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Game One Thoughts

Posted by Sean Forman on October 28, 2010

I was on duty to write for the New York Times this morning, so I took some notes. a la Peter King here are some thoughts I think I think.

Sports Reference needs to spare no expense so that we can provide a Bat Breaker leaderboard next year.

Elvis Andrus has been horribly overrated by the announcers this postseason. A .301 Slugging Percentage means that he had the 14th most WAR for the Rangers this season. They win more games with Wilson Valdez as their shortstop.

Before Moreland last night, Nick Johnson in 2003 was the last 1bman to bat 8th in a World Series game. Dave Bergman for the Tigers in 1984 is the only 1Bman to bat ninth in a WS game. Will Moreland be the second?

I was surprised when Fox didn't show something, "Andrus just set the record for most runs scored by a Texas Ranger in the World Series" given some of the other stuff they were showing/saying about the Giants.

Has Ian Kinsler always been a bad baserunner?

Buck and McCarver seemed amazed by any quality defensive play by a shortstop. Are their expectations just so low from watching too many Derek Jeter games over the last decade? Comparing Renteria to a soccer goalie? Huh?

Somebody should put a stat on their website that shows the percent of time the pitcher pitched ahead, even and behind.

Tony Bennett (with help from the crowd) absolutely killed it on God Bless America. Lots of patriotism on display on the left coast.

Nolan Ryan doesn't appear to like wearing suits.

I'm up in the air as to whether Rosenthal should go the full bowtie as his "thing" or not.

From my piece for the Times. After winning game one, a coin would win the series 66% of the time, since 1969 all game one winners have won the series 68% of the time, and blowout winners of game one have won 72% of the time.

There were two first inning double plays. The first time the WS opened with a pair of DP's and the fourth time a WS game opened with a pair of double plays. Last time was 2005 Astros-White Sox game three.

Aubrey Huff had great defensive numbers this season, but hasn't shown it in the playoffs.

Do offenses or pitchers do better that expected in game one's?

Does reliever effectiveness drop over the course of the series due to familiarity?

E-SR. We had some rough patches with the play index this week and last night. I apologize and will be working hard to fix them today.

Your thoughts about the first game of the World Series?

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 28th, 2010 at 9:15 am and is filed under World Series. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

41 Responses to “Game One Thoughts”

  1. Re: Andrus -- Yes, the hype strikes me as a case of the mass media noticing him for the first time, being childishly fascinated by the name Elvis, by his youth and his solid play in the first 2 rounds ("wow, a .333 batting average! and all those steals!"), and not caring to look beneath the surface. As you hinted, Andrus is (so far) one of the worst offensive performers holding down a starting job. This year, he was the first player since 1996 to slug as low as .301 in 600+ PA, and the third this century to top 600 PA without a HR. His career .067 Isolated Power is the 4th-lowest of any active player (min. 1,000 PA), a point lower than the avatar of slap hitting, Juan Pierre.

    But come on, now -- Wilson Valdez?!? I know what the WAR says, but I'm not buying that one. Valdez has a .289 career OBP and a 64 OPS+.

  2. And are you truly surprised by the lack of insight from Buck/McCarver? They've been mailing it in for so long, they get a bulk rate discount.

  3. Fox sports verified the combined hair length of the starting pitchers was the longest in world series history.

  4. Given Andrus' age and long-term projections, I think it is fair to be excited about the strengths he does demonstrate. Yes, his game has a long way to go and his current results are not stellar. But if we view the positive things he does as a sign of what might be, they are worth noting. Of course, we shouldn't overstate them, and conflate potential with past success, but it's not like we can expect announcers and commentators to actually know what they're talking about, right?

  5. [...] Game One Th&#959&#965ght&#1109 » Baseball-Reference Blog » Blog Archive [...]

  6. Game 1 thoughts, since you asked....

    -- Michael Young is very overrated. His offensive counting stats are mainly a product of the ballpark and the 700 PAs a year; his career road splits include a .279 BA and .733 OPS. He's never been a plus fielder at any position, 2008 Gold Glove notwithstanding (Jeter might say, "What? -- you've only got ONE of those?"), and from what I've seen in the postseason, he does not seem suited to 3B -- the instincts aren't there and his reactions aren't quick enough; one of Sanchez's doubles would have been caught by a rangy 3B. Yet every mainstream writer seems to praise his accumulation of hits and his "versatility." Even Tyler Kepner wrote of Young's "five consecutive seasons with at least 200 hits," adding that said feat had only been accomplished by "Ichiro Suzuki and the Hall of Famers Wade Boggs, Charlie Gehringer, Chuck Klein and Al Simmons" -- without bothering to note that Young had a composite 105 OPS+ in those 5 seasons, nor that every one of those comparison players was a much better hitter than Young in the years in question (and overall).

  7. For the second time of the postseason, FOX recounted the tale of how Andrus told the Rangers how he wanted to be like Jeter because Jeter is a winner. And he was only 19 at time! What maturity!
    Put aside for a moment your feelings about Jeter.
    Andrus was 19 not 4. I deal with 18- and 19-year-olds all the time, and ones who often show few signs of maturity. Yet, I would hardly say that wanting to emulate a well-known figure in your chosen profession is particularly insightful, mature, or surprising.
    I have a friend who watches with the sound off. At moments like, I understand why.

  8. @4, BSK -- Agreed. I did not mean to dismiss Andrus for all time; just commenting on what he had done so far. His prospects for improvement are certainly better than those of an older or more free-swinging hitter. But the bottom line for now is that a Texas hitter who bats .265 with 18 extra-base hits in 674 PAs is leaving a LOT of runs on the table.

  9. 3. Actually, I believe that only tied the record set by Randy Johnson and Andy Pettitte in Game 6 of 2001.

  10. "Tony Bennett ... absolutely killed it on God Bless America."

    That he did. Or at least, I'd like to hear another 84-year-old do it better.

    But that said ... am I the only who's had more than enough of that song and who doesn't get why baseball games nowadays need not one but TWO musical paeans to the good ol' U.S. of A.?

    And if we absolutely must have two ... couldn't one of them be "This Land Is Your Land"?

  11. I have to disagree regarding Andrus. I think he's a great shortstop and a decent offensive player with huge potential. He deserves good early revues. I'd probably prefer to see him batting 8th or 9th still, but I think he'll soon be a top-end leadoff hitter. His hit and walk totals were decent, he led the league in SH, and I'd like to see how many times he reached base via error. Good speed causes a lot of errors. He's strong enough and hits the ball hard enough for the XBH numbers to head back up, as they must. On the down-side...too many strikeouts for a singles hitter and too many caught-stealing. Both those numbers will have to improve for his progress to continue.

  12. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #10/John Autin Says "am I the only who's had more than enough of that song and who doesn't get why baseball games nowadays need not one but TWO musical paeans to the good ol' U.S. of A.?"

    I know that some people would want to deport me for stating this, but yes I agree - WHY oh WHY do we need a second musical moment ever, at ANY sporting event?? It was nice after 9/11, but it's overkill now - I think that singing our national anthem before a sporting event is enough. BTW, does anyone know when the tradition of "The Star Spangled Banner" before sporting events started? I think it was during WWI (c.1917-1918), but I'm not sure.

  13. Sam Hutcheson Says:

    I'm going to quote you on Andrus, just to annoy all of my Braves-fan friends who are certain that losing Andrus and Feliz for a year of Mark Teixeira was the end of humanity as we know it.

  14. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I deplore "God Bless America" and refuse to stand for it. Enough already.

    Andrus reached on error 9 times this season, 1 behind the AL leaders.

  15. And if we absolutely must have two ... couldn't one of them be "This Land Is Your Land"?

    I was expecting the Grateful Dead to pull that switcheroo when they sang the National Anthem at the NLCS.

  16. Given the choice between Elvis Andrus and Starlin Castro, I'll take Andrus all day long.

    If Game One proved one thing, it's what happens when opposing teams put away their fishing poles and force Cliff Lee into the strike zone.

    He threw 104 pitches in four and two thirds innings..wonder how many times that has happened in his career?

    It's the World Series; every GM, every manager, scouting director, every hitting coach is watching. The Giants just laid out a blue print on how to attack Cliff Lee.

    Last night's start cost Lee alot more than just a loss.

  17. I really like this "thoughts" format. I would love to see more of it.

  18. Amen on the God Bless America overkill.... there was a moment in time not very long ago where I swore I was going to have a conniption if I ever had to hear Ronan Tynan's voice again.....

    I don't mind that it's played, but do what the Cardinals have done since 2002 and play it before the game along with the National Anthem. Quit bringing out some washed up or no name singer to perform a song a lot of people weren't even familiar with 10 years ago while everything in the stadium grinds to a halt and attempt to disguise it as patriotism....

  19. Chuck: "Given the choice between Elvis Andrus and Starlin Castro, I'll take Andrus all day long."
    May I ask why? Is Castro a lousy fielder, does he have "character issues," what? These aren't rhetorical questions: I don't know his bad points, just that his OPS+ at age 20 puts him well ahead of Yount at that age and ahead of Trammell at a year older.

    JDV: "Both those numbers will have to improve for his progress to continue."
    Continue? He didn't make any progress this year, at least not as a hitter, fading in every category except walks and walk-rate. And how can a player whose speed is allegedly a huge asset come to bat 674 times--ahead of Kinsler, Hamilton, Guerrero, Cruz, etc.--and score only 88 runs? If that's "huge potential," what does Starlin Castro have?

    In his favor, though: his closest age-21 comparison is Alan Trammell. Against him: his closest overall comparison is . . . Mike Caruso.

  20. Andrus is the better fielder, but every step of the way Castro has proven to be the superior hitter. Better average, better on base percentage, and much better slugging percentage.

    Andrus Minors:
    .275/.343/.361
    Majors
    .266/.336/.333

    Castro Minors:
    .310/.362/.421
    Majors:
    .300/.347/.408

    Obviously, we are talking about a 21 year old and a 20 year old, so there isn't a lot to go on, but I still like Castro's bat a lot more.

  21. @11, JDV re: Andrus --
    "he led the league in SH"
    Can you show any way in which a high SH total reflects offensive ability? In most cases, it tends to reflect the opposite. Andrus did get 12 hits from 21 non-sacrifice bunts this season, but there's certainly some overlap there, and in any case, 12 bunt hits is not exactly Juan Pierre territory; Pierre has had 15 or more bunt hits 7 times.

    "I'd like to see how many times he reached base via error. Good speed causes a lot of errors."
    That's a big misconception, at least in today's game. The fastest players do not reach base via error significantly more times than the slowest players. Andrus reached on error 9 times this year, 5 times last year. Bengie Molina, one of the slowest players in the game and right-handed to boot, reached on error 7 times in 2008, 8 times in 2002. Frank Thomas, another slow righty, reached on error 8 times for 3 straight years. (I'm plucking these numbers at random from player pages, since R.O.E. are not in the Play Index nor in the league leaders.) Ichiro Suzuki, a lefty speed-burner who probably hits more infield grounders per year than anyone else, has averaged 10 R.O.E. in his 10 full seasons. Carl Crawford, another flying lefty, has averaged 8 R.O.E. The relationship between speed and R.O.E. is not as strong as some people think, and the totals just don't add up to much anyway. The spread from top to bottom is maybe 5 times on base per 600 PAs.

    More broadly ... neither Sean nor I said anything about Andrus's future. Obviously, there are some positive markers -- he'll take a walk, he doesn't strike out a ton (by modern standards), he's fast, and he was a MLB starter at age 20.

    But at present, Andrus puts fewer runs on the board than an average American League SS or leadoff hitter. From the leadoff spot this year, Texas ranked 10th in the AL in OBP (.320), last in SLG (.290) and next-to-last in OPS. (Some of that was Borbon, but most of it was Andrus.) From the shortstop position, Texas ranked 10th in the AL in OPS.

  22. @19,
    "Is Castro a lousy fielder"

    It may be too soon to judge, but his 2010 MLB defensive stats were pretty bad, with a negative defensive WAR (-1.2) almost wiping out his positive offensive WAR (1.6). He made 27 errors in 123 games, and his raw Range Factor and Zone Rating were average at best. Last year in the minors, he made 39 errors in 119 games.

    As a hitter, though, he seems to have a higher ceiling than Andrus, as JayT noted.

  23. The thing about Castro's fielding is that, at least from what I saw this year, it seems like his biggest problem is just making dumb mistakes. He would make a great play one inning and the next he would make a terrible error. He also has a really good arm, so I'm bullish on his defense improving to an acceptable level.

  24. I have a question regarding the first point made about Andrus - the .301 SLG%.
    This is about the statistical recognition of the SB, more than about Andrus.

    I know that there are some offensive statistics that regard the SB in the context of a greater metric, but I would like to know what people think about recognizing the contribution of the SB in a player's Batting line?

    I feel like a player who gets to 2B via the SB should have that extra base reflected in his SLG%.
    Or if not SLG%, in some other easily calculated way.

    I am not a sabermetrician, but here is the point I am making, explained with Caveman math:

    Using the example of Brett Gardner 2010:

    Gardner stole 47 bases and was caught 9 times.
    If you deduct 9 hits from his BA - and add 47 to his Total Bases

    His line goes from:
    .277 .383 .379 .762

    to
    .257 .369 .478 .847

    I understand that a walk/hit-SB is not a Double on the front end, meaning, it does not Advance other runners like an XBH. But as far as getting into scoring position, I would take the 8-pitch walk and annoying-as-hell stolen base over the First-Pitch double, every time.
    Any thoughts?

  25. Johnny Twisto Says:

    There can be a tough defensive adjustment from minors to majors. The sight-lines are different, you may not be able to hear the crack of the bat as well. I don't know about Castro specifically, but if he seems to have good tools there is reason to be optimistic his performance will improve.

  26. Xander, Baseball Prospectus does that with their "true average" stat.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equivalent_average

  27. (2nd attempt to post this comment -- 1st try vanished into the ether when I clicked "Submit")

    Sean, re: "After winning game one, a [fair] coin would win the series 66% of the time" --

    I guess I'm doing something wrong. I've listed the coin-flip series outcomes twice, and both times I get the game-1 winner prevailing just 20 out of 35 times, or 57%.

    Here's my data table, pasted from Excel. Sorry, but I still don't know how to format tables in this space:

    Trial Gm. 2 Gm. 3 Gm. 4 Gm. 5 Gm. 6 Gm. 7 Final
    1 H H H -- -- -- W
    2 H H T H -- -- W
    3 H H T T H -- W
    4 H H T T T H W
    5 H H T T T T L
    6 H T H H -- -- W
    7 H T H T H -- W
    8 H T H T T H W
    9 H T H T T T L
    10 H T T H H -- W
    11 H T T H T H W
    12 H T T H T T L
    13 H T T T H H W
    14 H T T T H T L
    15 H T T T T -- L
    16 T H H H -- -- W
    17 T H H T H -- W
    18 T H H T T H W
    19 T H H T T T L
    20 T H T H H -- W
    21 T H T H T H W
    22 T H T H T T L
    23 T H T T H H W
    24 T H T T H T L
    25 T H T T T -- L
    26 T T H H H -- W
    27 T T H H T H W
    28 T T H H T T L
    29 T T H T H H W
    30 T T H T H T L
    31 T T H T T -- L
    32 T T T H H H W
    33 T T T H H T L
    34 T T T H T -- L
    35 T T T T -- -- L

  28. I find it interesting how a team has scored in the first inning of game 1 in 7 of the past 8 World Series now.

  29. Alex @ #19

    "Scouts scout tools, not statistics."

    While Castro may have the bigger tool (bat), I believe Andrus has more of them. Quantity over quality.

    I'm not even convinced at this point Castro will remain at short.

    I've seen both play quite a bit, and Andrus is a much more all-round skilled player.

    I like his arm better, his throws are truer and stay on line longer with less movement, he throws equally well off the ball or from a set position, I think, for a young player, his anticipation and ability to react to the pitch and the situation is very advanced, much moreso than Castro.

    Shortstops get paid to catch the ball, not hit it, and Andrus does the non-hitting parts of the game better than Castro, and I also think Andrus will improve quite a bit over what he is now.

  30. I stopped watching Fox broadcasts because of Buck. He is so over-dramatic about any play good or bad. He makes it sound like its never been done before. Of course, Fox probably likes his style or promotes him doing it.

  31. THANK YOU. Sometimes I feel as though I'm the only one who thinks this. I don't even like standing for the Star Spangled banner at the beginning of the game. It feels too much like church. All we're doing is using the flag as a proxy for God. Do we have to worship something, anything, every time groups of people gather together? Is it really necessary?

  32. @Johnny Twisto: THANK YOU. Sometimes I feel as though I'm the only one who thinks this about God Bless America. I don't even like standing for the Star Spangled banner at the beginning of the game. It feels too much like church. All we're doing is using the flag as a proxy for God. Do we have to worship something, anything, every time groups of people gather together? Is it really necessary?

  33. @29, Chuck ("Shortstops get paid to catch the ball, not hit it") --

    Whatever truth there ever was in that statement, has long since passed from the MLB scene.

    That's not to say that there aren't several weak-hitting shortstops starting in the majors. But teams don't just turn a blind eye to it.

  34. John Autin @27,

    You are not properly weighing each opportunity. Whenever you do not play the full 7 games you must accord more weight to that sequence. So for example in the first you list where H sweeps, should count that as 8 wins in the H column, not just 1.
    Each 5 flip sequence counts as 4 for all of the unnecessary 6th and 7th flips. Each sequence that ends at 6 counts as 2. When you add all these in you get 64 total. this equals 2^6 (2 to the 6th power) which is the number of possibilities of something done 6 times that has 2 possible results. The additional 29 to get from your 35 (split 20 H, 15 T), are 22 H, only 7 T, giving totals of 42 H, 22 T. Which is 66%.

  35. @34, Kds -- Thanks for (trying to) explain that to me. It may take me a while to grasp ... hopefully not as long as it took me to accept the correct answer to the "Monty Hall Dilemma"!

  36. John,

    Try thinking of it this way. Look at the situation after 4 flips; you have 8 different sequences; HHHH, HTHH, HHTH, HHHT, HTTH, HTHT, HHTT, HTTT. Only the first of those, HHHH is finished, all the others have more contests to complete. So after 4 HHHH is 1/8 or 12.5%. It keeps that 12.5% share even as the other sequences continue to later rounds. So it was wrong to call it 1 of 35, and correct to say 8 of 64. This type of counting, called combinatorics is the heart of a lot of probability math.

    Sean, how come my sign on name comes up Kds, when I always enter kds? I do like my picture, but if you could show a bit more people could see the dimple in my chin, some say it's my best feature!

  37. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    It's the World Series; every GM, every manager, scouting director, every hitting coach is watching. The Giants just laid out a blue print on how to attack Cliff Lee.

    Given Lee's ungodly K/BB over the last 3 years (7.2) it's hard for me to believe that simply laying off his pitches and "making him hit the strike zone" is going to be an effectively long term strategy against him. You simply don't get those kind of numbers without pinpoint control.

    If it was really that easy, surely some of the BB loving hitters in the AL would have figured it out by now.

    Doesn't it seem much more likely that he just had a bad night? It does happen. Even the immortals don't pitch postseason gems every freaking time out. If hitters can get to Maddux and Clemens for a game in their prime every so often, they can get to Cliff Lee.

  38. "Given Lee's ungodly K/BB over the last 3 years (7.2) it's hard for me to believe that simply laying off his pitches and "making him hit the strike zone" is going to be an effectively long term strategy against him. You simply don't get those kind of numbers without pinpoint control."

    You set up hitters with strikes, you get them out with balls.

    Did you watch the Yankee hitters? They looked like a bunch of drunks trying to play whiffleball in a hurricane.

    The number of actual strikes Lee threw with his breaking ball over the two games you could probably count on two hands, the rest of them were 55 footers the Yank hitters seemingly were trying to hit off the bounce.

    Same with his straight stuff..outside corner, five inches outside, ten inches outside.

    The Giants hitters were extremely patient and forced Lee into the strike zone, where he is very hittable, because he doesn't have Clemens's stuff or Maddux' smarts.

    I certainly see your point, Mr. Sullivan, and while my comment was somewhat exaggerated for emphasis, it was still a clinic the Giants hitters put on, and in front of a much bigger audience.

    There were alot of people sitting behind home plate with radar guns and pitch charts who get paid good money to notice stuff like that, and I'd bet it was.

  39. Re #12 - God, I am so happy to hear people saying this.

  40. #12 Lawrence Azrin: From what I remember reading, The Star-Spangled Banner would be played on Opening Day and the 1st game of the World Series. Believe that WW2 was more of an impetus to the song being played before each game- supposedly the Cubs were the last holdout into the early 60s.

    I like God Bless America, but not at every game and usually being butchered by a pseudo-soul type singer- it's NOT a soul or interpretive-style song. The Giants have had it played before by Dick Bright, a local musician who plays it on electric violin- sounds wonderful...

  41. @36 Kds -- Thanks for the followup. So, it actually is akin to the Monty Hall Problem! And I get it now.