Tag Archives: phillies

The Greatest Astro/Phillie

The time is here. The lesser contenders have been dispatched (it seemed like it was gonna be the Mets’ year, didn’t it?) and we have our World Series matchup; the seemingly unstoppable Astros, who just keep pennanting and pennanting and are so far without a loss this postseason, and the scrappy Phillies, third in the NL East this year but hot at the right time.

And that brings us to our annual question: who was the greatest ever Astro/Phillie? Our methodology, as usual — pull up the top 200 career WARs for each team on Stathead (the best subscription on the Internet, if you like this kind of thing) and find the player who maximizes (WAR with Astros) times (WAR with Phillies.)

This year it’s not even close: Roy Oswalt, the Astros’ career leader in WAR from a pitcher. I’d forgotten that after most of a career in Houston, he went to Philadelphia halfway through 2010 and was terrific, helping the Phils get to the NLCS. He pitched just a year and a half in Philadelphia but that, combined with his record in Houston, is enough to give him the title by a long ways.

But if you really dislike the imbalance here, you can instead rank players by min(WAR with Astros, WAR with Phillies) and get a different greatest Astro/Phillie: Turk Farrell, who started and ended his career a Phillie with six years of Houston in between, usually good, never great. He was an all-star once as a Phillie and four times as an Astro, though two of those times were in 1962. Why were there two All-Star Games in 1962? No idea. Mysteries of baseball.

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Phillies 3, Brewers 2

I think this amazing game in May 2018 — “the Aguilar Game” as it’s known — might be the last time we saw a Brewers win? We saw them get shut out by the Padres on Friday, we saw them lose 1-0 to the Rangers in August 2019, we saw them lose 9-6 to the Cardinals in March of that year, and we saw them lose 4-3 to the Dodgers in the 2018 NLCS. We’re bad luck!

CJ is about to go to sleepaway camp and I’m already starting to miss him and am feeling very indulgent so when he came to me Tuesday afternoon and said why don’t we get in the car and go see another Brewers game? it was a yes. And we still had credit from the game we bought tickets for in April 2020, that, as you can imagine, never happened. We’d been told it was good for any game in 2020 or 2021, but we didn’t make it back to the ballpark, and I assumed the money was just gone, fair’s fair — but no! The credit still existed. A nice gesture by the Brewers to the fans.

It sure looked like we were going to see a win this time. Nice game — as many fans on a Tuesday night as there’d been the previous Friday. Beautiful cool night but the roof was closed for predicted showers that never happened. A triple for each team, some slick defense manufactured runs, and the Brewers went into the 9th with a 2-1 lead and unstoppable supercloser Josh Hader coming in to face the bottom of the Philadelphia order. Hader was riding a streak of 40 consecutive scoreless appearances, tied for the most ever in major-league history.

Did I mention we’re bad luck?

Two home runs by terrible, terrible Philadelphia hitters, each one a no-doubter, more than 400 feet. Streak over, lead gone. We go to the bottom of the 9th, and now we see Philadelphia’s closer, none other than longtime Brewer Corey Knebel. And he is terrible. Can’t hit the strike zone. Maybe there’s one more twist left. He walks Andrew McCutcheon and then Hunter Renfroe smashes what looks like the game-winner to dead center but it dies at the track, and then crowd favorite Rowdy Tellez hits another one just as hard but gets a little under it and it’s also to the deepest part of the field, and then there’s two outs — but Knebel still can’t throw a strike, walks Victor Caratini and then Jace Peterson on a heroic at bat where he keeps on fouling it straight back, waiting for his pitch (this is your callback to the Aguilar Game) before finally getting ball four. Lorenzo Cain comes in to run for the catcher Caratini, so you have speed at second and third with the bases loaded.

But Craig Counsell’s bench is empty. Kolten Wong left early with a leg injury so he already had to put in Keston Hiura and Peterson’s batting for him. All that’s left is the guy who’s been batting ninth the whole game, lifetime .239 hitter Pablo Reyes, and hey, sometimes you just have to hand the guy the bat and hope for the best. And Reyes looks at three called strikes, on the last one making a sad little gesture at a swing.

Maybe next time.

Update: I was wrong about the last Milwaukee win we attended; we saw the Brewers win game 162 in 2018, an 11-0 laugher against the Tigers. But our in-person losing streak still stands at 5.

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Southern California Number Theory Day, the airport Chili’s, Evan Longoria counterfactuals

I came back this morning from a very brief trip to California to speak at Southern California Number Theory Day, hosted this year at UC Irvine. The other speakers were terrific, well worth undergoing the pain of a red-eye flight back Midwest. (Non-math material follows below the SCNTD sum-up, for those readers who don’t cotton to the number theory.)

  • Brian Conrad talked about his work (some of it with Gabber and G. Prasad) on finite class numbers for algebraic groups, and an alternative to the notion of “reductive group” over global function fields of characteristic p, where the usual notion doesn’t behave quite as well as you expect. Very clear, and very much in Brian’s style in its admirable refusal to concede any “simplifying assumptions.” Well, except the occasional avoidance of characteristic 2.
  • Jeff Achter talked about a circle of results, many joint with Pries, about the geography of the moduli space of curves in characteristic p. Here you have lots of interesting subvarieties that don’t have any characteristic 0 analogue, such as the “p-rank r stratum” of curves whose Jacobians have exactly p^r physical p-torsion points. Typical interesting theorem: the monodromy representation of the non-ordinary locus (a divisor in M_g) surjects onto Sp_2g, just as the monodromy representation of M_g itself does. I asked Jeff whether we know what the fundamental group of the non-ordinary locus is — he didn’t know, which means probably nobody does.
  • Christian Popescu closed it out with a beautiful talk arguing that we should replace the slogan “Iwasawa theory over function fields is about the action of Frobenius on the Tate module of a Jacobian” with “Iwasawa theory over function fields is about the action of Frobenius on the l-adic realization of a 1-motive related to the Jacobian.” This point of view — joint work of Popescu and Greither — cleans up a lot of things that are customarily messy, and shows that different-looking popular conjectures at the bottom of the Iwasawa tower are in fact all consequences of a suitably formulated Main Conjecture at the top.

On the way over I’d eaten a dispiriting lunch at the St. Louis airport Chili’s, where I waited twenty minutes for a hamburger I can only describe as withered. Last night, I got to LAX with an hour and a half to spare, and the Rays and Phillies in the 7th inning of a close game 3. And the only place to watch it was Chili’s. This time I was smart enough just to order a Diet Coke and grab a seat with a view of the plasma screen.

The airport Chili’s, late on a Word Series night, turns out to be a pretty pleasant place. People talk to you, and they talk about baseball. On one side of me was a pair of fifty-something women on their way to Australia to hang out with tigers in a nature preserve. One was a lapsed Orioles fan from Prince George’s County, the other had no team. On the other was a guy from Chicago in a tweed jacket who writes for the Daily Racing Form. He liked the Mets. We all cheered for Philadelphia, and pounded the table and cussed when Jayson Werth got picked off second in the 8th in what seemed at the time the Phils’ best chance to score. (Werth, you might remember, used to be the Orioles’ “catcher of the future”; in the end, he never played a major-league game for the Orioles, or behind the plate.)

The game went into the bottom of the 9th tied 4-4, about a half hour before I was supposed to board. I figured I’d miss the end. But a hit batsman, a wild pitch, and an off-line throw to second put Eric Bruntlett on third with nobody out. Tampa Bay intentionally walked the next two hitters to get to Carlos Ruiz.

Question 1: Was this wise? I understand you set up the force, and I understand you want to put the worst Phillies hitters in the critical spot. But even a pretty bad hitter suddenly turns pretty good if you can’t walk him. And the extra two baserunners mean that Tampa Bay is still in big trouble even if Bruntlett is out at the plate after a tag-up. Mitchel Lichtman of The Hardball Times says Joe Maddon blew this decision.

And then: well, you probably saw this on TV, but Ruiz hits a slow, goofy chopper up the third-base line. Evan Longoria charges it, but by the time he gets there Bruntlett is almost home; Longoria heaves a desperate moonball in the general direction of home plate, only much, much higher; Phillies win.

Question 2a: Would Longoria have had a play if he’d stopped, set, and thrown, instead of trying to fling the ball to the catcher mid-dive?

Question 2b: Should Longoria have tried to make the play at all? Suppose he’d just stood at third, recognizing he had no play. Maybe Bruntlett scores and the Phillies win; but maybe the ball rolls foul, sending everyone back to their base with the game still tied. My Racing Form neighbor was convinced the ball was headed foul, and that Longoria had blown the game by picking it up. Subquestion: Would any human being alive have the self-control not to charge the ball in this situation?

Question 2c: A commenter on Baseball Think Factory proposed a counterfactual ending for this game even more outlandish than what actually occurred. Say Longoria runs towards the ball, sees he has no play, decides not to pick it up and hope it rolls foul. The ball rolls past Longoria, headed towards third base, as Bruntlett crosses the plate. If the ball stays fair, Phillies win; if not, Ruiz bats again. So the ball’s rolling along the line, and meanwhile, Shane Victorino, who started on second, is rounding third — and as he passes the ball he kicks it fair. Now Victorino is clearly out for interfering with the ball in play. But in this scenario, has Philadelphia won the game?

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