Sunday, October 16, 2005

ALCS 3-1: In the a[la]rms of the Angels...

How many Angels can dance around like pinheads?

The Angels and some of their fans, as well as the Fox rally monkeys, would like you to believe that the only reason the Angels are the ones down 3-1 is blown calls by the umpires.

The fact is, though, that there's an element of old-fashion boneheadedness at work.

Consider the Finley double play last night. Here are the facts: the Angels had runners on first and third with one out. Steve Finley's bat hit A. J. Pierzynski's mitt during his swing, which the umpires did not notice, and Finley hit a grounder to Iguchi. Finley spent part of the time he was running to first half-turned to the home plate umpire pleading his case.

From the time that Finley hit the ball, there were three reasonable outcomes possible:
  • The umpire could have called catcher interference, sending the runner on third back and loading the bases with out for Adam Kennedy in a 3-1 game. The expected number of runs from this scenario is 1.52, with 0 being possible.
  • Finley could have run full-speed to first base, certainly beating Uribe's relay, while a run scored from third base, leaving a runner on first with two out and a run scored to make it 3-2. The expected number of runs from this scenario is 1.24, with the 1 being certain.
  • Finley could do what he did, inning over, no runs scored.
Finley arguing the call before the play completed was plain-and-simple stupid. His beating out the throw to first base was only somewhat less advantageous to the Angels in the big ball sense than the catcher interference call, and in the small ball sense (which is how the Angels play) it was probably dead even. Angel paranoia about the umpiring cost them one sure run. The call itself may have cost them more runs, but maybe not, given that Garcia struck out both Adam Kennedy and Chone Figgins in their next at bats.

Then there were the two calls on the bases on Podsednik, which were both close and amounted to one insurance run.

The Fox-fueled controversy in Game Two has an equally simple three-plausible-outcomes scenario:
  • Pierzynski could have been called out on a clean catch. Despite Tim McCarver's incessant repetition, the "fact" that Jose Paul caught the strike on the fly was not conclusively established by the replay.
  • Paul could have tagged Pierzynski, who stood there for an instant, ending the inning.
  • Pierzynski gets first on the error.
Once Pierzynski was on first and the pinch runner Pablo Ozuna was in place, there was no law of physics guaranteeing that Ozuna would steal second; that happened because Escobar did a poor job of holding the runner and Josh Paul didn't try a throw. There was no guarantee that Crede would hit a two-strike double to left field off a hanging breaking ball. There certainly was no guarantee that the Angels would score in the tenth or any other inning, given that they are scoring two runs a game in the series. The was no guarantee that the back end of the Angel bullpen would stop Chicago from scoring in the bottom of the tenth inning. Game Two boiled down to Scioscia's decision to use his regular catcher as a DH to stack the lineup with righthanded batters causing him to play his third-string catcher.

The Angels and Fox want you to believe that they haven't gotten a call in the series, which is not true, and I don't just mean the Iguchi neighborhood play last night. In Game One, the Angels got a huge break when the second-base umpire failed to call Orlando Cabrera out for interference on his rolling block on a DP. This caused Iguchi to throw the relay over Konerko's head and allowed the third run in a 3-2 game to score. The got a break in Game Two when much-vilified plate umpire Doug Eddings over-eagerly punched out Paul Konerko on a checked swing in the sixth with nobody out against Scot Sheilds and a 3-2 pitch without asking the first base umpire for help; replays showed (much more conclusively than in the Paul pitch) that he did not go around. The next batter, Carl Everett, was called out on a very low pitch. A runner on first with nobody out is a much more dangerous situation than with two out, and other than pointing out that the call was blown, Fox didn't play that up.

Personally, I hope the Angels keep it up. It means they think they've lost.

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