06 October 2014

Surviving the Monster

The Orioles may have swept the series but it could have gone either way. After a five-inning start by Chris Tillman in Game 1, the Orioles were up 4-3 at the start of the eighth inning before pulling out of reach with an 8-run inning. After an unfortunate start by Wei-Yin Chen in Game 2, the O's were down 6-3 in the eighth before some late-inning heroics provided primarily by Delmon Young gave the O's a 7-6 lead.  Finally, Zach Britton held on in the ninth for the save to get a clinching 2-1 win in Game 3. The offense certainly came through by scoring an average of seven runs per game. Tillman and Bud Norris put together two strong starting pitching performances. But in each of these games the fact that the bullpen bent but didn't break was a major factor for why the O's advanced to the ALCS.

Before this series started I wrote that the key matchup would be the Orioles bullpen versus Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and J.D. Martinez because those four players carried the Tigers offense in the regular season. As it turns out, the playoffs were no different. Here's how all of the other Tiger batters did aside from those four.

Game One 19 0 5 5 0 0 0 0 2 5 21         0.333 0.26 0.596
Game Two 20 1 2 1 0 0 1 1 0 5 20         0.1 0.25 0.35
Game Three 17 0 2 1 1 0 0 0 2 4 19 0.211 0.18 0.387
Total 56 1 9 7 1 0 1 1 4 14 60 0.215 0.23 0.445

Nick Castellanos hit a home run in Game 2 and that was the only run or RBI for the Tigers that wasn't from one of the main four hitters. The chart shows that these batters went 9 for 56 with one home run, one double, and a .161/.215/.230 line. To put that in perspective, Zach Greinke put up a .200/.262/.350 line this year. Jake Arrieta had a .179/.220/.282 line. They probably did better than the average pitcher but certainly not by much. It's hard to win with production like that from your starting cast.

The real damage came from the big four. This is what they did against the rotation.

Torii Hunter RF 7 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 8 0.25 0.143 0.393
Miguel Cabrera 1B 7 1 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 7 0.429 0.429 0.858
Victor Martinez DH 7 2 2 1 0 0 1 2 0 2 7 0.286 0.714 1
J.D. Martinez LF 7 2 2 0 0 0 2 4 0 2 7 0.286 1.142 1.428
Sum 28 6 7 3 1 0 3 6 1 8 29 0.276 0.607 0.883

They may not have done a good job getting on base but they certainly hammered the ball. They hit three home runs and scored five runs via the long ball. And it's certainly hard to complain when your top four batters hit into just twenty-one outs while scoring six runs.

But the big four also had to hit against the bullpen. And here's how they did against them.

Torii Hunter RF 3 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 4 0.5 0.333 0.833
Miguel Cabrera 1B 4 1 2 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 5 0.4 1.25 1.65
Victor Martinez DH 5 1 2 0 2 0 0 1 0 2 5 0.4 0.8 1.2
J.D. Martinez LF 5 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 2 5 0.2 0.4 0.6
Total 17 3 6 2 3 0 1 3 2 4 19 0.421 0.706 1.127

Turns out they hammered the bullpen even harder than they hit the starters. Now admittedly, Andrew Miller was a monster, going 3 1/3 innings and allowing only one walk total. But Miguel Cabrera hit a home run off of Darren O'Day in Game 1. Kevin Gausman gave up a double to V-Mart in Game 2 that allowed Miguel Cabrera to score. Zach Britton allowed doubles to Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez before saving the day in Game 3. All in all, those four guys pretty much hammered everyone.

Now it is true that the bullpen allowed just three runs and had an ERA of 2.25 compared to the rotation's ERA of 4.20. But the bullpen certainly wasn't able to stop those main four batters.

In the end, the Orioles didn't really stop the Tigers' four-headed monster. All the Orioles needed to do was simply survive them. Now it's time to savor the Orioles victory and look forward to the ALCS.


Anonymous said...

It seems a bit arbitrary to include Torii Hunter in the big four and not Ian Kinsler.

Actually, I am unsure why you would include either. Detroit had three hitters and nothing else exceptional.

musicturtle said...

I sure wish we still had Eduardo Rodriguez in our farm system. What a silly trade that was.

Matt Perez said...

Ian Kinsler had a 72 wRC+ the second half of the season and put up a .239/.270/.357 line.

Torii Hunter put up a 123 wRC+ the second half of the season and put up a .304/.349/.441 line.

J.D Martinez put up a 126 wRC+ the second half of the season and put up a .292/.342/.478 line.

That's why I included Torii Hunter and didn't include Ian Kinsler in my post before the series started. Makes sense to me anyway.

Musicturtle - I wrote this article at the time.


Andrew Miller probably goes to the Tigers if we don't get him and very well may have swung this series the other way. But Eduardo Rodriguez was dominant for Boston in AA after being traded. I think everyone can agree that Andrew Miller has been huge for this club even while wishing we were able to get him for a lesser return.

Bill said...

Nice article.

Turtle --

One of the things I love about sports is that what happens is often rolled into how the decision was made before.

There are good reasons for the Orioles to have acquired Miller and probably good reasons why he may not have mattered much. He has been incredibly successful, but that does not mean someone else could have had enough success for this team to move forward.

It is easier to love what you have in your hand than to hold out for what may have been behind the door.

Anonymous said...

I guess it makes sense, but it is not based on anything substantial. Half season offensive performances are less predictive than full season projections. Haven't you guys noted that on several occasions?

Pat Holden said...

Not a single person on this site called the Rodriguez trade "silly." Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on that.

Matt Perez said...

I've heard that second half team performances isn't predictive of team post season success. And I certainly wouldn't use second half results instead of full season results to predict future results or to judge a full season.
Nor would I claim that a player is breaking out due to a strong second half. I'd want a full season for that.

But I don't think it's a stretch to claim that Kinslers' poor second half results could be indicative of a larger problem that would impact his play in the playoffs. Even using full season results Hunter was better offensively than Kinsler. Kinsler was average.

Hunters full season stats showed he was easily above average offensively unlike anyone else on the Tigers roster even if he wasn't as good as the other three. And combined with the recent hot streak I decided to include him. If he had a wRC+ of 100 or so for the full season then he probably would have been left out.

musicturtle said...

@ Bill
"He has been incredibly successful, but that does not mean someone else could have had enough success for this team to move forward."

You're kidding right? No else in the pen brings what Miller does.

Bill said...


Oh, sure, right, no one else is capable of picking up a round thing and getting outs. In case you have not noticed, we have a pretty awesome bullpen. Good enough, you could subtract any single pitcher from it and it is probably better than any of the other remaining clubs. Lets not blindly worship the altar of Miller. He is a great pitcher, but he is not exactly an MVP here.

Anonymous said...

You would want a full season to assess a player, but think a half season is meaningful to short term play?

In other words, you have faith this is true, but have no evidence of it? I guess there is logic behind your choices, but, to me, it seems you put stricter limits on some things as opposed to other things.