Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Game of the Day (4/29/14)

Brewers 5, Cardinals 4 (11). The second verse may not be exactly the same as the first, but it does have some distinct similarities. This time, it's Kyle Lohse starting for Milwaukee against Lance Lynn of St. Louis.

Game of the Day (4/29/84)

Yankees 6, Brewers 5 (13). Milwaukee's Moose Haas was 28, and coming off of a season in which he led the AL in winning percentage. New York's Phil Niekro was 45, and had just posted his first ERA worse than the league average since 1966. And yet, Niekro would go on to the superior 1984, and both pitchers had the same number of big league seasons left in their respective right arms.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Game of the Day (4/28/14)

With only seven games scheduled yesterday and one of those rained out, it was less likely than usual that the day's best game would be especially worthy of note. Fortunately, baseball provided Brewers 5, Cardinals 3 (12) anyway.

Game of the Day (4/28/84)

Reds 7, Giants 6 (13). The Giants had Mark Davis on the mound to open the game; he would gain much more fame as a Cy Young winning relief pitcher half a decade later, but spent the '84 season showcasing the form as a starter that got him transferred to the bullpen. His opponent was Frank Pastore, who was currently even worse as a starter, and would later also be worse as a reliever, thereby not winning the Cy Young (or lasting through the entire 1986 season on a major league roster).

Monday, April 28, 2014

Game of the Day (4/27/14)

Yankees 3, Angels 2. Garrett Richards taking on Masahiro Tanaka. Care to guess which half of the pitching matchup was more heavily hyped going into the game?

Game of the Day (4/27/84)

Indians 8, Tigers 4 (19). Yeah, most of the time a (19) after the score is a good sign. Detroit started with Juan Berenguer, who would go on to manage an 11-10 record for a team that won almost 2/3 of its games; Cleveland responded with Rick Sutcliffe, who did his best 1984 work for another team (although he was off to a fine start; it would be a dreadful May that led up to his trade).

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Game of the Day (4/26/14)

There were six one-run games yesterday, including a pair of extra-inning duels. The best of the bunch was Marlins 7, Mets 6 (10), with Miami's Kevin Slowey taking on New York's Jenrry Mejia.

Game of the Day (4/26/84)

Mariners 6, Red Sox 5 (10). The pitching matchup has to have been one of the most generically-named faceoffs in baseball history, with Seattle's Matt Young taking on Boston's Mike Brown. Young would manage a major league career of nearly 1200 mediocre innings, the best of which had come during his rookie season the year before; Brown would last less than a quarter as long, largely because his pitching was considerably worse.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Game of the Day (4/25/14)

Baseball offered quite the variety of choices yesterday. There was an extra-inning game in which more runs were scored in the decisive eleventh inning than in the rest of the game combined. There was a game in which the road team scored twice to take the lead in the eighth, and the home team countered with two in the ninth for the win. There was a game that went into the ninth inning tied, and ended up being decided by seven runs. And there was a game in which the home team took a three-run lead with a four-run eighth, then saw the visitors close within one and load the bases with one out before a line drive double play ended it.

Then, there was White Sox 9, Rays 6, which was better than all of them.

Game of the Day (4/25/84)

Phillies 8, Pirates 7. Pittsburgh threw John Tudor, a pitcher who was solid but not as good as he would be in the near future, against Philadelphia's Steve Carlton, who was solid but no longer as good as he had been in the fairly recent past. If this were the 1985 Tudor against the 1980 Carlton, it would be a pitching matchup for the ages (or something close to that, at least). With both of them in their 1984 iterations, it worked out to be... still a really good baseball game.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Game of the Day (4/24/14)

Padres 4, Nationals 3 (12). If you were expecting something more like A's 10, Astros 1, you haven't figured out how this works yet.

Game of the Day (4/24/84)

Angels 8, Red Sox 7. Boston opened with the young Oil Can Boyd, making the 17th of his 207 career big league starts. The Angels responded with Steve Brown, who was slightly older and was making the 15th of his 15 career major league appearances.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Game of the Day (4/23/14)

Giants 12, Rockies 10 (11). Any game that has a score like 12-10 or lasts 11 innings is usually going to have a pretty good shot at being the best of the day. If you get both in one, you can more or less bank on it. The starting pitchers were Matt Cain for the Giants and Tyler Chatwood for the Rockies; you'll be shocked to learn that neither one would go on to earn a decision.

Game of the Day (4/23/84)

White Sox 7, Orioles 6 (10).

There are times that it can be difficult to come up with the right approach with which to present a Game of the Day. It's often fun trying to dig through the box score and play by play account to unearth the nugget of interesting information that brings the story of the game together and (hopefully) makes it resonate 30 years later.

Then, there are times that the day's best game is also the first-ever pitching matchup between Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver, a pair of future Hall of Famers who had half a dozen Cy Young trophies between them. In cases like that, it becomes slightly easier to select an angle.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Game of the Day (4/22/14)

Padres 2, Brewers 1 (12). Ian Kennedy for San Diego, Yovani Gallardo for Milwaukee.

Game of the Day (4/22/84)

Angels 9, Blue Jays 6. California's Tommy John faced Toronto's Doyle Alexander in a matchup of starters who pitched well, for a long time, and for several teams, but are probably best known for things that happened off the field - the John Smoltz trade and the eponymous surgery, respectively. Also, they both have first names as last names.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Game of the Day (4/21/14)

There were several good nine-inning games yesterday, and one extra-inning game.

And the winner is... the extra-inning game! Braves 4, Marlins 2 (10), with Miami's Tom Koehler taking on Atlanta's Julio Teheran (also known as the one healthy Braves starting pitcher).

Game of the Day (4/21/84)

Expos 4, Cardinals 0 (5). Intermittently effective veteran Bob Forsch took on David Palmer, who had missed two of the previous three seasons...

Wait a minute. Five innings? What's this nonsense?

Turns out, David Palmer threw a rain-shortened perfect game in those five innings. The Excel formula I have to identify no-hitters and perfect games does not include a requirement that the game be played to completion. Hold on a minute.

Now it does. That makes the best game of April 21, 1984 Reds 5, Giants 4. The Cincinnati starter was Joe Price, who had been very effective over the preceding three seasons (albeit with only one of those years spent as a starter). To oppose Price, San Francisco summoned Bill Laskey, who we have seen before in this space.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Game of the Day (4/20/14)

Yesterday was quite a day: three games of 12 or more innings, two ninth-inning walkoffs and two more games in which the winning run scored in the eighth (one of which had a score of 10-9 and featured 7 lead changes or ties). So the top game of a day like that should be a pretty good one.

Mets 4, Braves 3 (14) was just that.

Game of the Day (4/20/84)

There were 12 MLB games on April 20, 1984. Seven of them have WPL figures of 3.87 or higher, putting them in the top 1/6 of all games played on the season so far.

Despite the fierce competition, Angels 10, Blue Jays 6 (13) wins out very, very easily. It pitted California's Mike Witt, a young starter on his way up, against Toronto's Luis Leal, who was not especially old (though older than Witt), but was nevertheless on the downslope of his career.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Game of the Day (4/19/14)

Brewers 8, Pirates 7. Milwaukee started Matt Garza, Pittsburgh Wandy Rodriguez. Rodriguez is older and less-hyped, but they're pretty similar in terms of the level of success they've had in their careers, and have both changed teams fairly recently (Garza has done so twice in the last year).

Game of the Day (4/19/84)

Blue Jays 2, Orioles 1. Toronto pitched Jim Clancy, Baltimore Scott McGregor. Both men were franchise stalwarts who earned most of their black ink in negative categories (Clancy led the league in walks once, and was on his way to a league topping total in earned runs allowed in '84; McGregor would pace the AL in homers allowed a season later).

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Game of the Day (4/18/14)

Diamondbacks 4, Dodgers 2 (12). Wade Miley and the 4-14 Diamondbacks taking on Zack Greinke and the 10-6 Dodgers. That's a seven-game margin between the two teams, which is awfully large for this early in the season.

Game of the Day (4/18/84)

Mets 5, Expos 4. Charlie Lea, who was on his way to an excellent season that would result in an injury that would knock him out for almost three years, started for Montreal; the Mets began the game with Walt Terrell, just starting out in a fairly long career that would never result in a seasonal ERA+ above 110.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Game of the Day (4/17/14)

Tigers 7, Indians 5. Cleveland sent Danny Salazar to the mound for his thirteenth career start. Detroit answered with Justin Verlander, who has more than 10 times that many wins (and has won at least that many games in 7 of the last 8 seasons, and nearly doubled it once). Not what you'd call an even pitching matchup.

Game of the Day (4/17/84)

Blue Jays 3, Orioles 2. Baltimore's Mike Boddicker took on Toronto's Doyle Alexander. Both men had very long and productive careers, and yet both might be best known for the prospects they were traded for a few years after this game - Boddicker for Curt Schilling and Brady Anderson, Alexander for John Smoltz.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Game of the Day (4/16/14)

For the second consecutive day, the A's and Angels played one of the 10 best games of the season to date, with the Angels once again rallying to tie in the ninth and this time winning on a twelfth-inning walkoff.

And for the second consecutive day, it wasn't enough. This time, you can blame footwear: Red Sox 6, White Sox 4 (14).

Game of the Day (4/16/84)

Dodgers 5, Astros 4. LA started the game with veteran Jerry Reuss, who was 35 and on the way to his worst season in a while, but also had another half dozen years left in his arm. Houston turned to Mike Scott, who at 29 and in his sixth season was still a year away from his remarkable renaissance.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Game of the Day (4/15/14)

Going into the data entry for yesterday's games, I was very much expecting Oakland's 11-inning 10-9 win over the Angels, featuring a game-tying ninth-inning homer by Mike Trout, to top the list. And indeed, WPL liked that game a great deal, giving it a score of 5.75, the fifth-highest of the season to this point. So I was looking forward to writing about Trout, and Josh Donaldson, and the absurdly balanced A's lineup (every starter had either a run or an RBI; also, their catcher led off).

And then I entered the numbers for Giants 3, Dodgers 2 (12), and discovered that I'd be writing about an even better game.

Game of the Day (4/15/84)

Baseball was good to its fans on tax day in 1984. It provided a pair of nine-inning games with multiple large rallies in the late innings, which score as the fifth- and sixth-best of the year so far... and it also produced Giants 8, Dodgers 6 (11), which beats both of them. The pitching matchup was Fernando Valenzuela, still just 23 years old and pitching well in his fourth full big-league season (although he would go on to lead the NL in walks this year), against Bill Laskey, who has now started two Games of the Day in three appearances.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Game of the Day (4/14/14)

There's an asterisk on this selection, because of the Pirates-Reds game in which the two teams got to 7-7 in the sixth inning with the maximum number of lead changes possible before the game was suspended due to rain. With a couple more twists and turns, that could end up being one of the best games of the year, let alone of yesterday. But it will be considered with the games from April 15, since that's when it'll be completed.

That leaves the April 14 crown to the also-excellent Braves 9, Phillies 6.

Game of the Day (4/14/84)

Twins 4, Mariners 3 (11). Same teams and score as yesterday, but now with two additional innings! Minnesota pitched Albert Williams in (deservedly) the last season of his career; Seattle selected a 23-year-old lefty making the second of what would eventually be 428 career starts. Mark Langston would go on to a 17-win rookie season in which he led the AL in both strikeouts and walks.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Game of the Day (4/13/14)

White Sox 4, Indians 3. Jose Quintana vs. Corey Kluber.

Game of the Day (4/13/84)

Twins 4, Mariners 3. Seattle started Mike Moore, who was kicking off one of the worst seasons of a long and mostly productive career. Minnesota hurler John Butcher's career was both shorter and less productive, but his 1984 season was significantly better.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Game of the Day (4/12/14)

Here I spent all that effort talking up April 11 in yesterday's post, and the next day goes and upstages it. There were four extra-inning games again, but this time, they were complemented by a pair of fine nine-inning contests.

The best of the bunch was both the longest and highest-scoring of the extra-inning games (which is usually an excellent combination): Mets 7, Angels 6 (13).

Game of the Day (4/12/84)

Angels 3, A's 2. California sent 38-year-old Geoff Zahn to the mound; he was approaching the end of his career, but would still go on to lead the majors in shutouts this season. Oakland countered with Mike Warren, who was 15 years younger than Zahn but still had fewer major league starts remaining to him than his veteran opponent, which should pretty much tell you what you need to know about him. (In case it doesn't: He was not very good.)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Game of the Day (4/11/14)

What a day.

Yesterday's baseball included four of the top 11 games so far this season. Obviously, this is less impressive when there have been 155 total games played than it would be once a couple months have passed, but it still means that four of the 15 games were in the top 7% (roughly). All of them went to extras, with three making it at least 11 innings. Two of them included the road team going ahead in the top of the eighth, only to blow the lead in time to force additional baseball on an unsuspecting crowd. But neither of those quite managed to be the day's best effort.

That honor goes to Rangers 1, Astros 0 (12).

Game of the Day (4/11/84)

Giants 2, Pirates 1 (10). John Tudor started for the Pirates; it was the year before he threw the most shutouts of any pitcher since the mounds were lowered. The Giants countered with Bill Laskey, the year before he continued being mediocre pitcher Bill Laskey.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Game of the Day (4/10/14)

Diamondbacks 6, Giants 5 (10). Randall Delgado for Arizona against Ryan Vogelsong for San Fran.

Game of the Day (4/10/84)

Giants 4, Pirates 3. The Giants pitched Mike Krukow, a pitcher who would go on to a poor 1984 and was about average over the sum of his 14-year career. The Pirates countered with Larry McWilliams, who was slightly worse than Krukow over a slightly shorter career (which also included quite a bit more bullpen time), but who did have a significantly better '84 season.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Game of the Day (4/9/14)

Tigers 7, Dodgers 6 (10), featuring a pitching matchup of Josh Beckett for LA and Anibal Sanchez for Detroit. Eight offseasons ago, back when Beckett was a star and Sanchez was a prospect, they were traded for each other (among other things). Things have changed quite a bit for both pitchers since that November 2005 trade; Beckett is more or less washed up at this point, while Sanchez led the AL in ERA last year.

Game of the Day (4/9/84)

A's 4, Blue Jays 3. Original Blue Jay Jim Clancy, who was kicking off his worst season in quite a while, against Tim Conroy, who had a decent 1983 at age 23 and was on his way to... not really anything.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Game of the Day (4/8/14)

Yesterday's MLB action included some very good 9-inning games, but no great ones. It also included an extra-inning game. Shockingly, the WPL system selected... Dodgers 3, Tigers 2 (10).

Game of the Day (4/8/84)

After nearly a week of relatively tepid baseball, the 1984 season finally woke up on April 8. The day featured a Cubs-Padres game in which the score went from 1-0 to 1-1 to 2-1 to 3-2 to 3-3 to 5-3 to 5-5, with the last two rallies coming in the top and bottom of the ninth, before the Cubs finally won 8-5 in the tenth. It also included a Phillies-Reds game in which the Reds rallied from 6-1 down to tie, fended off three Philly scoring threats involving a runner on third (including bases loaded, one out, and second and third, one out), and came from behind again in the bottom of the eleventh to win 8-7.

And though both of them were easily better than any other game played in 1984 up to this point, neither of those exceptional outings was the best of the day. That honor goes to Yankees 4, Rangers 3 (13).

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Game of the Day (4/7/14)

On a day with full slate of baseball games, even if the day is relatively uninspiring overall, the best game of a large group is typically rather good.

On a day with only 9 games scheduled and two of those getting rained out, sometimes you get a top result with an unimpressive score - something like Red Sox 5, Rangers 1.

Game of the Day (4/7/84)

Tigers 4, White Sox 0. Noted non-Hall of Fame inductee Jack Morris facing off with former strikeout titlist Floyd Bannister.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Game of the Day (4/6/14)

Twins 10, Indians 7. Ricky Nolasco vs. Justin Masterson.

Game of the Day (4/6/84)

Padres 3, Cubs 2. Scott Sanderson started for the Cubs; he was a starting pitcher for nearly his entire 19-year major league career, yet somehow only threw 200 innings in a season 4 times. If my eyeballing of Baseball-Reference's pitching stats is correct, he is the only pitcher to make at least 400 career starts (407, 120th-most all time) and have that few 200-inning campaigns. (John Burkett, Kevin Millwood, and Tim Wakefield all had 5 200-inning seasons.) This is a feat characteristic of someone good enough to keep making it into starting rotations, but not necessarily good enough to stay there for the entire year.

Even that's an improvement on Padre starter Tim Lollar, who made it into considerably fewer starting rotations over his (much shorter) career.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Game of the Day (4/5/84)

Dodgers 5, Cardinals 2 (12). Rick Honeycutt, one year removed from an AL ERA title, went for the Dodgers. Bob Forsch, one year removed from an 85 ERA+, took the mound for the Cards. (Yes, we've had appearances from both Forsch brothers in Game of the Day within the first week of 1984.)

Game of the Day (4/5/14)

There was a full slate of 15 games yesterday, one of which went to extra innings. Guess which one grades out as the best!

Yes, shockingly, it's Brewers 7, Red Sox 6 (11), marking the second straight contest between these two squads to draw top billing.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Game of the Day (4/4/84)

Red Sox 2, Angels 1. Mike Witt, a youngster who was making the first appearance of his first really good year, started for California; Bob Ojeda, who was a little older and not quite as good, took the mound for Boston.

Game of the Day (4/4/14)

Brewers 6, Red Sox 2. Yes, this is the game from 2014, not 1984 (when it would have been a routine AL East matchup). No, I'm still not entirely accustomed to full-season interleague play.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Game of the Day (4/3/84)

A's 6, Brewers 5. The pitching matchup would have been a really good one only a few years earlier - Milwaukee's Don Sutton was a future Hall of Famer and the 1980 NL ERA champ, while Oakland's Steve McCatty led the AL in ERA in 1981 (sort of). By 1984, however, Sutton was on the decline, and McCatty was all but washed up.

Game of the Day (4/3/14)

Yesterday's slate included a 3-2, 12-inning walkoff win by the A's that scored an exemplary 5.01 in WPL. This is exactly the kind of game that makes it extremely difficult for 9-inning contests to score as the best of the day when there's an extra-inning game played.

Difficult, but not impossible. All it takes is a game like Twins 10, White Sox 9.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Game of the Day (4/2/84)

For the last two years, I have not only collected WPL data for the ongoing baseball season; I have also collected the data for a prior year. In 2012, I also entered 2011. And last year, I concurrently analyzed 1977, just to change things up (and to see how the numbers differed across eras, which will be discussed more later). And this year, I'm going to do 1984.

Why 1984? Because it's also an older year, but not right next to 1977, so it will add extra flavor to my expanding WPL dataset. Because it'll be interesting to see how an unusually exceptional team scores in WPL (the '84 Tigers started 35-5, which is... pretty decent). Because it's the title of a good dystopian book, and will probably give me a few opportunities to make unimpressive jokes in that vein.

And, most of all, because the Cubs were good in 1984, and I'm probably going to need something happy to look back on this year.

Opening Day 1984 included three games, the best of which was Angels 2, Red Sox 1.

Game of the Day (4/2/14)

Pirates 4, Cubs 3 (16). For future reference, when there is a game with a (16) next to it, it's usually going to be the Game of the Day.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Game of the Day (4/1/14)

Rangers 3, Phillies 2.

Opening Day between these two teams brought a football score, 14-10. So with the best starters out of the way, they naturally settled in for a pitcher's duel.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Game of the Day (3/31/14)

Giants 9, Diamondbacks 8.

This comes immediately after I posted the the introduction to WPL, in which I pointed out that the median extra-inning game is a 99th-percentile nine-inning game. So naturally, the best game of an Opening Day that featured not one, but two extra-inning games, is a regulation affair.

It should be noted that it is virtually never a bad thing when a game of standard length surpasses the WPLs of multiple extra-inning outings, and this is no exception.

Measuring excitement: Introducing Win Path Length

What was the most exciting baseball game of last season?

Excitement is an inherently subjective quality, and as such, this question has any number of possible answers. The most common choices would likely be postseason contests, since they come with additional stakes; Game 3 of the World Series, a back-and-forth affair in which the winning run scored in the ninth on an obstruction call, would be a popular selection, as would the first game of the NLCS (which lasted 13 innings), the second game of the NLCS (a 1-0 pitcher’s duel between Kershaw and Wacha), and the second game of the ALCS (a Red Sox comeback on a David Ortiz grand slam).

If you expand the scope of the question to include the regular season, however, the question quickly becomes unmanageable. There are hundreds of extra-inning games to choose from, and dozens of walkoff hits, and any number of astounding defensive plays or surprising rallies or great individual performances that could qualify a game for a particular list. So how does one go about sorting through all 2430 regular season games and picking the best?

With the caveat that any objective measurement of a subjective quality is inherently flawed before it even begins, I have an idea for an objective measurement of the subjective quality of excitement.