Déjà Vu All Over Again
Last night’s debacle got me thinking about similar games. In particular, this one in which Rafael Soriano came in for the save in a 1-0 game and lost on a walkoff single by Miguel Tejada. One of the great things about having watched a lot of baseball games is the ability of one game to remind you of another. And one of the unbelievably great things about playing with the Retrosheet database is that you can find similar games matching just about any pattern you want, within limits.
No two baseball games are exactly the same, but if you simplify enough, they can start to blend together. For example, there have been 2,223 1-0 games won by the home team. But there are lots of variations: for example, in 241 of them the run scored in the bottom of the first. That’s quite different from the 262 games where the win came in the bottom of the ninth, and even that is nothing like the one game where the run came at the bottom of the 24th. And then the total left on base by the home team and visiting team makes a lot of difference as well. So, of the 262 games where the only run scored in the bottom of the ninth, 10 had exactly 6 home left-on-base and 4 home left-on-base. Those are pretty similar games, right?
Well, yes and no. The home hits in those games ranged from 2 to 9 and the visitor hits ranged from 1 to 4. And there were no matches. But you can find pretty similar games. There are 49 pairs of games which have exactly the same linescore (by inning) and the same left on base numbers for each team. One example:
There are only 49 of these pairs in MLB history. It is overwhelming likely that the game you see today has no similar game in MLB history. So when you watch a game, you’re watching something unique.
Nothing Has Changed
As we enter play today, subtracting the at-bats by pitchers, there are almost exactly the same number of at-bats this year as in all of last season. The indispensable Tangotiger looks today at the differences between this season and last season: singles are almost identical. Doubles are very slightly down but triples are very slightly up. Home runs are down, but not outside the normal year-to-year variability in home runs. Strikeouts are very slightly up and unintentional walks are very slightly down. There are really no big changes between this season and last season, once you adjust for the lack of the universal DH. Does that surprise anyone? I can think of one person it might surprise, which takes me to the next section.
Thinking of making this a weekly feature. My latest annoyance is Chip’s harping on how players are affected this season by a much longer season compared to last year. In my attempt to keep up with tfloyd’s attempts to teach us all Latin, Chip is the master of the logical fallacy: post hoc ergo propter hoc. The way the fallacy works is that you see something change, and then you observe how something else is different, and you attribute the change to the other thing. Chip has blamed the longer season for: (a) increased injuries; (b) pitchers’ lack of control (which Chip keep talking about, but HBP are down compared to last year, as are walks, so it’s clear he’s just making stuff up); and (c) global warming. (That last one is a joke, but since no one has asked him, who knows?)
It is fairly easy to see that this is nonsense. For one thing, the season so far isn’t any longer than last season, so there is no reason to expect any more injuries thus far this season from the entire season last year. If anything, the extended and confusing spring training last year might have possibly created more injuries, but obviously it didn’t. Third, lots and lots of players are injured and miss long periods of a season. That should be worse for them when they come back, since they have a chance of coming back too soon. None of that applies to players who simply had a shortened season. To take one obvious example, the Braves have lately specialized in pitchers who have gone through Tommy John surgery. That’s a year-and-a-half or so which doesn’t seem to have harmed their development “for years to come” (as Chip said today.) That doesn’t mean that Ian Anderson might not wear down in September, like almost every rookie pitcher does. But expecting to see this in the first 60 games of 2021 is not rational, and attributing things to the shorter season last year doesn’t make any sense.
Ian and Zack
Ian Anderson and Zack Wheeler are good pitchers. So what they did was pitch well. Other than some difficulty by Anderson getting his delivery working correctly in the first, neither pitcher was anything but dominant through 7 1/2 innings.
At that point it’s a battle of bullpens, and the grumbling in Georgia suggests that it’s hard to like your chances at that point. Really hard. Two straight one-out doubles off AJ Minter broke the ice, and many hearts.
But Frederick Charles Freeman’s 410 foot shot to dead center off Hector Neris kept the proceedings going.
Luke Jackson pitched the bottom of the 9th, which featured only the 31st Luke-on-Luke matchup in MLB history when he faced last night’s hero Luke Williams. It was the second Luke-on-Luke confrontation of Jackson’s career: he faced Luke Voit in August last year.
The top of the 10th saw the Braves score twice on two wild pitches. That’s definitely the sort of offense you can count on, right? It’s like they say: “Wild pitches never slump.”
Those of you thought that Will Smith lacks closing stuff, you really need to consider Chris Martin, though. Given a two run lead, a single and two doubles ended the game. When you have a bad bullpen, you will lose a lot of close games late. We have a bad bullpen. We lose a lot of close games late. This was another one.
There are really only two options: we have to score a lot more runs or we have to acquire a bullpen that can hold a lead. I vote for both. Get it done, AA.