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Three Thoughts for the Morning: Game 1, Cliff Lee's Luck, and the Rockies' Lefty Hitters

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As we wait for 2:37pm to arrive, here are three things to think about to quench your Phillies NLDS thirst:

  • How important is winning game 1?  Very.  Since the advent of the Wild Card, there have been 56 division series.  The winner of game 1 has won the series 39 times; the loser of game 1 has won the series only 17 times.  That translates into a 70% chance of winning the series if you win game 1 compared to only a 30% chance if you lose game 1.  Game 1 is less important in the championship series, as game 1 winners won the championship series only 64% of the time over the past 14 years.  But it's much more important in the World Series.  Over the last 14 years, the World Series game 1 winner has won the Series 12 times, or 86% of the time.  There's certainly no absolute bar to losing game 1 and then winning the division series, but it would be very advantageous for the Phillies to avoid having to try to do that.

     

  • How unlucky has Cliff Lee been since his 5-0 start?  Very.  In his first five starts for the Phillies, Cliff Lee went 5-0 with a miniscule 0.68 ERA and .443 opponents' OPS.  In his last seven starts for the Phillies, Lee went 3-4 with a 6.13 ERA and .895 opponents' OPS.  Did the NL figure him out all of a sudden?  Did he lose it?  Was he riding a wave of euphoria in being traded to a first place team and then fell off the cliff after that?  No, no, and no.  Rather, Lee went from having an incredible run of luck to a horrible run of luck.  In his first five starts, Lee had a BABIP of .175, HR/FB ratio of 0%, and a K/BB ratio of 6.5 (39 to 6).  Compare that to his last seven starts when he had a BABIP of .386, HR/FB of 16%, with a K/BB of 8.75 (35 to 4).  Balls hit in the field were dropping all of a sudden, and fly balls were going just a tad further.  That's bad luck.  Especially when you consider his strikeout to walk ratio actually improved, Lee didn't change.  If his outing doesn't turn out well today, it shouldn't be because he's not pitching well.  Sometimes luck just doesn't shine on you.

     

  • How nice is it that the Phillies have such a lefty-dominated starting rotation against the Rockies?  Very.  The Rockies are a lefty-heavy team.  Starters Carlos Gonzalez, Todd Helton, and Brad Hawpe are lefties.  Key bench players Ian Stewart, Seth Smith, and Jason Giambi are lefty.  As a team, the Rockies have a .791 OPS against righties but just a .765 OPS against lefties.  They hit for a worse average, get on base less, and have less power against lefties.  Their left-handed hitters go from an .849 OPS against righties to a .733 OPS against lefties.  If J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton aren't used in relief in the first two games, it's a pretty easy call who should pitch game 3.  The lefty.