Friday, November 13, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Kansas City Royals

Game 1, 2015 World Series: Royals 5, Mets 4 (14). In 2013, Matt Harvey was a phenom, posting a 2.27 ERA in 178.1 innings; meanwhile, Edinson Volquez put up a 5.71 figure spread across two NL West teams, both of whom play in pitcher's parks.

In 2014, their fortunes were sharply reversed. Volquez cut his ERA nearly in half, going for a 3.04 mark in Pittsburgh, while Harvey missed the entire year after Tommy John surgery.

And in 2015, both pitchers were very good (13-8, 2.71 for Harvey; 13-9, 3.55 for Volquez), and they faced off in Game 1 of the World Series.

Volquez had an easy time of it in the first; Harvey did not, as center fielder Yoenis Cespedes helped KC leadoff man Alcides Escobar turn the first Met pitch of the World Series pitch into an inside-the-park homer. The Royals also put two men on in the second, and New York did the same in the third, but nobody scored again until the top of the fourth, when Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda, and Travis d'Arnaud all singled.

A perfect Harvey fourth later, the Mets took their first lead of the series on a solo homer by Curtis Granderson. The lead grew to 3-1 in the sixth on singles by Cespedes and Duda and a Michael Conforto sacrifice fly. But the Royals rallied in the home half of the inning. Ben Zobrist led off with a double, Lorenzo Cain singled him to third, and Eric Hosmer brought him home with a sac fly. Cain then stole second and scored on a two-out hit by Mike Moustakas to even the game at 3.

The starters both exited after the sixth, and neither team scored in the seventh; David Wright and Murphy both singled with two outs, but were left on. Kelvin Herrera, who had given up those hits, remained on the mound for the top of the eighth; Juan Lagares singled against him with two outs and stole second, then scored the go-ahead run when Hosmer misplayed a Wilmer Flores grounder. Zobrist led off the bottom of the inning with a double, but Tyler Clippard recovered to strand him at third, keeping the one-run lead intact for closer Jeurys Familia  - who promptly surrendered it on a one-out homer by Alex Gordon in the bottom of the ninth.

The early extra innings weren't necessarily packed with action, but neither were they dull. Wade Davis and Jon Niese exchanged flawless tenths. Lagares led off the eleventh with a bunt hit against Ryan Madson, and reached second before being left on. The first Royal threat of the bonus innings came against Bartolo Colon in the twelfth, starting with a single by Paulo Orlando. Escobar bunted him to second, Zobrist was intentionally walked, Cain grounded out to advance both runners, and Hosmer was intentionally walked as well; Jarrod Dyson then flied out to keep the game going. Chris Young allowed a two-out walk to Flores in the top of the thirteenth, and Colon worked around a leadoff hit by Moustakas in the bottom of the inning. After Young set the Mets down in order in the fourteenth, a Wright error, a Zobrist single, a base-loading intentional walk to Cain, and a Hosmer sac fly brought home the winning run for KC.

Given that this game is less than a month old, you presumably already know how the series worked out - so let's talk about how I'm picking the games for each team instead.

As usual, the primary basis for my selection of exciting games is Win Path Length, or WPL for short. However, when selecting games in the postseason, and in particular when selecting each team's best postseason win, there are other considerations at play beyond just in-game drama. Among those are:

Game importance. Game 7 of the World Series has more inherent excitement attached to it than Game 3 of the World Series, which in turn is likely to carry more weight than Game 3 of the LDS.

Result of the postseason for the team. I'm looking at these games with the benefit of hindsight, and at this point, so are the fans of each franchise; if all else is equal, a Red Sox fan would probably have fonder memories of a win from the 2004 postseason than they would of a similar victory from 1975 or 1986.

Other subjective factors. WPL is excellent at what it does (at least I think so), but it's also not capable of capturing every aspect of baseball excitement. It won't be able to account for a great defensive play, or a close play at the plate, or a particularly egregious error beyond their immediate effect on the game state. I won't be able to do those things perfectly either, but I'll take them into account.

So, with all of those factors in mind, for the Royals, I selected... the game with the highest WPL. Game 1 of this year's Series scored a 6.35, which is 15th in postseason history (99th percentile). It narrowly edged out last year's insane comeback(s) in the Wild Card Game (Royals 9, A's 8 (12), 6.20, 16th all-time), and I'll be the first to say that you could easily choose that contest instead. I went with this year's outing both because it came later in the playoffs, and it was part of a successful title run.

Other honorable mention Royals victories:

1980 World Series Game 3: Royals 4, Phillies 3 (10)
2014 ALCS Game 1: Royals 8, Orioles 6 (10)
1985 World Series Game 6: Royals 2, Cardinals 1

I don't have a full order planned out for these posts, but I'll stick within the AL Central for at least the next one, which will take on the Minnesota Twins' best win in the postseason (sort of).

No comments:

Post a Comment