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I Don't Know—Third Base!
2006-10-05 11:03
by Mike Carminati

By now you've seen the replay a dozen times. Heck, with the rainout last night, you've seen Bobby Meacham and Dale Berra tagged out by Carlton Fisk in those ugly mid-Eighties Chisox unis at least three times. You may have even seen Carlos Cerrano and Willie Mays Hayes from "Major League" actually pulling off the unlikely play. However, I still have to comment on one of the worst baserunning plays I have ever witnessed.

After both Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew were both tagged out at home on the same play, some blame has to be assessed. According to the incessant Baseball Tonight assessment (by the way, looking at Eric Byrnes's Michael Irvin suit, I have to ask where these athletes get these crazy pinstripe suits), Kent was the only one to blame. At least that was Tim Kirkjian's take—Kent should have known that Shawn Green had no chance to catch the ball. I beg to differ. In my opinion it should be doled out thusly:

First and foremost, Drew is to blame, and I don't say that just because I am a Phillies fan. Anything can happen on the basepaths. Kent could have tripped, could have misses a base, came up lame, etc. The trailing running has to have some sort of idea of where the lead runner is to determine is baserunning strategy.

Kent should have scored easily but apparently from Kent's vantage point at second base it was difficult to determine whether or not the ball would be caught. At first, Drew had a completely different angle and could tell right away that Green had no chance to get to the ball. That's, of course, what caused the problem in the first place. But once the play was underway, it was apparent that there would be, or at least could be, a play at the plate on Kent. Given Drew was a good 25 to 30 feet behind Kent, I am not sure what impelled him toward home a second or two after Kent was already tagged out. It's difficult to determine from the replay angles, but Drew seemed to have enough time to least attempt to return to third.

Also, according to third base coach Rich Donnelly, he would have preferred to hold Kent at third after he hesitated at second but he was forced to send Kent home or risk having two men at third. So he forced the Dodgers into a position which caused the first out.

In Donnelly's own words: "As I was about to hold Jeff up, I said, 'Uh-ohhh,' " Donnelly said, "because here came J.D., about 10 feet behind him. So what am I supposed to do? I can't hold them both. And I can't send them both. So I said, I'd better send Jeff and hope they screw up the relay or something."

Then inexplicably he followed Kent home, directly causing the second out.

The only explanation was that Drew ran from first to home with carefree abandon, as if he were the only runner on the play on a team that had no third base coach. Drew is entire trek on the basepaths is inexplicable to me. He deserves the bulk of the blame for he botched play.

Next, Donnelly deserves some blame for not doing his part in holding Drew up at third. Maybe he couldn't have stopped the rampaging Drew, but he could have at least attempted to signal the trailing runner.

Continuing Donnelly's quote above after he sent Kent home, "But then, all of a sudden, I look up, and there goes J.D. right by me."

We did he have to look up? OK, he sends Kent home. Drew was a bit more than the ten feet Donnelly claimed behind Kent. Donnelly should have gone on to signal to Drew as vehemently as possible to hold up at third. Kirkjian said that it appeared Donnelly was looking at the play at home. Why? Other than a ball getting kicked free and allowing the trailing runner to score, there was no information that Donnelly could have obtained by watching the Kent play at home.

Maybe Donnelly could not have stopped the debacle, but it's his job to try. Fielders routinely back up bases on plays that may never come to fruition. Batters run to first even on plays in which it is apparent that they will be out. Coaches have to do their job and signal the runners even if it is apparent that they should know what to do.

In my opinion, Donnelly, though less blameworthy, deserves to be fired in the offseason for his inactivity on the play.

Status Kuo

Hong-Chih Kuo crashed the ex-Brave Hall-of-Fame party (Maddux vs. Glavine) by drawing the starting pitching assignment today for the Dodgers based largely on his September 8 win, his only career major-league win so far, at Shea Stadium. Kuo was just 1-5 with a 4.22 ERA and only five games started in the regular season.

Kuo will becomes the first pitcher since 1886 to start a postseason game with one or fewer win. This seems like a lot to ask of a young player, especially when a loss puts the Dodgers in a deep, deep 2-0 hole. However, given how inexperienced starters have fared in the past, it may not be as bad a gamble as one would expect.

Here are all of the pitchers who have started a postseason game with fewer than seven career wins at the time of the start. For each, first the postseason stats and then the career-to-date stats appear. Note that they are 9-6 overall with a 3.65 even though their career record was 115-117, 3.85 overall:

Jimmy Ryan1886WSChicago White Stockings1009.00150004.63
Buck Becannon1884WSNew York Metropolitans10110.50111101.50
Gary Waslewski1967WSBoston Red Sox1002.161128223.21
Bob Wolcott1995ALCSSeattle Mariners1102.57176324.42
Tony Saunders1997WSFlorida Marlins10127.0012221464.61
Tony Saunders1997NLCSFlorida Marlins1003.3812221464.61
Marty Bystrom1980NLCSPhiladelphia Phillies1001.69165501.50
Marty Bystrom1980WSPhiladelphia Phillies1005.40165501.50
Roger Craig1955WSBrooklyn Dodgers1103.0012110532.78
Bill George1888WSNew York Giants1017.20217165104.32
Brandon Backe2004NLCSHouston Astros2002.843709644.98
Jim Beattie1978WSNew York Yankees1102.0012522693.73
Bud Smith2001NLDS2St. Louis Cardinals1101.8011614633.83
Dickie Noles1981NEDIVPhiladelphia Phillies1004.50375256103.92
Ed Crane1888WSNew York Giants2112.12326216154.43
Frank Pastore1979NLCSCincinnati Reds1002.571309674.25
Brandon Backe2004NLDS2Houston Astros1103.003709644.98
Pascual Perez1982NLCSAtlanta Braves1015.19335266123.55
Mike Jones1981AWDIVKansas City Royals1012.4521512643.70
Jim Beattie1978ALCSNew York Yankees1101.6912522693.73
Duster Mails1920WSCleveland Indians1100.003228722.31
Barry Zito2000ALDS1Oakland Athletics1101.5911414742.72
Jerome Williams2003NLDS1San Francisco Giants10013.5012121753.30
Total 963.65 1151173.85
2006-10-05 11:12:49
1.   capdodger
The problem with Donnely is that he screwed up twice on the same play.

Once when he let Kent tag up. Green had no shot at catching that ball. He should have been screaming at him to run. Drew (and the first base coach) made the right call to run on contact.

Twice, when Donnely didn't try to stop Drew.

2006-10-05 11:42:44
2.   Bluebleeder87
wow great analogy, i didn't get to see the game so this gives me a better prespective of the play, i still hold Donelly very resposible for the play.

ps yell you're lungs out Donnelly!!

2006-10-05 16:37:54
3.   das411
Backe came up pretty huge in those games didn't he?

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