The Importance of Pitch Counts
I didn't watch the debate last night; I taped it and watched the Cardinal game instead. Even though the Astros substituted Backe on three days rest (which I kinda expected), the Cards did just what they needed: revved up his pitch counts, got into the Astros bullpen, and ran wild (much like they did with the Dodgers.) Now if they can do the same thing to Munro tonight, they're sitting pretty for the series when it moves to Houston. It puts so much more pressure on Clemens and Oswalt to last into games, and I think the Cards are sharp enough to exploit that.
For some reason this makes me think of the Bush camp's continued assertions about the closeness and shape of the race. What's been lost, I think, in all the kerfuffle about the polls switching this way and that is how good the Bush camp's predictions about the state of the race have been. I haven't seen the Bush team get euphoric about good poll numbers or depressed about bad ones; they seem to have stayed steady-as-she-goes for a long time now and have predicted a close race from the very start. It's almost uncanny how the Bush team predicted, through highs (capturing Saddam) and lows (Abu Ghraib) in the polls that the October race would be so tight.
So this makes me wonder: have the Bush guys been working the pitch count all this time? Instead of knocking out Kerry early or putting him away in the first debate (like the Yankees thought they had the Sox on Tuesday night), maybe they've been wearing the Democratic team out. (A lot of this has been prompted by a Kerry Spot post that suggested that the flip-flop label was basically to kill time until the home stretch.) After all, they're past the conventions and debates now; from now on it's just events and campaigning, and no matter what the Democratic and press guys say, the battleground states are more red than blue.
The Dodgers had one of the great all-time closers in Eric Gagne. How do you beat such a good closer? Answer: you never see him in his accustomed role. I just wonder if the Bush team is going to make a push in the next couple of weeks--the equivalent of eating up Houston's middle relief--so that Kerry never gets to be the "closer" he's reputed to be (although ably disputed by the Kerry Spot's Jim Geraghty in a recent NRODT article.)
What would such a push look like? I don't rightly know, although massive ad buys in swing states, more hard-hitting campaign commercials, certain Congressional votes or executive actions, or the 72-hour ground push at the very end. If this is what they've got in mind, though, I expect the events to build on top of one another very quickly so that the Democrats are caught short-handed and without time to warm up another reliever.
Kind of like the two-out rallies from the Cardinals' modern-day Murderers' Row.