WPS Recap: NLCS, 10/18/2013

It’s aces up again in the National League Championship Series, with Clayton Kershaw facing rookie phenom Michael Wacha. Something had to give, if only their pitch counts as they got hooked with the game still scoreless. That turned out not to be a problem. WPS Recap brings the game to you, this time with the real-time FanGraphs numbers back. Those of you with microscopes, you will notice the difference.

Game       1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9    F
Dodgers    0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0    0
Cardinals  0   0   4   0   5   0   0   0   X    9
(Cardinals win series 4-2)
WPS        1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9
Dodgers   12   5   5   9   2   1   0   0   0
Cardinals 13  11  49   1   7   0   0   0   X
WPS Base: 115.0  Best Plays: 33.5  Last Play: 0.0  Grand Total: 148.5

The WPS Index doesn’t have to explain itself here. A game blown open in the third, then blown up in the fifth, is going to have a lousy excitement score for anybody not in Cardinals gear of some kind. To give you insight into just how boring this game ended up: the last play of the fifth for the Cardinals rated a 0.0. The entire sixth inning for the Cardinals rated a 0.0. The seventh through ninth innings total, for both teams, rated a 0.1.

With a game like this, you have to find your interesting elements where you can. A delightfully silly moment developed just before the game, when Cardinal Joe Kelly and Dodger Scott Van Slyke both stayed out on the field, hats over hearts, after the finish of the National Anthem, in what amounted to a nationally televised staring contest. Kelly made a fake move or two toward his dugout, but kept his pivot foot planted so he wouldn’t be called for traveling. Eventually home-plate umpire Greg Gibson had to order them off the field. Kelly went first, and Van Slyke got high-fives all around for winning the contest.

It would be the last celebrating the Dodgers would do this season.

Yasiel Puig made a valiant attempt to become the goat for this game. His throw home on Carlos Beltran‘s single that drove in the first run was too aggressive, letting Beltran take second. Later, on Shane Robinson‘s bases-loaded single, Puig airmailed his throw to the plate, letting runners take extra bases to second and third. In the fifth, with the game almost out of control, he whiffed at Yadier Molina‘s leadoff single, giving him an extra base.

But for all that, the misplays didn’t amount to much. No runs came home that wouldn’t have been driven around anyway by the respective rallies. There’s no hanging this drubbing on Puig. That sad fate rests on Clayton Kershaw’s shoulders. A 48-pitch disaster of a third inning was all he needed to lose this game, and three hits in the fifth without getting an out sealed it.

Michael Wacha, on the other hand, continued one of the greatest late-season runs in memory. He has given up one run on nine hits in his last 29.2 innings, stretching back to his final regular-season start when he missed a no-hitter on the final batter he faced. It may be beginner’s luck; the league may figure him out next year. But it’s happening now, and his Cardinals are riding it (and 24 other players’ performances) to the World Series.

The broadcast crew dropped a fact I had not previously known: when the Cardinals let Albert Pujols go to the Angels in free agency, they used the compensatory draft pick they received to select Michael Wacha. Without knowing that, I would have said that, with the Cardinals reaching the World Series again two years after Pujols departed and Albert struggling in Los Angeles, they had proved themselves right in waving good-bye. With Wacha in the mix, it now has the potential to be one of the best front-office moves ever made. Sometimes you have to take the pitch.

I’ll insert one more gripe about a Dodgers misplay, to fill out space and to show how fundamentals can still get messed up at the highest level. Second and third in the St. Louis fifth, no outs, Shane Robinson hit a grounder that was thrown to A.J. Ellis at the plate. David Freese was hung up partway to home, and retreated toward third, where Matt Adams had already arrived and was on the bag. Ellis would throw to third baseman Juan Uribe, who tagged Freese out.

There was no need for the throw. Adams had third occupied. All Ellis had to do was run him back to the base and tag him. While Ellis was making a throw that risked going astray and letting Freese home, an alert Robinson was making second. This didn’t have much effect—at most, Robinson if held on first might not have scored the Cardinals’ ninth run—but it’s something Ellis needs to work on. He will have ample time for that.

Whatever fear the Cardinals had of repeating last year’s NLCS collapse to the Giants itself collapsed. Perhaps fittingly, they won the pennant by the same 9-0 score by which they lost it in 2012.

And before departing the NLCS, let me thank Michael Wacha once again for how quickly he pitches his game. His quick pace helped bring this blowout in at an even three hours. His relievers, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal, emulated his rapidity, though at that time it was at least as much so they wouldn’t have to stay out in the rain by then coming down at Busch Stadium. Had it gotten hard enough to force a rain delay, their fellow players and the fans would not have been forgiving. Neither would I.

With the NLCS complete, Saturday’s Game Six in the ALCS will be a late start: 8 p.m. on the East Coast, 5 on the West. I will see you there, even if the Fenway Park organist is playing the Doors again.

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  1. Cozy Jocko said...

    Things to think about while the WPS index hovers near 0.0:

    Mark Ellis does not have a brother known as A.J., but Scott Van Slyke does.

  2. Todd said...

    “With Wacha in the mix, it now has the potential to be one of the best front-office moves ever made.”

    Not to mention, the Pujols contract is probably going down as the worst in baseball history.

  3. Shane Tourtellotte said...

    Todd:  Read my recap for the 17th.  The problem is not with the Doors, but with the Fenway Park organist playing a Doors number.  It does not make the transition well.

    As for the Angels’ Pujols contract being the worst ever, I’d wait a couple years before planting that flag.  One, Pujols may rebound and make it merely a poor one.  Two, there have been plenty of awful contracts, and this one might not measure down.  For sheer toxicity, the Yankee’s extension of Alex Rodriguez may be an all-time worst.  Or ask Mets fans about Jason Bay.  From a safe distance. (You might also not want to raise the topic of Carlos Beltran being arguably the greatest postseason clutch performer ever with them.  They still have scars from seven years ago.)

  4. Todd said...

    Pujols could rebound… but he won’t, is the claim I’m making. No, it’s not set in stone, but he was barely above replacement in year two of a TEN year contract. That’s a LOT of bad years to come. Even if he rebounds to average or slightly above next year, he’s clearly into his decline phase and won’t maintain it much longer. Though I think that, above and beyond normal decline, he spent too long playing hurt and missing almost no time with the Cardinals, and now he’s paying the price. I’m doubtful surgery can correct that.

    Say what you will about A-Rod, but he didn’t have a year as bad as Pujols’ 2013 until this year, and he was as good or better than Pujols’ 2012 through 2011. Jason Bay was certainly awful, but he didn’t have close to the years or the dollars that Pujols is getting. I stand by my statement- come the end of that contract, the amount the Angels will have paid above the value of what Pujols will have produced is going to be mind-blowing.

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