Archive for October, 2017

2017 World Series Game 6 Live Blog

5:05

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

5:05

Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to 2017 World Series Game 6 Live Blog

5:05

AdamZ: Happy Halloween!

5:05

Hannah Hochevar: Happy Halloween!

5:06

Jeff Sullivan: Happy Halloween. I just remembered to turn our porch light off so nobody tries to interrupt my World Series viewing with handout requests

5:06

botchatheny: this is gonna be a real corker eh

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Justin Verlander: Hall of Famer?

If you tune into the World Series tonight, chances are pretty good that you’ll be able to watch at least one future Hall of Famer — and likely, even, that you’ll see several.

Of the participants in this year’s Series, Clayton Kershaw is already a lock. Both Carlos Beltran and Chase Utley are in the twilight of their careers but have strong cases for inclusion without doing any more work. Among younger players, Jose Altuve is already off to a great start, and early-20-somethings Carlos Correa and Corey Seager have certainly made their mark.

Meanwhile, there’s one player expected to appear in tonight’s game who occupies an in-between category. On the one hand, he hasn’t yet established unassailable Hall of Fame credentials and is past his peak. On the other, he seems poised to compile a few more reasonably productive years. Justin Verlander has a decent case for the Hall right now, but the next few seasons will determine how persuasive his case ultimately is.

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One Complication for the Slicker-Ball Theory

The thing about the slick-baseball theory is it’s so easy to believe. To review, as quickly as possible: Pitchers believe the World Series baseball is different. Like, the actual baseball itself. They suspected it was kind of different earlier in the playoffs, but now they think it’s more different. It’s different by feeling more slick, more slippery. You can imagine how that could pose a problem. What are pitchers to do if they’re not accustomed to their instrument?

So the idea goes, it’s had a profound effect on sliders in particular. Anecdotally, you can get behind it, because we’ve seen some sliders get hit hard. But the other evidence is even more compelling. There’s the blindfold test. There are pictures. And, simply, there are the pitchers, speaking their minds. Experienced pitchers, who you’d think would know what a baseball feels like more than anyone. This is more than just one or two guys. Tom Verducci spoke to players and coaches from both the Astros and the Dodgers. Why would you doubt what the pitchers have to say? Why would they just make this up?

I don’t think they are making it up. I think pitchers do have a certain sense for things. I’d just like to present a graph.

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Contract Crowdsourcing 2017-18: Ballot 9 of 15

Free agency begins five days after the end of the World Series. As in other recent offseasons, FanGraphs is once again facilitating this offseason a contract-crowdsourcing project, the idea being to harness the wisdom of the crowds to the end of better understanding the 2017-18 free-agent market.

Below are links to ballots for five of this year’s free agents, all of them starting pitchers, probably.

Other Players: Yonder Alonso / Jake Arrieta / Alex Avila / Jose Bautista / Carlos Beltran / Jay Bruce / Melky Cabrera / Trevor Cahill / Welington Castillo / Lorenzo Cain / Andrew Cashner / Jhoulys Chacin / Alex Cobb / Zack Cozart / Jarrod Dyson / Lucas Duda / Alcides Escobar / Yunel Escobar / Todd Frazier / Carlos Gomez / Carlos Gonzalez / Curtis Granderson / Matt Holliday / Eric Hosmer / Chris Iannetta / Jon Jay / Howie Kendrick / Jonathan Lucroy / J.D. Martinez / Cameron Maybin / Mitch Moreland / Logan Morrison / Mike Moustakas / Eduardo Nunez / Brandon Phillips / Jose Reyes / Carlos Santana / Justin Upton / Neil Walker / Jayson Werth.

***

Bartolo Colon (Profile)
Some relevant information regarding Colon:

  • Has averaged 176 IP and 2.0 WAR over last three seasons.
  • Has averaged 2.0 WAR per 180 IP over last three seasons.
  • Recorded a 0.6 WAR in 143.0 IP in 2017.
  • Is projected to record 1.5 WAR per 180 IP**.
  • Is entering his age-∞ season.
  • Made ca. $12.5M in 2017 as part of deal signed in November 2016.

*That is, a roughly average number of innings for a starting pitcher.
**Prorated version of final 2017 depth-chart projections available here.

Click here to estimate years and dollars for Colon.

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The Dodgers Should Use Yu Darvish Tonight

Tonight, the Astros try to become World Series champions, while the Dodgers attempt to give us one more day of baseball this year. The Astros plan seems pretty straightforward: Justin Verlander will pitch until he can’t anymore, and then, depending on the score, they’ll either go with Lance McCullers (if it’s close) or some combination of the few remaining relievers A.J. Hinch trusts (if it’s a blowout). The Dodgers don’t have Justin Verlander, though, so things are going to be a little more complicated for Dave Roberts.

Rich Hill is a quality pitcher, but so far, the usage plan for him this postseason has been obvious: twice through the line-up and then he comes out. That is almost certainly going to change tonight, as Roberts would either have to continue to wear out Brandon Morrow, Kenta Maeda, and Kenley Jansen — leaving them less effective for another must-win tomorrow — or get some innings from some of the bullpen guys he hasn’t trusted in this series.

But unfortunately for Roberts, the next arms down the depth chart are left-handers Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani. Having a couple of southpaws ready to replace the left-handed Rich Hill isn’t all that helpful, especially since the Astros’ top of the order are all right-handed. And the throw-day starter who is available to help out tonight is Alex Wood, also left-handed. Tonight, Roberts’ has all the fresh left-handers he needs, but he’s running low on right-handed pitchers he can use to go after George Springer, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa.

So, perhaps instead of holding Yu Darvish to start Game 7 tomorrow, the Dodgers should take a page out of A.J. Hinch’s playbook and try to tandem-start tonight’s game, with Darvish ready to replace Hill for the second half of the game.

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Eric Longenhagen Spooky Prospects Chat

12:18
Eric A Longenhagen: Good morning, folks. Lots to squeeze in on my end today (I think I get Taylor Hearn and Tyler Beede in Scottsdale today) so we’ll probably hold tight to an hour. Let’s begin

12:19
Philip: Do you prefer austin Allen to Josh Naylor?

12:19
Eric A Longenhagen: Nope

12:19
Evan Longoria : Do you know much about Ronaldo Hernandez?

12:20
Eric A Longenhagen: Strong 19-year old Colombian catcher in Tampa’s system. Has power, catching is a work-in-progress but that’s fine because he’s a converted infielder. He made Rays list last offseason.

12:21
Chris: How good will Florial, Abreu, and Estrada be?

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Dave Roberts Shouldn’t Have Taken Brandon Morrow’s Phone Call

A SOUTHWEST FLIGHT HIGH ABOVE THE MIDDLE WEST — While waiting to board my return flight to Cleveland from Houston on Monday morning, I scrolled through the news on my phone, reading about the madness I’d witnessed at Minute Maid Park the night before. In the process, I came across something of interest, a comment made by Brandon Morrow following Game 5.

The Dodger reliever was candid and contrite in the wake of his club’s Game 5 loss. In the clubhouse afterwards, speaking to Yahoo! and other reporters, Morrow shouldered the blame, as some standup athletes will do. While elaborating on the reasons for his guilt, he produced a comment worthy of greater examination.

“We had a plan,” Morrow said. “And we’re very plan-oriented and try to stick to that. I made them deviate away.”

See, Morrow wasn’t supposed to be available Sunday night. Dodgers manager David Roberts had said before the game that he wouldn’t be available, having pitched in every game of the series following his emergence as one of Roberts’ most trusted relievers.

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Game Five Was as Weird as It Felt

As illustrated by basically all the win-probability graphs featured here on any given night of the season, the average baseball game tends to be composed mostly of plays that, individually, have little influence on the outcome but which, when taken collectively, push the game towards one conclusion or the other.

This graph from the Brewers-Cardinals game on the last day of the season illustrates the point:

You can see Brett Phillips’ home run annotated here. That one play shifted the probability of victory about 20% in Milwaukee’s direction. Other than that one event, however, the game is defined mostly by a series of small ups and downs before it flatlines in favor of the Brewers in the ninth.

This is the how these win-probability graphs typically work. There aren’t often moments where, based on one play, you tell yourself, This game is over — or, alternatively, Wait a second, this changes everything. There’s usually some build-up, an accumulation of smaller moments leading to a bigger one.

This World Series, however, has abandoned the slow burn. It continues to produce big moments at an unprecedented rate.

If we define a “big moment” as the sort of play the produces a win-probability change of 25% or greater — that is, a play that brings a club back from precipice of defeat or, alternatively, appears to render a tight battle over — we find that 96 of the 113 World Series played since 1903 have featured four or fewer “big moments” over the course of an entire series. This year’s World Series matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros has beaten that number this series… in a single game… twice.

*Setting the bar at .25 is admittedly somewhat arbitrary, but going too much higher increases the rarity of something that doesn’t occur all that often. Even using the threshold of .33, for example, would reduce the number of instances by half. Similarly, lowering the bar to .18 would double the amount of plays. Although slightly haphazard, .25 seems to set a decent balance.

When the Dodgers and Astros combined for five game-changing plays in Game 2 of this series, it was unprecedented, and I wrote about it at length. To briefly recap: prior to Game 2, there were just three World Series games with four plays featuring a WPA of at least .25. Only 11 other World Series games had even had three such moments. Game 2 had five of those big, single-plays that change a game.Sunday’s night’s Game 5 matched that number and produced an even wilder result than we saw just last week.

As I did after Game 2 to provide some context, here are the biggest plays of this year’s postseason by WPA, with Sunday night’s game now included.

Biggest Plays of the 2017 Postseason
GameDate Inning Outs PlayDesc HomeTeam AwayTeam WPA
10/25/2017 10 2 Enrique Hernandez singled to right (Grounder). Logan Forsythe scored. Enrique Hernandez advanced to 2B. Dodgers Astros .468
10/15/2017 9 2 Justin Turner homered (Fly). Yasiel Puig scored. Chris Taylor scored. Dodgers Cubs .394
10/29/2017 10 2 Alex Bregman singled to left (Fliner (Liner)). Derek Fisher scored. George Springer advanced to 2B. Astros Dodgers .391
10/7/2017 8 1 Bryce Harper homered (Fly). Victor Robles scored. Nationals Cubs .388
10/14/2017 9 1 Carlos Correa doubled to right (Fliner (Liner)). Jose Altuve scored. Astros Yankees .369
10/25/2017 9 0 Marwin Gonzalez homered (Fliner (Fly)). Dodgers Astros .350
10/25/2017 10 0 Jose Altuve homered (Fliner (Fly)). Dodgers Astros .350
10/29/2017 5 2 Jose Altuve homered (Fly). George Springer scored. Alex Bregman scored. Astros Dodgers .340
10/29/2017 9 2 Chris Taylor singled to center (Grounder). Austin Barnes scored. Astros Dodgers .306
10/24/2017 6 2 Justin Turner homered (Fly). Chris Taylor scored. Dodgers Astros .306
10/25/2017 6 2 Corey Seager homered (Fly). Chris Taylor scored. Dodgers Astros .306
10/7/2017 8 1 Ryan Zimmerman homered (Fly). Anthony Rendon scored. Daniel Murphy scored. Nationals Cubs .300
10/6/2017 8 0 Jay Bruce homered (Fly). Indians Yankees .298
10/29/2017 5 1 Cody Bellinger homered (Fliner (Fly)). Corey Seager scored. Justin Turner scored. Astros Dodgers .284
10/6/2017 3 2 Aaron Hicks homered (Fliner (Fly)). Starlin Castro scored. Gregory Bird scored. Indians Yankees .278
10/12/2017 5 2 Addison Russell doubled to left (Grounder). Willson Contreras scored. Ben Zobrist scored. Nationals Cubs .271
10/25/2017 11 0 George Springer homered (Fliner (Fly)). Cameron Maybin scored. Dodgers Astros .261
10/9/2017 8 3 Anthony Rizzo singled to center (Fliner (Fly)). Leonys Martin scored. Anthony Rizzo out. Cubs Nationals .259
10/29/2017 7 1 Cody Bellinger tripled to left (Fliner (Liner)). Enrique Hernandez scored. Astros Dodgers .258
10/16/2017 2 2 Todd Frazier homered (Fliner (Fly)). Starlin Castro scored. Aaron Hicks scored. Yankees Astros .258
10/9/2017 8 2 Josh Reddick singled to left (Grounder). Cameron Maybin scored. George Springer advanced to 3B. Red Sox Astros .253
10/9/2017 5 1 Andrew Benintendi homered (Fly). Xander Bogaerts scored. Red Sox Astros .253
10/6/2017 6 2 Francisco Lindor homered (Fliner (Fly)). Carlos Santana scored. Yan Gomes scored. Lonnie Chisenhall scored. Indians Yankees .251
Orange = Game 2
Blue = Game 5

Of the 11 biggest plays in this year’s playoffs, eight have come during the World Series. The fact that it’s the World Series doesn’t make these plays more likely. Any individual game can produce dramatic swings — only one in three actually do have plays with a WPA of at least .25 — but this matchup has produced more dramatic moments than we’ve seen throughout the rest of the playoffs. Individual plays aren’t the end-all-be-all of excitement. In the bottom of the seventh inning on Sunday, for example, the Astros increased their win expectancy from 35% at the beginning of the inning to 93% by the end due to multiple plays of significance, but no single play did as much damage as the plays in the chart above.

When we consider the sheer number of plays we’ve seen in this World Series that have changed win probability by 25%, it blows away every other series we’ve seen, as the graph below shows.

The World Series of 1912, which went eight games due to a tie in Game 2, featured eight big moments. Fred Merkle, who is known mostly for his “boner” in the 1908 series, very well could have been the hero in Game 8 after recording an RBI single off of Smoky Joe Wood in the top of the 10th that put the New York Giants ahead 2-1. He didn’t receive the distinction, however, as Tris Speaker produced an RBI single off of Christy Mathewson to tie the game and then a bases loaded sacrifice fly ended the series.

The 1975 World Series, perhaps most famous for Carlton Fisk’s Game 6 homer, also had eight big moments, including an RBI single by Joe Morgan in the top of the ninth of Game 7 that broke a 3-3 tie with two outs. This year, the Dodgers and Astros tied the record in Game 5 when Jose Altuve’s three-run homer tied the game at 7, and the two teams broke it three times before the game ended. Here are some of those same numbers from the graph above, but only showing the leaders.

All the years of the World Series omitted from the chart above — and there are number of them — featured fewer game-changing moments over the entirety of the series than occurred in Game 2 and Game 5 of this year’s Dodgers-Astros matchup alone. More than one-third of all series had either one or zero moments of that magnitude. They weren’t necessarily boring, but they might have lacked for some particularly big moments.

We’ve had eras off good and bad pitching and eras with a lot of homers, but we’ve never had a World Series quite like this one. Maybe the ball is juiced and slippery and maybe the teams and the bullpens are worn down because of the long season and increased usage of late, and maybe everybody is trying to hit it out of the park, but we aren’t just talking about homers here. Three of the five biggest plays on Sunday night were on batted balls that stayed in the park. Two were singles. Because we haven’t looked at it yet, here’s the win-expectancy graph from Sunday.

When looking at Game 2, I couldn’t help but compare it to probably the craziest World Series game anyone has ever seen: Game 6 in 2011. While Game 2 this year had five “big moments,” the moments back in 2011 were bigger at the top, and there was a lot more depth in terms of tension and moments. Game 5 comes a lot closer to matching up with Game 6, which, as an elimination game, carried a bit more weight in terms seasonal leverage.

Here are the top-20 plays in terms of WPA for each game:

Game 6, 2011 vs Game 5, 2017
Game 6, 2011 Game 5, 2017
Play LI WPA WPA LI Play
David Freese tripled to right (Fliner (Fly)). Albert Pujols scored. Lance Berkman scored. 3.33 .538 .391 4.34 Alex Bregman singled to left (Fliner (Liner)). Derek Fisher scored. George Springer advanced to 2B.
Lance Berkman singled to center (Fliner (Liner)). Jon Jay scored. Albert Pujols advanced to 3B. 6.42 .471 .340 1.84 Jose Altuve homered (Fly). George Springer scored. Alex Bregman scored.
Josh Hamilton homered (Fly). Elvis Andrus scored. 2.95 .428 .306 4.56 Chris Taylor singled to center (Grounder). Austin Barnes scored.
David Freese homered (Fly). 2.19 .376 .284 2.61 Cody Bellinger homered (Fliner (Fly)). Corey Seager scored. Justin Turner scored.
Lance Berkman homered (Fly). Skip Schumaker scored. 0.84 .217 .258 2.05 Cody Bellinger tripled to left (Fliner (Liner)). Enrique Hernandez scored.
Adrian Beltre homered (Fliner (Fly)). 1.53 .213 .234 1.91 George Springer homered (Fly).
Michael Young doubled to left (Fliner (Liner)). Josh Hamilton scored. 2.02 .172 .233 1.92 Yulieski Gurriel homered (Fly). Jose Altuve scored. Carlos Correa scored.
Yadier Molina walked. Lance Berkman scored. Matt Holliday advanced to 3B. David Freese advanced to 2B. 4.75 .162 .205 2.36 Jose Altuve doubled to left (Fliner (Liner)). Alex Bregman scored.
Jon Jay singled to left (Fliner (Fly)). Daniel Descalso advanced to 2B. 3.31 .140 .170 2.87 Logan Forsythe singled to left (Liner). Chris Taylor scored. Justin Turner scored. Enrique Hernandez advanced to 3B.
Nelson Cruz homered (Fly). 0.9 .125 .164 2.27 Corey Seager doubled to left (Fliner (Liner)). Joc Pederson scored. Chris Taylor advanced to 3B.
Ian Kinsler hit a ground rule double (Fliner (Liner)). Craig Gentry scored. 1.26 .117 .136 2.07 Austin Barnes doubled to center (Fliner (Liner)).
David Freese walked. Lance Berkman advanced to 3B. Matt Holliday advanced to 2B. 3.61 .109 .130 1.79 Carlos Correa doubled to left (Liner). George Springer scored. Jose Altuve advanced to 3B.
Elvis Andrus singled to left (Fliner (Liner)). Ian Kinsler advanced to 3B. 1.52 .096 .110 1.54 Justin Turner doubled to center (Fliner (Fly)).
Mike Napoli singled to right (Liner). Nelson Cruz scored. 1.59 .095 .072 1.96 Justin Turner walked. Corey Seager advanced to 2B.
Josh Hamilton singled to right (Grounder). Ian Kinsler scored. Elvis Andrus advanced to 3B. 1.76 .091 .072 1.35 Yulieski Gurriel doubled to left (Fliner (Fly)).
Daniel Descalso singled to right (Liner). 1.64 .086 .070 1.34 Yasiel Puig advanced on a stolen base. Logan Forsythe advanced to 2B on error. Error by Yulieski Gurriel.
Matt Holliday walked. Lance Berkman advanced to 2B. 2.1 .079 .066 0.77 Carlos Correa homered (Fly). Jose Altuve scored.
Nelson Cruz reached on error to left (Fly). Nelson Cruz advanced to 2B. Error by Matt Holliday. 1.08 .079 .060 1.96 Enrique Hernandez walked. Chris Taylor advanced to 3B. Justin Turner advanced to 2B.
Ian Kinsler singled to center (Grounder). Derek Holland scored. Ian Kinsler advanced to 2B. 0.78 .077 .060 0.69 Austin Barnes singled to left (Fliner (Liner)). Logan Forsythe scored.
Lance Berkman walked. 2.4 .075 .059 1.76 Andre Ethier singled to left (Grounder).

Ultimately, even the games from the current World Series — objectively crazy as they’ve been — can’t compete with Game 6 from 2011, which featured three win-probability changes of at least 40%. Where Sunday night’s contest can match up with 2011 is the significance of the plays after the top three. If we simply average the top-10 plays, it comes to 28% for 2011 and 26% for Sunday night. If we go down to the top-20 plays, the averages are 19% and 17%, respectively.

While we might not remember it with all the hits, Sunday’s game also had its share of big outs. In Game 2, there were just two plays where the pitcher’s team increased its chances of winning by at least 10%; on Sunday, there were four. That doesn’t quite measure up to the seven from Game 6 in 2011, but it isn’t too far off. Game 6 also has the 11 plays with a leverage index greater than 4.0, compared to just one in Game 2 and three in Game 5.

Game 2 was crazy. Game 5 was even crazier. We aren’t guaranteed more of the same in the next contest (or two), and odds are actually against it. It felt surreal watching Sunday’s game go back and forth. The numbers support that feeling. Removing emotion from the equation reveals just as crazy an outcome as it felt watching — which for me, enhances my already great appreciation for the game.


Effectively Wild Episode 1130: From Game 5 to Eternity

EWFI

Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about the madness of World Series Game 5, including slick balls and home runs, Clayton Kershaw and Yuli Gurriel, and the many moments when the game appeared to be over but refused to end.

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Which Home Run Was Worse?

After the way that Game 5 played out, I knew I had to give this some breathing room. There are things you want to talk and read about right after a game is finished, and there are things you want to talk and read about much later on. This is hardly the most important content about the Astros’ tie-breaking victory in their final home game of the season. I just have a question, and I’d love to see how you respond. I’ve been thinking about this since before I fell asleep.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, Sunday night, Carlos Correa faced Brandon Morrow and knocked a two-run homer out to left field. The Astros went ahead 11-8. In the top of the ninth inning, Yasiel Puig faced Chris Devenski and knocked a two-run homer out to left field. The Dodgers tightened the gap to 12-11. By the rules, both home runs were legitimate. There’s no question that the balls left the yard on the fly. Live by the Crawford Boxes, and die by the Crawford Boxes. Correa and Puig both hit two-run home runs. They were significant. But, in your own personal opinion, which home run was worse?

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FanGraphs Audio: The Unusual Prospect Trajectories of Certain Astros, Dodgers

Episode 780
Like any pair of clubs, the pair of clubs currently participating in the World Series features certain players who’ve achieved major-league relevance by atypical means. Lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen discusses that topic and also not that topic.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 1 hr 2 min play time.)

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Incredulous Responses to Bill Miller’s Strike Zone

No one ever wants to have to talk about the strike zone. If the zone is called well, there’s nothing to discuss; if it isn’t, that’s a problem, but it’s all deeply unfulfilling. Fans don’t want to be helped by the strike zone, because it takes something away from a team’s own achievements. And fans don’t want to be hurt by the strike zone, because it leaves them feeling cheated. Every baseball fan everywhere acknowledges that the game involves a certain human element, but we all prefer to think the games are decided by the players, and by the players alone. Introducing a third party tends to make people upset.

Among the great reliefs of Game 5 is that it won’t be remembered for home-plate umpire Bill Miller. The game packed in enough astonishing action that there are more interesting and important points to make besides the zone having been so weird. Miller made some strange calls, but every pitcher was also entirely gassed, and balls were flying over the fence. Alex Bregman won the game with a walk-off single. Although the zone was pitcher-friendly, there were still 11 total walks and 25 total runs. The lingering image isn’t one of a hitter shaking his head.

Yet the obnoxious reality is that the zone was a factor. The zone is always a factor, because every game changes with every individual pitch. On Sunday, some pitches were called unlike how they usually are. The zone is woven in, inextricable, a part of the larger game story. We’d prefer not to think about it, but blissful ignorance doesn’t acknowledge all that went on.

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The Most Unbelievable Moment of the World Series So Far

This has been a crazy World Series. Last night’s game was particularly nuts, but this whole series has been one long string of unlikely outcomes. Even the run-of-the-mill 3-1 Dodgers victory in Game 1 was remarkable for how short it was. Nothing in this series is usual.

But amidst all the bonkers plays that we’ve seen, I think there was one particular moment last night that still lingers. As I sit here roughly 12 hours after the game ended, I still don’t know how this happened.

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Does the Juiced Ball Lead to Straighter Pitches?

The ball is going faster in both directions these days. Velocities are up, exit velocities are up, and the players are openly discussing the changed nature of the ball. Slippery balls are maybe flattening out sliders this World Series. Are they, though? We can look at what’s happening now, and then we can also compare movement across different times in baseball’s rapidly changing environment as a comparison.

Turns out, movement is the product of a complicated relationship between the pitcher’s mechanics, the seams on the baseball, and how fast the ball is going. (Who would’ve guessed? Pitching is complicated.) Every ball is also slightly different — it’s put together by humans from the hide of a cow, after all — but we’ll never truly know exactly how different this World Series ball really is.

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The Absurdity and Insanity of Game 5 and of the Astros

HOUSTON — Game 5 resided at an extreme pole along the baseball entertainment spectrum. It’s not a game you want to experience every night, but it’s something about which we’ll be talking and of which we’ll be trying to make sense for a while. At least until Game 6.

That said, the aesthetic appeal of the game can certainly be debated: the way fly balls were leaving Minute Maid Park gave the night something of a College World Series feel during its peak-offense period. If you recall, that was an environment that forced the college game to make adjustments to its bats and balls to suppress run scoring, to provide sanity.

One of the overriding themes of the sport this season is the speed at which it has changed, how extreme it has become so quickly. The game continues to evolve even in the postseason, where the average launch angle is 11.9 degrees — up a fraction of a degree from the 11.8 mark during this year’s regular season and 10.8 degrees in 2015 regular season. The average air ball is traveling 291 feet, up from 287 feet in the regular season.

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So What Do We Think About Bullpenning Now?

For most of this postseason, the primary story tying all these disparate series together has been the significant change in the way pitchers are deployed. After Andrew Miller’s dominance last October, aggressive bullpen usage has become the norm. The tone was set in the very first Wild Card game, when Luis Severino got one out but the Yankees advanced anyway, thanks to 8.2 dominant innings from their relief corps.

But now, here we are at the end of the month, and the two bullpens left standing combined to give up 15 runs last night. To be fair, the two starters combined to give up 10 runs, so they didn’t exactly impress either, but neither bullpen had any ability to hold any kind of lead last night. And the players entrusted with those opportunities just looked exhausted.

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All the Times That That Game Seemed Over

I don’t know exactly what it is we just watched. From almost the very first pitch, Game 5 was unrelenting, and it didn’t let up for five hours and seventeen minutes. Even now, I’m afraid it might not be finished — if I turn the feed back on, the Astros and Dodgers might be in the 81st inning. It doesn’t feel right that the game is completed. It also very much needed to end, because it was becoming a matter of survival. I don’t mean that as a figure of speech.

I’m still not entirely sure that was a good baseball game, in one sense of the word. It was driven by homers, some of them silly, and I wouldn’t call the pitching quite sharp. Each of the bullpens was an absolute nightmare, after the starters threw a combined 8.1 innings, and the overall aesthetics left something to be desired. It wasn’t a game marked by its crispness. The only thing that stopped it from being the longest-ever nine-inning baseball game is that it had to progress to the tenth. The allotted nine innings weren’t enough. They should’ve been enough.

But they weren’t enough, and for that reason, and for so many others, that was a good baseball game, in the other and more obvious sense of the word. Every baseball game asks two things: that you play, and that you play to the end. Every game has a winner, and every game has a loser, and as with any such competition, the drama’s a product of probability swings. Game 5 had more than almost any other World Series game on record. On several occasions, it seemed like it was over. The winning run scored on the game’s final pitch, which was pitch number 417. Hopes were dashed, over and over and over again, as the World Series went completely off-script. That was a contest that spiraled out of control.

As with Game 2, it’s an impossible assignment to do the game justice through writing. We are mostly just fortunate that this series has been so evenly matched. But Alex Bregman won it with two outs in the bottom of the tenth. Here are the times the game seemed over before that.

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So That Happened


Source: FanGraphs

One of the most insane baseball games anyone has ever seen. We will have attempts at analysis later. Now, just amazement.


2017 World Series Game 5 Live Blog

5:07
Paul Swydan:

Who will win tonight’s game?

Astros (24.5% | 74 votes)
 
Dodgers (64.9% | 196 votes)
 
I can’t decide! (10.5% | 32 votes)
 

Total Votes: 302
5:07
Paul Swydan:

In your opinion, which game has been the best so far?

Game 1 (5.8% | 17 votes)
 
Game 2 (81.0% | 236 votes)
 
Game 3 (5.1% | 15 votes)
 
Game 4 (4.1% | 12 votes)
 
I can’t decide! (3.7% | 11 votes)
 

Total Votes: 291
5:09
Paul Swydan:

Which game will end up with the highest avg. SP Game Score v. 2.0 (GSv2)?

Current leader Game 4 – 69.8 (Morton 76.8, Wood 62.8) (32.7% | 81 votes)
 
Tonight (Kershaw-Keuchel) (42.5% | 105 votes)
 
Game 6 (Verlander-TBD/Hill) (12.5% | 31 votes)
 
Game 7 (TBD-TBD) (1.6% | 4 votes)
 
I can’t decide! (10.5% | 26 votes)
 

Total Votes: 247
7:37
Paul Swydan:

How many minutes after 8 pm will tonight’s game start?

Zero – it’ll start right on time! (4.8% | 9 votes)
 
1-5 minutes late (9.2% | 17 votes)
 
6-10 minutes late (11.4% | 21 votes)
 
11-15 minutes late (21.1% | 39 votes)
 
16+ minutes late (53.2% | 98 votes)
 

Total Votes: 184
8:02
Paul Swydan: Hi everybody!

8:03
Paul Swydan: Looking forward to a great game. Looks like most of you think the Dodgers win tonight.

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MLB Might Have Another New Ball and Controversy

HOUSTON — The investigative team of Ben Lindbergh, Rob Arthur and Alan Nathan might have to get back to work. Not only has the ball played differently since 2015 when it became livelier, now the World Series ball is playing differently players told Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci.

Lance McCullers took the blindfold test in the bullpen,” said Charlie Morton, Houston’s Game 4 starter, referring to another Astros pitcher. “He could tell which ball was which with his eyes closed. It’s that different.” Read the rest of this entry »