The Legend of Sam Fuld grows

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I’m going to have to refrain from joining the Sam Fuld cult. He’s a nice guy who has been fun to watch, but every time a brainy guy who does some pretty unexpectedly nifty things in a small sample of games, I end up getting burned. I mean, I’m still trying to unload all of that Brian Bannister merchandise I bought a couple of years ago, but the market simply cratered for it.

Still, there’s quite a Sam Fuld cult at the moment, borne mostly of his diving catches, .400+ OBP  and — dare I say it? — scrappy performance in the Rays’ outfield. Now there’s one more reason to become a Fuldhead. At least if you’re into a certain brand of baseball analysis:

Among worldly Sam Fuld’s many experiences is the time he spent as an intern at Stats, Inc., after he graduated from Stanford with a degree in economics … Fuld is fascinated by what the numbers tell him about the concept of clutch hitters.

“Most of the numbers out there show that there’s no such thing,” Fuld said. “And it’s crazy to think that, because I swear I’ve played with guys who just tend to come through in the clutch. And others that don’t. “But that’s the beauty of numbers is that our minds don’t necessarily capture the whole picture accurately. Our emotions remember certain things for whatever reason, and there are certain things you don’t remember. So I think that’s the beauty of numbers. It’s fact. There’s no way around it.”

Yes, it’s possible that the Fuld wave has peaked as far as baseball cultural phenomenons go. But I always like it when people accept that our minds are often unreliable narrators and that numbers don’t lie when they’re merely being used to present what happened (conclusions to draw from those numbers and what they can and can’t predict is where it gets trickier).

José Ramirez’s 17-pitch at-bat kickstarts Indians’ five-run comeback in ninth inning

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With his team trailing 8-3 to begin the bottom of the ninth inning of Sunday’s game against the Astros, Indians third baseman José Ramirez eventually won a 17-pitch at-bat against closer Ken Giles, ripping a double off of the wall in right field. The Indians would go on to score five runs on seven hits to tie the game against Giles and Hector Rondon. Ramirez almost won the game in his second at-bat of the ninth inning, but first basebamn Yuli Gurriel made a terrific diving catch on a line drive otherwise headed for the right field corner.

Giants first baseman Brandon Belt set a new modern record for the longest at-bat last month, seeing 21 pitches against the Angels’ Jaime Barria. The Astros’ Ricky Gutierrez sfaw 20 pitches from the Indians’ Bartolo Colon on June 26, 1998, which was the previous record. Kevin Bass saw 19 pitches from the Phillies’ Steve Bedrosian in 1988. There have also been five 18-pitch at-bats from Brian Downing, Bip Roberts, Alex Cora, Adam Kennedy, and Marcus Semien.

Sunday’s game wound up going 14 innings. The Astros pulled ahead 9-8 in the top of the 13th on a solo home run from Evan Gattis. However, the Indians’ Yonder Alonso responded with a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the 13th to re-knot the game at 9-9. Greg Allen then lifted a walk-off solo homer in the bottom of the 14th to give the Indians a 10-9 win.

After Sunday’s effort, Ramirez is batting .292/.389/.605 with 15 home runs, 37 RBI, 34 runs scored, and seven stolen bases. According to FanGraphs, his 3.5 Wins Above Replacement ranks third across baseball behind Mike Trout (4.4) and Mookie Betts (4.1). They’re the only players at three wins or above.