Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tired of offensive scapegoating in the playoffs

How do teams get to the playoffs? They usually get there by hitting the ball reasonably well and pitching the ball well. Each playoff team has its top pitchers and relievers lined up for a short series. Is it ever a surprise when dominant pitching happens? Heck, in two playoff games yesterday, nineteen innings were played by four teams and the batters went a combined 16 for 121. Oof. That is a .132 batting average combined for all four playoff teams in action yesterday. And yet, despite this reality, a few offensive players are scapegoats for their team's performances. It's stupid.

Take some of these guys who are pretty good players:

Offense is difficult in the post season. The Giants as a team are batting .126. The Orioles are batting .227. The Tigers, .234 and the A's, .198. And yet, only some of these players listed above will get singled out and lambasted for their performances. What's with that?

We are dealing with small sample sizes and crap shoot scenarios. We have no business making any offensive player in this situation a scapegoat. For example, Prince Fielder is one for twelve. He has only struck out once. So his BABIP is .091. That is not a BABIP you would ever see over a long period of time. It is a fluke.

And even for a kid like Bryce Harper who has struck out a lot, look at the pitch charts on Brooks Baseball and see how good the pitching has been against him. This is the playoffs! The pitchers are good!

And yet, nearly every single website and newspaper that covers the Yankees (including the one this Fan writes for) is all over Alex Rodriguez for his nine measly at bats. Bryce Harper is accused of being anxious by a well-respected writer and is speared for having a negative response to such a stupid question.

The criticism is unfair. Everything that happens in the post season are random events packed into a tight space. With a million bloggers fighting for attention, these random events become magnified all out of proportion. If you don't want Derek Jeter over-glorified for his four for nine performance, than you cannot overdo the villain aspect of Alex Rodriguez.

Such blatant over-blaming also influences fan bases who are ever more informed and gobble up articles about their favorite teams. When they read this kind of hyper-criticism, they buy into it and boo and jeer their own players instead of creating an environment of support and cheering their hearts out. It is wrong, writers. Wrong!

It seems that most of the top analysts in the industry such as Dave Cameron and others, forget all about trying to calculate what happens in the post season. The sample sizes are too darn small. Once the post season starts, all you can do is sit back and see what all the randomness brings you. This reduces us to being mere spectators and fans of the events that are happening in front of us. And perhaps that is how it should be.


Bill Miller said...

William, Once again, you are the voice of reason. Many fans feel they have a right to get irate over the players on their favorite team who are performing "poorly," but as you point out, the playoffs are too random by nature. This is not football or basketball, where the performance of one star player like Michael Jordan makes all the difference. Baseball is absolutely a team game, and if your team loses, well, that's the breaks. Better luck next time.
Nice post,

netherton said...

Frequently, in post season, teams adopt a "don't let this guy beat us" approach. In 1967, the Red Sox pitched around Orlando Cepeda, making somebody else step up and beat them. Lou Brock and Tim McCarver did. I remember the Cardinals pitching around Barry Bonds in the 2002 NLCS (walking him 10 times). Make somebody else beat you. Rich Aurelia and Benito Santiago did just that :-)

Players get hot and cold. Sometimes it is as simple as being pitched very carefully. That's why you love it when guys like David Freese, Daniel Descalso and, this one is really cool, Pete Kozma are the heroes.