Fun With Numbers

In Jenifer Langosch’s wrap up post from Game One of the NLDS, she mentioned the St Louis Cardinals have never lost a series in this round after winning the first game.  You know this to be true; Jen is one of the better writers out there.  I found that stat interesting and wanted to look at it some more.

This is the team’s eleventh foray into the Divisional Round.  They are 8-2 in their previous 10 series. The Diamondbacks beat them in 2001, because although Matt Morris was brilliant Curt Schilling was a little bit better.  The Dodgers swept them in 2009.  Of their nine victories, they’ve won Game 1 seven times.  Here’s a fun little stat – today’s win was the first time they’ve one Game 1 in the NLDS round since … 2006.

As dominant as they’ve been in Game Ones, they’ve been even better in Game Twos.  St Louis is 9-1 in Game 2.  At home, on the road, doesn’t matter.  They would be a perfect 10-0 except for that 2009 series.  I’m sure you remember that particular Game 2.  Wainwright dominated for 8 innings, but Ryan Franklin blew the save, helped in large part by Matt Holliday’s misplay on James Loney’s line drive in the ninth.

Our Game 2 starter, Lance Lynn, has a checkered post-season record.  He was great in 2011.  He wasn’t so great in 2012.  His 8.10 ERA against the Nationals was misleading.  He actually pitched pretty well in Game 2, blowing guys away for 2 1/3 innings in relief of Jamie Garcia before running out of gas in the fifth.  But, he’s been very good at home this year (2.82 ERA; .237/.311/.331 slash line against), and he has franchise history on his side.  This won’t be an easy game; the Pirates desperately want to go home even in the series.  They believe they have a distinct advantage in Game 3, and can ride a win in that game to a Game 4/series victory.  Lynn will have his work cut out for him tomorrow.

FWIW, all-time the Cardinals are 5-5 in Game Threes.  Four of those wins were to close out sweeps; two of those losses left them swept.  They are 4-1 in Game Fours and 2-1 in Game 5.

*******

The second part of this post is really more of a question.  Rany Jazayerli  wrote the NLDS preview for Grantland.  I like reading his posts.  He usually makes a good argument and backs it up with evidence.  I fancy myself a sabermetric kind of guy; his SABR chops (one of the founders of Baseball Prospectus, after all) are better.  During the preview he talks about St Louis’ success with runners in scoring position in a way that piqued my curiosity.

The conventional wisdom about hitting with runners in scoring position states there is no statistical evidence that hitters produce measurably better with in those situations than they do in any other offensive scenario.  There have been studies to back that up.  Yet this Cardinal team hit .330 with RISP.  That’s over 1335 AB and 1621 plate appearances. That’s 24% of their at bats, and 26% of their plate appearances in 2013.  Do those numbers or percentages give this ‘skill’ statistical significance?

This isn’t like a one-week sample size, or a three-week sample size, or how they hit against only the Cubs.  St Louis sustained their excellence hitting with runners on second and third for the entire season; so much so they posted the best success rate in those situations since the Second World War (there’s a table in Rany’s post, linked above).  After 1300+ ABs, I don’t think we can dismiss that despite the number of studies that have gone before saying we should.

Jazayerli didn’t dismiss it, but he does discount it as unsustainable.  Against the superior pitching they’ll see in the playoffs, it might be.  Then again, it might not be.  And if it isn’t, that’s a significant advantage for St Louis.

Last night the team went 2 for 10 with RISP.  The two hits being Carlos Beltran’s 3-R HR and David Freese’s single that eventually scored 3 runs.  That’s well below their success rate during the regular season but certainly good enough, especially with Adam Wainwright pitching.

What do you think?  Is their RISP success statistically significant at this point, or just one of those things?

Wait – a West Coast Redbird post?  Where have I been?  Let’s just say work – and life – intervened.  So hopefully all that’s been resolved and the writing can start anew.  As well as random comments on Twitter.

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