Monday, October 28, 2013

Who Will Be the GWRBI Surprise on Wednesday?

What was the GWRBI stat?
Major League Baseball used to have a stat called GWRBI. Game-winning run batted in. The honor went to the guy who batted in the run that gave the winning team a lead they never lost. In my view they computed it incorrectly. For example, on August 11th the Red Sox lost to Kansas City, 4-3. KC went up, 2-1 in the 2nd and they never trailed after that, so Jarrod Dyson, who knocked in the second run for KC, would have gotten the GWRBI. Alex Gordon homered in the 3rd to make it 4-1, KC...but Boston crawled back with two runs in the 6th. So the Gordon homer made the difference and would have been the true GWRBI. If they still had it.

For some reason MLB dumped it.
Major League Baseball officially dropped the GWRBI stat in 1989. But with stats today including OBP, OPS, XBH, WHIP and several more, why not bring back GWRBI? If we look at the Red Sox GWRBI's in this year's Postseason we'd see several different heroes who otherwise seem to be doing little at the plate other than striking out.

What if we had it now?
Drew actually had the GWRBI in Game 1 against Tampa Bay. His 4th inning single plated Gomes, breaking a 2-2 tie. The Red Sox went on to score 9 more unanswered runs, but Drew put them ahead for good. He also tripled to left in the 4th inning of Game 2 with Gomes scoring on the play. The final score was 7-4, but Drew had the RBI that stood up. The GWRBI in deciding Game 4 was from Shane Victorino.

ALCS Game 1 was a 1-0 loss, Game 2 was sure looking like more of the same until the bottom of the 8th when the Ortiz grand slam sent Torii Hunter tumbling into the Sox bullpen. Who had the GWRBI? Saltalamacchia. Tuesday in Detroit Napoli launched one for the only run of the game. Thursday they won when Napooli scored on a wild pitch with Drew at bat (no RBI on that). Game 6 on Saturday was the Victorino grand slam in the 7th that sent the Red Sox to the World Series. World Series Game 1 saw Napoli get the GWRBI when he hit a bases-clearing triple to the 379 sign. In Game 4 it was the Gomes 3-run homer that got the honors. Game 5 was the ground-rule double by David Ross.

Red Sox GWRBI's this Postseason?
So far they go to Drew (2), Victorino (2), Napoli (2), Salty, Gomes and Ross. Collectively they're batting about .100. And you thought all they were doing was striking out.

Maybe this week we'll have a WSWRBI.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

An Umpire's View of Last Night's Obstruction Call

Did they get it right?

In case you missed it, here's the play:

Most players, coaches and fans are saying that last night's game-ending Obstruction call was unusual - even weird - but the umpires got the call right. But did they?

Maybe. As a certified ASA Umpire I attend Rules Interpretation Clinics every year. We analyze and are quizzed on situations that practically never come up...but they might. Like last night.

First, let me explain something that many people - even Joe Buck and Tim McCarver - find confusing. The difference between Interference and Obstruction.  Interference is caused by the offense. For example, when there's a runner on 1st and a ground ball is hit toward the 2nd baseman, the runner cannot interfere with the 2nd baseman trying to field the ball. Obstruction, on the other hand, is caused by the defense. A fielder blocking the baseline and impeding a runner from advancing. Like last night.

Here is the actual rule:
Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered in the act of fielding a ball. It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the act of fielding the ball. For example: If an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.
What would have been the third out at home on the Nava throw to home was negated.
Rule 7.06 (Effect) If a play is being made on the obstructed runner … the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire's judgment, if there had been no obstruction.
Allen Craig was awarded home - the winning run - because "in the umpire's judgement" he would have reached home if he hadn't tripped over Middlebrooks. But would he have reached home? Craig is a gimpy runner and Nava's throw was in plenty of time, so the notion that he would have definitely scored is subjective. He might have, he might not have. 
My call?

Craig would have been awarded 3rd base, not home, the game would continue with a tie score, two outs in the bottom of the 9th and a runner on 3rd. Game on, and may the best team win.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

We Didn't Have To Win on Thursday. We Don't Have to Win Tonight.

Sure, it would have been nice to win on Thursday.  After the Ortiz blast into the Monster Seats the Red Sox were leading, 2-1. Of course, a one-run lead is only as good as the next pitch, and as we saw many times this year, Lackey left with a lead and did not get a win.

Yalie Craig Breslow has been pretty effective most of the time, but Thursday was not his night. He walked the bases loaded, gave up the tying run on a sac fly, gave up the lead run on a Little League-style airball throw to third, then gave up another RBI single for good measure. 4-2 Cards. Koji came in with a typical 1-2-3 ninth that would have been a great save if the score had still been 2-1. But we had Strikeout Street coming up in the 9th...Gomes, Salty, Drew, Bogaerts. Nava pinch hit but joined the crowd with a K. Instead of "Dirty Water" we had organ music as we filed out.

But we didn't need that win. St. Louis did. If the Red Sox had prevailed it would have looked like we were already halfway to another World Series sweep. After all, the Sox had not lost a World Series game since October 1986.  My 28 year-old daughter was only 1 year and 8 months old. My 26 year-old daughter was not born yet. The Road to Redemption shouldn't look too easy.  

So we go to St. Louis tonight with the Series tied, 1-1. Now it's a best of five. True, 3 of the 5 are in St. Louis where we have no DH, but we'll have Papi playing 1st and Jake Peavy can strike out in place of Napoli striking out.

All the Red Sox need to do is win one of the three in St. Louis. Two would be better, obviously. But if they win one...and Sunday night is the best one to win...Game 5 will be a Best-of-3 with two of the three played in the Friendly Confines.

One more thing. We probably want the Sox to lose at least one game in St. Louis. That way we can have a World Series Championship clinch at home.  And that hasn't happened since 9/11/1918.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Top Ten Red Sox Color Analysts

I had planned to post this during the summer, but decided to delay because of the unfortunate turn of events in the Remy family.  It has nothing to do with this ranking, but I felt that a little separation was in order.  Now, on the eve of the ALDS, it seems like the time is right. That said, on with the Countdown:

10. DALE ARNOLD. Knows his stuff. He’s done a lot of hosting on sports talk, teamed with Eddie Andelman (The A Team), Bob Neumeier (Dale and Numie), Michael Holley (Dale and Holley), Bruins pre-game and play-by-play on TV, and Red Sox color fill-in. A very knowledgable guy, but completely stiff on the air. Ever hear him say anything clever or amusing? Me neither.

9. JIM WOODS. He did games with Ned Martin from 1974 to 1978. Ned was excellent. I never quite got why Jim Woods was even there. He sounded old. His nickname, which they used a lot, was Possum. How many people from these here parts have you ever met who are called Possum? I did do my research and found that Jim Woods did Yankee games on TV (or Tee Vee as they called it then) in the early 50‘s and one of the guys in the booth thought he looked like a possum and gave him the nickname. Still...who cares?

8. JON RISH. He was the #3 guy on WEEI for about five years and filled in whenever Dave O’Brien was away doing ESPN stuff. WEEI cut his salary by 30% this year and he said sayonara. I don’t blame him. WEEI’s parent company Entercom is notoriously cheap. He has done fill-in for Remy on NESN since then. Rish has a good voice and clearly knows his stuff, but he has absolutely no on-air personality. He might be a great guy in person, but on the air he’s as dull as they come.

7. SEAN GRANDE. He was a Sports Flash guy on WEEI’s Big Show with Glenn Ordway, then went to Minnesota to do Timberwolves games. He came back to Boston several years ago to do Celtics games with Cedric Maxwell. He’s done some Red Sox fill-in for Dave O’Brien and is very knowledgable. But man, does he talk fast. That’s a requirement when you’re doing basketball play-by-play, but it doesn’t match the leisurely pace of baseball.

6. BOB MONTGOMERY. The former backup catcher for Carlton Fisk did games with Ned Martin from 1982 to 1995. He was okay, but as a former player didn’t bring the aura to the air of a Jerry Remy or a Dennis Eckersley. He also had a southern drawl that could be annoying to New Englanders. “That’s the fuurst ruun of the gaayyme.”

5. BOB KURTZ. He was with NESN for about 10 years and did play-by-play from 1993 to 2000. Kurtz is from Minnesota, where he did a fair amount of play-by-play for the Twins and now does Minnesota Wild hockey games. I don’t remember anything special about him other than the occasional mis-pronouncing of local names.

4. BOB MURPHY. He was the middle-innings guy in the days of Curt Gowdy. As a kid who loved listening to play-by-play, I thought he had a better voice than Gowdy.  He was known for his upbeat persona. “The sun is shining, it’s a beautiful day for baseball.” He went to New York and did Mets games for quite a while, and when I heard him in New York in 2000 he just sounded old. He was actually only 76, much younger than Vin Scully is now. But he sounded old.  My Red Sox recollection of him - also old - is very positive.

3. LOU MERLONI. This may be a surprise, and Lou has only filled in as color analyst a few times. But he’s very good. Not as funny as Eckersley, and despite hailing from Framingham, does not have a strong local accent. As a former Red Sox player and a regular host on WEEI, he has remarkably good insight into the whys and hows of pitch selection, player positioning, the science of matchups, the manager’s thought process and the psyche of players who are brought up from AAA, sent back down, brought back up, sent back down and finally make the Big Show for good. When you listen to Lou you learn something.

2. JERRY REMY. After a successful career as a Red Sox 2nd baseman and the club’s #1 base-stealer, Remy’s playing days were cut short by knee injuries. But think of the guys he played with: Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, Dennis Eckersley, Wade Boggs (all in the Hall of Fame), Dwight Evans, Fred Lynn, Roger Clemens, George Scott, Bruce Hurst, Oil Can Boyd. The list goes on. He has great stories about all those guys. Within a few years he became the Red Sox color analyst, working with Ned Martin, Sean McDonough and Don Orsillo. It was McDonough who came up with the nickname Rem Dawg. Regionalisms, as noted above, can be annoying to the audience. In Remy’s case it’s a big advantage, because he’s a local guy who played for the home team. When he says, "aahsk" (ask) or “the Ty-gizz” (Tigers) or talks about the “Amicer pitch zone” it adds local color...just what a color guy is supposed to do. His rapport with Don Orsillo is legendary. It’s especially entertaining during slow moments.

1. DENNIS ECKERSLEY. As a Hall of Fame pitcher The Eck has an excellent perspective on the ins and outs of the game, saying things that the Red Sox probably don’t want said on the air but that people need to hear.  He’s also very funny and has some great lines. “That guy’s about to get his lunch” or "That was some high-test gas" or “That pitch...that was cheese with hair on it!”

Eck is also the one who coined the term "walkoff."  Many think that walkoff refers to someone who hits a home run or has an RBI that wins the game in the bottom of the 9th. That’s not the original meaning. In the 1988 World Series Eck was the closer for the A’s and he faced Kirk Gibson in the 9th inning of game 2. Gibson had a bad ankle and couldn’t run the bases well, so Manager Tommy Lasorda sent him up to pinch hit, saying, “You’ll have to hit a home run.” Gibson did, and the video of him hobbling around the bases pumping his fist is the second most famous World Series home run ever (the most famous, of course, is Carlton Fisk in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway, but that preceded the term by 13 years). After the game in 1988 Eckersley was interviewed by NBC and he was asked for his thoughts about throwing that pitch to Gibson. Eck responded, “When something like that happens there’s nothing for you to do but walk off.” Meaning the pitcher walking off the mound, not the hitter jumping up and down in a pigpile at home plate.

It’s unfortunate that Eckersley's job doing color on NESN is a result of Jerry Remy’s health and family issues, but Eck is really good at it.  He's been filling in for Remy on most games for the last few months, and it's disappointing when he's not there.  I hope Eck takes the gig permanently.