Elvis Andrus And The Inning Of A Lifetime

Elvis Andrus, entering the 9th inning of Game Two, did not have a storied postseason career.

In 28 games and 129 plate appearances prior to facing Jason Motte in the ninth inning of Thursday’s contest, Elvis Andrus owned a .247 batting average, a .318 on-base percentage, and a .274 slugging percentage. Elvis Andrus is not necessarily employed for his bat, but with a -0.48 WPA in at-bats totaling about a fifth of a full season, Andrus had not been either good nor clutch at the plate in these all-important playoff games.

So, naturally, it was Elvis Andrus who sparked the two-run rally which gave the Rangers the Game Two victory.

It was just a little single up the middle in any other situation and against most other pitchers. But it was the ninth inning of a World Series game, and it was Jason Motte on the mound. Three weeks ago, nobody would be all that impressed by a hit off the Cardinals’ (non) closer. But last night, Motte was in the midst of arguably the best postseason ever by a relief pitcher — one hit allowed in 10 innings, including five saves. Of 31 batters to come to the plate against Motte — all from the two best regular season National League teams, until a three-up three-down inning against Texas in Game One — only one had reached base.

Obviously, Motte isn’t this good — nobody can be this good — but regardless, Motte’s 97-plus MPH gas and good breaking ball have been hell on right-handed batters for months, holding them to a mere .160/.227/.234 line. There was a clear path for Motte through the ninth inning even after Ian Kinsler recorded only the second hit of the postseason off the fireballing righty and proceeded to steal second base. And that path started with Elvis Andrus.

Andrus had none of it, putting together a terrific at-bat, taking pitches and fouling pitches off until Motte finally made a mistake, hanging an 87 MPH slider right down the middle of the plate. Andrus lined it into center field, and as he scampered to second as the ball slipped past a statue resembling Albert Pujols, the scene was set for the Rangers to stage their comeback.

It’s easy to place blame entirely on Pujols and Jay for the play, and both sides should have performed better — Pujols should have knocked the ball down; Jay should have made a better throw. But let’s not lose Andrus’s excellent baserunning in the mix here. With Yadier Molina and his rocket arm behind the plate, it took a near-perfect read for Andrus to make it to second on that play, and he deserves credit for showcasing great instincts and great speed on the play.

Although the runs were not yet home, at this point, it would have been an abject failure by the Rangers’ star hitters to leave either Kinsler or Andrus stranded with nobody out. The Rangers can’t ask for more than the sacrifice flies they earned from Josh Hamilton or Michael Young, but they couldn’t settle for anything less, either.

Andrus only earned +.253 WPA for his part in the inning, but I think there is a very fair argument he deserves even more. Not every player has the speed to take third on Hamilton’s fly ball to right, and, perhaps more importantly, his move to second base set up a situation where all Hamilton and Young had to do was hit the ball in the air, and they knew this. In many cases, it doesn’t make much sense that the sacrifice fly doesn’t count as an at-bat — the hitter was not trying to to hit a sacrifice fly (unlike the sacrifice bunt), he just happened to fail in a manner that allowed a run to score.

Hamilton and Young earned a combined +.209 WPA on their consecutive sacrifice flies to give the Rangers the lead. I would argue that Andrus deserves a significant portion of that credit — without his heads up baserunning, his speed, and his hit to chase Jason Motte from the game, the Rangers most likely are not able to strike in the ninth inning, and they could very well be heading back to Arlington facing a 2-0 deficit.

With a line drive base hit and some excellent baserunning in the ninth inning, Elvis Andrus effectively won Game Two of the World Series for his team. That’s an inning that lasts a lifetime.

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15 Responses to “Elvis Andrus And The Inning Of A Lifetime”

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  1. Elvis had a pretty storied 2010 ALDS and ALCS.

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    • Blackie says:

      “Elvis had a pretty storied 2010 ALDS and ALCS.”

      I was gonna say. And anyone who watched those series knew exactly what to expect and was not surprised in the slightest that he took the extra base. He’s the personification of the Rangers’ aggressive baserunning imperative and almost as fun to watch on the basepaths as he is at short.

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  2. Bob Loblaw says:

    He also deserves some credit for the two plays he made in the early/middle innings, the first to start a double play, and the second being that ridiculous diving stop and glove flip to Kinsler, who was so shocked that Elvis got to the ball, he barely made it to the bag in time.

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  3. Patricio says:

    A sac fly should count as an at bat. If someone grounds out to right, as to allow the runner at third to be plated, should that be considered a “sac grounder”?

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    • bender says:

      Walks and HBPs should be at bats too. There’s a reason most writers prefer to use PAs for like actually meaningful analysis

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    • Lex Logan says:

      It’s the difference between result and intent — players routinely alter their approach when there’s a runner on 3rd with 0 or 1 out, and it is reasonable not to penalize them for succeeding at what they are attempting to do. On the other hand, few if any batters have enough control over a full-swing grounder to routinely drive the runner in that manner. With a bunt, of course, the batter does have a lot of control over both direction and velocity leaving the bat, so a squeeze is treated like the sac fly.

      Not including BB’s, of course, is a relic of the fluctuating rules of the early game, and its exclusion makes batting average fairly useless as a general measure of batting skill. But it’s a decent guide to who you’d like to have at bat with runners in scoring position in a close game.

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  4. Scout Finch says:

    If Motte has a ‘good breaking ball’, I sure didn’t see it. Where was it last night? Looks like a guy that only trusts the heater.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      He’s worked on a secondary pitch that has only been used infrequently.

      That’s kind of the infatuation with Motte. He’s done all this with one pitch.

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  5. tyrusray367 says:

    Andrus’ baserunning can’t be stressed enough. It would not mattered how fast he was if he hadn’t noticed that Pujols wasn’t anywhere near the bag and he could take a much larger turn than normal. That left him with significantly less ground between him and 2nd. You can really see this in the overhead shot. In fact, had Pujols stayed near first, Andrus wouldn’t have been able to make such a big turn and would not have been able to go to 2nd no matter where Jay’s throw went.

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    • Xeifrank says:

      If there was nobody there to cut the ball off near the mound, Andrus could’ve easily taken 2nd base when he saw the flight of the CFers throw coming towards home – even if Pujols had stayed on the bag.

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  6. Scout Finch says:

    I’m impressed Andrus has 130 PAs in 2 postseasons.

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  7. Scout Finch says:

    Exactly. He’s heading towards a full seasons worth in a few years and should scribble his name somewhere on the postseason record books.

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