Smell You Later, 2009

NLCSg5-dodgersdugout

No point in breaking this one down, is there? Vicente Padilla didn’t have it, and while Cole Hamels didn’t really either, at least he managed to keep his three homers allowed to be all of the solo variety. Really, for an elimination game that saw six homers, there wasn’t a whole lot of excitement – just look at the FanGraphs win expectancy chart: Phillies all the way.

NLCSg5-fangraph

Talk about anti-climactic; this game was over in the bottom of the 1st inning.

Looking back at the 2009 NLCS, no one’s above reproach – except perhaps Andre Ethier, and maybe a tip of the hat to Orlando Hudson for hitting a pinch-homer in what was likely his final Dodger at-bat. There’s no shame in losing to the defending World Champions who look to be even better than last year, of course. Still, one wonders what might have been if Game 4 hadn’t ended the way it did and we were all tied up at 2 entering tonight.

I can only imagine the shitstorm the media will make about this in the coming days, but it’s important to remember that this wasn’t some epic chokejob against an underdog opponent. The Phillies are a fantastic team – probably just a better team – and they simply performed better.

Looking ahead to the offseason, it’s going to be a busy one. Did you realize that of this year’s starting 8 (9, if you count both 2Bmen), only Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal have 2010 contracts right now? And that doesn’t even consider the obvious starting rotation moves, possible coaching changes, and any fallout over the McCourt divorce.

We’ll be here for all of it at MSTI; probably spend a few days licking our wounds and refuting gross media inaccuracies, and start 2009 player reviews on Monday.

Thanks for sticking with us this year.

NLCS Game 5: I Swear There’s Reasons to Watch

All over the series of tubes, you’ve been hearing variations of the same thing – namely, that the Game 4 collapse and 3-1 series deficit means that the NLCS is over and that the Phillies should start preparing for the Yankees right now, especially with castoff Vicente Padilla going tonight against gilded World Series hero Cole Hamels.

And you know what? “They” are probably right. Things look bleak for the Dodgers, and the bandwagon is ripe for piling on. (Except for you, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. A column bashing Manny for the shower non-story and a column calling Joe Torre a fraud in the same day? Talk about setting the anti-Dodger bar pretty high, comrade. But hey, congratulations on being the last person alive to finally realize that a manager’s record is mainly based on the talent of the roster he’s been provided with.) 

So I can’t say I have a whole lot of confidence that the Dodgers are going to somehow wake up and beat Hamels, Pedro Martinez, and Cliff Lee in three straight, because I just don’t see it. But while things look bleak, there’s reason to keep an open mind for tonight’s game…

1) Cole Hamels is not the ace you think he is.

Hey, remember Cole Hamels’ whirlwhind 2008? 142 ERA+, led the league in WHIP, went 4-0 in 5 dominating starts en route to leading the Phillies to the World Series?

Yeah, that guy’s left, and he’s not coming back. You see, 2009 Cole Hamels has been, well, mediocre. From Ben Bolch’s LA Times story:

“This year has been a lot tougher,” Hamels said Tuesday before the Phillies worked out at Citizens Bank Park. “Things really haven’t gone the way that I’ve wanted.”

The left-hander went 10-11 — his first losing record in four major league seasons — with a 4.32 earned-run average, more than a run higher than it was in 2008. His struggles carried over into the postseason, where he has failed to survive the sixth inning in either of his starts.

Remember, even though he got the win in Game 1 of this NLCS, it wasn’t really due to any strong performance from him. He lasted just 5.1 IP, allowing 8 hits and 4 runs (2 homers), and the only reason that wasn’t a bigger story was because Joe Torre allowed Clayton Kershaw to roast on the mound before George Sherrill really laid the gas can on the fire.

Forget what he did in 2008. The Hamels of 2009 can be had, and the Dodgers were able to touch him in Game 1. No reason they can’t do it again in Game 5.

2) I don’t know what the hell happened to Vicente Padilla, but I’m more confident in him than Hamels right now.

We keep saying it over and over; he was cast off by a Texas team starving for pitching in a pennant race, and he can’t possibly keep up what he’s doing – yet, somehow he still does. After finishing up the regular season in LA effectively, he might just be the best Dodger starter right now – his two postseason starts have combined to last 14.1 IP in which he’s allowed just 8 hits, 1 run, and a 10/2 K/BB ratio.

Can he keep it up, especially in the hostile environment of Philadelphia? Who knows – but you’d be foolish to bet against him now. At least the weather won’t be an issue, as it’s in the mid 70s right now here in the East.

3) It’s just one game.

I know this is the cliche to end all cliches, but the Dodgers can’t win all three games tonight. Once the first pitch is thrown, the only thing that’s important is scoring more runs than they allow in these nine innings – and being down 3-1 doesn’t change the fact that this game starts off 0-0. Just worry about tonight.

4) Might as well enjoy it, because this might be the last Dodger game for five dark, cold months.

If that’s not reason enough to get up, I don’t know what is. And just in case you need a little more motivation…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6wRkzCW5qI]

(God bless YouTube, right? How did people live before blogs and embeddable video?)

This Isn’t A Story

You’re probably going to read a bit today about how Manny Ramirez was in the shower rather than on the bench after being taken out of the game for defense when Philadelphia mounted their comeback in the 9th inning of Game 4.

In fact, you-know-who probably tripped over his breakfast Oreos to rush to the keyboard and bust out a column about it.

Here’s the thing, though: I just don’t care.  Sure, in a vacuum, you prefer him to be on the bench with his teammates.  But in the long run, does this really matter? On the list of “Dumb Things Manny’s Done,” this ranks somewhere about 14,000th.

Did it have the slightest effect on the the Dodgers winning or losing? No. Is this a story if the starting pitcher was in the shower? No. Are we even talking about this if Broxton doesn’t blow the game? Of course not. No, what we have here is a total non-story drummed up to be something more than it is by a decidedly partial “journalist” with a vendetta against someone more popular than he is. Let’s hope that’s as far as it goes.

*****

Speaking of Broxton, I can’t say all of the calls for his head are surprising, but good lord, are they stupid. I was going to do something similar in the offseason, but MOKM has a great guideline for refuting the uninformed who want to dump Broxton ASAP, which basically points out he’s one of the best closers in baseball, and though he’s not perfect, no one is – not even Mariano Rivera.

At least Joe Torre’s not panicking, and will still go back to Broxton if the opportunity presents itself tonight.

*****

Back to Broxton again, the comments that he was “scared” of Matt Stairs because of the homer he gave up last year made my skin crawl (yep, another theory advanced by you-know-who)… I think Rob Neyer’s got the right idea on this:

My impression wasn’t that Broxton was scared; my impression was that he was foolish. In that situation, you work extra carefully if the batter is Barry Bonds. Or Babe Ruth, or Ted Williams, or Mickey Mantle. But Matt Stairs, really? The same Matt Stairs who turned 41 last winter and has a sparkling .402 slugging percentage in his last two seasons? This is the player you’re not even going to try to retire?

Maybe the scared and the foolishness go together. I suppose that Broxton’s memory of last October did throw a little scare into him, which resulted in something foolish. But it seems to me a massive leap from “I don’t want to throw a good fastball to Matt Stairs” to “The kid reliever still hasn’t recovered.” For all sorts of reasons, good pitchers sometimes make bad pitches, or good pitches that get hit hard anyway.

What’s this, logic over mass hysteria? No wonder newspapers are dying.

NLCS Game 4 Aftermath: Blerg.

They say it’s best to confront your pain. Let’s find out how last night’s travashamockery is being received across the intertubes – and make sure you read to the bottom, because I saved the biggest punch in the face for last.

Deadspin (avowed Philly homer A.J. Daulerio):

D:LKFJ:LDFKJ:LDFKJ:LDKFJ:LDFK!!!

Yep. That’s about right. Kind of how we felt when Matt Holliday botched that catch and then Mark Loretta got the walkoff in the NLDS, right?

Sons of Steve Garvey:

Hmm, I don’t remember that one from my childhood. Sure fits the moment, though. (Also, happy three year anniversary to SOSG. Too bad it couldn’t have come under happier circumstances.)

Dodger Blues:

Déjà blue: Broxton melts under pressure
An out from tying the NLCS at two games apiece, the Dodgers instead watched the Phillies dance on their grave. Is this really how I’m wasting my life?

Not quite there yet, but sometimes you wonder…

LA Times – T.J. Simers:

“It’s obviously a tough one to get past,” Torre said, “but you know, that’s our job.”

It was also Sherrill’s job to sail through the eighth, Broxton’s to nail the victory down, and why the Dodgers played 162 games — to get to this moment.

But then the dogs choked.

Now it seems it’s just time to bow-OUT.

Ugh. This isn’t helping.

LA Times – Bill Plaschke:

History will show that the Dodgers lost when Jonathan Broxton’s fastball was hit.

Honesty will show that they lost when his fastball was haunted.

The crack of Jimmy Rollins’ line drive, the roar of a stunned crowd, the shaking of a chilled stadium will live forever in the minds of those who witnessed an incomparable Dodgers’ heartbreak.

But it is the soft shuffle of Matt Stairs jogging toward first base three batters earlier that will live forever with the man who caused it.

I don’t have it in me right now to refute another Plaschke article of retardation in its’ entirety, so let’s just say that while you can possibly make the point that Stairs’ homer last year helped get him the walk last night, it’s insanity to say that the game was lost as soon as he jogged to first. As though a walk equals a homer, or that the hits by Ruiz or Rollins had nothing to do with it and couldn’t be avoided.

And finally, the pièce de résistance…

Fangraphs Win Probability Chart:

fangraphsNLCSg4

I’ve been staring at this, trying to figure out exactly how to word such a monumental swing, and then I realized that Phillies blog The Fightins’ had done it better then I ever could:

You guys wanna see something cool? Head over to Fan Graphs and check out the live game graph from game four. You see that spikey yellow line at the very end? That is literally the visual representation of taking a dump in one’s pants.

Yep. That’s pretty much exactly what it was.