FanPost

Intangible Opiumism: Why The Phillies Will Make the 2012 Playoffs

The day is September 12th, 2012. Skies are blue and clear, the temperature a warm 76° and a light breeze wafts through the air. The Philadelphia Phillies are 4 games back in the wild card standings with twenty games left to play. The small buzz of hope surrounding the teams playoff chances, are tempered with expectations of soul-crushing, heart-breaking losses.

- A grandpa, thirty years in the future, telling his wide-eyed grandkids about the Phillies 2012 World Series Championship.

I'm a pretty optimistic person. Some would say dangerously optimistic. If the Phillies are down by five runs in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, I'd be the guy calling everyone to watch the amazing comeback that was about to unfold from the bold and fighting players. In fact, one of my favorite memories is the Phillies coming back from six runs down in the bottom of the ninth against the Reds. Somehow, I had a feeling that something special was going to happen that night and that the Phillies were going to come back and win that game. All season long, despite the poor record of the Phillies, scorn and derision from my Twins and Nationals fans brothers and lack of hustle from Jimmy Rollins, I never stopped believing that the Phillies were going to turn things around and make a run.

Surely, you can't be serious, you're probably thinking right now. I mean, there's optimism and then there's just drugs. Look at the odds of the Phillies grabbing a Wild Card spot:

Team Wins Losses GB Playoff Pct
Atlanta Braves 81 62 - 99.1%
San Francisco Giants 80 62 - 98.8%
St. Louis Cardinals 75 67 - 72.1%
Los Angeles Dodgers 74 68 1.0 19.4%
Pittsburgh Pirates 72 69 2.5 5.3%
Milwaukee Brewers 71 71 4.0 1.8%
Philadelphia Phillies 71 71 4.0 1.0%
Arizona Diamondbacks 70 72 5.0 2.5%

Baseball Prospectus as of September 12, 2012

Improbable odds be damned! Just like that night against the Reds, for a while now I've had a feeling, a feeling that something special, something magical was going to happen with our beloved Phillies. Bud Selig added that extra Wild Card spot for a reason and that reason is your 2012 Philadelphia Phillies. The thing is, you can't really explain special feelings especially on TGP where we crave statistical support and logical reasoning. David, RememberThePhitans, Schmenkman, Liz and Joe have already written good pieces in regards to odds, strength of schedule, positivity and questioning just what in the world is going on. I decided to take a slightly different approach on why the Phillies have been winning as of late and why they are going to make the playoffs. Without further ado (save for the jump), I present to you Intangimetrics.

BABIP

Everyone worth their rosin, knows what BABIP is. For those of you who don't it stands for Believing Advantageous Baubles Increase Performance. In layman's terms BABIP is an attempt to mathematically quantify the amount of luck a player or team is receiving from believing in various superstitions, selling their souls, lucky items, rituals, etc. As you've probably guessed, for the majority of the season, the Phillies players were at the bottom of the charts:

If you look closely at the data points, you can just make out the outline of a black cat
walking underneath a ladder

Let's take a quick look at a few of the players who stand out from the others.

Jimmy Rollins

Jimmy's average BABIP has been in the top of the league throughout his entire career so it was quite a surprise to see it drop down so dramatically in 2012. After pouring over video, audio clips and raw data, there is only one possible explanation to attest for his recent string of poor luck: He stopped wearing his lucky underwear.

Lucky underwear is the most preferred bauble of players, ahead of both Phiten titanium necklaces and sacrificing minor leaguers to Baseba'al. Why would Jimmy stop wearing lucky underwear? With a new child on the way, Jimmy and his wife Johari worried that the underwear might have an affect on their unborn baby. He decided to do the unthinkable and washed them, essentially destroying its effectiveness and causing a devastating blow to the team's overall BABIP. Once his daughter Camyrn Drew Rollins was born (May 20th, 2012), he decided it was safe to no longer wash his lucky boxers and saw almost immediate improvements. Expect his BABIP to continue rising through September as his underwear continues to fester with good luck vibes.

Hunter Pence

Hunter Pence doesn't rely on luck because he's a guy who hustles hard and Plays The Right Way™. The small statistical blip on the graph is from the one time he had Lucky Charms for breakfast before an early afternoon game and should be disregarded as an outlier. This old-school style of thinking is wrong headed and statistics clearly correlation between higher BABIP and player performance. Ruben J. Amaro did the right thing trading him for Nate Schierholtz who has a career average BABIP of .317, thanks to his superstition about only wearing batting gloves on prime-numbered night games.

FATE and FIP

In 2011, just about every time Brad Lidge came out to pitch in the 8th inning, the outcome of the game hung in the balance. Again, because it's important, just about every time Brad Lidge came out to pitch in the 8th inning, the outcome of the game hung in the balance. Maybe the 8th inning would be a heart-fluttering, butt-clenching, nerve-wracking endeavor. Maybe the game would be blown wide open by the opposing team and we would end up losing. Regardless of the outcome, at the very least we had a chance. In fact, in 2011, the Phillies were the first team in MLB history to maintain a season-long, 87% probability of winning a game after the seventh inning. To realize what an amazing feat this is, take a look all five of the top teams for that year:

Team 7th Inning> %
Phillies 87%
Yankees 61%
Rays 57%
Rangers 56%
Braves 50%

The 2011 Phillies had a 26% higher chance of winning a game after seven innings then the second best team. No other top team in history has ever had such a large differential. 2012 as you know all too well, was an entirely different story. When Amaro made the HUGE mistake of not resigning Brad Lidge, who has an astounding FATE of 16.42 (the league average for relievers is 7.22 to give you some perspective), it left a massive canyon in the Phillies bullpen. While the bullpen has been better as of late due to the teams improving EDGY and BABIP the increase in their performance can't last forever unless we take FIP (Fan Induced Power) into account.

Fans have a much bigger influence on games than anyone can imagine. If it wasn't for fans, Cole Hamels wouldn't have signed an extension, The Dodgers would've never lost that game and the Phanatic wouldn't be on a registry list somewhere. FIP is the most complex of the Intangimetric stats, involves four different lookup charts and would likely require another post to explain in its entirety. To give you an idea, here is the simplified version of the formula:

This is the simplified version?

The complexity of the formula doesn't change the fact that we, as fans of the Philadelphia Phillies have enough FIP (3.84) to positively impact our team. We need to recapture some of that 2011 magic and I propose we start tipping FATE back in our pitchers favor by tempting it with content such as this:

via Ember Twist
Say "ball" again. Say "ball" again. I dare you-

Some people despise (to put it kindly) the pony images. I'm not sure which side of the fence I fall on myself. However, this is not the time for petty selfishness to get in the way of the team. We need to look beyond ourselves and do what's right to help the Phillies squeeze out every bit of intangible goodness they can. If posting ponified Samuel L. Jackson pictures can help increase our chances of winning, then by Baseba'al, we should do it.

xEDGY

If BABIP is the bread of Intangimetrics, xEDGY is undoubtedly the butter. Coined in 2007 by Humpert D. Gable, it improves on the EDGY formula, a measurement of how nervous a pitcher or batter is:


The xEDGY Formula

Look how nervous the Braves are! I love it!

xEDGY is such a great stat because once you know the value for a specific team, you can combine it with almost any other stat and get a fairly accurate extrapolation of a player's future performance. The downside to the stat is that it's very difficult to determine the cause of the nervousness. Most teams understandably keep a tight lid on what makes their players nervous and how they [the organization] deals with that nervousness. Thanks to Shane Victorino convincing his [former] manager to give the modern marvel that is Twitter a try, we got a glimpse into how the Phillies try and keep calm.

Suddenly, the Phillies xEDGY numbers make a lot sense. At the start of the season, the team's xEDGY had been at their highest totals in team history. With Utley in rehab, instead of "seeing" the calming sexiness that Utley's well-gelled hair follicles exuded, Phillies batters instead imagined the following:

- The wrinkled ass of Jim Thome.
- The "naked ass" [slightly NSFW] of Cole Hamels
- Joe Blanton, an imagined sight that was, a player who wish to remain anonymous quoted "Oh dear god, why."

There is a sudden drop in the Phillies xEDGY numbers on June 27th, which is when Chase Utley made his glorious return to the team. Not only did the Phillies get back 480,000 pixels of heart-throbbing Utley, they also called up the bodacious figure of Dom Brown. It's safe to say that these two had a tremendous calming effect on their teammates and were the reason behind the Phillies drastic drop in xEDGY late in the season. With the Phillies making a ferocious run down the stretch, you can expect other wild card team's xEDGY values to increase significantly, so we should see even further improvement from the offense.

Pat The Bat Fact! - Pat the Bat used to tell his teammates "I always like to imagine your wives naked." Even though he is no longer part of the team, he still does to this day.

Duty

Let's talk hypotheticals for a minute. What if, despite all the intangibles in their favor, the Phillies somehow didn't make the playoffs? There is a very real possibility that the following scenarios could happen:

The Braves may win The World Series

...

The Problem:

h) All of the above.

Chipper Jones. Chance at a ring. In his last season. Hooters. Does anything else really need to be said?
Yet, to pour hydrochloric acid on the already gaping wounds, one guess who the Phillies would face in the first game of the 2013 season? No one wants to fathom an idea that the Braves could possibly hold a ring ceremony before their home opening game starts. No one wants to see Chipper being presented a ring. It would douse the enthusiasm and excitement of the return of real live baseball games.

The Nationals may win the World Series.

The Nationals are a young, exciting team with a very bright future ahead of them. More so, they are a generally likable bunch of guys (disregarding their #Nattitude and Take Back the ballpark initiatives). There are even some former Phillies on the team!

The Problem:

Bryce Harper.

Flashback to spring training. After seeing this clip of him in Triple A last year, many people feared that this was what Major League Baseball was going to have to put up with on a near daily basis. We got an early head start on building up reserves of hatred, just waiting for the proper time to unleash it in torrents. That's when a funny thing happened; he got the call up and for the most part, has conducted himself well, played well and said all the right things. Suddenly, it was difficult, if not impossible to hate on this guy anymore. He was, dare I say, enjoyable to watch play. All of our hatred was built on a moment that no longer embodied the person we imagined him to be.

Becoming a WFC can change people though. If Bryce Harper wins a ring in his first year as a port of the team, especially if he is the walkoff hero in Game 7 of the World Series, the "fuzzy 'stached, eye-black smudging, kiss blowing, arrogant bastard" we would've loved to hate is going to resurface faster than you can curse and it will be worse than anything anyone could ever imagine.

via ESPN
Unacceptable.

The Phillies know that they have an unspoken duty to their division, to the league, to the game and to the fans of baseball all around the world to prevent these atrocities from happening. Duty can be a powerful motivator because sometimes, failure just isn't an option.

Here's to making the playoffs...and going all the way.[NSFW]

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