It started with a simple question. How did the Giants manage to neutralize the Nationals bats? The Giants' pitching was good but not THAT good and the Nats' bats weren't great but they were very good. It shouldn't happen at least not for four straight games.
The initial look seemed to make the reason obvious. As many noted, the Giants pitched the Nats outside and particularly low and outside. Simple really. Except then you have the follow-up questions. Did the Nats really fail to adjust? and was this unusual for the Nats?
On the latter the answer is no, the Giants weren't particularly clever. Everyone did this all year long.
Pitches to Adam LaRoche during the playoffs
Pitches to Adam LaRoche during the year
See! And you can go player by player and see that. That's not to say the Giants pitching like that wasn't a reason for their success. They were certainly very committed to it, and perhaps with more defined analysis of the pitching we would show that SF worked further outside, or with a focus on certain pitches, or certain counts. But even if we couldn't, what about the first question? It takes two to tango and every at bat is a combination of hitting and pitching. Could we say something about the hitting that failed? Well you can look at the spray charts and make some assumptions.
For Span you can say he was pitched outside...
But pulled the ball playing right into the Giants hands.
Great! Let's wrap this up early and go for lunch. But again follow-ups. Did Span get pitched like this all year? Did he hit like this all year?
In fact, yes, he was getting pitched outside
And yes he did hit sorta like this all year.
So instead of having a neat little column, now you have a mess. You could say Span didn't adjust, (and Rendon did, and LaRoche and Werth kind of did but hit too many flyballs, and Bryce hit mistakes, and Desmond isn't any good anymore, and Ramos might never have really been good) but based on the above I don't feel comfortable saying it without more analysis. So then I need pitch f/x data and maybe another data base (it depends on if the pitch fx data has hit location) and if I can get both and I can get both up to date through the playoffs then then I can do some analysis to see if Span was really pulling outside low pitches at a different rate in the playoffs than in the regular season. And if he was hitting them for more GBs than LDs. And I'm sure other things I'll think of between then and now. And that's just Span.
This is the rabbit hole of analysis. With so much data is possible to say nearly anything. If you go in with a preconceived notion there's a good chance you'll find some way to support it. So the follow-ups become very important but that's more time.
Is this just a long-winded way of saying I've got no post? Kinda. But occasionally I do like to explain what I'm thinking because sometimes you can come up with nothing (or rather don't get to the point you want) even with work. That's why teams pay people to do this stuff. There are plenty of blind alleys and dead ends in exploratory analysis. To do it right sometimes you need someone else paying you to do this 8 hours a day. At least if you want it done expediently.
So maybe I get back to it later in the offseason. Until then this show ain't stopping. Post-season analysis like last year starts tomorrow.