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Chase Utley Faked Hit-by-Pitch and Scored Illegitimate Run

In the same inning that the Phillies busted open Game 2 of the NLDS thanks to a critical error by Jay Bruce, they were also the recipients of a few other nice breaks. Second baseman Chase Utley led off the 7th against flamethrower Aroldis Chapman. Chapman went up and in on Utley on an errant pitch and Utley was awarded first after acting like he was hit. The trajectory of the ball did not change after crossing the plate, nor did it appear as if Utley was even grazed by the ball. Still, he pulled a Jeter and acted like he got hit and was awarded first. Let me just say that if Utley were indeed hit by a 100-mph pitch, he would not have recovered as quickly as he did. In case you haven’t seen the play, judge for yourself courtesy of this gif from SB Nation:

Utley_medium

Asked after the game if the pitch hit him, Utley responded “I’m not sure.” I think that settles the matter.

But that’s not the end of the bad calls from the inning!

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Jay Bruce Losing Ball in Lights, Towels on Error Cost Reds Big Time

Just over a week ago, Reds fans were celebrating Jay Bruce who hit a walk-off home run to beat the Astros and send Cincinnati to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. Now, many of those same fans are cursing his name.

The 23-year-old outfielder made a critical error in Game 2 of the Phillies-Reds NLDS that was eerily similar to Matt Holliday’s mistake for the Cardinals a year ago. With his team up 4-3 in the bottom of the 7th, Bruce missed a line drive to right with two men on. Both Chase Utley and Jayson Werth scored on the play, allowing the Phillies to take the lead 5-4. The play was routine but Bruce probably lost the ball in the lights or white rally towels that make it difficult to spot the ball.

As if Bruce’s error wasn’t enough, Brandon Phillips also dropped the relay throw from the outfield allowing Werth to score uncontested. If he had made a quick turn and accurate throw, the game may have been tied.

Bruce’s mistake may have taken the Reds out of the series, but don’t expect any forgiveness from Reds fans. Many of their followers on twitter wasted no time bashing the young outfielder even before the team had actually lost the game:

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‘Year of the Pitcher’ Continues to Hold True in the Postseason

People are calling 2010 the “Year of the Pitcher” in professional baseball.  They’re right.  The regular season saw no-hitters from Edwin Jackson, Matt Garza, and Ubaldo Jimenez and perfect games from Roy Halladay and Dallas Braden.  Several others, most notably Armando Gallaraga who was hosed by the ump, came unbelievably close.

Cliff Lee kicked off the 2010 postseason by dominating the Rays on Wednesday and scattering five hits through seven innings of work.  His staff-mate, C.J. Wilson, was equally effective the following day and allowed only two hits to the Rays while leading the Rangers to a 6-0 victory.  How about Roy Halladay?  The Doc tossed a no-hitter in his first ever playoff start on Wednesday.  No big deal.  Tim Lincecum nearly duplicated the feat when he threw a complete game shutout and struck out 14 Thursday night to lead the Giants over the Braves.

Perhaps it’s the ultimate signal that the Steroid Era is behind us.  Maybe we just happen to be witnessing an influx of unbelievable pitching talent.  It’s not like these pitchers are dominating poor lineups; this is the playoffs.  Only four teams from each league make the playoffs in baseball.  Good pitching normally beats good hitting, but not like this.  The Reds were the NL’s best offense through the regular season, yet Halladay made them look like the Mariners on Wednesday.

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Ranking the MLB Playoff Starting Pitchers

You’re probably familiar with the old baseball saying “good pitching stops good hitting.” The reason you’ve heard it is because it’s true — the best pitchers can shut down any offense when they’re on. Just look at Roy Halladay who no-hit the NL’s best offense in Game 1 of the NLDS.

With that performance in mind, I decided to rank the starting pitchers for all eight playoff teams. I only ranked the top three starters for each team except in the cases where teams have a scheduled fourth starter. The three criteria I used were domination, this season, and experience. Here’s my explanation for each quality:

Domination – The ability of a pitcher to take over a game and be un-hittable. Guys who throw lots of shutouts, work deep into games, and strike opposing batters out were rewarded. The frequency of domination is weighted heavily (the reason why Roy Halladay is a 10 while Matt Garza is an 8 though each threw no-hitters this year).

This Season – How the pitcher is doing this year. This is important because some guys might not be proven but may be having good years, while some proven pitchers are having bad years.

Experience – Speaks for itself. Both playoff experience and regular season experience are factored in. Andy Pettitte is a 10 for obvious reasons. Roy Halladay still gets a 7 because he’s been around for so long, pitched in the AL East most of his career, and still has made some pressure starts.

MLB Playoffs Starting Pitcher Rankings

Rays Burned After Controversial Michael Young Check Swing

If the Buster Posey stolen base was the controversy of Game 1 between the Braves and Giants, then Michael Young’s check swing was the equivalent in the Rays/Rangers ALDS. Young was up with men on first and second in the 5th inning and facing reliever Chad Qualls. Young had two strikes on him and appeared to go around on a check swing that would have resulted in a strikeout. On the appeal to the first base umpire, Young was ruled safe and got to continue his at-bat. Young belted the next pitch to deep center for a three-run home run giving the Rangers a 5-0 lead. They went on to win 6-0 and take a 2-0 ALDS lead on the Rays. In case you missed it, here’s the controversial check swing:

While the call was wrong, the Rays have less of a gripe than the Braves. Tampa Bay was already down 2-0 and has only managed one run in the entire series. Even if Young was punched out (as he should have been), Josh Hamilton singled and that would have scored a run to make it 3-0. Besides, the Rays need to hit — they’ve only scored one run in two games. Their inability to score consistently plagued them during the season and seems to be their problem in the postseason.

Controversy: Buster Posey Was Out at Second on Stolen Base (Picture)

It wouldn’t be the MLB Playoffs it there weren’t lots of controversies. From the ball to right field caught by Greg Golson but called a hit for the Twins to Michael Young’s check swing, we’ve already had our share of bad calls by the umpires. Perhaps the most controversial play was Buster Posey’s stolen base in Game 1 of the NLDS between the Giants and Braves.

Posey led off the 4th with a single off Derek Lowe. He stole second and was called safe, but replays show he was out. Posey later scored on a two out single by Cody Ross to bring in the game’s only run. The Giants won 1-0 to take Game 1, but this call will live in infamy. Here’s a picture showing Buster Posey was out at second on his stolen base:

Even with that call, Omar Infante should have made a play on Ross’ ground ball to end the inning so I still blame the Braves for allowing the run to score. They also couldn’t muster any offense against Tim Lincecum who was dominant with 14 strikeouts and only two hits allowed. Even if the game remained scoreless, Atlanta wasn’t winning anytime soon. Still, this play adds more credence to the sentiment that baseball needs instant replay to help out umpires with difficult calls.

Cliff Lee Has Technique to Dodge His Fans

The Rangers have taken the first two games of their ALDS with the Rays allowing just one run in the process. Starters Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson have pitched admirably for Texas, combining to allow just seven hits in 13.1 innings. Though Lee has won the Cy Young Award and is one of the best pitchers in baseball, he doesn’t have a very high public profile. The case is even more extreme for Wilson who went from being a bullpen pitcher to going 15-8 in his first year starting. Wilson recently talked with Jimmy Traina of SI and explained that he doesn’t get recognized very often in public. He then relayed a hilarious story about the way Cliff Lee has dealt with his fans:

If I do become famous, though, I’m going to adopt a technique from Cliff Lee. A couple of weeks ago, we were in San Francisco, and some guy at a restaurant went up to Cliff and was like, “Yo, you’re Cliff Lee.” And he said, “Who’s Cliff Lee? What are you talking about?” And the guy was like, “You’re Cliff Lee, you pitch for the Rangers.” And Lee goes, “Oh, that guy? He sucks.” The dude was all confused because he was 97 percent sure Cliff was Cliff. And the dude just walked away shaking his head.

Man, I feel badly for that guy — nobody likes being made to feel like an idiot. I’ve certainly been there before. Texas is looking good but let’s hope Wilson doesn’t adopt that strategy or become like Cole Hamels if he does win World Series MVP.

Another item from the interview (well worth a read) that was really interesting was Wilson’s explanation for why the transition from relieving to starting has worked for him. Generally we think that relievers won’t have much stamina as starters, but C.J. said that the regularity of starting was easier on his arm, adding that relievers throw with more intensity. Usually I look at it as relieving is easier than starting but looks like the converse was true for Wilson.