December 10, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Monday, October 15, 2012
Tigers 3, Yankees 0: Anibal Sanchez: great midseason pickup, no? And I don't care if it would or would not have made a difference in the outcome of the game, Joe Girardi's postgame comments about the need for Major League Baseball to get on the stick with instant replay are on point. The call on the Infante play in the eighth was clownshoes.
And that would still be the case even if the Yankees weren't all decrepit zombies at the plate lately. Even if it was a 10-0 game at the time of the call, it is an utter embarrassment that millions of people at home can instantly see that a call was missed yet MLB insists that it would somehow disrupt the flow of the game to allow the umpires to have the same benefit of technology.
But really, man, the Yankees offense is a car crash. Well, as ugly as one anyway. Unlike the Yankees offense, crashing cars tend to hit things.
Cardinals 6, Giants 4: I spent part of yesterday afternoon watching Felix Bumgartner in freefall. Then I spent about an hour and a half last night watching Madison Bumgarner do the same thing. Coincidence? I think n-- er, yeah, it probably is a coincidence. Anyway, the Cardinals were no-hit between the fourth and ninth innings. Those first four, though, like that first step for Bumgartner, were a real doozy.
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.
Forty years ago today was a great World Series game from arguably the most closely played Fall Classic of them all. The game itself isn’t especially well remembered, but it has one play that’s on the short list of the greatest defensive moments in any October.
Oct. 15, 1972, was Game Two of the 1972 World Series. The favored Cincinnati Reds hosted the AL champion Oakland A’s. The A’s had surprisingly won the first game, 3-2 (the first of a record six games decided by one run in this World Series), on the strength of a pair of home runs by little-known catcher Gene Tenace. The Reds badly wanted to win Game Two. Teams that drop the first two home games in a World Series have awful odds to win it all.
Oakland, however, took an early lead, scoring one in the second inning on an RBI single by ace pitcher Catfish Hunter. In the third, Oakland got an additional run from a solo shot by leftfielder Joe Rudi. The A’s made the 2-0 lead stick, maintaining it into the ninth.
In the ninth, Hunter began to tire, though. First he allowed a leadoff single to Tony Perez. Then he let a pitch go that nearly cost the A’s the lead. Cincinnati’s Dennis Menke connected on a Hunter pitch with a massive shot that went deep to left. For a little bit, it looked like the ball might go out for a two-run homer, but it didn’t quite have enough to go over the fence.
Instead it went to Rudi, who was about to make an all-time great circus catch. It wasn’t just an ordinary catch at the wall as several factors made it worse. First, this was back in the day when World Series games were still played during the day and wouldn’t you know it, the sun was glaring right in Rudi’s eyes as he looked for the ball. Yeah, he had his sunglasses on, but still, it’s the sun. Second, based on the angle and where Rudi was, he had to catch it backhanded. Third, the ball wasn’t just by the wall, it was headed for the top of the wall, so Rudi would have to jump to catch it.
Rudi fought the sun and made a backhanded catch while crashing into the wall in Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium. If he hadn’t, a run would be in, and the tying runner would stand in scoring position.
As it happens, Hunter was still shaky, and the second out was recorded on another sensational defensive play, this time by first baseman Mike Hegan, who recently had entered the game as a defensive replacement. Though it isn’t as well remembered, A’s manager Dick Williams later said it was an even better play than Rudi made.
The runner on first advanced to second, though, and a few minutes later scored on a Hal McRae single. Hunter had faced four batters: two had gotten hits and the other two should have. Well, with that in mind, Williams went with reliever Rollie Fingers, who safely got the last out.
Without those defensive gems, the A’s lose the game. With just one gem, the game at least goes into extra innings. That’s key, because the Athletics won the Series in seven games so any additional loss would have cost them the championship. Rudi’s catch wasn’t just great, it was critical. For that matter, so was Hegan’s more overshadowed play.
Actually, there is one other thing that happened in Cincinnati that day, one that arguably overshadows both moments. When Ken Burns made his PBS miniseries Baseball, he showcased neither moment just mentioned but did highlight the day’s pregame ceremony.
In that ceremony, baseball paused to honor the dying and nearly blind Jackie Robinson, who had integrated baseball 25 years earlier. He gave a brief speech saying how glad and honored he was, but said he would feel even happier and more honored when he could look down in a team’s dugout and see a black manager in the big leagues.
It would prove to be Robinson’s last public appearance, as he died nine days later. Thus, Rudi’s catch wasn’t the only thing that happened on Oct. 15, 1972; it was also the date of Jackie Robinson’s final public words.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim the list:
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