Tuesday, May 31, 2022


At the end of May: SFG 35-15, LAD 34-15
We are now close to a third of the way through the 1962 season--and the end of May is upon us, both then and now. (We'll have a few comments about now at the bottom, but don't let that scare you away...)

First, though...the updated results chart for May, keeping us glued to the tightening race. The two games played between the Dodgers and Giants (May 21-22, at Dodger Stadium) are shown in bold type. The games where both teams played in one-run games on the same day have a line box around them (yes, that one at the bottom of the figure is correct: the one-run games happened on the same day, but as different parts of a doubleheader).

The times that both teams lost on the same day are shown with red text: there are only two such occurrences during the month of May. (Note that we also highlighted the day where the teams played one-run games but had different results: that was on May 17, when the Giants lost to St. Louis 1-0 and the Dodgers edged the Colt .45s, 5-4.)

Some quick monthly team stat updates: after hitting .294 in April, the Giants hit .276 in May, averaging 5.5 runs per game. Their record for the month: 20-10.

The Dodgers, after hitting .259 in April, hit .291 in May, and averaged 6.1 runs per game. Their record for the month: 21-7.

After having a rocky start to their pitching in April (a 4.77 team ERA), the Dodgers snapped into form in May, with a team ERA of 3.03. In 264 IP during the month, they allowed only 14 HRs.

The Giants, who'd posted a team ERA of 3.15 in April when they jumped out to a 15-5 start, gave ground in May (team ERA of 3.65). They allowed nearly twice as many HRs in the month (26) as the Dodgers, in roughly the same number of IP. Some intimations of problems in their bullpen surfaced during the month.

ON May 31, 1962 (a Thursday), the Giants' Billy O'Dell was done in by his own error, which also involved an odd scoring anomaly. Reaching for a low throw from first baseman Orlando Cepeda, O'Dell inadvertently kicked the ball down the right field line, allowing the hitter (Tony Gonzalez) to reach base, and permitting the runner from second (Johnny Callison) to score. Ordinarily this would have been an unearned run, but there was only one out when O'Dell committed his fluke error and Gonzalez was credited with an infield single on the play (he'd actually beaten O'Dell to the first base bag). The next batter for the Phillies, Mel Roach, followed with a single, which would have scored Callison anyway. So it was scored an earned run, but no RBI--a very rare occurrence indeed.

That extra run was enough to hang the loss on O'Dell, for the Giants could not solve Art Mahaffey, managing just six hits, and mounting only a belated but futile rally in the top of the ninth, falling one run short. That snapped their seven-game winning streak. Final score: Phillies 2, Giants 1.

AT the Polo Grounds, teenage monster Joe Moeller got a quick hook from manager Walt Alston, who must've had a feeling it was Ed Roebuck's day. Coming into the game in the fourth with the score tied 2-2, Roebuck threw five innings of scoreless relief, faltering only in the ninth when Alston tried to stretch him to the end of the game. By this point the Dodgers had built a 6-2 lead, mostly from a two-run triple from Larry Burright. (And we are not kidding when we say that the "Burright Era" will come to a sudden end within a week...)

In that overstretched ninth, two walks and an error on a possible double play ball by Jim Gilliam left the bases loaded for the Mets with no outs, but Ron Perranoski came in and induced former teammate (and recent nemesis) Gil Hodges to hit a grounder to short, where the Dodgers just missed a double play due to the ball sticking in Maury Wills' glove for a couple of extra seconds, allowing Hodges to reach first safely. However, the aging slugger pulled a hamstring trying to beat the throw, and this injury would keep him out of the Mets' lineup for an extended period of time. Perranoski retired the final two batters and brought home the Dodgers' thirteenth straight victory. Final score: Dodgers 6, Mets 3.

IN CONTRAST with that notably long relief appearance by Roebuck, we have the present-day relief pitching strategy, which often involves three or four pitchers who throw a single inning each. Remember when we told you a few weeks back that one of the reasons why run scoring levels were down was because the relievers were on a hot streak? (Even if you don't remember, just nod your head--that's a good reader.)

Such a strategy can work as long as the relievers remain consistently good...but of course they are human beings, and they slump, get hurt, or get unlucky (like Billy O'Dell above). The last two days in 2022 MLB have shown what can happen when a strategy turns into an albatross: relief pitchers on May 29-30 this year combined for an ERA of 5.09, about fifty percent higher than the ERA they posted in April. (There were no position players performing mop-up duty on these two days, so the stats were not distorted due to this increasingly popular practice amongst managers.) It was one of the hittingest Memorial Days in quite some time, looking more like something from 1996 or 2000: 42 HRs hit over 26 games, producing an aggregate .459 SLG for the day. (The relief pitcher ERA yesterday: 5.60.)

We'll keep an eye on this phenomenon and report on it periodically--the relief pitcher usage practice that managers have slavishly adopted might well be coming back to haunt them. Stay tuned...

Monday, May 30, 2022


By May 30, 1962, the National League was beginning to get the idea that two teams were very likely to be battling things out for the pennant. The two doubleheaders played by the Giants and Dodgers on this day did nothing to dispel such a perception: the results on this day were identical to what had happened on the west coast three days earlier.

IT took the Giants 12 innings to win the first of their games against the Phillies, however. With their five .300 hitters in their lineup, SF was still slapping out base hits, but they stranded many runners thanks to the clutch pitching of Phillies starter Cal McLish and led only 3-2 after eight and a half innings. Phils' manager Gene Mauch played for the tie after Roy Sievers singled to start off the bottom of the ninth, having slugger Don Demeter lay down a sacrifice bunt. Weak-hitting infielder Billy Klaus then squirted a single to right, and pinch-runner Mel Roach just beat Felipe Alou's throw to plate to tie the game.

In the 12th, though, Mauch's strategy backfired after the Giants had pushed over a run to take the lead. After Klaus singled again (this time off Stu Miller), Chris Short popped up his bunt attempt and Klaus was doubled off first. Tony Taylor then grounded out to end the game. Final score: Giants 4, Phillies 3 (12 innings).

Game Two was not so closely fought. The Giants slapped around Jack Hamilton (who sported a 5.92 ERA coming into the game) and knocked him out in the second (the decisive blow: Tom Haller's two-run homer); they added a run off Dallas Green in the fourth to take a 5-0 lead. Mike McCormick gave a little ground in the sixth, allowing a two-run homer to Roy Sievers, but Don Larsen and Stu Miller kept the Phillies at bay the rest of the way. Final score: Giants 5, Phillies 2.

UP the road in New York, the Dodgers were having an emotional return to the Polo Grounds. Even with Sandy Koufax on the mound for LA, the game bore a greater resemblance to 2019 than 1962, as the Dodgers hit four homers (including two from mighty mite Maury Wills--one of them was an inside-the-park job) and slapped out nineteen hits--OK, that sounds more like 1996 than 1962. In addition to Wills' four hits, Ron Fairly, Willie Davis and Frank Howard each had three hits. 

Koufax had his weakest game in the skein that would go into overdrive with his next start, but he had a 10-0 lead when he surrendered three runs and four hits to the Mets in the bottom of the fourth (including a homer by Gil Hodges). He weakened again in the ninth, but convinced manager Walt Alston to let him stay in to complete the game (a matter of pride, as he recounted in his 1966 autobiography). When the dust had finally settled, a total of 32 hits had been made--and there was still another game to play. Final score: Dodgers 13, Mets 6.

The second game was a much tighter affair, as Hodges continued to plague his former teammates by hitting two more homers, with the second one giving the Mets a 4-3 lead after five innings. This game was much more like post-modern baseball, with six homers--three for each team--out of a total of just fourteen hits for both teams (who combined to hit .212 in Game Two: 14-for-66).

Frank Howard homered in the seventh to put the Dodgers back ahead, but the Mets tied it in the bottom of the inning when Joe Christopher tripled and "that man again"--Elio Chacon--singled him in. Willie Davis hit the Dodgers' third homer of the game--and the seventh on the day--to break the tie in the ninth, however, and Larry Sherry survived an eventful bottom of the inning (aided by a baserunning gaffe by Richie Ashburn, who was thrown out attempting to stretch a single). Final score: Dodgers 6, Mets 5.

SEASON RECORDS: SFG 35-14, LAD 33-15, CIN 26-17, PIT 25-18, STL 24-20, MIL 21-26, HOU 18-27, PHI 16-28, CHC 15-31, NYM 12-29

NL RBI leaders: Cepeda, SFG 49; T. Davis, LAD 47; Mays, SFG 41; Pinson, CIN 40; F. Alou, SFG 37

NL SLG leaders: Mays, SFG .690; Sawatski, STL .662; Thomas, NYM, .650; Cepeda, SFG, .623; Pinson, CIN .622, B. Williams CHC, .603; T. Davis, LAD .580

Sunday, May 29, 2022


[The Dodgers and Giants resume their 1962 showdown tomorrow. They both had two days off on May 28th and May 29th as they traveled east to continue slapping around the Phillies and Mets. We hope you'll join us for our continuing coverage...]

Meanwhile, let's spend time today grappling with the data behemoth that's issued forth from the problematic mind-meld we like to call the Tango Love Pie™. Armed and dangerous is a loaded phrase in every sense in present-day America (and we apologize for the pun), and the personage designing the massive Statcast data set--which tracks tons of details many of us in the baseball analysis community have clamored for since the 1990s--is at best a mixed blessing for the profession. 

There is useful knowledge to be gained from Statcast, but it's not getting out to the public in a way that doesn't also create more conceptual confusion; sadly, that seems to be the strategy behind not creating a more definitive path through the data. The good news is that the data has been made available to the public, and for that we are grateful--there are too many stories floating around about private data modeling work being conducted by the analytics folks now employed by most of MLB's franchises. But the bad news is that the data is being characterized in ways that have accelerated strategic changes in the game--and this has led to unforeseen consequences that can be traced back to a particular analytical mindset...one which is, unfortunately, embodied in Statcast--in how it's set up and how it is both articulated (and not articulated) to the public.

We've spent some time with the data, and there is definitely interesting info to be gleaned there--so long as the interpretation isn't slanted to a hidden agenda. We'll try to walk you through what we see as being the key takeaway from the combined measures that have been the most ballyhooed within the Statcast data set: exit velocity for a batted ball and the launch angle off the bat when it makes contact.

So let's get right to the bi-directional chart summarizing more than half a million batted balls since the launch (pardon the pun, again...) of Statcast in 2015...

You're saying, OK...and you wouldn't be wrong. The first thing to note is that we've rolled up the results for ranges of exit velocities (which run across the page in rows, beginning with the hardest-hit balls--those in excess of 100mph--and ending with the softest-hit...the group marked ≤79mph. Those have then been broken out into the launch angle of the ball off the bat as captured for every batted ball since 2015.

When you see insanely high BA and SLG data (and you'll see it immediately in the 100+ mph section), remember that these numbers measure only at-bats where the ball is hit. There are no strikeouts or walks or hit batters in this data set. What you have here is the 65% of the plate appearances where the at-bat ends with the batter making contact with the ball.

To orient you further about the exit velocity ranges--particularly in terms of how frequently they occur relative to each other--we direct you to the darker blue boxes near the right-hand edge of the table. There you can see a box for our four exit velocity ranges that quantifies the percentage of total at-bats found in each of them. Just to walk you through it: note that 24% of all batted balls are hit with an exit velocity of 100+ mph; 30% are hit with a velocity between 90-99 mph; 21% create an exit speed of 80-89 mph; and 25% are what folks would likely call "soft contact" (≤ 79mph).

The summary data shown in white type on the brown background (the rightmost column in the table) tells us that BA/SLG is, naturally enough, at its highest when the batter hits the ball the hardest. We also provided the percentage of these hits in each range that were XBH (doubles-triples-homers) and which were HRs: you can see that the percentage of XBH descends down the velocity ranges, going from 55% at 100+ mph to 34% for 90-99 mph; then, down to just 17% for 80-89 mph, and finally to just 9% at ≤79 mph. 

Now, when you go over and look at the percentages of XBH and HR in the 100+ mph range, you may be confused by the incredibly high percentages we see there in the middle of the table--where certain launch angles produce 90% homers and 98-100% XBH. How can those numbers be so high but the overall number for each only be 55% XBH and just 28% HR? 

The answer is in the italicized numbers in red that move across the top of each data section. For 100+ mph, the data subsets that produced the least fly balls are the < -1 (grounder) and 0-10 launch angles, which also happen to represent nearly half of the at-bats in the 100+ mph data set (47.5% to be exact: add 21.8% and 25.7%). If you look at the left two columns and examine the italicized numbers in red all the way down, you'll see that the percentages are very consistent all the way down the exit velocity ranges. Grounders and low-mid liners account for about half the plate appearances with batted balls. Generally speaking, the higher the launch angle, the fewer instances there are. 

The areas highlighted in orange show us the combinations of exit velocities (EVs) and launch angles (LAs) that produce XBHs/HRs, but note that as the launch angle increases, the lower the BA/SLG becomes. Too much loft means the ball is not going to clear the fence or hit the wall--it's going to get caught. And in the 80-89 and 90-99 mph ranges, you can see by the cells in light blue just how much those come into play. Another way to quantify it: guaranteed fly ball outs ( the cells where you find sub-.200 BAs) occur only about 2% of the time on balls with EVs of 100+ mph, but it happens about 25% of the time for balls with 90-99 -ph EVs. For balls with 80-89 mph EVs, that figure goes up to just under 40% of the time.

Two more "trajectory zones" should be noted here, shown with a bold line drawn around them where they occur on the left side of the table. The one furthest left is the "grounder zone," (the row for  the < -1 angle...which, strictly speaking, is not really a "launch angle" at all). In this zone, the harder the ball is hit, the more likely it is to be a hit, but almost always a single, as the XBH% show (reading down: 7%, 9%, 10%, 5%). The next zone, which kind of looks like the panhandle of Texas, is the "line drive zone." If you've looked at stats breaking out hitters' BAs on line drives, you'll see that these numbers look extremely similar to what you'll see in that other breakout. These have higher XBH% associated with the hits (ranging roughly from 12-35%), but still no homers.

The final numbers that will orient you to all of the nuances of the data sample are found in the columns next to the AVG column at the far right of the table. These show the percentage of HRs and XBH from the entire sample as they occur in the EV ranges. To follow those through, 84% of all HRs hit from 2015 to the present with measured EVs have occurred when that EV is 100+ mph. 16% occur with an EV in the 90-99 range; less than 0.1% of all HRs occur with an EV below 90 mph. (It's almost enough to make you want to quote those EVs mindlessly about individual HRs in game summaries, isn't it?)

Those Tango Love Pies remain radioactive for years!
For XBH, it's not quite so monolithic--only 64% of XBH have an EV of 100+ mph. A lot of doubles and triples are hit a bit less hard--26% in the 90-99 mph range, 6% in the 80-89 mph range, and 4% in the ≤79mph range (these are likely the "fly ball doubles" that you occasionally see...now you know that, in this instance, "occasional" means 4%). 

THIS is a lot to absorb, so we're going to shove off for now to let your brains cool down--but we'll return to this data a bit later to discuss and demonstrate the limitations of its actual utility. It has many fascinating components, but it's not material that will move us toward a solution of what plagues baseball at this moment in time. The best intellectual exercise that that the would-be data hierophant we call the Tango Love Pie™ could do for us is to use a table such as this one to reverse-engineer what this data would have looked like in the 1920s and 1930s...that would be a data model that could actually have some use as a target for how to modify the game in ways that would restore its long-lost diversity. Sadly, the arrow associated with the not-so-hidden agenda contained within data sets like Statcast seems to point in the opposite direction. 

Friday, May 27, 2022


Well, we gave it all away in the last post when we zeroed in on the nightmarish stretch befalling the Phillies and Mets as they both took it on the chin during their west coast road trip. (THUD! was the headline in the New York Post; we're not sure what was printed in Philadelphia was actually printable.)

Sunday, May 27, 1962 brought both of these teams to their knees twice, as the Giants and Dodgers remained incredibly hot. The way things went down for each club was ominously similar--a first game where the score wasn't really close, and a one-run loss in the second game. 

THERE were a few fireworks in the first game at Candlestick, however--though they didn't arrive until the seventh inning. The Mets did take a 1-0 lead in the top of the third when Richie Ashburn doubled home catcher Sammy Taylor, whose grounder to first had been hit too softly for the Giants to turn a double play. But the Giants got three in the bottom of the fourth as Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda and Felipe Alou all singled, and Mets shortstop Elio Chacon missed a relay throw from left field that struck second base and caromed into the outfield, allowing Cepeda to score. (Chacon seemed to be inordinately rattled on the play, and looked several times at the scoreboard when he was charged with an error on the play.)

In the bottom of the seventh, the game took a surreal turn when, with two outs and a man on third, Mets starter Roger Craig threw one high and tight to Willie Mays, causing him to jump out of the way. Mays slapped the next pitch for a single, making it 4-1. Craig then hit Cepeda with a pitch, and the craziness kicked in: as Mays moved toward second, Cepeda belatedly charged the mound, with Craig coming down to meet him. When Mays arrived at second, Chacon suddenly began slugging him, even as Craig and Cepeda squared off. 

Mays grabbed the wiry Chacon, lifted him off his feet, and slammed him to the ground, where he attempted to pin the flailing arms of the excitable Venezuelan. Meanwhile, Cepeda had socked Craig, as the benches emptied, while Casey Stengel stood at the top of the dugout steps in disbelief. 

When it was all sorted out, only Chacon was ejected from the game. But the wackiness was still intact: with Alou at the plate, Craig decided to pick off Cepeda. He succeeded, but he also picked off his first baseman: Ed Bouchee was playing off the bag, and he made a futile, belated lunge for the ball, which eluded him and squibbed the right field line. Mays and Cepeda each moved up a base before Felix Mantilla could retrieve the ball--and they both promptly scored on Alou's single, making it 6-1 Giants.

Tom Haller, getting more playing time behind the plate for the Giants, hit a homer to cap the scoring. Stu Miller earned his fifth save, picking up for Jack Sanford, who'd struck out nine and allowed just four hits in seven innings. Final score: Giants 7, Mets 1 (first game). 

In the second game, Chacon was back, and he'd even score a run in this game, along with catcher Harry Chiti (who would be "traded for himself" a few weeks later by the ever-innovative Mets management) courtesy of a homer by Jim Hickman. The Mets led the game 5-2 in the eighth, but starter Al Jackson surrendered a leadoff single to Harvey Kuenn. Stengel decided to take no chances, bringing in Craig Anderson--but the same trio who'd bedevilled Roger Craig late in the first game--Mays, Cepeda, and Alou--did it all over again, and before you knew it, the Giants were back on top. Stu Miller gave up a couple of hits in the ninth, but he held on to preserve the win and pick up his second save of the day. Final score: Giants 6, Mets 5 (second game)

DOWN at Dodger Stadium, Stan Williams was "on" in the first game, and he was backed by a 4-for-4, 3 RBI performance from gargantuan Frank Howard (6'7", 245 lbs.) who seemingly defied natural law by stroking a two-run triple in the fourth off Phils starter Paul Brown. (So, yes, we're exaggerating just a bit: Howard, later known as "Hondo," actually had 35 triples in his career--which, come to think of it, really is unbelievable.) Williams faltered a bit in the ninth, losing his shutout, and Ron Perranoski came in to get the last out. Final score: Dodgers 5, Phillies 2 (first game).

In Game Two, Ron Fairly--still hot, with his batting average now over .300--spelled Willie Davis in center and batted cleanup (collecting two more hits and an RBI). That one RBI was all Don Drysdale had to work with, however, and he surrendered the tying run in the top of the sixth (Wes Covington's single scoring Tony Gonzalez). 

But with Fairly in center, Tim Harkness got a rare start, and manager Walt Alston's hunch paid off for the Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth. With one out, the Dodgers loaded the bases, but Johnny Roseboro popped out to third. Harkness then came up, fell behind 0-2, took a ball, then just barely got a piece of Phillies' starter Art Mahaffey's slider. He then slapped the next pitch into right field for a game-winning, walk-off single, giving Drysdale his seventh win and upping the Dodgers' winning streak to eight. Final score: Dodgers 2, Phillies 1 (second game).


Thursday, May 26, 2022


Perhaps the Phillies and Mets waved to each other across the dark, turbid California air space as they swapped places on their West Coast journeys. 

If so, it was unquestionably a forlorn exchange. The Phillies, in fourth place two weeks previously, were in the midst of a 1-8 road trip west of the Mississippi that was part of a stretch in which they'd lose seventeen of twenty. 

The Mets, not to be outdone, followed a successful opening road series in Milwaukee (winning three of four, a feat they would not duplicate until 1964) with a losing skein that moved with them like an occluded front. It followed them home, and stalled over the Polo Grounds for another week, refusing to move on until the consecutive body count reached seventeen.

As you can see, bad pitching can really jump-start a protracted string of losses; the Phillies (above right, from May 12-30) and the Mets (at left, from May 21-June 5) clearly personify that principle. (And, no, that's not a misprint--Roger Craig really did strike out only three batters in his four losing starts during this period. Note, though, that he had a pretty respectable ERA--a long losing streak tends to require at least one guy pitching well but without luck.)

The Mets did try their darnedest, however, to snap this losing streak in two on Saturday, May 26, cuffing around Billy O'Dell for seven hits in three innings and taking a 3-2 lead into the fourth. Unfortunately for them, however, they had Jay Hook on the mound, and not Craig or Bob Miller, and the former electrical engineering student kept giving back the lead--meaning that he kept pitching to Willie Mays (who hit two homers and a triple against him).

Those Mays homers, somewhat unsurprisingly, came at crucial points in the game--the first in the eighth to erase a 5-4 Mets lead, and the second in the tenth with a man on to overturn a 6-5 Mets lead and send them to another defeat. Why Hook was still in there pitching in extra innings is slightly mysterious, but a look at the relief pitcher ERAs in the graphic covering the Mets' pitching during their 17-game losing streak probably explains it. (Of course, we won't dismiss the "Stengel napping on the bench" theory out of hand--this was a day game after a night game.) Final score: Giants 7, Mets 6 (10 innings).

DOWN in LA, the Phillies did manage to score against Sandy Koufax (a Roy Sievers homer in the first), but they could manage only another unearned run the rest of the way as they began to flail at his deliveries in increasing helplessness as the afternoon progressed. Koufax would wind up with 16 strikeouts, and would even contribute an RBI single in the seventh when the Dodgers broke a 3-3 tie. Willie Davis added an insurance run with a homer in the eighth, and "the left arm of God" struck out the side in the ninth to nail down his sixth win and the Dodgers' sixth win in a row...in a streak that would eventually reach thirteen. Final score: Dodgers 6, Phillies 3.


Wednesday, May 25, 2022


We should amend that headline to note that three of the four teams in our two featured games on Friday, May 25, 1962, also had their walking clothes on. The Dodgers and Mets each drew six walks, while the Giants drew eight, including three from the normally swing-happy Chuck Hiller

The Phillies drew only three walks, but they would eventually compile eleven hits as they tried to overcome a nine-run deficit at Candlestick Park. They didn't make it, but Al Dark seemed intent on giving them a bushelful of chances (to paraphrase Rhoda Penmark) to do so. (The real-life Rhoda, actress Patty McCormack, would blanch at such a thought--a good Brooklyn girl from the get-go, McCormack is a lifelong Dodger fan.)

Once again, Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda were in the middle of things, each hitting their 14th homer and knocking Phillies starter Jack Hamilton out of the game in the fifth. Frank Sullivan must have felt the presence of the Bad Seed during his brief but unmerciful relief stint, for the Phils made three errors in the sixth to hand the Giants four more (unearned) runs, pushing the score to 10-1.

Billy Pierce was cruising until the eighth, when star-crossed bonus boy Mel Roach singled home Ted Savage and scored on Tony Gonzalez' two-run homer, making it 10-4. He gave more ground in the ninth, finally giving way to Stu Miller after Johnny Callison's three-run shot. Stu almost allowed the tying run to come to the plate, but apparently thought better of it, coaxing Roach to tap one back to the mound for the game-ending out. Final score: Giants 10, Phillies 7.

DOWN in LA, the Dodgers rolled out two six-run innings as they took after five Met hurlers, scoring runs against all of them. Maury Wills had four hits, three stolen bases, and scored three runs; Tommy Davis had four hits and three RBI. But the real damage came from the bottom three hitters in their lineup: Larry Burright (his era now seriously on the cusp of vaporization...) had a last fling with a double, a homer and four RBI; third-string catcher Norm Sherry coaxed long-misplaced memories from his bat, also knocking in four runs; and Ron Fairly had three hits, three RBI and scored three times, thus conjuring up three hat tricks at once. 

Teenage monster Joe Moeller didn't pitch well, but he didn't really have to--but he was touched for homers by Frank Thomas (#13, trying to keep pace with Mays and Cepeda) and another one of the Mets' ethereal legends, Cliff Cook, a failed slugger dropped on their doorstep by the Reds, who would hit all of .188 while doing hard time in the Polo Grounds. (The real Mets "legend of '62" had also just come aboard after being spirited out of Baltimore in the dead of night: we're speaking of "Marvelous Marv" Throneberry, a man that Casey Stengel had pined for after the Yankees had traded him away in 1959. Marv went 0-for-5 on this evening, and Ol' Case would soon stop pining for him even while Mets' fans made him into a cult figure.)

One last Met hero in yet another losing cause didn't even start the game--Felix Mantilla replaced Elio Chacon at shortstop (Elio apparently needing to prepare for his upcoming one-round bout with Willie Mays--more on that later...) and promptly went 4-for-4 with four RBI. Strangely enough, this performance did not earn "Felix the Cat" a start the following evening in San Francisco. Could Stengel have really slept through a game that produced a total of twenty-five runs?! Final score: Dodgers 17, Mets 8.


NL RBI LEADERS: Cepeda, SF 47; Tommy Davis, LA 43; Pinson, Cin 36;  Mays, SF 35

Tuesday, May 24, 2022


The essential anarchy underlying baseball (until it was painted into a corner by those "murder to dissect" creatures slithering through the game in the 21st century) may have its most representative embodiment in one Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish. (Call him Cal if only to save your tongue some undue exertion, but note that he doesn't have a dog--or any other "pet"--named Spot.)

McLish bloomed early and flopped twice before the age of 25; when he regrouped into the PCL, his major league record stood at 8-21, with a 5.88 ERA. (Some of that, it should be said, stemmed from a "teenage monster" phase with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1944, when MLB was awash in peach fuzz due to WWII--a kind of jock-strap analogue to the Val Lewton film Youth Runs Wild.)

But, true to the last of his middle names, McLish found redemption with a team whose (at-the-time) nickname (Indians) was congruent with his roots (Oklahoma, once referred to as "Indian country"). He would do some late blooming in Cleveland, get traded despite winning 19 games, go bust, and wind up spending his twilight years with the Phillies, pitching for his teenage teammate with the Dodgers (Gene Mauch). When all accounts were settled, Cal's career captured the connective tissue in baseball between anarchy and random variation: his won-loss record was 92-92.

However, on our day in question (May 24, 1962), McLish faced the Giants, a tough hitting team, beginning with a leadoff hitter (Harvey Kuenn) who wore him out (18-for-55, 5 HRs). He'd handled the team's big boppers (Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda) pretty well, though. In fact, Cepeda was only 1-for-12 against him lifetime.

Ah, but things change...yes, they do. Taking the mound under bright sunshine with a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, Cal fanned Kuenn to start things off, but Chuck Hiller, someone he'd dominated in the past, managed to draw a walk. Up came Mays. BLAM! A double to left, hit so hard that Hiller could only make it to third. 

Then Cepeda, who hit one to the fence in left that Ted Savage hauled in on the dead run. Hiller scored, tying the game. Cepeda would single in the third--another ball hit so hard that the baserunner on second (Kuenn, who'd walked and stolen second) had to be held at third. McLish wriggled off the hook by retiring Felipe Alou--the second straight time Alou had left a man on third base. ("Indian country," indeed.)

The score was still 1-1 when Mays came to the plate in the bottom of the sixth. BLAM! A home run over the center field fence, the ball traveling nearly 450 feet. Then Cepeda again. BLAM! A long drive to left that cleared the fence for another home run. The Giants led, 3-1.

But Juan Marichal had been uncharacteristically wild in this game, and Giants' manager Al Dark had pulled him in the fourth after he'd walked six Phillies. Don Larsen had replaced him, and had thrown two more scoreless innings--but Dark tried to stretch him into the seventh, and it didn't work. Tony Taylor doubled, Ted Savage walked, and Johnny Callison singled to cut the lead to 3-2. Dark brought in his putative ace reliever Stu Miller--who brought his gasoline can with him to the mound. Stu got three outs in the inning--but not before the Phils had three more hits and two more runs, taking a 4-3 lead. 

In the bottom of the seventh, Tom Haller (brought in via a double-switch by Dark when he'd relieved Larsen--some slick stuff there from a guy who, like McLish, originally hailed from Oklahoma) singled. Then Dark decided to have Kuenn bunt him along--remember Kuenn has hit 5 HRs off McLish in his career. (You can see the android taking over in Dark's cranium, with a monotone voice: "It's a one-run game...you must bunt...it's a one-run game...you must bunt...".) Harvey does what he's told, Haller gets safely to second, and makes third when Hiller makes Callison back up for his fly ball in right.

Then it's Willie Mays again. Does Mauch walk him intentionally? Does he bring in a reliever? No, and no. BLAM! Willie hits another homer. It's 5-4 Giants. Does Mauch remove McLish? No.

Cepeda rips a single to left. (The Baby Bull would add four more consecutive hits in his subsequent at-bats against McLish.) THEN Mauch pulls Cal in favor of big journeyman right-future manager Dallas Green, who faces Felipe Alou

BLAM! Alou homers, and has a noticeable smirk on his face as he rounds the bases. 

Stu Miller becomes the putative ace in the eighth and the ninth that he'd been so unputatively in the seventh--and the Giants have stopped stumbling. Final score: Giants 7, Phillies 4.

THAT evening in LA, the Dodgers found themselves trailing 2-1 to a tough young right-hander (Bob Miller) when Jim Gilliam's error led to the Mets scoring two unearned runs in the third. It would stay that way until the seventh, when LA would scratch across its own unearned run on a single by Wally Moon. Reliever Craig Anderson, who would move into the Mets' starting rotation with catastrophic results (0-11), would surrender two two-out runs on singles by Frank Howard and Johnny Roseboro. Larry Sherry would induce expatriated Dodger great Gil Hodges to hit into a game-ending double play, and that (as they say...) was that. Final score: Dodgers 4, Mets 2.


NL HOME RUN LEADERS: Mays, SFG 13; Cepeda, SFG 13; Thomas, NYM 12; Pinson, CIN 12

Monday, May 23, 2022


The Giants, having dropped two games at Dodger Stadium, returned home on Wednesday, May 23, 1962 in a listless mood despite still having a 2 1/2 game lead in the NL standings. Their fans seemed to mirror this lassitude, as less than 8,000 of them turned out at Candlestick Park to watch the opening game of an oddly-scheduled three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.*

Stumbling home, then, the Giants continued to stumble on this evening, playing against a team that had been the NL doormat in 1961 (a 47-107 record). After surrendering two singles to start the game, Mike McCormick was victimized by a dropped throw on the part of second baseman Chuck Hiller, nixing what might have been a double play. The Phillies parlayed that error into a three-run first inning. 

McCormick settled down after that, however, and Willie McCovey (getting a start in right field while Willie Mays got a rare night off) homered off the Phils' Art Mahaffey to close the gap to 3-1. 

But the often-embattled lefty, originally signed as a bonus baby at age 17 and who'd led the NL in ERA at age 21 in 1960, would soon find himself in trouble again in the fifth. (His injury-plagued 1962 would trigger another panic response in Giants' owner Horace Stoneham, who would discard him over the 1962-63 off-season in one of SF's worst trades.) Tony Taylor singled, stole second, and rode home on a double by the Phillies' hot rookie Ted Savage (who'd drawn comparisons to Mays and Jackie Robinson after a superb year in AAA in '61; he'd soon show a weakness against right-handers and become the 60s version of Harry "Suitcase" Simpson). 

Al Dark pulled McCormick and brought in young Gaylord Perry, who in '62 was at least as unprepared to be an effective major league reliever as he was ready to be a successful starter (4.82 ERA in six games from the pen, 5.35 ERA in seven starts). He grooved one to Don Demeter, who just missed hitting it out of the park in left: it hit the top of the fence and caromed back in for a double. Savage scored, making it 5-1 Phillies.

The hole got deeper in the seventh when Bobby Bolin gave up more hits to Taylor and Savage, followed by a double by Roy Sievers, settling to earth at age 35 after a great late-blooming half-decade of stardom in the AL (157 homers, 146 OPS+ from 1957-61). 

But Phils' manager Gene Mauch gave the Giants a shot in the bottom of the inning by pulling Mahaffey in favor of the fading Frank Sullivan (9-32 in his last two seasons, split between the Red Sox and the Phillies: later in '62, he'd be released on Bastille Day). The Giants' lesser lights mounted a rally that got them back to within three runs before Mauch brought in Jack Baldschun in order to face Orlando Cepeda (who fouled out to end the threat).

Jim Duffalo came in for San Francisco to pitch the eighth and promptly handed back three runs to the Phils, saved only from further damage when Savage was thrown out at the plate. Down 10-4, the Giants had a wacky rally in the bottom of the inning when McCovey reached first on a strikeout, helping them to load the bases (Baldschun deciding to "unintentionally" walk Willie Mays, who finally showed up as a pinch-hitter) and plate three more runs thanks to singles from Harvey Kuenn and Chuck Hiller. But Dark let Matty Alou bat when he could've brought up his big brother to hit for him; Baldschun induced the littlest Alou to pop out to left and the Phils wriggled off the hook. 

After all that, the ninth inning was uneventful, and the Giants had their third consecutive loss. Final score: Phillies 10, Giants 7. 

IN Los Angelels, the Dodgers drew the New York Mets, still a "respectably bad" team at this point but now in the early throes of what would become a 17-game losing streak. This one was a tight little affair, barely over two hours in length (as opposed to the 3+ hours of lumbering baseball played 400 miles up the coast). Jim Gilliam doubled in Maury Wills to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead in the third, but Joe Christopher singled home Richie Ashburn to tie the game in the fourth.

It remained that way until the bottom of the eighth, when the Dodgers loaded the bases with no outs against their ex-teammate Roger Craig and brought home a couple of runs, the first on a deep fly by Ron Fairly that Mets' left fielder Frank Thomas caught at the low fence--deep enough to let Willie Davis take third...and thus allowing Willie to score when the Mets muffed a chance to turn a double play on a grounder by Frank Howard (shortstop Elio Chacon dropped the ball as he tried to throw to first). 

Don Drysdale gave up just his fourth hit in the ninth--a blooper from Chacon--but Wills and Gilliam converted Joe Christopher's grounder into a game-ending double play, bringing the Mets' soon-to-be-legendary losing streak up to three. (There was a long, long way to go...) Final score: Dodgers 3, Mets 1.



*As with a number of series in the 1962 schedule, this one started on Wednesday and concluded on Friday, destabilizing our present-day expectation that series are generally designated as "weekday" (Monday-Wednesday or Tuesday-Thursday) and "weekend" (Friday-Sunday) events. These irregularities were more prominent in pre-expansion baseball, when the 154-game schedule created an 11/11 series split between teams, and the later April start to the season also contributed to a more generally anarchic schedule.

Sunday, May 22, 2022


After losing three straight to the Cardinals at home, the Dodgers fell 4 1/2 games behind the Giants as their arch-rivals arrived in Los Angeles for a two-game series. It was crucial, even at this early stage of the season, for the Dodgers to win both games.

And, thanks to the timely re-emergence of Stan Williams and the clutch hitting of Tommy Davis, LA followed up its 8-1 win in the opener of the series with another precious victory on Tuesday, May 22, 1962. 

A tight pitching duel commenced between Williams, who'd struggled in his early starts (including one against the Giants back on April 16) and Jack Sanford (who would eventually win 24 games, but whose won-loss record that day would fall to 4-4). Jim Gilliam's RBI single in the third put the Dodgers ahead 1-0 in the third, but the Giants tied the score in the top of the sixth when Chuck Hiller, oddly batting third in the SF lineup, singled home Willie Mays (who, in a strange, unconscious nod to "post-modern baseball theory," was batting in the #2 slot). 

Tommy Davis, emerging from a brief slump, came up big for the Dodgers in the bottom of the sixth, hitting a two-run homer off Sanford. (Davis would have an incredible year against the Giants in '62: he wound up hitting .452 against them, with 8 HRs and 27 RBI in 21 games.) Willie Davis added insurance runs with a two-run single in the bottom of the seventh.

Williams faltered in the ninth, allowing singles to Orlando Cepeda and Matty Alou (subbing for his brother Felipe). Larry Sherry came in and quickly induced a double play ball from Jose Pagan and retired pinch-hitter Willie McCovey on a grounder to first to cement the Dodger win and move them to within 2 1/2 games of the Giants. Final score: Dodgers 5, Giants 1.


Saturday, May 21, 2022


Monday night, May 21, 1962, with 45,000+ in attendance for the first meeting of the Dodgers and Giants in Dodger Stadium--it was also the night where Sandy Koufax entered into the level of performance that defined him until his premature retirement after the 1966 season.

Koufax had been more hittable than usual in the first six weeks of the '62 season--but his control, which had always been his Achilles heel, was much better--markedly improved even from his first star-quality season in 1961, when he won 18 games and set a new NL strikeout record with 269 (a record he would break twice in the next three seasons).

With his five-hit, ten-strikeout complete game win on May 21, Koufax would begin a skein of pitching at an otherworldly level that presaged the elevated level of performance that he would maintain from 1963-66. In 13 starts until an undiagnosed blood clot in the index finger of his pitching hand forced him to the sidelines, Koufax would compile a 10-2 record, with an ERA of 1.49. Our Quality Matrix method (QMAX), a probabilistic measurement of starting pitcher performance, shows that 12 of his 13 starts in that time frame were in the top two tiers of hit prevention as defined by the system (see QMAX matrix chart at right.)

Arguments about Koufax' performance have persisted in the neo-sabermetric age, based on overstating the effects of either ballpark factors or the strike zone change that came into effect starting in 1963, but most have come around to the more general consensus that he reached a pinnacle of performance of sufficient magnitude to more than justify his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame despite his retirement at the age of 30. 

QMAX makes it clear that Koufax' own testimony (as documented in his 1966 autobiography) about his improvement is correct--once he mastered his control, a process that began in the second half of the 1960 season, stabilized in 1961, and improved further in his injury-shorted 1962 season, he was in position to take full advantage of the strike zone change. The rest is history.

The QMAX numbers are as eye-popping as the more mainstream stats. To go with that 1.49 ERA, you have a 4.8 H/9, a .150 opponents' BA, and a 10.9 K/9 rate--all unprecedented figures in 1962. In the QMAX formulation, starting pitchers in the 1962 NL had a 3.99 hit prevention average on the matrix chart (which establishes a seven-by-seven performance grid for each start), and a 3.35 walk prevention average. Over these thirteen starts, Koufax' QMAX numbers were 1.69 for hit prevention (what's termed the "S", or "stuff" dimension) and 2.00 for walk prevention (what's termed the "C", or "command" dimension). 

Interestingly, Koufax had a precursor of this performance level in the previous season (1961), in a time frame very similar to the one we're examining for '62. In a year where he won 18 games with a 3.52 ERA and had QMAX values of 3.26 "S" and 3.09 "C", Koufax had an eleven-start streak where he came fairly close to his skein in 1962: it's a streak that fits neatly into his season-long performance levels in his final four seasons. 

The QMAX matrix chart for that streak (at left) shows a pronounced but lesser level of dominance (8 of 11 starts in the top two tiers of hit prevention, as opposed to 12 of 13), and shows his spottier control in the "C" dimension distribution; but it's clear that Koufax was steadily improving all aspects of his performance throughout this period, with these performance peaks strongly suggesting the possibility of an even higher performance level. (The QMAX scores for this 1961 streak: 2.18 "S", 2.55 "C".) While such a method is clearly not foolproof, its true probabilistic approach (as opposed to the Game Score measure, which "mixes its metaphor" by incorporating runs scored results into its formula) makes it the least encumbered tool for assessing a starting pitcher's true performance level.

Koufax began his outing on May 21, 1962 by striking out Harvey Kuenn and Chuck Hiller, and retiring Willie Mays on a fly ball. The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead in the fourth on a homer by Tommy Davis (#9 on the year; Tommy went 3-for-3 with 3 RBI in the game), and added another run in the sixth.

Orlando Cepeda hit a solo HR in the seventh to spoil Koufax' shutout, but the Dodgers sent ten men to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, scoring five insurance runs to turn a close game into a laugher. It was the beginning of an incredible hot streak for the team: beginning with this win, they'd post a 17-2 record over the next seventeen days. Final score: Dodgers 8, Giants 1.


Friday, May 20, 2022


Or should we say--that two-side one-run loss thing happening for the first time in 1962...

...for on this day--May 20, 1962, a Sunday--the Dodgers and Giants played games in which they both lost by a single run. It was the first time that had happened to them during the season.

As it turned out, this statement needs an asterisk, for the Giants played a doubleheader on this day and won the second game. But the definition as stated above still holds. 

In terms of playing one-run games on the same day, regardless of winning or losing, this was the fourth time such had occurred during 1962. (We'll keep a running count of that, which will include any head-to-head games--two of which will occur over the next two entries, marking a momentum shift for the teams. Back in April, as you may recall, the Dodgers and Giants played a one-run game against each other: the Dodgers won that game, 8-7.)

In LA on 5/20/62, station-to-station baseball prevailed again, with the only extra-base hits in the game being two doubles (one for each side). Manager Walt Alston was still looking to play the good shepherd for his "teenage monster" Joe Moeller, and the 19-year old pitched creditably through five innings, leaving the game trailing 2-0.

Unfortunately, Alston decided to try Phil Ortega in a "hold it close until the team can rally" mode, and it didn't work: after two batters, the score was 3-0. After two more batters, Alston had to bring in Ed Roebuck with runners on first and third, and starting pitcher Curt Simmons drove in the Cards' fourth run with a sacrifice fly.

These runs proved just enough to beat the Dodgers, who rallied for two in the bottom of the sixth and closed to within one run on a double by Larry Burright (three more hits and now hitting .375 as his "era" reached its apex). But a ninth-inning rally fell short, in part due to a botched sacrifice attempt, and Simmons wriggled off the hook, retiring Doug Camilli and Maury Wills on well-hit flies that were tracked down by Charlie James and Curt Flood. Final score: Cardinals 4, Dodgers 3.

In Game One of their doubleheader against the Colts in San Francisco, the Giants quickly learned that Juan Marichal was too hittable on this day: the Colts slapped three hits in the first for a run, then added four more hits and a walk to add four more runs in the third, taking a 5-1 lead. In the sixth, Marichal allowed the sixth and decisive run after walking Colts starter Bob Bruce, whose presence on the base paths created a scoring opportunity cashed in by Roman Mejias, making the score 6-3. The Giants rallied in the bottom of the ninth against Bruce, but Colts manager Harry Craft brought in his ace starter Turk Farrell (leading the league in ERA) and the ex-Dodger closed things out with a flourish, fanning Willie Mays to strand the potential tying and winning runs. Final score: Colts 6, Giants 5 (game one).

In Game Two, the Giants decided to leave nothing to chance by sending eleven men to the plate in the first inning, chasing starter Hal Woodeshick and scoring six runs. Giants starter Billy Pierce was not especially sharp in the early going, allowing a homer to Bob Aspromonte in the third and giving back two more runs in the fifth, but he tightened up in the later innings and drove in an insurance run in the seventh. (Some wags call a game like this "pitching to the score," and perhaps that's just what it was.) Pierce's Game Score was a middling 59, still relatively win-indicative; his QMAX score was 3, 1 (a bit better in terms of probabilistic WPCT: teams win about 65% of games where the starter has such a score). Final score: Giants 7, Colts 4.


Thursday, May 19, 2022


The reason why the Los Angeles Dodgers did not win the 1962 NL pennant is shockingly simple: they could not beat the St. Louis Cardinals in Dodger Stadium that year. They lost seven of nine games to them in their bright, shiny new home, including three in a row at the end of the season: just one additional win against these pesky Redbirds was all they needed to avoid a playoff with the Giants and advance to the World Series.

On Saturday, May 19, 1962, the best you could say about the game at Dodger Stadium was that the Dodgers only squandered a 1-0 lead. Don Drysdale lost that lead in the fourth inning when St. Louis bunched together four singles and a walk, winding up with four runs in the inning when Curt Flood's single slipped by Willie Davis in center field, allowing Cardinals' starter Ray Sadecki to score.

Sadecki was a bit wobbly, allowing six hits and five walks, but the Dodgers helped him out by going just 1-for-8 with RISP while also hitting into two double plays. When Drysdale faltered in the fifth, he was replaced by Phil Ortega, making only his third appearance of the year and continuing a trend of appearing in games where his team was losing. (By the end of the 1962 campaign, Ortega would appear in a total of 24 games--and the Dodgers' record in those games was...2-22.) Final score: Cardinals 8, Dodgers 1.

In San Francisco earlier that afternoon, a mercurial career was quickly closing in on its final act. Right hander George (Red) Witt had been a sensation in 1958, posting a 9-2 record with a 1.61 ERA over the second half of the year. (His last ten starts that year were particularly eye-popping: 7-0, 0.99 ERA.) Arm miseries quickly intervened, however, and Witt never came close to that performance again; at the end of the 1961 season, he was sold to the Los Angeles Angels, where he flunked an April '62 tryout, appearing in five games (two starts), posting an unsightly ERA of 8.10.

The Angels sent him back to the Pirates, who quickly sent him on to the Colts, who figured they had nothing to lose except ball games. Three days after acquiring Witt, Houston supplied him with an acid test--a start against the first-place Giants, a team that also happened to be tearing the cover off the ball (a .297 team batting average). 

Witt made it through the first two innings unscathed, but the wagon wheels disintegrated in the bottom of the third: Willie Mays doubled, scoring starting pitcher Mike McCormick (making his first start of the year for the Giants). Chuck Hiller and Orlando Cepeda followed with singles, knocking Witt out of the game. Dave Giusti, some years away from being a top closer, had a messy long relief outing, ultimately giving up homers to Mays, Cepeda and Ed Bailey, turning the game into a laugher for the Giants. 

McCormick pitched well, scattering nine hits over eight innings, and it was looking like San Francisco was loaded with pitching. But McCormick would struggle all year, and "young Gaylord Perry" would regress, leaving them with a hole in the back of the rotation that would plague them later in the year.

Witt would get one more start for the Colts; it wasn't really all that bad, but they decided he wasn't starting pitcher material, and put him in the bullpen. As it so happens, we'll have a ringside seat at Witt's final outings in the major leagues...stay tuned. Final score: Giants 10, Colts 2.

SEASON RECORDS: SFG 27-10, LAD 23-14, STL 20-13, CIN 19-14, PIT 16-16, PHI 15-17, MIL 14-19, NYM 10-19, HOU 12-22, CHC 10-24

Wednesday, May 18, 2022


Well, is it? The diagram at right tells you that Friday, May 18, 1962 is a day where the Giants and Dodgers both lose. It's the only day thus far in the month that they've done so (they did it three times in April, despite the fact that the Giants went 15-5 for the month). And you've already seen (in previous posts) that the Dodgers are going to get very hot for the rest of May--so are you willing to take a tumble on answering the question posed in our subject line?

Feel free to hedge you bets...

Willie McCovey figured in all of the Giants' scoring in their game against the Houston Colts at Candlestick Park--one where starting pitchers Ken Johnson (Colts) and Jack Sanford (Giants) each showed top-level hit prevention and both men pitched 10-inning complete games. McCovey, still the forgotten man on the Giants' roster, started this game in left field. He walked to lead off the second, and was promptly picked off first by Johnson--except that the throw was wild and kicked down the right field line, allowing Willie Mac to make it all the way to third. He then scored on a single by Jim Davenport

Then, with the Giants railing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, McCovey homered off Johnson (only the third hit he'd surrendered in the entire game) to tie the game. Johnson got his own revenge in the top of the tenth, however, driving in the go-ahead run with a single after Sanford had walked Joey Amalfitano in order to pitch to him. (The move made sense: Johnson was a lifetime .114 hitter, and had only four hits in 1962--but this was one of them.)

The Giants got the tying run into scoring position in the bottom of the tenth, but Johnson worked his way through it to earn his first win of the season. Final score: Colts 3, Giants 2 (10 innings).

At Dodger Stadium, Johnny Podres got hit with a batted ball in the first inning and had to leave the game--and Stan Williams allowed two bequeathed runners to score, followed by four more ragged innings (particularly the third, where four hits and three walks produced a four-run inning), giving the St. Louis Cardinals a 6-1 lead after three. 

Ron Fairly and Larry Burright (yes, we're still in the "Larry Burright era"...) each had three hits for the Dodgers, but the 1-4 hitters went 0-for-16 against Cards' starter Larry Jackson and they never got their offense untracked. RISP hitting was a big factor in this game: the Cards were 5-for-13 in such situations, while LA was only 1-for-9. Dodger pitchers walked seven in the game, while Jackson didn't allow a single base on balls and scattered eight hits in a complete game win. Thanks to Williams' feckless performance, Podres took the loss. Final score: Cardinals 8, Dodgers 3.


NL RBI LEADERS: Cepeda, SFG 38; Pinson, CIN 36; T. Davis, LA 35.


Tuesday, May 17, 2022


So there's another trivia thing to count: how many times did the Giants and Dodgers participate in one-run games on the same day? Note that we said "to count"--which means we haven't done it yet. (We'll get back to you on that...)

And when we do, the games of Thursday, May 17, 1962 (among other things, it was French cinema legend Jean Gabin's 58th birthday) will be part of the list. In the sunshine at San Francisco's Candlestick Park, Billy O'Dell and Bob Gibson seemingly transported us to 1968 as they locked themselves into a scoreless duel that stretched all the way into the ninth inning. 

Gibson, in the midst of his first great season, had served notice that he was "on" in the first inning by striking out the side. In the bottom of the eighth, the Giants mounted their best threat against him: leadoff man Harvey Kuenn singled and #2 hitter Chuck Hiller doubled, putting men on second and third with one out. The Cards played six-of-one/half-dozen of the other and walked Willie Mays intentionally to load the bases and set up a possible double play--only the man at the plate was Orlando Cepeda...who promptly hit into a twin killing, thus keeping the game scoreless. 

The Cards scored a lone run in the ninth when catcher Ed Bailey's throw went wild, allowing pinch-runner Julian Javier's steal attempt to net him an extra base, putting him on third. With two out, Charlie James slapped one into the hole at short that Jose Pagan could only knock down: the infield single allowed Javier to score. 

Gibson then retired the Giants in order in the ninth, finishing with ten strikeouts, and improving his season record to 5-2. Final score: Cardinals 1, Giants 0.

Down in LA that evening, Colts starter (and ex-Dodger) Jim Golden had outpitched Sandy Koufax and had a 4-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. But Maury Wills (bunt single) and Jim Gilliam (line single to right) were clearly not ready to give in. Then, however, Dodgers manager Walt Alston did a very strange thing that would make post-modern fans gasp: he ordered a sacrifice from Willie Davis (again batting third, and his  third such play in two games). It worked, but it cost a precious out to do so. 

Undaunted by any form of strategic brouhaha, Wally Moon then doubled, scoring Wills and Gilliam to make it 4-2. Knuckleballer Bobby Tiefenauer, a man we've seen a good bit of recently, got the call to bail out Golden--only he put the Colts in deeper water by surrendering a single to Tommy Davis, scoring Moon and making the score 4-3. 

Johnny Roseboro worked the count against Tiefenauer to 3-2,  and he then flailed at a knuckleballer with such force that he fell down--all of this happening while Davis was stealing second. The Colts protested that Roseboro had interfered with catcher Hal Smith's ability to throw to second, but umpire Dusty Boggess was not swayed and Tommy remained at second.

But not for long, because Ron Fairly, who'd entered the game hitting .136, commenced what turned into an amazing 16-game hot streak by slapping a single to right, scoring Davis (and tying the game). Andy Carey then grounded out, sending the game into extra innings. 

After the Colts didn't score in their half of the tenth, Alston did another curious thing--he allowed his relief pitcher, Ed Roebuck--due up first in the inning--to come to bat. Roebuck predictably made an out, but Maury Wills and Jim Gilliam, who'd both singled to start the ninth, pulled a repeat performance, each singling again in the tenth. Wills, representing the winning run, was just ninety feet away from home plate.

Willie Davis did not get a chance to try a squeeze play in order to bring Maury home--he was walked intentionally by Tiefenauer (and an intentional walk was often the only way that the man later called "3-Dog" ever did perform the "soul handshake" with a base on balls). So it fell to Moon to put starlight in the fans' eyes--and on 2-0 pitch, he dumped a hump-back liner into center-field to cap an improbable (and, arguably, most unprobabilistic) comeback. Final score: Dodgers 5, Colts 4 (10 innings).


Monday, May 16, 2022


As we keep rolling through May in our retrospective of "Giants-Dodgers '62," we should be struck by the high level of success that each team achieved early in the year. Here are the monthly records for each team over the first two months of 1962--

SFG 15-5, 20-10

LAD 13-8, 21-7

 --which, if you're quick to add up such notations, will tell you that at the end of May the two teams will be separated in the standings by a mere half-game.

As of May 15, the Giants are 10-3 in May, while the Dodgers are 8-4. That tells you that San Francisco will go 10-7 for the balance of the month, while Los Angeles will get extremely hot: a 13-3 mark from this point until the first of June.

In the matter of the games played on Wednesday, May 16, 1962...in San Francisco, Juan Marichal boosted his season won-loss record to 7-2 by allowing eight singles, one home run, and five walks, but only two runs, thanks to three double plays and his ability to shut down the Cardinals when their hitters batted with RISP (1-for-6 in those situations).

Orlando Cepeda boosted himself into the NL RBI lead (with 38) with a three-run homer off veteran reliever Lindy McDaniel (whose off-year would plague the Cardinals in the second half of the season, contributing to the team's underperformance in '62). Cepeda's homer was #10 on the year, tying him with Willie Mays: the current NL leader at this point is Vada Pinson, with 12; he would soon slow down his HR pace dramatically, finishing the '62 campaign with a total of 23. Final score: Giants 7, Cardinals 2.

Down in Los Angeles, the Dodgers and Astros combined for 17 hits, of which only two were for extra-bases--which may explain why LA's third-place hitter Willie Davis executed two sacrifice hits during the game. The first one, occurring in the first inning, put Maury Wills and Jim Gilliam in scoring position and permitted the Dodgers to score two run in the inning without the benefit of a base hit. The second one, which happened in the seventh with the Dodgers leading by three runs, may well have cost them a chance to get the insurance run that the sacrifice was supposed to help set up. 

The Dodgers stole five bases off Colts' catcher Hal Smith (two by Wills, two by Willie Davis, and one by Wally Moon) and had a game that was indistinguishable from the offense they became famous for in 1965-66. Teenage monster Joe Moeller allowed Colts hitters on base (11 hits), but didn't allow them to score (1-for-9 with RISP). Final score: Dodgers 5, Colts 2.

Davis' two sacrifice hits made us curious about the distribution of those events by batting order, and how that might have changed over 60 years, so we ran the numbers. We used the 2021 NL as the comparison point, as it appears likely that it will be the last season in which pitchers bat (another tragic and misguided decision undermining "result diversity" in the game by the game's ever-expanding, ever-more-feckless "brain trust"). 

For the purposes of extra detail, and to show where the managerial practices of the Dodgers (Walt Alston) and the Giants (Al Dark) fit into this scheme, we broke out the 1962 sacrifices by batting order slot all the way down to the ten NL teams, to show the full usage variation. To get the comp with the present day (with pitchers still batting, so NL 2021...) we put those totals at the bottom of the chart. 

As you can see, sacrifice hits morphed strongly from 1962 to 2021 from being something that happened with some regularity throughout the batting order (based on game context) into something that only happened when a pitcher was at the plate. (Just about 40% of SHs in 1962 occurred in the #9 slot; in 2021, that had nearly doubled, to 78%.)

The Dodgers, with the fourth best offense in the league, actually led the NL in sacrifices that year, and were way ahead of the pack in using them in slots other than #9, as the data also shows. The Giants, with the #1 offense, were actually third in the league in SHs, though they led the league in such plays happening when the #9 batter was at the plate.

What's also evident is that the #2 slot, which used to often have a "shepherding" type hitter placed there (but sometimes vulnerable to the misuse of a low-OBP singles hitter whom certain managers confused with a "second leadoff man"), shows a precipitous drop in SH over the sixty years. This is likely a more recent phenomenon tied in with a new, "improved" theory of lineup construction that essentially moves the old #3 hitter into the #2 slot, the old #4 hitter into the #3 slot, the old #5 hitter in the #4 slot, and so on. 

That explains the drop of 90 SH out of the #2 slot, but it doesn't tell us whether or not the new theory is really an improvement--since, once again, the shift in approach mirrors a decline in the diversity of hitting approaches. This subject deserves a more thorough treatment, but for now let's just look at the OPS/OPS+ performance of the lineup slots in 1962 and 2021 to see what's happened.

You can see the shift up in the top two slots, where HRs are now as common as they were in the #3-#6 slots previously. You can see in the OPS+ numbers that the 1962 hitters overtake the 2021 hitters by a smidge in the #3 slot, and then pull away in the #4-#7 slots. 

Looking at these, we get the sense that the optimal arrangement is actually somewhere in between these two, despite the pronouncements of those who've helped to push managers into a hegemonic use of the new theory. Let's hope that some folks will experiment further with this...

Note also that those who argued that the "continuing decay" of pitcher's hitting was a primary reason to banish them from taking their turn in the batting order may have to confront the fact that in the 2021 NL, the OPS in the #9 slot was a good bit higher than was the case in 1962. Sure, it was still lousy, but it's always been lousy. The point was that it created a lot of "strategy flexibility" that gave the game additional interest and texture, as opposed to the stultifying, simplistic "efficiency" that the post-neo-sabe age has imposed upon it. 

Somehow NL managers had found ways to squeeze a little more out of the bottom of the order under the original rules, which is rather inspiring. Making their job easier doesn't make the game better--and it will suffer for having made that decision.