Thursday, October 24, 2013

Game 1: Sloppy defense and phantom calls

How not to turn the double play, by Pete Kozma.
It sure didn't take long for the St. Louis Cardinals to make my World Series prediction look silly.

St. Louis displayed the worst infield defense I've seen since the Twins dumped Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Just about everybody had a hand in it, or an iron glove:

  • Shortstop Pete Kozma failed to catch the initial throw on what should have been an inning-ending double play. Despite the worst efforts of second-base ump Dana DeMuth, the Cards got nothing out of it. The Red Sox turned it into three runs.
  • Pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina talked each other out of catching a routine popup. (In an awe-inspiring display of incompetence, the official scorer deemed it a single for Stephen Drew. Apparently the scorers have decided to ignore the part of the definition of error that says the play can be made "with ordinary effort." There was extraordinary lack of effort on Wainwright's part.)
  • Third baseman David Freese displayed less range than Trevor Plouffe on an RBI single. The range of some third basemen is described as "a step and a dive." Freese had neither.
  • Later in the game, Freese lollypopped a throw on a routine grounder. It bounced before reaching first baseman Matt Adams, and Adams channeled his inner Prince Fielder. Poor throw, worse scoop. Error goes to Freese, but Adams truly made the lesser play.
How not to catch a pop up, by
Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina.
I didn't notice second baseman Matt Carpenter bollix a play, but there's time.

To make a weak defense of my prediction (which would still be stronger than the Cardinals' defense), it was based on the notion that the Cardinals pitching would handle the Red Sox hitters. Wainwright was more effective than his line (five innings, three earned runs). But one of the misplays was his own fault, and of course Carlos Beltran saved him a lot of runs with his catch off David Ortiz.

Most of the attention has gone to the first Kozma error (he was charged with another) because DeMuth blew the initial call, which the rest of the umpiring crew overturned. It is my belief – which I voiced last night on Twitter — that underlying the bad call is the reflexive habit of giving the pivotman credit for the out at second base. Umpires routinely rule that an infielder dropped the ball during the transfer. Ball hits glove, catch is made — that's the way umps call it, and that's why DeMuth ruled the way he did.

Ball-hits-glove-equals-catch is the way umps make the call at first base, but the first baseman at least has to hang on to the ball. The middle infielder trying to turn two is hurrying not only to get a throw off, but to avoid the oncoming baserunner as well. This phantom call, much like that of the "neighborhood play," may be an umpiring concession to player safety.

It's understandable. But that doesn't mean I like it.

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