Friday, April 25, 2014
Mets beat the odds in bottom of the ninth
By Mark Simon
The mathematics of baseball are such that the sacrifice bunt is often viewed with disdain by the sabermetrically-inclined fan.
And if you were on Twitter when New York Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud bunted in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday night, there was plenty of disdain to go around.
That wasn’t the only thing working against New York in the bottom of the ninth. The Mets loaded up on lefties against Marlins sidearmer Steve Cishek, who hadn’t allowed a hit to any of the 17 left-handed hitters he’d faced this season, and who had converted 33 straight save chances dating back to last year.
The bunt by d’Arnaud may have chopped the Mets' chances of winning from 35 to 30 percent (per historical win-probability data), and the odds of four of five lefties getting base hits were slim.
But this is baseball, and sometimes odd combinations add up to the right result.
The bunt, disdained as it may have been, thwarted a double play possibility and gave Omar Quintanilla an assured at-bat against Cishek, against whom he’s now 3-for-5 (as is Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who added a pinch-hit double in the rally).
And in Curtis Granderson's case, the numbers have been due to break right for a couple of weeks.
Lost in Granderson's early struggles was the fact that he was hitting into hard outs. Of the first 11 batted balls that registered as "hard-hit" by our video-tracking, only two went for base hits.
From 2011 to 2013, 72 percent of Granderson's hard-hit balls went for base hits, so a 2-for-11 streak is highly unusual from any perspective, let alone a mathematical one.
Granderson has three hard-hit balls in his past three games. They’ve all gone for hits.
The last one was the walk-off single that gave the Mets the win Friday night.
It made Granderson the first player in Mets history to have two different walk-off RBIs in the month of April within the same season. Again, that's baseball. Sometimes the mathematically unlikely becomes the inevitable reality.