Uh, wow. I turned the game off to hang out with my girlfriend and do a little catch-up work, and was pleasantly surprised when she left and I turned on the TV to see the Marlins down only 7-4. They had just grounded into a double play with the bases loaded to end the inning. And then this happened.
The Inning, Part Deux
Everything that could have gone right for the Marlins did, and subsequently everything that could have gone wrong for the D-backs did as well. The hindsight-brilliance of Fredi Gonzalez to bring Brett Carroll in for Chris Coghlan to face the lefty Scott Schoeneweis or force D-backs manager A.J. Hinch to sub in a righty out of the pen worked perfectly, as did the Hanley Ramirez pinch-hit appearance. Two errors and a passed ball caused major problems for the D-backs, but after a certain point it didn’t really matter what they did. Carroll’s blast dropped their winning chances considerably (from 75.8% to win to 28.3% in one swing). From there, they lost around 6% per run scored until the Marlins were up by three.
Here’s a comparison to the original “The Inning,” the fateful evening versus the Chicago Cubs in Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship series.
Both innings gave way to tremendous turnarounds. Both occurred in the eighth inning of a ballgame while the Marlins were down by three. The Cubs held a 95.6% chance of winning the game coming into the inning, while the Diamondbacks last night came into the eighth with an 88.4% chance of victory. Both teams left with little to no chance remaining; the Cubs finished the eight-run eighth with only a 1.9% chance to win, while the Diamondbacks had a meager 0.5% chance of victory.
Beyond perhaps the absurdity in all of this is the fact that such leads as the ones held by the Cubs and Diamondbacks are almost insurmountable. Save chances should not be awarded to relievers for “closing” a game of this type. If you enter the ninth inning with a three-run lead, chances are your odds of winning are in the mid-90’s. Do you want to be saving your best reliever for such a situation? Shouldn’t he have come in in the seventh, when there were two men on and one out in a one-run game? But managers continue to throw lesser relievers into higher leverage situations while saving closers for ridiuclous three-run lead “saves.” In addition, and Tommy Hutton pointed it out during the first game of the Giants series, closers can create their own save situations by blowing larger leads, or can just barely maintain large leads on their way to a save. The enitre statistic is flawed at an elemental level that, as a result of it being a mainstream statistic, has skewed the minds of managers into fixing rigid bullpen roles for their relievers unnecessarily.