Would you have waved Gordon home?

Down by one with two out in the bottom of the ninth, game 7 of the World Series, Alex Gordon hit a triple and MAY have been able to turn it into an inside-the-park home run, but was held at third.  The next batter popped up to end the game and the series.

Down by one with two out in the bottom of the ninth, game 7 of the World Series, Alex Gordon hit a triple and MAY have been able to turn it into an inside-the-park home run, but was held at third. The next batter popped up to end the game and the series.

In Strat-O-Matic’s super-advanced fielding chart, there is a “rare play” that can happen on a fly ball to the outfield. The play result reads:

    Batter hits a ball into the gap and the right(left) and center fielder collide while trying to make the play. The ball rolls all the way to the wall, and the batter trots home with an inside-the-park Homerun!

I pulled out my copy of the Strat rulebook and super-advanced charts today because I was thinking about the two-out triple Alex Gordon hit last night and I wondered if the same situation could be created on the tabletop. I had it in my mind that there is a scenario in Strat-O-Matic where you would face the same decision that Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele faced – that is, where the ball was on its way in from the outfield and you had to make some mental calculation between the chance that the runner beats the throw home and/or that the defense doesn’t make a perfect throw.

It turns out that the only result on any Strat chart that resembles Gordon’s triple is the rare play mentioned above. That rare play turns a triple into an inside-the-park homerun, but doesn’t force any decisions on the base coach.

This post on businessinsider.com does a great job of breaking down everything that happened with two outs in the ninth inning last night (from the Royals’ point of view), and explaining why Jirschele made the decision to hold Gordon at third. Personally, I would have sent Gordon. Even if the chance of him scoring is 30% or so (that’s 1-6 in Strat-O-Matic terms – which I feel is a reasonable estimate), I send him.

crawford quoteBy my stopwatch, it took Gordon 12.1 seconds to get from home plate to third base. That’s with him not running at top speed out of the box and then slowing up at the bag at third. For argument’s sake though, let’s say it would have taken him 4.0 seconds to get from third to home. Could Brandon Crawford have thrown a strike from 200 feet out that would reach home plate in 3.9 seconds minus the two or three-tenths of a second it takes Posey to apply the tag? We’ll never know.

UPDATE:

MLB.com Statcast says that Gordon was going 18.7 mph as he rounded second base. At 17 mph, it would take exactly 4.00 seconds to reach home plate from third. I’ll go ahead here and pat myself on the back for that estimate I made earlier.

Nate Silver agrees with me.

But Joe Posnanski does not.

Here is my question for you guys, though: Is there any game engine where this situation could come up? Is there any game where I might have to make the decision to run or hold Gordon with two out in the bottom of the ninth of game seven of the World Series down by one run with a pitcher on the mound who is in the final moments of an historic postseason performance?

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3 Comments

  1. I love that you got the stop watch out and timed it- that’s a beutiful thing man

  2. Send him! Perhaps he might have had a possible chance, maybe, of coming real close to scoring. Actually, looked to me like he probably would have been ‘out’ but that taking the risk was worth it … a poor throw, and game is tied.

    But I thought he was laboring, rounding second. He looked gassed.

    I also wonder why he wasn’t running harder on his way to first base.

    HOWEVER, I WANT SOMEONE TO DO A MOMENT-BY-MOMENT VIDEO ANALYSIS, measuring speeds, distances, angles, etc.

  3. I say send him.
    [1] The probability that a runner scores is better than the probability the next guy gets a hit because there are fewer variables that can be manipulated by the defense in the throw-him-out situation, than there are in the pitch-to-the-next-batter situation. In a pitch-to-the-next-batter situation the defense has time on their side, they can consult the charts, and they can make ‘informed’ decisions—-and the offense can do this too; way too much variability to predict a ‘scoring’ outcome. In the throw-him-out situation it’s Gordon’s speed vs Crawford’s relay throw being on-target vs Posey’s ability to catch it an apply the tag—all other variability has been removed from the equation once the relay throw is on the way to Crawford.

    [2] The objective was to score. KC was closer to this possibility when Gordon was hitting 3rd base with his foot—once he pulled up, they moved away from that possibility in-favor of a scenario that allowed both teams to situationally consult the stats/charts—something that can’t occur in the middle of a play, but only in retrospect.

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