NLCS - Los Angeles Dodgers v St Louis Cardinals - Game One

Post-season legend Carlos Beltran helps the Cardinals walk off victorious in the 13th


In a battle of squandered opportunities, the Cardinals squandered one fewer. Between the fourth and the twelfth innings, the Cardinals and Dodgers traded zeroes — one part effective pitching, one part curious managerial decisions, one part offensive futility.

Beltran was the heart and soul of the Cardinals tonight. His two-run double in the third inning tied the game at two. His tenth inning throw home from right field to nail Mark Ellis at home preserved a 2-2 tie. And his 13th-inning line drive RBI single to right sent the Cardinals home with a 1-0 lead in the NLCS.

By Win Percent Added (WPA), a statistic that shows exactly how much a player contributed to his team’s chance of winning, Beltran’s two hits and his throw combined for .853 WPA:

  • 3rd inning two-run double: .235
  • 10th inning catch and assist: .318
  • 13th inning RBI single: .300

Mattingly’s decision to save Kenley Jansen for the very end is one that will be second-guessed for quite some time. There were plenty of opportunities earlier in the game for Jansen to come in, but Mattingly opted for inferior arms such as Ronald Belisario and J.P. Howell. And rather than let Jansen start an inning from the wind-up, Mattingly brought him in after Chris Withrow had put runners on first and second with one out. Jansen struggled out of the stretch against his first batter, Beltran, falling behind 3-1 before giving up the game-winning hit.

The Dodgers certainly had their opportunities. Michael Young came to the plate twice after replacing Adrian Gonzalez at first base and was responsible for four outs. He hit the fly ball to Beltran when he made the great throw home, and grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play in the 12th. That was a direct result of another questionable Mattingly decision. Carl Crawford led off with a single, and Mattingly had Mark Ellis bunt him to second. With first base subsequently open, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny had Lance Lynn intentionally walk Hanley Ramirez — a vastly superior hitter — to bring up Young, who has historically been very prone to grounding into double plays.

Game 1 was by no means a pristine game of well-played baseball. Rather, it was chock full of mistakes, but in the end, it was an entertaining, tense affair that sets up the NLCS well. If the rest of the games are as competitive as Game 1, we’re in for a treat.

Which teams improved and declined the most in 2015?

Joe Maddon
Leave a comment

I was curious about which MLB teams changed their fortunes the most this season compared to last year, so I crunched the numbers.

First, here are the biggest win total improvements from 2014 to 2015:

+24 Cubs
+21 Rangers
+16 Astros
+15 Diamondbacks
+13 Twins
+11 Mets
+10 Blue Jays
+10 Cardinals
+10 Pirates

The top five teams on the biggest-improvement list all had managers in their first season on the job, led by Joe Maddon joining the Cubs after tons of success with the Rays. Also worth noting: Of the nine teams with the biggest win total improvement, eight made the playoffs. Only the Twins improved to double-digit games and still failed to make the playoffs.

Now, here are the biggest win total declines from 2014 to 2015:

-20 Athletics
-16 Tigers
-15 Orioles
-14 Brewers
-13 Nationals
-13 Angels
-12 Braves
-12 Reds
-11 Mariners

Not surprisingly, a whole lot of those teams have changed managers, general managers, or both. And a couple more may still do so before the offseason gets underway. Oakland retained manager Bob Melvin despite an MLB-high 20-win dropoff and just promoted Billy Beane from general manager to vice president of baseball operations.

MLB games were six minutes shorter this year

Pitch Clock
Leave a comment

According to STATS, INC., the average game in 2015 was 2 hours, 56 minutes. That’s six minutes faster than games in 2014.

The gains came in the first half, when games averaged 2:53. Second half games averaged three hours even. One can probably thank the expanded rosters in September for that, as games then see many more pitching changes. Of course, it’s likely that second half games were faster in 2015 than 2014 as well given the rules changes.

Those changes: agreement to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box and the installation of clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks in ever ballpark.

It remains to be seen if MLB stays satisfied with that modest improvement or if chooses to go the way Triple-A and Double-A leagues did. They installed 20-second pitch clocks and started penalizing violators with balls and strikes. Triple-A’s two leagues, the International and Pacific Leagues, saw game-time decreases by 13 and 16 minutes, respectively.