In the top of the ninth during yesterday’s nationally-broadcast Rangers-Red Sox game, Josh Hamilton was picked off of first base to end the Rangers’ hopes of erasing a five-run deficit. Given the score, that Hamilton was far enough off the first base bag to make a pick-off play even close is hilariously stupid, but the game-ending pick-off is one of the more interesting ways to end a game.

.gif after the jump.

Research by Mat Kovach, published in May this year at The Hardball Times, found that of the 115,745 games in the Retrosheet era to that point, only 66 ended with a pick-off. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 0.0057 percent. Put another way, empirically, only five to six of 10,000 games will end in a pick-off. More surprisingly, 16 of the 66 games ending in a pick-off won the game for the batting team.

Anyway, it didn’t even look like Hamilton was tagged. By reading his lips, you can see him say “Didn’t tag me.”

I’ve taken the video to my secret underground lair and did some extensive analysis on the play. In other words, I opened up my image editor and slowed down the important part of the .gif and froze on the “tag”. I think we can safely conclude that Hamilton was, in fact, safe.

Not that it really mattered. According to FanGraphs, the Rangers had a 0.2 percent chance to win the game before the pick-off, anyway.

Comments (5)

  1. Not even close. No tag.

  2. How is it possible for the game to end in a pickoff but for the batting team to win? :s

  3. I guess the player on first gets picked off, while at the same time the player on 3rd steals home. Assuming of course it was a tied game.

  4. I thought of that, but then the game would end with the run scoring and the pick off technically wouldn’t ever occur.

  5. I considered that, but I was thinking more along the lines of the last out of the game being a pick off, and the run scoring afterwards. I remember reading about this before actually. I wanna say it was on Starks rumblings on ESPN, but my google-fu has failed me :(

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