Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Shall Risk the Asters

A little point-by-point this morning, a day before the Fall Classic begins. Warning: content may be haphazard, scattershot, and wayward.

*During the course of my daily debate with my pal Brian on g-chat yesterday (topic: was Pedro Martinez effective against the Yankees?), I wound up at this site. It's a top 10 list of the greatest Game 7s in World Series history. Great read, and the author also goes through the best Games 1-6, links you can find at the top of the page. The Yankees are involved in 5 of those game 7s, and lost 4 of them. Overall, the Yanks are 5-6 in Game 7s, with a lot of heartbreak thrown in (which can usually be summed up in one name: Podres, Mazeroski, Gonzalez). My stepfather still talks about the 1960 series (#2 on the list above) as one of the biggest sports disappointments of his life.

Interestingly, the Pittsburgh Pirates have won 5 championships, and each has gone to 7 games. They've only lost 3, the last one in 1927, but none of those went the distance, so the organization is a perfect 5-0 in game 7. Their opposite is the Boston Red Sox (surprise!), 0-4 in game 7 historically, though they did win a deciding game 8 in 1912 after one of the earlier games was called due to darkness in the 11th, tied at 6. Apparently they didn't finish suspended contests back then. Reading up on the 1912 series, I found this interesting tidbit on the game 2 tie, from Wikipedia: "Baseball's National Commission ruled that the players were not entitled to their regular share of the gate receipts due to the game not being played to a conclusion— a decision that caused much discontent." And they wonder why gamblers were able to fix the World Series seven years later...

And what the hell, I'm going to copy and paste the blurb from game 8, since it's pretty amazing. First off, Fenway Park was only half full, due largely to a boycott by a group of fans called the "Royal Rooters," who were pissed that game 7 tickets were double sold, forcing them to stand along the left field foul line. In the 11th inning, the Giants scored a run in the top half to take a 2-1 lead. The Red Sox had three outs left to score on Christy Matthewson, one of the greatest pitchers of all time. The first batter popped out to center, but the ball was dropped. Snodgrass, the CF, caught the next one, but Matthewson walked a batter, setting up first and third with one out. Take it away, Wiki.

Tris Speaker, who hit an even .300 in the 1912 World Series, popped up foul on the first base side, but neither first baseman Merkle nor pitcher Mathewson nor catcher Meyers could get to the ball. Fred Snodgrass later claimed that the Red Sox bench jockeys disrupted the players' timing. According to Harry Hooper (who would have been on that bench), Mathewson called for catcher Meyers to take it, but he couldn't reach it and it fell to the ground. Speaker then shouted, "Well, you just called for the wrong man, and it's gonna cost you the ball game!" Given new life, he singled in the tying run, and Yerkes advanced to third base. Mathewson walked Lewis intentionally, setting up a force out at every base, but the next hitter, Larry Gardner, hit a fly ball to Devore in right field. Yerkes tagged and scored, and the Red Sox had won the 1912 World Series. Fred Snodgrass' error would go down in history as "the $30,000 muff", that being the difference between the winning and losing shares.

Emphasis my own on that quote, since it's a badass and hilarious thing to say in the final game of a World Series.

*In the past two days, I've read at least five 'position-by-position breakdowns' between the Yankee and Philly squads. When the Yanks are in the World Series, I'm usually on board for any and all hype, but I can't over-stress the absurdity of this type of analysis. In a baseball series, there is one position that's worth such a breakdown: pitcher. That's it. To say something like "the Yankees have a 5-4 lead in position players" is utterly useless, because you're matching them abritrarily.

Why would you bother to compare, for example, the third basemen? For the Yankees, A-Rod bats clean-up and is one of the best players in the game. For the Phils, Pedro Feliz is a weakish hitter and an average fielder. So yes, the 'nod' here goes to A-Rod, but Pedro Feliz is Philly's #8 batter. They play different offensive roles, and giving a point to the Yanks is just silly. Why? Because it's balanced out elsewhere, like in CF where Shane Victorino is superior to Melky Cabrera. The only thing these 'position-by-position breakdowns' should judge is defense, but that isn't how they're used. I don't suppose this journalistic technique will ever become extinct, since it's an easy graphic, but everyone should be aware that it's totally meritless.

More interesting, and more useful, is a lineup comparison. It still doesn't account for pitching, and it eschews defense entirely, but at least it gives a decent idea of the respective offensive ability of each team from 1-9 in the order. I'm stealing the following chart, showing the OPS+ of every player, from a Yankees fan forum I frequent in the down hours:

1: Jeter (129) >> Rollins (85).........NYY
2: Damon (123) > Victorino(109)........NYY
3: Teix (146) > Utley (135)..............NYY
4: Arod (143) > Howard (139) .........NYY
5: Matsui (128) > Werth (127)...........NYY
6: Posada (130) = Ibanez (130)........PUSH
7: Cano (126) > Francisco(115) ........NYY
8: Swish (126) >>> Feliz (80) .........NYY
9: Melky (97) < Ruiz(103)..............PHI

By that look, the Yanks have an edge in 7 of the 9 spots in the order. Again, this doesn't account for the very important element of pitching (or current streaks and slumps, or league differences, or situational/clutch hitting, or a whole boat-load of others), but there it is anyway. If nothing else, I think it effectively proves that the Yanks have a stronger lineup on paper.

*Two other debates I had with Brian yesterday:

1) Who is the team of the decade? If the Yanks win the World Series this year, my argument is that we take the crown. We'd be tied in WS totals with the Red Sox (2), have the most pennants (4), and most division titles (8). His argument is that the Red Sox should win because they finally broke the long drought, and the story was more compelling and more widespread.

2) Is the New York-Philly rivalry now hotter than the New York-Boston rivalry? I say yes, though it goes in cycles. Starting with the Philly World Series title last year, which pissed Mets fans off to no end, continuing with the Eagles defeat of the Giants in the playoffs, and peaking this Sunday with a mindblowing double feature (Giants-Eagles, Yanks-Phils) in the City of Brotherly Love, I'd say it now takes the cake. The last cycle, when Boston-NYC was predominant, culminated with the '07 Boston title and the wonderful Giant Super Bowl victory over the Pats in January '08. Since then, it's been less present. Brian countered with the fact that the two most intense rivalries in consideration are Yanks-Sox and Jets-Pats (since Cowboys-Giants is arguably bigger than Giants-Eagles), and that these two will always ensure the ascendancy of the Boston-NYC side.

Lastly, to return to the first debate mentioned above, here are Pedro's regular season stats, lifetime, against the Yankees:

32 Games, 11-11, 216 IP, 77 ER, 3.20 ERA

There's only one other American League team that Pedro does not have a winning record against: Boston. 1 Game, 0-1, 3 IP, 18.00 ERA. Here are his postseason stats against the Yanks:

6 Games, 1-2, 34.1 IP, 18 ER, 4.72 ERA

I think those numbers speak for themselves. There's a reason Yankee fans used to chant "Who's Your Daddy?" every time Pedro took the mound; he's never had the same success with the Yanks that he enjoys against the rest of the league, despite some isolated gems.

Can't wait to see you in Game 2, Pedro!

"They beat me. They're that good right now. They're that hot. I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy"

-Pedro, 2004


  1. I really, really love this blog. It makes me feel...less hated, which is tough to do as one, a life-long Yankee fan living a block away from a Mets bar in Brooklyn and two, a Duke fan in a family that just married into Chapel Hill natives and UNC alums.

    Now, for the series, please.

  2. Ha ha thanks for the shout out man...I'd defend myself....but I am not going to win with the followers on this website, so I'll cede to you