December 2, 2004
Casey's Random Batting Trial
(With apologies to Ernest L. Thayer.)
The win probability was epsilon for the Mudville nine that day
With a minus-two run differential, and just three outs left to play
Then when Cooney lowered his OBP, and Barrows did the same
They took the last-ups advantage and the home crowd from the game.
The Dodger fans began to leave, the Expos fan did too
Just Red Sox fans did cling to hope which springs forever new
They thought, if only one at-bat, Casey he could get
Egad! Pete Rose could take those odds, and make a hefty bet.
But Flynn and Blake preceded him. Who made this lineup card?
For both were mere slap hitters, for whom patience was too hard.
So upon the stricken statheads, grim melancholy sat;
Just an infinitesimal probability of getting Casey to the bat
But Flynn singled off the closer, to the wonderment of all
Blake caused the fielder's UZR to drop, when he let the line drive fall.
And when the fielders finally stopped giving the ball a chase
Blake had doubled, while Flynn had failed to take the extra base.
Then from fifty thousand estimated arose a lusty yell
It rumbled through the concrete valley, and I think it crashed my Dell.
It pounded through the TV speakers, enhanced and amplified by FOX.
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the box.
There was ease in Casey's manner, and a smile was on his face.
Did his endless bat-touch ritual and then stepped into his place
When responding to the cheers, he flipped off the roaring crowd
No one doubted it was Casey, high-and-mighty and so proud.
All eyes were on Casey as the pitcher got the sign
All throats groaned and sighed when he stepped out one more time.
The manager debated the I-B-B, and then said with a sneer
"I've pitched to Barry Bonds before; I'll pitch to this jerk here."
At last he hurled the spheroid, sent a-whizzing toward the plate.
The FOX gun it read 95, but 'twas really 88.
Far too close the batsman stood, so the pitch came towards his head.
Casey dove, fell to the ground. "Strike one!", the umpire said.
From the stands, black with people, there went up a muffled roar.
"Is Enrico Pallazzo umping?" they yelled, plus a few "choice" words more.
"Kill the ump!" Don Zimmer shouted, and from the dugout he bound
And it's likely he would have killed, had not Casey thrown him to the ground.
Casey knew the state transition matrix, and should have showed concern.
But knew from the hurler's pitch count, his right arm was likely burned.
He stepped back in the box, and once more the dun sphere flew.
But this ump calls the high strike, and Casey took it for strike two.
"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, when they saw the Jumbotron.
The screen operator was ejected, and only then the game went on.
Pitcher and batter faced off as foes, and each refused to bend
Yet only one would increase his VORP when this day comes to an end.
"Walk-off homer" Casey thought, avoid the extra innings he did hate.
He pounds, with steroid muscles, his mighty bat upon the plate.
From the stretch to a full stop, so deliberate it's absurd.
Pitch in the dirt! The swing is checked! Catcher appeals to third...
Oh somewhere in this land, the Red Sox are champions of the day.
Steinbrenner's firing someone, and Rickey still wants to play.
Gaylord Perry and Joe Niekro are finally playing fair.
But there is no joy in Mudville
Casey cost them three Win Shares.
Keith Woolner is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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