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To Hit or not To Hit

Note: I have a job where I get to work at 6:20 a.m. Therefore, I am putting this post together beginning in the top of the 4th inning of game 1. I’ll be finished (hopefully) before this game is. Skip Schumaker just lined a double down the left field line to make the score 3-2.

It’s interesting that Joe Torre chose to intentionally walk Albert Pujols in 2 of his 1st 3 plate appearances in the series. Both PAs featured an empty base at first. Anyone see a pattern here? Both were terrible decisions, IMO, though they both worked out for the Dodgers. Bases loaded, no one out, first inning? Terrible decision, Joe. You got lucky! What’s interesting is that the Dodgers led the NL in intentional walks with 68 this season. The Cards, who prefer to pitch around hitters – the UNintentional intentional – were last in the NL in intentional walks w/ just 23. Then he pulls Randy Wolf in the top of the 4th? Is this a prelude toward using him to start game 4, so that Torre can avoid using the slumping Chad Billingsley? Interesting moves, to say the least.

There’s always a lot of concern entering the playoffs about a team’s ability to score runs. "If we can score runs, we’ll be ok" is what a lot of people say entering the playoffs. Teams are facing the best pitching staffs and often, the best defenses as well so it’s reasonable to be concerned about a team’s ability to score runs. Hell, I’m guilty of it as well. It made me wonder how many runs a team needed to be able to score in order to be successful in the playoffs. The table below shows the number of runs scored by the 2 teams combined in each playoff series in the last 5 years, as well as the average number of runs per game scored in each league over the same time span.

NLDS NLCS NL season ALDS ALCS AL season World Series
2004 10.13 9.29 9.28 10.71 12.29 10.02 9.0
2005 11.14 6.33 8.90 9.75 6.8 9.52 8.5
2006 7.14 7.86 9.52 8.43 7.75 9.94 6.6
2007 7.67 6.5 9.42 9.0 11.86 9.80 9.75
2008 7.14 9.0 9.08 8.13 10.14 9.56 7.8

Teams have scored fewer runs than in an average game in 16 of the 25 playoff series over the last 5 years (64%) and there have been fewer runs scored on average in the playoffs than in the regular season 12 out of 15 times over the last 3 years (80%). On average over the last 5 years, 7.5% fewer runs have been scored per game in the playoffs than in the regular season. This year, NL teams averaged 8.86 runs between them per game and AL teams averaged 9.64 runs between them per game. The reality, then, is that teams really don’t have to score THAT many runs in order to win most postseason games. We need to pitch well, play good defense, and score a few runs but we don’t need to average 5 runs per game (hopefully – if we pitch and play defense well) in order to have a successful postseason. The Cardinals scored 4.51 runs per game this season and 4.64 runs per game in August through October (Matt Holliday was acquired on July 24) but we shouldn’t need to average that many runs in order to win most postseason games.

I don’t really have much to say about Chris Carpenter’s relatively poor performance so far tonight. He can’t be great every time out and the Dodgers had some good PAs but he had trouble locating all night long. His command was, for him, horrendous. It seemed to me that the only pitch he was able to consistently command was his curveball, his third best pitch throughout the season. Hopefully we’ll be able to pull this out against their bullpen or, if not, hopefully Wainwright can get us a win this evening. It wouldn’t be too bad to go back home even in the series.