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Yeah, Rangers pitchers definitely choked a bit

Oct 29, 2011, 12:27 AM EDT

C.J. Wilson Getty Images

In winning the ALCS against the Tigers, Rangers pitchers issued 22 walks in six games. None of those batters who walked came around to score.

In losing the World Series to the Cardinals, Rangers pitchers walked 41 batters in seven games. 11 of those hitters came around to score. As did two of the batters they hit with pitches.

In the fifth inning Friday, the Cardinals upped their lead from one run to three runs thanks to the following sequence: walk, HBP, groundout, intentional walk, walk, HBP.

The Rangers lost this series because too many of their pitchers couldn’t find the strike zone. The 41 walks were a new World Series record, one more than the Marlins issued in winning the 1997 championship. C.J. Wilson, who is probably going to get about $75 million as a free agent this winter, set another record by issuing 19 walks in 28 innings over the course of the postseason.

Wilson, of course, was the biggest culprit in the World Series, walking 11 in 12 1/3 innings. Alexi Ogando issued seven in 2 2/3 innings. Scott Feldman, the goat in the fifth inning tonight, had six walks in five innings. Closer Neftali Feliz walked four in 3 2/3 innings.

Derek Holland, who, ironically enough, was the Rangers’ most inconsistent pitcher during the regular season, was about the team’s only hurler to hold it together against the Cardinals. He had two walks in 10 1/3 innings.

Too bad he was the one of the Rangers’ four starters not to get two starts in the series.

  1. baccards - Oct 29, 2011 at 12:39 AM

    Washington was gracious in saying the Cardinals were the better team.. without saying his pitchers really were bad.. tonight was much a product of baseball vs.designaterhitterball approaches. And charts of course (Dave Duncon) I think sabermetrics had to take seed with him and TLR

  2. thehypercritic - Oct 29, 2011 at 12:45 AM

    Okay, this writer’s definitely just messing with us at this point… Right?

    Nobody paid to write about baseball in 2011 thinks a failure to perform in a small sample size is choking, right? The application of judgement to an elite athlete’s inner strength was done away with decades ago.

    Stop writing satire and start giving us analysis. This was the seventh game of the world series, not a chance to show how clever you are in mocking the braindead writers of yesteryear.

    • poreef - Oct 29, 2011 at 1:09 AM

      I think it’s fair to say that the Rangers pitching didn’t come through. I don’t think the author here intended “choke” to mean something about inner strength, but simply that they didn’t perform up to what one could have expected based upon prior results in the regular season and playoffs.

      Matt was watching the same game I did – walks and HBP to the 2-5 hitters in the Cardinals lineup added up to runs and. as importantly more ABs for the top of their lineup in subsequent innings. The bottom of the Cardinals lineup sure was “clutch!”

      I think the Rangers should have attacked the plate more on the meat of the Cardinals lineup. Or at least gotten to 2-1 counts instead on what appeared to be several “intentional unintentional” walks to Pujols and Berkman. It’s still a game where more than half the time the batter fails.

      • poreef - Oct 29, 2011 at 1:15 AM

        If you want #s, try monte carlo-ing 6 walks a game to the Cardinals lineup and see how many times the Rangers come out on top. I’m guessing that 4 would be a rare result.

        41 walks over 7 games has to be fairly rare. Which is to say, more likely to be explained by a systematic choice – not attacking the plate – rather than by a statistical fluke.

      • thehypercritic - Oct 29, 2011 at 1:19 AM

        I don’t think anyone would dispute that the Rangers pitcher didn’t throw as well as expected, but choke has a specific definition and to pretend that we know with any certainty why a team performed as they did over 65 innings of baseball is foolhardy.

        Washington didn’t help matters by putting so many runners on and often having the wrong hurler on the mound, but the suggestion that the pitchers suddenly fell victim to the pressures of the stage seems deeply unfair.

        And if the author didn’t mean to sat they “choked”, he should have chosen another word with a definition adhering to his point.

      • poreef - Oct 29, 2011 at 1:28 AM

        Did you read beyond the headline?

      • poreef - Oct 29, 2011 at 1:30 AM

        Did you read past the headline?

      • thehypercritic - Oct 29, 2011 at 1:32 AM

        Sure I did, but it’s largely a regurgitation of facts.

        His only piece of analysis as to why they pitched poorly is the headline.

      • poreef - Oct 29, 2011 at 1:49 AM

        From a purely mathematical perspective, there are two reasons why the Rangers staff could have underperformed relative to larger samples:

        1. A random fluctuation. For example, a staff with a 1.2 WHIP over 162 could easily have a 1.4 WHIP over 7.

        2. A systematic bias. For example, staff WHIP against a good team you meet in the World Series is probably worse than in all 162. Or, more simply, a failure to perform up to your ability for whatever reason – injury, fatigue, etc.

        I think the explanation for this series lies somewhere behind door #2. Some of those explanations might be called choking, others not.

        My eyes tell me that the Rangers pitchers were afraid to hit the plate against the Cardinals best after game 3 – and rightfully so. But you can’t just throw 4 balls. You have to try to get some outs. They didn’t. I’m happy to call that choking.

        Yelling “small sample size” in a crowded blog isn’t analysis either.

      • thehypercritic - Oct 29, 2011 at 1:58 AM

        I’m fully on board with your analysis, and would gladly have read that instead of what’s posted above, until you get to the point of defining it as an inner failing with choking.

        We have no idea why things happen over small sample sizes. I’m willing to posit that some mixture of competition, approach/pitch selection, wrong personnel, season long fatigue and luck all played a part.

        You just don’t rise to the highest level of your profession in the world, where countless people watch and critique your every performance and money’s always on the line, if you’re susceptible to “choking” and any suggestion to the contrary better come with a heck of a lot of data and causal proof.

      • poreef - Oct 29, 2011 at 2:06 AM

        To give a #: the Rangers BB/9 was 2.87 in the regular season. A value closer to 6 must have an extremely low chance of randomly occurring over 7 games.

        So, at the very least, they intended to avoid the strike zone with the hope that either the batter would get himself out or they would walk and get subsequent batters out. The plan didn’t work.

        Sample size can make it hard to determine whether door #2 or door #1 is the way to look at things but not all the time. On the other hand, I have no explanation for the 2010 Giants beating the Rangers. Magic beard?

      • poreef - Oct 29, 2011 at 2:14 AM

        Re: susceptibility to choking. These are guys who eat fried chicken, drink beer and want to bang porn actors.

        Who happen to hit a ball with a stick fairly well. Or prevent others from doing the same.

        They’re not ubermenschen. When you prick them, they bleed, etc., etc. Simply asserting that people who make a lot of money don’t screw up because other people are watching them is belied by, say, the Bureau of Labor Statistics post-Lehman Bros.

      • thehypercritic - Oct 29, 2011 at 2:22 AM

        I wasn’t arguing that their salaries are proof of their not choking — I wasn’t pointing out that every moment they step on the field there are countless eyes watching at home and remotely, that the stakes are always high, and that the people whose ability to perform baseball tasks are effected by the stage are weeded out before being selected as one of the 750 best players on a planet of seven billion.

        Sure — a hangover or a lack of sleep because of marital strife can effect their play, but the stage? No way. And there’s no proof, given a reasonable sample size, that major league players perform differently in higher leverage situations.

      • poreef - Oct 29, 2011 at 2:33 AM

        I think this just comes down to what one means by “choke.” I think it means underperformance that cannot be explained as a fluke occurrence. I could care less why it happens.

        A corollary to this is that I think that in a team sport, one part of your team can choke and yet the team still wins.

        Enjoy the football season… where low sample size is sold as “Any Given Sunday.”

      • thehypercritic - Oct 29, 2011 at 2:50 AM

        Choke has a definition — to lose one’s composure and fail to perform effectively in a critical situation — if one would prefer to define it differently, they should grab on to a new word that doesn’t mean something apart from what they’re attempting to convey.

        I love football, but don’t think many would argue the team that plays best wins every game — kind of how the public at large has accepted that the regular season determines the best team while the post season gives you a champion.

    • yankeesgameday - Oct 29, 2011 at 1:54 AM

      To be fair, this isn’t a site for analysis. This is a blog where the writers take facts and nuggets of information and spin an interesting slant on them.

      Craig is an absolute master at that and the reason all of us keep coming back. The rest of the support staff does seem to take that one little nugget of info and more often than not make one one uninteresting conclusion, ie; rangers pitchers choked.

      We don’t expect analysis here. But we do expect the observations to be interesting, insightful, and sometimes funny.

      But I suppose we should lay off Matt, Dj, and Aaron a bit or we run the risk of turning into the yahoo message board.

      7 months of baseball is finally over, I bet they’re totally burned out.

      Amazing season all and I still want an edit function for 2012!

      • thehypercritic - Oct 29, 2011 at 2:08 AM

        I came here for Craig, but I’ve continued to return because I’ve largely found the other writers to be smart and insightful even when I disagree with their conclusions.

        My initial point is this is the third post from Matthew P that I’ve clicked through and read — and they all seem to satire the lazy, drunk sportswriters of days gone by.

        I’m just trying to confirm that he’s satirizing the hacks of the mainstream media the way Stephen Colbert lampoons conservative tv personalities.

        While subtle, I find his humor quite cutting in the critique of those writers I had to suffer through as a young fan before the Internet gave us all access to every writer on the planet.

      • protius - Oct 29, 2011 at 9:17 AM

        thehypercritic,

        What is it about the word “choked” that sticks in your craw?

        They “choked”, the same way Boston choked; the same way Atlanta choked; the same way Philly choked. They gagged, spit the bit, failed in the clutch, bungled, botched, and fell on their collective face. What’s more, they looked bad in the process.

        Live with it Ranger fan, and get on with your life.

      • paperlions - Oct 29, 2011 at 10:50 AM

        I think Hypercritics bone to pick is that words mean things and you can’t just go around using them to mean things they don’t mean.

        Choke DOES mean to fail BECAUSE you lacked some mental/emotional quality that allowed you to perform in a high pressure situation. It does not simply mean you failed or played badly, it means that you failed for a specific reason not related to physical ability….and the author here does not use “choke” to mean what “choke” means.

      • poreef - Oct 29, 2011 at 12:30 PM

        I would say that “choking” is a term that we use to describe failure in key situations. Since human beings prefer explanations for events – from the Flying Spaghetti Monster to quantum electrodynamics – many people infer personal or collective qualities from that failure.

        I think it is fair and good for SABR types to push back and say that, rather than being explained by character, many of those failures can be quantified and explained by the randomness that one should expect from sample size. However, not all failures are so explained.

        Even in a 7 game series, you can get a result that is statistically significant. That is to say, the Rangers staff walked way more guys than can be explained by a fluke and then allowed those guys to score.

        Why shouldn’t we call that choking? They attempted to execute a plan (my eyes tell me the plan was “pitch around the middle of Cardinals lineup”) and failed to make it work. This would remain true even if they had held on to game 6.

        I don’t contend that “choking” is something with predictive power. The Rangers could very easily go out next year and sweep the playoffs without the Dalai Lama’s help. But I see no reason not to use the word to describe failure that is more likely explained by poor execution than randomness. They failed it get it done when it mattered.

      • paperlions - Oct 29, 2011 at 12:56 PM

        This has nothing to do with analysis, but with semantics and etymology.

        Because failure and choking are NOT the same thing, they may occur in similar situations but the implied mechanisms are different (simple failure versus failure that results from being overcome by the magnitude of the situation). If you are going to use choking to mean any failure in a high pressure situation, then you are unnecessarily changing the original meaning of the word (unnecessary because we already have a perfectly fine word for that concept) and we now have no word for the specific situation that is a choke. According to the relaxed definition, someone chokes in every high pressure sports situation because someone has to lose…that is simply not a useful concept and conflates failure with wilting under pressure.

      • poreef - Oct 29, 2011 at 1:35 PM

        I think it’s more philosophy, than etymology.

        I believe fairly firmly in the existentialist notion that really, truly knowing what is going on in someone else’s head is nearly impossible, even with human constructs like language. I view the SABR-led war against the notion of Captain Clutch and the Choke Artist as warnings against the idea that we can know what lurks in the heart of man and classify people for all time accordingly.

        So, I think it’s better to focus on what we can know. In this case, the Rangers staff failed to perform in a number of key situations when I think the numbers will say (in a statistically significant way) they should have done better. They didn’t just fail, they failed in a way that they shouldn’t have. And thus a word is born.

        Short of Mackey Sasser or Rick Ankiel what would constitute an observable mental failure that we could all agree upon?

  3. stlducks - Oct 29, 2011 at 12:50 AM

    You could say the rangers choked or you could just as easily say the cards won by laying of bad pitches and putting themselves in a good position to capitalize on opportunities. This was one of the best series ever so don’t try ruining it just bc east coast team wasnt in it.

  4. Marty - Oct 29, 2011 at 1:25 AM

    I wonder where this series would have gone had Cliff Lee stayed with the rangers.

    Cards if 5 is a valid answer.

  5. txnative61 - Oct 29, 2011 at 2:22 AM

    You can call it what you want, the Rangers’ pitchers were simply afraid to come across the plate on the Cardinals’ lineup.

    • lakerfan32 - Oct 29, 2011 at 9:39 AM

      Yes, except Holland. Pulled too early in game six.

      • antlerclaws - Oct 29, 2011 at 3:05 PM

        Exactly. With all the walks, I was yelling at my TV, “Put the ball over the damn plate! Put the ball in play! Do something, quit walking batters!” Sadly, my TV didn’t respond.

  6. smcgaels1997 - Oct 29, 2011 at 2:32 AM

    Funny, Washington says the Cards were the. Errrr team when they play a slugfest world series..yet last year they get dominated by SF in every facet and “the best team doesn’t always win”…jacka$$

  7. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Oct 29, 2011 at 5:00 AM

    The pitchers may suck, but now Pujols is a free agent…….

    • paperlions - Oct 29, 2011 at 10:54 AM

      I don’t think he’s a FA for 2 more weeks.

      The Cardinals made MAJOR money off of this playoff run, hosting 9 sold out playoff games, getting to sell all of the NLCS and WS champions gear….they damned well better overpay to keep him….with Tony staying and a group of players that Pujols seems to enjoy playing with…hopefully that will factor in from his side of things….he has said that it isn’t ONLY about the money (though, of course, it is about the money some), now it is time for him to put his money where his mouth is…

      • spudchukar - Oct 29, 2011 at 12:36 PM

        With the team almost all resigned, the euphoria palpable, and the extra cash from being WS champs, the Cards and Pujols sure ought to be able to find some reasonable common ground. I agree PL, my bet is they get it done.

      • Francisco (FC) - Oct 29, 2011 at 1:09 PM

        The biggest lies:

        – The Check is in the Mail

        – I’ll Still Respect you in the morning

        – It’s not only about the Money.

        Pujols has already earned far more money than any decent human being needs to live comfortably for the rest of his life. That goes for the majority of the high paid athletes. This will be about Ego and the MLBPA. Rollins is in the same boat: he doesn’t NEED the money, he wants what he thinks is “respect” by earning top dollar. It’s more status than anything else. And for Pujols, Fielders, and the rest of the “elite” agents it’s the same thing.

  8. artisan3m - Oct 29, 2011 at 11:01 AM

    Four things killed the Rangers. With no runners on, Ranger pirchers disn’t rely on one of the game’s best defenses and tried to do it all from the mound ~ thus a lot of walks. Ranger batters passed on far too many hittable balls and fell behind in the count almost consistently. Texas pitching, with the one night exception of Holland, was pedestrian and that’s being generous. The fourth and final thing being that the Cardinals were the better club when they had to be ~ Games 6 AND 7. As a devoted Ranger fan, I can admit that the Cardinals are, man to man, simply better at the plate and that factor will usually win games. “Analysis” reflects that the Cardinals had no chance in the season, in the playoffs, and the Series ~ but they won it all and deserve the credit. Congratulations, Cadinals ~ you earned it.

    • antlerclaws - Oct 29, 2011 at 3:08 PM

      I contend that Neftali Feliz killed the Rangers in Game 6 when he failed to take care of business with 2 outs and 2 strikes. THAT was the World Series, right there.

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