Thursday, November 13, 2014

Luis Castillo Becomes the Most Hated and Loved Player in New York on One Play

The game between the New York Yankees and New York Mets on June 13, 2009 featured seven lead changes. But it was the last one that sent the Yankee Stadium crowd into a frenzy.

With the game tied at seven, and two outs in the top of the 8th, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera replaced reliever Phil Coke to pitch to Carlos Beltran. Beltran drew a walk and the next batter, David Wright drove in Beltran with a  double to center. With the Mets now leading 8-7, the next batter, Ryan Church, struck out to end the inning.

The Mets led 8-7 going into the bottom of the ninth, when their closer Francisco Rodriguez took the mound. Rodriguez was in a position to earn his 17th consecutive save of the season when Brett Gardner stepped into the batter's box. Gardner fouled out for the first out of the inning. Derek Jeter singled to center, and stole second while the next batter, Johnny Damon, struck out. With two outs, the Mets decided to set up a force play at first, second and third by intentionally walking Mark Teixeira, who represented the go-ahead run for the Yankees. Then, Alex Rodriguez stepped up to the plate.

Rodriguez took the first four pitches of the at-bat, the first three for balls and the fourth for a strike. Then, he popped a 94-mile per hour 3-1 pitch high shallow right field. Rodriguez slammed his bat down as he lightly jogged to first. Jeter and Teixeira started running on contact, as players are taught to do with two outs since they start playing the game. Francisco Rodriguez pointed to the ball in the air and pumped his fist as second baseman Luis Castillo settled under the ball and prepared to make the last out of the game.

Castillo put up his two hands to call off any other players. He started backpedaling, put his glove up with his left arm, and the ball his glove. It was in the center of his glove, but bounced off his palm and onto the field. He fell to his knees and threw the ball to second, but Jeter had already scored the tying run and Teixeira was in the process of scoring the winning run.

While there was plenty of scoring earlier in the game, Castillo's failure to catch the popup truly was the reason the Yankees were able to win the game. It was both Castillo's fault for not using two hands to secure the ball when it was in his glove, and the correctness of Jeter and Teixeira to run despite a seemingly obvious end to the game.

In 1993, Dennis Eckersley coined the term to describe a game-winning hit as a "walk-off," as away players slowly walk off the field as the home team celebrates. This was truely the case for the Mets, and especially Luis Castillo.

See the play:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Former Major League Shortstop Ryan Theriot Opines About Newly Speculated Dodgers GM

Ryan Theriot, who played for the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants during his major league career had specific opinions about the speculated general manager to-be of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers will reportedly hire former Oakland Athletics assistant general manager, Farhan Zaidi as their general manager at some point in the next week. In response, Theriot tweeted: 

This sent twitter abuzz, and Theriot's name started trending in the United States for a brief period of time. While Theriot's more recent retweets hint that he was being sarcastic on the matter, current New York Yankees pitcher Brandon McCarthy reacted the same way much of twitter did: with a response under the assumption that Theriot was serious in his opinion about the newly named GM. On twitter, McCarthey tweeted: 

McCarthy is right. Theriot has been a part of two World Series teams, both of which were being run by a GM who has had no  major league baseball experience (John Mozeliak was the Cardinals GM in 2011, and Brian Saben was the Giants GM in 2012). In addition, Jim Hendry, the general manager of the Cubs in 2007 and 2008, also has no major league baseball experience. Those two clubs made it to the National League Division Series. 

That World Series winning teams which Theriot played for had GMs who never played any level of documented baseball is not surprise. Over the past 50 year, just nine teams that won the World Series had then-current GMs who had either major or minor league experience: 

WS Winning Team: GM (Years Active in Major Leagues): 

-1967 St. Louis Cardinals: Stan Musial (1941-1963) 
-1969 New York Mets: Johnny Murphy (1932-1947)
-1979 Pittsburgh Pirates: Pete Peterson (1955-1959)
-1980 Philadelphia Phillies: Phil Owens (1951-1959)
-1981 Los Angeles Dodgers: Al Campanis (1943)
-1982 St. Louis Cardinals: Whitey Herzog (1956-1963)
-1996 New York Yankees: Bob Watson (1966-1984)
-2002 Anaheim Angels: Bill Stoneman (1967-1974)
-2005 Chicago White Sox: Kenny Williams (1986-1991)

One of the GMs played in the minors, but never made it to the majors: Bill Lajoie of the 1984 Detroit Tigers. 

In a response to McCarthy, Theriot tweeted: 
McCarthy fired back: 

In sum, the majority of World Series winning GMs over the past 50 years never played a game of major league baseball. Although it may be against Theriot's opinion, baseball GMs who haven't played the game have made decisions that pushed many teams to victory in the past half-centery. Brandon McCarthy is right to defend general managers. In general, these GMs have worked hard in studying many aspects of the game, which, as McCarthy points out, is more often than not more than what regular players do. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Errors in the World Series

There are some World Series statistics that are well-known among baseball fans. That the Yankees have won 27 titles, that the longest drought between titles belongs to the Chicago Cubs (1908 was their last win), and that the series has been played all but two seasons since it began in 1903 (it was not played in 1904 and 90 years later, in 1994).

However, one statistic that is not as well-know is the win-loss record of teams that had committed less errors during the series. In the World Series, teams committing less errors than their opponents are 58-41-10 (W-L-Each team committed the same amount). That amounts to a .586 winning percentage.

This statistic tells several things. First and foremost, committing more errors than your opponent will often lead to a team losing a series.

However, it is telling that committing more errors than an opponent will not always translate into losing. It proves that errors are so situational that a team can make many errors in one game, yet still go on to win the series (the 2004 Boston Red Sox, for example, committed seven more errors than the opposing St. Louis Cardinals, all of which occurred in games one and two). Similarly, if a team commits many errors, but they are scattered out among games, it does not make for an automatic loss of a series win (like the 1997 Florida Marlins, a team that committed eight errors in the series, but no more than three in a single game).

In addition, if a team makes many errors, but has an abundance of offense, that team can afford to have shoddy defense (take the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays, a team that committed five more errors than the Philadelphia Phillies, yet outscored them 45-36).

Errors combined with lack of offense and quality pitching can quickly lead a team to the losing end of history. However, as history has proven, this is not always the case.

This year's World Series featured just three errors, all of which were in different games. A surplus of stellar pitching by both teams forced the series to go to its full length, with the San Francisco Giants ultimately taking the crown over the Kansas City Royals, four games to three.

Tune into The Sports JAMB, this Tuesday at 2p.m. as I discuss this year's World Series and recap the entire season. You also can join the conversation, and give me your thoughts on America's pastime.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Billy Buckner Shares Fault for 1986 World Series Loss With Pitching and Offense

This week, the Kansas City Royals are facing the San Francisco Giants in the 110th World Series. The two teams are tied at a game a piece after the Royals 7-2 victory on Wednesday night. This is the first time since 1985 that the Royals competing in the Fall Classic. But it is 28 years ago this Saturday that held host to one of the most famous errors in World Series history.

The Boston Red Sox led the New York Mets by games, 3-2 entering October 25’s game at Shea Stadium. The Red Sox took an early 2-0 lead after two innings, until the Mets tied the ballgame on a single and run-scoring double play in the bottom of the 5th. Boston scored in the 7th, but again failed to hold its second lead in the 8th, when catcher Gary Carter’s sacrifice fly allowed pinch hitter Lee Mazilli to score the tying run. That’s all the Mets would get in the 8th and 9th, leaving two runners on base in each inning.

The game was tied going to the 10th inning.

The Red Sox immediately, took the lead thanks to center fielder Dave Henderson, who hit an 0-1 pitch from Rick Aguilera deep over the left field wall for his second home run of the series. After third baseman Wade Boggs doubled to left, he was driven in on second baseman Marty Barrett’s single to center. The Red Sox failed to score any more insurance runs, but took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the 10th inning, and needed just three more outs to secure their first World Series title in 68 years.

Red Sox pitcher Calvin Schiraldi had been pitching since the 8th inning, and manager John McNamara decided to let him continue on. He got Mets second baseman Wally Backman and first baseman Keith Hernandez to fly out on seven pitches, and the Mets were an out away from losing the Series. However, Carter singled to left and pinch hitter Kevin Mitchell singled to center.

The second pitch off the bat of Mets third baseman Ray Knight was a dribbler down the third base line that Boggs chose to let roll foul instead of risking another runner getting aboard via a close play at any base. The next pitch was hit to center, scoring Carter from second. With the Red Sox now holding on to a 5-4 lead with runners on first and third, left fielder Mookie Wilson stepped into the batter’s box. McNamara removed Schiraldi from the game and replaced him with Bob Stanley.

Wilson’s at-bat got to a 2-2 count after two balls were out of the strike zone and four were fouled off. The sixth pitch of the at-bat bounced off of catcher Rich Gedman’s glove and to the Shea backstop. Mitchell scored the trying run, and Knight moved up to second on the wild pitch. Wilson fouled off the next two pitches.

Then, Wilson hit a ball that bounced in front of his feet and chopped to first baseman Billy Buckner. Buckner put his glove down to field the ball, but it scooted under his glove. Knight scored from second, and the Mets won 6-5 on Buckner’s error.

Buckner became one of the most hated people in the city of Boston, receiving death threats in the years after the play. However, Buckner’s error is just one of the flaws of the Red Sox all series.

To say that Buckner was at fault for the Red Sox losing that game means forgetting about the rest of the team’s play. In the bottom of the 5th, for example, Knight only scored on the double play because he was able to go from first to third after right fielder Dwight Evans bobbled Wilson’s base hit before the double play. The Rex Sox may have been able to get out of the inning without an extra run scoring had the E9 not occurred. In that case, they would have gone to the 9th leading 3-2, assuming identical progression of the game.

In addition, Schiraldi allowed the tying and winning runs on base, and Stanley allowed the wild pitch and contact by Wilson to allow the ball to get by Buckner.  Even had Buckner fielded the ball cleanly, Wilson was fast runner, and after hustling out of the box, there is no way of saying if he would have gotten Wilson out at first.

What is often forgotten is the fact that there was a game the next day: Another chance for the Red Sox, and now the first chance for the Mets, to win the World Series. In the next game, Schiraldi’s pitching again led to Red Sox woes, as he allowed three of the Mets’ 8 runs (compared to five for Boston) and suffered the loss. The offense is also at fault, as the Red Sox left a total of 20 batters on base in final two games, and 69 in the series, compared to 50 by the Mets.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Kansas City Royals Advance to World Series With Help From Caleb Joseph Error

Entering Wednesday night's game, the Orioles were down 3-0 to the Kansas City Royals, only the 10th time a team held such a lead in a League Championship game since 1985. Only the 2004 Boston Red Sox were able to overcome such a deficit, something that then-member Pedro Martinez believed that the Orioles could do:

For Baltimore, the game got ugly in Kansas City's first chance at the plate.

In the bottom of the first inning, Alcides Escobar hit a chopper over the pitcher's mound. Second baseman Johnathan Schoop tried to field the ball, but it hit off of the second base bag and away from Schoop. By the time shortstop J.J. Hardy picked it up, Escobar had already crossed first base, and had reached safe with an infield single.

The next batter, Nori Aoki, was hit by the next pitch from Orioles pitcher Miguel Gonzalez near the side of his right knee. Lorenzo Cain bunted the two runners over, bringing Eric Hosmer to the plate with runners on second and third with one out.

Hosmer hit an 88 mile-per-hour changeup to Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce. Pearce threw the fielder chopper to catcher Caleb Joseph. Joseph put his glove down on the left side of home plate, to try to get Escobar out trying to score. However, Escobar slid feet-first, and his right foot made contact with Joseph's glove, causing the ball to bounce away behind and to the right of home plate. Joseph rushed to the ball, but held onto it as Aoki crossed the plate with the second Royals run. Hosmer moved up to second on the misplay.

In the top of the 3rd, Orioles third baseman Ryan Flaherity hit a solo home run to left. After that, the Orioles offense was virtually silent, collecting just two more hits and scattering a couple of walks as they lost to the Royals, 2-1.

Kansas City was also only able to hit 5 more knocks after that play in the first inning. With both offenses not hitting the ball well, the question arrises: Had it not been for the missed catch error (assuming Escobar was called safe on the play and the Orioles escaped the inning without any more runs scoring), the game, if it had continued as it did, would have been tied at 1 going to the bottom of the 9th inning.

There is no way of knowing what would have happened had the Orioles somehow won the game in extra innings. The next game would have been at Kansas City on Thursday and then back to Baltimore for games 6 and 7, had they been needed to settle the series. But we will never know, as ALCS MVP Lorenzo Cain and the silencer Kansas City bullpen will play in the World Series for the first time in 29 years. Game 1 is on October 21. They will be taking on the San Francisco Giants or the St. Louis Cardinals, depending on which team wins the NLCS. The Giants currently lead the series, 3-1.

See the play:

Introduction, On Errant Play

Welcome to Baseball Blunders. My name is Joshua Makower-Brown. When it comes to offense in baseball, it is said that a walk is as good as a hit. What is rarely said however, is that a fielder committing an error could be just as good, or even better. This is of course because errors are unpredictable, and while the frequency of errors thoughout Major League Baseball has remained relatively steady over the past few decades, they are an unreliable method of offense (and are not even scored as such). So why are errors so important to the game?

Errors play such a crucial role in the outcomes of games and they impact statistics so much that no box score would be complete without an error column. Indeed, baseball is a game of inches and human element.

Baseball Blunders is here for viewers to see the errant plays in Major League Baseball, specifically errors which had a particular impact of the game or series during which it occurred.

I want to preface Baseball Blunders by noting something that baseball is not: a game of "what ifs." It is impossible to know what would have happened in any situation, but what's the harm in asking? Baseball history is in the books, and now it's time to see how it made it there.