Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Friday, October 16, 2020

Debate: Is Kershaw a playoff ‘choker’?

Meyers: The bullpen definitely did him no favors tonight (allowing the inherited runner to score), which has definitely hurt him in the past. So you think there is no chance he can ever redeem his reputation? Barry Bonds did it in 2002 after a career of playoff failures.

Castrovince: Nah, it’s too much of A Thing at this point. It’s not going away. And to be clear, he’s done his share to influence that. Twenty-seven home runs is, you know, a lot of home runs.

Petriello: I agree with Castrovince, much as I hate to admit it. His October story is going to be his story, no matter what, and much of that is on him.

Meyers: His overall line this October is actually pretty good! He has 23 K’s, two walks in 19 innings pitched (3.32 ERA).

Castrovince: Try telling that to the wolves! The Kershaw October story is one with a lot of nuance, a lot of explanation, a lot of, “Yeah, but ...” None of that makes its way to the masses, I’m afraid. If people want to call Kershaw a choker, they have ammunition, unfortunately.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 16, 2020 at 10:14 AM | 115 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: clayton kershaw

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 > 
   1. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: October 16, 2020 at 10:48 AM (#5983320)
I hate assigning personality traits to performance. Kershaw has underperformed in the post-season, pretending otherwise is silly at this point though. His numbers are actually better than I realized though. It's basically a full season;

11-12, 35 games, 28 starts, 4.31 ERA, 193K, 177IP

That's not particularly good (particularly by his lofty standards) but it's not horrific either. I think the bigger problem for him is that the Dodgers have been perceived to have underperformed in the postseason over his career and as the ace his failures have been magnified.
   2. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 16, 2020 at 10:57 AM (#5983321)
He is also a smoker and a midnight toker.
   3. Tom Riddle Posted: October 16, 2020 at 10:58 AM (#5983322)
well, I think the whole concept of labeling professional athletes, especially the truly elite ones, as "chokers" is needlessly antagonistic and immature. But it really reflects the culture of American (or maybe all) sports in general, where we view failings on "bigger" stages (how much bigger, for players, are the playoffs versus making it to the pros in the first place?) as clear evidence of lack of ability or lack of character than the products of luck, randomness, consistently better competition, or really anything that would require a more nuanced opinion.

Kershaw, obviously, is also the victim of his own success. part of that makes sense; the incredible bar he's set in the regular season is his talent level, and so a postseason line that's poor for him but good or average for many others could reasonably be taken as a noteworthy deviation due to some unique playoff factor.

I don't know the answer, but I really do hate the rhetoric around it. everywhere last night, I feel like I saw references to Kershaw being "dog****" or "consistently demolished" in the postseason.

his career postseason line is 177 IP, 4.31 ERA, 1.09 WHIP (7.6 H / 9 and 2.4 BB / 9), 1.4 HR / 9, 9.8 K / 9. So yes, undoubtedly, those are worse than his regular season numbers, although the peripherals seem a bit better than the ERA. I also saw someone write yesterday that perhaps Kershaw in the postseason is more often pitching on shorter rest, or subject to more aggressive management like leaving him in longer. don't know if that's true, but don't think that would explain very much of the discrepancy.

of course, even 177 IP, while now explained as "obviously not a fluke dude, that's a full season, Kershaw is pathetic!" is still more than enough time for flukes to happen. people seem to assume that if something happens over a season's worth of appearances, it's real... but every player who has had an exceptional career year around average performance is an exception to that rule.

anyway, I don't know, but I don't really care. I'm not even a Dodgers fan but I love Kershaw and I know that sometimes it just doesn't happen in the postseason for any number of reasons. what's also sad is that Kershaw isn't at his old level anymore, so pitching as he might be expected in the postseason now will be viewed as a continuation of the failure. a 50-year-old Kershaw could out there and get shelled, and some people would call it playoff choking rather than pitching as you'd expect from a 50-year-old.
   4. Tom Riddle Posted: October 16, 2020 at 10:59 AM (#5983323)
#1 said in five lines what I rambled on about for ten minutes. I fully agree
   5. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 16, 2020 at 11:20 AM (#5983324)

His postseason peripherals look almost identical to his regular season peripherals, except he allows twice as many home runs.

Reg season: 9.7 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9
Postseason: 9.8 K/8, 2.4 BB/9, 1.4 HR/9

When you take out the extra HR, he's not allowing any more hits either -- 6.1 non-HR H/9 in the regular season, vs. 6.0 in the postseason.

He's probably been a bit unlucky on top of that -- taking 13 or 14 HR out of his postseason line probably still leaves him with an ERA nearly one run above his regular season average, assuming each HR is worth ~1.5 runs vs. an out. But the HR are doing most of the damage.
   6. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: October 16, 2020 at 11:39 AM (#5983327)
I hate to say this, but, in one word, yes. It's certainly not as simple as that - he's been somewhat unlucky in sequencing, and he's been killed by his relievers coming in and just kind of waving his inherited baserunners around the bases like they're tee-ball base coaches. But, as pointed out above, he's making way more mistake pitches than he does in the regular season and they're getting hammered. I can't find whether or not he's been unlucky on his HR/FB ratio, but double the rate over 177 innings is bad.

I feel bad for Kershaw. I want him to succeed and get his ring, and, while he's pitched poorly in some big spots in the postseason, I don't see "choking" as some character flaw that makes him worthy of scorn. It's just sad.
   7. Nasty Nate Posted: October 16, 2020 at 11:42 AM (#5983329)
I hate assigning personality traits to performance. Kershaw has underperformed in the post-season, pretending otherwise is silly at this point though. His numbers are actually better than I realized though. It's basically a full season;

11-12, 35 games, 28 starts, 4.31 ERA, 193K, 177IP

That's not particularly good (particularly by his lofty standards) but it's not horrific either.
For what it's worth, those stats were worse coming into this year.
Kershaw, obviously, is also the victim of his own success.
Yes. And also, as soon as he has what could be a "signature" postseason game, he usually follows it up with a relative dud in the ensuing more important playoff round and his team gets knocked out.
   8. Ron J Posted: October 16, 2020 at 11:49 AM (#5983331)
#5 Some of that is likely quality of opposition. Doesn't fully explain the doubling though.
   9. kthejoker Posted: October 16, 2020 at 11:56 AM (#5983333)
As someone who doesn't pay much attention to Kershaw: does he (relative to average) just feast more on bad hitters?

   10. flournoy Posted: October 16, 2020 at 12:07 PM (#5983338)
When you take out the extra HR, he's not allowing any more hits either -- 6.1 non-HR H/9 in the regular season, vs. 6.0 in the postseason.

He's probably been a bit unlucky on top of that -- taking 13 or 14 HR out of his postseason line probably still leaves him with an ERA nearly one run above his regular season average, assuming each HR is worth ~1.5 runs vs. an out. But the HR are doing most of the damage.


I don't think you can just hand-wave away "13 or 14 home runs" like that.
   11. The Duke Posted: October 16, 2020 at 12:12 PM (#5983339)
He’s not a big game pitcher. Those post-season stats are terrible for someone of his caliber. It’s hard to believe it’s bad luck at this point. When I heard he was starting game 4, I knew the Braves would win this series.

The problem with something like this is that the whole team can seize up trying to right his ship.
   12. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 16, 2020 at 12:37 PM (#5983343)
The problem with something like this is that the whole team can seize up trying to right his ship.
This sounds like BS narrative to me - what does that even mean, and what evidence do you have?
   13. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: October 16, 2020 at 12:55 PM (#5983344)
Going by fangraphs numbers, Kershaw outperforms his FIP in the regular season and underperforms in postseason. HR/FB has gone up quite a bit.

Regular season FIP: 2.75
Regular season xFIP: 2.98
Regular season ERA: 2.43

Postseason FIP: 3.81
Postseason xFIP: 3.42
Postseason ERA: 4.31

Reg season HR/FB: 9.2%
Postseason HR/FB: 15.4%

Babip nearly the same at .269 and .267.

https://www.fangraphs.com/players/clayton-kershaw/2036/stats?position=P
   14. Adam Starblind Posted: October 16, 2020 at 01:05 PM (#5983345)
He shut down the Mets handily in an elimination game in the 2015 NLDS, for what it's worth.

To be fair, he gave up a HR, but it was one of only 3 Mets hits and accounted for the Mets' only run. It was Daniel Murphy during that stretch where he hit one basically every other at bat for two playoff series.

I was there and interviewed by WCBS afterwards, and in typical NY fashion the reporter asked me why the Mets had bombed that night. My answer was something along the lines of "Kershaw."

It was a spot where a choker would have choked. So for some reason this choking problem comes and goes, even in critical spots.

Or maybe he's just a little gassed after a full season, and he isn't the most durable pitcher to begin with.
   15. . Posted: October 16, 2020 at 01:08 PM (#5983346)
If mental approach and mental "place" didn't have impacts on physical performance, sports teams, golfers, tennis players, etc., wouldn't hire and enrich a bunch of sports psychologists and thousands of books wouldn't have been written about it.

What's really going on here is that the faction of baseball observers who aren't really athletes and don't have a lot of experience in competitive sports in front of people have overintellectualized something and to a degree, paralleled the thing we see in politics and culture whereby facts can't be openly discussed for fear of what others -- not themselves, of course -- will do with those facts. There's no necessary value judgment or character judgment in happening to have had a tough time with the mental side of the game. There's a mental side of the game for everyone and some approaches/people happen to do somewhat better on that side than other people, at least episodically.

There's a mental side to these sports at competitive levels (*) and it's not "weeded out" on the way up the ladder, as many people, primarily the overintellectualizers, hold. Simple, obvious facts. The vast majority of people who've actually been in the arena have something of a "There but for the grace of God (**), go I" attitude about the whole thing. It's only outsiders who engage in the stupid "choker" value judgment stuff. But that silliness is no reason to deny the obvious.

(*) The very reason a lot of hitters and pitchers go through all those rituals and pre-pitch routines is getting themselves into their ready, mental "happy place," and keeping their routine so they can physically perform at top peak. In a very real sense, MLB can't fix its pace of play problem because the players fear the mental impacts of possibly having to change their routines. Which makes denying it all even more silly. Hitters aren't going through all that glove-tightening, hold the bat up and take two deep breaths bullshit because they're tired from standing in the batters box and taking the last pitch; they're doing it because that's how they get into their mental happy place.

(**) Or whomever.
   16. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 16, 2020 at 01:09 PM (#5983347)
I don't think you can just hand-wave away "13 or 14 home runs" like that.

I wasn't hand-waving anything away. I was just presenting facts that I found interesting. His underperformance is mainly due to allowing more HRs. The #s in post 13 confirm that he's also been a bit unlucky on top of those peripherals.
   17. . Posted: October 16, 2020 at 01:17 PM (#5983348)
His underperformance is mainly due to allowing more HRs.


Maybe it wasn't meant to change anything, but it's unclear how this changes anything. Shittier pitches tend to turn into HRs more than less shitty pitches. He pretty clearly makes shittier pitches in the postseason.
   18. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 16, 2020 at 01:25 PM (#5983349)
Yes, after 177 IP allowing twice as many HR is probably due to something "real" and not just bad luck. Just my opinion (based on the #s and having watched some of his playoff starts), not actual statistical analysis.
   19. Ron J Posted: October 16, 2020 at 01:28 PM (#5983350)
#16 I don't think an increase in HR/FB can be dismissed as bad luck.

I mean he could be making his pitches and just getting beat. That happens in sports, but he could also be missing his spots ever so slightly. Or running out of gas.
   20. . Posted: October 16, 2020 at 01:30 PM (#5983351)
--
   21. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: October 16, 2020 at 01:33 PM (#5983352)
I'm looking at his career postseason game log, and it is very difficult to discern a pattern that would explain it. His game scores are pretty well-distributed over his 28 starts.

In a quarter of his starts (7 starts), he has been, by any standard, an ace: 7 or more innings pitched, allowing 1 run or fewer. They also happen to be the seven games where his game score is above 70 (74 or higher). The team is 7-0 those seven games.

In another 11 starts, his game score is between 51 and 70 (most of them are in the 50s). In those games, he generally pitched 5 or 6 innings, pitched well, kept his team in the game, gave up a couple of runs (typically, at least one HR) and left the last three or four innings to the bullpen. The team went 6-5 in those 11 games. In those five losses, the Dodgers scored between 0 and 2 runs each time. With better luck, he could easily be something like 9-2 in those games...but his other stats would be about the same, one presumes (maybe he gets to go out for another inning, because the team has a lead or something?)

In the other 10 starts, he's been pretty bad. The team has gone 2-8, and he generally has only gone 4 to 5 innings. Interestingly, these games don't appear to feature more HRs given up, on average than most of the other starts that ended up better. He's given up a lot of HRs over these 28 starts, to be sure - but I would suggest if he is a victim of some bad luck, it is due to:

1) A lot of games where he pitched well enough to win, but the team has had below-average luck scoring in those games (or his competition has been better, in terms of the other starting pitcher);
2) Seeing eye-singles, poorly-timed strings of hits, etc., that are translating to more runs scored in these 10 worst starts, compared to the other 18.

   22. bunyon Posted: October 16, 2020 at 01:47 PM (#5983353)
I don't think you can call it choking. Choking doesn't occur over innings but over a play. If he became (good lord I'm old, had to look up this name) Rich Ankiel, that would be choking (assuming he settled down the next regular season.

But it definitely looks real. Which is actually good news. A real problem can be addressed and fixed. There is a very good chance that he's got more postseason starts ahead of him. And the fact that it's more HR and not much else narrows the search even further.

   23. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: October 16, 2020 at 01:49 PM (#5983354)
In the other 10 starts, he's been pretty bad. The team has gone 2-8, and he generally has only gone 4 to 5 innings. Interestingly, these games don't appear to feature more HRs given up, on average than most of the other starts that ended up better. He's given up a lot of HRs over these 28 starts, to be sure - but I would suggest if he is a victim of some bad luck, it is due to:

1) A lot of games where he pitched well enough to win, but the team has had below-average luck scoring in those games (or his competition has been better, in terms of the other starting pitcher);
2) Seeing eye-singles, poorly-timed strings of hits, etc., that are translating to more runs scored in these 10 worst starts, compared to the other 18.


Interesting, I wonder if this is where opponent quality comes into play. During the regular season against Pittsburgh a pitcher like Kershaw might be able to "grind it out" by making his pitches against some crapbag .210 hitter for the Buccos. In the playoffs the teams and lineups are too good to live without your A game. Not sure there is anything to it but it popped into my head.
   24. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 16, 2020 at 01:53 PM (#5983355)
#21, sure, nobody here is suggesting that he turns into a terrible pitcher in the postseason or that he's uniformly bad in every start. He's just not CLAYTON KERSHAW in the postseason. He's still going to have good starts and bad starts.* It's just that the bad ones are more frequent.

* Even someone like Madison Bumgarner, widely regarded as being someone who steps it up in the postseason, has had some bad playoff outings.
   25. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 16, 2020 at 02:01 PM (#5983357)
If mental approach and mental "place" didn't have impacts on physical performance, sports teams, golfers, tennis players, etc., wouldn't hire and enrich a bunch of sports psychologists and thousands of books wouldn't have been written about it.

To be fair, that's mostly because athletes are dumb and superstitious. I'd imagine a "good luck charm" they believed in would have 95% of the impact of sports psychologists. There's almost no science there, just placebo effect.

Psychologists and Psychiatrists in general can do very little except for chemical imbalances and basic stuff like cognitive behavioral therapy.
   26. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: October 16, 2020 at 02:03 PM (#5983358)
To add to #23 a bit, my thinking is that over the course of a 162 game season a "bad" start isn't likely to go south against a bad team the way it does against a playoff team. So pitching similarly well against Pittsburgh in July and Atlanta in October he might put up a 5IP 5 runs performance but in the post-season that's 3.1 IP, 7 runs. Like I said, I'm not saying that as a definitive fact, just an idea.
   27. . Posted: October 16, 2020 at 02:07 PM (#5983360)
There's almost no science there, just placebo effect.


Completely false. It has nothing to do with superstition. There are a zillion and one things involved in the mental game, but one simple one is that there's a reason basketball players dribble, say, twice before every free throw as opposed to ten times on one, three times the next, six times the next. The idea is to take the thinking out of it and to make the entire thing a routine. Properly viewed, the dribbles aren't even really *separate* from the shot, but a component of it. Same concept with golf, though more complicated.

The body needs to be freed to do what it knows how to do. Thinking is anathema to getting to that point and gets entirely in the way.(*) There are ways to make yourself better at that, one of which is routine. It's not even remotely a "placebo." That's ignorance.

(*) And then when you think way too much, Steve Blass happens.
   28. Rally Posted: October 16, 2020 at 02:09 PM (#5983361)
Even someone like Madison Bumgarner, widely regarded as being someone who steps it up in the postseason, has had some bad playoff outings.


True, but only 2 in 14 playoff starts. He had bad starts in each of the first 2 rounds in 2012. Both losses, but his team won the series anyway and he pitched a 2 hit shutout in the world series.

Koufax did not have any bad postseason starts (though he only made 7 total since playoffs were not what they are now). Only one could remotely be called bad, the final game of his career in 1966. He pitched 6 innings, allowed 4 runs but only one earned. In the 5th inning there were 3 unearned runs as Willie Davis made 3 errors over a span of two batters.
   29. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 16, 2020 at 02:17 PM (#5983365)
Completely false. It has nothing to do with superstition. There are a zillion and one things involved in the mental game, but one simple one is that there's a reason basketball players dribble, say, twice before every free throw as opposed to ten times on one, three times the next, six times the next. The idea is to take the thinking out of it and to make the entire thing a routine. Properly viewed, the dribbles aren't even really *separate* from the shot, but a component of it. Same concept with golf, though more complicated.

The body needs to be freed to do what it knows how to do. Thinking is anathema to getting to that point and gets entirely in the way.(*) There are ways to make yourself better at that, one of which is routine. It's not even remotely a "placebo." That's ignorance.

(*) And then when you think way too much, Steve Blass happens.


It's not science, because it's not repeatable. What works for one guy doesn't work for another. Plenty of guys can never learn to hit free throws at an acceptable level. Other guys can hit 90% one-handed, or granny-style. If no one had ever told these guys the number of dribbles matter, it wouldn't matter.

It's almost all superstition. It "works" because players believe the superstition. The "sports psychologists" selling a cure are mountebanks; their "cure" is snake oil. Snake oil will cure most mental problems if you believe in it.

I've tried all that "routine" crap in golf. It makes no difference. I play at the same (mediocre) level if I follow a precise routine, or if I just grip it and rip it.

Also, your talk about "freeing the body" is absolute nonsense. Your body has no independence from your mind, it has no "memory". Everything happens in your head. The idea that your head can get in the way of what you're doing has the scientific validity of voodoo, i.e. it works only b/c you're dumb enough to believe it.
   30. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 16, 2020 at 02:18 PM (#5983366)
If mental approach and mental "place" didn't have impacts on physical performance, sports teams, golfers, tennis players, etc., wouldn't hire and enrich a bunch of sports psychologists and thousands of books wouldn't have been written about it.
It's not that mental approach doesn't have an impact on physical performance. It obviously can, as I learned when I was about 14 and found out that I was leading in a golf tournament (and also on pace for my best tournament round ever) and proceeded to bogey the last four holes to fail to break 80 and lose by one shot.

It's that we have no idea about whether Kershaw's struggles have anything to do with his mentality. We know that he gives up significantly more homers in the postseason. That's it. It could be caused by mental issues, or it could be caused by physical fatigue at the end of the season, better competition, etc. etc. Or a mixture of any percentage of a ton of different things. So "Kershaw chokes" is a narrative that is completely superimposed by people who have no access to the relevant data set, i.e. Kershaw's thoughts and feelings. So no, I don't think we should just accept that as fact.
   31. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 16, 2020 at 02:19 PM (#5983367)
To be fair, that's mostly because athletes are dumb and superstitious. I'd imagine a "good luck charm" they believed in would have 95% of the impact of sports psychologists.
Ionized copper bracelets!
   32. The Duke Posted: October 16, 2020 at 02:19 PM (#5983368)
How many hall of famers materially under performed in the post - season. We know Jack Morris didn’t :)

Gibson was nails. How about Randy Johnson, schilling, Maddux, glavine, smoltz, halladay, Seaver, - anyone else have a similar issue ?
   33. . Posted: October 16, 2020 at 02:25 PM (#5983370)
It's not that mental approach doesn't have an impact on physical performance.


Then it's a bit unclear what the argument is about. If we know something we can observe without resort to statistical inference, it's unclear why we would insist on statistical inference to confirm the direct observation.

It obviously can, as I learned when I was about 14 and found out that I was leading in a golf tournament (and also on pace for my best tournament round ever) and proceeded to bogey the last four holes to fail to break 80 and lose by one shot.


So you learned the proper lesson at 14. Why you let yourself deviate from it is a mystery. (Though see 15, and below.)

It's that we have no idea about whether Kershaw's struggles have anything to do with his mentality.


Sure we do. We don't know for certain -- we know few things for certain -- but the thing you learned at 14 is equally applicable to Kershaw. It doesn't get weeded out.

So "Kershaw chokes" is a narrative that is completely superimposed by people who have no access to the relevant data set, i.e. Kershaw's thoughts and feelings.


As I explained in 15, you're rebelling against what you've learned and know because other people are misusing those concepts and you don't like people calling other people "chokers." I don't really like that either, but the way I deal with that is to realize and internalize the fact that those people are stupid. From your faction, there's very much a "stupid people don't get to pick on people like Clayton Kershaw and I'm going to defend Clayton Kershaw from the stupid people" angle, which I guess is understandable. The better approach is just to ignore the stupid people. There might be some kind of psychology to help accomplish that. /sm

I don't really think that "thoughts and feelings" is the right nomenclature for sports psychology stuff. It's a different idea almost entirely than general civilian life psychology.
   34. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 16, 2020 at 02:28 PM (#5983372)
Are you saying we should believe we can discern Kershaw's mental state (with a reasonable degree of certainty, though not 100%) from his postseason stats? When the stats could also readily be explained by any number of other factors?

If we know something we can observe without resort to statistical inference, it's unclear why we would insist on statistical inference to confirm the direct observation.
Even if we stipulate for the sake of argument that this is true, the converse doesn't work - we can't assume the "direct" observation just based on the stats. And we have no actual direct observation, unless (for example) he's spoken about having mental struggles in the postseason.

   35. The Duke Posted: October 16, 2020 at 02:33 PM (#5983375)
Answering my own question I just scanned a dozen names and it appears to me that softer tossers may do slightly worse and it also looks like lefties may do slightly worse. For the most part Hall of Famers do pretty well though
   36. . Posted: October 16, 2020 at 02:40 PM (#5983376)
Are you saying we should believe we can discern Kershaw's mental state (with a reasonable degree of certainty, though not 100%) from his postseason stats?


Nope. I am saying we can observe the fact that the postseason is interpreted by most people, including the players, as more "important" or "different" or "not just another game"(*) -- just as you attributed some extra importance to the last four holes at 14 -- and from there all sorts of mental machinations are possible. The mere fact that a person takes note that "it's the postseason" can start the machinations. From there, as you've noted, the mental machinations can -- and very much do -- impact physical performance.

The converse of this doesn't work, though - we can't assume the "direct" observation just based on the stats.


Of course; there's no need for the stats at all because we have the humanist direct observations. My only foray into the stats was connecting the far higher HR rate with making more shitty pitches, which I think is quite fair. Is his shitty pitch frequency higher because of his mental place? We can't know for sure. It's an eminently reasonable hypothesis and certainly something I'd be looking at if I were him, but even thinking of the possibility could be dangerous. I don't know the guy, so it's hard to tell. After this many relative "failures" it's obviously quite possibly in his head to one degree or the other. Whether it "really" is, is unknowable. (I mean, I guess they could do some kind of brain MRI, at least in theory and maybe that could show something. But for all serious purposes, it's unknowable.)

And we have no actual direct observation, unless (for example) he's spoken about having mental struggles in the postseason.


The funny thing is that even if Kershaw came flat out and said, "I'm struggling mentally with the postseason and I'm talking to a couple sports psychologists about it" you'd still have people in the "it gets weeded out" faction insisting that Kershaw was wrong, because they can't find any evidence of it in the numbers.

(*) And why do players rather routinely say on the eve of a huge game, almost to the point of cliche, that "it's just another game"? Yep, the mental side.
   37. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: October 16, 2020 at 02:45 PM (#5983378)
The strange thing about Kershaw's postseason problems is that he's nails the first time through. So if he was letting the moment get the better of him or whatever, you'd think he'd struggle from the first pitch. But that hasn't happened. Instead, he's either stayed in too long or has just not gotten it done after the first time through the order.

This data is only for starting pitchers, since 2008.

First time thru order, Kershaw is KERSHAW.

Aftewards, he's a somewhat worse than league-average starting pitcher.

It sounds crazy but... Kershaw in the post-season seems like an ideal The Opener, and not The Headliner. pic.twitter.com/Q6hSHJJNH1— Tangotiger (@tangotiger) October 16, 2020
   38. flournoy Posted: October 16, 2020 at 02:49 PM (#5983379)
For what it's worth, Kershaw didn't look like he "choked" mentally yesterday. He pitched well for five innings. Then went out for the sixth inning, looked like he was out of gas, and the Braves knocked him around. (And the only home run he gave up was in the fourth while he was pitching well.)
   39. puck Posted: October 16, 2020 at 02:54 PM (#5983380)
Maddux was viewed as one who didn't perform up to standards in the postseason. He was 11-14, but his postseason ERA of 3.27 was fairly close to his career regular season mark of 3.16.
   40. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: October 16, 2020 at 02:54 PM (#5983381)
Gibson was nails. How about Randy Johnson, schilling, Maddux, glavine, smoltz, halladay, Seaver, - anyone else have a similar issue ?


My first thought was Maddux, who was 11-14 in the postseason and lost game 6 of the 1996 World Series. But he pitched 198 innings at a pretty good 3.27 ERA, and amazingly gave up 25 Unearned runs in the postseason (vs. 72 earned runs). (Nice piece by Joe Posnanski on Kershaw pointed this out).

EDIT: partial Coke to puck
   41. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 16, 2020 at 03:12 PM (#5983388)
Is his shitty pitch frequency higher because of his mental place? We can't know for sure.
Exactly.
I don't know the guy, so it's hard to tell.
Precisely.

He might let the pressure get to him. It's possible. There are a lot of other possibilities, and none of the are mutually exclusive. So we don't know.
   42. . Posted: October 16, 2020 at 03:15 PM (#5983389)
He might let the pressure get to him. It's possible. There are a lot of other possibilities, and none of the are mutually exclusive. So we don't know.


I think your target audience for this one is people other than me. We seem to be in complete agreement.
   43. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 16, 2020 at 03:25 PM (#5983391)
At least in your first post, you seemed to be in the "yeah, of course he's obviously choking" camp. Or at least defending them.
   44. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 16, 2020 at 03:29 PM (#5983392)

Maddux was viewed as one who didn't perform up to standards in the postseason. He was 11-14, but his postseason ERA of 3.27 was fairly close to his career regular season mark of 3.16.


If you look at Maddux only through his last year with the Braves, the discrepancy is a bit wider -- 3.22 vs. 2.89. (His post-Braves years brought up his regular season career ERA, but he only made one playoff start after that point). I think that difference can be explained by tougher competition in the postseason -- it's nowhere near the discrepancy we see with Kershaw.

There's always a tendency to read narratives into small sample sizes of data. Barry Bonds was a postseason choker until 2002. I recall Clemens had a bit of a reputation about not being able to win in the postseason, until he finally did so (His postseason record of 12-8, 3.75 still doesn't match up with his regular season record as one of the top pitchers of all time).

Bagwell and Biggio famously never hit in the postseason, but hard to know if that was just 30-40 bad games or something more than that.

Maybe people are inventing a narrative with Kershaw, but the sample size is almost a full season worth of starts now. I don't know if it's mental or something else, though.

I imagine there have been studies looking at this (i.e. is past playoff performance predictive of future playoff performance in a way that regular season performance alone is not?) but I don't have time to look for them right now.
   45. . Posted: October 16, 2020 at 03:35 PM (#5983393)
At least in your first post, you seemed to be in the "yeah, of course he's obviously choking" camp. Or at least defending them.


That's pretty much a standard-issue "there are only two camps and if you aren't in one you're definitionally in the other" thing. It's going around these days. Such is life.

The doctrinaire saber, "I can't find it in the numbers and it gets weeded out long before the major leagues" camp is stupid. The "oh, he's clearly choking, the #####\" camp is stupid. Given that reality, what would you're proposal be for people who have better ideas than either of the camps?

   46. The Duke Posted: October 16, 2020 at 03:40 PM (#5983394)
Joe Pos: “You cannot find an all time great in any other sport who has so regularly, so alarmingly, and so persistently stumbled in the biggest moments”

Well, that about says it all
   47. The Duke Posted: October 16, 2020 at 03:56 PM (#5983396)
The guy who will pay the price this offseason will be Dave Roberts. I think the Dodgers need to upgrade here to get to the next level. Roberts doesn't seem to be up to the challenge of playoff baseball. It seems each year, the dodgers have a Dave Roberts moment.
   48. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: October 16, 2020 at 04:01 PM (#5983398)
Joe Pos: “You cannot find an all time great in any other sport who has so regularly, so alarmingly, and so persistently stumbled in the biggest moments”


Fun with numbers; Kershaw is second all time with 8 career post-season starts with a game score greater than 70 (Verlander has 9, Glavine also has 8). Obviously any such list is going to be heavily weighted towards modern pitchers due to opportunities (fun fact: He's third all time in starts with a game score below 35). But this comes back to SBPT's comment in #21. Kershaw's has been very good quite often but has also been very bad quite often. He doesn't seem to have middle of the road starts. As a comparison;

Glavine; 8 great starts, 25 middle of the road, 2 poor (5.7%)
Kershaw; 8 great starts, 15 middle of the road, 5 poor (17.9%)

Kershaw just seems to have dramatic swings in the post-season. Now I'm down a rabbit hole here, he's pitched a few winner take all games and generally been excellent;

2016 NLDS Game 5 - 0.2 IP, 0 runs
2017 WS Game 7 - 4.0 IP, 0 runs
2018 NLCS Game 7 - 1.0 IP, 0 runs
2019 NLDS Game 7 - 0.1 IP, 2 runs

What's amazing is that with all of the Dodgers post-season games in this era he has never started a winner take all game.
   49. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: October 16, 2020 at 04:06 PM (#5983399)
The guy who will pay the price this offseason will be Dave Roberts. I think the Dodgers need to upgrade here to get to the next level. Roberts doesn't seem to be up to the challenge of playoff baseball. It seems each year, the dodgers have a Dave Roberts moment.


I agree that he is probably on the chopping block but at the same time I don't see why. Admittedly I don't follow the Dodgers closely (and as a rule find firing managers to be a bad idea) but from what I've seen I'm not sure how much of either this year or the recent years on Roberts. I mean back to back World Series appearances is REALLY good and while I'm sure we can nitpick over moves (man he was determined to have Ryan Madson pitch in the 2018 WS) I'm not sure what someone else would do better.
   50. Howie Menckel Posted: October 16, 2020 at 04:19 PM (#5983400)
How many hall of famers materially under performed in the post - season. We know Jack Morris didn’t :)


am taking the smiley face as an understanding of this:

Morris had a 3.90 ERA in the regular season - and 3.80 in the postseason
   51. Ron J Posted: October 16, 2020 at 05:18 PM (#5983404)
#50 But career era is a poor way of doing this. Based on how well he pitched in the relevant season you'd have expected Greg Maddux to put up a 2.65 ERA in the postseason

EDIT: Morris 3.62
   52. puck Posted: October 16, 2020 at 05:39 PM (#5983408)
#51: interesting and thanks. I was too lazy to do anything that required more than BB-ref and figured I couldn't sum up just the playoff seasons.
   53. Walt Davis Posted: October 16, 2020 at 06:20 PM (#5983412)
Just poking around:

Ted Williams only went to the postseason once and he was terrible. Frank Robinson was pretty mucht Robinson but just a 238 BA and his K-rate went from 13% to 21%.

Aaron absolutely raked in his 74 PA. Mantle was Mantle minus 40 points of BA. Mays was poor at 247/323/337 with just 1 HR in 99 PA (with his one good performance coming at age 40).

Mr October was just plain weird. In the ALCS just 227/298/380 in 181 PA and 1 HR per 30 PA; in the WS, 357/457/755 and 1 HR per 11.5 PA.

Trout is 1-15. Betts is at 240/331/364 with two good series and one (so far) not this year. Pujols was excellent; Miggy solid. Ichiro was very Ichiro; Carew was terrible (but very good in 79). Boggs was not good (273/337/383); Schmidt was not good (236/304/386); Brett was awesome (337/397/627); Chipper was pretty much Chipper.

If anybody sees any sort of pattern there ...

EDIT: Joe Morgan 182/323/348 but very big in the 76 WS (although the Reds swept).
   54. nick swisher hygiene Posted: October 16, 2020 at 06:25 PM (#5983414)
48 is satire of some kind, right?

cause, uh, the 2019 data kinda looks bad if you drill down a little...
   55. vortex of dissipation Posted: October 16, 2020 at 08:54 PM (#5983427)
Ted Williams only went to the postseason once and he was terrible.


He was also hurt.
   56. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: October 16, 2020 at 09:10 PM (#5983428)
What’s your problem with #48? The only mention of 2019 is his 1/3 of an inning in game five. Idon’t think I said anything else about that post-season.
   57. Walt Davis Posted: October 16, 2020 at 09:25 PM (#5983430)
So possibly interesting:

Kershaw: 9.8 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 1.4 HR/9, 1.088 WHIP, BABIP 271, 11-12
Verlander: 9.8 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9, 1.066 WHIP, BABIP 249, 14-11

Yet the ERA difference is 0.91 in Verlander's favor.

Verlander has 9 starts with a GSc>=70, 10 between 50 and 70 and 3 below 40. Kershaw has 8 70+, 10 50-69 and the whopping 7 <40, including 2 < 30.

Across 7 WS starts, Verlander is ... get this ... 0-6 with 5.68 ERA. I'm not sure we've found the right choker.
   58. O Tempura, O Morays ('Spos) Posted: October 16, 2020 at 09:40 PM (#5983431)
Jack Morris was great in the postseason, except in 1992: 23 IP, 19 earned runs, 0-3, one no-decision. Got a ring, though.

[edit] 1987 was equally bad.
   59. Howie Menckel Posted: October 16, 2020 at 09:48 PM (#5983432)
well, 1992 is 4 of his postseason 13 starts (he also sucked in his lone 1987 start).

nobody else gets a "he was great [except when he wasn't]" pass like that guy.

hey, nice work if you can get it!
   60. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: October 16, 2020 at 10:39 PM (#5983440)
How many hall of famers materially under performed in the postseason. We know Jack Morris didn’t :)

Gibson was nails. How about Randy Johnson, Schilling, Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Halladay, Seaver, - anyone else have a similar issue ?


Randy Johnson is one of the best examples of selective narrative over reality. During 1997-2001, he had an 0-6 postseason streak. And as a result, he got tagged as someone who couldn't deliver in the postseason.

Two small quibbles with that verdict:

*That 0-6 stretch included an 0-2 record in the 1998 NLDS, with a 1.93 ERA and 12 hits, 2 walks and 17 strikeouts in 14 innings.

*In 1995, Johnson had pitched a 9-inning, 3-hit, 12-K, 1-run game in a single game tiebreaker playoff. Then, 4 days later, with the Mariners down 2-0 in the five-game ALDS, he had thrown 7 innings of 2-run, 4-hit, 10-strikeout ball. Then, 2 days after that, he had entered the 5th and deciding game in relief for the 9th, 10th and 11th innings. 1 hit, 6 strikeouts. Randy Johnson's 1995 postseason actually happened. Three wins in seven days. Yet within a few years, he was a choker.

And then of course, Johnson, the big pitcher who always came up small, followed his 0-6 run by going 5-0 the rest of that 2001 postseason. Including three World Series wins (one in relief, on 0 days rest) with a 1.09 ERA, an 0.75 WHIP, and a 38-6 K/BB ratio in 33 innings.

Then he had three consecutive crappy starts to finish his playoff career. But this time people remembered to remember.
   61. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 16, 2020 at 10:52 PM (#5983443)
When you take out the extra HR, he's not allowing any more hits either -- 6.1 non-HR H/9 in the regular season, vs. 6.0 in the postseason.

I've also heard that My American Cousin was a terrific play.

You can rightly argue that Kershaw hasn't been a "choker", but those numbers don't lie. He's not the first major underperformer in the postseason, and he won't be the last.

And while he had a good regular season, he only pitched 6.1 innings against another postseason team. There wasn't any particular reason to suppose this postseason was going to be much different than most of the rest of them.
   62. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: October 17, 2020 at 01:23 AM (#5983473)
The guy who will pay the price this offseason will be Dave Roberts. I think the Dodgers need to upgrade here to get to the next level. Roberts doesn't seem to be up to the challenge of playoff baseball. It seems each year, the dodgers have a Dave Roberts moment.


Isn't this basically what was said when Mattingly was manager, that he couldn't lead them to the mountaintop?
   63. Moeball Posted: October 17, 2020 at 03:13 AM (#5983475)
If Kershaw has had 7 postseason starts where he was basically unhittable and several others where he was decent, I think this should dispel any ideas that he is incapable of handling playoff pressure. Had the Dodgers managed to win a WS just once during his career this might have a different spin to it, even with the poor starts mixed in there too.

But reputations have a way of following a guy around, and once established, many people want to perpetuate them for their own reasons. A perfect example of that just happened in the NBA. LeBron James led the Lakers to their first championship in a decade, was named Finals MVP for a fourth time, and yet there is still a large and very vocal contingent of fans and media that label him as a "choker" who can't handle the pressure.
   64. The Duke Posted: October 17, 2020 at 08:10 AM (#5983479)
Verlander is somewhat similar. He’s been a victim of no run support in the WS but he hasn’t pitched that well either. But his 24 non World Series starts have been excellent. I was surprised at how much he has pitched in the post-season
   65. bunyon Posted: October 17, 2020 at 09:12 AM (#5983484)
63 is important. If he truly couldn’t handle it, he’d never do well. He has clearly underperformed. But if the dodgers had won a World Series, no one would care (nearly as much). As you can see with Verlander, Clemens, maddux, etc. we blame stars for team failure so that gets added on to the poor line. If LA wins this year and Kershaw is average in his next games, the narrative will change.

That change will also be wrong.
   66. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 17, 2020 at 09:16 AM (#5983486)
If Kershaw has had 7 postseason starts where he was basically unhittable and several others where he was decent, I think this should dispel any ideas that he is incapable of handling playoff pressure.

I don’t think he was incapable of anything. But I wouldn’t expect typical Kershaw-level regular season performance in the postseason anymore.

I don’t think LeBron is a playoff choker, but he doesn’t seem to want to take the big shot at the end of a playoff game the way that some other players do. Maybe that narrative is old (I didn’t watch much of this year’s playoffs) but it definitely seemed to be the case a few years ago.
   67. BDC Posted: October 17, 2020 at 09:34 AM (#5983491)
Logically speaking, everybody should underperform in the playoffs, right? The level of competition is higher. Guys who hit .333 or have an ERA in the 2's will do a bit less well when they're facing each other more often.

So the interesting cases are those where somebody gets better or gets remarkably worse. Kershaw has gotten a decided bit worse. That's interesting and mildly awful for him.

But choking, as several here have noted, has nothing to do with it. Kershaw pitched an outstanding game against Milwaukee two weeks ago. If he "choked" against Atlanta on Thursday it's akin to a golfer having an off-round on a given Sunday and falling to the middle of the pack in a tournament. If he was a "choker" he'd never have made the cut, let alone been in a position to win in the first place. Kershaw has had a lot of off-days in the postseason, but as noted he's had some good ones too. Not unprecedented, as Walt observes, and a single dramatic WS victory could solve his narrative problem forever.
   68. Astroenteritis Posted: October 17, 2020 at 10:15 AM (#5983496)
It's insulting to label a player of Kershaw's caliber a choker. There are many reasons, other than so-called "choking", that a player may underperform in a given situation or over a period of games. Accusations of choking are just lazy.
   69. Howie Menckel Posted: October 17, 2020 at 12:04 PM (#5983507)
Logically speaking, everybody should underperform in the playoffs, right? The level of competition is higher. Guys who hit .333 or have an ERA in the 2's will do a bit less well when they're facing each other more often.

I have heard this a lot. is there any tangible evidence of it?
   70. BDC Posted: October 17, 2020 at 12:13 PM (#5983510)
The most tangible evidence would be that the average regular-season winning percentage of a World Series team is (let's say) .600, but the average World Series winning percentage of a World Series team is by definition .500. Obviously that's made up of a lot of individual swings one way or the other, but it's just a basic dynamic that has to prevail.
   71. flournoy Posted: October 17, 2020 at 12:21 PM (#5983512)
There are no Tommy Milones for hitters to feast on in the playoffs. So for hitters to maintain their regular season levels of production, they need to do it against a higher average pitcher quality, meaning that those pitchers would have to perform worse than they did in the regular season. Vice versa as well.

Hitting versus pitching is a zero-sum game, and you're removing players who are disproportionately on the lower end.
   72. Howie Menckel Posted: October 17, 2020 at 01:44 PM (#5983517)
and we knew that speedy runners put more pressure on the pitcher, which distracted them and led to more runs scored - until Bill James noticed in the 1980s the lack of correlation between speedy teams and, well, scoring runs.

just because something is logical doesn't always mean it's true.

but maybe 'most players underperform in the playoffs'. wouldn't mind some evidence, though.
   73. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 17, 2020 at 02:17 PM (#5983522)
correlation between speedy teams and, well, scoring runs.

just because something is logical doesn't always mean it's true.

but maybe 'most players underperform in the playoffs'. wouldn't mind some evidence, though.


I don't understand Howie, they have to under perform as a group. Two .600 teams have to play .500 ball.

The Dodgers scored 5.8 R/G and allowed 3.6. The Braves scored 5.8 and allowed 4.8. Their combined RS in the NLCS will equal their combined RA. They can't both perform at those levels; one or both needs to under perform their regular season stats.

It's just math. A bunch of 120 OPS+ hitters face a bunch of 120 ERA+ pitchers, they can't collectively average better than 100 OPS+ and 100 ERA+.
   74. BDC Posted: October 17, 2020 at 02:26 PM (#5983524)
OK, let's take the 2019 Nationals.

Every single regular position player on that club has a lower career postseason OPS than regular-season. Some drop a lot (Cabrera from .756 to .536, Kendrick from .767 to .636); some of the best hitters don't drop as much (Soto .972 to .927, Rendon .862 to .848), but nobody got better in the postseason. Two pitchers got considerably better in ERA, though (Strasburg & Sanchez), with Scherzer just a little worse (3.21 to 3.38) and the lesser lights getting a lot worse.

With expanded playoffs, you would expect players on teams that consistently got to the World Series and won their share of Series would do better than players on other postseason teams, for sure. That would then be balanced by players on the consistent first-round losers who would tend to terribly underperform.

So I looked at the 2000 Yankees, and all their position players save Derek Jeter (.817 to .838) did worse in the postseason on their careers.

And back in the WS-only era, the 1958 Yankees: all except Bill Skowron (.792 to .845) did worse. Both Yankees dynasties winning more than their share of Series, of course.

But the main pitchers on both the 1958 and 2000 Yankees did better in the postseason on their careers, with the exception of Roger Clemens (3.12 to 3.75).

Again, the logic is not of the sort that "guy oughta do worse in that situation"; it's just arithmetic (as flournoy and snapper note). In the WS-only era, you had ~.600 clubs entering the competition for over 60 seasons and performing at a perfect .500. Something has to give in that equation. The pitching could well get better (lower run environment overall), but then the hitting has to get considerably worse.

But I only found three World Champions (the first three I looked at) where nearly all the hitters got worse in the postseason. Maybe there are lots of others where they did better.
   75. Greg Pope Posted: October 17, 2020 at 02:29 PM (#5983525)
Hitting versus pitching is a zero-sum game, and you're removing players who are disproportionately on the lower end.

I don't think this is true. Since most of the players are at the high end, like you said, both the pitchers and the hitters can do worse. Thought experiment: One team has every player hit like Bonds 2004 with a 1.422 OPS and the other team has every pitcher pitch like Roger Clemens 1997 with an ERA+ of 222. Would you expect Team Bonds to keep hitting 1.422 and Team Clemens ERA+ to go to, say 31? Or Team Clemens keep up the ERA+ of 222 and Team Bonds OPS to go to .390? I'd expect something more along the lines of the Team Bonds OPS to go to .800 while Team Clemens ERA+ goes to 135. Or whatever. The point is that both the hitters and the pitchers will be worse when they're both facing tougher competition.
   76. flournoy Posted: October 17, 2020 at 03:14 PM (#5983533)
I don't think this is true.


How is that not true? I don't understand what you're trying to refute.

I should have phrased it better, I suppose, that offense versus defense is zero-sum, rather than hitting versus pitching. (Where hitting and pitching comprise the majority of offensive and defensive value, respectively.)
   77. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 17, 2020 at 05:08 PM (#5983553)
and we knew that speedy runners put more pressure on the pitcher, which distracted them and led to more runs scored - until Bill James noticed in the 1980s the lack of correlation between speedy teams and, well, scoring runs.
John Smoltz still very much “knows” this.
   78. Howie Menckel Posted: October 17, 2020 at 07:02 PM (#5983580)
so we have preliminary evidence that HITTERS get worse in the postseason - not "everybody."

but I always hear it as here, that both hitters and pitchers get worse. that doesn't strike me as automatic.

it could turn out, for instance, that hitters generally are able to feast on lesser pitchers to a greater degree than pitchers beat up lesser hitters. if so, then this preliminary result would, well, "add up."
   79. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 17, 2020 at 09:00 PM (#5983599)
So I looked at the 2000 Yankees, and all their position players save Derek Jeter (.817 to .838) did worse in the postseason on their careers.

And back in the WS-only era, the 1958 Yankees: all except Bill Skowron (.792 to .845) did worse. Both Yankees dynasties winning more than their share of Series, of course.

But the main pitchers on both the 1958 and 2000 Yankees did better in the postseason on their careers, with the exception of Roger Clemens (3.12 to 3.75).


BDC, if you really want to see a case of pitchers stepping up in the postseason, look at the most underrated dynasty in history. And they did it for five consecutive years.

Allie Reynolds:
1949-1953 regular season: 3.22
1949-1953 World Series: 2.45

Vic Raschi:
1949-1953 regular season: 3.36
1949-1953 World Series: 2.14

Eddie Lopat:
1949-1953 regular season: 2.97
1949-1953 World Series: 2.60

Whitey Ford:
1950 & 1953 regular season: 2.93
1950 & 1953 World Series: 2.16
(Ford was a rookie in 1950, and was in the Army in 1951-1952)
   80. BDC Posted: October 17, 2020 at 09:09 PM (#5983602)
Howie, that's true. If the postseason run environment is lower than the regular season (this is surprisingly hard to ascertain, but somebody must know) – and not only that, but if it's even lower than postseason teams allow during the regular season – then it's the case of the pitchers getting better while the batters get a lot worse (because postseason teams have pretty good offenses). Teams must do worse on aggregate, but there could be a severe imbalance between hitting and pitching.
   81. BDC Posted: October 17, 2020 at 09:21 PM (#5983608)
And in fact, of the top 11 pitchers in postseason IP, six did better in the postseason, five did worse. Of the top 10 batters in postseason PAs, eight did worse, only two (Jeter and David Ortiz) did better, and only very slightly better (a few points in OPS respectively). This isn't really very thorough evidence, but it doesn't contradict some effect favoring pitchers.
   82. Howie Menckel Posted: October 17, 2020 at 09:47 PM (#5983612)
thanks, BDC.

it's an interesting question that surely many SABR papers have been written about, I assume.
   83. Dog on the sidewalk has an ugly bracelet Posted: October 17, 2020 at 09:53 PM (#5983616)
Howie, that's true. If the postseason run environment is lower than the regular season (this is surprisingly hard to ascertain, but somebody must know) – and not only that, but if it's even lower than postseason teams allow during the regular season – then it's the case of the pitchers getting better while the batters get a lot worse (because postseason teams have pretty good offenses). Teams must do worse on aggregate, but there could be a severe imbalance between hitting and pitching.

Not really. The overall pitching line would be better, but that doesn't necessarily mean the pitchers themselves are getting better. Pitching gets aggressively leveraged in the playoffs, in a way that isn't possible with batters. Teams would allow a lot fewer runs in the regular season if it were possible for them to employ a 3-4 man rotation and double the workload of their top 2-3 relievers.
   84. BDC Posted: October 18, 2020 at 09:43 AM (#5983689)
That's true too. Though it's interesting that it's easier to find pitchers whose individual ERA improves in the postseason (at least from the little initial looking I did).

Howie's probably right that there are extensive studies of this already. I am really just conjecturing and finding odd individual bits of data. I find sometimes that sabermetrics lacks good bibliographical tools. People will know about some study that was done or published, they heard a paper at SABR once, but organizing what may be out there so people can ascertain specific things remains to be done. Even this page at the SABR website says that one of the best ways to learn if something has been studied is "to ask around."
   85. Bhaakon Posted: October 18, 2020 at 09:59 PM (#5983762)
This fangraphs article from 2017 compares regular and post season run scoring for playoff teams over the previous 20 seasons. Looks like a 14-16% drop in run scoring. Looks like not only is pitching better, but defense significantly improves as well.
   86. BDC Posted: October 18, 2020 at 10:58 PM (#5983791)
Thanks, Bhaakon! So the run environment is lower. It’s still a complicated issue, but knowing that much is helpful.
   87. bunyon Posted: October 18, 2020 at 11:28 PM (#5983810)
I'll say again, if the Dodgers hold their current lead and Kershaw throws 12 innings at 3.5 ERA with a win and ND and the Dodgers win the Series, this whole story will change as soon as he has a ring.

The biggest PR difference between him and others who have underperformed is he doesn't have a ring in a lot of chances.
   88. DFA Posted: October 19, 2020 at 02:05 AM (#5983863)
Everything looks bad if you remember it.
   89. Ron J Posted: October 19, 2020 at 02:48 AM (#5983865)
#85 There's a secondary issue. As I recall, offense tends to go down late in the season and the working hypothesis was that it was related to it being colder -- though I don't think that was ever clearly established.
   90. BDC Posted: October 19, 2020 at 08:32 AM (#5983869)
The dynamic of seeing a higher concentration of the very best pitchers in the postseason may be changing. In a Game Seven, as last night, instead of nine innings of Gibson and nine of Lolich, you now see nine innings of five guys and eight innings of six different guys.

And there used to be the theory that "you've got all winter to rest," you could put maximum effort into a postseason game. This was OK when you were Jim Konstanty in 1950, but in the first round of a four-round playoff, not so much – and then by the time you get to the Series, you've been playing near-elimination games for a month already.

Who knows if this changes anything in the postseason-offense dynamic.
   91. SoSH U at work Posted: October 19, 2020 at 08:52 AM (#5983871)
I think the big thing is that pitchers are going to be used in a way that maximizes their effectiveness, which can't be done with hitters (since bats don't really tire, teams should already be deploying their offensive resources to optimal effect). So you only ask a starter to go twice through the lineup. You take advantage of the frequent off days to use your better pitchers.

You would think that this year's postseason, with no offdays during the first three rounds, might have taken away some of the advantage pitchers have enjoyed. And a cursory look at the boxscores suggests run scoring is up considerably, Cincinnati's involvement in the postseason notwithstanding.
   92. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 19, 2020 at 09:46 AM (#5983877)
Well, sometimes they use their pitchers more efficiently. But ace pitchers like Kershaw also go on short rest more often. Kershaw has (at least) 4 playoff starts on 3 days rest and two playoff starts on 2 days rest. The two days rest were after relief appearances but still, that’s very different from his regular season usage. The relief appearances themselves are also unusual usage for him.

He’s far from the only pitcher to be used this way in the postseason but it’s worth noting.
   93. SoSH U at work Posted: October 19, 2020 at 09:52 AM (#5983879)
Well, sometimes they use their pitchers more efficiently. But ace pitchers like Kershaw also go on short rest more often. Kershaw has (at least) 4 playoff starts on 3 days rest and two playoff starts on 2 days rest. The two days rest were after relief appearances but still, that’s very different from his regular season usage. The relief appearances themselves are also unusual usage for him.


Good point, and it's usually a bad idea to short-rest starters (they do seem to have better results when they come out of the pen). But I looked at all of the short-rest inning thrown in 2016, and the results were awful.

   94. Adam Starblind Posted: October 19, 2020 at 10:01 AM (#5983881)
Good point, and it's usually a bad idea to short-rest starters (they do seem to have better results when they come out of the pen). But I looked at all of the short-rest inning thrown in 2016, and the results were awful.


I feel like (i.e., refuse to look up) ace starters go on short rest in the postseason primarily when necessary to forego starting their 4th starter in a critical game. I guess it depends who the 4th starter is whether you want diminished Kershaw or the other guy.
   95. SoSH U at work Posted: October 19, 2020 at 10:26 AM (#5983885)
I feel like (i.e., refuse to look up) ace starters go on short rest in the postseason primarily when necessary to forego starting their 4th starter in a critical game. I guess it depends who the 4th starter is whether you want diminished Kershaw or the other guy.


The usage varies. I think using an ace in a 1-4-7 setting, once, is defensible, if you have a particularly weak No. 4, in large part because (other than this year), you're not also asking your No. 2 and No. 3 to go on short rest.

But that wasn't the case in 2016.
   96. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: October 19, 2020 at 11:25 AM (#5983896)
Randy Johnson is one of the best examples of selective narrative over reality.

Thank you for pointing this out. He spent a lot of his career being labeled as a playoff choker. But retired with a very strong playoff reputation.

The best example I can find of his choker label is Joe Sheehan wrote a Oct 4, 2001, espn article to dispel the notion: Big Unit far from a 'choker' in playoffs

   97. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: October 19, 2020 at 11:27 AM (#5983897)
As for Maddux, I can't just ignore his huge amount of unearned runs in the playoffs. I'd prefer to compare R/9.

On the other hand, his playoff numbers are heavily influenced by a terrible 7.1 IP as a 23 year old in the 1989 NLCS. He gave up 12 runs, 11 earned, and 13 hits.

Four years later, he got his second taste of the postseason in Atlanta, and gave up 7 earned and 8 runs in 12.2 IP.

After that, he was pretty dang good.
   98. Nasty Nate Posted: October 19, 2020 at 11:55 AM (#5983900)
Needless to say, if Kershaw pitches 17 excellent innings in this world series like Johnson did in 2001, he will shed the label.
   99. Mefisto Posted: October 19, 2020 at 11:56 AM (#5983901)
@53:
Mays was poor at 247/323/337 with just 1 HR in 99 PA (with his one good performance coming at age 40).


The discussion about run environment caused me to go back and look at Mays' postseason performance in 1954 and 1962. In 1954 the Cleveland pitchers had a WS ERA of 2.78. Mays had an OPS of .802. That strikes me as quite good, especially in conjunction with an iconic, game-saving catch. In 1962, the Yankees team had an OPS of .549. Mays was at .597 (the Giants as a team were about .620). Not great, but more "average" than "poor" in context. Plus, Mays was unlucky in that his game 7 9th inning double died on the wet ground instead of going through to the wall and driving in the tying run.

I think a lot of the famously "poor" postseason performances might similarly turn out to be much better with a bit more analysis and recognition of the quality of competition and run environment.
   100. Howie Menckel Posted: October 19, 2020 at 12:01 PM (#5983902)
A-Rod was a significantly better postseason hitter than Jeter through the 2004 ALDS, when A-Rod hit .421 to help carry the Yankees past (yes) the Twins.

both were feeble in Games 4-7 of the ALCS collapse against the Red Sox, and since St. Jeter cannot be criticized, fans and the media shat on A-Rod instead.

A-Rod bought into the false narrative, it seemed, and he was awful in 2005 and 2006 postseason. he was ok in 2007 but the Yankees lost again, so it had to be his fault.

then came 2009, when A-Rod had 6 HR and 18 RBI in 15 games, stomping through the postseason like Godzilla through Tokyo for the Yankees' only WS title in the last 20 years.

A-Rod utterly sucked, though, in the postseason after that in 92 PA, dropping his career postseason OPS to .822 - nowhere near Jeter's far superior .838.



Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 > 

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Dynasty League Baseball

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Dingbat_Charlie
for his generous support.

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogNBA Post-Bubble offseason thread
(137 - 7:52pm, Oct 28)
Last: tshipman

NewsblogEmpty Stadium Sports Will Be Really Weird
(10196 - 7:12pm, Oct 28)
Last: Never Give an Inge (Dave)

NewsblogInside the political donation history of wealthy sports owners
(7 - 6:55pm, Oct 28)
Last: ramifications of an exciting 57i66135

NewsblogCardinals should extend Molina, but ask him to waive his Instagram account
(36 - 6:50pm, Oct 28)
Last: The Honorable Ardo

NewsblogMLB offseason begins: 147 players become free agents
(4 - 6:46pm, Oct 28)
Last: Howie Menckel

NewsblogMLB debt totals $8.3 billion as Manfred mulls options for next season
(22 - 6:37pm, Oct 28)
Last: The Honorable Ardo

NewsblogAre analytics to blame for Rays’ Kevin Cash pulling Blake Snell too early from Game 6 of 2020 World Series?
(69 - 6:35pm, Oct 28)
Last: Howie Menckel

NewsblogJustin Turner of Los Angeles Dodgers pulled from World Series after positive COVID-19 test
(58 - 6:20pm, Oct 28)
Last: Ziggy: social distancing since 1980

NewsblogPrimer Dugout (and link of the day) 10-28-2020
(9 - 6:09pm, Oct 28)
Last: Itchy Row

NewsblogChamps! The best Dodgers team ever ends L.A.'s 32-year title drought | ESPN
(37 - 4:48pm, Oct 28)
Last: Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens

NewsblogRob Manfred booed while presenting World Series trophy to Dodgers; fans confused by speech
(12 - 3:08pm, Oct 28)
Last: Barry`s_Lazy_Boy

NewsblogPadres’ Luis Campusano charged with felony marijuana possession in Georgia
(24 - 3:00pm, Oct 28)
Last: Never Give an Inge (Dave)

NewsblogHow Wrigley Field got lights, night games in 1988 | MLB.com
(11 - 11:23am, Oct 28)
Last: Meatwad

NewsblogWORLD SERIES 2020 OMNICHATTER!
(833 - 11:18am, Oct 28)
Last: bunyon

Newsblog‘Home, home, home!’ How Dodgers foiled Manuel Margot’s stealing home gamble
(32 - 8:45am, Oct 28)
Last: TJ

Page rendered in 0.8509 seconds
48 querie(s) executed