I said last night that this World Series is shaping up to be a classic. But how do I know?
In my case, my gut. At some point while watching Derek Holland make the Cardinals look more foolish than he does with his mustache, it just struck me that I’ve been watching something special. But Chris Jaffe — in the spirit of Bill James and Joe Posnanski — has tried to come up with a formula that tells us whether what we’re watching is, in fact, fantastic.*
He came up with several factors that make a great postseason series. Walkoff wins, close games, extra innings, multiple elimination games, pitchers duels, lead changes and, of course, the longer the series the better. At the end of all of that he made a list of the top ten postseason series of all time. For reasons Jaffe explains it’s weighted more heavily in favor of recent series, but given that there are more series now and more seven-game series now than there used to be, that makes sense. It’s also worth noting that anyone under 40 — which I suspect is the majority of HBT readership — didn’t see many series before the 1980s anyway, so it’s hard for us to criticize.
I’ll admit, I was a bit surprised at the series that ranked number one. But in thinking about it, yeah, it was damn, damn exciting and stomach-churning and all of that.
I’m sure your mileage will vary, but I sort of like this little formula, if for no other reason than because it made me think of some postseason series I haven’t thought about much lately.
*Please, save your “statheads take all the fun out of baseball” outrage. Anyone who has read James, Posnanski or Jaffe realizes that these kinds of formulas are themselves designed to be fun. James himself has always admitted that many of his metrics were for nothing but the giggles and yuks — he called one of them his “favorite toy” — and no one but the ignorant haters out there can honestly suggest that these sorts of exercises are either calculated to take the fun and wonder out of the game or that, in practice do so.
So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).
Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.