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Tournament of Champions: Round 1, day 9

danny cox goes in a Game 7 today; just like old times. the teams of the 1880s face two big tests --- a potential elimination game for the 1887s, a series-decider for the 1888s. the 2002 / 2005 teams have an off-day and will resume their series tomorrow. boxes are here; summaries after the jump.

Game 6, 1887 v 1996
Game 7, 1888 v 1987

Game 6
(1996 leads, 3 games to 2)

summary by Zubin

With only two games left in this series, I'd like to take the opportunity to write a little bit about these two teams. Both suffered some major postseason disappointment. Most of us remember 1996's epic choke job: After going up on the Braves 3-1, the Cardinals lost the next three games by a combined score of 32 to 1. I remember those blowout games vividly, as I was living in South Carolina at the time and surrounded by Braves' fans. However, the results of the series, even after the Cardinals went up 3-1, didn't surprise me. The Braves were a great team, after all. Likely three-fifths of their starting rotation is Hall of Fame bound (Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz). They also had a future Hall of Famer at third (Chipper Jones) and perhaps another at first (Fred McGriff).

St. Louis' 1887 team met a somewhat similar fate. Facing the Detroit Wolverines (no relationship to the American League Tigers) in the World Series, they were spanked 10 games to 5. Tip O'Neill may have been the best hitter in baseball that year, but Detroit had two of the most prolific sluggers of the 19th century, Dan Brouthers and Sam Thompson. Other stars on that team included former Triple Crown winner Fred Dunlap at second and Ned Hanlon, a future Hall of Fame manager, in center. Overall, Detroit was built purposely as a powerhouse team with $25,000 of owner Frederick Kimball Stearns' money.

However, I think that is where the similarities stop. For whereas 1996's postseason appearance was perhaps the most serendipitous in club history, the 1887 Browns were one of the greatest teams ever fielded in St. Louis. They averaged a mind-boggling 8.20 runs per game scored, far and away the best in the majors, while allowing only 5.51 runs per game (second only to the Cincinnati Reds' 5.48).

So how has 1996 pushed 1887 to the brink in this series? The Cardinals have outscored the Browns 32 to 25 in the series so far, but the composite lines are nearly identical: .279 / .358 / .358 for the Cards, .285 / .359 / .364 for the Browns. In fact, 1887 is outhitting 1996 by a small margin. Baserunning may also be a small factor, though I am somewhat hesitant to mention it. The Browns have stolen 17 steals in 25 attempts, a 68 percent success rate that is considered productive sabermetrically. Still, I can't help thinking the Browns have run themselves out of more opportunities than they have run into.

What has been the difference maker? As I wrote at the outset of this series, the Browns don't wear gloves in the field, and the sim doesn't normalize defense. It shows: 1887 has made nine errors in the series, to 1996's one. However, in my opinion the simulator's exclusion of Bob Caruthers and Dave Foutz from the 1887 pitching staff has been the most important factor in the series. Caruthers was the staff ace and posted an ERA+ of 138 (compared to King's 120); Foutz posted an ERA+ of 117. Had those pitching seasons been included in the sim, 1887's normalized sim-payroll (a rough indication of quality) would jump from $64 million to roughly $90 million (my estimate) --- the second-highest figure in the tournament.

Well, enough about how the inadequacies of WhatIfSports. 1887 sends Nat Hudson to the mound in today's elimination game, opposite Todd Stottlemyre. Here are the lineups:

1996 1887
Royce Clayton, ss Arlie Latham, 3b
Ray Lankford, cf Bill Gleason, ss
Ron Gant, lf Tip O'Neill, lf
Brian Jordan, rf Charlie Comiskey, 1b
Gary Gaetti, 3b Dave Foutz, rf
John Mabry, 1b Curt Welch, cf
Tom Pagnozzi, c Yank Robinson, 2b
Luis Alicea, 2b Doc Bushong, c
Todd Stottlemyre, p Nat Hudson, p

Once again 1996 gets off to a quick start. Clayton leads off the game with a double; one out later Latham's inability to handle a routine grounder puts runners at the corners. Brian Jordan lines a single, and the 1996 club is on the board 1-0. But in the bottom of the inning Gleason singles with one out. He steals second, and then O'Neill crushes the ball to deep right field. Going, going? . . . gone. The Browns lead 2-1 after one.

In the second the Cardinals threaten, putting the first two men on (a Mabry walk and Pagnozzi single). Alicea hits into a 4-6 fielder's choice to advance Mabry to third base, bringing Stottlemyre to the plate with a chance to help his own cause. But instead he taps it to Comiskey, who initiates a nifty 3-6-3 double play to keep the tying run from scoring. The Browns extend their lead in the next half-inning: Yank and Doc both single to put runners at the corners, and Hudson (unlike Stottlemyre) gets the runner home, hitting a sac fly to left. The Browns are up, 3-1.

But not for long. In the third Clayton singles and steals second. Lankford punches one through the left side, and Clayton scores. Then Gant singles and, one out later, Gaetti drives in Lankford on a single to center. We are tied at 3-all . . . . until the fourth, when Comiskey draws a walk, steals second, and comes home on a single by Foutz. The Browns retake the lead at 4-3.

All is quiet until the seventh. Lankford leads off and hits one deep to left, driving O'Neill back to the track; he makes the grab. Gant smokes a single to right, and then Jordan skies one to center. Welch camps under it, but he drops the ball. That puts runners at second and third for Mabry. He hits a liner to center, scoring Gant and Jordan to put the Cards in the lead 5-4. The next batter, Pagnozzi, gets plunked on the head by the pitch, and Alicea follows with a walk to load 'em up. It's the seventh inning, with two outs and the bases loaded --- the Cardinals have a chance to win it now, so LaRussa calls on pinch hitter Mike Sweeney. He steps to the plate and loops one to center. Welsh charges hard and makes the grab off his shoelaces! The Cardinals have the lead, but Welsh's fine play prevents at least two runs and keeps the game close.

TJ Mathews comes in to pitch the bottom of the seventh. He walks the first man, Yank Robinson, and Bushong singles to put runners at the corners. But Silver King (who entered the game in the fourth) bats for himself and lines out to right, and Latham strikes out. Gleason then comes to the plate and lines one into center; the base hit brings Robinson around to score, and the game is tied. O'Neill comes up with a chance to give the Browns the lead, but he grounds out to third base. The game goes to the eighth inning tied 5-5.

It's still tied when the Browns bat in the eighth. Comiskey walks then takes off for second --- but Pagnozzi's throw nails him. Foutz then singles, and he takes off for second. Same result: caught stealing. When Curt Welsh steps to the plate and rips a double to right center, the cost of those CS becomes apparent: The Browns just might have run themselves out of a chance to win the game and stay alive in the tournament.

Both teams go in order in the 9th, so we head into extras. The Cardinals threaten in the 10th but can't get a two-out hit from Lankford; the Browns can't even put a man on base against Cory Bailey. Silver King heads wearily back out there for the 11th, pitching his eighth inning in relief. Gant doubles. Jordan walks. Gaetti walks to load the bases. Mabry steps in with the chance to be a hero and slaps one to the right side. Robinson gets to it and throws home in time to get Gant at the plate. One out and the bases are still loaded. Pagnozzi comes up, a good double-play candidate --- maybe the Browns can wriggle out of this. Pags hits it on the ground to Gleason, but rather than risk the double play he throws it home. The force cuts off the run, but the Cardinals still have one out left. Silver King looks tired, but no way he's going anywhere. Alicea steps in and works the count; the exhausted King just can't put it over the plate. Here's ball four; that forces in a run, and the Redbirds take the lead at 6-5 and stand just 3 outs from advancing. Ozzie comes in to pinch hit; King, definitely fatigued, walks him, too. The bases are still loaded for Clayton; King finally throws a strike, and Royce skies it deep to left, over the head of Tip O'Neill. The ball takes one hop and goes over the wall, a ground-rule double. Pagnozzi and Alicea score. It's 9-5, and 1887 appears to be toast.

The Cardinals go on to score two more runs in the inning --- a 6-run 11th. Danny Jackson comes on to mop up the Browns, and the series is over. 1996 wins in an upset. They move on to face the Running Redbirds of 1985.


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Game 7
(series tied, 3 games each)

summary by Zubin

I wrote earlier in this series that I thought the key to winning for each team was their respective lead-off men. Let's check how that prediction is stacking up:

Game Coleman Latham Results
1 1/5, E5, FC, 3 r 4/4, 1 bb, 3 r Browns, 6-5
2 1/5, 0 r 1/4, 0 r Cards, 6-3
3 1/5, FC, 1 r 0/4, 1 bb, 0 r Browns, 5-4
4 1/5, 0 r 4/5, 1 r Cards, 11-4
5 1/3, 1 bb, 0 r 1/5, 1 r Cards, 5-2
6 0/4, 0 r 1/3, 1 bb, 0 r Browns, 4-3

These results really surprise me. After accounting for over half the runs scored in Game 1, these two very good leadoff men only scored 3 runs combined in the next 5 games. Even more puzzling, since Game 1 whenever a leadoff man didi score a run, his team lost. They have both been non-factors since Game 1.

Since Coleman and Latham don't seem to be particularly important in the series, I decided to check in with the only above-average hitters (as measured by ops+) in each lineup:

Game Clark O'Neill Results
1 1/4, 1 rbi 2/4, 3 rbi Browns, 6-5
2 1/2, 2 bb, 1 r, 1 rbi 0/3, 1 bb Cards, 6-3
3 1/4, 1 bb, 1 r 1/3, 2 bb, 1 r Browns, 5-4
4 2/5, 1 r, 2 rbi 1/3, 2 bb Cards, 11-4
5 1/4, 1 rbi 1/4, 1 rbi Cards, 5-2
6 1/4, 1 r 2/3, 1 bb, 1 r, 1 rbi Browns, 4-3

Now this makes a lot more sense. The big bats have been key for at least half the games. The Browns wouldn't have won games 1, 3 or 6 without O'Neill, and Clark was arguably the difference maker for the Redbirds in Game 2. Well, let's see if either of these two sluggers can come up big and drive his team to victory and a round 2 berth.

1987 1888
Vince Coleman, lf Arlie Latham, 3b
Ozzie Smith, ss Yank Robinson, 2b
Tom Herr, 2b Tip O'Neill, lf
Jack Clark, 1b Charlie Comiskey, 1b
Willie McGee, cf Tommy McCarthy, cf
Terry Pendleton, 3b Harry Lyons, rf
Jose Oquendo, rf Jocko Milligan, c
Steve Lake, c Bill White, ss
Danny Cox, p Silver King, p

Coleman leads off. Trying to take advantage of the Brown's shaky defense, he lays down a bunt down the first base line. Comiskey charges and makes a barehanded grab; he spins and throws to Silver King covering first. One out. They didn't hand out Gold Gloves back in the 1880s, but if they did Commey would have a couple. The next batter, Ozzie Smith, lofts a ball to shallow left. O'Neill makes the grab on the run. Herr then pops the ball over the head and out of the reach of Robinson. Jack comes to the plate with one on. You can hear the crack of the bats as the Ripper sizzles one to third. Latham stabs at the ball with his bare hand. The force of the liner spins Latham into ground like an auger, but he hangs on for the out. Solid defense sets the Cardinals down in the first.

In the bottom of the first, Latham decides to show Coleman how it's done. On Cox's first pitch, Arlie squares up the bat and lays down a bunt. The ball takes a single hop and trickles down the third base line. Pendleton's there, but there is nothing he can do; Latham is safe at first. Yank Robinson comes to the plate. He slashes a grounder to third. Terry gloves, looks to second and fires to first. One away. Cox pitches carefully to O'Neill and walks him, which brings Comiskey to the plate. A couple of pitches later O'Neill and Latham take off for second and third. Lake's throw isn't in time, and now a hit scores a pair. Cox delivers from the stretch, and Comiskey lines one into left-center. Latham scores, O'Neill scores, and the Browns are up 2-0. Tommy McCarthy flies out and Comiskey is caught stealing to end the inning.

In the second, the Cardinals try to get something going. A one-out Pendleton single is followed by an Oquendo walk. There are two on for Steve Lake, who pops out to right-center. Cox comes to the plate with a chance to help himself, but instead he grounds to first and Comiskey records the unassisted putout.

Cox sets the Browns down in order in the bottom of the second. In the top of the third, Herr tries to get things started, reaching base with two outs. Clark singles him to second, and McGee comes to the plate. Willie hits a line drive, but it's right at Comiskey. The Browns are still up 2-0.

It continues like this for a couple of innings. Both sides can get men on, but they can't get them home. In the Browns' 5th, Silver King reaches on a one-out single to left center. Latham follows with a single to center, and Robinson comes to the plate and smokes one over Coleman's head. Two runs score, and the Browns are up 4-0. Sim Whitey has seen enough of Dan Cox and pulls him in favor of Lee Tunnell. Tunnell gets O'Neill swinging for the second out to bring up the relatively light-hitting Comiskey. Then the unexpected happens: On a high fastball, Commey swings and drives one high and deep. Willie and Vince can only look on as the ball sails over the 379 mark in left center. The Browns go up 6-0, and the Cardinals are in deep trouble.

They just can't get anything going. In the 6th, Pendleton reaches on a one-out single and swipes second, but an Oquendo lineout and a Steve Lake flyout end the inning. The Cardinals go down in order in the 7th and 8th. By the time the ninth rolls around, it's 7-0 Browns. Pendleton grounds one to first for the first out. Oquendo shoots one up the middle for a base knock. That brings up Lake; he swings at the first pitch and grounds one toward the hole at short. Bill White can't get it, but Latham ranges to his left, fields the ball, and underhands it to Yank Robinson. He pivots and throws the ball on to Comiskey ahead of the lead-footed Lake. It's a 5-4-3 double play. The Browns win 7-0.

Comiskey powers the offense with three hits and four rbis, but Silver King is the star of Game 7. In his biggest game in 120 years, he came up huge, spreading out eight hits and two walks over 9 innings. In a couple of days, he'll pitch Game 1 against the powerhouse 2004 team. Until then, he gets a few well deserved days off.