Just back from Williamsburg, VA where my eldest grandchild was moved in for her sophomore year at the College of William & Mary. William & Mary has placed 12 graduates in MLB, most notably Vic Raschi and Curtis Pride. I had a discussion with a guy at the Colonial Williamsburg site (highly recommended) about the proto-baseball sports played by Revolutionary War troops.
Through much of the 20th Century, William and Mary teams were known as Indians. In 1978 they convinced the NCAA that the nickname “Tribe” was not actually Indian-related, once they agreed to remove two feathers from the logo. These nickname disputes don’t really animate me one way or the other, but I have to admit that getting away with “Tribe” is awesome.
All this is a roundabout admission that I haven’t done any baseball historical analysis for a week. So just consider this as an extended throat-clearing before the recap.
Alaska is the largest state, but Colorado is the largest baseball field, at least since they closed Forbes Field. The famous equation Braves + Coors = Runs is not a statement about the diarrhea brought on by too many frosty ones, but is intended to suggest that the Braves ought to score a lot here. When you score 6 runs a game, it’s hard to say how many you should score at Coors. Making it even easier is that Austin Gomber, the Rockies starting pitcher, got hurt in the third and was replaced by a bunch of guys their mothers hadn’t heard of, plus feel-good redemption story Daniel Bard. Bud Black wasn’t going to waste anyone in this game who could scare anybody. He was depending on unfamiliarity. It didn’t work.
The Rockies drew first blood with a Ryan McMahon homer off Bryce Elder which was quite fortunate to be a solo shot.. but for a nifty double play turned by Austin Riley and Ozzie Albies (welcome back!) it would have been three runs.
Riley followed with a two-run blast in the third which gave the Braves the lead. The lead was eliminated in the bottom of the 4th when a wind-blown fly ball dropped in front of Ronald Acuña, Jr. RAJ did not bust it until the last forty feet, but he wasn’t helped by the fact that ball actually ended up closer to Albies’ position than Acuña’s, and Ozzie didn’t even go after it. (Plus, Olson was similarly fooled by a foul popup in the 5th.) I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt here. The fact that he made up for it with a 2-run homer three batters later gives him some credit as well.
Another Coors dinker scored another run for Colorado in the bottom of the fifth, and a SAC fly by McMahon re-tied the game. A SAC fly in the top of the next inning scored Usain Murphy and it was 5-4. (Michael Harris II had been thrown out badly attempting to
score reach 3rd on a flyout in the 2nd, proving he is clearly slower than Murphy.) Riley knocked in RAJ in the next inning and Ozuna knocked Riley in with a single. Murphy’s third double plated another. Orlando Arcia knocked in Murphy with a bloop single (Ozuna being the second Brave thrown out at the plate.)
At that point, things got a bit out of hand. RAJ had a bases clearing double which scored three more and a few more dinks and a unearned run brought it to 14.
Odds ‘N Ends
Murphy had three doubles. (I only had one…. a Redemption Rye. Cromulent.) Kevin Pillar made a great catch, one of the best of the season, involving a long run, a tricky wind, a full-out dive, a snowcone and a twist of the glove on ground contact to maintain the catch. (You can ask my wife… I am not a great catch.) Three fans came on the field and tried to tackle or kidnap RAJ or something. We live in a scarier time than when Morganna Roberts stalked players. (Ummm… that explains the opening image, right?) She is apparently still living, but was not in this group. I couldn’t find a video of her smooch on Clete Boyer in 1969.
In the top of the 3rd, on Matt Olson’s line drive towards the gap, Peter Moylan said “Triple” before the ball hit the ground about 200 feet from home plate… with Olson running. The ball was almost cut off before it reached the wall, but reach the wall it did. Matt slid in without a throw for his third triple of the season, and fourth in his 9-year career. That is in line for Color Guy Call of the Year. It clearly beats “Start the Buses,” shouted in arrears. Outstanding.
Going into tonight’s game, the Braves have scored 746 (1st place, 22 ahead of the Dodgers) and given up 527 (1st place, 9 ahead of the Padres) with 33 games left. Using my projection model discussed a few weeks ago, the Braves’ chances of winning the NL runs scored title is now 84%, with the Dodgers being the only other team with a shot. The chances of being the stingiest team defensively is 39%, with the Padres still favored at 51%, with the Braves up to 40% and the remainder split among the Phillies, Brewers and Giants. So the overall Braves chance of leading both is up to about 33%.
But there is another question: when the two leagues played only a few games in common and/or played by different rules, it made sense to give team totals by league. But what sense does it make now? With both leagues using the DH and dramatically expanded interleague play, is there any more sense to League-level awards? And if there is an argument, why not Division-level awards? Is there anything other than history making the League the proper level to aggregate at? I don’t see it.
And of course if you give up these aggregate awards a? the League level, what is the rationale for Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, Home Run titles or any other award at anything other than the MLB level? And again, if you can justify the League level, why not the Division level? Why isn’t there an NL East Rookie of the Year or an AL Central Cy Young?
Oddly, people aggregate one level lower than the Division, ie the Team, all the time: “X leads the team in doubles” is commonplace. So the Division level is the only level no one ever talks about. How come?
A homer and 2 stolen bases put RAJ within one homer of the of the heretofore never-formed 30-60 club. 30-70 seems certain, and 40-70 is not inconceivable. His 5 RBIs tonight give him 79 RBIs on the season. I’m still plumping for 100 RBIs. and I need to figure out the record for RBIs by a leadoff guy. [OK. Charlie Blackmon and George Springer had 104 and there are three others at 100 or more.] It has been argued that Mookie Betts has closed the gap on Ronald. Mookie is a mighty fine player having a mighty fine season, but he ain’t doing anything that hasn’t been done before. By contrast, 192 All-Stars have ended the year qualifying for the batting championship with OPS+ in excess of Mookie’s current 171. (16 times since 2015: 5 times by Mike Trout.)