’s up to Girardi to make those Do or Die decisions? Hank Steinbrenner would give one or both testicles (if he had them) to win the WS ring after spending all that money this season.

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  10. Matt says:

    I’d be willing to never see Burnett pitch again to get a World Series Ring if I was the Yankee management.
    My concern is that starting Burnett and Petite and Sabathia (again) on three days rest is a recipe for disaster.

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  11. Paul says:

    By my math, Fuqua had in excess of 150 better options as “closer,” because Lidge had the worst season of any reliever, and basically any pitcher since young Roy Halladay.

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  12. NF says:

    I can’t believe someone actually wrote this article.

    Manuel HAD NO OTHER OPTIONS? REALLY, DAVE? Hey, how about that Ryan Madson guy? Or how about anyone else? Brad Lidge was one of the worst pitchers in history this season, explain to me how it was his ONLY CHOICE.

    Also every Phillies and Yankees fan I know was suicidal over the respective managers bringing in Joba and Lidge. It appears the only people that were shocked that they failed were Joe Girardi, Charlie Manuel, and Dave Cameron.

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  13. aaron says:

    fox noted during the telecast that starters on short rest have a 12 – 35 (make that 36 i guess) record vs fully rested starters in WS history.

    i know wins and losses aren’t very sabrmetrical, but…

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