How valuable is Post-season Experience?

Will Playoff experience be a major factor in determining which teams make it to the 2014 World Series?

In a recent article on Bleacher Report, “Who Is MLB’s Most Battle-Tested Contender?”* Adam Wells makes the case, using plate appearances [batters], playoff innings [pitcher], and Post-season games [managers] as his criteria to assess success in Post-season games.

In this article we will apply the Playoff experience premise to see how the Sox might fare; for example, facing the Tigers to decide the AL Pennant.

 

In the next article we will question the relative value of Playoff experience and suggest a pair of far more predictive stats in “The Only Stats That Matter.”

Here is the Baseball Reference chart cited in Mr. Wells’ article:

Postseason Games Managed

Manager (Team) Games (Championships)
Jim Leyland (Detroit Tigers) 73 (1, 1997 Florida Marlins)
Terry Francona (Cleveland Indians) 45 (2, 2004 & 2007 Boston Red Sox
Dusty Baker (Cincinnati Reds) 44 (0)
Ron Washington (Texas Rangers) 34 (0)
Joe Maddon (Tampa Bay Rays) 25 (0)
Buck Showalter (Baltimore Orioles) 15 (0)
Mike Matheny (St. Louis Cardinals) 13 (0)
Bob Melvin (Oakland Athletics) 12 (0)
Clint Hurdle (Pittsburgh Pirates) 11 (0)
Fredi Gonzalez (Atlanta Braves) 1 (0)
John Farrell (Boston Red Sox) 0
Don Mattingly (Los Angeles Dodgers) 0

MANAGERS

First, there is the assumption that Dusty Baker, who managed 44 Post-season games, will have a significant advantage over, say, Buck Showalter with 15 under his belt.

It implies that Baker will be less “rattled” by the special pressures of Post-season games.  But, if we peek below the numbers at the personalities of these two managers, will one be so much more awed by the Post-season pressure to make much of a difference?

Will Showalter stand stolid on the dugout steps and allow Baker to leave his veteran pitchers in a batter too long?

Stats?  Yes, Baker has a 44-15 games managed differential, but he is tied with Showalter for number of Post-season championships won at zero.

Baker

Postseason: Lost World Series (4-3) to Anaheim Angels
Won NL Championship Series (4-1) over St. Louis Cardinals
Won NL Division Series (3-2) over Atlanta Braves

Postseason record:   W 6, L 11

W% .527 [20 years]

Showalter

Postseason:   no appearances

W% .515 [15 years]

ANALYSIS:  Baker has a slightly higher W% in regular season play, but a losing record in Post-season.

Taking the extreme example and matching Jim Leyland (Detroit Tigers) against John Farrell (Boston Red Sox), are the Red Sox at such a major disadvantage?  Are the odd stacked 73-1 [0.14% to 99.86%] in favor of the Tiger team?

Leyland

3 Pennants and 1 World Series Title

Post season: 26-13

W% .506 [22 years]

Farrell

No post-season appearances.

W% .518 [3 years]

ANALYSIS:  At this stage of the season, it is entirely possible that the least experienced managers will be competing in the Post-season:

Mike Matheny (St. Louis Cardinals) 13 (0)
Bob Melvin (Oakland Athletics) 12 (0)
Clint Hurdle (Pittsburgh Pirates) 11 (0)
Fredi Gonzalez (Atlanta Braves) 1 (0)
John Farrell (Boston Red Sox) 0

Farrell has a slightly higher W% in regular season play, but Leyland has a 26-13 record in Post-season.

LEAST IMPORTANT FACTOR

Mr. Wells used plate appearances [batters], playoff innings [pitcher], and Post-season games [managers] as his criteria to assess success in Post-season games.

Of the three factors, the first two consider the relative experience of the players.  Most estimates say that the manager might increase/decrease the teams W-L record by a less than 5 games.  The percentage difference in a regular season is 0.03 with the team influencing the other 99.97.

This makes the managers’ experience less predictive than the experience of the players.

HITTERS

Let’s look at the Baseball Reference chart:

(Offense)

Playoff Plate Appearances by Contenders

Team Total Plate Appearances
Texas Rangers 1,121
Detroit Tigers 1,086
St. Louis Cardinals 1.067
Boston Red Sox 904
Los Angeles Dodgers 799
Tampa Bay Rays 464
Oakland Athletics 330
Atlanta Braves 273
Pittsburgh Pirates 258
Cincinnati Reds 214

Red Sox vs. Tigers

It may surprise some fans to note that the current Tiger roster has collectively more Post-season experience that the Red Sox, 1,086 to 904.  How significant is the experience collected by the Tiger players in 84 more games?

Is it reasonable to assume that the differential in experience will result in any of the players on the current rosters being intimidated by Post-season tension?

A short-cut answer would be to take the starting lineup and see who has no Post-season experience:  Middlebrooks and Saltalamacchia.

Tigers no Post-season experience:  Jose Iglesias and Andy Dirks.

ANALYSIS:  Give the Tigers a big edge in Plate Appearances, although the teams are even on starters with no Post-season games: SS/LF and 3b/C; although the Tigers were swept last year by the Giants.

PITCHING

First, the Baseball Reference chart:

(Pitching)

Total Playoff Innings Pitched

Team Total Innings
Detroit Tigers 220
Boston Red Sox 147
St. Louis Cardinals 115
Texas Rangers 105.1
Oakland Athletics 104.1
Cincinnati Reds 86.1
Tampa Bay Rays 80.1
Los Angeles Dodgers 70.2
Atlanta Braves 68
Pittsburgh Pirates 65.2

The good news for Boston fans is that, if playoff experience is a major factor in predicting success, the Red Sox will beat any National League team in the World Series; the bad news is that they won’t get that far, because the Tigers have a big edge on them.

The entire starting rotation for the Tigers was in the 2012 WS:

  • 1. J. Verlander  [2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012], 70.1 innings,[6-4; 0-3 WS]
  • 2. A. Sanchez    [2012] 1-2, 20.1 innings.
  • 3. R. Porcello    [2011, 2012], 0-1, 16.1 innings.
  • 4. M. Scherzer   [2011,2012], 2-1, 33 innings.
  • 5. D. Fister        [2011,2012], 2-2, 36.1 innings.

Let’s look at the Sox experience.

1.  J. Lester  WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP, 2007: Boston (AL), 2-3, 42 innings.

2. J. Peavy   Padres, NL, NLDS, 2005, 2006, 0-2, 9.2 innings.

3. C. Buchholz   Boston, AL, ALDS, 2009, 0-0, 5.0 innings.

  • 4. R. Dempster  Cubs, NL, NLCS, 2007, 2008, 0-1, 5.2 innings, ERA: 6.35.
  • 5. F. Doubront [NONE]
  • 6. J. Lackey  ALDS: 2002, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, ALCS: 2002, 2005, 2009;WS: 2002, 3-4, 78 innings, ERA: 3.12.

ANALYSIS:

Based on the “Playoff Experience” model, Verlander should be unbeatable in the Playoffs and a disaster [0-3] in a World Series; Lackey, who has been on a roll, and has 8 more innings than Verlander, appears to be the best chance to win in the Boston rotation.  Buchholz, the erstwhile, ace, just off a long DL stint, is last in innings pitched, 5, save Doubront with zero.

Ranking the top three in the rotations by Playoff innings pitched, we get:

J. Verlander  [2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012], 70.1 innings,[6-4, but 0-3 WS]

D. Fister        [2011,2012], 2-2, 36.1 innings.

M. Scherzer   [2011,2012], 2-1, 33 innings.

J. Lackey   78 innings.

J. Lester  42 innings.

J. Peavy   9.2 innings.

Total innings:  Red Sox 129.2, Tigers 139.2

Since the top three starters are critical in a short series, this looks like a wash.

CLOSERS:

Koji Uehara [TEX. 2011, ALDS, ALCS; ALWC], 0-0, 2.1, ERA: 19.29.

Joaquin Benoit [TBR, 2010 ALDS; DET., 2011 ALDS, ALCS; 2012 ALDS, ALCS, WS], 1-0, 16.2, 1.62.

ANALYSIS:

Based on experience, the Tigers have a huge edge here: 16.2 to 2.1 innings and that ERA is not a typo; Koji “Huey” got hit hard.

SUMMARY:

The ALDS is a 5-game affair; the ALCS is a 7-game tournament; the former suggests 2 repeated starters; the latter, maybe involving a team’s best 3 starters.

ALDS

Game

Matchup

Date

Time (ET)

TV

Tickets

Game 1 AL Div. Winner #3 @ AL Div. Winner #2 Fri, Oct 4 TBD TBS or MLBN***
Game 2 AL Div. Winner #3 @ AL Div. Winner #2 Sat, Oct 5 TBD TBS
Game 3 AL Div. Winner #2 @ AL Div. Winner #3 Mon, Oct 7 TBD TBS or MLBN***
Game 4* AL Div. Winner #2 @ AL Div. Winner #3 Tue, Oct 8 TBD TBS
Game 5* AL Div. Winner #3 @ AL Div. Winner #2 Thu, Oct 10 TBD TBS

ALCS

Game

Matchup

Date

Time (ET)

TV

Tickets

Game 1 TBD @ TBD Sat, Oct 12 TBD FOX
Game 2 TBD @ TBD Sun, Oct 13 TBD FOX
Game 3 TBD @ TBD Tue, Oct 15 TBD FOX
Game 4 TBD @ TBD Wed, Oct 16 TBD FOX
Game 5* TBD @ TBD Thu, Oct 17 TBD FOX
Game 6* TBD @ TBD Sat, Oct 19 TBD FOX
Game 7* TBD @ TBD Sun, Oct 20 TBD FOX

Applying the experience model, the Sox should send:

Lackey [78] against Verlander [70.1]

J. Lester [42] against D. Fister  [36.1]

J. Peavy [9.2]against M. Scherzer  [33]

PITCHING

The lack of experience [5 innings] would leave Boston’s erstwhile ace, Buchholz out of the starting picture, as well as Dempster [5.2 innings, ERA: 6.35] and Doubront [0].

CLOSERS

If the games are decided in the 9th inning, the Tigers have the edge in innings pitched and that 19.29 ERA would foretell disaster for the Sox.

Taking just 2013 into account,

Benoit’s 1.91 ERA, 20 SVs and a 3-1 K-W ratio is impressive, but, Uehara’s line is better:

1.14 ERA, 20 SVs and a 9-1 K-W

HITTING

Look how close the teams are in offensive stats, so far:

Team

League

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

CS

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

1 Boston Red Sox AL 155 5394 805 1489 351 28 167 774 566 1249 120 19 .276 .349 .444 .794
2 Detroit Tigers AL 154 5453 775 1558 284 20 171 746 508 1029 34 19 .286 .349 .439 .788

The only glaring difference is that the Sox have a huge edge in SBs: 120/34; also, the Sox hit more doubles and triples and get more walks.  This suggests that the former “Lead Sox” are now the “Red Running Dogs” and that Detroit will remind people of Weaver’s Orioles, and Stengel’s Yankees:

“Station to station, Wait for the 3-run homer.”

Finally, if “Playoff experience” implies which team will be more likely to “piss their pants” and get the jitters, there is the matter of how the Tigers totally choked and were swept by the Giants in the 2013 World Series.

Using Playoff experience as the guiding principle, Mr. Wells would likely take Los Tigres de Duh-trite over the Bawshtun Bashahs.

In our next article–“The Only Stats That Matter”– we will suggest two sets of stats–that work cyberneticly—that are most likely to predict Post-season success.

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*http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1775996-who-is-mlbs-most-battle-tested-contender?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=mlb

 

Tags: Adam Wells Bleacher Report Boston Red Sox Vs Detroit Tigers Experience Post-Season Predictions

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