Sunday, October 8, 2017

ALDS: G3 usage of Peacock and Liriano

So the Astros lost today, 10-3, having given up ten unanswered runs after Mookie Betts pulled back what would have been a three-run home run from Josh Reddick, and would have given the Astros a 6-0 death punch of a lead. But Mookie Betts did pull that home run back, or at least reach his hand over the joke of a day care door they call their right field fence. So whatever. 3-0 lead, right? Let's take a look at the decision to pull Peacock for Liriano:

*Pulling Brad Peacock.

Brad Peacock had thrown 58 pitches, not a lot for Peacock. By inning it went:
1st inning: 18 pitches, 1H/0ER, 1K:0BB
2nd inning: 23 pitches, 3H/1ER, 1K:1BB

Two hits led off the 2nd inning, both singles that were in the bottom half of the plate, but a little too far out over the middle. The walk featured only two egregious balls, but whatever. The Red Sox had the bases loaded with nobody out and only pushed across one run, thanks to a strikeout of Bradley, Gurriel throwing to home on a soft grounder to 1st, and a Pedroia liner to right field. Wasn't ideal, but not a deal-breaker.

3rd inning: 17 pitches, 2H/1ER (at the time he left the game), 2K:0BB.

Peacock started out with two strikeouts over 14 pitches. Then Mitch Moreland hammered a double to the deepest part of Fenway where Springer either lost the ball or forgot how to play center and had no idea where the ball was coming off the carom. Next batter, Hanley Ramirez hit a liner slightly over Marwin's head that Marwin actually got a glove on...but it bounced on/off/out/whatever and scored a run, and let Hanley get to second base. Insert Getting To Second Base on Brad Peacock joke here.

Peacock's day was done. Moreland's double is what it is - he hits that ball anywhere to the right of where he hit it, and it's a solo home run. If Marwin had caught Hanley Ramirez's shot, however, the inning would be over and - while Peacock had been knocked around a little bit, you might let him handle 7-8-9 in the 4th and see if he can get you to the 5th. As it was, the Red Sox had just cut the Astros' lead from 3-0 to 3-2 and had a runner on second base. Rafael Devers - a lefty - was 0x2 in his career against Brad Peacock and had not faced Francisco Liriano. But Devers is 20, so what do you expect.

Still, none of this happens if Marwin makes that catch. Would Derek Fisher make that catch? Maybe, but you want Marwin's bat in the lineup until it becomes more of a benefit to trade Marwin's bat for Fisher's defense and currently-non-existant bat. You don't make defensive replacements in the 3rd inning.

*Inserting Francisco Liriano

Now here's where it gets tricky, because it was in the very next at-bat that the Red Sox took the lead and never looked back. And it's easy to just yell "Idiot Hinch!" for putting Liriano in, whose track record has been spotty at best since joining the Astros at the deadline. But to just yell, "LIRIANO!" and curse your very existence is maybe misguided.

But let's keep in mind that Devers has hit .400/.474/.600 in 57 PAs against LHPs this season. That said, let's look at using Liriano here. We're 2+ weeks since Tom Verducci's article saying that the Astros abandoned the idea of trying to "fix" Liriano's mechanics and improve his command, instead deciding to just have the catcher set up in the middle of the plate and let Liriano's stuff take over.

Overall, lefties have hit .245/.300/.355 off Liriano in 2017. But let's assume that the Astros tried to fix Liriano for a month before just deciding "Screw it" and letting his stuff do its thing. That said, Hinch/Strom used Liriano sparingly in September. He only faced 22 batters, but 17 of them were lefties in which they put together a .133/.235/.200 line, with 5K:2BB. Compare that to August, when Liriano faced 20 left-handed hitters, who tagged him for a .412/.500/.471 line. He didn't strike any of those dudes out.

So things had been better in September if you want Liriano to get a lefty out. Liriano had not allowed a home run as an Astro - his last home run allowed was on July 24 against Oakland. All things being equal, putting Liriano in to face Devers is defensible. Yeah, Devers could get a hit, which would tie the game by scoring Hanley but not give the Red Sox the lead. Credit Devers for the home run. But none of this happens if Marwin makes that catch.

At this point, it's still 4-3. David Price dominated the Astros, who were 2x10 w/RISP (the Red Sox were 7x12). From Innings 4-7 Price let the Astros get five baserunners, none of whom scored. Astros hitters were 2x7 on balls hit to the outfield - all of them to RF Mookie Betts. By the time Price left it was already 10-3 Boston.

It was an unlucky game. Could have turned a bunch of different ways, but didn't today. Rain is in the forecast pretty much all day tomorrow (Monday) so don't expect the Astros and Red Sox to play G4 until Tuesday. Chris Sale will be on normal rest, but so will Justin Verlander. (Still think Morton gets the nod, so as to keep Verlander/Keuchel in line to start the potential ALCS games). But the Astros just need to win one of the next two games. The Red Sox need to win both. Sure would have been nice to wrap it up today and wait to see what happens in Cleveland. But somehow that's how it goes.