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May 12, 2014

Pebble Hunting

The Best Game of the 2014 Season So Far

by Sam Miller


The play-by-play for the top of the first inning of the game between the Giants and Dodgers in Los Angeles on Sunday doesn't initially look like much:

  • A. Pagan singled to center
  • H. Pence singled, A. Pagan to second
  • B. Posey grounded into double play shortstop to second to first, A. Pagan to third, H. Pence out at second
  • P. Sandoval doubled to left center, A. Pagan scored
  • B. Hicks struck out swinging

Pretty typical sequence, except for what's not mentioned: Pence would have doubled, and Pagan would have gone to third, except that Pagan tripped rounding second and had to scramble back to second. With that trip, the Giants' run expectancy dropped by a half a run. Naturally, Posey would hit into a double play—a double play that would have been impossible with Pence on second, and a groundball that would have otherwise scored a run; if you ignore the fallacy of the predetermined outcome, you'd now say that Pagan's trip had cost the Giants more than a run a half in win expectancy. And then, just as quickly as it seemed that everything had changed, as quickly as the Dodgers seemed like they were out of the inning, as quickly as the Giants figured they'd missed their one opportunity against the best pitcher in the game, Pablo Sandoval cashed in the run. It was a run that, predictably, held up for much of the game, and that for nearly two hours seemed like it might be enough in a showdown between two aces. Objectively speaking, this might have been the best first inning of the year.

I have a checklist of positive game attributes that I’ve used in the past to find the worst game of the year. If a game can mark off anything on the checklist, it can't be the worst game of the year. I’ve never tried to use it to find the best game of the year, but it makes sense that one might, and if one did, one would discover that one had seen something one ought never forget. On Sunday, the 2014 season got its best game out of the way.

The Giants and the Dodgers played 10 innings to a resolution and nearly aced the Best/Worst Game test:

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (05/12)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: Starli... (05/09)
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Pebble Hunting: Recent... (05/15)
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Moonshot: Predicting B... (05/12)

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