October 2, 2014
NL Wild Card Game Recap
Guess the MLB.com headline!
The A’s are, if I am remembering this correctly, 0-7 in their past seven do-or-die games. The Giants are, as far as I can tell, 7-0 in their past seven do-or-die games. Is this a thing? Does this require a narrative? Is Madison Bumgarner more powerful than random fluctuation? Is Buster Posey bigger than small sample sizes? Does Brandon Crawford have a power glove? Can Bruce Bochy slow down time? Has Brian Sabean a portal to the universe’s source code? Is Hunter Pence currently eating a gopher raw? Does it matter? Are the A’s sad? Are the Giants happy? To the final two questions, we must simply say, yes.
On Wednesday, the Giants went to Pittsburgh to face the Pirates in a Wild Card game. This is known, since Will Leitch came up with the term, as a coin flip game, and yet a coin flip implies even odds, and the pitching matchup implied something other. The Giants had Madison Bumgarner going. Here are some facts about Madison Bumgarner:
Meanwhile, here are some facts about Edinson Volquez
Yes, Volquez had something of a resurgent season. It wasn’t hard to find the holes in his cheese: His FIP was in line with his career; his xFIP was in line with his career; his strikeout rate was a career low. Yes, he had managed to get his walk rate under control. He also had an out-of-the-ordinarily low BABIP on line drives and an out-of-the-ordinarily low slugging percentage on fly balls. It felt flimsy. It was flimsy. The Giants crushed him.
This was not a game like the first Wild Card game, with 100 managerial moves worth debating and a hundred decisions to second guess. This was a game in which one team thoroughly outplayed the other, in which one ace outdueled a no. 5, and in which the only managerial decision worth debating came three days earlier, when Clint Hurdle opted to use Gerrit Cole in a desperation bid for a division title instead of accepting that a) his pursuit was most likely quixotic and b) in case it wasn’t he needn’t necessarily burn Cole quite yet. It wasn’t a totally unjustified decision—he didn’t have a credible alternative to Cole in his quixotic desperation Sunday play—but it was an extremely costly one. The stakes were, quite simply, having to rely on Volquez. We know better than this. Really, not trying to be a FIP absolutist, but we know better than this. It’s, like, eight years since we got the hang of this. This is Edinson Volquez:
Or, if not FIP, xFIP:
Or, if not xFIP, SIERA:
Or, if not SIERA, FRA:
We know this by now. We know ERA is a bit fidgety. We know, have known for years, that Edinson Volquez, who was left off the Dodgers’ postseason roster last year, is not a postseason pitcher. We know better than to get fooled by ERA. And we get fooled, every time. It happens to me. It happens to you. It happened to the Pirates.
The first managerial mistake of the 2014 postseason, and it happened two days before the postseason began.
It was a lousy pitch that Crawford hit, an 82 mph curveball that hung up over the inside of the plate.
Volquez wasn’t incapable of throwing a good curveball—he’d thrown a real good one to Crawford in the second inning—but everything he was throwing seemed to find its way up, to trouble spots in the case of slow stuff, to easy takes in the case of hard. Every third or fourth pitch seemed to sail on him:
He was throwing hard, but he was throwing high—correlated, perhaps, and ultimately a bad tradeoff. He’s the first pitcher ever to throw the 5/5/5/5/3/3 line in a postseason game.
Bumgarner is the second to throw a 9/4/0/0/1/10 line in the postseason. The first was Sandy Koufax.
That’s a bit more grandiose than Bumgarner deserves. Everybody knows that Kershaw is Koufax. Bumgarner is “just” Juan Marichal.
They will have you believe that it is interesting that Brandon Crawford is the first shortstop ever to hit a postseason grand slam. It is not, except in the “huh, weird that nobody ever had before” sense. Brandon Crawford’s position is irrelevant. This is not a fun fact, nor is it a Fun Fact. Please reject it.
MLB.com headline winner:
Two MLB.com headlines, two winners!