How random the playoffs are

The 2009 NLDS game 2 against the Cardinals and Dodgers is on MLB Network right now.

If ever there was a good example of how random the playoffs are, it’s this game.  Dodgers lead series, 1-0.  Cardinals lead game 2, 2-1, in the bottom of the ninth inning.  James Loney is up with two outs and hits a flare to left field. The ball is as good as caught by Matt Holliday and he loses it in the lights.  It bounces off his crotch.

Loney gets on second.  The game’s not over, though, and all they need is one more out.  Casey Blake walks.  Then Ronnie Belliard hits a soft line drive that, if it were hit in any other direction in the infield, would have been caught, but it just went right up the middle. A passed ball gets the runners to advance and Mark Loretta hits another soft liner into the outfield to win it.  Dodgers take game 2 and then take the series in game 3.

Holliday had 5 errors on the season–and even though we don’t like errors because they’re judgments, that was the definition of an error.  A replacement player in a vacuum would have caught that.  Plus, his aggregate UZR/150 over his career is positive, which makes it all that more weird.  Then a couple of walks and flare singles drop in and the Cardinals lose the game.

That dropped flyball was literally valued at 1 win.

Holliday’s performance, however, was not valued at -1 win because of that–he hit a home run earlier in the game and that is incredibly valuable.

This is anecdotal evidence, but what I’m trying to say is that dropped balls, passed balls, wild pitches and laughable fielding errors are part of the game.  That they happen in the post-season shouldn’t turn an otherwise good player into a goat.  Just ask Bill Buckner, Mickey Owen and Fred Snodgrass.

Obviously those events aren’t typical.  Baseball is also predictable–there’s a reason why the Yankees have 27 championships.  But let’s not forget that Davids do beat Goliaths for no other reason than dumb luck sometimes and success in the regular season does not guarantee success in the post-season.

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