Brian Wilson was unavailable to pitch in this game, which saved me the trouble of hunting around to find a picture of Beach Boy Brian Wilson together with Santana’s Carlos Santana, and saves you the trouble of looking at it. We’re all winners now, except for the Cleveland Indians.
Let’s break down this box score:
As Orel Hershiser noted before the game, Bumgarner is “a young man coming off one of the worst outings anyone can ever come off of.” Bumgarner’s awful outing earlier in the week — 1/3 inning, eight runs allowed — earned him a Game Score of 2. Two is bad. There have been only five starts this year in which the starter had a Game Score of two or lower, and all five pitchers (predictably) lost. In fact, there have been only 268 Game Scores below two since 1945, and of those 268 outings, only 13 pitchers managed even a no-decision.
But one pitcher earned a win.
His name was LeRoy Pfund, and sometimes he went by Lee, and sometimes he went by Roy. A bunch of friends from his hometown in Illinois traveled to Pittsburgh to watch him pitch on May 30, 1945, and he taught them the most important thing about old-timey baseball: All that matters is which pitcher got the win.
He allowed three runs in the second inning, but his team scored three in the third to tie the game, and five in the fourth to take a big lead. Pfund came back and allowed three in the fourth, then two in the fifth. He was winning 12-8 when he went out to pitch the sixth, but he was knocked out before he could get an out. Two of his inherited runners scored on reliever Hal Gregg, but the inning ended with Pfund’s Dodgers up 12-10. Gregg shut down the Pirates the rest of the way, and Pfund got the victory, and Gregg got a shiny save, which
helped him win a bigger contract when he went to arbitration nobody had ever heard of. Pfund walked six batters and struck out one. He gave up 12 hits, a home run, and he left the game with an ERA of 6.12.
His Wikipedia trivia section is woefully uneducational on this topic:
I found three game stories from that day — the Associated Press, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the New York Times. All mentioned that Pfund was the winning pitcher, but only the Times pointed out that he suckdiddlyucked:
Good work, NY Times. (Even if you did misspell his last name.)
The home plate umpire was Ziggy Sears, and the third-base umpire was Jocko Conlan. These seem important to add.
Dustin Parkes’ heart is aflutter reading that, as it should be. But does Acta actually do as Acta says? Over the past year and a half, he has had his position players sacrifice bunt about 50 times. That’s more than Bruce Bochy, who is a pretty typical National League bunt-caller, and it’s enough to put the Indians just eight bunts lower than the league average over that time period. That’s still a lot of bunts, is what I’m saying.
But maybe they’re smarter bunts? I looked at the win probability added for each bunt the Indians’ position players have laid down since the start of 2010, and the same for Giants’ position players. I removed instances where an error was committed, because that skews the WPA wildly, and I ignored instances where the bunt was unsuccessful, for the same reason. So just sacrifices that go exactly as the manager intended them, to see whether the managers’ best-case plans are best-case at all. Here’s how they compare:
|No change in WPA||18||4|
Add all of Acta’s bunts up and we find that they decreased his team’s WPA by a total of 9 percent of one win. Add all of Bochy’s up and he has given up about 50 percent of a win. So you could argue that the “typical” manager, Bochy, gives away nearly a half-win a year more than Acta on sacrifice bunts alone.
There are two caveats to that. One is that Acta’s bunts include three successful suicide squeeze plays, which are not quite the same thing, and which added 16 percent of positive win probability. If we exclude squeeze plays, then his sacrifice bunt total drops to negative 25 percent of a win. That’s still better than Bochy, but not by as much.
The second thing to note is simply that, while Acta’s bunts are “smarter” than Bochy’s, he ordered 38 bunts that contributed nothing to his team’s chances of winning*, and 20 of those decreased them. So Acta’s tweet points at something positive going on in his head, but his decisions from the bench actually suggests he’s 90 percent bunt-calling traditionalist.
*In an extremely simplistic way of assessing these bunts, at least.
If it weren’t for the Colon-For-Phillips-and-Sizemore-and-Lee trade — which, by the way, Happy 9th Anniversary of that happening — we could probably say that the Indians’ best move of the century was trading for a minor league Travis Hafner. And that the Indians worst move of the century was giving Travis Hafner a huge extension way before they needed to. Is there any player in baseball who is both his team’s best and worst move?
There was a time back in the early 1990s when ESPN guaranteed every team would appear once on Sunday Night Baseball each season. It’s true, or at least it’s true that I read that. I was thinking about that when I saw that the Indians would be on this week’s broadcast, and started wondering when the last time the Indians played on Sunday night was. The answer: June 14, 2009, 53 broadcasts ago. Here’s how long it has been for rest of the league:
Yankees, Cubs: 1 week ago
Giants, Reds: 2 weeks ago
Mets, Braves: 3 weeks ago
Red Sox: 5 weeks ago
Phillies: 7 weeks ago
Cardinals: 9 weeks ago
Rangers: 10 weeks ago
Dodgers: 12 weeks ago
Tigers, White Sox: 14 weeks ago (as in, last year)
Rays: 17 weeks ago
Angels, Twins: 18 weeks ago
Royals: 25 weeks ago
Brewers: 29 weeks ago
Padres: 41 weeks ago (2009)
Orioles: 65 weeks ago (2008)
Diamondbacks: 68 weeks ago
Rockies: 75 weeks ago
Astros: 90 weeks ago (2007)
A’s: 133 weeks ago (2006)
Nationals: 138 weeks ago
Marlins: 142 weeks ago (2005)
Blue Jays: 176 weeks ago (2004)
Mariners: 182 weeks ago
Pirates: 233 weeks ago* (2002)
Here’s how many times each team has appeared on Sunday Night Baseball since 2003:
I’m actually totally in favor of Red Sox and Yankees games on SNB. If they played each other every week, I might never get bored. They play very good baseball! They have all the best players! They have a rivalry, they are the most obviously popular matchup, the games matter for pennant races, and every person in America has six Red Sox or Yankees on their fantasy teams. Red Sox/Yankees games tell a story. It makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is loading us up with Braves games, Cardinals games, Mets games, Cubs games. The marginal value of a Mets game instead of a Blue Jays game, or a Mariners game, or a Marlins game, or especially a Rockies or Rays game, is very low, particularly when it’s the third or fourth Mets game of the summer. That’s where the real value in diversifying the lineup would come in.
*Baseball Reference actually lists the time each game started, but only going back to 2003. So I had to use a little circumstantial evidence to surmise that the Pirates played Sunday Night Baseball in 2002. I am fairly confident I’m correct, but it’s possible that they last appeared even longer ago.
**Also, that picture of Madison Bumgarner with all the F’s is a reference to a McCovey Chronicles meme. That’s what that is. Now you know.