Last night’s game was a little on the weird side – the Red Sox scored eight runs but did it in the most efficient manner possible – taking advantage of poor fielding to jump out to a big early lead. Dave Cameron wrote about how they put up so many runs while putting up offensive numbers that don’t quite jive with the actual game outcome.
While delving into single-game rate stats might be perplexing, it did get me thinking about the unusual nature of their offensive outburst. The Red Sox sent just 36 men to the plate in scoring their 8 eight runs. It reminded me of a phenomenon mentioned more than once in this space this year – the “keep your opponent under 38 plate appearances and you win” thing.
During Spring Training, Joe Lemire of Sports Illustrated wrote about the Orioles in-house metric that demonstrated the value in holding teams under 39 plate appearances. The Red Sox were the home team so they don’t fit squarely into the scope of the study. But Cameron used a table which showed the Cardinals only sent 34 batters to the plate, which is nothing short of a death sentence.
While we are told that pitching is better in the postseason (rather than good teams have good pitchers and that’s how they get to the playoffs in the first place), there have only been 96 postseason games where the visiting team came to the plate 34 total times. They managed to win a grand total of 11 of those games, dating back to 1903.
Even if the Cardinals didn’t kick it around as badly and painfully as in Game One, the great performance of Jon Lester and the Sox bullpen (with an assist to their defense) stack the odds just the much more against them.
Oddly enough, two of those 11 losses came just this year. The Tigers in Game Three of the ALCS allowed just five base runners (32 batters faced) but fell 1-0 to these Red Sox and the Pirates fell 2-1 in these Cardinals in Game Four of the NLDS.
Considering how well both Michael Wacha and John Lackey are pitching here through five innings and the Cardinals leading 1-0, we might see yet another tough-luck loser here in the 2013 postseason. With runs at a premium, in the game now, this just might happen more than more often.