This collection of extremely talented athletes are an admirable bunch. Despite their obvious abilities to throw, hit, and field a baseball better than most anyone on the planet, they would hate to monopolize the distribution of on-field success. After all, the distribution of talents is a matter of moral luck and not due to the credit of the talented. Moreover, the particular talents that are valued at any given time are not essential to human existence but a happenstance. If Chase Utley had been born in feudal Japan, his short stroke and soft hands would not have made him a shogun. (On second thought, Utley wins in whatever epoch he might have lived. Bad example. But you get the point.) So, it's just not fair to hoard the loot and take advantage of the results of a mere lottery. The Phillies know this well. And it is why we see games like tonight's, where they do so much well and so much poorly. How else would you explain tonight's inconsistent play?
Take David Buchanan. He pitched 5.1 innings surrendering 2 earned runs and 0 walks. He also walked and crushed a line drive double to left field that almost burrowed through the outfield wall. He would eventually score on an Utley bloop double. These are good things for a pitcher to do. On the other hand, he allowed baserunners in all but one inning, giving up 9 hits. And he struck out 0 Marlins, which will tend to lead to baserunners. On top of this, it seemed he wasn't able to get his sinker down, and the Marlins hit lots of balls in the air. When Buchanan is right, half of his balls in play are on the ground. It's the best he can do to make up for not striking many guys out. Tonight that stuff wasn't quite there. Or, my pet hypothesis, he just wanted to redistribute the success.
Or take Domonic Brown. He got a big single in the 6th inning to bring home Revere and Utley and put the Phillies ahead 4-2 (and make up for a Howard strike out--we'll get to that). But in the first inning Brown fielded a ball hit to his right and came up firing to third to try to cut down the runner from 1st. Unfortunately, his throw was...inaccurate...Moreover, it didn't have a chance in the first place, allowed the batter-runner to advance to second, and eventually let that runner score the second run against Buchanan in the first. Most likely, had Brown just kept the batter-runner at first Buchanan would have escaped the inning only surrendering one run. In the dugout, Brown got an earful from Juan Samuel and Tony Gwynn, Jr. I'm sure they were lauding him for his greatness of soul and equanimity in the face of an unjust world.
Not to be outdone, Ryan Howard, having already had a long illustrious career (and let's not forget the ecstasy of the young Mr. Howard), decided he needn't show his quality tonight. Instead, he donned a golden sombrero. Not only this, he was called out on strikes three times, and the pitches were closer to the heart of the zone than the edge. Clearly, he felt he had a lot to give back for all the runs he's gobbled up in seasons past.
But the most virtuous player of the night was Jake Diekman. He didn't want to just keep things even. He is not just an egalitarian. He is willing to suffer ignominy for the sake of others' success. He is the altruist. Diekman retired just one batter (although it might have been two if Asche didn't have a more inviting 5-hole than Roman Cechmanek). Rather than generate the whiffs that usually lead to lots of strikeouts, he darted his pitches to the batters sweet spots and they obligingly knocked the ball all over the field (and through Asche's wickets). All in all, Diekman contributed -73% WPA. That's more than enough to cause a loss. He took it all on himself. If he'd pitched well, the Phillies might have won the game, despite their efforts to be egalitarians. And if he'd been an egalitarian, he might have just let the Marlins tie the game. Nay. Diekman put the Marlins in the lead, like a true altruist.
But lest I be blinded by my own praise for the Phillies' moral virtues, I must admit their virtues might veer into vices. We must ask: are the Phillies not subjugating the Marlins by means of their egalitarian vision? Should the Marlins not be free to fail without the interference of a secret safety-net? Perhaps we should worry that the Phillies manifest mediocrity will become a mild tyranny.
Fangraph of ROGER GOODELL IS A LIAR!
I noticed in the game thread lots of frustration at Sandberg for his management of the team in this game and over the course of the season. I admit that I think I can explain all of his moves on an ad hoc basis, but have no sense of a coherent strategy unless it is mostly standing by traditions with the occasional clinamen. Feel free to discuss this more in the comments. I'd like to hash this out.