Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Baseball Trivia: Talk To The Brad Hand

During the Cleveland franchise’s 2020 regular season, the most pivotal play in advancing their chances of reaching the playoffs, and therefore the World Series, came on the night of Sunday, August 9th. It was a slightly above average 87° Chicago evening; mildly cloudy with a slight breeze.

The Chicago White Sox had positioned themselves relatively comfortably for a win going into the late innings; carrying a 3-2 lead over Cleveland heading into the top of the 8th. As José Ramírez stepped to the plate against Evan Marshall to lead off the 8th, the White Sox had an 80% Win Expectancy.

Ramírez and Francisco Lindor struck out back-to-back and Cleveland’s chances seemed to be slipping away. Then Carlos Santana did Carlos Santana things, walking on five pitches to bring Franmil Reyes to the plate. On an 0-1, 94 mph fastball, Reyes ripped a double to left-center, scoring Santana from first, who turned on afterburners from the 1960s, which still had enough juice to score him without a throw home. Tie game at 3-3.

Flash forward to the 10th inning. Cleveland scores two more runs to take a 5-3 lead, pushing the Sox to the edge as they came to bat in the bottom of the inning. Nomar Mazara starts the inning on second base because Rob Manfred is just chock-full of brilliant ideas to improve baseball. A Luis Robert flyball out moves Mazara to third, which allows James McCann’s single dropping in front of Bradley Zimmer to score Mazara; 5-4 Cleveland.

Brand Hand walks Danny Mendick and his night is done, getting just one out. Hand’s replacement – to end the game – is the answer to today’s question. But first, some more tidbits. Before Yoán Moncada struck out to end the game, Leury García popped out unemphatically to second, which may seem of little interest, but you’d be wrong in that assumption!

As I mentioned in the opening, there was an extremely high-leverage play in this game as far as furthering Cleveland’s chances of getting to the postseason and potentially winning a World Series. García’s pop-out had the highest Leverage Index (LI) AND Championship Leverage Index (cLI) of ANY PLAY in the regular season for Cleveland. García, an opposing batter, chipped in hard for Cleveland’s chances with a 7.16 LI and 9.69 cLI. Keep in mind that 1 is a neutral event, so this had quite the effect. Funny how a seemingly mundane second out of the bottom of the 10th inning can actually hold so much weight!

Now, Moncada’s strikeout to end the game isn’t chopped liver either. That swinging strikeout had a 6.75 LI and 9.14 cLI, which ranks fifth by LI for pivotal plays for the 2020 Cleveland Baseball Team.

So, who is the pitcher who got both of these high-leverage outs? Born in Culiacan, Mexico, he celebrated his 39th birthday a week after this game. He has 11.2 career bWAR, a 73-92 record over 18 seasons and a 4.35 ERA. Almost 50% of his 195 career starts – out of 691 appearances – came in a New York Mets uniform. He has pitched for five NL and three AL teams.

In his first career game, he started and struck out the first two batters he faced, beginning with a five-pitch strikeout (swinging!) of Ichiro Suzuki. According to Brooks Baseball, this journeyman pitcher experienced an uptick in fourseam fastball velocity of 3-5 mph once he became a permanent relief arm in his age-30 season. After his second season, he was part of a trade package that sent Brian Giles to the San Diego Padres.

Who is the man responsible for getting two of the biggest outs for Cleveland in 2020?

As always, click here for the ANSWER!