Some musings on last night’s DET/BOS game (ALCS Game 3)

Posted: October 16, 2013 in Post-season

Not sure why Boston is so enamored with Craig Breslow, especially against RHB. Steamer has a 2014 FIP projection (good proxy for current talent) of 4.21. I have him a little better but not much. He has very little splits over his career and reverse splits this year, but he throws mostly fastballs and sliders (pitches with the most splits, depending on what kind of fastball), suggesting that his sample splits may be a random anomaly. Basically, he is not that good of a reliever. I have him projected as pretty bad versus RHB, at least for a short reliever.

In the PA where Napoli hit the homer, I said to my sleeping dog, “Max, surely he doesn’t want to throw a fastball here and if he does, it better be down and away.” The reason I said that was that Napoli was the last legitinate power threat in the batting order that inning, he is a slow base runner, so it would likely take at least 2 more hits to score him, and I suspected that Napoli was looking fastball (even though I thought that off-speed was a better pitch) and looking to break the tie (with a HR). It turned out that I was prescient in all respects, however, I am going to criticize my own analysis:

If I think that Verlander should throw off speed here, then Napoli should be thinking the same thing, so maybe fastball is the right pitch. Of course, Napoli could be thinking the same thing. Which is why it is necessary for pitchers to randomize their pitches – so no one can get an edge by out-thinking the other! And maybe Verlander was going to throw an off speed pitch here 70% of the time and the fastball 30% and the die just happened to land on fastball!

Similarly, in the last AB of the game, Avila, a catcher no less, surely has to be looking splitter at that 3-2 count, no? (Uehara doesn’t mind walking him, he has to protect against the HR, and he had already shown that inning that he really liked his splitter). Maybe not 100%, but certainly 75%. If you are looking mainly splitter, do you swing and miss at that last pitch?

Cabrera’s AB – you know, that Cabrera who is the best hitter in baseball and the clutchiest – was just awful. Boston already was on record that they were going to pitch him away with fastballs. So what does he do in a critical situation? Swing at 2 fastballs that were 3-6 inches off the plate. Perfect illustration of why the notion of a clutch player is largely nonsense.

Finally, what makes an umpire, at a critical juncture of a post-season game, make an awful, obviously bad call? I’m talking about that 1-1 pitch to Peralta of course, with a runner on first and no outs. I’ve said this before and I firmly believe it. It would take about a week for almost everyone to get used to computers calling balls and strikes. If you actually watch the pitch trax during a game, you will clearly see that the pitch trax is never obviously wrong. Never. The criticism that, “The strike zone is 3-dimensional, yada, yada, yada,” is a complete non-factor. At most, a pitch which nicks the strike zone might occasionally be called a ball and vice versa. As opposed to a dozen or more pitches per game that are flat out called wrong by the human umpires we have now.

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