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Saturday, October 17, 2020

Could the 2020 Astros join the 2004 Red Sox

Now the 2020 Houston Astros are trying to match one of Boston’s historic achievements: The Red Sox are the only team in major league postseason history to win a best-of-7 series after losing the first three games. The Astros forced Saturday’s Game 7 with a 7-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday at Petco Park in San Diego.

But like the game at Yankee Stadium in 2004, you wonder if it will come down to the first two innings and not the ninth. You could see the dichotomy in emotions on one play in the sixth inning of Game 6. It was 5-1 at the time, but the Rays put two on with one out against Valdez, who had just walked Yandy Diaz, with the two exchanging words after Diaz barked at Valdez after ball four. Valdez was now approaching 100 pitches and tiring, but he induced Brandon Lowe to hit into a double play, Lowe slamming his helmet down on the ground as he crossed over first base. Valdez pumped his first and celebrated with Correa and Altuve as he walked off the field. After that play, I texted a friend, “This series is over.”

I know. Baseball isn’t supposed to be like that. Momentum is a word used by writers and pundits, not players. But the frustration for the Rays is there. We can see it.

A lot more to the piece than this with a nice breakdown comparing games 4-6 of the respective series. The momentum thing reminds me of a conversation I had in 2004 with a friend.  As I said then, the Sox were the hottest team in baseball since the 2004 Yankees three days earlier.  I wouldn’t give too much credence to that but if the Astros get off to a hot start I don’t see the Rays coming back (like 2004).

Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: October 17, 2020 at 09:27 AM | 59 comment(s)
  Beats: alcs, comebacks

Friday, October 09, 2020

What if baseball were more like Mario Kart?

If you haven’t played Mario Kart before, first of all: I’m sorry. It’s honestly the best. It’s a racing video game series with a variety of beloved Nintendo characters, but there’s one part I care about most for the purposes of this article: the game actively works to slow down the leader and speed up the laggards. If you’re out front, you can expect middling power-ups and specifically targeted countermeasures to slow you down a bit. If you’re bringing up the rear, the game gives with both hands to help you get caught up. It’s possible to run away with a race, but the game is working hard to make it less likely.

Baseball wouldn’t do anything like that, not least because it would upend more than 100 years of tradition. But if they did, they’d have plenty of options, so I decided to run through a few of them. Topical? Of course not. That’s never stopped me before though, so let’s do it.

To explore these options, I built a simplistic baseball model. Simplistic might give it too much credit, in fact. Every plate appearance is governed by a random number generator: each possible outcome occurs at the rate it happened in the 2020 regular season. For every play, in essence, the model rolls a many-sided die and chooses an outcome based on that. Then the base and out states change, and the next batter “hits,” on and on until a game has been completed.

The model plays an arbitrarily large number of games — a million in this case. We can then construct winning percentages based on how often each team wins from a given state.


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 09, 2020 at 09:11 AM | 3 comment(s)
  Beats: comebacks



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