World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Three

The million fluky things that go into winning a World Series game

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– Allen Craig, hobbled by a painful foot injury that nearly ruled him out for the postseason, scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth Saturday on the first ever obstruction call to end a postseason game.

– Craig scored because Jarrod Saltalamacchia, whom manager John Farrell forgot to take out of the game, made a wild throw to third that Will Middlebrooks, a mid-game replacement, couldn’t grab because he was more concerned with staying on the base than getting in front of the ball.

– Craig drew the throw to third because he got a terrible jump off second on Jon Jay’s grounder, freezing on the play even though he wasn’t supposed to be involved at all; he should have simply ran to third as soon as he saw Yadier Molina take off ahead of him. Had that happened, there’s no throw at all.

– Molina, who had the first hit of the inning, got his hit because Shane Victorino was playing no-doubles defense in right field. Had Molina hit the same ball in the sixth inning, there’s a good chance it would have been caught.

– Molina’s hit came off Brandon Workman, who actually got to hit in the top of the ninth in a tie game. Because manager John Farrell forgot to double-switch in the bottom of the eighth and have David Ross replace Saltalamacchia.

– That’s because Farrell wanted Workman to pitch two innings because he burned through his second and third best relievers, Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa, in the seventh.

– And that’s because Breslow gave up an infield single to Matt Carpenter on a ball that might have been handled by Stephen Drew at shortstop, except Drew had just replaced by a pinch-hitter. Breslow then hit Carlos Beltran on the elbow pad with a pitch. Beltran made no motion to avoid it, yet was awarded the base anyway. Had things turned out a bit differently in that frame and Breslow had stayed in, perhaps Craig would have pinch-hit then and not even have been available for the ninth. And had Farrell been able to get through the seventh using only one of Breslow or Tazawa, there’s a good chance Uehara finishes the eighth or is at least in there to start the ninth, since Farrell would still have one more guy he trusted in reserve.

– Middlebrooks was in the game because left-hander Kevin Siegrist pitched the seventh. Had Siegrist not given up a homer to David Ortiz in Game 1, he’s probably the choice to pitch to Ortiz and Daniel Nava in the sixth rather than Randy Choate. Because while manager Mike Matheny definitely wanted a lefty to face Ortiz, he didn’t want to risk Choate on the switch-hitter Nava; Siegrist would have been a much better choice to face him. And had Siegrist pitched then, Drew likely stays in to hit against a right-hander the following inning.

– Should I keep going? If Kolten Wong doesn’t steal second on a 2-1 pitch in the eighth, Beltran isn’t intentionally walked to send up Matt Holliday. Either Beltran could have done something good or he would have made an out, meaning Holliday would have started the ninth and the whole dynamic would have changed again.

– Blow it all up… the Cardinals were probably one hit away from knocking Jake Peavy out in the first inning tonight. Had that happened, not only might they have cruised to a victory, but it would have affected the whole Game 4 dynamic as well.

So many thousands of factors, whether it’s split-second decision on whether to try for the extra base or the bat connecting with the ball an inch farther up the barrel, determine the outcome of baseball games, yet we often try to boil it down to three or four. We guess and second guess, pretending that there’s only two outcomes for a play and that the outcome that results was destined to be the outcome all along (confirmation bias for the win!). The foul ball that lands a row into the stands precedes a two-run double. A 2-1 pitch that should have been ball three is judged strike two instead. Name it luck or something else, only a small portion of what actually goes into winning a baseball game shows up in the postgame recap.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.