Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

It Wouldn’t Be April… 

… If the Phillies didn’t already have a controversy. So the Phillies are off to a pair of extra-inning losses. First they blow a 3-2 lead to the Braves on Opening Day and lose 5-3 in the tenth inning. Yesterday the Phillies waltzed into the top of the ninth inning holding a 2-0 lead when the bullpen blew it again. Hmmm … didn’t people worry that the bullpen might be an issue in the pre-season? Hmmmm…

Well, let’s recap yesterday’s game by noting what the Phillies did right:

-Cole Hamels was as good – or better – than advertised. Locked in a pitching duel with Tim Hudson, Hamels was dominant, going seven innings and striking out eight Braves while allowing just four hits and a walk. Mind you, Hudson pitched a nice game too – seven innings and he surrendered just one run, a solo shot off the bat of Carlos Ruiz – but Cole Hamels simply annihilated the Braves lineup. Based on the performances of Myers and Hamels, the Phillies rotation might just be as strong as it was advertised.

-Ryan Madson and Tom Gordon are the goats of yesterday’s game. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Madson is the first pitcher since 1977 lose both of his team’s first two games of the season.

-Let’s hope this newfound enthusiasm for team speed is tempered with some caution. With the Phillies leading 1-0 in the eighth, Jimmy Rollins draws a walk and attempts to steal third base. Rollins is safe and advances to third on the bad throw to second. The play made sense: there was one out, Shane Victorino was at the plate and you had your best base-stealer at first. Nice, aggressive move. Shane Victorino walks up to the plate and promptly doubles Rollins home, a play that may or may not have been possible thanks to Rollins decision to steal second base. Chalk one up for small ball. But then – with Ryan Howard – at the plate, Victorino makes the bone-headed decision to attempt to steal third base. He was thrown out. Sure, when you advance runners from first to second you are making a huge play. They go from being 270 feet away from home base to being in scoring position. However, stealing third base is pretty pointless, especially with Ryan Howard at the plate. According to the scoring matrix, a team with a runner on second will score 0.7026 runs an inning, while a team with a runner at third will score 0.9790. In this instance Victorino was caught, so the Phillies run expectancy dropped to 0.1160. That’s the problem with small ball – trying to be “aggressive” (Victorino’s explanation for trying to steal third) can end up shooting yourself in the foot. By running and getting caught, Victorino just took an at-bat away from the Phillies lineup at a critical juncture of the game.

Naturally, Ryan Howard draws a walk and Chase Utley doubles. Had Victorino been sitting on second base the Phillies would have led the game 3-0, and still would have had another out left with Chase Utley sitting on second (assuming that Ryan Howard would be tagged out at home) and Tom Gordon’s ninth-inning melt-down would have been less damaging, something that the Phillies could have weathered.

-Great to see Carlos Ruiz play and even better to see him play as well as he did.

Blame for this loss, simply put, sits on the shoulders of three players – Victorino, Gordon and Madson. The rest of the Phillies did their job.

Tonight, Adam Eaton makes his long-awaited debut with the Phillies. Just took him eleven years to do it.

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Your comments regarding the merit of stealing are a little misleading. According to Nichols's Expected Runs Table, a 1-out steal of second increases the team's expected runs by .17, while a 1-out steal of third increases the team's expected runs by .27. Thus, stealing third benefits the team quite a bit more than stealing second. Certainly, there are other factors at play, such as the increased risk of getting caught stealing third and the fact that the reigning NL MVP was at the plate. However, I wanted to comment on this because the view of second and third base as being essentially equivalent ("scoring position") is a widespread misconception about how often players actually score from these positions.
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