Friday, May 28, 2004

Game 47 - Red Sox
Mmmmm, Colon Blow

A's 15, Red Sox 2
Record: 29-18

This was a classic "Shit Happens" game, one in which the good guys had no chance from the moment they strapped on their uniforms. The A's were up 12-0 after 3 1/2 innings, and both teams went through the motions from that point. The Sox had ripped off 5 in a row, while the A's had dropped 5 straight, and both teams were due for a reversal of fortune. So, ces't la vie.

As I believe I've posted before but am too lazy to confirm, every team has a few games like this one each year, and they serve the same purpose as an enema - clean out and refresh the system, and prepare the body/team to get back to its main pursuit. That they also feel like enemas, uncomfortable at first and then downright violating, is all part of the cleansing process.

Looking at the box score, I noted A's starter Mark Mulder's 115 pitches in less than 6 innings. Pitch count (at least for starters) is something I focus intently on in every game I watch (wicked geek alert), because it's intuitive that the earlier the Sox can chase the starter and get to the soft underbelly of the opponents' bullpen, the better their chances of scoring a bunch of runs. The converse is true for Sox pitching - the longer the starters stay in, the better the Sox' chances of preventing runs. Not a concept that requires astrophysics to understand.

The importance of pitch counts, at least as related to understanding and controlling the strike zone, is one of the key tenets of the "new" school of baseball management. So it's no surprise that the Sox lead the major leagues in pitches faced for the season, averaging 162.9 per game, more than 5 per game more than the second-place Oakland A's, and over 27 per game more than the last-place Tampa Bay Devil Rays. At this rate, the Sox will force opposing pitching staffs to throw 810 more pitches than will the A's, and 4,374 more than the Rays. Extra pitches = tired arms = battered pitching staffs = more runs for the good guys.

The Sox are seeing 16 more pitches per game than their pitchers are throwing - 4 full plate appearances per game (at 4.01 pitches/PA, the Sox average). 4 more chances to get on base, drive in runs, make something happen. Over the course of the season, 648 more chances than their opponents. All from being better than anyone else at making the other team's pitchers work.

Apologies in advance to the masses reading this humble blog for the preceding descent into statheadgeekdom. That's the kind of stuff, though, that makes me more and more insane everytime someone like Rob Dibble opens his mouth to blather on about the uselessness of stats in evaluating the game. Simple concept, easy to understand, and easy to measure - in the same way that on-base percentage correlates more directly to runs scored than batting average - so why the hue and cry from the "old school"? No answer from this lonely corner of the blogosphere.

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