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So, what are the Phillies up against?

Oct 21, 2010, 8:22 AM EDT

Phillies' Hamels, Halladay and Howard watch as the Giants celebrate their victory in Game 4 of their Major League Baseball NLCS playoff series in San Francisco

Philly is down 3-1.  Phillies writer Todd Zolecki put that in perspective after the game last night by noting that six teams have overcome 3-1 deficits in the LCS since it went to seven games in 1985: The 1985 Royals, 1986 Red Sox, 1996 Braves, 2003 Marlins, 2004 Red Sox and 2007 Red Sox. ESPN’s Jayson Stark expands on that sample a bit and notes that before this year 72 teams trailed 3 games to 1 in best-of-7 series overall. Of those, only 11 came back to win.

That’s rather daunting, statistically speaking, but I don’t know that the Phillies should be considered too great a longshot. At least compared to similarly situated teams.  The common denominator of the LCS comebackers? Great pitching. The 2007 Red Sox and 1996 Braves allowed the fewest runs per game in their league. The 1985 Royals were second. The 2004 and 1986 Sox were towards the top. Only the Marlins — overall — had pedestrian pitching, but they all surged late and in the playoffs. Each team had a go-to starter or two who made everything better. The Phillies still have three of them.

I wouldn’t lay my life down on the notion of Philly coming back, but of any team in that situation, you have to feel the best about one that can run Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels out there.

  1. Kevin S. - Oct 21, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    Out of curiosity though, how many of those teams had to come back against pitchers like Lincecum, Sanchez and Cain?

    • soccermom17540 - Oct 21, 2010 at 9:51 AM

      Each game should be a pitcher’s battle. Halladay and Hamels were both off their starts (see the NLDS). But I don’t discount SF’s pitching at all.

  2. Kevin S. - Oct 21, 2010 at 9:02 AM

    It’s actually kind of curious that many teams have come back to win from down 3-1. If the two teams were actually perfectly matched, and each game was a coin flip, the odds of any one team winning three consecutive games would be (.5)(.5)(.5) = 0.125. According to Stark’s numbers, teams in that situation actually come back 15% of the time, slightly out-performing that expectation. Given that we would *typically* (not always) expect the better team to be the one more likely to be up 3-1, I find that rather surprising indeed. But even if we were to assume the Phillies were 60-40 favorites over the Giants in every game (a massive assumption completely unjustified by the relative pitching matchups), we’d still only give them a 21.6% chance of coming back. Odds still very stacked against them. Phillies are looking at anywhere between 4-1 and 7-1 chances at coming back in this one.

    • Ari Collins - Oct 21, 2010 at 9:37 AM

      72 points of data is a small enough sample that getting 15% instead of 12.5% isn’t that extraordinary.

      • Kevin S. - Oct 21, 2010 at 9:39 AM

        But again, that assumed the last three games were all 50/50 propositions, and I’m thinking that over 72 sample points, the better team was probably not the trailing team, usually. The actual expectation of coming back was likely lower than 12.5%.

  3. BC - Oct 21, 2010 at 9:05 AM

    Didn’t all of those rally-from-three-one-down team end up winning the World Series?

    • Craig Calcaterra - Oct 21, 2010 at 9:06 AM

      Not the 1996 Braves.

    • Kevin S. - Oct 21, 2010 at 9:06 AM

      As a Met fan, you should know damn well the ’86 Sox did not win the World Series. The ’96 Braves also ran into a New York buzzsaw.

      • BC - Oct 21, 2010 at 10:05 AM

        Aw, bleep. I missed the ’86 sox. Didn’t register.
        I swore the ’96 Braves won it. Was off by a year apparently.
        Sorry guys. Haven’t finished my first coffee yet.
        BC <—— Asleep at wheel

  4. Jonny 5 - Oct 21, 2010 at 9:26 AM

    I need some Advil…. I had no idea that Warstiener Oktoberfest was 5.9% alc content. Until i got loopy wayy too soon last night.” oh look at that, no wonder it’s 5.9%, hiccup” ZZZZZZZ I fell asleep after Durbin finally got a 3rd out, and woke up all discomboobulated with ROY OSWALT playing closer?? Really? Am I that buzzed, sleeping still, what? Last time he played reliever he was tossing meatballs to the Braves. pop! walkoff sac fly. Yeah, it was kinda like that.
    The phills can do it, but against this pitching, it’s going to be tough. Really tough. It’s perfection or you punch your ticket out of contention now boys. H2O and some good hitting can do it though….

    • soccermom17540 - Oct 21, 2010 at 9:50 AM

      I woke up this morning thinking “Why the heck do I feel like I have a hangover when I didn’t drink one ounce of alcohol?”

      Went to bed sick but have a light bit of optimism this morning. If any team can comeback, this team can. However, the odds are stacked against them and the Giants aren’t going to lay down.

    • BC - Oct 21, 2010 at 10:08 AM

      You need to try this stuff:

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 21, 2010 at 11:49 AM

        Well That looks pretty tasty…

  5. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 21, 2010 at 10:48 AM

    The Phillies are up against a monumental task, for a few reasons. First, Uncle Cholly didn’t pitch Doc last night. Anybody who thinks he was going to get rocked for a second game is nuts. 5 runs = 2-2 in the series. We’ll see how he does tonight…I’d be shocked if he doesn’t throw a complete game.

    Wow…seems somebody has found his voice…Kevin S, what rock have you been hiding under the last couple weeks? You are making a mistake though…you should wait until the Phillies actually lose their fourth game because becoming your old annoying self once again.

    • Kevin S. - Oct 21, 2010 at 10:51 AM

      Actually, I’ve been on vacation. Thanks for noticing, though!

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 21, 2010 at 10:59 AM

        It’s hard not to notice when you rip me in every blog posting. No biggie though…it’s all good. When the Giants win their 4th game, and celebrate, I’ll be first on here to admit I was wrong. Until then, the Phillies have a shot…although they don’t have a chance to win in 6 games, so I was wrong about that one.

      • Kevin S. - Oct 21, 2010 at 11:04 AM

        Chris, everybody rips you. I’m touched that you single me out, though.

    • seeingwhatsticks - Oct 21, 2010 at 12:29 PM

      Ummm, you’re stoned right now, right? Still got that contact high going from last night? What gives you confidence in Halladay, or H2O, when the Giants HAVE ALREADY BEATEN EACH OF THEM IN THIS SERIES? It’s great to say you have Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels ready to go, but you’re down 3-1 and really haven’t touched the Giants Big Three. You can say Halladay wasn’t his sharpest in game 1, and that may even be true, but neither was Lincecum. You’re expecting the 2-time Cy Young winner and NL strikeout king to crap the bed in an elimination game at home? Scratch that comment about a contact high, you’re just stoned. The Giants are the better team. Period. No qualifications about Chahlie making mistakes, or the Phils not playing like they are capable of playing, or anything else. The games have been pretty close but at 3-1, they are getting whipped, so stop talking about how the Phils are more talented and should feel confident because The small Three are lined up. The Phils have to beat Lincecum tonight. If they are lucky enough to pull it off, they have to beat Sanchez on Saturday. If the stars line up and they are able to pull off both of those feats, then they get Matthew Thomas Cain in game 7. Good luck Philly, you’re gonna need it.

      • soccermom17540 - Oct 21, 2010 at 12:43 PM

        The Giants are the hot team right now. They are playing better in the playoffs. However, you can not quantitatively state they are the better team period. Phillies’ record was better. Their stats are better. They are cold right now and the Giants are hot. It’s how the playoffs go . . .

        I’m not expecting Lincecum to “crap the bed” but he wasn’t exactly lights out in Game 1. Neither was Halladay. I expect tonight to be a 1-0 win by one of the teams.

      • seeingwhatsticks - Oct 21, 2010 at 12:47 PM


      • seeingwhatsticks - Oct 21, 2010 at 12:51 PM

        The stats and reg season records are irrelevant because this Giants team has only been together since August when they picked up Cody Ross. Lopexz wasn’t acquired until the trade deadline. Bumgarner didn’t get called up until July, shortly after Molina was traded and Buster became the every day catcher. Buster and Burrell weren’t added until May 29. The regular season is meaningless because THIS Giants team didn’t exist for most of it.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 21, 2010 at 3:20 PM

        Jesus dude…chill the hell out. First, I said it was a MONUMENTAL TASK. That usually means that it is pretty tough. Second, what gives me confidence in Halladay? Oh, I don’t know…maybe that he threw a no-hitter in his first postseason game, a perfect game earlier this year, and is the odds-on favorite to win the Cy Young…yeah, over your hero Timmy boy and even Matthew Thomas Cain. I told Kevin to wait until they win a 4th game before ripping me, and you jump all over that as me saying the Phillies are going to win the series? LOLZ. I’ll tell you this…they better win tonight. because Oswalt/Hamels and the White Towels are going to be trouble for the Giants in games 6 and 7…even with Sandy Koufax pitching game 6 and Walter Johnson pitching game 7 for the Giants.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 21, 2010 at 3:21 PM

        And by the way…pretty pathetic of you to come out and puff your chest after your team is up 3 games to 1…and talk about how great they have been all year, and how much better they are than the Phillies…blah blah blah…where ya been?

  6. Utley's Hair - Oct 21, 2010 at 11:11 AM

    The Phightins have their backs against the wall. One potentially positive thing to take from last night’s debacle: most of the bats woke up (hear me JRoll? I’m talking to YOU!!!!! Friggin’ popout with JDub on second with no outs!!!!). Now, with–why in God’s name am I using this name?!?!?–H2O taking the mound to try to pull their asses out of the fire, they need to find a way to score a piddly three or four runs in each game. I don’t care how they do it: homers, bunts, walks, whatever. Now, hopefully Cholly putting Oswalt in there out of the pen doesn’t come back and bite ’em….

  7. ccs714 - Oct 21, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    Your talking can the Phillys sweep a 3 game series, one in SF. Sure they can. Wouldn’t bet on it, wouldn’t even bet on Philly’s winning tonight. They have to win one game at a time. If the game comes down to pitching tonight and the Phillys play the same. Giants win. If the Philly’s can NOT strand runners on bases in scoring position, Philly’s win. Then we will talk about taking the series, the Phillys that is.

    • soccermom17540 - Oct 21, 2010 at 4:37 PM

      Wish there was a “thumbs up” button.

  8. gtltc - Oct 21, 2010 at 2:39 PM


  9. landolives - Oct 21, 2010 at 3:34 PM

    Really great discussion board. I’ve been scanning all the major baseball outlets for postseason news and I think this is the first one that doesn’t feature really belligerent comments from either side. There’s nothing worse than a Troll gloating or casting bitter and really baseless aspersions…

    Don’t really see the Phillies coming back here. Forcing a game 6 would be a massive victory in itself, but unless Uts, JRoll, and the big piece can shake off their lingering injuries, Halladay’s gem will go wasted. The Giants improvised lineup is proving superior when it counts. And when it counts is all that counts. Of course, if the toughness of a champion fighter somehow gets back in the Phils tonight, we’ll have a much more interesting series on our hands. One can only hope.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 21, 2010 at 4:02 PM

      What the hell do you know? Phillies are going to win this series in 7. They have the best 3 pitchers going, and the Giants suck. They are lucky to be up 3-1 in this series. Go back to wherever you came from you pathetic troll.

      /sarcasm…I had to do it.

      • littlepixie73 - Oct 21, 2010 at 4:23 PM

        Know more than you! If Giants sucks so bad then why are we winning?!? Guess who’s the pathetic troll now? Wait until tonight when we beat the Phillies! Let’s go Giants!

      • soccermom17540 - Oct 21, 2010 at 4:36 PM

        Oh for goodness sake Littlepixie, did you not see the /sarcasm.

    • The Rabbit - Oct 21, 2010 at 5:28 PM

      “There’s nothing worse than a Troll gloating or casting bitter and really baseless aspersions…” Agreed. The larger problem is that a Troll refuses to buy a clue that s/he is one. Oh well.
      I don’t have a horse in the post season race, but did enter a “pool” before it began. I predicted the Rangers and Phillies as WS participants.
      Although the Giants made acquisitions and callups that improved the team, the Phillies continued to win with replacement players due to the numerous injuries. I think you could easily make a case that we haven’t seen either team for an entire season. With that said, I watched parts of almost every MLB game played this year; therefore, these comments are based on a mix of stats and personal observations. Note: I live in the middle of nowhere and have no life…but I do have high speed internet and multiple displays.
      The Phillies starters > Giants starters. Lincecum (who I love) did not have his best stuff for part of the year. Those with short memories, may recall suggestions to upgrade Timmy’s weed during these stretches. Sanchez was inconsistent and Bumgarner was a rookie with ups and downs. Although he didn’t have the lowest ERA or most wins, Cain was probably the most reliable over the entire season. The Giants bullpen (due to Lopez and Ramirez, not Mota and Affeldt) and Brian Wilson are better than the Phillies’ pen and closer, but if “H2O” are on their games, it shouldn’t matter.
      Can the Phillies comeback? Not out of the realm of possibility. Will the Phillies comeback? I would be very surprised.

  10. goose31 - Oct 21, 2010 at 4:28 PM

    a quick comment on the “better” team and all that mumbo jumbo about better records and hot/cold, and pitching…..I prefer to keep the conversation when evaluating teams to the most important element, Head-to-Head. In the “regular” season they split 4-4….so any reference to the Phillies finishing with 97 wins (beating up on Mets, Nationals, Marlins) versus the Giants finishing with 92 wins (beating up on D-backs, Dodgers – only sub .500 teams) is irrelevant. The weren’t able to decide the better team in the regular season.

    Clearly, the Giants are the better team right now up 3-1. To keep it simple for those die-hards, let’s just agree that the best team will be determined by the winner of the next 3-game series. The Giants need to go at least 1-1 to shut everyone up and the Phillies need to go 3-0 to shut everyone else up.

    Everything else is whoulda, coulda, shoulda…..let’s just tune in to a great match up tonight and see what happens.

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