Holliday validates Torre’s Pujols strategy

by on October 8, 2009 · 0 comments

In the handful of hours since the Cardinals lost Game One of the NLDS to the Dodgers, the realization has set in that the Dodgers didn’t play much (if any) better than the hometown club.

Sure, they had more timely hits – both with the bat and by the ball – than the Cards, but there is a reason the game ran so long, a new NLDS record for game duration.

Both sides stranded runner after runner.  The Cardinals were 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position.  Not to be outdone, the Dodgers were 2-for-15.

Where the Dodgers came out ahead was that they didn’t have to depend on hitting with RISP.  The home run by Matt Kemp came with Rafael Furcal on first base.  Furcal later knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly.  Russell Martin was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Okay, so the Dodger bullpen performed better than the Cardinal bullpen, that much is clear.  But the rest of the game was an absolute struggle for both teams, even moreso for those of us watching less-than-stellar baseball on a tremendously bad broadcast of it (get your act together TBS).

Admittedly, the one nice addition to the TBS broadcast was the use of their PitchTrax feature in the right sidebar of the high definition feed.

This tool offered insight into what may have been one of the most important at-bats of the game for the Cardinals.  (Little did we know it would be a harbinger of things to come.)

With the bases loaded and no one out in the first inning, following an intentional walk to Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday came to the plate with an opportunity to blow the game wide open before ace Chris Carpenter even got to the mound.

This was the dream scenario for Cardinal fans, right?  For Tony LaRussa, John Mozeliak, and Bill DeWitt?  This is why Matt Holliday is a Cardinal.

Holliday quickly worked Dodger pitcher Randy Wolf to a 2-0 count, as Wolf was seemingly struggling with his control.

Wolf then got a called strike on the outside corner from home plate umpire Dana DeMuth.  Then another.  Then one more for the strikeout.  They were great pitches.  Holliday’s bat never moved.

How can you not offer at a single pitch in that at-bat?  Once Wolf got the first two called strikes, whether you agree with the calls or not (and Holliday clearly didn’t), how can you watch the third one sail in even closer to the plate?

Yes, it was closer, as the PitchFX data shows:

hollidayvwolf

Holliday was ultimately right about the locations of the pitches.  But until balls and strikes are called by the PitchFX cameras instead of the fallible human umpires, taking pitches that close, in an at-bat with such high leverage, is inexcusable in my book.  Swing the bat.

Maybe Holliday thought he had earned those calls because of his star status in the league?  Would those have been strikes for Pujols and his notoriously good eye?

I’m not one typically prone to exaggeration, but I have a sneaking suspicion that was a huge at-bat/turning point in this series, and it happened in the top of the first inning.  Yikes.

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Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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