WPS recap: ALCS, 10/17/2013

It’s the keystone game of the ALCS, and WPS Recap was there. By “there,” of course, I mean in front of my monitor watching the game, which is not a bad thing. I’d actually be able to do these reports less well from the ballparks.

There was a technical hiccup last night that should not affect matters, much. The real-time play log at FanGraphs was not available last night, at least not on my computer. I had to make do with the FanGraphs iPod app to work out WPA numbers for each play.

Because of rounding, this sometimes can cause tenth-of-a-point differences in what the on-line log of WPA would show. It won’t change the score much, but if anyone is playing along with WPS at home and comes up with a different number, this may be why.

Or I just flubbed the addition.

Game       1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9    F
Red Sox    0   3   1   0   0   0   0   0   0    4
Tigers     0   0   0   0   1   1   1   0   0    3
(Red Sox lead series 3-2)
WPS        1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9
Red Sox    7  47  12   4   4   3   7   6  17 
Tigers    17   9   4  18  17  39  41  15  21
WPS Base: 286.8  Best Plays: 45.6  Last Play: 5.0  Grand Total: 337.4

This game rebounded from a start that could have left it in the depths of dullness and turned out pretty good once Detroit started building its picket fence. Still, you’re not likely to see a huge score in a game where the most exciting inning was the second. Mildly above average is the right level for this one.

Detroit starters’ magic in the early innings, after gurgling in Game Four, reached the dregs in Game Five. Anibal Sanchez got knocked around in the second inning, starting with an enormous Mike Napoli homer to dead center. It could have been worse.

With two in scoring position and the infield in, Sanchez got a Shane Victorino grounder to Omar Infante, who threw home. Alex Avila got trucked by fellow catcher David Ross but held the ball for a critical second out. He also twisted his left knee, and after taking some further abuse behind the plate, would come out in the fourth.

Miguel Cabrera had another troubled game. In the first, on Jhonny Peralta‘s two-out single, he came rumbling from second headed for home, running through third-base coach Tom Brookens‘ late stop sign. It was obvious he would be out on a decent throw, and he was.

A half-inning later, Cabrera let Jonny Gomes‘ leadoff grounder go between his hands for an error. The first miscue may not have cost his team anything, but the second cost a run, one Detroit desperately wished it had back in the late going. Cabrera did drive home two runs, but one was on a double play that smothered a rally in the seventh. That doesn’t count as an RBI.

There were much better defensive plays in the game than Cabrera’s. In the third, Jose Iglesias charged into left field from his overshift position on the other side of second to make a swiping grab of David Ortiz‘s jam blooper. He’d make another nifty ranging play on a Texas Leaguer to end the eighth.

Iglesias also suffered having a heck of a play made against him. His bunt in the fifth was fumbled by Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester, then swiped by Lester’s glove to first base without ever having control. It was on target and in time.

Victorino has been nagged by a left hamstring injury for the past two months and has worked around it by always batting righty despite being a switch-hitter. This night, he finally turned around to bat left-handed against northpaw Sanchez. After going hitless in three trips, he went back to righty against two right-handed Detroit relievers.

Victorino still got nothing, except a strikeout at a critical juncture in the ninth that could have given Boston big insurance runs. Discomfort in your leg is one thing, the discomfort of taking an oh-fer quite another.

That rally in the ninth was fueled by aggressive running on a sacrifice. Will Middlebrooks, running for Xander Bogaerts, took advantage of Cabrera coming in to field Ross’ bunt to head for third. Brayan Pena, subbing at catcher for Avila, covered third, but when Prince Fielder‘s throw came over, he was blocked swinging his arm to tag by third-base umpire Rob Drake.

By my judgment, his tag wouldn’t have been in time, so the lack of an interference ruling looked proper. There would have been big controversy had Boston gotten a run or more across, but Al Alburquerque buckled down and held the lead to one.

Comerica Park is capable of surprising. Its post-Take Me Out music during the seventh-inning stretch was Piano Man by Billy Joel. A good sing-along song, to be sure, but was there nothing locally produced they could use? It’s odd to find a Motown ballpark in a New York state of mind.

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But it doesn’t come close to topping Fenway Park for stretch weirdness. In Game One, the spot was taken up by an organ rendition of Touch Me by the Doors. No kidding. Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for the Doors—with such a unique style that you could pick out his work in just a few notes—passed on in the spring of this year. I hope they waited in Boston until he was safely buried before starting their ballpark organ cover of his work.

This was a return to the marathon games we had seen earlier this playoff season, the contest going three and three-quarter hours. I will take something Tim McCarver said in regard to Koji Uehara having to pitch a five-out save, and apply it both as my Tim-ism of the night and as his advice to all of us watching. “Sleep in November.”

But much more of this, and I may have to revise my WPS methodology. A few readers have suggested that I should pro-rate the WPS score to the number of innings played, or similar ideas. I might instead divide the score by how many hours it lasts. At the least, it’s pleasant to imagine doing so.

Boston goes home with two chances to play itself into the World Series. We won’t know what time Game Six is until we know whether the NLCS has a Game Seven. Stay tuned.

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A writer for The Hardball Times, Shane has been writing about baseball and science fiction since 1997. His stories have been translated into French, Russian and Japanese, and he was nominated for the 2002 Hugo Award.
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Detroit Michael
Detroit Michael

Game 4 of the Detroit-Oakland series, Piano Man also was featured after Take Me Out to the Ballgame as the sing-along song.  It might have been used for other games and I didn’t notice.  Does it merit being a regular feature?

Paul G.
Paul G.

I agree with the pro rata idea.  There is a big difference between a two hour 1-0 game and a four hour 1-0 game, especially among the percenatage and average age of those sleeping in the stands.

I still think the length of game has to do with television time between half innings and the further you go into the playoffs, the longer that time will be, of course. However, during a game I watched on MLB.net this summer, the color commentator said the extra time came about because of pitching changes.  I can see where that would enter into it. Last night, about the time the game started, I had been watching a rerun of a M*A*S*H show.  It happened to be one of my favorite episodes, so I was flipping back and forth.  As the… Read more »

I disagree, a real MLB umpire standing in proper position would have called Middlebrooks out.  No protest from Detorit because Detroit played last night like they didn’t want to lose, but Boston played like they wanted to win.  Probably because Leyland has given up for this year like he did in May of 1999 with the Rockies.  I will never forgive this coal miner for quitting that early on my team.