Gary Smith, while talking about life and the human condition on the Longform Podcast, said something I found to be absolutely brilliant. “Whenever you come up with one answer to something, you’ve been led astray.” While some may dismiss this as some sort of faux-philosophical nonsense, Gary finds this to be something that must be understood any time one approaches a person or a situation whose story appears black and white. This morning, I attempted to apply that when looking over the POTD candidates. “If you think you’re right, you’re wrong, Stephen. Remember Gary’s words.” For one of today’s players, that absolutely applies. Was he actually the deserving recipient? I’m not sure. One could never truly answer that. However, for the other player to be highlighted, this could not ring less true. Building any more suspense is really pretty pointless for a post as short as this, so let’s get on with it.
RAW PERFORMANCE PLAYER OF THE DAY
Chris Sale, Francisco Liriano, and Johnny Cueto. Each of these three pitchers threw 8 shutout innings yesterday. Of their three performances, the highest Game Score was 85 and the lowest was 82. The number of baserunners allowed on ranged from 4 to 6. The pitches thrown ranged from 106 to 110. Strike percentage went from 64 to 66%. The similarities in so many ways are striking, and who one would pick would likely depend on one’s philosophy of whether they want to watch a Maddux-esque performance, or one more similar to Randy Johnson. While I appreciate a whole season of Maddux, I’ll take one game of Randy. For that reason, Johnny Cueto and his measly 7 strikeouts must be eliminated. That leaves us with just the former two. Sale is down on strikeouts (9 to 12) and swinging strike rate (10% to 25%), but up on pop ups (5 to 1) and hits allowed (2 to 4). Sale was pitching against the Athletics who, despite being a different offensive team in the second half, have scored the third most runs per game in baseball. Liriano, on the other hand, was facing the Phillies, who have scored the 20th most. This is one of those instances as Gary describes, where there really is no right answer for who had the better performance. However, I have no intention of leaving you, our readers, without an answer, thus I have decided to settle this like a man: by flipping a coin. Heads, it’s Sale. Tails, it’s Liriano.
Note that the author truly did decide this via coin flip. This is the sort of top-notch journalism you’re getting from us.
CONTEXTUAL PLAYER OF THE DAY
Sorry Gary, but your little philosophy simply doesn’t hold true for our Contextual Player of the Day. I am no less sure Chris Young had the best contextual performance of September 11th, 2014 than I am of my own name. There’s probably a more clever analogy or metaphor or whatever I could have used there, but as Mobb Deep said in the classic hip hop song Shook Ones, “no time to dwell on that.” Indeed, Mr. Deep. Let’s get to what Chris did.
Thursday night, the Rays were busy making the Yankees look positively embarrassed for taking the field. By the 8th inning they had put up 4 runs against New York starter Michael Pineda, and Rays pitcher Alex Cobb was flirting with the first no-hitter of his career. After 100 pitches, Cobb simply needed to record 5 more outs to finish off what would have been baseball’s 287th no hitter. Unfortunately, Chris Young had other plans. After getting ahead 0-1, Cobb put a 93 mph fastball on the outside edge that Young drove to the gap for a double. With his no-hit bid broken up, Rays manager Joe Maddon simply needed to hand the ball over to his bullpen to finish the game and continue their hunt to end the season with a .500 record. Things were going great until the bottom of the 9th, when Chris came back to the plate. Once again, there was one out. Once again, he found himself down 0-1 in the count. Once again, a fastball found its way to the outer half of the plate. It came out of Jake McGee’s hand at 97 mph and left Young’s bat at 101, traveling 379 feet to drive in 3 runs, giving the Yankees the 5 to 4 win. If that’s not a POTD-worthy performance, I simply don’t know what is. Great job, Chris.
Note: both winners being named Chris was complete coincidence, only noticed by the author after the piece was finished.
By the way, in case you folks haven’t yet noticed, clicking these pictures takes you to actual video of the events. I recommend doing that.