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Friday, October 05, 2012

Fleming: Sudden Death Games

Just make sure one of the pitchers isn’t Brad Bullpennington…

Yesterday, during the 162nd game of the regular season, the Atlanta Braves witnessed the best pitching performance they’ve had all season… Atlanta used eight pitchers to dispatch the Pirates. They had no ‘starter.’...

It’s probably rare that Wild Card teams, in this new format, will have the luxury of having an ace to throw out for the sudden-death game….the furious battle down the stretch will be an annual occurrence in the coming years.

Considering that, it’s worth considering some alternate theories on how to maximize one’s chances in the sudden-death game. As I see it, there are numerous advantages to ‘bullpenning’

You can take significant advantage of platoon splits… You are bringing pitchers in pitchers who are fresh, and you can take them out at a moment’s notice… You are able to set a rotation for the next round of the playoffs… Relief Pitchers are better than starters. Okay, that’s not true. What is true is that using a pitcher for one or two innings is vastly more efficient than using a pitcher for 5-6 innings…

The new existence of sudden-death playoff games in baseball presents an interesting new challenge for managers and players. The four Wild Card teams experience a strange ‘shift’ in mindset: they have to go from trying to win a long, 162-game season, to trying to win a 1-game season.

Because there have been so few one-game playoffs in history, no one has spent too much time examining optimal or alternative strategies that a team could use in sudden-death scenarios. Now that a one-game playoff will be a twice annual events, it’s time to start thinking about strategies for a one-game season.

The District Attorney Posted: October 05, 2012 at 10:31 AM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: playoffs, strategy

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   1. MM1f Posted: October 05, 2012 at 11:37 AM (#4255077)
I have been begging for the Braves to Johnny Wholestaff their play-in game all year. No reason not to. The Braves have a wealth of dominant relief arms and, unlike burning one of your best starters, using a reliever for 1-2 IP doesn't preclude your from bringing that guy back for 1-2 IP in Game 1 of the real playoffs.
   2. escabeche Posted: October 05, 2012 at 11:43 AM (#4255083)
Orioles seem like the obvious team to do this, right? Their best starters are unavailable or hurt, and their bullpen is the strongest part of the team.

By the way, is there an original article this should link to?
   3. The District Attorney Posted: October 05, 2012 at 11:44 AM (#4255086)
By the way, is there an original article this should link to?
Umm, whoops, yes, there is.

Also, I should have made a Katniss reference.
   4. PreservedFish Posted: October 05, 2012 at 12:23 PM (#4255128)
I think the way to do it is just have an ultra-quick hook on your starter. You bring Venters in in the 3rd inning to stop a rally if you need to.
   5. Brian White Posted: October 05, 2012 at 01:32 PM (#4255211)
Well, the quick hook makes sense, especially if your starter looks terrible, and there are walks and line drives all over the place. And this strategy makes sense if you didn't have time to set up your rotation and are going in with the #4 starter, or you don't really have a genuine staff ace to start the game.

But for the Braves to go in with this strategy would be absolutely lunacy. You want to have Kris Medlen throw fewer innings, and Cory Gearrin and Luis Avilan throw more innings? That's a recipe for losing, right there, even if it did work in a meaningless game 162 against a below-average offense that had nothing to play for.
   6. TomH Posted: October 05, 2012 at 01:53 PM (#4255229)
yes, the O's need this, not the Braves.
7 innings of Saunders vs Darvish, Ranger offense vs Orioles offense, Tex home field; does NOT look good.
   7. DKDC Posted: October 05, 2012 at 01:55 PM (#4255233)
I think the Orioles basically are doing this. They are starting LHP Saunders to get all the RHH in the lineup, and then they'll pull him at the first sign of trouble to bring in RHP Steve Johnson.

Then they have a bunch of lefties and righties that can go a couple innings and deploy in higher leverage situations as needed.
   8. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: October 05, 2012 at 02:50 PM (#4255288)
Which righties would Texas not want to face Steve Johnson -- Craig Gentry? Well, Michael Young I suppose, but he shouldn't face anyone. I don't think the Rangers are all that susceptible to lefties or pitcher platooning. Of course if David Murphy doesn't play at all or faces only lefties, Showalter gets a small victory.
   9. DKDC Posted: October 05, 2012 at 03:16 PM (#4255323)
It's not about Steve Johnson being a righty killer (although he has been this year).

The idea is that if you sub in an opposite-hand pitcher early on, you are able to force Washington to either go to his bench early, or concede some platoon splits. It's probably not a massive edge against a balanced lineup like the Rangers, but it can't hurt.

If you're going with that strategy, it probably makes sense to go with the lesser pitcher first, and hope to get a couple of innings out of him before you go to the better pitcher.

I think the biggest advantage is that you can tell both all of your pitchers not to worry about pitching deep into the game. Put it all out there on every pitch and don't concede at bats.
   10. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: October 05, 2012 at 03:29 PM (#4255335)
On the Hot Topics bar, this looked like "Flaming Sudden Death Games" - and I am disappointed this is not so.
   11. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: October 05, 2012 at 03:31 PM (#4255337)
I thought the whole idea of the coin flip game was to stress the wild-card teams so they would be weakened for the real playoffs. Then why give them a day off before and a day off after the game? And allow them to juggle their roster? Seems counter-productive. These teams should have played 163 right after the season ended and 164 the day after that. Are we hoping for fifth place World Champions?
   12. JJ1986 Posted: October 05, 2012 at 03:34 PM (#4255342)
Then why give them a day off before and a day off after the game?


Day off before is in case they need to play a one game playoff for the division first. Day off after is because the division champ is playing on the road and don't know where they'll need to be.
   13. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: October 05, 2012 at 03:57 PM (#4255374)
Yeah, the 2-3 alignment in the DS is crazy too. The Braves get a day off, play a home game, another day off, then two home games against the same team that smoked them in the regular season (the Nats) to try to put a stranglehold on that series. I doubt this will doing anything to stem the flow of Wild-Card World Champions.
   14. BDC Posted: October 05, 2012 at 04:07 PM (#4255387)
I've always liked 2-3 – you don't want to be home or away to start such a series, is the beauty of it – but I agree that using it in a year when you are trying to add to the value of being a division champion makes no sense.
   15. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: October 05, 2012 at 04:07 PM (#4255388)
2-3 is just this year, because they didn't decide to have a second Wild Card until well after the TV schedule had been set.
   16. Steve Treder Posted: October 05, 2012 at 04:18 PM (#4255394)
2-3 is just this year, because they didn't decide to have a second Wild Card until well after the TV schedule had been set.

Yeah, that's how I understand it. Next year this round becomes a best-of-seven, yes?
   17. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: October 05, 2012 at 04:24 PM (#4255400)
Best of 10. One of the games will be "just for fun".
   18. Chris Needham Posted: October 05, 2012 at 04:30 PM (#4255406)
When it goes back to 2-2-1, I wish they would make it so there's no off day for the Wild Card team. They win at night, then have to hustle their butts to the number 1 seed's city.
   19. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: October 05, 2012 at 04:31 PM (#4255408)
MLBPA won't go for that, I'm sure.
   20. BDC Posted: October 05, 2012 at 04:42 PM (#4255416)
Next year this round becomes a best-of-seven, yes?

What, the play-in for the Wild Card becomes a best-of-seven? That tears it, I'm going to start following curling instead :)
   21. cardsfanboy Posted: October 05, 2012 at 04:42 PM (#4255417)
Day off before is in case they need to play a one game playoff for the division first. Day off after is because the division champ is playing on the road and don't know where they'll need to be.


I thought the days off was a fluke of this years schedule, and not the plan going forward?

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