Category Archives: 2013 playoffs

Matt Klaassen Chills “Big Papi” Lovers

Matt Klaassen over at FanGraphs wrote a great article titled “David Ortiz and the Very Large Hall”.  Go read it, it’s good.

Matt makes many interesting points especially regarding the postseason careers of Ortiz and Jason Giambi.  I was shocked to see that they aren’t that different.

Big Papi does have twice as many playoff plate appearances but Giambi has a solid postseason sample (45 games, 174 plate appearances).  Their rate stats are pretty close.  Ortiz has a small edge in batting average, Giambi has a small edge in OBP and Ortiz has a decent lead in slugging.

I further outlined the “anti-clutch” argument about Ortiz a few weeks back.  Hint: he is a very good hitter in the regular season and playoffs.

Matt’s question about hall size is critical when examining Big Papi’s case.  Ortiz is at the steps of Cooperstown but the door isn’t yet open.

Demystifying Clutch via David Freese

St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese has been struggling at the plate this postseason.  In 14 games so far he is batting just .178.  This may be surprising to some observers.

Up through last postseason Freese was viewed as some sort of clutch batter.  In his first 29 playoff games David Freese was a really great performer.  He batted .369 while slugging .689 in over 100 at bats in the 2011 & 2012 playoffs.

I don’t believe that Freese is now afraid of the spotlight.  He isn’t choking under pressure.  His career line of .286 BA/.356 OBP/.427 SLG is the reality.  Freese overachieved in the last two playoffs and is underachieving this year.  It’s not clutch it’s luck.

The Dodgers “Are Who We Thought They Were”

Many are complaining of low run-scoring totals in the 2013 MLB playoffs. Not surprisingly one of the major culprits is the Los Angeles Dodgers. For the full year the Dodgers were a league average offensive team. Against the tremendous pitching of the St. Louis Cardinals they became sub-par.

Over six NLCS games LA scored an average of just two runs. Adrian Gonzalez was their only hitter who posted an on-base percentage over .350 in the series.  Gonzalez, A.J. Ellis and Carl Crawford were the only three Dodgers to slugg over .360.

Andre Ethier and Juan Uribe came up empty against St. Louis.  The two combined to hit just .140 without an extra-base hit in 43 at-bats during the NLCS.

Michael Wacha was awesome in his two starts against the Dodgers.  Credit is due to him for sure.  Nobody should be shocked that an average offense didn’t hit over six games in October against a very tough pitching staff.

Pitchers Don’t Influence Their Team’s Lineup

Justin Verlander would probably not have gotten the “Loss” last night if Miguel Cabrera didn’t go 0-for-4 with 2 strikeouts.  Detroit Tigers pitchers have no responsibility for their team’s lineup.  Verlander doesn’t influence Cabrera’s batting performance against Red Sox pitchers.

Verlander pitched great against Red Sox batters and John Lackey pitched great against Tigers batters.  The two pitchers did not face each other.

“Before” Big Papi was Clutch

Since David Ortiz hit his first playoff home-run exactly one decade ago in The Bronx off Mike Mussina there has been a popular “clutch-ness” narrative surrounding the Red Sox slugger.  Is there evidence that he was “clutch” before he tagged Mussina in game one of the 2003 ALCS?

Prior to being released by the Twins in December of ’02 Ortiz had 1,500 big league at-bats. During this time David Ortiz hit one HR every 25 AB’s.  That’s 455 games and parts of six seasons.

Before taking Mussina yard Ortiz had played in 14 postseason games (9 for Minnesota and 5 for Boston).  In 50 at-bats during these games in ’02 & ’03 he hit zero home-runs.  He posted a .231 OBP and .280 SLG.  David Ortiz was clearly not a “clutch” hitter, at least not in the postseason.

We all know the story since ’03.  The question is…Why wasn’t Ortiz clutch in his first 14 playoff games?  Was there a mental block in the way of him hitting in the “clutch”?  Was he nervous in big games?  Did he shy away from the spotlight?

No, I think not.

Ortiz simply became a much better all-around hitter since coming to Boston.  He has been better in the regular season with the Red Sox than he was with the Twins and he’s been better in the playoffs with the Red Sox.

Finally, in 63 playoff games with Boston he’s slugged .562.  In 1514 regular season games with Boston David Ortiz slugged .572.

There is no postseason magic here. Big Papi is a really good hitter, period.

My Favorite Picture of the 2013 MLB Postseason

Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox, 10/13/13

Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox, 10/13/13

The Tigers Problem Spot…Fielding

Boston Red Sox fielders were 5th best in the American League at turning batted balls into outs.  The Detroit Tigers defense ranked 10th in the AL.

Total Zone Fielding and Baseball Info Solutions Defensive Runs Saved both concur that Boston is an above average fielding squad while the Tigers pretty much stink.

The Tigers biggest problem spots on defense are in right field (Torii Hunter) and at the infield corners (Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera).  Certainly Boston hitters like Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia could pile up bloop hits all series long.

Fortunately the Tigers lineup is loaded and their starting rotation is the greatest of the century.  Jim Leyland‘s team may beat the Red Sox and advance to the World Series but it won’t be because of their fielding prowess.

Relievers with 100 Strikeouts in 2013

St. Louis Cardinals youngster Trevor Rosenthal is one of just five major league relief pitchers who compiled 100 strikeouts this season…








Aroldis Chapman






Kenley Jansen






Trevor Rosenthal






Greg Holland






Koji Uehara





Justin Verlander Never Quit Being Elite

Justin Verlander proved last night that he has still got it.  The media may have you think that he had lost it this year.  That he was finished as an ace.  After tossing eight shutout innings against the Oakland Athletics in the deciding game of the ALDS they will now tell you that he is back.  The problem with this narrative is that he never went anywhere.

According to pitcher WAR over at FanGraphs, Verlander ranked seventh best among all major league starters.  He is just ahead of Cliff Lee, Chris Sale and Yu Darvish.  This in his supposed down season.

Verlander finished with the fourth most strikeouts in the American League, one ahead of Felix Hernandez.

No one is writing that any of those four elite pitchers have taken a step back or are finished as an ace.  Verlander showed us last night that we shouldn’t even think of writing him off yet.

Dodgers v. Cardinals, Not That Close on Paper

The upcoming best of 7-game series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals will decide who goes to the World Series.  Since the stakes are so high It is worth looking at basic fundamental production levels of each team from the 2013 regular season:

Runs Scored: Cardinals – 783, Dodgers – 649

Runs Allowed: Cardinals – 596, Dodgers – 582

Both teams play in slightly pitcher friendly ballparks so we don’t need to adjust the numbers much.  We can say the run prevention skills during the season were nearly identical for each team.

The difference between the clubs is in the lineups.  Mike Matheny‘s Cardinals led the NL with 4.8 runs scored/game.  Don Mattingly‘s squad is a league average offense.

You say “what about since Yasiel Puig joined the Dodgers?”.  It’s true that the Dodgers offense improved significantly since Puig and Hanley Ramirez were inserted into the lineup in early June. LA managed just three and one-half runs per game in the first two months of the season as opposed to four and one-quarter in the final 109 games.

Finally, the Dodgers best offensive month was July.  They scored an even five runs/game in twenty-five contests.  This average is just barely better than the Cardinals’s full season performance.

Simply put the Dodgers pitching is going to have to be superb in order to slow the juggernaut that is the Cardinals lineup.  Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke may have to pull a Randy Johnson/Curt Schilling circa 2001 performance against St. Louis in order for Donnie Baseball to get his ticket punched to the World Series.