Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 10, 2005
BASEBALL: Astronomical

The Houston Astros have now played 45 postseason games - and 11 of them have gone extra innings, including an 18-inning game yesterday, a 16-inning game in 1986 (both series-deciding), and three 12-inning games (in 1986, 1999 and the 2004 NLCS), for a total of 34 extra innings. Put another way: the average Astros playoff game lasts 9.76 innings. So, yesterday's marathon takes its place among the classics, but the Astros already have quite a collection, from the heart-stopping 2004 NLCS, to the 1986 NLCS that featured a walkoff homer in game 3 and 12- and 16-inning games on consecutive days in New York and Houston, to the 1980 NLCS that concluded a best-of-5 series with four consecutive extra inning games.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:31 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

I've wondered for a while now if playing in a pitcher's park results in more one-run and extra inning games due to a smaller standard deviation from the mean of runs scored/allowed. The Astrosome, obviously, was one of the top three pitcher's parks and Minutemaid, reputation notwithstanding, has played pro-pitcher or neutral the past two seasons (according to B-R.com).

There's certainly no statistical significance to a few playoff games over a 25 year period, but it makes me wonder. The 12 inning game wasn't in the dome, but it was at Shea, also an extreme pitcher's park.

Posted by: Mike at October 10, 2005 10:56 AM

Crank, as a Mets fan, doesn't it give you even more pleasure to see Atlanta go down than to see the Yanks -- excuse me, the Hated Yankees -- go down? Personally, I love it.

Posted by: Attila (Pillage Idiot) at October 10, 2005 1:35 PM

I have a technical rules/NL strategy question for the crowd... Why did Roger Clemens pinch hit for the pticher (Wheeler) in the 15th? I don't understand why they didn't just have Wheeler bunt (same thing they asked Roger to do). That way, if a hit brings Biggio around to score you haven't had to risk Roger getting injured.

If no run is scored and you end up going to the top of the 16th, it seems to me you could still substitute Roger for Wheeler (keeping the pitcher in the 2 spot).

I apologize if there is some obvious rule here that I'm missing as mostly being an AL fan. But I don't understand why they had Roger pinch hit.

Can someone help me out?

Thanks.

-Brad

Posted by: Brad at October 10, 2005 1:47 PM

Brad...As for strategy...I think Wheeler, being a reliever, doesn't get called to bunt as often as Clemens. Also, if I recall the post game comments correctly, Clemens suggested the move to Garner, to get him "into the game" since he was done warming up...

It is incredible how the Cardiacstros never make it easy on me...and a few times have made it positively difficult and infuriating. But I've been where the Braves are, so I know how tough it is to lose a massive game in extras...but I'll tell you, even 1986, as up and down as it was (c'mon Brocklander...Craig Reynolds wuz SAFE!), this game is the best I've ever seen...two grand salamis, one in the 8th off the closer, with another homer needed with two outs in the ninth to tie??

Hard to believe there could be another one in that category...only way better would be in the WS...

Posted by: AstrosFan at October 10, 2005 1:56 PM

AstrosFan,

Thanks... your answer seems obvious once you spell it out... But I had to do some more digging, and it seems like using Clemens over Wheeler is a no-brainer choice.

Roger Clemens:
Career ABs-150 PAs-173 NPs-608 SACs-11

Dan Wheeler:
Career ABs-7 PAs-8 NPs-23 SACs-1

Clearly, Roger has far more experience at the plate, and in the game on the line situation... who is going to be more clutch? I feel stupid for asking.

-Brad


Posted by: Brad at October 10, 2005 2:57 PM

Yeah, if the choice in the clutch is a journeyman reliever v. the Rocket, I think I go with the Rocket every time...given that he did, in fact, get the bunt down (it was a beaut), it was certainly the right call. Clemens also takes batting practice quite a bit, and I doubt Wheeler has spent nearly as much time in the cage...and if he did, I doubt it was with the same intensity and focus as Clemens...

Posted by: AstrosFan at October 10, 2005 3:38 PM

Yeah, you wouldn't think so after being in the AL for so many years but Clemens actually swings the bat ok for an NL pitcher. Wheeler never gets to hit.

That game was incredible. I would argue that when that hit sailed off Burke's bat for the series ending win with Clemens having pitched 3 innings of scorless relief on 2 days rest it became the biggest moment in Houston sports history, eclipsing the Rockets' 2 championships.

It was everything a Houston basball fan could ask for. It was perfect.

Posted by: Dwilkers at October 10, 2005 3:44 PM

Of course... for me, a hard core Yankee hater... it would have been even better if it was game 7 of the World Series vs the Yankers.

Do I dare wish for a repeat?

I guess according to Baseball Crank's original post, if there is a team most likely to play another extra inning game this post season, it is the Astros.

Posted by: Brad at October 10, 2005 4:19 PM

Brad,

I know that AB stands for "at bat;" but what does "PA," "NP," and "SAC" stand for respectively. None of my buddies here can figure it out either.

. . .wished I could have been at Game 4 in Houston. . .would have really gotten my money's worth. Then again, I would have eaten a lot of peanuts and drunk a lot of beer.

Rock Head

Posted by: Rock Head at October 10, 2005 4:23 PM

Astros are likely to play extra innings because they have great starters, decent relievers, one of the best closers in BB, and are decent defensively in the infield (if a bit less so in the outfield, particularly since Berkman's knee injury)...combine that with an inability to score runs offensively traditionally, you're looking at not a ton of runs being scored in the increased microscope of the playoffs...it did not surprise me that it went extras...it did surprise me that Andruw did not end it (essentially) with a swing...and it did surprise me that the 'stros could score 5 runs with only 5 outs left in the game after showing nothing all day...

And I hope they do it again to the Yanks...

Posted by: AstrosFan at October 10, 2005 4:48 PM

Rock,

I'm guessing tha PA is "plate appearances" while NP is "number of pithces" and SAC is "sacrifices". And based on the numbers given it is clear that Roger has had far more experience at the plate looking at pitches and getting those bunts on the ground.

Posted by: joated at October 10, 2005 5:09 PM

In the stat post above, PA stands for Plate Appearances, NP probably stands for Number of Pitches (in those PAs), and SAC is sacrifices. I think pinch-hititng Wheeler for Clemens was obviously the right move, for the reasons articulated above.

What was much more questionable, though, was Garner's decision-making earlier in the game. I'm used to the massive pitcher-shuffling, but the decision that really got me was when Burke entered the game as a pinch-runner for Berkman in the bottom of the 10th. No matter how clutch Bagwell has been, it's a tie game and Berkman is clearly your best first baseman defensively AND maybe your best hitter. By the time Raul Chavez ended up at first base, I was having flashbacks to Fernando Valenzuela's leaping attempt at Rafael Ramirez's liner that drove in Bill Doran (I think) with the winning run in the Astros-Dodgers 22-inning marathon in 1989.

Posted by: Tom at October 10, 2005 5:11 PM

It was certainly controversial to bring in Burke there, but I think Berkman was pooped (he even said as much), and that knee ain't what it used to be...the bonus was also having the Bagwell at bat to drive the run home, figuring it was much more likely he'd hit a single than a double...I was not outraged, but it was not that conventional, I grant you...and I bet if you asked him, Garner thought that Bagwell was going to get a hit and would have bet the house on it after what had happened in the last two innings...and frankly, I was with him at the time...it sure is tough that Baggie can't play first...but in the WS, I know who the DH will be...

Posted by: AstrosFan at October 10, 2005 5:31 PM

If they'd lost the game, substituting Burke for Berkman would have been the talk of every sports radio talk show in town. Garner would have been on a rotating spit over an open fire today. Since they won it hasn't been mentioned much if at all.

I thought it was the wrong move. But Garner did it, and Burke got the winning hit. Such is basbell, and why its such a great sport.

Posted by: Dwilkers at October 10, 2005 6:14 PM

Sorry about the confusion earlier on the stats I posted... Yes, PA is plate appearance, NP is number of pitches, and SAC is sac bunts. I got these career stats from MLB.com. Number of Pitches and SAC seems like a rare stat but I'm happy to see the number geeks at MLB.com agree that the public (read "me") has a need to have this information readily available at their finger tips to settle these types of issues.

Apparently there's also a stat for Late Inning Pressure Situations (LIPS) which I have no idea how one would calculate it, but I'd venture to guess that this would be a good measurement of "clutchness" for a more typical hitter. Since the Clemens pinch hit was so rare (first time in his career), I am sure this stat wouldn't tell us much about the appropriateness of this substitution. But I still think it sounds like a cool stat.

Anyway... I didn't see game, I was scuba diving at the time... But I saw the TV sports show recaps and I've been trying to decipher the box score and play-by-plays posted on the internet, and I see a lot of interesting questionable decisions...

Here are some other points I wonder about:

1) Astros pull starting pitcher Brandon Backe in the 5th

Why do I second guess this decision today? Well, it turns out that this did turn into a marathon, and Clemens ended up being the final available pitcher... According to the talking heads I heard, next up was Mike Lamb as the "emergency pitcher". I've witnessed a major league game in which an emergency pitcher was used... it ain't pretty, you don't ever want to see that.

So why am I questioning this decision? He was getting hammered you say... we had just given up a 5th run after a single and a double on three consecutive pitches... Well, he also had only thrown 72 pitches. He wasn't insanely wild (42 strikes to 30 balls, 5 hits, 3 BBs, 2Ks, 1 Hit batsman)... ok, maybe he was shaky... but still you just burned one of your pitchers, and although I mostly follow AL teams, the one thing I know about NL teams, is they tend to have smaller pitching staffs, because they tend to use roster spots for pinch hitters. And so it seems crazy to burn your starting pitcher after 4.1 innings unless it's an emergency.

I know you're all going to tell me that it was an emergency... down by 5 runs, playoffs, etc... but still, I'm saying it seems short sighted.

2) Relieving Backe with Gallo and then only leaving in Gallo for 0.2 innings

Ok, if you all convince me that it was the right thing to do to pull Backe from the game because he was hosing everything up, then I can't understand why they didn't go to a "long relief" guy. Again, I don't know much about NL teams, but I'm checking Gallo's stats, and he has 20.1 innings pitched this year... Clearly he's a situational lefty... but if you just pulled your starter in the 5th because he's getting hammered, you still have more than half a normal length baseball game to go. Don't you put a long guy in? Wandy Rodriguez is a left handed starter, who you've put in the bullpen for your playoff roster... seems like this is a situation tailor made for him. He hasn't pitched in two weeks, he's well rested... he's your long guy... right?

3) Pulling Rodriquez for Qualls in the top of the 9th

I don't understand this move at all... You're at home, so hopefully you're playing for a tie, so you want to get out of the ninth with no more runs score and try to tie it up in the bottom of the ninth; and then see if you can crank one out in the bottom of an extra inning frame. You've already burned four pitchers to get here, do you want to burn more? Qualls dropped 2 earned runs late in game 2.

What do the upcoming batters look like:
Chipper - switch hits, but he's .303 against righties and .270 against lefties
Andruw - bats right
LaRoche - bats left

Pitchers:
Rodriquez - throws left - WHIP vs. Left/Right: 1.44/1.47 BAA vs. Left/Right .275/.273
Qualls - throws right - WHIP vs. Left/Right: 1.08/1.32 BAA vs. Left/Right .218/.275

Ok, so Qualls is more of a natural relief pitcher, but again, I think this game has a chance to go long, so I feel like I need to put some weight on the fact that I may need to save some of my pitches for more innings. Plus these next three batters, I give Rodriquez the advantage.

Anyway, I didn't see the game, and since I don't really follow the Astros, most of my stats digging could be junk, I don't know the intangibles. But what I do know it looks like this game was made more precarious by early decisions on the part of Phil Garner.

Thoughts?

-Brad

Note:
WHIP - Walks or Hits per inning pitched - is a stat to measure general effectiveness of a relief pitcher
BAA - Batting Average Against - is the batting average of batters measured against a pitcher, another stat for measuring effectiveness of a pitcher

p.s. Yes, I spent too much time on this post. Maybe I should become an Astros fan.

Posted by: Brad at October 10, 2005 8:25 PM

1. Pulling Backe was the right call. Garner had to stop the Braves rally and Backe has been shacky when he gets off center, as he was that night. At that point in the game there was no reason to think you're going 18 innings and the Astros have an excellent bullpen. Backe had given up 5 runs in a critical game - last home game of the series - and Garner wanted to stop the bleeding.

2. I agree. Why burn your situational lefty NOW? You know you're going to be in the bullpen the rest of the game, why not wait? It didn't make sense to me either.

3. Qualls has been a great set up man for the Astros this year. Rodriguez is a rookie. Berkman had just put the Astros within one run with the grand slam. I think Garner did this because the upcoming hitters - Jones and Jones - are historically Astros killers and he wanted his best man out there, not the rookie. He didn't want to take the chance that Rodriguez gives up a long shot to one of those guys in case the Astros managed to get a run to tie it in the 9th.

Great post, btw. Garner made a lot of moves in that game that would look really questionable if they had lost. At the end I was sitting there watching the game waiting for someone to give up. The Astros had nothing left, they'd burned every pitcher, Berkman had been pulled, you name it. Its a miracle they won, they couldn't have gone more than another inning or 2.

Posted by: Dwilkers at October 10, 2005 10:01 PM

1. Backe had to go. His early command, which is where most of the positive stats came from, were gone. This I don't really think is controversial at all.
2. Situational Lefty...perhaps going with Wandy would have been better in hindsight, burn some innings. But the Astros were down 5-0, with a team not likely to come back. I'm thinking he's partially managing for the idea there may be a tomorrow and he needed both situational lefties to be available the next day. I think no one in the ballpark thought the Stros would come back from 5 down, including Garner. Frankly, letting Wandy get the start would have made some sense to me, despite Backe's playoff experience (but lack of experience in the majors this year due to injuries). Backe doubles as a pinch hitter (VERY able at the plate) and had some success as a middle reliever. And we saw how tough lefties are on the Braves lineup. But ultimately, it is a gut call, and Garner knows his team.
3. I agree with Dwilkers, with the added deal that Wandy is a rookie and kind of an unknown quantity out of the pen. It has not been his role this year, and there are some guys who are starters who simply can't be relievers. Not saying Wandy's that guy, but you don't know and you had to go with a known quantity.

Either way, it was a helluva game. My biggest question, I hate to say, was letting Ausmus bat in the 9th when Baggie's on the bench. So you know why I'm not managing this team.

Posted by: AstrosFan at October 11, 2005 12:39 PM
Site Meter 250wde_2004WeblogAwards_BestSports.jpg