A’s-Tigers game notes: Oakland pulls even (and more playoff notes)

@Athletics 1, Tigers 0 (series tied, 1-1) — After winning the opener, Jim Leyland was playing with house money, and it showed. The key play of the game, before Oakland’s walk-off 9th, came in the top of the 5th inning, Tigers on the corners with one out, and leadoff man Austin Jackson at bat. On a full count, Leyland sent the runner from first base — an aggressive, almost devil-may-care stratagem. Jackson swung through a fastball for his third strikeout, and Stephen Vogt’s peg nailed Jose Iglesias to end the inning.

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Chat up the Friday Feast: Everybody plays today!

Pirates 7, @Cardinals 1 — Put that in your RISP pipe, Cardinals — and look out, Tyler Chatwood! Counting today’s go-ahead RBI — the first such by a Bucs postseason pitcher — Gerrit Cole is 4 for 9 with runners in scoring position, 6 RBI. With a 6-1 lead after 6 innings (thanks, Pedro), Cole was lifted at just 86 pitches, perhaps with an eye to a potential Game 5 on Wednesday.

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Bartolo Colon allowed just 10 first-inning runs in 30 starts this year — but a 1.40 WHIP.

Quiz – Notable Names (solved)

Here’s an assortment of notable players, with a common thread connecting them. What is the career accomplishment of which each of these players can boast?

Hint: the career accomplishment includes a particular feat that each player accomplished in his career, plus something else about his career that distinguishes the player from all others with the same feat.

Congratulations to John Autin! He correctly identified (with a little help) that these are the last active players to have homered in the traditional ballparks in use before the 1950s franchise relocations. The particulars are after the jump.

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Circle of Greats Round 31 Results: No More Waiting For Lefty

It may not have been passionately dramatic, but this round continued the recent trend of pitchers taking the top several vote-getting spots.  Steve Carlton, freed of the competition from Tom Seaver he faced in the previous round, surged to the top spot, solidly ahead of Nolan Ryan and Jim Palmer, who landed in second and third places respectively.  Carlton becomes the 31st inductee into the High Heat Stats Circle of Greats (COG).   More on Lefty and the voting after the jump. Continue reading

Can the Pirates Shift Past the Cardinals?

The ascension of the Pittsburgh Pirates, from two decades of losing to 94 wins and the NL Wild Card, was not an easy one. The franchise had to completely revamp everything; from they way they do business on the international market to the way they play on the field. Gone were the frugal Pirates of the past. In 2011, GM Neil Huntington and his mates scoured the high seas, spending a record $17 million in the amateur draft in order to turn the franchise around. And while many of those players (top pick Gerrit Cole aside) have yet to make an impact on the big league level, the message was sent. Pittsburgh was here to compete.

That aggressive front office approach in the draft has bled over into other areas of the franchise as well. After decades of doing everything in their power to avoid spending money on free agents, Pittsburgh opened up the coffers for Russell Martin, who was brought in on a 2-year/$17 million dollar deal to fortify what had previously been an extremely weak catching position. Along with Martin, veterans AJ BurnettWandy Rodriguez, and Justin Morneau among others have been traded for in an effort to raise the roster’s overall talent level. And perhaps most importantly, modern-day analytical analysis has been embraced.

Nowhere is that new, modern approach to baseball more evident than in the Pirates’ commitment to the defensive shift. Pittsburgh was one of the shiftiest teams in baseball this season, using one defensive maneuver or another over 400 times. That ranks 2nd among all of the franchises currently in the playoffs, trailing only the original super-shifters, the Tampa Bay Rays. That’s a huge jump from 2012, when Pittsburgh shifted just 105 times and the numbers back up just how effective all those extra defensive movements were. Pittsburgh ranked 3rd in baseball as a team in defensive runs saved and they finished tied for 7th in the league in defensive efficiency, which is the percentage of balls put in play that are then converted into outs.

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