One last look at the decision to hold Alex Gordon, from every angle.
A single play in the 2014 postseason captivated the baseball world: Alex Gordon’s three-quarters trip around the bases as the Giants’ outfield botched Gordon's line-drive single in the last inning of the World Series. And how could it not? Game Seven, two outs in the bottom of the ninth, down by one, and Gordon—the Royals’ best hitter—facing the suddenly untouchable Madison Bumgarner with a ring on the line. Nate Silver, immediately after the play ended, tweeted the following:
A bit more quietly, Jeremy Affeldt is approaching postseason records as impressive as Madison Bumgarner's.
Many pixels will be burned describing Madison Bumgarner’s historic performance in the World Series. Many will be dedicated to the Giants as a group, and about how they came together as a club despite effectively losing much of the rotation that had carried them to two previous championships. Many will be spent describing the Royals’ unexpected run through October. I suspect that precious few pixels will be earmarked for Jeremy Affeldt, one of the unsung heroes of the Giants’ postseason success. I aim to rectify that.
At 35 years old, Affeldt has already had a long and distinguished career. He’s pitched in the major leagues for 13 seasons and has now won three World Series rings. All told he has pitched in four postseasons, including a losing bid in 2007 with the Rockies. He has thrown 31 innings in the postseason, while posting an ERA of 0.86. Needless to say, that’s much better than his regular season performance.
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We don't know anything about baseball, part 1 million.
This postseason took joy in reminding us how little we know about the game. Whether it was the Royals, the team that felt least likely to advance to the World Series, reaching the Fall Classic with a perfect postseason record; or the Giants, another Wild Card team turned pennant winner, taking the whole thing despite having five starts last four innings or fewer, and three end in under three innings; this October created self doubt for everyone at some point or another.
So, the 2010-2014 Giants. The dynasty of our era. What the Yankees were to the 1990s, the A's were to the 1970s, so the Giants are to this decade. Feels weird. You swish it around in your mouth and you're not sure whether it's $800 scotch or $3.99 mouthwash, but you know it burns a little and you know it'll get you drunk and/or blind.
Cleaning up Baseball Prospectus, one Russell Carleton unfiltered post at a time.
We talk about pitching decisions in terms of leverage, but most of what we think of as modern pitcher usage—five-man rotations, seventh-inning guys, closers, LOOGYs—is born only secondarily of leverage. The real factor is attrition, and the acknowledgment that we can’t expect the team’s best pitcher to throw every inning of every game without breaking down or getting much, much, much worse from overuse. Say we know that Craig Kimbrel is less likely than any Braves pitcher to allow a run in any situation, but he can only do it 75 times all year; the goal is to avoid wasting a single one of those 75 on a low-leverage situation, thus dooming some other high-leverage situation to an inferior pitcher. Without the attrition—if Kimbrel could pitch all day every day—there would be no decision. Kimbrel’s manager would look very smart.
You've seen it in a hundred chyrons: The Giants do well against fastballs that come in faster than 95 mph. But the stat is nonsense. Is the idea behind it nonsense, too?
One of the statistics bandied about with great frequency in the World Series coverage has been the Giants' collective proficiency against the fastest of fastballs (typically defined as more than 95 mph). On several occasions, broadcasters have mentioned that the Giants hitters do well against these pitches, both as a team and with reference to particular individual players. The tenuous conclusion to be drawn from these statistics is that the Giants will continue to do well against the blistering heat, including those fastballs wielded by such prominent Royals as Yordano Ventura and the Reliever Triumvirate.
As many have noted, the stats as presented on the broadcast are terrible, for a bevy of reasons. We can start with batting average, which I probably don’t have to tell you is not a very good index of a hitter’s skill or outcomes. We’d like a better metric, ideally something that included the value of plate discipline (walks are valuable, too!).
A strong outing from Yordano Ventura and a rough second inning for the Giants means we all get a Game Seven on Wednesday.
This was never a close game. Yordano Ventura had some control issues that gave the Giants some prime scoring opportunities, but they never converted. The five walks don’t look great, but Ventura allowed just three hits and did the most important thing he could do, which is keep the opponent from crossing home. Add in the fact that he tossed 64 pitches 95 mph or above and had a beautiful tribute to Oscar Taveras, and it really was a nice outing for a young pitcher with a bright future. Other than that, the Royals' seven-run second was the story of the game.
Or: Something perilously close to Jeremy Affeldt/Javier Lopez slash fiction.
Appearing in a World Series is one of those rare moments when childhood fantasies and grown-up, professional desires align totally. Each World Series contestant is a live wire, his whole being thrumming. But baseball being a team game, the sport’s best players are, it seems, no more likely than a journeyman to reach this grandest of stages. In his 22 flabbergasting seasons, Barry Bonds reached the World Series a single time—and once he got there, he saw his handiwork undone by Scott Spiezio. Spiezio, a bat-only veteran who hit fewer home runs in his 12-year career than Bonds did from 2000 to 2001, would naturally retire with two World Series rings (2002 Angels, 2006 Cardinals). In this year’s Series, Terrance Gore appears for the Royals with 11 career regular season games under his belt, and Hunter Strickland of the Giants has just nine. Torii Hunter, meanwhile, has played in 2,233 regular season games, has made it to the playoffs on eight separate occasions, and has never made it to the Series.