Is Andy Dalton Doomed to Become NFL’s Newest ‘Choker’ Quarterback?

Anyone with a working television, Twitter account and/or Internet access has likely already read or heard plenty about the monstrosity of a quarterback that is Andy Dalton.

After suffering a first-round loss to the San Diego Chargers–the third straight season the Cincinnati Bengals’ playoff hopes ended during the opening slate–Dalton became the fun whooping boy. The Red Riffle completed 29 of 51 passes for 334 yards, but coughed up three turnovers (two interceptions and one fumble) during Cincinnati’s 27-10 loss.

That now gives Dalton a 56.9 completion percentage and six interceptions in three playoff games, all loses. We all know how this works; this is when all the analysts call for him to quit his NFL career and join the circus as the wild red-haired quarterback who can’t win a playoff game.

Sure, Giovanni Bernard’s costly fumble just outside the end zone prevented the Bengals from taking a 14-7 lead before halftime, and A.J. Green dropped a deep ball that would have allowed them to at least decrease the deficit to one score. But they aren’t quarterbacks, so no worries. Mistakes happen. Nobody is perfect.

Quarterbacks, on the other hand, are expected to play perfectly every game, and would it hurt to cure a few major diseases in the process?

With the usual targets either watching from home (Tony Romo, Matt Ryan) or sitting on the winning side (Philip Rivers), Dalton conveniently takes their place in the never-ending “Quarterback X is a choker” narrative. ESPN Michael Kay wasted no time declaring on his radio show that “Dalton has turned into Tony Romo.”

(That should be considered a compliment as Romo is a terrific quarterback with a higher career quarterback rating than Tom Brady, but it was meant to mean Dalton unravels when the pressure mounts.)

Human troll and destroyer of intelligent discussions about sports Skip Bayless (the same man who once questioned if Andrew Luck possessed the same “it factor” as Tim Tebow… and I swear that wasn’t from The Onion) took the bait and attacked Dalton.

While head coach Marvin Lewis gave his quarterback a vote of confidence, the fact that Dalton’s status as the team’s starting signal-caller came into question is silly in its own right. Dalton has gradually improved in every season, compiling career highs with 4,296 passing yards, 33 passing touchdowns and 7.33 yards per attempt.

Of course, every talking head is now wondering whether Dalton “can win the big one.” Because he has not succeeded in the past, it becomes a foregone conclusion that his sullied fate is set in stone for eternity. Can Dalton play excellent football over a three- or four-year string? Of course he can. The question should be “Will Dalton ever win the big one?”

Or better yet, will the Cincinnati Bengals collect a Super Bowl championship with Dalton operating as the starting quarterback? Remember, football, team sport.

But I’ll take the bait and focus the conversation on the scrutinized quarterback.

How Does Dalton Compare to Other QBs?

The Dan Patrick Show’s Andrew “McLovin” Perloff was one of few people not willing to bury Dalton the Monday after the Bengals’ unceremonious playoff exit. 

It’s easy to succumb to the moment and lock yourself in a cell of shortsightedness, but one poor game should not define Dalton.

Instead, let’s delve into the big picture. This season, Dalton ranked seventh in passing yards, 12th in yards per attempt, third in passing touchdowns and 15th with a 88.8 quarterback rating. While his QB rating finished in the middle of the pack, it ranked higher than Brady, Cam Newton and Luck, the last of whom is now being celebrated as a hero for overcoming a 28-point deficit to keep the Indianapolis Colts alive.

To be fair, Dalton certainly has his flaws. Inconsistency plagued him throughout the year, and the turnover issues are nothing new after surrendering 20 picks during the season. Four of those came during the final game of the regular season, so he picked the worst possible time to endure a rough patch.

While he’s underwhelmed in all three postseason tries, we only know he has struggled in the postseason because he has played well enough to guide Cincinnati into extracurricular football. Brady and Aaron Rodgers are the only quarterbacks to play in each of the last three postseasons.

Nobody is making Dalton’s case for stardom, but the Bengals better be careful not to let the noise talk them into manufacturing a nonexistent problem at quarterback. Were Cincinnati to place him on the trading block, there’s around a dozen teams that should leap to the phone.

Dalton is no Rodgers or Brady, or even a Romo or Ryan, but he sits comfortably in the underappreciated tier of above-average players. One is Jay Cutler, who just received a massive contract extension.

Dalton’s Career Stats: 60.9 completion percentage, 6.97 YPA, 26 TDs (per season), 16 INTs (per season), 85.7 QB rating

Cutler:  61.0 completion percentage, 7.23 YPA, 23 TDs (per season), 17 INTs (per season), 84.6 QB rating

Then again, Dalton’s critics likely are not Cutler fans either. Cutler also has never won the big one, due mostly to his audacity to not play through an MCL sprain during the NFC Championship Game in 2011. The nerve on that guy. But would we hate a quarterback with those numbers if their team clawed through the playoff bracket and escaped with the Vince Lombardi trophy?

That guy exists. His name is Joe Flacco, and most pundits like him just fine.

Joe Flacco’s Career Stats: 60.2 completion percentage, 6.94 YPA, 20 TDs (per season), 13 INTs (per season), 83.7 QB rating

If not for Flacco going scorched earth on the NFL last January, Dalton compares favorable to his AFC North cohort. But we can’t just ignore that career-defining stretch, so Flacco is a playoff warrior! Nobody will deny his excellence during last season’s playoff run, but he faced none of the same backlash as Dalton even before last year because the Ravens won five playoff games in the four previous years under his watch.

By the way, he completed 44 percent of his passes for 437 passing yards and three interceptions during his first three playoff games. The following year, he stood on the winning side despite completing four passes for 34 yards against the New England Patriots? The only difference between his poor play and Dalton’s blunders? The Ravens saved his behind.

Were I to rank every quarterback, Dalton would find himself in the company of Cutler and Flacco outside the top 10 but firmly inside the top 20. They’re not All-Pros who can mitigate all other weaknesses, but Flacco showed in Baltimore that a guy of that caliber can win it all if surrounded by the right talent.

Although Dalton and Flacco are linked together by division, Dalton resembles another quarterback with championship much more closely. Can anybody think of an inconsistent, turnover-prone quarterback who completely flipped that reputation by heating up at the perfect time, twice?

Can Dalton Follow Eli Manning’s Path to Redemption?

Did you figure it out yet? Dammit, the subhead gave it away. Dalton has a lot of Eli Manning in him.

Remember when reading Kay’s comment above and immediately deciphering that he meant the Romo comparison as an insult. Well the Manning comp, while containing a positive point, actually is construed as a negative sentiment.

Like Manning, Dalton shares the ugly tendency to fall apart at the seams and throw away interceptions in bunches. Manning also exited his third year answering questions about his inability to win a playoff game. He torpedoed the New York Giants’ season during a disastrous rookie campaign before faltering in the first round during Years 2 and 3.

Manning’s First Two Playoff Games (2005-06): 26-45 (57.8 completion %), 274 passing yards, 2 TDs, 4 INTs (0-2)

During his fourth season, he re-wrote his legacy behind the protective blanket of a stout offensive line, a fierce rushing attack and a rabid pass rush. When Manning escaped a bear-hug that somehow did not end in a sack, closed his eyes and darted a ball that David Tyree trapped on the tip of his helmet, he promptly went from being an unpolished loose cannon to a calculated winner with ice in his veins.

He wasn’t that great during his first Super Bowl run, but Manning prevailed by avoiding interceptions after throwing 20 during the regular season. Even the most reckless quarterbacks can glue together three or four games without a pick, and even the most precise passers occasionally turn the ball over three times in a nightmare affair.

Take away the titles, and Dalton is a superior thrower on paper. Even after finishing 33rd in ESPN’s QBR behind the likes of Jason Campbell, Kellen Clemens and Matt Schaub, Manning is a made man due to eight playoff games where everything came together.

For a more extreme example of a quarterback who struggled early in his career to win a postseason game, Eli’s brother–you may know him as arguably the greatest quarterback of all time–lost his first three playoff contests. Peyton’s Colts did not crack the postseason win column until his sixth season in 2003.

If you still think Peyton’s imperfect playoff resume tarnishes his track record, you’re a lost cause beyond repair. Yet sadly, hoards of old men in suits labeled Peyton a choker who wasn’t good enough when it counted. Did I mention he threw 55 passing touchdowns this season?

If Flacco and Eli can catch fire and cement their legitimacy as franchise quarterbacks (whether warranted or not), who is to say Dalton cannot accomplish the same?

As evidenced by a dazzling three-game stretch during the season, Dalton is capable of rattling off that type of hot streak. From Weeks 6-8, Dalton combined for 1,034 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions. Adding on a subdued, but effective 20-27, 212-yard performance to defeat the Patriots the previous week, Dalton propelled his squad to four straight victories.

If that happened during January, legends are woven over Dalton’s greatness. Granted, tougher competition than the Bills, Lions and Jets beckons during the postseason, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Good Andy Dalton to show up one of these winters.

Will Curtis Granderson Signing Pan Out for New York Mets?

For the first time in years, the New York Mets opened their pockets and brought a big-name free agent to town.

In order to appease rapid sports talk radio participants planning to assemble an angry mob outside of Citi Field, the “cheap” (others could call it “financially responsible,” “logical” or “smart”) Sandy Alderson made his first major splash in the open market by doling out four years worth $60 million to outfielder Curtis Granderson. The New York Post‘s Joel Sherman broke the news on Friday.

On the same day the New York Yankees lost superstar Robinson Cano to the Seattle Mariners, the Mets turned the tables on their cross-town foe, twisting the knife deeper by poaching another one of their big power bats. The Bronx Bombers had no intention of ever bringing Granderson back, but Mets fans tired of playing the jealous little sibling will derive some joy out of landing a lucrative free agent on the same day the Yankees lost their best player.

But does that really make this a joyous occasion for the Mets? After delivering two straight 40-homer seasons in pinstripes, Granderson hit .229/.317/.407 during a season shortened by two fluky, unrelated hand injuries. Can he help the Mets inch closer to their first playoff bid since 2006, or is this just a move to save face among impatient fans yelling for something, anything to invigorate a stagnant organization?

If only life ever contained an easy answer. Granderson has his faults, and any cost-conscious human being will look at every single MLB signing and think, “HE’S GETTING PAID HOW MUCH?!?” But Granderson is also a former All-Star who could become David Wright’s partner in crime amid an offense that desperately needs more pop.

But there’s also a veteran (he’ll turn 33 before Opening Day) that has experienced ample strikeout issues over the past three years.

Note: All advanced statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs.com

Can the Grandy Man Stop Whiffing?

Before his career torpedoed in New York, Jason Bay—who received a nearly identical four-year, $66 million deal four years ago—was an offensive stud in the outfield. His one shortcoming that could have foreshadowed his downfall?  He struck out in 25.4 percent of his at-bats during his last year with the Boston Red Sox.

So once Bay’s debilitating contract finally exited the books, the Mets found another man with strikeout woes to fill his space.

Even when crushing 43 homers in 2012, Granderson also procured a 28.5 percent strikeout rate, which led to a then career-low .232 batting average.  Those troubles continued last season, when he batted .229 with a 28.2 strikeout percentage. There’s plenty of other numbers highlighting his misguided aggression.

From 2008-11, Granderson’s swinging-strike percentage stayed consistently between 8.0-8.5 percent. He looked to have matured from his earlier years with the Detroit Tigers, but his thirst to clear Yankee Stadium’s short porch changed his approach.

In 2012, the mark skyrocketed to 11.8, and it expanded even higher to 13,6 in 2013. His contact rate also dipped to a career-worst 69.5 percent last season, down from his 76.4 percent career average.

Not only did he swing at a higher rate of pitches (45.4 percent) than ever before, he chased bad pitches outside the strike zone. After demonstrating superb patience at the plate in 2008, when he hit .280 with a .365 on-base percentage, Granderson whiffed more and more at pitches out of the zone. Here’s a look at his O-Swing percentages during the past six years.

2008: 19.8%

2009: 20.1 %

2010: 25.6 %

2011: 25.7 %

2012: 29.5%

2013: 31.3 %

Granderson will keep hitting .220 until he lays off unfavorable offerings that would otherwise be ruled balls.

But What About His Power?

Those declining measures are one thing from a guy smashing 40 dingers, but that won’t carry over well in Citi Field. He’ll need to follow Wright’s mold and slash some strikeouts to enhance his on-base percentage, even if it means sending less balls over the fences. Chances are, that’s going to happen anyway.

In perhaps the coolest thing ever invented (I’m just realizing now that I really ought to go outside more), ESPN’s Home Run Tracker allows us to easily view the landing distances of all of Granderson’s home runs in respect to any stadium’s measures. Overlaying his blasts with Citi Field, seven of his 43 round-trippers from 2012 wouldn’t have cleared the fences in Queens. Three of them fell right around the border.

From 2010-12, Granderson produced 47 homers on the road, so his power won’t entirely dissipate. He also hit 30 long balls in Detroit before getting traded to the Bronx, so the Yankees didn’t completely morph him into a long-ball threat.

Just don’t expect him to return to knocking 40 homers out of the park with the Mets. If he can offer 30, great, but 25 is probably a more reasonable goal. That still would have led the team last year.

Will Half Measures Work for Mets?

The MLB Network’s Brian Kenny, who has tried with all his might to bring advanced statistics to the forefront of typical baseball discussion, laid out a blueprint to fix the Mets both on Twitter and MLB Clubhouse Confidential. One of his nuggets recommended the Mets purchasing “half players.”

No, he was not suggesting they sign a legless pitcher or a shortstop with one arm. He was advocating they seek out platoons whenever possible, but his thought process also belies the foundation of Moneyball. Teams on a limited budget must locate flawed alternatives that can overcome one of two deficiencies with other skills and high upside.

While Mike Ehrmantraut would bash the concept of half measures, it could work wonders for the Mets.

Although separated by multiple years and millions of dollars, their two outfield signings in Granderson and Chris Young share many similarities. Both bring a mix of power and speed to the table, which showed in fruitful 2011 campaigns.

Granderson’s 2011 stats: .262/.364/.552, 41 HR, 119 RBI, 136 R, 25 SB, 6.7 WAR

Young’s 2011 stats: .236/.331/.420, 20 HR, 71 BI, 89 R, 22 SB, 4.5 WAR

Young delivered better offensive numbers in 2010, but his 20 defensive runs saved earned him a career-best WAR. If these guys come close to returning to those stats, the Mets will be walking on sunshine.

Perhaps the Mets have identified free swingers as the latest market inefficiency. A decade ago, Billy Beane snagged disciplined batters at discounted rates, but those guys no longer sneak beneath the cracks unless truly wretched contact abilities hide the results.

Having seen the horrors done by other major contracts, the Mets are shying away from complete packages. They found power, speed and defense with Young and Granderson at the sacrifice of accruing their decrepit strikeout habits.

Last season, the Red Sox built an assortment of half measures into a full team that won it all. Shane Victorino looked like an overpay at the time after a down year, but he bounced back to become a vital cog in their championship squad. Can the Mets bring about the same good fortune with Granderson?

Will the Mets Contend with Granderson?

No, probably not.

Would Granderson uplifting them from 74 wins to 77 victories really mean all that much in the long run? Not really, which is why Alderson had his reasons to remain a spectator during the influx of winter activities. The Atlanta Braves have built another batch of in-grown stars and the Washington Nationals are gearing up to accomplish what was expected of them last season. Even more important, Matt Harvey will spend the entire 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Granderson does not make the Mets a playoff contender in 2014, but if they can sort out Ike Davis’ early-season woes, build up their young pitching and obtain another impact bat, 2015 might be the year for them to rise from the dead. Listen to WFAN for five minutes, and you’ll discover why they jumped the gun now.

Even in a poor 2012, Granderson amassed a 2.3 WAR. Forget his MVP-caliber 2011; if Granderson can return to 2010 levels, where he hit .247/.324/.468 with 24 homers, solid defense and a 3.5 WAR, he’ll be worth the investment. Shifting to a corner outfield spot should also help avoid waning defensive productivity.

Yet the same fans who cried for the team to pay Granderson will whine about his poor batting average, oblivious to the existence of any stats. Welcome (back) to New York, Curtis!

Final Verdict

Meh. It’s not a total game-changer, but there’s more upside there than with Nelson Cruz, a Carlos Beltran reunion or any other realistic target. It’s also not as risky as tossing $100 million at Jacoby Ellsbury (I’m sure a speedy outfielder will hold up just fine until he’s 37) and Shin Soo-Choo, an on-base fiend whose power would not translate well in Citi Field.

Signing Granderson is hardly a reason to break out the champaggin, but it’s also not atrocious enough to decry your allegiance to the Mets and ram your head into the wall.

The Mets are certainly not fixed yet, but Granderson is better than what they had by a mile, and it’s not like we’re paying his salary. The story on this deal is yet to be written, as this one could easily stray in either direction as a massive dud or smashing success.

For now, let’s give the signing a B.

MLB World Series: Thoughts on Game 1′s Coverage

The St. Louis Cardinals weren’t the only team that made some errors during Game 1 of the MLB World Series.

FOX holding the rights to this year’s fall classic means we’re treated to three-plus hours of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. After all, what better way to persuade skeptics that baseball isn’t boring than to have two dull broadcasters lull us to sleep with little exuberance and plenty of unrelated, out-of-place anecdotes?

Since the World Series is the World Series, FOX is appealing to casual fans more so than loyal, informed watchers who will still tune in even if Skip Bayless and Justin Bieber provided the commentary. The network made slight progress by at least including OPS along with each hitter’s batting average, but then again, it’d be more helpful to provide their on-base percentage and slugging percentage separately to highlight the two varying skills.

Knowing head-scratching analysis was bound to arise, I took note of some questionable statements made throughout the telecast. Some can be tested by taking a minute to delve into the numbers, but some of McCarver’s inane rambling needs to be pointed out despite a lack of statistical evidence to decry his buffoonery. Sadly, he represents baseball’s predominant “get-off-my-lawn” mindset permeating the game that attempts to wring the sport of any joy, amusement or common sense.

Did the Cardinals’ Best Run-Producer Ever Leave?

After missing seven weeks of action with an injured foot, Allen Craig returned in the nick of time for the World Series’ opening bout. The St. Louis Cardinals plowed through the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers without their starting first baseman, but the squad will surely welcome his bat in the designated hitter slot while playing in Boston.

Craig, who hit .317/.373/.457 during the regular season, is a key bat in St. Louis’ lineup, but Buck oversold his value during the pre-game show by referring to Craig as the team’s “best run-producer.”

Buck merely  was referencing Craig’s team-leading 97 RBI, which is all the more impressive considering he generated that high tally despite missing nearly all of September. He was credited with driving in more runs than anybody else on the Cardinals, but does that mean he produced the most scoring?

That oversimplifies the process by ignoring those who actually reached base before Craig cleared them a path back to the dugout. The difference in scoring runs and driving them in is not a matter of skill, but plainly a product of the batting order. Craig reaped the rewards as the team’s clean-up hitter, but Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday deserve more praise as their most prolific batters.

Carpenter trails Craig by 19 RBI, but the first-year second baseman led all of baseball with 126 runs scored.  His .318/.392/.481 slash line trumps Craig’s in every category, and his ability to routinely reach base allowed Craig to receive many opportunities to bring him home.

Holliday recorded 94 RBI batting mostly in the No. 3 spot, but he demonstrated more patience than Craig with a .389 on-base percentage. The traditional model of thinking concludes that Craig is the better hitter for engineering a run rather than passively strolling to first base with a walk, but Holliday’s plate discipline caused him to score 103 runs, with Craig again serving as the benefactor. 

FanGraphs tracks a stat called Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), which measures how many runs per plate appearance a player produces on a 100 percentage scale while also adjusting for league and park factors. So a player with a 125 wRC+ is responsible for 25 percent more runs than the average player. If Craig were truly the Cardinals’ top run producer, he’d likely beat out his cohorts in this stat.

While Craig boasts a great 135 wRC+, Carpenter’s rate resides at 147 while Holliday barely tops him at 148. Yadier Molina (134) and Carlos Beltran (132) don’t lag far behind, showing the true depth of this lineup.

Boston Does Exact Opposite of What McCarver’s Suggests

In a common staple of baseball coverage, the color commentator always outlines a key/s to each team emerging victorious.  Since it’s of course easier to point out how to win than actually doing it,  it usually boils down to a squad’s ability to execute.

Not in this case. McCarver suggested that the Red Sox alter their traditional patient hitting approach and attack ace Adam Wainwright on the first pitch. Should they fail to adapt, they would dig themselves in unfavorable counts and suffer from their inactivity.

Before making this an attack against McCarver, the thought made sense leading up to the game. Only Cliff Lee posted a lower walk rate than Wainwright’s 1.30 BB/9 ratio this season. When he’s on his game, Wainwright pounds the strike zone ferociously with his vicious cutter, and going down 0-2 puts batters in a precarious position.

But Boston, who led the league with a .349 team on-base percentage during the season, stuck to what propelled it this far. Each batter took the first pitch during his initial turn to the plate, leading the Red Sox to five runs before the second inning concluded. In fact, the first seven hitters waited until the third pitch or later before swinging, and that frame yielded three runs as Wainwright labored with 31 pitches.

Perhaps the Red Sox got lucky that Wainwright was far from his dominant self. Wainwright threw strikes on 62 of 95 pitches, earning first-pitch strikes on 16 of 24 batters faced. Then again, they would have helped him battle through his funk by hacking early in the count.

Wainwright Has Audacity to Show Human Emotion while Playing A Game

In a play that perfectly encapsulated St. Louis’ disastrous evening, Adam Wainwright and sure-handed catcher Molina watched as an nonthreatening pop-up delicately landed in between them, awarding Stephen Drew an infield hit on a ball blooped roughly 50 feet.

Following the blunder, Wainwright—who made the mistake of waving the five-time Gold Glover off—smirked in embarrassment at his miscalculation. Anyone who has ever made a mistake in life (which is absolutely everyone) can attest to feeling so dumbfounded by his or own her foolishness that there’s no course of action other to laugh at the absurdity of what just unfolded.

That justification won’t fly for McCarver, who disgustedly wondered, “How do you have the wherewithal to smile after that?”

Wainwright forgot the most important rule in baseball: There’s no smiling, or any demonstration of feelings befitting a typical human being, allowed. IS THIS GAME JUST A GAME TO HIM?!?

Wainwright should have punched himself repeatedly in the head, because that one botched play makes him a worthless player and person despite posting a 2.94 ERA during his Cy Young caliber regular season that helped the Cardinals last this long. How are we supposed to know he cares unless he breaks down into tears on the field? Wait, if he did that he would receive criticism for being too soft. He could not react at all, but then he’d also look careless in his stoic nature.

This is the same game where Yasiel Puig is subjected to a witch hunt for celebrating his success. Hitters who have the gall to celebrate a home run are frequently plunked in future at-bats, because apparently big-leaguers are 12-year-olds who believe trying to hurt someone is the proper way to avenge their own failure. Writers actually bashed Puig for playing the game too hard and expressing too much joy while making millions of dollars to participate in a league in which he fled Cuba in hopes of joining.

Athletes are people, too. They are prone to ups and downs, and they’re not obligated to live and die by every play because us fans fail to properly categorize sports as games whose outcomes aren’t significant in the grand scheme of life. As someone who would literally take note of that error along with every other misstep I’ve ever taken to keep a running tally of every screw-up, I can attest to that pessimistic, self-deflating mindset being immensely unhealthy.

Should St. Louis’ Defensive Collapse Really Have Generated Much Surprise?

No team fighting for a championship is expected to make mistakes on the grand stage, but the Cardinals committed three errors during an embarrassing loss. That’s not even including the mishap with Wainwright and Molina.

Of course, nobody could have responsibly predicted them to mess up so many times, especially since Pete Kozma, who made two errors, only holds a starting gig because of his plus glove at shortstop. As Buck declared late in the game, poor defense is “not typical for this Cardinal team.”

Yep, well, except that it actually is.

As a team, St. Louis boasted a minus-49.4 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) during the regular season, via FanGraphs. That mark ranks 27th in baseball, ahead of just the Philadelphia Phillies, Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. According to Baseball-Reference, their defense cost the team 37 runs.

Outside of Molina, Carpenter and Kozma, every regular player on St. Louis rates as a below-average defender. Even former Gold Glover Carlos Beltran, despite yanking a potential grand slam away from Fenway Park’s tiny right-field fence, has lost a significant step in the field in his latter years.

The Cardinals shouldn’t continue to self-destruct throughout the series, but Boston definitely boasts the defensive advantage.

Quick Notes:

  • With runners on first and second base and nobody out in the bottom of the second, McCarver wondered whether Jacoby Ellsbury would bunt. Luckily he didn’t, because that would have been incredibly dumb for a hitter with a .355 on-base percentage to give away a free out with Wainwright in a jam. Especially after scoring three runs during the first inning. Why would Boston play for one run rather than trying to put the game out of hand?
  • Can Mike Matheny really complain about the umpires avoiding a catastrophe by overruling Dana DeMuth’s miscall on Kozma’s phantom transfer? “How dare you all do your job and collectively get together to make the undeniably right decision?”
  • Many analysts wondered why Matheny did not remove Wainwright in the second inning, thus giving him a chance to use Wainwright on shorter rest in Game 3. Wainwright is their ace, and he settled down with three scoreless innings after a slow start. Such a premier starter deserves some benefit of the doubt here, as you’re not yanking Carmelo Anthony from an NBA playoff game after missing his first few shots. Matheny also can’t assume the game is over at 5-0 behind the National League’s top offense.
  • If you’re wondering why there’s a need for Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), take a look at the bottom of the second inning. Four straight Red Sox reached base on a pop-up right in front of home plate, a blooper that went right over Carpenter’s glove, a Kozma error and a liner that evaded a lunging David Freese. Meanwhile, David Ortiz hit a ball over the right field fence and has an out to show for it thanks to Beltran. Many outs are much more impressive than base hits when you watch the game, which illustrates the fickleness of batted balls, mostly from a pitcher’s perspective. Baseball is weird.
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