Friday, October 10, 2008

Do You Remember? (Yanks v. Braves, 1958)

Just reading the names is fun. Note that in those days, pitchers were real men.

Game 7 of the 1958 World Series pitted Don Larsen against Lew Burdette. Larsen would be pitching on four days of rest; Burdette only two. In the 1957 Series, Burdette had pulled the same “shift” – Games 2, 5, and 7 – and in Game 7 had shut-out the Yanks. Moreover, Fred Haney didn’t have any compelling alternatives to Burdette. Spahn had pitched nine plus innings just the day before; Buhl was unavailable due to injury. That left Rush, Willey, and Pizarro – all pretty good pitchers, but none of Burdette’s caliber. Thus, even though the Yankees had “solved” Burdette in Game 5, it was reasonable for Haney to have him start Game 7, provided he was prepared to pull Burdette as soon as he showed signs of tiring.

Like Game 6, the seventh game got off to an eventful start. In the first inning, Milwaukee loaded the bases with one out on a Schoendienst single, and walks to Burton and Aaron. Covington then drove in the first run on a groundball out. With runners on second and third, the Yankees walked the slumping Mathews (dropped to sixth in the line-up). Larsen was then able to strike out Crandall.

The Yankees responded with two runs in the top of the second, both unearned. A walk to Berra was followed by back-to-back errors by Frank Torre. Lumpe drove in Berra with a ground-out and Kubek hit a sacrifice fly.

The score was 2-1 Yankees in the bottom of the third when Bruton led off with a single. After Torre popped out, Aaron singled Bruton to second.

At this point, Stengel removed Larsen and brought in Turley. It wasn’t a move every manager would make. Larsen had only given up one run, though he allowed three hits and walked two (plus the intentional pass). Moreover, Turley had pitched nine innings in Game 5 and had worked in relief in Game 6, just the day before. But Turley had been outstanding all year and had the hot hand now. Like Haney, if Stengel were to lose he would go down with his best.
Turley retired Covington on a grounder, with the runners advancing to second and third. The Yankees walked Mathews intentionally again and retired Crandall on a ground ball that deflected off of Turley’s glove and was handled by McDougald.

Crandall had now left six runners stranded in the game. But in the sixth inning, with the Braves still trailing 2-1, Crandall tied the game with a two-out home run.

The score remained 2-2 going into the top of the eighth. Burdette had not given up an earned run and had allowed but three hits. Since coming on with one out in the third, Turley had given up one run on one hit (Crandall’s homer).

Burdette retired McDougald and Mantle to start the eighth, but Berra doubled to right and Howard singled him home. After Carey singled Howard to third, if not before, one would have expected Haney to conclude that Burdette was out of gas. Haney, though, kept his ace in to face Skowron. The “Moose” homered to make it 6-2 New York.

Turley breezed through the eighth in one-two-three fashion. In the ninth, the Braves put two runners on (Mathews with another walk and pinch-hitter Adcock with a two-out single). But Turley got Schoendienst on a liner to Mantle to end the Series.

Burdette and Turley both had given their teams around seven innings of great work despite their lack of rest. The difference was that this was all Stengel asked of Turley.

For only the second time in World Series history a team had rallied to victory after being down three games to one. The Yankees had avenged their 1957 defeat. For the seventh time in ten years (and eighth in twelve), they were the champions.

Too bad about the way it ended...

HT: PowerLine


PaulNoonan said...

Pitchers put forth the same effort (probably more, actually) now as they did 50 years ago. The difference is that most lineups featured holes where pitchers did not have to put forth maximum effort in order to record outs (or at least not give up a HR. As power has made its way to previously weak position, such as catcher, CF, and the middle infield, pitchers (especially in the AL) cannot take a batter off.

Dad29 said...

What are you Paul, 21 or 26 years old?

The Braves '58 team had Bruton in center, Torre as catcher, and Schoendienst at short. Schoen...was not a POWER hitter, but he could hit anything within 6 feet of the plate.

All three Braves outfielders could hit power, as did the catcher. Only weaknesses were pitcher and 2B.

PaulNoonan said...

Did the Yanks play against Braves every game?

Dad29 said...

That's the tradition in the WORLD SERIES, Paul.

PaulNoonan said...

No, no, no. What's wrong with you? Don't you ever think about anything with any depth at all? Do you think that pitchers only take damage during the World Series? I wasn't asking if they played each other exclusively in he world series (duh). During the regular season they played exclusively inferior opponents. Using only the Yankees and Braves as examples is stupid, but my point still holds even so.

Look, in 1958 the very best team in the NL got only 6 HRs from their starting 1st baseman, only 1 from their second baseman, and only 3 from CF. That's 4 outs per nine where the pitcher can relax. This is less often the case in modern MLB, especially among top teams. In 1958, the best team in the NL, featuring Aaron and Matthews, slugged .412. The average team in 2008 slugged .413. The teams that would have been outslugged by the Braves this year are the Padres, Giants, Nationals, Dodgers (before park adjustment) Reds, Pirates, and Braves. Everyone else hit the ball harder.

In 1958 the NL slugged .405. The team with the highest team slugging percentage, the Cubs (mainly on the back of Ernie Banks) got 15 combined HRs from their catcher, 2nd baseman, and 3rd baseman. The worst team in the NL Central in 2008, the Pirates, got 37 HRs from those positions. Their weakest player, SS Jack Wilson with 1 HR, played in only 87 games and is one of the reasons that the Pirates are an embarrasment. No other Pirate was in single digits except for speedster Freddy Sanchez with 9.

And that's the worst team in the league.

In the AL, that 1958 Yankees team hit .268/.335/.416. The 2008 Chicago White Sox, for comparison's sake, hit .263/.332/.448. All of that extra power comes at the expense of almost no batting average or OBP.

That Yankees team was great. Mantle hit 42, Berra, 22, and a bunch of other guys hit double digits. These White Sox, who drastically outhit them, will soon be forgotten.

The 2008 White Sox saw Carlos Quentin hit 36 (22 more than Norm Siebern). Dye hit 34 (22 more than Hank Bauer). Jim Thome hit 34 at a position that did not yet exist, DH. Joe Crede hit 17 HRs, or 5 more than Andy Carey. And he did it in fewer games. Paul Konerko hit 12 more than Bill Skowron, and did so in 4 fewer games.

Sure, Mantle hit 18 more than Nick Swisher, but Mantle is a hall of famer and Swisher is a mediocre CF.

Alexie Ramirez hit 7 more than Gil McDougal. Orlando Cabrera hit 6 more than Tony Kubek.

Yogi Berra, one of the best hitting catchers of all time, hit only 9 more than the light-hitting AJ Pierzynski. Berra slugged an excellent .471 in 1958, but in 2008 one of the greatest catchers in baseball history would have finished only 3rd in the AL with that number, behind Mike Napoli and Kelly Shoppach, and just edging Joe Mauer and Miguel Olivo. Expand to the whole league and he falls to 7th, just behind the legendary Ryan Doumit.

Modern teams just don't have dead spots. Pitchers have to work harder now to not get shelled. Anyone and everyone is a threat to take them out ofteh park. They throw fewer pitches as a result of that fact.

Dad29 said...

OK--good argumentation.

Did you figure the "live ball" changes made by MLB around 1985?

Because that makes a BIG difference in slugging averages.

Beyond that, are you trying to argue that 'backing off' a touch for 4 weaker batters made all that much difference?

Only two Brewers starters habitually pitch 9 innings--and one of them was only a Brewer for 90 days or so.

Burdette threw all those innings. And he started three Series games. "Weak" hitters or no, that's a helluvalotta work in 10 days.

PaulNoonan said...

For purposes of my argument it does not matter what caused the surge in power - only that pitchers had to deal with it.

Those who study biomechanics, doctors and team trainers have figured out a few thingg.

1. Pitchers are far more likely to be injured before the age of 24. The common parlance for this time period is the "injury nexus." Overusing pitchers at this point is dangerous.

2. In general, every pitch thrown after the 100th pitch increases the chances for an injury substantially, however, many pitchers can safely and routinely pitch 120 pitches per game. 130+ is almost always detrimental. In this sense I agree with you. Most managers don't stick with their older starters long enough.

3. Throwing more pitches per start is more detrimental to your arm than throwing more frequently. Many Sabrmetricians lobby for a return to the 4 man rotation so as to leverage your best pitchers as much as possible.

Baseball Prospectus writer Will Carroll writes often about "full effort" pitches, and there does appear to be something to it. The most recent example of a pitcher being able to leverage less than full effort in order to pitch more is Livan Hernandez, who would routinely throw 130+ without much difficulty. It also appears that sinker-ballers tire less quickly than power pitchers, a line of thinking that will probably result in Dodger starter Derrick Lowe starting 3/7 games against the Phillies should the series get that far.

BP head writer Joe Sheehan made this point before I did, but I can't find the exact article I'm looking for right now, but it's fairly conventional wisdom among baseball nerds.

What you're saying is basically the equivalent of "Boxers aren't as strong these days as they were in 1910, because in 1910 they would fight 100 rounds."