WPS Recap for Oct. 14by Shane Tourtellotte
October 15, 2012
A full day of League Championship Series action, through the lens of Win Percentage Sum and in the funhouse mirror of my own observations.
I've mentioned before how THT's Dave Studeman came up with his own game-excitement index based on Win Percentage Added numbers, revealing it in the 2007 Hardball Times Annual. In the comments to yesterday's WPS Recap, he took issue with my ranking this year's LDS round as the third-most exciting ever, with the 1995 version as No. 1. The importance of four deciding Game Fives this year, as opposed to one in 1995, gives those games an added excitement that should push this year over the top, he contends.
I'm not going to argue with Dave, because I'm not sure I disagree. The problem, as I've stated before, is in finding the balance between the excitement of a game in determining a winner of a playoff series and the excitement of the game just as a baseball game. My calculations yesterday went with the default of counting just the excitement value of the games with no input from the bigger picture. This isn't because I think that's right, but because it's simplest and because I'm not sure there even is even a "correct" ratio that everyone will agree with.
I am coming up with a ratio—my second pass at this puzzle—but that can wait until my future article applying WPS to the history of the World Series. For now, back to the games of today.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Tigers 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 3 Yankees 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 (Detroit leads series 2-0) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Tigers 5 5 6 6 7 18 38 29 2 Yankees 11 8 6 15 7 21 26 5 7 WPS Base: 219.0 Best Plays: 33.6 Last Play: 1.7 Grand Total: 254.3
Pitchers' duels can have trouble building up WPS scores. You need events that change the trajectory of the game to raise the numbers, and with eight perfect half-innings out of the first 10, this game held a pretty straight path for a pretty long while. The flurry from the sixth to the middle of the eighth could not raise this game even to an average WPS Index.
It's surprising the game stayed close as long as it did. With few exceptions, the Yankees played like they had just come back from shooting Old Yeller. Hiroki Kuroda was a notable counter-example in the first short-rest start of his career, but even had he stretched his five perfect innings to a Harvey Haddix-esque 12, it might not have been enough to give the offense an opening. As it was, he finally weakened in the seventh and departed in the eighth, a hard-luck loser.
That bad luck was still running against the Yankees, most notably in that eighth inning. On a two-out Austin Jackson single, Omar Infante rounded second too far, and Robinson Cano tagged him a foot shy of getting back to the bag, though the second-base umpire called Infante safe. The Tigers would exploit this opportunity for two insurance runs, and Joe Girardi would exploit it to leave work early, getting ejected the second time he went out to argue the call.
If the Yankees were to have any real chance in the late stages, they needed that call made correctly. After putting up with my broken-bat spiel a few days ago, you don't deserve to get the instant-replay speech. Some of you can make it yourselves; some of you can just read on.
Talking down the Yankees' bats is not meant as an insult to Anibal Sanchez, who threw seven shutout frames. Today was a family dinner day for me, and I watched much of the game at my brother-in-law's. His father Bill DiYeso was there, visiting from Florida, and had watched Sanchez frequently during his time with the Marlins. He observed anecdotally that Sanchez's weakest innings were the first and the fifth: if you were going to rough him up, those were the times.
New York did get two men aboard in the first, the only time all game they managed to do this without the aid of an intentional walk (in the sixth, naturally to Raul Ibanez), but couldn't convert. In the fifth, Sanchez sat down the bottom of the Yankees order. There were no real threats to Mr. DiYeso's prediction in any other inning. Sanchez earned his win.
It was a listless, dispirited day at Yankee Stadium, fans sharing their team's post-Jeter funk by almost never getting into the game. Expect Comerica Park to be far different, especially with Justin Verlander on the mound for Game Three on Tuesday.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Cardinals 0 2 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 6 Giants 0 0 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 4 (St. Louis leads series 1-0) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Cardinals 4 34 9 30 8 3 3 4 1 Giants 7 5 5 33 24 10 7 7 12 WPS Base: 203.6 Best Plays: 39.5 Last Play: 3.6 Grand Total: 246.7
The pattern of this game was familiar to both sides from the LDS: one team takes a 6-0 lead, but the other promptly starts making inroads on it. The problem was that this was compressed into four innings instead of nine. After that, the bullpens took over, and outside a flurry in the fifth, the game fell into stasis. Another below-average game, but don't be discouraged: the last round began with a few and ended up very good indeed.
David Freese obviously was irked at how Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma made themselves the heroes of the season-saving comeback against Washington on Friday. If anyone in the last half of the St. Louis order is supposed to be the October hero, it's him, right? His two-run homer in the second was a long step to setting things back in order.
Descalso, though, reasserted his case in the Giants' fourth. His diving stop on Angel Pagan's grounder snuffed a rally that had already plated four and put the tying runner at first. This little dispute is not settled yet.
Tim Lincecum made another fine relief appearance, facing the minimum six batters in two innings. On TV, Tim McCarver said his truncated stint guaranteed that he would be starting Game Four. I offer skepticism on the guarantee part, but Lincecum is righting the ship and, in my amateur opinion, has earned his way back into the rotation.
An interesting bit of trivia: all 16 starting position players reached base at least once, in a game that had 15 hits and six walks. Had Madison Bumgarner not struck out in his only plate appearance, it would have been 18 for 18, as Lance Lynn got a walk. How often does one see offensive production spread that evenly?
So to sum up, one great inning and a couple bright flashes elsewhere don't quite meet the median standard. I'd say more, but Leo Tolstoy called and said he thought the previous installment was just too long.
Shane Tourtellotte is a long-time, occasionally-nominated science fiction writer, currently living in Asheville, North Carolina. He will tell you all about the baseball novel he’s shopping if you give him an inch.