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.

Your starting pitchers were Bruce Hurst for Boston, and Ken Forsch for California. Both of them were marvelous; Hurst allowed only one baserunner through the first four innings, and picked off Rod Carew immediately after his single. By that standard, Forsch's permission of three hits (to Mike Easler, Jerry Remy, and Wade Boggs, with Remy immediately getting caught stealing) over the same span almost qualifies as struggling.

The Angels managed an actual threat in the bottom of the fifth, as Fred Lynn doubled with one out and moved to third on a two-out single by Dick Schofield the elder. But Bob Boone flied out to strand both runners and keep the scoreless tie intact. They tried again in the sixth, as Brian Downing walked and Carew singled, but Hurst escaped once more. Forsch was perfect in the fifth, sixth, and seventh, but in the top of the eighth, Rich Gedman singled with one out, and after Dave Stapleton grounded out, pinch hitter Rick Miller stepped in for starting shortstop Glenn Hoffman and doubled to score pinch runner Reid Nichols with the game's first run.

Hurst threw a perfect eighth, and Forsch worked a flawless top of the ninth. Hurst remained on the mound to start the bottom of the inning, and allowed a leadoff hit to Juan Beniquez and a one-out walk to Lynn before being pulled in favor of Bob Stanley. Bobby Grich grounded out to move the runners to second and third, and pinch hitter Daryl Sconiers was intentionally walked, loading the bases. That brought Boone back to the plate, and the veteran catcher grounded to short. But with Hoffman having been hit for in the top of the eighth, it was Jackie Gutierrez playing the position in the ninth, and Gutierrez mishandled the play, allowing the tying and winning runs to score.

Sometimes, things that happen on Opening Day are omens: Gutierrez would take over as Boston's starting shortstop for most of the season, and Baseball-Reference's defensive system evaluates him as being 22 runs below average as a fielder for the year.

Sometimes, however, things that happen on Opening Day are not omens at all: Forsch's brilliant outing earned him a well-deserved win, but it would be the only one he would earn all season, as he dislocated his shoulder during his next start and missed the rest of the year.

For now, though, Forsch had helped the Angels scrape by with a season-starting victory. Scraping by would go on to characterize not just the Angels, but the entire AL West in 1984, as the division champion finished with all of 84 wins. (Who was that champion, you ask? I'm not telling; you'll have to keep reading to find out. Or... you could just look it up.)

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