27 October 2008

Big 'Mo

I was going to remark on this post after Game 5 of the ALCS, but now may actually be a more pertinent time for it. The key weakness of a purely saberist approach to baseball is mistaking unmeasurable psychological factors for non-existent factors. Yes, it is fairly useless to listen to sportswriters maw about things like chemistry and momentum, because they're naturally going to cherry-pick whatever suits their purpose. But let's take the example of the Red Sox having "momentum" after the big comeback in Game 5. What are the Red Sox chances of winning any two isolated games in St. Petersburg? Now, how much does their "momentum" increase those chances? No one can say, of course, but just because it is still less than 100 percent doens't mean it hasn't increased at all.

I say this is more relevant now because it's apparent that the Rays haven't been the same team since The Meltdown, with only Matt Garza's Game 7 pitching performance standing out as a reminder of the team that won six of its first eight postseason games. The offense has gone bust, and the bullpen has never recovored. If not for the Phillies incredible futility with runners on base in the first three games of the World Series, they would be looking at a lopsided four-game sweep.