The final "Dancing With The Playoff Stats," in which we wrap it all up. Before we unveil the 2010 champion, you'll need to know a few thoughts on this series of postings.
The real "Dancing With The Stars" has provided some excellent fodder as luck would have it--or not, if you believe my keen intelligence and foresight purposefully chose a pop culture "specimen" completely perfect in its relation to playoff baseball. And that this performance of choosing the correct show was completely dependent on my true talent in forecasting a show that would, in the end, correctly foretell a true World Series MVP champion while receiving higher ratings on Monday night than the final game of the World Series itself.
Regardless of this post being driven by stories or statistics, looking at individual ballplayers during the postseason is compelling. While the postseason is not quite a completely different game, it very nearly is. Think about how many factors that are the premise to analyzing the regular season change in postseason play. Here are just a few: The game is managed differently, the ballplayers might be more tired, or not, due to the very different postseason schedule, and perhaps never playing into late October.
While at some point over the course of the regular season great offenses will have a chance to get to the great pitchers, in the postseason great pitching will win the games and shut down great offenses. Very rarely can one look at a ballplayer's stats for one season and expect with all likelihood that he will perform in that same manner during the postseason. But looking at the performance of individuals as relating to each other, rather than team to team, is an enjoyable dance of sorts.
So, here is the grand finale of a series of lucky (or not) articles in the "Dancing With The Playoff Stats" competition. Remember, the goal many weeks ago was to choose the most valuable player for the entire World Series. Keeping to tradition, let's take a look at what the real Dancing With The Stars judges said this week. And by the way, Episode Seven had the real judges commenting on the performance of two different teams against each other—fortuitous indeed.
The San Francisco Giants: "When I looked at the list as to who's dancing I thought, 'You're the underdogs.' But I've got to say you dogs have quite a bite!"
The San Francisco Giants: "What I liked is that you guys were all working at your best. I didn't feel like you dumbed down the routine to make everyone look in unison. All of you were working at your best on this one!"
—Carrie Ann Inada
The Texas Rangers: "The dance is supposed to be about a love story. But this was like a couple having hanky panky in the back of a Chevy."
Tim Lincecum: "You had the attack and the energy! You're an untamed young bull."
Buster Posey: "You brought your own character to it. You changed it. You made it suit you. In your posture [in handling the Giants pitching staff] there was an authoritative tone that I had not seen before."
—Carrie Ann Inada
Josh Hamilton: "You were like a crazy bear lost in a swamp. Somehow we watch it and kind of enjoy it. It is insane; I've never seen anything like it."
Brian Wilson: "You've got it! The cha cha cha with the flavor of the hood. You've really got it!"
Ron Washington: "It was like the snow. You're just glad when it's over." (Your fantastic managerial moves in the ALDS and ALCS didn't happen in the World Series.)
Edgar Renteria: "No one loves more than to see someone come back after a really tough week [or, uncertain future when the season started] and blow the doors open."
—Carrie Ann Inada
"Rising from your own ashes, more splendid than ever!"
And, a look at some random thoughts before the judges cast their votes.
In the last "Dancing With The Playoff Stats" post, I presented the batting statistics for all the starting catchers in the postseason. Being a very lucky series of postings, this story has ended well. Before the World Series, almost every team who advanced during the playoffs had a catcher whose batting statistics out-performed the opposing catcher. Well, what about the World Series?
Bengie Molina .182/.308/.273
Buster Posey .300/.333/.450
Say what you will about the randomness of this, but if you really want to know more about catchers and their influence on the game (and even if you don't, you should) you'll have to pick up a copy of this year's The Hardball Times Annual.
2. Laura Bush
There were countless camera shots of the Bushes in the stands. She appears to be defying nature and aging in reverse. I'm not sure how much it's costing her, but she looks younger now than when she was the First Lady.
3. Nolan Ryan
I doubt he's wondering if he should have put his money towards that chateau in France instead of the Texas Rangers, but there's something to be said about if he could have done more, only in relation to this— consider his facial expressions in the stands. Sometimes I thought the Rangers should have put his intense, intimidating stare on the JumboTron when the Giants were batting.
4. Visiting the White House
Giant fans do realize that this crew will keep to the longstanding tradition of World Series Champions visiting the White House, right? Brian Wilson visiting with the president and sitting in the Oval Office? Now that's a show for the ages!
And now, the judges' votes. Our remaining ballplayers are:
Tim Lincecum, The Freak, the man whose arm was designed by NASA, single-handedly deserves this year's World Series MVP. They gave it to Renteria on the heels of a three-run blast to win the game, but Renteria's WPA in Game Five was "only" +.298. Lincecums? How about +.463? There's a reason this kid has two Cy Youngs to his name over the past two seasons, and if it weren't for Roy Halladay, Lincecum's 3.21 xFIP (in line with Adam Wainwright, Josh Johnson and Felix Hernandez) says he basically deserves another.
I like Feliz, but Ron Washington was saving him for Game Eight instead of using him in Game Two. Posey and Hamilton just didn't do it for me this time. Adios, you three!
Josh Hamilton: What a great story you have to tell of your journey to this spot, and may you continue on. However, batting .100/.143/.250 does not give you a chance (even in made-for-movies stories) to become a World Series MVP.
Neftali Feliz: You could have been a game changer, but for some unknown reason you got to play musical chairs in the bullpen instead, and when the music stopped you always managed to have a chair. No chance at winning sitting on the bench.
Buster Posey: There's really nothing else you could have done differently, or better, to deserve a World Series MVP title in your rookie year. When you were speechless in your post-game interview, you said everything we need to know—your mark in history has just begun.
As much as these facts are true, that nice stories sell a bunch of memoriablia, that Edgar Renteria is a class act and made a huge impact in the World Series, I can't ignore the fact that great pitching, more than anything else, wins games. My vote has to go to Tim Lincecum.
Josh Hamilton: .111/.200/.111 in the Division Series, and then four home runs in six games vs. my Yankees with a .350/.536 /1.000 line in the ALCS. Wow. That's the worst of all worlds.
I would give Matt Cain the baseball equivalent of the Conn Smythe: 21.1 innings, and only one unearned run allowed. That's impressive.
I'd vote off Hamilton, who was awful in the World Series (.100/.143/.250) and Feliz, who wasn't really used. Now it's down to Lincecum and Posey. I'm going to go with Lincecum. He was amazing in Game Five and good enough in Game One.
*You might need to be reminded that Matt Philip is our guest judge from Fungoes. He has, as always, brought intelligent, quick clarity to this year's MVP award.
For MVP candidates, I like to look at win-probability added, and Renteria led all batters with .403. Mitch Moreland was a distant second with .273. However, three of the Giants' pitchers each had more than Renteria: Matt Cain (.495), Madison Bumgarner (.477) and Tim Lincecum (.467). Although much of pitchers' WPA is dependent upon their defense, these performances were perhaps worthy of a three-way MVP award. However, in this contest I need to vote someone off.
Josh Hamilton: Tattoo power failed the Rangers' star, and he wound up with a -.285 WPA, second-worst among the team's batters to only Ian Kinsler's -.293. You'll take home the regular-season MVP trophy, Josh, but not the "Dancing with the Postseason Stats" prize! By the way, what *is* the prize? (Excellent question, Matt. The prize is what any baseball player or fan really wants, and much more useful than a shiny trophy that will just have to be dusted all the time—The Hardball Times Annual 2011.)
Neftali Feliz: Neftali, you turned in a couple of stellar performances, but ultimately your star was hitched to a loser. There was no joy in Mudville for Casey, and no Feliz in Texas for Neftali.
Buster Posey: "Dancing with the Postseason Stats" requires a well-rounded performance. Buster, you showed me a lot with your arm work, but I wanted more from your bat. The good news is that, at your age, I expect you'll have more opportunities to strut your stuff.
We, as "The Dancing With The Playoff Stats" judges, do not have to agree with the official MVP chosen by Major League Baseball. While Edgar Renteria had a storybook ending, we choose a more scientific approach and crown Tim Lincecum as the World Series MVP. Mr. Lincecum, your Hardball Times Annual 2011 will be arriving in your mailbox soon. You'll enjoy reading some very cool stuff about yourself in there.
The postseason is the perfect balance for both statistics and stories. It's a dance where we need some raw data for how a team has the potential to play. It's the final production where the individual dancers never speak in prose. We never know when a ballplayer like Edgar Renteria will find the dance of his lifetime as the World Series MVP. We never know when a ball might, or might not, just barely make it over the center field wall.
When everything we know tells us a player like Josh Hamilton should bat better than he did, the beauty of postseason baseball is that in an age of information overload we can still be surprised. In the end, what kind of dance do baseball fans want? Most want their team to win, but if they can't have that, there's always hope for the unknown next spring. With that, the curtain falls on the 2010 season.
* Special thanks to Joe, Jeff and Matt. You guys were amazing, and this was a great production. I should also note, excepting their most excellent commentary on the ballplayers as referenced to the judges' names, the other opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the judges. Direct all hate mail to the authoress only.
Read more great baseball stuff at The Hardball Times.