World Series diary: Game 5


I turned on the TV just in time to see David Eckstein lead off Game 5 with a single. Eckstein's a wonderful story, of course, but it's still hard for me to think he isn't better suited to second base. You watch him throw, and you wonder how many infield singles resulted from his weak arm.

On the other hand, the Angels had a pretty good Defensive Efficiency Record this season -- that is, they turned a high percentage of batted balls into outs (the best in the majors, by the way) -- so maybe Eckstein's not so bad after all.

The other thing I always think when I see Eckstein is how stupid Dan Duquette was to waive Eckstein two years ago.

Kenny Lofton led off the bottom of the first with a base hit, thus making Dusty Baker look like a genius. Because in my mind, there was no logical reason to start Lofton rather than Tsuyoshi Shinjo.

Jarrod Washburn's pitching for the Angels tonight, and Washburn's a lefty. This season, Shinjo posted an 819 OPS against lefties, while Lofton was awful: 661 OPS. What's more, if you've been watching the Giants for the last few weeks, you know that Lofton has become an awful center fielder, with every flyball an adventure and every line drive a potential disaster.

So if you can improve your offense and your defense, why wouldn't you make the switch? You got me. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

See, I told you the Giants kill left-handed pitchers. Washburn just walked David Bell with the bases loaded. It was the fourth walk of the half-inning, and gave the Giants a 3-0 lead. And if Jason Schmidt hadn't batted after Bell, who knows how many runs the Giants would have scored.

Lofton singled again. If he doesn't butcher a play in center field tonight, I'm going to look pretty stupid.

Maybe Dusty knows that Shinjo was the better choice, but figures that he'll need Lofton in Game 6 and maybe Game 7, both of which will be started by right-handed Angels. And given Lofton's well-known reluctance to sit on the bench in good humor, maybe he has to play tonight to play well this weekend. Dusty's the manager, and that's the kind of stuff he's supposed to know.

Santiago does it again, following another intentional walk to Bonds with a two-run single.

Which would make a light bulb appear above my head, if I were a cartoon character ... There's are LCS MVP's and a World Series MVP, but why isn't there a postseason MVP? These days, a guy can play in as many as 19 postseason games -- 15 or 16 is more likely -- so why not reward the player who does the most to help his team over the entire postseason run?

With the game seemingly in hand for the Giants, I checked my e-mail and found the daily SABR-L digest, which is a compendium of research-related messages from SABR members to each other. And there's a real nugget in there tonight.

You know how broadcasters are always moaning about leadoff walks? They moan so much, in fact, that you'd think a leadoff walk was worse than a leadoff single. Well, pitch counts notwithstanding, leadoff walks are almost exactly as bad as leadoff singles. David Smith studied every major-league game from 1974 through 2002, and found that batters who led off with a walk wound up scoring 39.9 percent of the time, while batters who led off with a single wound up scoring 39.7 percent of the time. And neither did leadoff walks lead to more runs being scored in that inning than did leadoff singles.

No, you don't want to walk the leadoff man. But it's not worse than giving up a leadoff single.

With the game still seemingly in hand for the Giants, let me give you a small glimpse into my personal life, inspired by Fox's TV coverage ... Just now, the camera spent a great deal of time showing us Terrell Owens, sitting in the stands at Pac Bell. So much time, in fact, that people at home had time to call the guy sitting on Terrell's left. And Terrell's right. And the woman sitting in front of the guy sitting on Terrell's left. And Terrell himself. And then three of them -- Terrell was the exception, because he's used to the attention -- mugged for the cameras.

My wife's been bugging me about getting a cell phone since we got married -- yes, the bugging begins shortly after the wedding -- but so far I've been able to fend her off. Because from what I see on TV, it's very difficult to own one of those things without making a fool of yourself.

Jason Schmidt just punched out Garret Anderson, for his eighth strikeout in the first five innings. Schmidt's now pitched 11 innings in the World Series, and struck out 14 Angels.

What's interesting about that? The Angels struck out only 805 times during the regular season, by far the fewest in the American League (the Royals were next, with 921 K's).

Folks, we got us a ballgame again. Schmidt's throwing strikes, but of course the Angels are highly accomplished at hitting strikes. And with the score now 6-3, it looks like Schmidt might make a fairly early exit from Game 5, just as he did in Game 1.

For all the strikeouts, Schmidt won't even get the W, as he just got lifted with two outs in the fifth.

Ha! Lofton just butchered a ball in center field! And now who's looking like a genius?

Angels have runners on second and third with nobody out, and this game is officially up for grabs.

Checking my e-mail during the pitching change ...

    My comment/question for you, sir, is this: now, it's obvious that Darren Baker is one of the cutest kids in the western world, but don't you think it would be distracting to have your three-year-old son in the dugout when you're trying to manage? I mean, I could understand maybe a regular-season game or two, but during the World Series?

    That said, Darren probably knows that Shinjo should be in center field ...

That's a great point, Dear Reader. I know that if I were managing, I wouldn't want my kid within 50 feet of me. But who knows, maybe Dusty's really good at focusing.

Ben Weber comes out for the bottom of the seventh, despite having given up a two-run homer to Jeff Kent in the sixth. My "talent" fails me when I try to describe Weber. So whoever comes up with the best conclusion to this sentence will receive free copies of both my books (whether you want them or not):

"Watching Ben Weber pitch is like watching .... "

(Winner announced below.)

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times ...

Kenny Lofton is God.

Speaking of which, was that almost the Craziest Moment in World Series History? On the heels of Lofton's triple, we nearly saw a three-year-old boy steamrollered by a 220-pound baseball player, which might make sense if the three-year-old were catching for the other team. Instead, he was doing God-knows-what at home plate. And I think it's safe to say we won't see the like ever again.

Still waiting for the winning answer in the Ben Weber contest. I've received plenty of entries, but most of them are predicated on the idea that Weber's a bad pitcher, which of course he isn't (tonight's performance notwithstanding). I'm looking for a simile that describes his odd pitching motion.

Anyway, keep 'em coming. We've still got nine outs to go. And did I mention that I'll sign both books? (Oooooo)

Ho-hum, just another home run for the Giants. And I'm starting to feel sorry for Scot Shields, just like I felt sorry for Jay Witasick a year ago in Game 6.

Wow, it's always nice to know that somebody's paying attention. I received more than one hundred entries in the Ben Weber contest, and they're still pouring in. I'm only sorry that I can't respond to everybody.

The most popular entry is, "Watching Ben Weber pitch is like watching Elaine Benes dance." (Of course, if you're not a Seinfeld fan, you won't get it.)

My favorite entries include:

" ... like watching a Rock'em-Sock'em Robot with a bum hip." (Bill Considine)

" ... like watching a whooping crane with a seizure." (Patrick Yungfleisch)

"... like watching a spastic monkey tossing life preservers from the bow of the Titanic." (Eric Thomas)

and ...

"... like watching a Stellar's Jay escape from a bubble-gum trap in search of an unshelled roasted peanut." (Maria Magisano)

I don't know what either of those last two mean, but they struck me as absurdly funny. The winner, though, is Aric Miehe, who weighed in with:

"Watching Ben Weber pitch is like watching Daniel Stern try to stab himself with a butter knife."

Thanks, Aric, and your books are on their way to Memphis.

Oh, by the way, the Giants beat the Angels. I'll see you during Game 6.