Astros: Thankful for Chris Taylor’s line out in the second inning
By Cody Poage
The Astros won Game 7 of the 2017 World Series. And, no, I will never get tired of typing that particular sentence.
If you haven’t utilized Statcast data via BaseballSavant.com for your Astros, or anthing baseball, needs, then I recommend you do. It is a great resource, which is why I am dedicating a whole post to one, or maybe two, plays with greater detail courtesy of Statcast.
First, the exit velocity from George Springer’s second-inning home run was measured at a blistering 110.3 MPH. Yu Darvish’s offering was a 95.8 MPH four-seam fastball left in favorable spot in the strike zone for Springer. I figured it was worth mentioning at least once.
One of the best aspects of Statcast is the ability to find the swinging strike and called strike totals by pitch category. So, if a pitcher is using a certain pitch to devestating effect, then you can easily view that information. Or vice versa if the pitcher is off his game. Sometimes both.
There was, in my opinion, one notable swinging strike and called strike tidbit from Wednesday’s Game 7.
For example, the total number of swinging strikes Lance McCullers generated in relation to his knuckle curveball, which was eight in total. For context, McCullers only threw 49 pitches total against the Dodgers in Game 7. 29 of which were a knuckle curveball. Roughly 59% of McCullers’ total pitch usage was a knuckle curveball. And he only generated eight swinging strikes. If you have a desire to perform basic math, then you will notice that McCullers did not generate a swinging strike from any of his other pitches. This either speaks to the effectiveness of his knuckle curveball or the ineffectiveness of his other pitches. Sometimes both.
McCullers’ other twenty pitches consisted of eighteen four-seam fastballs and two changeups. To his credit, McCullers did generate six called strikes and only two balls in play from his four-seam fastball. But the four-seam fastball almost caused McCullers some trouble in the second inning.
Or, rather, a whole lot of trouble.
For example, the first ball in play surrendered via a four-seam fastball was a Logan Forsythe single in the second inning with an 102 MPH exit velocity. Dodgers’ catcher Austin Barnes would then move Forsythe over on a ground out and fellow Dodger Enrique Hernandez would then be hit by a rogue pitch. The third hit-by-pitch of the night by McCullers. And it was only the second inning.
So, a runner on first and second with Chris Taylor up to bat. Not a good situation as Taylor hit .275 during the regular season with runners on-base. This average increased to .281 with a runner in scoring position. Sure, he’s not Barry Bonds at the plate, but Taylor was a good hitter all season long for Los Angeles.
Once again, not a good situation for McCullers. This game could be much more nerve wracking if the Dodgers did some damage here. Heck, this could’ve been the rally Los Angeles’ needed to take Game 7. Who knows?
Then the second ball in play courtesy of McCullers’ four-seam fastball happened. The result was a 95.7 MPH line out towards Astros’ shortstop Carlos Correa. Houston fans can breathe again.
Then this event would actually allow Correa to double off Forsythe as he darted towards third base.
I would’ve went, too. It happened so quickly that Forsythe didn’t even had an opportunity to run back to second. It was truly a gift granted to the Astros. The line out had a 69% HIt Percentage.
Honestly, McCullers was quite fortunate to come away from that inning unscathed. If Correa haven’t been in the right place at the right time, it would’ve led to at least one run for the Dodgers. A double play was best-case scenario for Houston.
As expected, the Dodgers’ win expectancy dropped from 13.2% to 7.8%. Not a huge drop, mind you, but noticeable enough. This also prevented the top of the Dodgers’ lineup from hitting with runners on-base.
Quite honestly, McCullers wasn’t as effective as you would like your Game 7 starter in the World Series to be. He clearly didn’t have his best stuff. The four-seam fastball, in particular, was a troublesome pitch for him. All of the hit-by-pitches allowed from McCullers came via the four-seam fastball.
Unlike his Dodgers’ counterpart, Yu Darvish, McCullers was able to escape the constant pressure without surrendering a run. Even though he didn’t pitch long, the Astros were able to distance themselves from the Dodgers. That has to count for something.
Next: Astros: Five players become free agents after World Series
This particular set of events will probably not make the highlight reel for the Astros. And I understand why it wouldn’t. But this at-bat by Taylor could’ve ended much poorly for the Astros if Correa wasn’t in position to make the play.