Friday, August 22, 2014

The Run That Clinched It

As longtime readers of this blog might know, I have a fascination with World Series champions. Some I love, others I loathe, but they all accomplished the goal every team opens the season with, and only one can claim by the end.

I was recently thinking about one of those teams I hate: The 2007 Boston Red Sox. In the final game, pinch-hitter Bobby Kielty hit a solo homer to add an insurance run for the Red Sox which didn't seem significant at the time. However, his team ended up winning by only one run, and that homer represented the last run the team scored, so in retrospect it was the run that clinched the World Series. It got me thinking: What was that run for each team in history? Who drove it in? Who scored it? I thought it would be fun to compile just such a list.

To be clear, this is a list of the last run necessary for the team to win the World Series. If the team scored 11 runs in the final game and won in a shutout, the first run they scored is considered the clinching run. Here's how the list looks:




Some interesting notes here. In 1927 it ended on a wild pitch with Tony Lazzeri at the plate. Five times the run has scored on an error, though it hasn't happened since 1921. In 1962 it scored on a double play ball. Only three times was the clinching RBI on a triple, which isn't too surprising, given the rarity of triples. In two cases the run was driven in by a pitcher (Johnny Podres in 1959 and Bob Gibson in 1967). Derek Jeter scored the clinching run in all three of the Yankees' World Series titles of the 1990's.

I'm not sure how many of these men knew how key a role they played in their team's victory, but here, we recognize every last one of them.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

All-Star Break Report

Well, we're just past the halfway point of the season, and after last night's Derek Jeter tongue bath All Star Game, we have the official "second half" to look forward to. Let's take a look at the standings, and see if we can't make any predictions about what October might have in store. Bear in mind, I believe in the oligopoly, so I'm not optimistic about seeing anything interesting happen. We'll see how things look in comparison to my preseason predictions.

AL East:

The first-place team is surprisingly the Orioles, who have a four-game lead over the Blue Jays. It would be nice to see someone besides the Yankees, Red Sox or Rays win this division (well, I don't mind the Rays so much), and this would seem to be the year for one of the others to do it. However, the Yankees and Red Sox are members of the oligopoly, while I don't think any other team in this division is, so until they're eliminated, I can't count either one of them out. This division is packed pretty tightly, so even the teams at the bottom still have a shot. Although losing Masahiro Tanaka would be a huge blow, I stand by my prediction that the Yankees are somehow, someway going to win this division. They're evil. It's what they do. I had the Rays winning a Wild Card spot, but I don't see them pulling that off this year.

AL Central:

The current standings are exactly the same as my predicted final standings, so I'm looking pretty good there. I'll stick with my prediction that the Tigers win the Central, and as for my Wild Card prediction for the Royals, I'll stand by that too. They're close behind the Mariners in the race for the stupid second Wild Card spot that nobody wanted, so I think they can still do it. I hope they do.

AL West:

This division has the team with the best record in baseball, the Oakland Athletics. The A's seem to be going all in this year, trading away their top two prospects for starting pitching. After years of frequent-but-forgettable playoff performances, it seems that they're ready to make this year special. I would love to see it, but there's just one problem: They're not part of the oligopoly, so they won't win the World Series, as much as I'd love to see it happen. The Angels are close behind the A's, and they're sort of a fringe oligopoly member, so I could see them possibly winning the World Series, but I wouldn't particularly be interested in that. I picked the Rangers to win this division, but after a bargeload of injuries, their season's already a lost cause. I'm going to amend my prediction to Oakland winning the division and Anaheim winning the Wild Card. The surprising Mariners will fall short.

NL East:

This is pretty much a two-team race between the Nationals and Braves. As a National rooter, I'd like to see them do it, but they're not part of the oligopoly, unlike the Braves. I had the Nats winning the division and the Braves the Wild Card, and I guess I'll stick by that.

NL Central:

I predicted the Brewers would finish in last place, but they're actually in first, surprisingly. I don't think they're for real though, and don't expect them to make the postseason. I also made the out-of-left-field prediction that the Cubs would win the Wild Card, and I think it's safe to say I look like a fool on that one, as they currently sit in last place and have already punted on this season. No biggie. I figured I'd be wrong. I just wanted bragging rights in case I was right. I predicted that the Cardinals would win the division, and even when they struggled early on, I said they were going to do it. I stand by that prediction, because the Cardinals are pure evil and always find a way. Though this is a four-team race on paper, I say it's inevitable that St. Louis takes it and the Brewers, Reds and Pirates are all left out in the cold.

NL West:

This is another two-team race between the Giants and Dodgers. Rivalry! I had the Dodgers winning the division and the Giants in second place. I stand by that prediction, although I'll amend it to have the Giants winning a Wild Card spot.

So here are my amended predictions at the All-Star Break:

NL Wild Card: Giants over Braves
AL Wild Card: Angels over Royals

NLDS1: Cardinals over Giants
NLDS2: Dodgers over Nationals
ALDS1: Angels over Athletics
ALDS2: Tigers over Yankees

NLCS: Cardinals over Dodgers
ALCS: Angels over Tigers

World Series: Cardinals over Angels

Let's see how much more accurate these are.

Monday, June 2, 2014

1950 vs. 1990: 24 Years Later

In my last post, I shared a list of deceased players from the 1990 season. Once again, here it is:

Giants (4): Dan Quisenberry, Russ Swan, Jose Uribe, Gary Carter
Astros (3): Andujar Cedeno, Ken Caminiti, Dave Smith
Blue Jays (3): John Cerutti, Mike Flanagan, Frank Wills
Dodgers (3): Tim Crews, Mike Sharperson, Brian Traxler
Phillies (2): Ron Jones, Darrel Akerfelds
Reds (2): Tim Layana, Rick Mahler
White Sox (2): Ivan Calderon, Carlos Martinez
Yankees (2): Oscar Azocar, Pascual Perez
Angels (1): Cliff Young
Brewers (1): Gus Polidor
Cardinals (1): Howard Hilton
Indians (1): Steve Olin
Mariners (1): Russ Swan
Orioles (1): Kevin Hickey
Padres (1): Eric Show
Red Sox (1): John Marzano
Twins (1): Kirby Puckett
Athletics (0)
Braves (0)
Cubs (0)
Expos (0)
Mets (0)
Pirates (0)
Rangers (0)
Royals (0)
Tigers (0)


I thought it would be interesting to compile the same information for another season and see if it told us anything interesting. The year I chose was 1950, since it's another year ending with zero, and it makes for simple comparison. Today is June 2, 2014, and no new deaths from 1990 have been reported since then. On June 2, 1974, how many players from the 1950 season had died? Here's how that list looks:

Braves (4): Vern Bickford, Bob Elliott, Murray Wall, Bob Chipman
Reds (4): Howie Fox, Willie Ramsdell, Ron Northey, Herm Wehmeier
Senators (4): Joe Haynes, Sherry Robertson, Mickey Harris, Roberto Ortiz
Tigers (4): Fred Hutchinson, Aaron Robinson, Bob Swift, Dizzy Trout
Athletics (3): Paul Lehner, Roberto Ortiz, Dick Fowler
Dodgers (3): Willie Ramsdell, Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson
Indians (3): Herb Conyers, Sam Zoldak, Al Benton
Browns (2): Snuffy Stirnweiss, Cliff Fannin
Cubs (2): Monk Dubiel, Ron Northey
Giants (2): Tookie Gilbert, Hank Thompson
Pirates (2): Frank Papish, Danny O'Connell
Red Sox (2): Ellis Kinder, Vern Stephens
Cardinals (1): Al Brazle
Phillies (1): Eddie Waitkus
White Sox (1): Bill Salkeld
Yankees (1): Snuffy Stirnweiss

What a striking difference! Every single 1950 team had at least one deceased player 24 years later (or about 23 and a half, if you want to get technical), whereas a third of the 1990 teams didn't have any. The Giants were the only 1990 team with as many as four deceased players, whereas four 1990 teams had that many. 1990 had 29 total deceased players, whereas 1950 had 35, and that's with ten fewer teams using fewer players on average.

It might be more interesting to look at it in terms of percentages:






As we can see, 24 years later, 6.6% of the players from 1950 were dead, but 24 years after 1990, only 2.82% are dead. Only three 1990 teams had a higher percentage of deceased players than all of 1950 MLB did. I know that life expectancy has increased over the years, but seeing it laid out like this is quite fascinating. It'd be interesting to compare all this with an even earlier season, but I don't have that data compiled right now.

I'm reminded of the 1951 movie Angels in the Outfield. In the movie, there's a washed-up veteran pitcher named Saul Hellman who receives some heavenly help to get the Pirates into the pennant race. At one point in the movie, the angel who speaks to manager Guffy McGovern reveals that Saul is going to be called home next year, and that this season is his last hurrah. It seemed unusual to me to suppose that an active major leaguer was going to die so shortly after the end of his career, but at the time the movie was made, such a thing wasn't uncommon, and most viewers would've remembered an era when such things were even less uncommon. It seems that we've taken life more for granted the more advanced the methods of preserving it have become.

I think I'll continue to compile information like this. Perhaps I should do 1910 next, so that the backward progression is consistent.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Deceased players from 1990

All I've got for you right now is a list, but hopefully in the future we can do something more interesting with this information. As of right now, based on the records we have available, there are 29 deceased players from the 1990 season, and here's how they break down by team:

Giants (4): Dan Quisenberry, Russ Swan, Jose Uribe, Gary Carter
Astros (3): Andujar Cedeno, Ken Caminiti, Dave Smith
Blue Jays (3): John Cerutti, Mike Flanagan, Frank Wills
Dodgers (3): Tim Crews, Mike Sharperson, Brian Traxler
Phillies (2): Ron Jones, Darrel Akerfelds
Reds (2): Tim Layana, Rick Mahler
White Sox (2): Ivan Calderon, Carlos Martinez
Yankees (2): Oscar Azocar, Pascual Perez
Angels (1): Cliff Young
Brewers (1): Gus Polidor
Cardinals (1): Howard Hilton
Indians (1): Steve Olin
Mariners (1): Russ Swan
Orioles (1): Kevin Hickey
Padres (1): Eric Show
Red Sox (1): John Marzano
Twins (1): Kirby Puckett
Athletics (0)
Braves (0)
Cubs (0)
Expos (0)
Mets (0)
Pirates (0)
Rangers (0)
Royals (0)
Tigers (0) 

It's a bit incredible that one team from 24 years ago already has four dead members, while nine have none. In the future, I'd like to compare this data with data from other years to see what it tells us about the changes in life expectancy. For now, it's just an interesting curiosity for you.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A New Ultimate Number Player: Michael Young

You may remember this post, where I selected Ron Santo as the Ultimate #10. Not many players have been able to wear #10 with every stint with every team they played for, so Santo's two teams make him the guy, since pictures of Lefty Grove with a visible #10 are rare.

However, this is no longer the case. With the retirement of Michael Young last year, we have a player who played with three different franchises in his career, and wore #10 with each of them! And considering how bad he was his last two seasons, it's a fairly safe bet that he's not coming back. It was time for the guy to go.

Ron Santo, as a Cub fan I love ya, but your title belongs to someone else now. Please welcome the new Ultimate #10: Michael Young!