Nobody knows anything about Game 7
The confounding thing about Major League Baseball’s Biggest Possible Game? It makes all of us so small, for at least these next few hours. Afterward, we can all go back to pretending we know everything.
Now, though? It’s like William Goldman said about making movies: “Nobody knows anything.”*
* Granted, he said that before special-effects-based and animated sequels were invented. So we’ll have to give Bill G. a pass on Transformers 4.
Way back in 2002, Billy Beane told Michael Lewis, “My shit doesn’t work in the playoffs.”
It’s a great line, which might actually have been forgotten by now ... except in all the years since, Billy Beane’s shit hasn’t really worked in the playoffs, with his A’s going 1-6 in postseason series (including the latest and unlikeliest fiasco). Of course, we know the Athletics’ many failures are completely unrelated to Beane’s machinations, except in the most literal sense: the players Beane has acquired have not played as well as the other teams’ players in those six lost series. Before each of those series, we all sussed out the teams involved, and I’ll bet dollars to dump trucks that even when we picked correctly, it was for the wrong reasons.
Which I mention because while we’re merely lousy at predicting what will happen in a postseason series, we’re absolutely horrible at predicting what will happen in a single postseason game. I mean, seriously, this is even harder than predicting what will happen in a single regular-season game.
If you will, please remember a couple of storylines for the Royals entering the World Series: They’d finally found their natural power, and they might well RUN WILD on the bases. Well, this awesome power/speed combo has combo’d for three home runs and one stolen base in six games.
I respect Baseball Prospectus for doing their best to figure this out systematically, but I will submit that 1) a 59-percent favorite in this one doesn’t ring true, and 2) even if it did, there’s simply no way for any program to incorporate the plethoric pitching changes we’re likely to see in Game 7. No program would have the nerve to predict that Eric Hosmer will hit a GROUNDBALL DOUBLE to center field ... but that’s exactly what he did in Game 6. No program would dare predict that the Royals’ starter will walk more Giants than he strikes out, yet give up no runs at all ... but that’s exactly what Yordano Ventura did in Game 6.
I respect Dave Cameron for best laying the plans for both clubs’ pitching in Game 7, and I believe Bruce Bochy and Ned Yost should listen to Dave, maybe even subscribe to his newsletter ... but you do know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men and plans going awry, and managers are nothing if not men. It’s perfectly sensible to say the Royals should get three or four innings out of Jeremy Guthrie and hand things off to their lights-out firemen ... but what if Buster Posey has already broken out of his dreadful power slump in a big way? After all, he didn’t go through a 16-game stretch without an extra-base hit all season long. Does that mean he’s due in Game 7? Predictively? Of course it doesn’t. But will anyone who understands baseball statistics be surprised if he doubles? Or homers? Or homers and doubles?
Finally, I can’t say that I find trivia about home teams and Game 7’s real interesting. Yes, the home teams have won nine straight. And in the 36 decisive, winner-take-all World Series games, the home teams have gone 18-18. Which of those results do you think is more meaningful right here, right now? And if your answer’s the same as mine – we’ll take Door No. 2, Monty – then whatever advantage being the home team confers upon the Royals is so slight as to be nearly meaningless.
Oh, I lied. One more thing. About momentum. Momentum? Momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. A Hall of Fame manager said that (along with some funnier, absolutely NSFW or 2014 things). For all our talk about the managers, the Giants won Games 1 and 5 because Bumgarner outpitched Shields, and the Royals won Games 2 and 6 because Ventura outpitched Peavy. That’s four out of six. With those numbers in my back pocket, I have used my trusty slide rule and my Magic 8 Ball to figure there’s a 67-percent chance – you know, give or take about 17 percent – that Game 7 will hinge upon which starting pitcher gives his team five good innings, and which doesn’t. Because while we can talk about the bullpens all we like, one team’s probably going to take a lead in the first three innings, and the team that's ahead early usually wins.
Later today, I’m sure I’ll be overcome by the impulse to cogitate, to calculate, and finally to prognosticate. But while we know an immense amount of things about these teams, literally more than we’ve ever known about any two sports teams before athe biggest of games, nobody knows anything the actual Biggest Game.
Well, except maybe Michael Bay. That guy's a damn wizard or something.