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.

The Marlins have made a “monster offer” for Kenley Jansen

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch against the Chicago Cubs in the eighth inning of game three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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OXON HILL, MD — The morning after Aroldis Chapman signed for a record $86 million, the Miami Marlins are reported to have made similarly lucrative offer to the other top free agent closer, Kenley Jansen.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo says that the Marlins have made “a monster offer” of five years and more than $80 million to Jansen. This despite the fact that the club is coming off of a 79-win season and, tragically, lost their top pitcher Jose Fernandez in a fatal boating accident, which will substantially harm their competitive prospects. While it seems like a stretch to say that the Yankees will compete for a playoff spot, thereby making such an historically large investment in a closer a bit suspect, the Marlins doing so is even more questionable.

Meanwhile, the Nationals are said to be interested in Jansen as well, though Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post says the Nats are “uncomfortable” with the financial commitment signing him would require.

Jansen most recently pitched for the Dodgers and there have been no reports that they’re totally out on him, but there has been nothing to suggest that they are pushing hard for him either.

Jansen, 29, finished this past season with 47 saves, a 1.83 ERA, and a 104/11 K/BB ratio in 68.2 innings. That’s not quite Aroldis Chapman good, but he seems poised to collect something close to Aroldis Chapman money.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.