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.
By 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.
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.
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?