Every Thursday, the Getting Blanked crew makes a prop bet of sorts with one another having something to do with baseball games over the weekend. Of the three competitors, whoever wins the prop bet is able to dole out a punishment on the colleague of their choice. This week’s punishment was watching and recapping Monday night’s Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs game. We call this #PropHate.

The Narrative

As the season progresses, this weekly punishment stands to get increasingly horrendous. In the dog days of August, it’s difficult enough to watch your favourite team play a game rendered meaningless by the cruelty of the schedule, but for a neutral observer to watch a match between two teams that would be better off in the long-term losing the game being viewed than winning is so cruel of a punishment, American baseball blogs have been outlawed from enforcing it due to eighth amendment rights.

In some ways, this column is the water boarding of baseball blogging.

Every morning, Geoff Young, formerly of the excellent San Diego Padres blog Ducksnorts and currently of the National League West beat for Baseball Prospectus, tweets out the Draft Derby standings. I prefer to call the competition for the first overall pick: To Hell For Appel; Gettin’ Manic For Stanek; or How Do You Land A Prospect Like Manaea. Coming into last night’s game, the Houston Astros led the Draft Derby by 5 games over the Colorado Rockies and 7.5 games over their opponent for the night, the Chicago Cubs.

Thanks to a disastrous pitching effort by Armando Galarraga, the Houston Astros extended their lead for the first overall pick in the 2013 Rule IV draft in a 7-1 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Cubs. Galarraga’s mixing of pitches outside the zone with meatballs down the center of the plate provided the Astros with the awfulness they needed to go on and lose.

While much attention should be placed on Galarraga’s efforts, Houston’s lineup did its part as well, striking out a dozen times to Cubs pitchers, including eleven times to starter Jeff Samarzidjia. The Astros were so effectively inept that they made Samarzidjia look as though he was actually trying to get batters out.

The Loss Expectancy Graph


Source: FanGraphs
The Anatomy Of A Hanging Slider

It takes a special type of pitcher to make home run hitters out of unwilling participants, but Armando Galarraga does it with such aplomb as to make it appear easy. His main tool? A stunning hanging slider.

Here, against Darwin Barney, in the second inning, Galarraga showed impressive patience in not giving up after the Cubs second baseman failed to put the first two hanging sliders out of the park. He went right back to the pitch a third time, and the rest is history.

Galarraga didn’t have to wait so long in his dealings with Alfonso Soriano.

The Astros starter got it right the first time, with a slider over the middle of the plate that couldn’t help but be knocked out of the park by the Chicago left fielder.

The Player Of The Game

As we’ve just gone over, Armando Galarraga led his team to defeat, racking up a negative 22% Win Probability Added by allowing five earned runs on seven hits and two walks over five innings.

The Shamsky Award

Named after Art Shamsky, who single handedly increased the Cincinnati Reds’ chances of winning by 150.3% in a losing effort during a game in 1966, The Shamsky Award is given to the player on the losing team who contributes the most to them winning, or in this special edition of I Watched This On Purpose, the winning team who contributes the most to them losing.

Cubs center fielder and recent call up, Brett Jackson, went 0 for 4 with two strike outs, maxing out his efforts to improve his team’s pick in the 2013 Rule IV Draft. He single-handedly reduced his team’s chances of winning by 5% in a winning cause.

The Numbers You Won’t Believe

In his first four starts as a member of the Houston Astros, Armando Galarraga has pitched 20 and one third innings, given up 13 earned runs on 22 hits and 16 walks, while striking out 16.

Alfonso Soriano’s fifth inning home run ties him on the all-time home run list with Joe DiMaggio with 361. Soriano’s eighth inning fly out and bat flip combination was the 874th time he misjudged a fly ball, imagining it to be a home run.

The Game Within The Game

Speaking of which, don’t look at the score in the top left, and guess which bat flip occurred when Soriano hit a home run, and which occurred when he flew out.

Subject A:

Subject B:

Bat flip A was a deep fly out to left field, while bat flip B was his home run. Remarkably similar, aren’t they?

The Story From My Past That Somehow Relates

After university, I stayed in shape by playing on a ball hockey team in Toronto. We competed in the B Division without any aspirations whatsoever of climbing the ranks to the next level where the competition actually cared about winning. We were good enough to win more games than we lost, and I’m pretty sure we finished in second place back-to-back years.

In the first season that I played we did well in our playoff run and reached the finals. Prior to the championship game, we all agreed that we wanted to play again next year at the same level, and so decided to purposely lose it. We were successful in our quest to lose, and returned the next year to almost the exact same scenario. While nothing as overt was agreed to in my second season, there was an unspoken agreement among not to put too much effort into the final game.

Unfortunately, this time, the team we played in the finals wasn’t as cooperative as the previous year. The score was an incredibly low for ball hockey 2-2 tie as the third period neared an end. That’s when a line change brought Brian X. onto the playing surface.

Brian X. was one of those recreational sports guys that signs up as an individual, shows up to half the games and seems far more interested in getting drinks afterwards with new friends than doing anything during the game. That suited our team’s demeanor fairly well, only that most of us knew each other in some capacity outside of the rink, while Brian X. did not.

Anyway, against the flimsiest of defensive efforts, Brian X. scored the winning goal with twenty seconds left in the game. I’ll never forget how wildly he celebrated while the rest of our team looked downward and didn’t do anything else.  We were nice enough to avoid telling him that we didn’t want him to score, but not congenial enough to actually celebrate with him. The other team, relieved that they wouldn’t have to play at the level above, appeared to understand the dynamics of the situation instantly.

The Mike Foligno Ears disbanded shortly after its unlikely triumph, and now I get winded trying to catch the bus.

The Unbelievable Thing That Happened

Chicago Cubs third baseman Josh Vitters’ first four plate appearances in last night’s game all resulted in him grounding the ball to third base. Playing third base for the Houston Astros was Marwin Gonzalez, who was selected in the most recent Rule V draft by the Boston Red Sox off of the Cubs roster, and then traded to the Astros. This season marks the first time in the last six years that Vitters and Gonzalez have not played on the same Minor League Baseball team for at least a portion of the season.

The Abstract Thought Of The Game

Hey, look. It’s Jeff Samarzidjia(rine):

Comments (7)

  1. That was pretty hilarious. I’d say be careful not to make them so good or Drew and Stoeten might keep making you do them. But they’ll do it anyways.

    Still, great write up of what I’m sure was an awful, awful game.

  2. I always know I voted for the right game if the WPA graph immediately goes straight to one extreme or the other.

    Better you watching this than me. It is truly a valuable service you provide.

  3. Parkes’ IWTOP are the best. He really embraces the spirit of this exercise.

  4. Bravo, Parkes, bravo. Nice touch on the reverse Shamsky as well.

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Solid work making a terrible game into something interesting.

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