And here we are in the World Series. A nice, sedately paced seven games in nine days. It was just a couple weeks ago that we could get eight playoff games in 36 hours.
Once again, WPS Recap will be reviewing the game, starting with my method for measuring the excitement of baseball games. (I am compelled to mention once again that it wasn’t quite original with me. Our own Dave Studeman wrote up a very similar method in the 2007 Hardball Times Annual, but I came up with mine in independent ignorance of his.) I gratefully acknowledge FanGraphs for providing the data I use to calculate my Win Percentage Sum numbers. I’m not the only one working during these games.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Tigers 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 3 Giants 1 0 3 1 1 0 2 0 X 8 (Giants lead series 1-0) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Tigers 17 5 11 8 2 6 1 0 0 Giants 16 4 29 5 2 0 0 0 X WPS Base: 108.3 Best Plays: 35.4 Last Play: 0.1 Grand Total: 143.8
One of the limitations of the WPS method is that it’s built to measure the competitiveness of a baseball game. A game can grow lopsided very quickly, and WPS will see that, but if there is some performance transcending the struggle to win, WPS is not equipped to register it. In the matter of competitiveness, this was a deadly dull baseball game, the fifth straight snoozer for the Giants.
But Pablo Sandoval saved it for the rest of us who are not simple algorithms.
We’ve been getting a little spoiled lately by all the no-hitters and perfect games being thrown in baseball. Now a similar thing is happening with players hitting three home runs in a World Series game: Albert Pujols last year, and Sandoval in Game One this year. And Sandoval is not particularly a power hitter, with a mere 12 homers this regular season. I won’t say he is to World Series triple-bombs what Philip Humber is to perfectos, but maybe he’s around Mark Buehrle-level.
Of the five times a player has performed this feat, this was only the second time that he came up later in the game with a chance to hit a fourth. Babe Ruth did it in Game Four of the 1926 Series, drew a walk, and was on deck when the Yankees made their last out of the game. Sandoval had his chance in the seventh, but only managed a single off Jose Valverde, who was in the course of flunking his audition to pitch meaningful innings in this Series. If Pablo couldn’t homer off Valverde in his current state, it just wasn’t meant to be.
I kept an ear open for a Tim-ism, and caught something I had heard him say before. He made a point of stating that when the first batter of an inning gets on base, the odds of his team scoring that inning “go up dramatically.” Well, depends on what you consider dramatic. Assuming the batter reaches first, in 2005 (the most recent year I have data for that I could reach across the desk and grab) the chances for a scoring inning went from 28 percent to 41.7 percent. In 1959-1960 (I think this may have come from The Hidden Game of Baseball), it was 25.3 percent to 39.6 percent. In neither case do the chances go up by as much as half. Maybe it’s me, but I expect something more dramatic of out a dramatic rise.
McCarver did a little better later, when the Tigers had a man on third with one out in the sixth and Miguel Cabrera coming up. Tim said that, facing Miggy, you would gladly yield a sacrifice fly, as outs in this situation are more important than runs. True, but not because a Triple Crown winner is batting. I suggest going to THT’s own Win Probability Inquirer and running the numbers. It’s a win for the pitching team facing an average batter, probably a well below-average batter.
Everyone expected the game to be a pitching mismatch, the awesome Justin Verlander against the cover-your-eyes Barry Zito. They forget that this is baseball, and things get turned upside-down because baseball. I was a lot less surprised than everyone else seemed to be, though you’ll have to take my word for it.
Now, there was something at Game Seven of the NLCS that I did not mention, other matters crowding it out, but it happened again and I have to speak my mind. In the stands behind home plate, right above the green-screen ad board, second row, was a fan wearing, in that sea of Giants regalia, a Miami Marlins jersey. One could overlook this once as coming from a brief act of thoughtlessness, but no. He came back with the very same jersey. This was premeditated.
It’s obvious what he was thinking: the jersey was orange, a Giants color, so close enough. But remember, it’s the Marlins. Their logo possesses every conceivable color, several inconceivable colors, plus for all I know The Colour Out of Space. (Admit it: that new logo has a touch of Lovecraftian horror to it.) It matches with everything, and clashes with everything. I would offer to buy him a Giants jersey, but if he can afford such good seats for these post-season games, he can afford to buy his own!
So it’s on to Game Two. We’ll see if it manages to confound the WPS system again.