The bold move we didn’t see in Game 2

On Grantland, Jonah Keri argues that John Farrell should have used Koji Uehara in the 7th inning of Game 2, rather than Craig Breslow, once the Cards had two men on with one out. I agree — but rather than take up that argument, I want to discuss the historical precedent for such a move.

There isn’t any.

 

Well, I should be more specific … Of course, there is precedent for using a relief ace in the 7th inning of a World Series game. But let’s look at Farrell’s decision within the context of the closer age, where no relief ace is accustomed to pitching more than 2 innings in a game. To call on Uehara in that spot would mean that either he’s not going to finish the game, or he’ll have to work longer than he’s used to. Uehara has never gotten 8 outs as a reliever; he hasn’t gone that long since his final start, back in June 2009. He’s faced 8 batters in relief just twice, none since June 2011. He faced 7 batters once this year. With 8 outs to get, it seems possible that he would run out of gas.

So, I wondered: Has any World Series manager in a 7th-inning jam called on a relief ace unused to pitching more than 2 innings, creating a scenario in which the relief ace might not be able to finish?

I looked at all high-leverage World Series appearances since 1970 that began in the 7th inning; there are 58 such games with an average Leverage Index of at least 1.70 (i.e., they faced at least the tying run). One by one, I eliminated those that weren’t by the relief ace, and those where the relief ace was accustomed to finishing games from the 7th. And here’s all that’s left:

  • Jay Howell, 1988, Game 4 — 2.2 innings to save a 4-3 win

Howell was L.A.’s top closer that year, with 21 saves in 65 IP, and no stint longer than 2 innings. They did have Alejandro Pena, who saved 12 and finished 31 games, but he’d gone 3 innings the night before. They also had Jesse Orosco, before he became a pure lefty specialist; Orosco saved 9 and finished 21 games in 1988, but the matchup called for a righty. Howell relieved starter Tim Belcher with 2 outs and the tying run on 2nd, and AL MVP Jose Canseco coming up. He walked Canseco, and Dave Parker reached on an E6, but Mark McGwire popped out to end the threat. With the DH in effect, Howell went on to finish the game, facing a season-high 11 batters, retiring Parker with the tying run on 1st to end it.

The other high-leverage 7th-inning appearances by relief aces were made by those accustomed to pitching more than 2 innings — Tug McGraw (1973, 1980), Dan Quisenberry (19801980), Bruce Sutter (1982), Dave Giusti (1971), even Terry Forster (1978) and Steve Howe (1981). That one game by Jay Howell is the only time I could find that a skipper essentially said in the 7th inning, I need the big guy to protect the lead right now, even if he can’t take me all the way home.

I’m a little surprised by that. Of all the great closers we’ve seen in the Series since 1970, just one was ever asked to hold a slim lead at a point in the game that cast serious doubt on his ability to finish.

Many of us question the closer concept, the insistence that the relief ace must be used for a save (which requires him to finish), rather than facing the game’s key moment. We point to past eras, when a relief ace came in to put out a fire, any time from the 6th inning on. But with few exceptions, those firemen were also finishing those games. A manager with Sutter or Goose Gossage or John Hiller in the bullpen could choose to bring him in for the 7th without worrying about who else will pitch the 9th.

None of this absolves John Farrell or any other manager from the duty to think outside the box. But it does show just how thick the walls of that box are.


Comments

The bold move we didn’t see in Game 2 — 78 Comments

  1. And completely off topic, a quiz based on something I noticed while researching this post:

    Since 1920, just two batters met these two criteria in a season while batting 3rd:
    — 40 stolen bases; and
    — Slugged under .400.

    Both came since expansion. One of them played in the World Series the same year as the “feat.”

    You could look it up, of course, but it’s more fun if you guess. One of these guys you probably know batted 3rd at times. The other, the WS guy, surprised me.

    • That’s a stumper.
      Gwynn? No, too strong.
      McGee? Too strong early and too slow late.
      A 70’s Athletic? Neither Dagoberto or North would have batted 3rd.

      ?

        • Joe Morgan maybe? He played against the A’s in ’72. Since walks were a big part of his offensive value, and he wasn’t a guy with a super high BA, maybe he slugged under .400 one year.

          • Morgan’s out.

            Sparky Anderson didn’t put Ken Griffey Sr. in between Rose and Morgan until 1976.

            Morgan did slug under .400 for ’78-’79, mostly in the 3 hole, but by then his 40+ SB seasons were behind him.

  2. This move would sensibly be preceded by stretching out the closer in the final weeks of the season… which would of course create the danger of wearing out, rather than stretching out.

    The walls of the box have been reinforced for 2+ decades.
    Hard to see a manager (especially in Boston) make the “wrong” move.

      • I’m still waiting for the specialization to extend to the beginning of the game.
        Find your best reliever match-ups for the opposing teams 1-4 hitters, and use him as an “Opener”.
        Play shut down defense in the first inning.
        Whomever scores first gains a strategic and psych advantage.
        It is so obvious that nobody sees it.

          • Well, the 1st is definitively the highest scoring inning in the NL, no doubt due to the automatic out in the 9-hole.

            The top inning tends to bounce around in the AL, though.
            ____

            But regarding today’s discussion, if I was Matheny I would have started Carlos Martinez today, and given him the first two innings.

            That gives you a pinch-hit option in the 2nd inning if the situation calls for it.

            And makes the “starter”, Kelly, still strong into the 7th and 8th. It also gives the opposing hitters less AB’s vs the “starter”, making his chances against them better in those later innings.

  3. Watching Holliday score in the 1st inning, from 2nd base on a single, two thoughts:
    — Crap throw by Nava bounced before the cutoff man.
    — He doesn’t look it, but Holliday is a good baserunner. He scored from 2nd on a single in 24 of 33 chances this year, his percentage ranking 16th out of 60 players with at least 20 such chances. (Thrown out once, so that pct. also better than average.)

    Cards as a team had the 4th-best rate of scoring from 2nd on a single, and the 3rd-lowest thrown-out rate, among all MLB teams. Which helped them get more mileage out of all those singles.

    Doesn’t apply to Yadi, of course. :)

    P.S. Naturally, the one play I didn’t see in this game turns out to be a Holliday baserunning boo-boo.

  4. John: This doesn’t meet your criteria but it’s interesting nonetheless:

    In the 1972 WS, Vida Blue came on in relief of Rollie Fingers and pitched 2.1 innings of relief to pick up the save.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CIN/CIN197210140.shtml

    This was actually Blue’s second save that postseason, giving him as many career postseason saves as regular season saves (2 each).

    Not to be outdone, Catfish Hunter also has a WS save in relief of Rollie Fingers though he only had to retire one batter to get his. And like Blue, he has as many postseason saves as regular season saves (one each).

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CIN/CIN197210140.shtml

    • And here’s a hint for the WS guy: He played in the Series one year, mainly as a #2 hitter. Then he missed a whole year (and his team missed the WS), and came back to find his #2 slot pretty well filled. So he hit #3, and the team got back to the WS.

      Incidentally, that guy originally went to that team in a trade for a similar player, who played the same position, and had been in that team’s previous WS … batting 3rd every game, although I think of him as a #1-#2 hitter.

  5. Wow — Choate gets replaced by a RHP, with Nava coming up? I wonder if Matheny had waited, would Gomes have batted for Nava? Nava is weak against LHPs.

  6. When we have more replay next year, do you think Beltran’s HBP would be overturned, for not trying to avoid the pitch? The rules do require an effort.

  7. Another hint for the WS guy in the quiz at comment #1 — He also played in the WS for one of the teams playing tonight, before the year that meets the quiz criteria. In fact, he was in the WS in 4 of his first 5 full years. In his last full year, he was in the playoffs, with yet another team.

    The other quiz guy played in the WS late in his career, but not for the team he’s best known with.

      • Luis, Lonnie Smith is a good guess, but no. Smith did bat #3 in the 3 games of the 1982 NLCS, with the Cards, but he never hit 3rd in the WS. In the regular season, his one year as a regular #3 hitter was 1989, the year he hit 21 HRs and slugged .533.

  8. Meanwhile, those runners the Cards left on 3rd from no outs in the 4th and 7th innings are looming pretty big. Their famed contact hitting let them down at a bad time.

  9. Middlebrooks, prone on the ground, raised his legs as Craig was trying to get past him. Don’t know if it was intentional, but it was clearly obstruction.

  10. From the MLB Rules:

    OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.

    Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered “in the act of fielding a ball.” It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the “act of fielding” the ball. For example: an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.

    (emphasis added)

    • John,

      Late to seeing the game-deciding play because of the time difference. Wow, what an ending. And a really poor one, I think.

      I have no qualms with the way the play was called. As the rule is written, Joyce obviously got it right. But I think MLB’s interpretation of the phrase “the act of fielding the ball,” which you highlighted, is waaay off. The act of fielding a ball doesn’t end when the ball goes into your glove (or not). Just think of a fielder diving and grabbing a ground ball. He still has to make his feet to complete the play (either to throw the ball to a teammate or tag a bag/runner). And often in the process of getting to his feet, he fumbles the ball or can’t find the handle on it or what have you. I think the “act of fielding the ball” should be viewed in this context, whether one does indeed field it or not, and incorporate within it some reasonable amount of time after a diving (or some other extreme) effort to “complete the play/effort” – in this case, just a half-second or so to be able to get up off the damn ground and out of the way of the runner – for it to be interference.

      And clearly Middlebrooks doesn’t have this time. He seems to have gotten the worse of the tangle-up, and Craig, if you watch closely, even plants his hand on the middle of Middlebrooks’ back as he’s rising to run home. I would argue that the prone Middlebrooks was still very much in the act of fielding the ball, which to me involves far more than merely snaring it (or not) in your mitt.

      • tag, nice to hear from you! I do think the wisdom of the rule is debatable, but at least it has the benefit of minimizing judgment calls.

        If the rule did give the fielder more of a grace period following an attempt such as Middlebrooks’s, then I think we would be having a HUGE argument about him lifting both feet in the air just as Craig was starting for home. The first question would be intent, and even if Middlebrooks survived that hurdle, the next would be whether that action was a normal and incidental outflow of the fielding attempt or of the attempt to get up off the ground.

        And I think at least one of those two questions would be decided against Middlebrooks. I don’t think that lifting one’s feet like that is part of the normal act of getting up from a prone position. I’d guess that, in the heat and magnitude of the moment, Middlebrooks did have at least an unconscious intent to impede the runner.

        And I don’t agree that Middlebrooks got the worse of the contact. In the first place, he seems to have fallen down on his own, from the attempt to catch the ball, with maybe a slight nudge from Craig’s sliding foot. And yes, Craig does then put his hand on Will’s back, but that looks incidental to Craig’s effort to get past him, and Will has no further role in the play, anyway — it’s not as though Craig’s touch hindered him. And the leg-lift occurs just before Craig’s hands make contact.

        So even if the rules gave the fielder more of a grace period, it seems clear to me that the act of lifting the legs was the essential obstruction, and that act was not an unavoidable outflow of the initial fielding attempt.

        I’m relying on these videos, by the way:
        http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2013/10/27/5033304/allen-craig-obstruction-rule-cardinals-red-sox-world-series-game-3
        http://wapc.mlb.com/play?content_id=31186613

        • John,

          Not sure how the rule as currently formulated eliminates judgment calls (as it states: “It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball.”)

          I think the rule in fact would have been problematic had Middlebrooks knocked down Salty’s throw. Let’s say everything happened exactly as it did, but instead of the ball rolling up the left-field line, it deflected off of Middlebrooks’s glove / arm / body and squirted only, say, several feet away from. Middlebrooks would clearly still have been in the act of fielding it because he could have hopped up and gone and grabbed the ball, yet he would not have been in possession of it, which would conflict with the part of the rule that says, “After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the ‘act of fielding’ the ball.” Um, except, this kind of thing happens all the time – infielders bat down balls without catching them, get to their feet, go grab the ball and still make plays, often throwing out baserunners trying to advance an extra base, as could have been the case here.

          In sum, not a big fan of this rule.

          • tag, true that nothing can eliminate the need for some umpire’s judgment on such a play. My comment said “minimize judgment calls,” which I think the rule does by creating a presumption in the runner’s favor.

            The rule does eliminate the judgment of intent by the fielder, which I think is good and necessary. The judgments required in the play we saw were not challenging — when the contact occurred, Middlebrooks was not in the act of fielding, and he did impede the runner.

            Yes, if Middlebrooks still had a play on the ball and was pursuing that play, there might have been something of a gray area, requiring a large amount of umpire judgment. But a rule covering such events could only eliminate that judgment aspect by establishing an iron-clad preference for one party or the other.

            I guess my point is, what rule would be better than the one in force now? Would you rather the rule allowed / required the umpire to judge the fielder’s intent? — and if so, how would you have judged Middlebrooks’s intent on the play? I think we could spend hours just debating his leg-lift — was he trying to impede Craig, trying to avoid him, or was it just incidental?

          • Hi John,

            Thanks for your thoughtful response. I guess what I don’t like is that presumption in the runner’s favor, as you put it. I don’t think a baserunner has an inalienable right to free passage when things get sloppy like that. A baseball play is being made on him. Shit can happen and does, and the runner should have to deal with it. Middlebrooks did not dive into the dirt on purpose to impede Craig. The two got tangled up in the wake of his effort, and M. raised his legs. We can’t know why. Absent clear evil intent on the part of M. (willfully stepping in front of or tripping Craig – I’m talking thrusting out your foot as the guy’s running by), and absent any time for M. to get out of the way, I don’t see interference. I see an exciting baseball play. I think an NBA no-call would have been perfect in that situation.

          • tag, I can appreciate your view that the runner should be expected to deal with the reasonable aftermath of a fielder’s attempt.

            But the degree of judgment that would put on the umpire is something I find impractical. I can’t even decide how I would have judged what we actually saw on the disputed play.

            Middlebrooks raised his legs in the air at the exact moment that Craig started for home. Was that an intent to obstruct?

            When I first saw the replay, I really thought it was intentional obstruction. Which wouldn’t really surprise me; if you were lying there, about to lose the game, might you not instinctively try something like that?

            Now that I’ve thought about both sides and watched the clip a hundred times, I could almost as easily believe that Middlebrooks raised his legs trying to get out of Craig’s way.

            But as far as I know, Middlebrooks hasn’t said that’s why he raised his legs. In the postgame interviews at his locker, he was asked if he’d raised his legs to interfere. His reply was just a scornful “No.” If he’d done it to get out of the way, wouldn’t he have said so right there?

            So why the hell did he raise his legs? It doesn’t strike me as a natural part of getting up from a prone position.

            And if we let intent be the umpire’s guidance, we also have to establish how much of a duty the fielder has to get out of the way. Did Middlebrooks do enough? Maybe it happened too fast for him to move? I can’t tell. But if I was a Cards fan, I’d probably see it as him just lying here, hoping to be in the way.

            Given that muddle, and the need to make the call in a reasonable time, how could any of us hope to interpret his intent?

            In general, I’m uncomfortable with requiring umpires to judge a player’s intent. In some situations, that’s unavoidable. But in this situation, I think the outcome we got — even if it penalized a possibly innocent fielder in what may have been a no-win situation for him — is better than opening up the judgment can of worms.

            Incidentally, if the ump has to find evil intent on the fielder’s part, then any such ruling will be met with outrage: “He’s calling me a cheater!” I’m sure I would be outraged if such a call was made on me as a fielder. I don’t cheat! (Harrumph!) And yet, I know that in the heat of a split-second, do-or-die moment, it’s not my conscious, ethics-considering brain that’s in charge.

            Last point … Way back in the 1890s, baseball had a huge problem with dirty play at the bases. Impeding the runner in any way possible was a way of life for John McGraw’s Orioles, among others — tripping, hip-checking, grabbing the belt. I’m not saying that changing the obstruction rule to be more neutral would automatically bring back such hooliganism. But I’d rather err on the side of caution and not give the fielders any incentive to resort to that stuff.

  11. For the World Series, 3 other games ended with an error:

    1914, Game 3: After both teams scored twice in the 10th, it went to the 12th, with A’s starter Bullet Joe Bush still going. Braves catcher Hank Gowdy (the Series hero) led off with a ground-rule double (perhaps into a roped-off outfield crowd?) Les Mann pinch-ran for Gowdy, and after a walk, Herbie Moran bunted. Bush tried for the play at 3rd, the throw got away, and Mann scored the winning run.

    1969, Game 4: The O’s tied it 1-1 in the 9th, on the great sliding catch by Ron Swoboda (sac fly). Seaver stayed for the 10th, and Wayne Garrett — who’d just entered at 3B — booted the first play, but Seaver would pitch out of a 2-on jam. Bottom 10th, Jerry Grote doubled leading off, and Al Weis was passed. Pete Richert came in to pitch, and J.C. Martin batted for Seaver. Martin bunted, Richert threw it away to 1st, and pinch-runner Rod Gaspar scored the winning run.

    1986, Game 6: I think we all know that one. BTW, that winning rally was started by Gary Carter.

    So, four WS games ending on an error, and all four rallies were started by a catcher. One error was pitcher throwing to 3rd, one was pitcher throwing to 1st, one error was on the first baseman, and one was on the third baseman. (I like symmetry.)

    • Inerestingly, film of Game 4 in ’69 showed that Martin was running inside of the base path and obstructed Richert’s throw. There’s a game that ended on a blown call that failed to rule obstruction. (Of course, I was delighted.)

    • Not a surprise that it’s a first for post-season walk-off obstruction. Apparently, hasn’t happened in the regular season since 2004.

      You have to feel for Middlebrooks. Not much he could do in that situation. Yet, when the play that occurs is the very one cited in the rule book as the example of when obstruction must be called, tough to argue the umpire’s decision.

      I credit the umpire with making the right call, and making it immediately. Not easy to do in the 9th inning of a tied WS game, with a play as unusual as that one.

      The decision to pinch-hit for Stephen Drew looms large (obviously that’s a move Farrell has to make, but the ripple effect is what’s of interest). Not only for the 9th inning play, but also on Holliday’s 7th inning double (hit hard, but not a screamer) down the line that got past Middlebrooks even though it was only a a step to his right. The replay showed Middlebrooks reacting very late after freezing (and becoming flat-footed) when the ball came off the bat.

      • Doug, I still wonder about the Middlebrooks leg-lift. I think an obstruction call would have been warranted even without that, but the lift, I think, all but insured that the call would be made. That one aspect looks really bad for Middlebrooks on the replay.

        Two thoughts on Holliday’s double: I actually do think it was hit very hard. But I agree that Middlebrooks’s effort won’t be used as a training video. I was pretty surprised that Holliday pulled Tazawa’s fastball — Tazawa yielded just one pulled double to a RHB this year (no triples) — but you have to be ready for anything in that situation, and Will was a tick slow.

  12. Anyone remember Ed Armbrister? 1975, Game 3 in Cincinnati, Series tied, game tied in the home 10th. Cesar Geronimo singled leading off, and Armbrister hit for the pitcher. He bunted, a high bounce right in front of the plate, and began to run towards 1st. Carlton Fisk sprang out to grab the ball and bumped into Armbrister, then threw high to 2nd, just off Rick Burleson’s glove. Runners wound up on 3rd and 2nd. Red Sox argued for interference on Armbrister, but the ump ruled that the contact hadn’t affected Fisk. Eventually Little Joe’s hit won it. Here’s the Youtube:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRw2_KvHcPk

    • I remember it well. The Red Sox beef was (a) that Fisk was contacted; and (b) that Armbrister appeared to stop after initially breaking towards first, with the implication that the resulting contact was accidentally on purpose.

      Armbrister did, in fact, stop (or slow virtually to a stop) and I have no idea why. But, he is not required to run out the grounder. And, I really can’t imagine a player, in a fraction of a second, coming up with the idea of stopping so that he might interfere with the catcher’s throw.

      • Yeah, I remember that very well too. I didn’t understand why the umps ruled as they did. But here’s the applicable rule interpretation now, which supports them – I don’t know how 7.09(j) read or was interpreted in ’75:

        Rule 7.09(j) Comment: When a catcher and batter-runner going to first base have contact when the catcher is fielding the ball, there is generally no violation and nothing should be called.

        The runner interference sections do have some points at which intent makes a difference. Looking at the video, it seems to me that Armbrister stopped because he was trying to avoid colliding with Fisk and could not have evaded him had he run normally – there was no way that ball would not have resulted in a collision unless Armbrister had stopped in place before he had seen where the ball was located.

        • The other thing to consider was that the contact occurred AFTER Fisk had fielded a batted ball. Normally, fielders are protected from runner interference only when fielding a batted ball, NOT afterwards. For example, a hard slide into second base to break about up a double play bid is perfectly legal even though that very intentional act “interferes with” a fielder’s ability to make a throw.

          • I stand corrected.

            Memory is a funny thing; I had this picture in my mind of Fisk’s arm brushing against Armbrister as he made his throw. But, it was nothing of the sort.

            I can see why the Red Sox were mad, but I also see the umpire’s point. The ball hit hard off the “concrete” Astroturf so that even though Fisk was momentarily impeded, he really couldn’t have gotten to the ball any sooner; he had to wait for it to come down. Clearly, Armbrister had no influence on the throw (not that that is particularly germane when you consider the comparable situation of a slide at second base).

          • I viewed that video by continually double-clicking on the start arrow in the lower left hand corner of the screen to provide a stop-action sequence. I think it’s really hard to determine that there was actually contact prior to Fisk’s fielding the ball. The reason for Armbrister’s hesitation seems to be that he was trying to avoid getting hit by his own batted ball. His eyes were continually on the ball and was not concerned about contact with Fisk.

  13. Besides 4 sac flies, no other WS game-ending run scored on a play where an out was recorded.

    The 56 WS game-winning events:
    28 singles
    5 doubles
    15 home runs
    4 sac flies
    3 errors (straight)
    1 groundout plus error

  14. Highest WPA for a World Series pinch-hit that did not score a run:

    1) 0.26, Dave Duncan in 1972, Game 5 — Down a run with one out in the home 9th, Duncan’s single sent pinch-runner Blue Moon Odom to 3rd. (They never scored; Odom tried to score on a foulout to Joe Morgan and was cut down.)

    2) 0.21 (tie) — Allen Craig in this game, and Rip Russell in 1946, Game 1 — Red Sox down a run with one out in the top of the 9th, Russell’s single sent Don Gutteridge to 3rd, and with two outs, Tom McBride drove him in to tie. Rudy York’s HR the next inning won it for Boston.

  15. This game is a gold mine for debating strategic moves, including:

    — Did Matheny consider pinch-running for Molina, either when he was on 1st or when he reached 3rd? All he had left on the bench were his backup catcher, Tony Cruz, and some of his (ahem) 12 pitchers.

    — Farrell letting Brandon Workman bat in the 9th inning — his first professional at-bat comes in the 9th inning of a tied WS game! — so that he could stay in to pitch the 9th. Instead of using Mike Napoli to hit, and then Uehara to start the 9th. Or, if he really wanted more than one inning from Workman, he could have double-switched when Workman came in to start the 8th.

    — Matheny pulling his lefty for the righty Seth Maness to pitch to Daniel Nava, who’s much better against RHPs, with men on the corners and one out in the 6th, ahead by one run. He chose Maness’s DP rate over the platoon split.

    What other big ones are debatable?

    • How about pitching to Molina in the 7th, down two runs, and with a runner on third and one out. Even more curious considering the Red Sox had walked Molina with first base open in the 5th (albeit with two out).

      It worked out for Boston, but that decision was a real surprise to me. If the choice is pitching to Molina and Freese, or to Freese and John Jay, well it wouldn’t take me much time to decide to go for the latter option.

    • Last pitcher to bat in the 9th inning of a World Series game was Sparky Lyle in game one of the 1977 WS. Lyle led off the bottom of the 9th and struck out. He batted again in the 11th and again struck out, this time with a runner on first and one out. Overall the decision to let Lyle bat worked out, as he pitched 3.2 innings, allowing only one baserunner and picking up the victory.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA197710110.shtml

      • Ed, great job pulling up that ’77 Game 1. I’d forgotten some aspects — like, Paul Blair replacing Reggie for defense to start the 9th, then L.A. tying it up, Blair failing on a sac bunt in the 10th, then stroking the winning hit in the 12th.

        Lyle’s 0.331 WPA from that game is 3rd-most for a postseason blown save, 2nd-most in the WS, after this one by Carl Willis in ’91:
        http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIN/MIN199110260.shtml

  16. The notion of using your closer in the 7th….I can see how the “box” is just too thick. Too many years of reinforcing the 1 inning closer role.

    But Farrell, the likely MOTY, made an inexcusable move tonight. You let a reliever hit in the 9th inning of a tie-game in the WS?!?!? And not even your relief ace! If he let Uehara bat to get him another inning, that’s one thing. Letting Workman bat with Napoli on the bench/Uehara in the pen…if an Indians manager did this, somebody else would have to type this post, because I’d either be in jail after inciting a riot or in the hospital after having an aneurysm.

    Red Sox fans….I never though I’d say this after 2004 (and especially after 2007!), but, I feel your pain. If this costs the Sox the series…..well, I shudder to think about it.

    Oh, speaking of clutch/anti-clutch moments that will now be forgotten because of the bizarre ending: Pete Kozma’s hilariously bad at-bat in the 4th. You take strike 2 *and* strike 3 with the pitcher on-deck and the bases loaded??? And this is a guy who already wore the goat horns in Game 1! Luckily, it’s a win, so everything is forgiven. Otherwise, it’d be a bad week to be Pete Kozma.

    • It appears that Workman hasn’t batted in a live game since high school! His baseball reference page shows him with no PAs in the majors and the minors. The Baseball Cube shows his stats with the University of Texas. Again, no PAs. His highlight’s page on the University of Texas website says he was a pitcher/shortstop in high school though it gives no indication of how well (or poorly he hit). A seriously bizarre decision by John Farrell.

    • Boston columnist Gordon Edes, slamming Workman’s AB, went so far as to evoke Grady Little:
      http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/red-sox/post/_/id/32988/rapid-reaction-cardinals-5-red-sox-4

      I wouldn’t go that far, myself, but it sure was puzzling. And while I know this is just “confirmation bias,” it does seem to me that managers who let a pitcher bat in a high-leverage spot because they want to squeeze another inning out of him, almost never do get that full inning.

      • JA,

        I didnt read the link you just provided,
        but letting a rookie pitcher bat,
        so that he can pitch in a walk-off situation,
        instead of using the most dominant reliever currently on the planet,

        is preposterous.

        Grady let the best starter we’ve ever seen (IMO)
        in for two batters too long, and gave up a sawed-off ducksnort flare.

  17. Prior to Craig’s double last night, the most recent double in the bottom of the ninth of a tied World Series game was by Rusty Staub for the Mets in Game 3 of the 1973 Series. That one came with two outs, and John Milner failed to bring Rusty home. The Mets lost the game in the 11th on a walk, a passed ball and a single.

    Craig’s was the first extra-base hit by a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 9th of a tied World Series game, and only the second hit by a pinch-hitter in that scenario. In Game 4 of the 1972 World Series, Angel Mangual had a walk-off, pinch-hit single for the A’s, knocking in Gene Tenace from third (Don Mincher had just tied the game with a pinch-hit single). Overall, there have been 21 PAs by pinch-hitters in the bottom of the ninth of tied WS games, with just the two hits, by Craig and Mangual, plus four walks (all intentional) and a sac fly (a walk-off, obviously: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JDSEera_HU). The resulting slash line: .133 BA/.300 OBP/.200 SLG/.500 OPS.

    • Nice adds, birtelcom! BTW, Cincy’s lead in that ’72 Game 4 was supplied in the 8th inning by our quiz subject, Bobby Tolan, with a 2-out, 2-run double off reliever Vida Blue, who had come in for Morgan but walked him.

  18. Joyce’s ruling is correct. There are a couple of key points. First, the rule doesn’t require intent, so what Middlebrooks was thinking when he lifted his legs was irrelevant. If Craig hadn’t tripped over those raised legs, he would have been safe at home. That brings you back to whether Middlebrooks was still “in the act of fielding the ball” and, given the fact that it’s well past him and he should be able to see the outfielder headed to pick it up, the only argument you can make that he’s still “fielding the ball” is that he wants to get back up on his feet to stay in the play, and that’s not there in the rule, either. I think the rule is correctly written. If you argue intent, it makes the umpire have to be a mind-reader. If you say the “in the act” includes a period of time after the ball passes the player, then you can almost never have obstruction, because all players can argue they had to get up to get back into the play. It’s actually a very smart rule, because it recognizes the runner’s right to get to the next base unimpeded. You really can’t do it any other way.

  19. B-Ref’s Play Index lists 70 World Series “blown save” appearances that lasted two innings pitched or less. Of those appearances, only five also generated positive Win Probability Added by the pitcher with the blown save. Two of the five were in last night’s game, both by Cardinal pitchers.

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