Strange But True Postseason Feats
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
A LOT OF STRANGE & 1ST TIME STUFF THIS LAST POST SEASON
So what do you think? Was that 2014 postseason strange enough for you?
The Dodgers scored nine runs in a game Clayton Kershaw started -- and lost. The A's scored eight runs in a game Jon Lester started -- and lost. The team that won the World Series went almost two weeks without hitting a homer. The team that lost the World Series went almost four weeks without losing a game.
And there was much more weirdness where all that came from. So here they come -- the Strange But True Postseason Feats of the Year:
Strangest But Truest Champions Of The Year
The team that won the World Series, those apparently unstoppable San Francisco Giants, just had another one of those strange-but-true magic-carpet rides they've become so world-famous for. Let's try to comprehend their fascinating ride to the parade floats:
• Over their final 99 regular-season games, they had a worse record (46-53 -- seven games under .500) -- than the Mets, Cubs or Padres. For some reason, those teams won 12 fewer postseason games than the Giants did.
• The Giants then got one quality start out of starting pitchers not named Madison Bumgarner during the entire postseason. And that was by Tim Hudson, in a game they would have lost if baseball games were 26 outs long instead of 27.
• But wait. This gets even stranger. Giants starting pitchers never made it through the second inning in either Game 6 or Game 7 of the World Series. Naturally, they won the World Series anyway. That was one more start of five outs or shorter, incidentally, than we'd seen in potential clinching games in the previous 52 World Series put together.
• So obviously, the Giants won the World Series because of their lineup, right? Oh, wait. Have I mentioned that in postseason games Bumgarner started, seven of the eight position players in that lineup had a lower slugging percentage than the pitcher?
• Oh, and have I also mentioned that the face of the Giants' franchise, their very best offensive player, Buster Posey, had as many extra-base hits in this postseason as Joe Buck? Right. That would be none.
• And have I mentioned that their soon-to-be-legendary-October-hero left fielder, Travis Ishikawa, had never started a single major league game in left field until Game 160 of the regular season?
• And have I mentioned that their leadoff hitter in every game of this postseason, Gregor Blanco, hit .153 in October and .143 in the World Series?
• And has it come up yet that, on the way to winning the World Series, the Giants went 12 days and 242 postseason plate appearances without hitting a single home run? True story. And in those 12 days (and eight games) in which they were hitting zero homers, they gave up EIGHT of them -- and still went 6-2 in those eight games.
• But who needs home runs when you lead the league in a pivotal new metric catchily described by their third-base coach, Tim Flannery, as RTIs (runs thrown in)? This team scored 20 runs -- yeah, 20 -- in this postseason on various phenomena that would not fall under a category known as "hits."
• Hold on. We're not done with this portion of our program. Speaking of RTIs, the Giants somehow went through a six-game stretch in the NLDS and NLCS in which they AVERAGED two runs a game on non-hits. Over those six games, they magically scored more runs on non-hits (12) than actual hits (10). Ladies and gentlemen, this is not possible. That is all.
• Oh yeah. One more thing about this: In Game 3 of the NLCS -- a game that went 10 innings, by the way -- the Giants got exactly two hits after the first inning. One was by a pitcher who was 2 for 53 this year (Tim Hudson). The other was by a .170 hitter (Juan Perez) who was swinging away only because he'd just fouled off two bunts. And this was in a game they won. In extra innings. Hey, of course they did.
• I should probably also mention that Giants starters other than Madison Bumgarner got a total of 49 outs in the entire World Series ... and their closer (Santiago Casilla) faced a total of two hitters in the entire World Series (neither of them in a save situation, naturally) ... and this was on a team that (gulp) won the World Series?
Huh? What? Really? How? How was that possible, you ask? Well it might, theoretically, have had just a little something to do with the ...
Strangest But Truest October Dominator Of The Year
Isn't it amazing how much more we know about Madison Bumgarner now than we knew three months ago? That he comes from a little town in North Carolina where it seems as if everyone is named Bumgarner? That he once dated a girl named Madison Bumgarner? And, especially, that he just put on one of the greatest, Michael Jordan-esque postseason shows of any professional athlete who ever lived? It went kinda like this:
• The Giants won 12 games in this postseason. Six of them were games in which Madison Bumgarner pitched. All their other pitchers combined were responsible for winning the other six. Their other starters won exactly once -- and never after Game 1 of the NLDS. So ... good thing MadBum stopped by.
• Did this man really pitch 52⅔ innings in a single postseason? Sandy Koufax only pitched 57 postseason innings in his whole career. Warren Spahn pitched 56. Juan Marichal and Rube Marquard pitched just 50⅔ postseason innings in their careers as Giants combined. And Madison Bumgarner just went 52⅔ innings in ONE postseason. He was scored on in precisely four of those innings by the way.
• Bumgarner threw two shutouts in this postseason. No other starter on the other nine playoff teams pitched any shutouts -- or any complete games of any size or shape, come to think of it.
• In four different starts in this postseason, for that matter, this man was still out there when the eighth inning rolled around. Know how many times all the other starting pitchers on all those other teams combined to make it into the eighth during the entire month of October? That would be five.
• Then there was just the World Series portion of Bumgarner's festivities. The ace made two starts in that World Series and got 16 innings' worth of outs. The rest of his rotation made five starts in that same World Series -- and got 16⅓ innings' worth of outs.
• If it felt as if the Royals had no shot to score against this guy, here's why: Bumgarner faced 74 hitters in the World Series. Exactly one of them drove in a run. That was Salvador Perez, on a solo home run. In a game his team trailed by seven runs.
• And that brings us to our man's grand finale. In the seventh game of the World Series, Bumgarner pitched five shutout innings. In relief. On two days' rest. And got a save out of it. You know how many five-inning saves there had been in all the other World Series in history? Right you are. None. You know how many four-inning saves there had been? Also none.
• And you know how many other five-inning saves have been recorded by anybody else in any kind of game, regular season or postseason, over the last two decades? That would be one.
• And when Bumgarner was finished with all that, his ERA over this particular postseason stood at 1.01. His career World Series ERA was down to 0.25. And he'd won at least one game in three different World Series, all of which his team won, all before the age of 26. And you know how many pitchers who ever lived could say that? None, of course. Amazing.
Strangest But Truest AL Champs Of The Year
It's unbelievable, when you think about it, that those white-hot Kansas City Royals didn't win the World Series. After all ...
• They went 11-1 in this postseason in games where they didn't have to face that Bumgarner guy. But they didn't win the World Series.
• They went 25 consecutive days without losing a game. At a fairly important time of year. But they didn't win the World Series.
• They won eight postseason games in a row -- a streak so long they'd only had one streak like it in the previous 10 regular seasons put together before 2014. But they didn't win the World Series.
• They hit four home runs in extra innings in this postseason -- after hitting exactly one in the entire regular season. But they didn't win the World Series.
• After hitting the fewest home runs in the major leagues during the regular season -- and the fewest by any AL team that reached the World Series since the 1959 White Sox -- the Royals, naturally, hit more homers in this postseason than their four opponents combined (11-10). But they didn't win the World Series.
• And they may have transformed their entire franchise by winning the strangest but truest game of this whole postseason (more on that momentarily) -- a wild-card game in which they trailed by four runs in the eighth inning, with Jon Lester on the mound, in a game that could have sent them home with no postseason wins in 29 years. The Royals somehow won that game. But they didn't win the World Series. Wow.
It's incredible, friends, to have a postseason run that magical and not get a parade out of it. But then again, that's why we even have columns like this!
Strangest But Truest Postseason Game Of The Year
Speaking of that AL wild-card game, was that insane or what? Just to refresh your strange-but-true memory banks ...
• The Royals trailed by two runs in the first inning, four runs in the eighth inning, one run in the ninth and one run in the 12th -- and they won. How'd that happen?
• No team had trailed by four runs or more in the eighth inning or later in any of the previous 91 winner-take-all postseason games in history and won. But a team that hadn't won a postseason game since 1985 did that.
• No team had ever trailed in the 12th inning (or later) of any winner-take-all postseason game and lived to tell about it. And the Royals hadn't even won a regular-season game they trailed in the 12th (or later) in 20 years (since July 25, 1994). But they won this one.
• Jon Lester's teams had lost exactly one game in his career (not including his rookie season) in which they scored eight runs or more in a game he started. That was June 28, 2008 -- 217 starts ago (regular season and postseason). But somehow, the A's lost this one.
• Lester's teams were 85-1 in his career when he held a lead of three runs or more. But a lot of good that did the A's in this game.
• Lester picked Billy Butler off first in this game. He hadn't even attempted a pickoff all season.
• The Royals needed to score nine runs to win this game. They hadn't scored nine times (or more) in any regular-season game since Aug. 17. They hadn't scored nine times (or more) in their home park since June 10. But they scored nine in this game.
• Brandon Moss homered twice in this game. He'd homered twice since July 24. One of those homers came off Yordano Ventura. He'd allowed one home run in August and September combined. But strange-but-trueness prevailed.
• Seven different Royals stole a base in this game, all while they were tied or trailing. As our friends from You Can't Predict Baseball remind us, no team had seven different players steal a base during any game in the entire regular season.
• Oh. And one more thing. This was a 9-8 game. In October. In a game started by James Shields and Jon Lester. Seriously. How strange but true does life get sometimes?
Strangest But Truest Cy Young Madness Of The Year
OK, let me tell you how strange but true life can get in October. A mere three days after that wild-card game, the Cardinals and Dodgers played a 10-9 game. In a game started by Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright. Seriously. But that just fit right into the insanity of Kershaw's totally strange-but-true October.
• This really happened: Kershaw allowed one home run all season to a left-handed hitter. He allowed two in the NLDS. Really.
• And this really happened: Kershaw gave up one home run on a curveball in the entire regular season. He gave up two in the NLDS. Really.
• And this really happened too: In Game 1 of that NLDS, Kershaw allowed eight earned runs. He allowed eight in the entire month of September. He allowed eight in the entire month of August. He allowed nine in June and July combined. Really.
• And yep, this really happened: Kershaw had won his previous 67 regular-season decisions in a row when the Dodgers scored at least four runs for him. He had four on the board by the fourth inning in that epic Game 1. Kershaw had also won his previous 37 decisions in a row when the Dodgers scored six or more runs for him. He had six in Game 1 by the fifth inning. And then he gave up eight. Really.
• And most incredibly of all, this really happened: In a game in which he struck out 10 Cardinals and walked zero, Kershaw allowed eight earned runs. In the 2000s, 447 pitchers have had games during the regular season in which they've whiffed at least 10 and walked nobody. None of them allowed eight earned runs in any of those games. In the last 100 years, 1,032 pitchers have had games of double-digit strikeouts and zero walks in the regular season. Two allowed at least eight earned runs -- Curt Schilling in 1998 and Frank Tanana in 1976. But Kershaw did it in one of biggest postseason games of his life. Yeah, really.
And when that NLDS was all over, the best pitcher alive had lost two crushing baseball games and four in a row over the last two postseasons. This same man has lost just four of his last 30 regular-season starts. But that's the strange-but-true "magic" of October. Really.
10 More Strange But True October Classics
• Travis Ishikawa has been hanging around the big leagues since 2006. He has never hit a walk-off home run in a regular-season game. So guess who hit the first walk-off by a Giant to send his team to a World Series since Bobby Thomson? That would be Travis Ishikawa. Who else?
• The Cardinals finished last in the National League in home runs. Guess which team hit more home runs than any team in the field this postseason? Yep. The Cardinals (with 15).
• The Cardinals also had only two games all season in which they homered three times in a game. Then in Game 2 of the NLCS, they hit a game-tying home run in the seventh inning (by the late Oscar Taveras), a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning (by Matt Adams) and a walk-off home run in the ninth (by Kolten Wong). Want to take a stab at how many other teams had ever hit home runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings of any postseason game in history? Yep. That would be none.
• The Royals led the major leagues in stolen bases. The Giants finished last in the National League in stolen bases. Guess which team stole the first base of the World Series? Right you are. The Giants.
• The Royals finished last in the major leagues in home runs. The Orioles finished first. Guess which team hit the first three home runs of their meeting in the ALCS? Right you are. The Royals.
• Speaking of the Royals, has there ever been a team that had two position players on its World Series roster who got zero hits for that team during the entire regular season? Well, the Royals had both Jayson Nix (0 for 8) and Terrance Gore (0 for 1, with 5 SBs and 5 runs scored) on their World Series roster. You can look it up.
• The Nationals and Giants played a fun little 18-inning game in the NLDS. It was the second 18-inning postseason game in the history of baseball. (The other: Braves-Astros in 2005.) So what were the odds that Tim Hudson was the starting pitcher in both of them?
• In that same game, the Nationals were one out away from having their starting pitcher (Jordan Zimmermann) throw the first complete-game postseason shutout by a pitcher from Washington since Earl Whitehill in 1933. So what were the odds that they'd wind up setting a record for most pitchers used in ANY postseason game (nine)?
• The Tigers may have been swept by the Orioles in the ALDS, but in more important news, they did get back-to-back home runs from guys with the same last name (Victor and J.D. Martinez). In the history of postseason baseball, only one other team had ever named that tune -- the 1966 Orioles (with Frank and Brooks Robinson doing the swatting).
• And finally, in an era when your average left-handed reliever thinks he's overworked when he's forced to pitch to two hitters in the same game, here's what the Giants' Jeremy Affeldt did in this postseason in 11 appearances: He entered games in seven different innings. And that meant he pitched in the second inning. And in the third inning. And in the fourth inning. He also showed up in the fifth, the sixth and the seventh. And he did his thing in the eighth. And the ninth. And the 10th. So if you're adding along at home, you know he pitched in nine different innings. Every inning from the second through the 10th. And how many pitchers in postseason history ever did that over that many appearances? Not a one. Of course.
Interesting stuff in there.