World Series Game One goes “The Red Sox Way”

The last time the Red Sox met the Cardinals in the World Series, the hero of Game One was a Three True Outcomes infielder who was often criticized for being too patient at the plate. In 2004, Mark Bellhorn lined an eighth-inning home run off the Pesky Pole to give Boston an 11-9 win. They went on to sweep the Series.

The shaggy-haired Bellhorn would have fit in well with this year’s team As most FanGraphs readers know, the Red Sox epitomize patience and exude power. They saw more pitches than any team in baseball and were seventh among the 30 teams in Three True Outcome results [32.4 percent].

Tonight went according to script. St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright had both a walk and a strikeout in a three-run Boston first inning. He threw 31 pitches.

Call it “The Red Sox Way.”

Coming into the Series, much was made of “The Cardinal Way.” On Friday, Wainwright called it “a way of thinking that we have in St. Louis, in our clubhouse, and throughout our organization — an expectation of winning, an expectation of professionalism that comes with that winning.”

David Freese said “Being a Cardinal means you’re part of a family. When you walk into the St. Louis clubhouse in spring training, you understand what it means to be a Cardinal.” Manager Mike Matheny said, “We take a lot of pride in what has been defined as The Cardinal Way and how we go about our business. Part of that is the Hall of Famers we see around our park all the time, the people who remember all the great championships.”

Later this month, one of these teams will capture its third championship in the last ten years. The Red Sox took a step in that direction with tonight’s 8-1 win. Shoddy St. Louis defense and a strong pitching performance by Jon Lester played a part, and so did an attack that could best be described as patiently relentless.

Mike Napoli’s bases-clearing double — following an error by shortstop Pete Kozma — was the big blow in the first inning. A sacrifice fly in the second may ultimately play an even bigger role in the Series. Right fielder Carlos Beltran suffered a rib contusion while robbing David Ortiz of what would have been a grand slam. At innings end, the score was 5-0 and Wainwright was up to 60 pitches.

“If there’s a Red Sox way, I’d say it’s quality plate appearances,” said hitting coach Greg Colbrunn. “It’s about being patient and making sure you get a good pitch.”

“The Red Sox Way — at least the way I interpret it — is to go about your business and develop a routine,” added outfielder Daniel Nava. “When it comes to your approach at the plate, we’re not saying ‘take five pitches in an bat.’ We’re saying, ‘get your pitch and take a good hack at it.’

“Our way is that we’re a tough group of guys,” said third baseman Will Middlebrooks. “We’re known for grinding out at bats, seeing a lot of pitches, and getting into team’s bullpens.”

Wainwright lasted just five innings. Going into the game, he had lasted five-innings-or-less just once — August 28 against the Reds — in 37 starts.

In the bottom of the seventh, Ortiz added the Red Sox’ third True Outcome of the night. Following the Cardinals’ third error of the night, Ortiz drove a Kevin Siegrist delivery over the Red Sox bullpen to make the score 7-0. In the eighth, Xander Bogaerts brought home Nava with a sacrifice fly to make it 8-0. The Cardinals lone tally came in the ninth when Matt Holliday went deep off Ryan Dempster.

The first-inning walk was the only one the Red Sox worked off Cardinals’ pitching, but the signature plate discipline was on display. They saw 141 pitches on the night.

Joe Kelly, who will take the mound for St. Louis later in the Series, was impressed with Boston’s hitting approach.

“They’re good hitters, so if you fall behind them, they’re going to be tough to get out.” said Kelly after the game. “They put up good at bats and took some tough pitches. When they got into hitters’ counts, they took good swings. We paid for that.”

The pitcher who paid the biggest price was clearly disappointed with his outing.

“Usually I can make adjustments on the fly a lot quicker than I can tonight,” said Wainwright. “I didn’t make it real tough on them, to be honest with you. I threw a lot of balls out of the zone — no-contest pitches — and a lot of pitches up in the zone for them to hit. That’s kind of a perfect storm of pitching right there.”

According to Yadier Molina, Red Sox plate discipline made Wainwright’s job even harder.

“You have to give them some credit,” said the Cardinals’ catcher. “They are a tough lineup and they take good at bats. You have to be on the corners with them, you can’t be in the middle. You have to give them credit.”




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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA


39 Responses to “World Series Game One goes “The Red Sox Way””

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  1. Todd says:

    Come on… Wainwright clearly wasn’t at his best early on tonight, as he wasn’t in the strike zone as much as he usually is, but even so, with a reasonable defensive effort none of the first 7 runs likely would have scored. The Red Sox are patient and all, sure, but the story is the Cardinals’ absurd infield defense implosion. Wainwright walked 1 batter. His FIP for the start was 2.05. The Red Sox didn’t wear him out nearly as much as his teammates did.

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    • RC says:

      While I mostly agree, the Cardinals have one of the worst defensive teams in baseball. This is what happens when you don’t prioritize defense.

      Also, FIP is significantly LESS predictive than ERA in hitters’ parks. It’s basically useless.

      Also, FIP thinks hits are a good thing. And Wainright gave up plenty of those.

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      • Leo says:

        Two positions where the Cardinals have prioritized defense: Shortstop and Catcher. How’s that fit into your theory?

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      • Brian says:

        I think the truth is somewhere in the middle of Todd and RC’s comments. Yes, Wainwright didn’t pitch very well, but by the same token it’s too glib to say “this is what happens when you don’t prioritize defense.” The main glove problem for the Cards last night was Pete Kozma, who was in the game b/c, in his case, the Cards DID prioritize defense. His glove was solid all year, and he’s typically very sure handed. In other words, his miscues last night were likely flukes. Wainwright is also a solid fielder, but he inexplicably called off Molina on a weak pop and then let it drop – again, that’s no byproduct of a low priority on defense. So I think Todd’s point – that Wainwright’s line was more a residue of bad luck than design – still holds.

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        • Todd says:

          Indeed. And to whatever extent the Cardinals are at fault for not prioritizing defense, and could be expected to play badly there, it still follows that Wainwright was burned in terms of pitch count by that more than by the Red Sox.

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        • B N says:

          I don’t know if you get to call “bad luck” when an IF fly drops between your all-star catcher and your ace pitcher. That was cringe-worthy. The cards just didn’t seem locked-in defensively for some reason. I still can’t believe Molina didn’t just push Wainwright out of the way to get that one.

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      • NS says:

        “FIP thinks hits are a good thing.”

        Dumb thing to say.

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        • RC says:

          It’s not dumb, its exactly right.

          FIP’s formula basically is : Constant + (13*HR+3*BB-2*K)/IP.

          If you have a pitcher who gets a lot more Ks than BBs, the 2nd term will be negative, and giving up a hit is actually better than getting a groundball out.

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        • NS says:

          We all know what FIP is. It says almost nothing about hits. In fact, to the extent that it says anything about hits (HRs), it says that they are the worst.

          Saying “FIP thinks hits are good” instead of “FIP does not account for non-HR hits” is disingenuous and dumb.

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        • Alexander Nevermind says:

          FIP doesn’t/can’t think. It has no opinion on hits.

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        • RC says:

          Saying “FIP thinks hits are good” instead of “FIP does not account for non-HR hits” is disingenuous and dumb.

          For pitchers with greater than a 2:1 SO:BB ratio, on a Ball in play, a hit does not affect FIP, while an out RAISES your FIP.

          So FIP absolutely is affected by hits, and by balls in Play, and absolutely does think that a hit is a better outcome than an out.

          Its pretty friggen clear if you understand then math.

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        • B N says:

          @NS: I believe what he is saying is that if you get a high enough K/BB ratio, FIP implies that it is better off to give up a hit than to get an out via batted ball.

          Assume that your K/BB is 3 and your HR rate is low enough to be ignored for this quick-and-dirty example.

          3*BB/IP-2*K/IP = 3BB/IP – 2*3*BB/IP = – 3*BB/IP

          If you get an out via ground ball, you will reduce your lump-sum difference of K-BB (i.e., the rates stay the same, but the rate*opportunities is lower). If you instead give up a hit, you now have a chance to get a K instead.

          Basically, this means that with a high K/BB, having a high BABIP HELPS your FIP, while if you have a low K/BB, it HURTS your FIP. Ignoring HR, only when your K/BB is 1.5 is FIP actually neutral with respect to hits. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to say it “loves” them. But it is obviously not “neutral” to them. Just because they’re impacting the numbers indirectly doesn’t mean they’re not impacted.

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        • B N says:

          Hmm. Looks like RC beat me to the punch on that. Forgot to refresh my page when I stopped in this evening.

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        • B N says:

          Just as an interesting exercise, I’ve decided to look into the extremes with a more typical HR/IP. Apparently, the usual HR/9 is ~1 and there are about 34 batters per game, so that is a HR per PA of about 1/34. so we’re starting with:
          Constant + (13/34 + 3*(BB/PA) – 2*(K/PA))*PA/IP

          Let’s say that BB/PA is BB% and K/PA is K%:
          Constant + (13/34 + 3*BB% – 2*K%)*PA/IP

          K% = 13/68 + 1.5*BB%

          So then, when the K% is greater than 13/68 + 1.5*BB%, an extra PA is going to help your FIP. Now we can plug in some numbers. League average rates for K and BB are 20% and 8%, best rates are around 50% and 3%, and worst rates are around 5% and 18%.

          These can make the term (13/34 + 3*(BB/PA) – 2*(K/PA)) be, respectively:
          Best (K/BB = 16.7): -0.53
          Avg (K/BB = 2.5): 0.22
          Worst (K/BB = 0.28): 0.82

          To interpret these, it would mean that 1 extra PA/IP would change your FIP by the above values. So if you’re Craig Kimbrell, an increase of 0.10 BABIP would actually improve your FIP by almost 0.15 (assuming you face about 3.5 PA/IN and 40% of balls going into play). On the converse, we’d see more like -0.07 worse FIP for a standard pitcher giving up more hits.

          Finally, the worst pitcher would be hurt a lot, as they’re already putting over 75% of balls in play. Assuming 5 PA/IN to start with, we’re looking at a FIP about 0.3 worse. Of course, for that guy, their FIP is already so bad it’s a drop in the bucket. For a good pitcher though, a bump of -0.1 FIP for giving up more hits is a bit more significant (as we’d already be talking about someone with an ERA ~ 2).

          So, it’s not like it’s a huge impact, but FIP definitely bends in non-trivial ways based on BABIP. To note, the HR factor is pretty significant. For the “Best” case above, a pitcher with a zero HR% would have -0.9 instead of -0.53 per FIP per extra PA. So, for a great FIP, be a great pitcher on a team with horrible defense and high fences.

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        • B N says:

          “FIP does not account for non-HR hits”

          But non-HR hits still account for some of FIP. Whodathunkit? ;)

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        • NS says:

          “So FIP absolutely is affected by hits, and by balls in Play”

          Yes. No one here has argued otherwise.

          “and absolutely does think that a hit is a better outcome than an out.”

          This is a new, qualitatively different statement than your original (“FIP thinks hits are a good thing) – and yet this new statement is also disingenuous and dumb.

          I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone shift the goal posts with such futility.

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        • NS says:

          “Basically, this means that with a high K/BB, having a high BABIP HELPS your FIP, while if you have a low K/BB, it HURTS your FIP. ”

          Again, we all know what FIP is and how it’s calculated. This is why Tango et al have played around with “descriptive FIP” (PA denominator) vs. the original predictive FIP (IP denominator).

          The two of you are revealing nothing and not a single one of your ‘explanations’ substantiate the only claim that has been disputed, that “FIP thinks hits are a good thing”.

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    • Joel says:

      Given that turning a double play was far from guaranteed in the first place (yes, even with Ortiz!), Kozma’s error in the first might have only cost the Cardinals one run.

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    • Alexander Nevermind says:

      None of the first 7 runs?!

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      • Todd says:

        In the first inning, the Cardinals should have turned an inning-ending DP before Napoli’s 3-run double (obviously it wasn’t guaranteed, Joel, insofar as it didn’t happen, but it was certainly a play they could have and should have made).

        In the second inning, first there was the missed popup, then Victorino reaching on a ball booted by Kozma. Even if you don’t want to say that Kozma would have turned that ball into an out, Pedroia’s subsequent ground ball single would have loaded the bases, and Beltran’s play at the wall would have ended the inning. McCarver also thought that Carpenter would have had Ross’s bloop had there not been a runner on, though I don’t know if that’s true.

        7th inning, Ortiz homered after a two-out error on Freese that allowed Pedroia to reach.

        So yeah, the first seven runs. Obviously, changing these events has a cascade effect, and who knows what would have happened. But there were just so *many* free outs/baserunners.

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    • nv says:

      I don’t know, Todd. A lot of bleeders and popups were mishandled or plain missed by the Cardinals’ defense, but a bunch of the outs were hard hit balls — Victorino’s sharp line drive to left in the first, Ortiz’ and Bogaerts’ sac flies, and a few more.

      You could argue that Wainwright was actually *lucky* on balls in play. That would be an exaggeration, but I think it more or less evened out: while Freese and Kozma should convert ground balls into outs much more efficiently than they did, Wainwright can’t fairly expect his right fielder to catch balls hit into the bullpens, or for Matt Holliday to yield a .000 BABIP on LD to left. Robinson made an excellent play in the corner to take a likely triple from Pedroia (although that came later in the game, I think).

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      • Todd says:

        Hard-hit balls wasn’t what the article was claiming, though. The claim was the Red Sox wore out Wainwright with patience. I don’t really see evidence for that, as much as I see that his pitch count was driven up by his defense. And the Dave Cameron article I posted below suggests they weren’t hitting him all that hard anyway.

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      • murphym45 says:

        It was kind of funny how most of the hard-hit balls Wainwright gave up turned into outs, while a lot of the soft liners and grounders turned into errors/hits. Without looking back, I thought the three hardest hit balls he gave up were the 2B to Napoli, the almost HR to Ortiz, and where Robinson robbed Pedroia.

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  2. cody k says:

    excellent title… being a Cubs fan from the Metro East area of STL has made social media insufferable with all the Cardinals Way stuff

    I respect the organization and they have been excellent in their transactions and drafting but reading Cardinal Way/Red October/Dodgers don’t play the right way/etc… has been driving me crazy

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    • Brian says:

      I am a Cards fan, and I concur, Cody. I certainly admire how the organization is run, but attempts by certain fans and members of the media to turn the team’s approach into a morality play has been frankly embarrassing. (For the record, apart from some passing comments from Beltran about Yasiel Puig, I do not think the Cardinals players themselves are responsible for this.)

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  3. Carl says:

    ‘The first-inning walk was the only one the Red Sox worked off Cardinals’ pitching, but the signature plate discipline was on display. They saw 141 pitches on the night. ”

    The Cardinals saw exactly the same number of pitches, and since the Sox put more men at the plate (36 to 34), you can make an argument that it was the Cards with better plate discipline.

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    • RC says:

      more pitches != more plate discipline.

      Plate discipline is about swinging at the right pitches, not holding the bat on your shoulder.

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      • Mike G says:

        The game was over after the 2nd inning (and you could argue the first). The Sox hitters weren’t as patient after the 2nd inning as they were the first two. They definitely took their foot off the gas a little because of the score.

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  4. chuckb says:

    The Red Sox did an outstanding job laying off of Wainwright’s curveball early, in particular. They worked some great PAs and ended up getting a couple walks and a couple of hits out of them. It was a very good night for the Sox, no question about it. Wainwright will have to be better — as will the rest of the Cards — the rest of the series in order to win. It is only 1 game, however.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      What killed me is McCarver saying the Red Sox weren’t fooled by Wainwright’s curve … said right after Pedroia hit a routine grounder between SS and 3B on a 3-2 count that could have been a GIDP had it not “had eyes”.

      Wainwright doesn’t seem to get crazy swing and misses with his curveball. What he gets are a lot of takes that resemble his pitch to Beltran to end the LCS.

      The Cardinals and Red Sox are both very patient hitters.

      When I look back at the game, the first thing that comes up is the defense. Reminded me of Detroit in 2006.

      The next thing is the Freese at bat with the bases loaded and 1-out. He was right on the first pitch, but fouled it back, and then GIDP later in the AB. Would have loved for that first pitch to end up in the right-center gap. Trailing 5-0, that GIDP took all the life out of well, me.

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      • NS says:

        My memory may be skewed already, but it did seem to me that the Cardinals were swinging at a lot of pitcher’s pitches early in counts.

        The Red Sox didn’t seem to have Wainright’s curve figured out at all; they just appeared to be committed to taking it unless it was hung or they were behind in the count.

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  5. Tyler says:

    You had me at Mark Bellhorn.

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