We all read the previews, the NL's two best offenses were going to light it up this past week. Of course, what actually happened was that neither of them hit like expected and one of them forgot to show up at all. Strangely, outside of Chase Utley and Aaron Rowand, the job we did on Philadelphia hitters doesn't show up when you do a straight OPS comparison from the regular season to the postseason:
Jimmy Rollins .875/.944
Chase Utley .976/.490
Ryan Howard .976/.808
Pat Burrell .902/.763
Aaron Rowand .889/.416
Shane Victorino .780/.778
Carlos Ruiz .736/.844
However, a different picture emerges when you look at the OBP alone:
That is a gargantuan drop-off across the board except for the catcher, surprising since he's among the least threatening in this lineup of very threatening dudes. Of course, he bats right in front of the pitcher, which probably explains a lot of Ruiz's success at getting on regularly when no other Philly was seemingly able to.
The OPS and slugging percentages show that when these guys would get hits -as was the case all year for them- the hits would be extremely hard and damaging. Homeruns, triples, doubles. The difference between the NLDS and the regular season for the Phillies, however, was that against Colorado, when they got their big hits, nobody was on base to be driven in. What had once been an offensive machine that would score in bunches became one dimensional. A few outs followed by a solo homerun, or on one occasion, two solo homeruns (five of Phillies eight runs were scored via solo HR). A rare walk or two followed by two pop-ups and a groundout. In each of these games the outs would just pile up for the Phils until all 81 for the series were accounted for and the lineup of renowned sluggers was left to wonder what happened.
So what did happen? Read the Philadelphia papers and you'll see lots of possible reasons. The team pressed too hard. They were too excited. They weren't excited enough. They were satisfied with just a division crown. All seven supermen suddenly hit a cold streak all at once rendering them marginally better than Clint Barmes at getting safely on base...
Maybe it was something more outrageous. Maybe, and just go along with me here, the Colorado Rockies outscouted and out gameplanned the Phillies and knew how they were wanting to use our pitchers against these guys. And then maybe, just perhaps, our pitchers -and Torrealba calling the games for them- executed brilliantly and the Phillies never adjusted even though by the end, they had to know what was coming. What actually got me to thinking about this was how Jamie Moyer, him of the 81 mph fastball, completely punked the Rockies hitters last night. He was ready, he knew what he had to do against each of our hitters, and he then went out and did just that. And after doing just that, all he got to show for it was a 2007 NL East champion t-shirt because the Rockies pitchers did it better.
There are some people in the organization who you and I will never hear of who took a look at the fearsome Philadelphia lineup presumably both live and on film, and then who took them down before these games even started. Whoever these people are, the Rockies should give them handsome bonuses for prepping the team for this series. What strikes me, though, is how Philadelphia's offense never responded, even as Colorado pitchers followed the same play book all the way to the very end.
Re-read Josh Kalk's analysis of the Jeff Francis start in game one. Note this paragraph, emphasis added:
I'll let Kalk go ahead with that and instead fast forward through the series. Yes, Francis threw a lot of curves, but what struck me was how often he would throw them in 2-2 and 3-2 counts, frequently fooling Phillies hitters and ratcheting up the K's.
Game two saw more of the same with Franklin Morales, so much so that even Steve Phillips of ESPN radio was recognizing the pattern. Morales would rely primarily on his fastball until he got deep into the count, and then he'd turn to offspeed stuff, though with less success than Francis had.
So what happened last night? Ubaldo Jimenez has a nasty curve, but he rarely uses it, as it's also a pitch that can get him into a lot of trouble with bases on balls. However, check out the pitch sequence to Ryan Howard in his second at bat in the fourth inning. A combination of fastballs and change-ups through the first six pitches resulted in a 3-2 count on the slugging first baseman. Conventional wisdom probably calls for another fastball here, but Torrealba all series had been consistently calling and fooling Phillies hitters with breaking stuff with two strikes, especially in deep counts. True to form, U-ball busts out the only slider of the at bat, a sweeping monster that catches the outside corner, freezing Howard for the backwards K.
Go onto the ninth inning. Howard again comes up, again he represents the tying run, and even one of those solo shots that Philly hit us with all series would have put some serious pressure on the Rockies. Manny Corpas (who Kalk in a separate post uses pitch data to refute the doctoring charges) starts him off with four straight 93 mph fastballs on or just off that outside portion of the plate and when the last one was fouled off for a strike, Howard had to have been expecting a slider on one of the next two pitches, right? Apparently not. Torrealba calls the slider away, a near identical pitch to the one U-ball threw in the fourth, and Howard again freezes as it goes by.
Maybe Shane Victorino finally caught on. After homering on a hanging two strike slider from Jimenez in the seventh, maybe that Corpas slider was what he was expecting when in desperation he reached out and poked that final fastball into a routine grounder to second. Torrealba got the last laugh there, the final two strike twist of the knife for the Phillies as the Rockies went on to celebrate.
Thank you scouts, thank you pitchers, and thank you Yorvit, I don't think we could have done so well without you.