Jack Flaherty came into this matchup against his fellow Harvard-Westlake Wolverine Lucas Giolito with his St. Louis teammates giving him seven runs of support a start, which was a big reason why he was 8-0, and why the Cardinals won all nine games he pitched.
Bored with the sameness of it all, the Cards switched it up and tried giving their opponents a half-dozen runs of support, just to see what happens.
Long story short, Flaherty is now 8-1 on the season.
The White Sox scored two runs before they even notched their first hit, and five runs on just two soft singles, at which point the Cardinals had already committed their three errors on the night. The Sox dealt with some weird wrinkles on their end, so the game never quite loosened up until José Abreu ended Flaherty in the fourth inning with a massive two-run homer on the juiciest slider he’ll see.
Giolito was fine for his part, especially when it appeared like his night could take a turn for dark places. A leadoff double in the third came around to score, in part because Yoán Moncada bounced a routine throw, and in part because Giolito couldn’t glove a comebacker in his direction. On the plus side, Adam Eaton made a fantastic leaping catch on a ball in the right corner that had the possibility of being one of those wind-swept three-run homers before it turned foul.
Giolito then had a cadre of White Sox personnel watch his warm-up tosses before the fourth, after which Nolan Arenado greeted him with a double. Arenado took third on a Matt Carpenter single and scored on a wild pitch, but Giolito worked his way out of further trouble with a popout and a strikeout.
It was smooth sailing afterward, with Giolito retiring the final eight batters he faced for a line that suggested no drama whatsoever: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. He evened his record to 4-4 while lowering his ERA to 4.04. Whether there are further complications remains to be seen:
Flaherty had it so much harder, and from literally the very beginning when Edmundo Sosa botched Tim Anderson’s routine grounder to open the bottom of the first. Flaherty didn’t help himself when he plunked the newly mustachioed Eaton on the foot. Anderson took third on Moncada’s flyout, then scored on Abreu’s squibber up the third base line. Eaton took second on the play, then scored when second baseman-turned-right fielder Tommy Edman flat-out dropped Yermín Mercedes fly, which otherwise would’ve ended the inning.
The Sox didn’t notch their first hit until the second, when Zack Collins led off with a single. A wild pitch took the double play out of order, and while Leury García restored the possibility by drawing a walk, Nick Madrigal dropped a single into center field, which Dylan Carlson kicked to allow Collins to score easily (no error was charged). Anderson then reached on an error for a second time when Gold Glover Nolan Arenado committed an inexplicable bobble, which loaded the bases.
Eaton couldn’t get any runs home, but Moncada walked to force one in. The Sox seemed like they’d have to settle for another two-spot when Abreu struck out in one of his poor at-bats where he forces the action, but #WILDPITCHOFFENSE during Mercedes’ at-bat gave the Sox a 5-0 lead.
The Sox were so reliant on the Cardinals’ generosity that it felt like the fortunes could turn at any time, but Abreu’s homer put a nail in it. And it turned out the Cardinals weren’t done, because Moncada reached on a one-out single in the sixth, took second on a wild pitch, third on a balk, then scored on an Abreu single, which was Abreu’s fourth RBI on the night.
Garrett Crochet caused some unnecessary tension when he and his mustache faced three batters without retiring any (first-pitch double, six-pitch walk, four-pitch walk). Tony La Russa then called for Liam Hendriks who made it look so simple by striking out all three batters he faced. He notched his 10th save because he inherited a situation where the tying run was on deck with nobody out. Only three of his saves have been traditional.
*Andrew Vaughn cut down Paul Goldschmidt’s attempt to stretch a single into a double in the second inning.
*Sosa should’ve been tagged for a second error in the third when he backed way up on Nick Madrigal’s grounder and made a slow flip to second, which García beat.
*Moncada nearly bounced a second throw away, but was saved by a sprawling Abreu scoop. Moncada then responded with a few impressive, athletic, off-balance throws later in the game.
*Joe West set the MLB record for games umpired with 5,376, and he wasn’t good.
Record: 28-19 | Box score | Statcast
It was a really weird game in so many ways. I’m glad the Sox won. I know some Sox fans who root for the Cardinals as their NL team based on some kind of enemy-of-my-enemy reasoning. I lived downstate for a decade as a Sox fan. Seeing the Cubs/Cardinals rivalry up close led me to hope for a pox upon both their houses.
Surprising central division leader, forced to play infielders in the outfield, cannot overcome poor defense and lose convincingly to the other league’s corresponding team.
Wouldn’t have guessed that sentence would make me smile.
#WILDPITCHOFFENSE is the new market inefficiency. Just walk a whole bunch of times and hope they increasing velocity and break of pitches today cause an error that allows you to score.
Is there anywhere that tracks pitches thrown in the dirt? It feels like Giolito has been spiking pitches more frequently this year compared to last.
Baseball Savant tracks balls in the dirt. Your suspicious are correct though I don’t know if the difference is very statistically significant:
2018: 2.8% pitches in the dirt
2019: 2.0% pitches in the dirt
2020: 2.1% pitches in the dirt
2021: 2.7% pitches in the dirt
Does Savant give you the number of spikes pitched along with total pitches of various types?
If so, and you want to know if differences are statistically significant, two-sample z-tests for comparing proportions would be relatively easy to perform in Excel: https://www.statology.org/two-proportion-z-test-excel/
Alternatively, if you’re familiar with Program R, it’s even easier. prop.test() is a simple one-liner. A handy tool for comparing stats of variable sample sizes.
So he’s thrown ~26 pitches in the dirt based on those percentages this year and if he was at last year’s pace, it would be ~19. Probably not statistically relevant.
It was a strange game, and at times it was simultaneously unwatchable as baseball but compelling just as theater.
The most interesting play to me was the Eaton catch on the Dylan Carlson foul ball. I wasn’t really sure if that was the right decision (not to blame Adam – off the bat it seemed like it could be a home run). He lets it go and it is nothing more than a long strike.
Based on the run expectancy numbers in The Book he made the right call, but it was very close. Bases loaded, 1-out the run expectancy is 1.650. He caught it, the run scored, and both runners advanced. At that point the run expectancy for the runners on 2nd and 3rd base with 2 out was 0.634 (so 1.634 with the run that crossed the plate).
It was just an interesting baseball moment in an otherwise poorly played game.
I was wondering the same thing when he caught it, but too lazy to look up the math. Thank you.
I think game context was important as well. In a 5 run game, trading the run for the out and potentially avoiding the big inning was smart.
At least that’s what I settled on after my initial thought matched yours
And not that Adam Eaton had time to do the math, but I was also wondering about Goldschmidt being on deck and Arenado being in the hole.
Again, looks like it was the right decision, but I was happy to have something to ponder other than the truly atrocious defense that had been on display up to that point.
So bases loaded with one out has a run expectancy of ~1.6 runs scored. Eaton making that catch to have 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs has a run expectancy of 0.6 runs but a run scored so I’m not really sure if anything materially changed in that situation. I’m all for taking outs when you can get them though.
Benetti and Stone discussed Moncada’s throwing on the broadcast. Stone suggested that Moncada’s accuracy is good when he’s on the run or trying to make difficult plays, but poor when he makes routine plays with time. That was true as the game progressed. I hadn’t noticed this before. I wondered if it was anecdotal or if there was something to it.
Man, some of those plays were absolutely gorgeous. His hands were so so quick on that one near the foul line ????
Yeah, I started watching that after they mentioned it, and it held true for the rest of the game. Something I’ll keep an eye on.
It was something I’ve noticed and think I’ve heard mentioned before. Ozzie actually did a nice breakdown on pre-game show on what he’s doing wrong with his footwork (cross-over step where backleg comes behind and actually takes his top half off-target) on routine plays. Hopefully it’s an easy fix. But man, he’s great on the tough plays