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Cruel, Cruel Regression: Reds 6, Phillies 4

Doubt is cast on Aaron Harang's Cy Young candidacy. Chase Utley continues to be good at baseball. Chooch blocks home plate. Freddy Galvis experiments with surface area. Ben Revere almost hits for the cycle.

A play at the plate.
A play at the plate.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

In baseball analysis, especially in the early weeks of the season, we hear the term "regression to the mean" brandied about at the notice of any unexpected performances. Chase Utley is hitting under .100? He'll regress to the mean. Every other pitch Cole Hamels throws is hit into the bleachers? That should regress to the mean. Most often, that use of the concept of regression is either misused or misinterpreted.

Regression is often misconstrued as fancy word to hide behind when participating in a gambler's fallacy. Under the gambler's fallacy, Chase Utley hitting .100 for a month means he will, as a .270 hitter, even it out with .440 stretch to bring him back to .270. But, while that certainly might happen, it is definitely not what one should reasonable expect to happen. Regression to the mean is not a process of evening-out.

What regression to the mean is is the idea that in the next performance, a player will perform closer to his true talent level--his mean--than the extreme results that occurred prior. That month of a .100 average for Utley is in the proverbial bag. It can't be undone, but we expect him to perform much closer to his actual level of ability going forward.

So, while not even I--self-appointed President of the Aaron Harang Street Team--expected Harang to pitch 6 or 7 innings and give up one or two runs--which is basically what he has done all year--I did not anticipate the disaster that awaited him tonight. Tonight, Harang only lasted 5 2/3 innings over which gave up six runs. He walked a season-high five batters and tied a season-low with only one strikeout. That's not regression, that's just another extreme outcome on the other side of the mean.

The revival of Chase Utley has been fun to watch. His average is now (somewhat) comfortably over .200. He hit an RBI double tonight and, more importantly, made the following defensive play. Physics are at play in that leap, but I don't think I have enough scientific know-how to fully comprehend them.

When that play happened, times were good. The Phillies were leading 2-1. Utley and Franco were hitting. Revere had a triple. Aaron "Cy Young" Harang was on the hill. Victory was assured.

Then the 5th inning happened. The Reds got their first run of the inning on a one-out double from Brandon Phillips, but that's not important. What is important is what happened after Harang intentionally walked Joey Votto to load the bases. With one out and the bases loaded, Todd Frazier did pretty much what the Phillies wanted. He hit a ground ball hard enough to allow a play at the plate.

(Warning: this is a long video because confusing things take a long time to document.)

You'll note, first off, that Carlos Ruiz decided to eschew the force out in order to deliver a more spectacular tag play of a bang-bang nature. Next, the observer will clearly agree that Ruiz successfully applied a tag on the runner prior to any of the latter's appendages coming into physical congress with home plate. The third thing you may notice is that Ruiz's leg, specifically his left leg, is directly in what might be called the baseline-extended if that were a term. Unfortunately, that third, and least crucial aspect of the play, became the most crucial aspect of the play. Ruiz was observed, upon replay review, to be in violation of the "Buster Posey Rule" and the runner was declared safe as a result.

Clearly, Ruiz should have just tapped the bag with his damn foot and been done with the out. Still, even in his less ideal course of action, he seemed to have acted within the spirit of the Posey Rule. The runner was given a reasonably clear path to the plate and nothing Ruiz did put either himself or the runner at any significant risk of injury. The Phillies were probably going to lose anyway, but not even Antonin Scalia would interpret the rule that literally.

Fast-forward to the bottom of the 9th. With the Phillies down by two, the Reds brought in Aroldis Chapman for a rematch with Maikel Franco and also to get a save. Not only did Chapman settle the score with Franco by striking him out, but he figured he liked striking people out and went ahead and did the same to Cody Asche and Freddy Galvis to end the game.

Comment of the Game: Anyone hear the annoying ass lady[?]--Philly Sports All Day

Other Notes

  • Cold Phillies: Ryan Howard and Freddy Galvis continue to struggle after rough starts. Howard went 0-for-4 with a strikeout tonight and is now 2 for his last 33. Freddy Galvis went 0-for-4 and is not 0 for his last 26.
  • Freddy Galvis apparently has gone back to the giant bat that he was using in Spring Training and the start of the season, presumably hoping that the greater surface area would increase his chances of making contact:

  • Ben Revere hit a triple in the first inning, a single in the third, and a double in the eighth inning. Somewhat surprisingly, at least to me, this was the first time Revere was a home run short of the cycle in his career.
  • Jake Diekman was optioned to AAA Lehigh Valley following the game in order to work on his slider and pitching inside to left-handed hitters, according to Ryne Sandberg via Meghan Montemurro. A roster move to replace him will be made tomorrow. Commence the sad game of guessing who that might be! My money is on Cesar Jimenez to get another lefty in the bullpen, but my heart is with my birthday buddy Hector Neris.
  • Arbitrary end-points, but the Phillies are 2-11 in their last 13 games. Good times!