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October 16, 2012

Playoff Prospectus

NLCS Game 2 Recap: Giants 7, Cardinals 1

by R.J. Anderson

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There’s been a lot of talk about narratives lately, mostly concerning the Yankees and identifying reasons for their struggles. By comparison, the National League Championship Series seemed almost boring. Here you had two good teams playing for a chance to win their second world title in a two- or three-year span—nothing exciting about that whatsoever. In Monday night’s Game Two, the series-defining narrative arrived.

It happened almost right away. In the first inning, with runners on first and second base with one out, Allen Craig hit a groundball to the shortstop Brandon Crawford. Crawford threw the ball to Marco Scutaro, and Scutaro turned and fired the ball to Brandon Belt. Craig was called safe on the play and the inning continued. But that didn’t matter. What did matter was how aggressively the baserunner, Matt Holliday, went into second base. Holliday’s slide resembled a tackling effort as much as anything. If the intent was to disrupt Scutaro then Holliday succeeded and some; Scutaro fell to the earth and rolled in pain before getting up and continuing with the game.

Holliday’s actions allowed for a good-versus-evil talking point to be conceived—a storyline that was in everyone’s mind when Holliday flubbed a line drive off Scutaro’s bat a few innings later. The Giants scored three runs on the play, pushing the score to 5-1. They would win 7-1 and Scutaro would leave in the late innings to have x-rays taken. Holliday, by the way, did not receive his comeuppance in the form of a hit-by-pitch. He did make one big mistake in the field and perhaps another big mistake on the basepaths—or at least that’s how we’ll all tell it if the Giants go on to take this series.

  • Ryan Vogelsong pitched well: seven innings, four hits, one run, two walks, and four strikeouts. There had been some talk about whether Vogelsong or Tim Lincecum would make the next start in this slot, tentatively scheduled for Game Six. Vogelsong, who has now had the Giants starters’ best two starts in the postseason, should get the ball if it comes to that.
  • And it might not come to that, because Lincecum could start Game Four in place of Barry Zito instead. Either way, Vogelsong is almost certainly one of the Giants’ four best starting pitchers right now.
  • Speaking of starting pitchers, Chris Carpenter wasn’t horrible, either. His defense cost him, but he wasn’t five-runs-allowed poor.
  • The sixth and seventh Giants runs were allowed by Shelby Miller, who made his postseason debut tonight and threw 1 1/3 innings.
  • Those sixth and seventh runs were knocked in by Scutaro’s replacement, Ryan Theriot. Karma! Or coincidence. You decide.
  • Kyle Lohse and Matt Cain will meet in Game Three on Wednesday afternoon, with both vying to give their teams what’s always described as a critical 2-1 lead in the series. 

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

19 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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lewish

Wow, that kind of slide ends people's careers. Hitting, throwing it is hard to control every little thing, but the beauty of sliding is even little leaguers can control if they slide before the base or after it. He could of had a really hard slide hitting the ground 2 feet earlier and started the slide on first base side and Scutaro would of had a chance to survive.

Oct 16, 2012 08:52 AM
rating: 1
 
lewish

It is interesting I have noticed, maybe it is uncommon but I just started paying more attention on the run to the playoffs/playoffs and there have been 2 times that runner was called safe because second baseman left the bag early on double play...but this is why they do that...so I wonder if umps play into this forcing guys to stay closer due to those calls on these types of plays to be sure of the out?

Oct 16, 2012 09:01 AM
rating: 1
 
BurrRutledge

Tough play by Scutaro to stay in there and attempt to get some ooomph on his relay, and he paid the price for it.

I listened 'live' on radio and it wasn't until later that I saw the replay. I was listening to SF radio announcers (Jon Miller makes the game so easy to listen to!), and they described it as a hard aggressive slide. I don't recall too much discussion of whether it was illegal, just more concern for Scutaro.

Upon review of the replay, yes, he landed on top of the bag with his slide and then willfully carried himself well past the bag to collide with Scutaro. I don't think Holliday's hand could have reached the bag from where he ended up (after Scutaro's left leg and body brought his momentum to a stop).

This is why second basemen used to jump to make their relay throw (not just moving towards the pitcher's mound and waving their left foot in the vicinity of the bag as we often see these days).

I also don't think Scutaro realized how just how close Holliday was when he chose to stay planted to the ground to make that throw.

Oct 16, 2012 09:54 AM
rating: 3
 
BillJohnson

"This is why second basemen used to jump to make their relay throw..." This is a very important point, and goes far beyond the comments on this particular play. If you watched the great second basemen of times gone by, they were practically levitating on the pivot. Old Bill Mazeroski footage is an amazing thing to see.

This isn't just a matter of "back in the good old days," because there are still 2Bs around who do it. I do think, however, that there are fewer now, and one reason may be the devaluation of 2B so that it's played by (comparatively) less athletic guys and/or converted utility men who haven't made a career of avoiding the takeout slide. It's not coincidental, I think, that Scooter falls into that second category. So do the guy who'll be on second tomorrow for the Cardinals (Daniel Descalso) and the possibles for Detroit (Omar Infante and Ramon Santiago, although Infante at least has now settled into 2B comparatively regularly). Only the Yankees have a second baseman for whom that position has been his career-long home.

Oct 16, 2012 10:20 AM
rating: 2
 
flyingdutchman

It's not that tough of a play by Scutaro, and it should not have to be. Though I'm sure he's a tough guy, Scutaro probably didn't think he'd be bowled over. He took the feed behind the bag, and he used the bag as protection. The ball is already hit slowly, plus scutaro has to make a slightly longer throw. That is enough to deter the double play, generally, without having to worry about a pumped-up behemoth crashing into you at knee-level. Get rid of the ball, and then just get the weight off your feet for good measure, but that wasn't going to work for Scutaro on this one. It shouldn't have mattered.

I don't know if it's legal, but it's a dirty, dirty play.

Oct 16, 2012 10:23 AM
rating: 1
 
rrvwmr

According to the rule book, the slide was legal. At the end of the slide, Holliday could've easily reached back and touched second base. He definitely slid late, but how many inches earlier would he have had to start his slide for this to not be considered a dirty play in your book? 6? 12? Matt Holliday is a horse (6'4", 235). Marco Scutaro isn't (5'10", 185). This is physics...not malicious intent.

Oct 16, 2012 11:04 AM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

Check the video replays again. I've looked at several different ones, and in many you can't even see second base. The few angles that show the bag, it appears to me that Holliday would have had to crawl back before he could reach it.

Oct 16, 2012 11:16 AM
rating: 1
 
thedaves

I haven't read the rulebook, but it seems that you are saying that a slide is considered legal if you can reach the bag at the completion of it. Do you know why Holliday could have easily reached back and touched second base? Because he collided with Scutaro and grabbed onto him. If he didn't grabbed Scutaro he would have been been five feet past the bag.

Oct 16, 2012 13:21 PM
rating: 2
 
BrianGunn
(439)

"I don't know if it's legal, but it's a dirty, dirty play."

I think a dirty play is one with malicious intent. I certainly think it was a reckless play, but born more out of clumsiness than anything else. Holliday said he should've slid earlier, that it bothered him all game long, that he asked Scutaro a couple times after the play if he was OK, then called the Giants' clubhouse after he had heard Scutaro was removed from the game to again check on him. Not sure a player would act that way if his intent was malicious.

Oct 16, 2012 11:25 AM
rating: 1
 
rrvwmr

One aspect of this game that was completely lost was the Carpenter error on Crawford's chopper. Crawford was very obviously running inside the diamond.
http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20121015&content_id=39842154&vkey=news_sf&c_id=sf&partnerId=rss_sf
The throw did not hit him and Carpenter's throw was well wide, but on that type of bunt, the runner's position has a huge effect on the fielder's throw. Belt would've still scored from third either way, but Vogelsong would've been up with 2 outs, likely ending the inning. Instead, Vogelsong sacrificed, Pagan walked, and then Scutaro drove 3 runs in. If you take those 3 runs away and the 2 runs from scoring after the blown call, this game has a dramatically different tilt.

Oct 16, 2012 10:53 AM
rating: 1
 
FredOwens

The Holliday cross body block might well have been illegal in football because it was blindside and at the knees, a sure way to break legs, dislocate hips and ruins acls. The runner at first should have been called out by the second base umpire because it was clearly and unambiguously an intentional attempt to hinder the second baseman from making the throw. The rule says

Rule 7.08(b) Comment: A runner who is adjudged to have hindered a fielder who is attempting to make a play on a batted ball is out whether it was intentional or not.
If, however, the runner has contact with a legally occupied base when he hinders the fielder, he shall not be called out unless, in the umpire’s judgment, such hindrance, whether it occurs on fair or foul territory, is intentional. If the umpire declares the hindrance intentional, the following penalty shall apply: With less than two out, the umpire shall declare both the runner and batter out. With two out, the umpire shall declare the batter out.

The old saw about " well he could touch the base' has no basis if the move is intentional. If the umpires don't start calling and forcing runners to slide towards the base instead of sliding at the second baseman/shortstop and reaching sideways or backwards to touch the base, someone is going to get seriously injured.

Holliday was extremely lucky this was a post season game and that an old school pitcher wasn't on the hill. He might well have a really sore rib cage and he would have earned it.

Oct 16, 2012 12:26 PM
rating: 1
 
BillJohnson

Note that the rules draw a distinction between a "play on a batted ball" and a play on a thrown ball. There is no language in Rule 7.08(b), or any of its Comments, that addresses a play on a thrown ball. The distinction is significant in a great many baseball contexts involving interference.

It would be good to get an actual MLB rules expert to address this one, but I've never, not once, seen this call made when the sliding runner's trajectory took him to and over the base he was sliding into. Holliday's slide qualifies.

Oct 16, 2012 13:03 PM
rating: 4
 
LynchMob

Here's the play ... http://cjzero.com/gifs/HollidayScutaro.gif ... doesn't look to me like he hit dirt before the bag ... which makes me feel like it should be a rule violation ... and he should have been ejected and fined and suspended. His hindrance seems "intentional" to me ...

Oct 16, 2012 16:49 PM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

So are you an "MLB rules expert"? Or did you just gawk at a gif like the rest of us?

Oct 16, 2012 17:19 PM
rating: 0
 
LynchMob

Oh no ... I'm a *NOT* a rules expert ... didn't mean to imply otherwise ... and am as interested as you are in what a rules expert has to say!

Oct 16, 2012 18:13 PM
rating: 0
 
LynchMob

I wonder if this ...

Rule 3.15 Comment: For interference with a fielder attempting to field a batted or thrown ball by members of the team at bat or base coaches, who are excepted in Rule 3.15, see Rule 7.11. See also Rules 5.09(b), 5.09(f) and 6.08(d), which cover interference by an umpire, and Rule 7.08(b),
which covers interference by a runner.

... can be construed to imply that 7.08(b) does also apply to "interference with a fielder attempting to field a batted or thrown ball by members of the team at bat"?

Oct 16, 2012 18:16 PM
rating: 0
 
FredOwens

Earlier this year Freddie Freeman was called for interference during a double play because the throw from the ss hit his hand as he was sliding into second. The umpire said Freeman did it on purpose so clearly the umpire can do it and in this case he should have done it to protect the defensive player from injury.

Oct 16, 2012 19:44 PM
rating: 0
 
juiced

Holliday's slide was Bush League

Oct 17, 2012 00:14 AM
rating: -2
 
lewish

Everyone has probably moved on but, that call FO points out on Freddie Freeman, is called frequently at all levels of baseball...but for me it is clear when Holliday landed behind or at the back of the bag(depending on how you see it)at the beginning of his slide intent is clear...I am not going to do anything but break a play(er)up when I start my slide at the back of the bag...even if later I feel bad about what happens.

Oct 17, 2012 09:21 AM
rating: 0
 
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