NLCS Game 7: Random Thoughts

How important is defense? How difficult is it to truly measure defensive proficiency? A great example was the contrast in how shortstop was played by the two men manning the position in this game. Brandon Crawford made all the routine plays, and made a few slightly more-than-routine plays. On the other hand, Pete Kozma was below-average in executing a few plays, and failed to make a few slightly more-than-routine plays — and his timing couldn’t be worse. The third inning went from trouble to absolute disaster because of three specific plays: 1. the broken-bat grounder with the wacky spin hit by Hunter Pence that dribbled into the outfield and cleared the bases; 2. Kozma’s decision to throw home on a grounder with the bases loaded, when Kozma was playing back; and 3. the double play that wasn’t turned on an Angel Pagan grounder, because Kozma’s toss to second base was too high to promote a quick turn by Daniel Descalso. In all fairness, none of those were terrible failures; they certainly were excusable in almost all circumstances, at any point in a 162-game season. But in a Championship series (particularly Game 7), every single play is highly magnified, and the most minor of weaknesses and vulnerabilities are exposed. Kozma is considered to be at least adequate, if not average, defensively. But this game — in fact, this one inning of snafus (none of which resulted in an error being charged, by the way) — displayed how much impact defensive execution can have on winning or losing a ballgame. It may not be quite as noticeable over the long haul, but when you add up all the plays missed (or plays made), and multiply it over 9 defensive positions (yes, the pitcher counts), you can begin to understand why something so seemingly boring and immeasurable as defense (and fundamentals) is a difference-maker for baseball teams. It’s why I want to tear my hair out when I hear people downplay Daniel Murphy‘s or Josh Thole‘s defensive limitations — because defense does matter.

Speaking of that broken-bat “double” by Pence: how the heck was that ruled a double? A really hard official scorer could have considered giving Kozma an error; though, generally speaking, if a fielder doesn’t get a glove on it, it can’t be an error. But how could the outfielder not picking up the ball on the first try not be ruled a one-base error?

Only the spastic Hunter Pence could hit a broken-bat, seeing-eye, bases-clearing double — and one in which his bat hit the ball no less than three times before propelling outward.

When a movie is made about this series, Woody Harrelson will play Hunter Pence.

Through the first six games of the NLCS, St. Louis homers Tim McCarver and Joe Buck were refreshingly non-partisan in their game calling and color commentary. Seriously, I felt they held no bias, to the point where I remarked to myself, “I nearly forgot the Cardinals were playing, these guys are broadcasting so fairly.” In this Game 7, they were mostly unbiased, but here and there you could catch a hint of bitterness and despondency, mixed in with some feigned excitement at Giants triumphs.

On the radio, it was interesting to hear Jon Miller pronounce the names “Carlos Bel-TRAHN” and “AHN-hel Pagan.”

When Kyle Lohse was pulled from the ballgame in that fateful third frame, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny called on Joe Kelly to get his team out of an impossible situation. If it were me in the dugout making the decision, and I needed a strikeout that desperately, I may have chosen Trevor Rosenthal instead. Why? Eleven strikeouts and one hit allowed in 6.2 postseason innings. In a do-or-die situation like that, you have to pull out all the stops. In games like this, where the starter gets pulled so early in an elimination contest, I always think of the time Billy Martin called on his “fireman” (that’s what closers were called back in the day) Sparky Lyle in Game 4 of the 1977 ALCS in the fourth inning with men on first and second, two out, and Yankees holding a one-run lead. Lyle got out of that inning and pitched the final five to finish, and win, the ballgame (and pitched an inning to save Game 5 the next day). I realize today’s game is played differently, but in Game 7 of the Championship Series, all bets are off, all rules go out the window, and you do whatever you have to do to survive.

No names on the back of the Giants jerseys is pretty damn cool. Shame on me for not noticing this fact for the past how many years(?). As we know, the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the one on the back — and if there’s no name on the back at all, well, that fact is self-evident.

Nine days after deeming the season over, the World Series matchup worked out as well as it could have for my selfish purposes — no Yankees and no Cardinals. I guess that means I’ll be watching the Fall Classic. Naturally, I’ll root for the Giants since they play real, actual baseball and they are one of the surrogate parents of the Mets. But in the end, I’ll be happy just to watch baseball — really good baseball — for another week or two, and won’t be crushed if the Tigers win it all.

What about you? Any comments to add in regard to Game 7? Who will you root for, if anyone, in the World Serious?

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Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. argonbunnies October 23, 2012 at 3:17 am
    Great call on Woody Harrelson!

    No TV at home, so World Series viewing for me. If I were watching, I’d root for the Tigers, as they have more players who are fun to watch than a Giants team without much Lincecum.
    – I always though the D’backs were insane for trading Scherzer. That guy is nasty. Hope they enjoyed Kennedy’s fluke 2011.
    – Doug Fister is kind of unique. Very tall guy, whippy motion, works up and down in the zone, deep repertoire.
    – There’s some primal majesty to Prince Fielder’s swing.
    – Watching Cabrera take a perfect pitch and drill it somewhere is impressive.
    – Verlander. There’s something funny about that little elbow-clasp before bringing 100mph gas.
    – Valverde’s arm somehow not flying off when he does that late short-arm thing.

    Plus, y’know, it’s been a while in Detroit.

  2. argonbunnies October 23, 2012 at 3:19 am
    Oh, and after watching an ex-Yankee close out the Yankees, I am now a Phil Coke fan.
    • Joe Janish October 23, 2012 at 7:56 am
      Coke is it!!!!
  3. Izzy October 23, 2012 at 8:06 am
    Check the ’10 Giants lineup. Incredible turnover. Only starter from ’10 is Posey. Also, notice how the ginats, instead of whining about their dimensions and bringing the fences in, they build a team to take full of advantage of their field. Good defense, good pitchers and hustling ballplayers. Too bad the Mets and the old worn outdated GM and his cronies can’t show a vision. Getting one big prospect every two or three years ain’t getting the team from Queens to the WS. Go Giants, I still remember you in the Polo Grounds, you are just the NEW YORK BASEBALL GIANTS WEST!
    • Joe Janish October 23, 2012 at 8:34 am
      Fascinating: I was in the middle of working on a post about the Giants’ turnover from 2010! Perhaps I still will. Thanks for pointing it out, it deserves discussion!
  4. derek October 23, 2012 at 10:01 am
    i got to watch “woody” hunter pence on a daily basis living in houston….guy is a terrible. now that he isnt playing on the last place stros or hidden in that phils lineup with utley, howard, victorino he is being exposed…

    not sure people realize that he batted 7th on a stros team in last place b4 he was traded…now that he is on a team that actually puts an onus on him to hit…u can see he is terrible…

  5. Dan B October 23, 2012 at 10:06 am
    Hey Joe, in the ole days (back when they wore sanitary hoses and stirups– a look I still miss), the theory was you kept your prospects in the minors until they were ready to start full time in the bigs. Teams would sign a fading vet to a short contract to hold a spot if necessary. Now, it seems prospects are rushed to the majors even if they platoon so they can get experience. In your humble opinion, which is better for the prospect? Don’t it smell of teams just being penny wise, pound foolish?
    • Joe Janish October 24, 2012 at 8:16 am
      Ah, the days of sanis and stirrups … I miss them too!

      The simple answer is threefold: 1) it has become much more expensive to sign and develop young players, so there is an urgency to get a payback on the investment; 2) it has become much more expensive to sign or retain veteran ballplayers, so there is motivation to get as much use out of a young player as possible while they are relatively cheap; 3) thanks to expansion, the overall talent pool is vastly watered down, so once a player wields even one MLB-ready tool, he could have a role at the big-league level.

      Reasons 1 and 2 are significant, but I believe that if MLB cut four teams, we’d see more players spend more time in the minors honing their skills.

      • Dan B October 24, 2012 at 4:29 pm
        Every time a minor leaguer is promoted before he is ready, I think it lowers the overall quality of the league which makes it less interesting to watch. In addition, fading veterans, while they make more money then rookies, also have name recognition which, I believe, makes the game more appealing to fans. As much as a Met fan as I am, I can’t help but look at the Yankee model. The way they spend money makes them money. The way the Mets spend money, contributes to them losing money. Even the fact that they kept the Yankee name on its stadium. They realize, just like the companies that buy naming rights, that having their name on the stadium is advertising for themselves and their brand. I know this isn’t a sports marketing blog but as someone who works in PR & marketing like yourself, isn’t it interesting to see the different way the two teams develope their brand?
        • Joe Janish October 24, 2012 at 10:27 pm
          I agree with you on all points. As to marketing, I don’t think there’s anyone in MLB — and few in all of sports — who do it better than the Yankees. The Dallas Cowboys used to be pretty good, though they don’t seem as powerful as in the past (in terms of marketing). Manchester United is the only pro team in the world that immediately comes to mind that might be considered a peer to the Yankees re: marketing.
  6. Joe October 23, 2012 at 10:10 am
    Cards basically didn’t score in the last three games. That helped them lose the series.
    • DaveSchneck October 23, 2012 at 4:57 pm
      Cards seemed to catch that germ Yankees had last week. Yanks seemed to catch it from Mets that had it for 5 weeks in the summer. Only difference is Mets were sickly vs. mediocre pitching, Yanks and Cards vs. World Serices caliber pitching.
      • Joe October 24, 2012 at 9:23 am
        Apparently the whole staff of the Orioles and Tigers other than one “closer” are WS caliber. The Yanks fall from 10 ahead until they held firm in Sept. was against some mediocre pitching too.
  7. James October 23, 2012 at 11:01 am
    how many times have the cards lost a 3-1 lead in the playoffs or WS? I can think of at least one other example (68 Tigers) and maybe against the Brewers it happened but I don’t remember who actually came back. 🙂
  8. Steven October 23, 2012 at 12:54 pm
    Joe. When you do your analysis of Giants turnover, I think it would also be useful to do an objective post-mortem on how the Pagan for Torres/Ramirez trade could have turned out so poorly for the Mets. It may be as simple as Pagan did better in the change of scenery than expected while there was no benefit for T/R. However, as the Mets consider trades of people like Ike/Duda/Murphy/Niese this off season, I am wondering if there was something else that the Mets overlooked, given that on its face the trade looked good on paper when it was made (theory being that whether or Not Torres played at 2010 or 2011 levels, Ramirez had closer potential)
    • Joe Janish October 24, 2012 at 8:38 am
      Steven, good idea.

      The turnover piece may become a two- or three-part analysis; I’m already 800 words into it and realizing there is quite a bit to discuss. Part one comes today, and I’ll put together something addressing your suggestion later this week.


  9. friend October 23, 2012 at 6:07 pm
    “No names on the back of the Giants jerseys is pretty damn cool. Shame on me for not noticing …”

    First, taking your word for this, names are only absent on the back of Giants’ home uniforms. Their road uniforms do have names on the back. The Red Sox uniforms follow the same script, and I think that there is at least one more team that does likewise.

    Second, you couldn’t help but notice that the Yankees have always omitted names from the back of both home and road uniforms. Unfortunately, your irrational bias seems to prevent you from complimenting anything that the Yankees do.

    • Joe Janish October 24, 2012 at 8:34 am
      “First, taking your word for this, names are only absent on the back of Giants’ home uniforms. Their road uniforms do have names on the back. The Red Sox uniforms follow the same script, and I think that there is at least one more team that does likewise.”

      Thanks for the info, but what is your point? Generally when one starts a sentence with “First,” he/she is answering a question or stating a point in an argument. Since I didn’t ask a question, I’m assuming there is a point you would like to make, so please state your case so we can all discuss it.

      “Second, you couldn’t help but notice that the Yankees have always omitted names from the back of both home and road uniforms. Unfortunately, your irrational bias seems to prevent you from complimenting anything that the Yankees do.”

      My apologies, but no, the Yankees weren’t playing in that game so it was impossible for me to notice. When did the universe begin revolving around the Yankees?

      I made the mistake of taking for granted that everyone knows of the Yankees’ historic tradition of nameless jerseys (except, of course, those inane Yankee fans who buy the Yankees shirts at Modell’s that have the names Jeter, Sabathia, etc., emblazoned on the back). Besides, the Yankees are not playing any more this year, therefore they are no longer relevant.

      Your accusation of irrational bias is completely unfounded and ludicrous. I have both lauded and criticized the Yankees on this blog for various reasons over the past six years. Do the research before making false accusations, “friend.”

      • friend October 24, 2012 at 4:43 pm
        “When did the universe begin revolving around the Yankees?”

        Funny question. My presence here is precisely because the universe does NOT revolve around the Yankees.

        “Do the research before making false accusations”

        Check your own posts. You’re not as objective as you profess.

        • Joe Janish October 24, 2012 at 10:38 pm
          This is the second time you have tried to tell me who I am, and the second time you are wrong. I don’t know much, but I know who I am, and I hold no specific bias against the Yankees. Anyone who has been reading the posts and comments here going back to 2005 will attest to that conviction.

          Beyond that, I’m genuinely curious: what is your motivation to discovering and calling out a Yankee critic at a blog titled “MetsToday”? If in fact I was unfairly biased against the Yankees, would you really expect me to change my thinking?

        • friend October 25, 2012 at 1:34 am
          Well okay, I’ll rephrase. Your comments have been biased. Motivation is a little more difficult to describe. My gut suggested that you might prefer a better image, and could do with a little push. Maybe I shouldn’t have listened to my gut.
        • Joe Janish October 25, 2012 at 8:41 am
          A better image? Why in the world would I care about my “image”? Am I running for President?

          This is a blog. I present topics for conversation. People interact. That’s it. I’m not looking to cultivate an outward appearance or seek approval from others. I’m not looking to build an enormous audience or make a million dollars here. If people want to judge what gets typed here, so be it. Everyone has to choice to be here or not, and those that are here, we converse, while those that leave, not my concern — the blog will continue as long as there is at least one person to interact with and I feel stimulated by the conversation.

        • friend October 25, 2012 at 3:09 pm
          I never really looked at it that way. So, all the material here is simply bait to attract people for your amusement.

          Are you suggesting that I stay or leave?

        • Dan October 25, 2012 at 9:05 pm
          If you were a real “friend”, you’d know what do do.
        • Joe Janish October 26, 2012 at 8:21 am
          Friend, in response to your questions:

          “So, all the material here is simply bait to attract people for your amusement.”

          Sort of. I wouldn’t call it “bait” or “amusement” but I suppose you can make the argument that those words fit. I don’t have many friends in my “physical world” / daily environment with whom to discuss baseball and the Mets so I write “conversation starters” (a.k.a. blog posts, or as you say, “bait”). Then I enjoy interacting (or as you suggest, “amuse myself”) with the people who respond and engage.

          “Are you suggesting that I stay or leave?”
          That’s not for me to decide, unless you become overly disrespectful and/or bring nothing valuable to the conversation. If you enjoy spending time here, you’re welcome to stay.

        • friend October 26, 2012 at 5:11 pm

          DUH!!! Of course I know what to do. You’re missing the point of the question.

        • Dan October 27, 2012 at 10:31 pm
          No, dear friend, it was you who missed the point of my reply, although it would seem that you may have gotten it by now.
  10. friend October 23, 2012 at 6:14 pm
    “my selfish purposes — no Yankees and no Cardinals”

    I find it difficult to root for the Tigers, knowing it is all but certain that, should they win, there will be serious rioting in Detroit, with substantial vandalism and property damage, and likely also, several beatings. That being said, there may be similar activities, even if they lose. Nothing even close to this would be likely from Yankees or Cardinal fans.

    • Joe Janish October 24, 2012 at 8:22 am
      Yes, it is absolutely certain that Detroit will become a war zone, and many lives will perish, as a result of the World Series — we can only hope and pray that no one gets hold of a nuke. Pro sports should be banned in Detroit, for the safety of the population.

      Gosh, I hope Justin Verlander doesn’t throw a no-hitter, or WWIII may be sparked.

      • friend October 24, 2012 at 4:44 pm
        Note to self: I am going to owe you a big I told you so.
        • Joe Janish October 24, 2012 at 10:39 pm
          Will that be possible after Detroit sparks the end of the world?
        • friend October 25, 2012 at 1:38 am
          Whoa, you’re the one calling for the end of the world. I am predicting only that which was literally mentioned in my remark. BTW, the Detroit police were recently passing out flyers advising visitors to enter the city at their own risk. Why do you suppose they did that?
        • Joe Janish October 25, 2012 at 8:56 am
          I suppose they did that because it’s less than two weeks before election day and the World Series is a great platform to make it known to as many people as possible that the city’s financial strain and budget cuts have reduced the Detroit police department’s manpower, salary, and benefits, while increasing hours on the beat.

          In other words, they’re leveraging the national attention of the World Series as a scare tactic / cry for help. And I don’t blame them – fear is a great motivator, and the flyers made headlines. It was a tremendous PR success that will hopefully lead to some kind of action toward improving conditions for the police.

        • friend October 25, 2012 at 3:10 pm
          Good analysis. Now let’s sit back and watch for the rioting.
  11. mic October 24, 2012 at 4:04 am
    Bochy has to be considered among the elite managers now.
    • Joe Janish October 24, 2012 at 8:17 am
      Hasn’t he been considered an elite manager for a long time?