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2019 Houston Astros Thread

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Here is Kaplan’s interview with AJ



A.J. Hinch has now lived on either end of a World Series Game 7.

After the Astros defeated the Dodgers in 2017, the manager was revered for deploying starting pitchers in relief to circumvent a shoddy bullpen. Since Wednesday’s 6-2 loss to the Nationals, he has come under fire for his in-game decisions, specifically for pulling Zack Greinke after 6 1/3 innings and for not using Gerrit Cole on two days’ rest in relief.

On Friday, Hinch detailed his reasoning behind his heavily criticized Game 7 moves in a conversation with The Athletic.

(This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.)

Two days later, I’m sure you’ve replayed a lot of Game 7 in your head probably many times already. Are there are any decisions that you regret in retrospect?

Regret is a tough word because any time something doesn’t work it’s natural to want to have tried it a different way. And I just don’t know if other decisions would’ve been perfect, either. We always assume that the other way would’ve been perfectly fine.

I don’t regret our process. I don’t regret our plan. I don’t regret trusting the guys that we trusted. I regret the results. And that’s hard to explain.

The first major decision point pertained to whether to pull Greinke in the seventh after the homer and the walk. It’s the third time through the order, obviously. There’s a runner on first in a one-run game. But he’s also allowed only two hits. Why (pull him) there?

So going into the game, (the mindset is) it’s Game 7. I’ve been through a lot of them. I remember pulling Charlie Morton at like 60-some pitches in the ALCS (in 2017). I remember pulling Lance McCullers after two-plus innings in the World Series in ’17. So, there’s a natural feeling of being ready to go to the ‘pen early.

When Zack was going through his outing and was doing very well and pitched himself out of any base runners — he got a couple double plays, he got some big swings and misses — the game kept extending to the point where you get to the seventh inning and you start counting outs. We have nine outs left. Who’s going to get them?

Zack had pitched effectively the second time through, and I remember going over our plan of ‘Do we want him to face the middle of the order the third time through? When is that third time through going to be?’ The thought was that it was going to be perhaps the fifth inning or even the sixth inning, but it got to the seventh inning.

At that point, you’re going batter to batter. You have nine outs left to finish out. You have a two-run lead. When (Anthony) Rendon hit the homer to make it 2-1, it obviously amplified those feelings of wanting to have the perfect matchup in the area of the lineup that we were in. Having him face (Juan) Soto I liked because of his ability to slow the ball down. He can throw the slowest of breaking balls. He can throw the changeup whenever he wanted. He rarely made mistakes with his fastball. And Soto had hit everything the entire series. And I thought Zack pitched him carefully — near misses, didn’t get our calls, didn’t execute, the at-bat got a little bit longer and then I’m faced with the (Howie) Kendrick decision.

Will (Harris) was up from virtually the beginning of the inning for Kendrick or (Asdrúbal) Cabrera. I always target somewhere later in the inning. If things start to go south for Zack, I had our best reliever this postseason ready to go. Losing two hitters in a row, Kendrick having had the most history against Zack other than Cabrera on their team led me to go to Will Harris.

Will Harris had struck out Kendrick earlier in the series in a big spot. He was our most effective reliever throughout the postseason. I had given him a little bit of leash, so to speak, of a couple hitters to get the outs and Zack was never going to face Cabrera given their history together.*

And so I went to Will. Will threw a first-pitch curveball, he gets the swing and miss. He throws the down-and-away cutter on the corner as low in the strike zone and as far down and away in the strike zone and Kendrick hits the foul pole. And that was the result. But the process that led me to putting him in, I was extremely comfortable with.

(*Note: Cabrera is 18-for-41 with four doubles and a triple in his career against Greinke. And while almost all of those at-bats occurred in 2012 or earlier, Cabrera was 2-for-4 with a double off Greinke in the World Series.)

You said in your end-of-season presser that Cole wasn’t coming in mid-inning no matter what. The clean inning for a starter coming into a game in relief concept isn’t new. But in 2017 (in Game 4 of the ALDS in Boston), you did do it with (Justin) Verlander and he gave up a homer. Did that color your feeling about doing that?

And in 2015 with (Dallas) Keuchel. I did the same thing. And (Mike) Fiers, in ’15. So I have a lot of memories of starters coming into games on short rest not being optimal. The rest was just as much on my mind as anything. I had just been asked relentlessly two series ago why I would start Justin Verlander with full prep on three days’ rest. Now we’re looking at a pitcher on two days’ rest. There’s a health concern with Gerrit entering free agency and having emptied his tank, in his words, after Game 5. There’s also the execution issue of ‘Is a guy going to be sharp?’ I watched JV not have his slider in Tampa. I did watch Fiers and Keuchel come out of the ‘pen in ’15 and not be able to be at their best. That was certainly in the back of my mind. But I wanted to make sure that I could utilize our other guys and have Gerrit as a backup plan rather than have Gerrit as the primary reason.

Will Harris, Joe Smith, Roberto Osuna were most likely always going to pitch in front of Gerrit on two days’ rest. And I felt like they had earned that based on how they had pitched during the World Series.

So do you think the general public discourse around this is underrating the rest component for Cole?

I think in general any decision after the seventh inning that’s made gets scrutinized because of the result. Bringing in Will Harris in that type of situation was smart in Game 3, ironically for Zack. He got out of it and that catapulted us to winning that game, being aggressive in that situation. Fast-forward to Game 7 and because of the result it is heavily scrutinized. And it can be and should be because it’s the nature of managing and decision-making.

I think the unknown, we just can’t assume that everything would’ve been perfect. I can’t operate in that scenario. Because let’s be honest, in today’s world, right or wrong, I’m always going to be questioned. If Greinke had given up the homer (to Kendrick) than I overextended him. If Cole had come in and not been sharp it was because he didn’t have rest. That’s what makes managing both beautiful and agonizing.

But specifically back to starters coming in mid-inning, inheriting runners, you just don’t want to do that because they’ve never done it before?

Yeah, I think there is a little bit of pause in that because of the lack of experience in that situation. Relievers are trained to be at their best from the very first pitch. Starters, all I hear about is routine and what they do to get themselves ready to get themselves into an at-bat. It might be as simple as starting from the wind-up. It might be as complex as being able to execute a secondary pitch for the first pitch that you throw that day. I’m not saying it’s not possible and it very well can be. But what brings you pause is you’re bringing pitchers into unfamiliar territory and asking them to do things for the first time at a physically limited time in their recovery and in their prep. Maybe it works out. It absolutely could have. But it’s not as if that had no downside.

So after the top of the fifth, you tell Gerrit to walk out to the bullpen. He immediately starts playing catch, warming up.

That was odd to me, too; I asked (pitching coach Brent Strom) why he was doing that and we called down and it was just that Gerrit wanted to throw a little bit and either get himself loose or warm himself up. It was a cold night. That was on his own. He decided he wanted to play catch and throw a little bit.

So did you ever get him up, per se?

Yes. So, the other part of this is we wanted to give him ample time to get himself ready. These guys are ridiculously good at routine. And so for starters, they don’t just get up and in. Ryan Pressly takes five to seven pitches. Will Harris takes 10 to 12 pitches. Osuna takes 10 pitches. Starting pitchers throw generally 25 to 35 pitches to get themselves ready for their start. That’s just completely different. When the game moves as fast as it does and decisions change on a batter-to-batter basis, that impacts the starting pitcher (who is pitching in relief), not knowing when you’re going to come in. Again, I don’t know that that necessarily dictates performance. But that is the dilemma. Gerrit wanting to throw early indicates that exactly.

When the seventh inning started, if Will Harris gets out of that — he comes in and punches out Kendrick, Cabrera grounds out to first — I have a decision to make on Roberto Osuna in the eighth or Gerrit Cole in the eighth. And that’s why (Cole) was up throwing. Because we still would’ve had the lead, 2-1.

At the start of the seventh was when he officially started warming up.

Started getting himself ready for a potential eighth inning or ninth inning. We had communicated to him all of the various situations. And within a span of a couple pitches, it went from probable to pitch the eighth or the ninth to a down game.

So there was a chance he was going the eighth and the ninth?

I’m not sure which way I would have ultimately gone with Osuna. The two scenarios were Gerrit goes out (in the eighth) and Osuna protects him in case he’s not at his best or Osuna goes out and then I read Osuna’s inning to see if it’s a two-inning save or do I go to Gerrit Cole in the ninth? Those were the scenarios.

And then as soon as Kendrick hits the homer off Harris, the plan in place unravels.

It changed, yes. It didn’t change for Osuna because Osuna was up immediately when Will Harris came in. Because I’m not bringing Gerrit Cole in the middle of an inning. So Osuna got up when Harris came in, for later in the inning. Are they going to pinch-hit (Matt) Adams? Where is (Ryan) Zimmerman? The game changes. You have to be prepared a batter early. So Osuna started throwing and then the inning developed to where I brought in Osuna for Zimmerman.

It’s still a one-run game in the eighth and a two-run game to begin the ninth. Why not Cole in either of those clean inning situations?

It’s a fair question. I think part of it is trying to balance all that was in play versus Joe Smith in a clean inning facing all right-handed hitters. That’s a very fair question. Joe had been tremendous during the World Series. He had pitched the eighth inning of one of our wins. He had been really, really tough to hit. And then he went in and broke two bats and walked a guy. So the results didn’t match the matchup. But that certainly played a factor. Am I going to pitch Gerrit in a down game and is him on two days’ rest a better option than Joe Smith, who had been incredibly effective during the World Series?

And Osuna for the eighth?

Going back out? Yeah, I liked him (in that spot). Part of the reason that we didn’t use Osuna liberally during the series was building up toward that 30 to 40 pitch count possibility. At that point, going to the top of the order, we felt like we have our closer who’s fresh who hadn’t pitched a ton who they hadn’t seen a ton. It just didn’t work.

All the talk about the late innings, ultimately the missed opportunities against (Max) Scherzer really loom large. Is that what you think about most?

When you think about Game 7 as one game, we certainly had a lot of opportunities, some we failed at, some we didn’t. George Springer hitting a rocket to left field on a 3-0 pitch with second and third that had a little bit of top spin, if he cuts underneath it it’s probably a homer. If he hits it a little higher, hits it with a little bit more topspin, Soto might misplay it. That’s a huge turn of events. Jose Altuve hitting a rocket to center field with runners in scoring position. Those aren’t failures. That’s just the game beat us. While there were other opportunities where we just didn’t find the ball in play, didn’t capitalize.

On the series as a whole, I still think about Game 6. I still think about Game 1. I still think about Game 2. One swing by (Kurt) Suzuki changed that game completely. As a manager, I dwell on it all. I don’t just simply pinpoint the decision to go to (Harris for) Kendrick as the end all be all. It’s a seven-game series. So many things happened and it will take a long time to process.

One decision early in the game that maybe gets lost is you calling for (Robinson) Chirinos to bunt in the second. It’s something you didn’t do much in the regular season. I think you were bottom five in bunts. I don’t think Chirinos had bunted since April. Do you regret that decision?

Again, I can’t regret any decision because when I made it, I made it for the reasons that we believed in. I don’t like using the word regret. I regret the result. At that point, we’re trying to score one run. We’re at a point of our order where it’s really hard to hit Max. So, opening up multiple options. If he gets the bunt down, now we have second and third and one out with Josh Reddick up. They have to play the infield in. That increases the likelihood of finding a hole or getting a ball to the outfield. In actuality, if you want to play the ‘What if?’ game, the hooked ball that (Reddick) hit down the line that was not hard-hit Zimmerman doesn’t field if the infield’s in. With the infield back, he ran over and caught it for the out. Trying to play for one run there in Game 7 of the World Series, where the impact of run scoring is magnified, was the thought. As we saw in later at-bats, it wasn’t a particularly good matchup for Robbie — the high fastball, the power breaking ball. He ended up chasing later in the game. So not liking the matchup, having an opportunity to try to put a little pressure on them and increase our likelihood of scoring one run was the motivation.

The offseason comes really fast for teams in the World Series. How long do you allow yourself to chew on this series versus turning the page and thinking about the offseason and next year?

I think there’s a part of you that will never get over it. And that’s OK. I still think about the Red Sox ALCS (in 2018). There is a part of it that always just hangs with you. But I think over time it just happens. Business starts happening fast. Free agency hits. I’ll have a meeting with the front office over our roster. The GM meetings, Jeff (Luhnow) will go. The winter meetings come. It happens really fast, so you have to find your balance.

But this will sting for a while because we worked the entire year to win the World Series and we were eight outs away. But I’ll be able to turn the page when it needs to be.

 

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Good but painful article about Harris in game 7.  The conclusion: Kendrick hit a damn good pitch.

https://blogs.fangraphs.com/will-harris-played-well-didnt-get-rewarded/

Spoiler

Will Harris Played Well, Didn’t Get Rewarded

by Ben Clemens sm_tw_200.png
November 6, 2019

When Will Harris entered Game 7 of the World Series, the Astros were in the driver’s seat. There was only one out in the seventh, and Houston was up by a lone run, but teams in that position usually win — per our Win Expectancy chart, that situation ends in victory 68.7% of the time.

68.7% is notably not 100%, however. When Harris threw Howie Kendrick an 0-1 cutter, Kendrick demonstrated why:

The game wasn’t over after that home run, but it proved decisive nonetheless. The Nationals never relinquished the lead, tacking on insurance runs in the eighth and ninth, and sharked their way to a World Series title. Harris gave up a single to Asdrúbal Cabrera before Roberto Osuna replaced him; after the game, he became a free agent, and may never pitch for the Astros again.

The Kendrick home run was the most important single play of the World Series, and so it’s natural that A.J. Hinch’s decision to use Harris has been the focus of much of the post hoc analysis of the inning. Gerrit Cole was in the dugout warming, and might have been available to face Kendrick. Worried about a starter entering mid-inning? Osuna was also ready — he came in later in the inning, after all.

But this analysis has a central thread that I dispute. At its core, it comes down to the fact that the Astros chose to go with Will Harris, and then he delivered a bad result. From there, you can determine whether Harris was a good ex-ante choice, whether Greinke could have stayed in, or any number of possible detours.

In framing it this way, it’s implied that Harris did a bad thing. Maybe he was the least likely person to give up that home run or maybe he wasn’t, but Hinch picked him and he caused the Astros to lose. To me, that’s simply untrue.

Take a look at the location of the pitch Kendrick hit:
Harris-HR-Location.jpg

This wasn’t some middle-middle cupcake of a pitch; it was on the black, almost precisely on the lower outside corner. It wasn’t a flat fastball, either; it was Harris’s signature cutter, with glove-side break carrying it away from Kendrick’s bat. What’s more, it was located where Kendrick has historically had the least power:
Kendrick-Hot-Zones.jpg

This isn’t a loose use of the word “least,” either. Break the strike zone down into the 36 sections you see above, and Kendrick has the lowest slugging percentage on contact in the specific zone where Harris threw that pitch.

Moving the focus from Kendrick to Harris doesn’t make the pitch seem any worse. In his eight-year career (including the playoffs), Harris has thrown 114 cutters to more or less that location, the low outside corner. Batters have only swung 25 times, which makes sense — it’s a hard pitch to do much with, and it’s close enough to being off the plate that there’s a pretty good chance of having it called a ball.

Those 25 swings make for a small sample, but until this pitch, the results have generally favored Harris. Of the 25, seven were swinging strikes and six went foul. Another eight turned into outs; five grounders, two line drives, and a fly ball. Three became groundball singles. The 25th changed the outcome of the World Series.

Nor is this a case of a ton of hard contact that simply hadn’t caught up to Harris. The hardest-hit ball, inclusive of Kendrick’s home run, was a grounder with a 99.9 mph exit velocity from earlier this year. Kendrick’s home run was the second-furthest a player hit one of these low-corner cutters in Harris’s career, and it barely made it out of the shallowest part of the park. Put simply, Harris doesn’t allow home runs on low cutters. Take a look at the locations of every home run he had allowed against the pitch before Kendrick’s swing:
Harris-Cutter-HR-Locations.jpg

In fact, no one allows home runs on low cutters. Since 2008, between the regular season and the playoffs, there have been 1,741 cutters thrown by a righty to a righty in the rough location of Harris’ pitch that resulted in fair contact. Of those, a whopping two (not counting Harris’) went for home runs. If you’d prefer to include foul balls, the sample is even larger, but the results the same: batters have made contact with 3,160 low and away cutters, of which again two became home runs.

Of course, none of these cutters were the exact pitch Harris threw. There was only one of those, and it worked out as poorly as possible for Harris. It’s not fair to absolve him of blame completely. He could have thrown a different pitch; Kendrick had whiffed on a first-pitch curveball. He could have thrown it with slightly more mustard; maybe 92 on the black gets the job done where 91 isn’t enough.

But for the most part, blaming Harris misses the point. It’s easy to look at the way the series ended and moralize. Howie Kendrick is the hero, Will Harris is the goat, and A.J. Hinch is the surrogate goat. Those are all true based on the outcomes, but they miss a central element of what happened. Process matters, and Harris didn’t lose because of a bad process or a lack of execution; he lost despite doing exactly what he hoped to do.

Baseball is zero sum, but that doesn’t mean every failure is built the same. Will Harris is going to remember this play for the rest of his life. But if you ask him what he’d do differently, and if he’s honest, I think he’d say nothing. That was a great pitch. Kendrick was just better.

 

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4 hours ago, WBT said:

Good but painful article about Harris in game 7.  The conclusion: Kendrick hit a damn good pitch.

https://blogs.fangraphs.com/will-harris-played-well-didnt-get-rewarded/

  Reveal hidden contents

Will Harris Played Well, Didn’t Get Rewarded

by Ben Clemens sm_tw_200.png
November 6, 2019

When Will Harris entered Game 7 of the World Series, the Astros were in the driver’s seat. There was only one out in the seventh, and Houston was up by a lone run, but teams in that position usually win — per our Win Expectancy chart, that situation ends in victory 68.7% of the time.

68.7% is notably not 100%, however. When Harris threw Howie Kendrick an 0-1 cutter, Kendrick demonstrated why:

The game wasn’t over after that home run, but it proved decisive nonetheless. The Nationals never relinquished the lead, tacking on insurance runs in the eighth and ninth, and sharked their way to a World Series title. Harris gave up a single to Asdrúbal Cabrera before Roberto Osuna replaced him; after the game, he became a free agent, and may never pitch for the Astros again.

The Kendrick home run was the most important single play of the World Series, and so it’s natural that A.J. Hinch’s decision to use Harris has been the focus of much of the post hoc analysis of the inning. Gerrit Cole was in the dugout warming, and might have been available to face Kendrick. Worried about a starter entering mid-inning? Osuna was also ready — he came in later in the inning, after all.

But this analysis has a central thread that I dispute. At its core, it comes down to the fact that the Astros chose to go with Will Harris, and then he delivered a bad result. From there, you can determine whether Harris was a good ex-ante choice, whether Greinke could have stayed in, or any number of possible detours.

In framing it this way, it’s implied that Harris did a bad thing. Maybe he was the least likely person to give up that home run or maybe he wasn’t, but Hinch picked him and he caused the Astros to lose. To me, that’s simply untrue.

Take a look at the location of the pitch Kendrick hit:
Harris-HR-Location.jpg

This wasn’t some middle-middle cupcake of a pitch; it was on the black, almost precisely on the lower outside corner. It wasn’t a flat fastball, either; it was Harris’s signature cutter, with glove-side break carrying it away from Kendrick’s bat. What’s more, it was located where Kendrick has historically had the least power:
Kendrick-Hot-Zones.jpg

This isn’t a loose use of the word “least,” either. Break the strike zone down into the 36 sections you see above, and Kendrick has the lowest slugging percentage on contact in the specific zone where Harris threw that pitch.

Moving the focus from Kendrick to Harris doesn’t make the pitch seem any worse. In his eight-year career (including the playoffs), Harris has thrown 114 cutters to more or less that location, the low outside corner. Batters have only swung 25 times, which makes sense — it’s a hard pitch to do much with, and it’s close enough to being off the plate that there’s a pretty good chance of having it called a ball.

Those 25 swings make for a small sample, but until this pitch, the results have generally favored Harris. Of the 25, seven were swinging strikes and six went foul. Another eight turned into outs; five grounders, two line drives, and a fly ball. Three became groundball singles. The 25th changed the outcome of the World Series.

Nor is this a case of a ton of hard contact that simply hadn’t caught up to Harris. The hardest-hit ball, inclusive of Kendrick’s home run, was a grounder with a 99.9 mph exit velocity from earlier this year. Kendrick’s home run was the second-furthest a player hit one of these low-corner cutters in Harris’s career, and it barely made it out of the shallowest part of the park. Put simply, Harris doesn’t allow home runs on low cutters. Take a look at the locations of every home run he had allowed against the pitch before Kendrick’s swing:
Harris-Cutter-HR-Locations.jpg

In fact, no one allows home runs on low cutters. Since 2008, between the regular season and the playoffs, there have been 1,741 cutters thrown by a righty to a righty in the rough location of Harris’ pitch that resulted in fair contact. Of those, a whopping two (not counting Harris’) went for home runs. If you’d prefer to include foul balls, the sample is even larger, but the results the same: batters have made contact with 3,160 low and away cutters, of which again two became home runs.

Of course, none of these cutters were the exact pitch Harris threw. There was only one of those, and it worked out as poorly as possible for Harris. It’s not fair to absolve him of blame completely. He could have thrown a different pitch; Kendrick had whiffed on a first-pitch curveball. He could have thrown it with slightly more mustard; maybe 92 on the black gets the job done where 91 isn’t enough.

But for the most part, blaming Harris misses the point. It’s easy to look at the way the series ended and moralize. Howie Kendrick is the hero, Will Harris is the goat, and A.J. Hinch is the surrogate goat. Those are all true based on the outcomes, but they miss a central element of what happened. Process matters, and Harris didn’t lose because of a bad process or a lack of execution; he lost despite doing exactly what he hoped to do.

Baseball is zero sum, but that doesn’t mean every failure is built the same. Will Harris is going to remember this play for the rest of his life. But if you ask him what he’d do differently, and if he’s honest, I think he’d say nothing. That was a great pitch. Kendrick was just better.

   I'm glad that article was written.  As soon as I saw the replay I knew that it was just an exceptional piece of hitting.  I'd still send Harris out in that situation every single time.  He made a great pitch.  Kendrick made a better swing.  That's baseball.

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22 hours ago, Guadaloopy said:
On 11/6/2019 at 3:31 PM, WBT said:

Good but painful article about Harris in game 7.  The conclusion: Kendrick hit a damn good pitch.

https://blogs.fangraphs.com/will-harris-played-well-didnt-get-rewarded/

  Reveal hidden contents

Will Harris Played Well, Didn’t Get Rewarded

by Ben Clemens sm_tw_200.png
November 6, 2019

When Will Harris entered Game 7 of the World Series, the Astros were in the driver’s seat. There was only one out in the seventh, and Houston was up by a lone run, but teams in that position usually win — per our Win Expectancy chart, that situation ends in victory 68.7% of the time.

68.7% is notably not 100%, however. When Harris threw Howie Kendrick an 0-1 cutter, Kendrick demonstrated why:

The game wasn’t over after that home run, but it proved decisive nonetheless. The Nationals never relinquished the lead, tacking on insurance runs in the eighth and ninth, and sharked their way to a World Series title. Harris gave up a single to Asdrúbal Cabrera before Roberto Osuna replaced him; after the game, he became a free agent, and may never pitch for the Astros again.

The Kendrick home run was the most important single play of the World Series, and so it’s natural that A.J. Hinch’s decision to use Harris has been the focus of much of the post hoc analysis of the inning. Gerrit Cole was in the dugout warming, and might have been available to face Kendrick. Worried about a starter entering mid-inning? Osuna was also ready — he came in later in the inning, after all.

But this analysis has a central thread that I dispute. At its core, it comes down to the fact that the Astros chose to go with Will Harris, and then he delivered a bad result. From there, you can determine whether Harris was a good ex-ante choice, whether Greinke could have stayed in, or any number of possible detours.

In framing it this way, it’s implied that Harris did a bad thing. Maybe he was the least likely person to give up that home run or maybe he wasn’t, but Hinch picked him and he caused the Astros to lose. To me, that’s simply untrue.

Take a look at the location of the pitch Kendrick hit:
Harris-HR-Location.jpg

This wasn’t some middle-middle cupcake of a pitch; it was on the black, almost precisely on the lower outside corner. It wasn’t a flat fastball, either; it was Harris’s signature cutter, with glove-side break carrying it away from Kendrick’s bat. What’s more, it was located where Kendrick has historically had the least power:
Kendrick-Hot-Zones.jpg

This isn’t a loose use of the word “least,” either. Break the strike zone down into the 36 sections you see above, and Kendrick has the lowest slugging percentage on contact in the specific zone where Harris threw that pitch.

Moving the focus from Kendrick to Harris doesn’t make the pitch seem any worse. In his eight-year career (including the playoffs), Harris has thrown 114 cutters to more or less that location, the low outside corner. Batters have only swung 25 times, which makes sense — it’s a hard pitch to do much with, and it’s close enough to being off the plate that there’s a pretty good chance of having it called a ball.

Those 25 swings make for a small sample, but until this pitch, the results have generally favored Harris. Of the 25, seven were swinging strikes and six went foul. Another eight turned into outs; five grounders, two line drives, and a fly ball. Three became groundball singles. The 25th changed the outcome of the World Series.

Nor is this a case of a ton of hard contact that simply hadn’t caught up to Harris. The hardest-hit ball, inclusive of Kendrick’s home run, was a grounder with a 99.9 mph exit velocity from earlier this year. Kendrick’s home run was the second-furthest a player hit one of these low-corner cutters in Harris’s career, and it barely made it out of the shallowest part of the park. Put simply, Harris doesn’t allow home runs on low cutters. Take a look at the locations of every home run he had allowed against the pitch before Kendrick’s swing:
Harris-Cutter-HR-Locations.jpg

In fact, no one allows home runs on low cutters. Since 2008, between the regular season and the playoffs, there have been 1,741 cutters thrown by a righty to a righty in the rough location of Harris’ pitch that resulted in fair contact. Of those, a whopping two (not counting Harris’) went for home runs. If you’d prefer to include foul balls, the sample is even larger, but the results the same: batters have made contact with 3,160 low and away cutters, of which again two became home runs.

Of course, none of these cutters were the exact pitch Harris threw. There was only one of those, and it worked out as poorly as possible for Harris. It’s not fair to absolve him of blame completely. He could have thrown a different pitch; Kendrick had whiffed on a first-pitch curveball. He could have thrown it with slightly more mustard; maybe 92 on the black gets the job done where 91 isn’t enough.

But for the most part, blaming Harris misses the point. It’s easy to look at the way the series ended and moralize. Howie Kendrick is the hero, Will Harris is the goat, and A.J. Hinch is the surrogate goat. Those are all true based on the outcomes, but they miss a central element of what happened. Process matters, and Harris didn’t lose because of a bad process or a lack of execution; he lost despite doing exactly what he hoped to do.

Baseball is zero sum, but that doesn’t mean every failure is built the same. Will Harris is going to remember this play for the rest of his life. But if you ask him what he’d do differently, and if he’s honest, I think he’d say nothing. That was a great pitch. Kendrick was just better.

   I'm glad that article was written.  As soon as I saw the replay I knew that it was just an exceptional piece of hitting.  I'd still send Harris out in that situation every single time.  He made a great pitch.  Kendrick made a better swing.  That's baseball.

Yeah, in the moment, I was cussing Harris. 

But with a week to reflect, and after reading that fine article, I’m not pissed at Harris anymore.

Fangraphs sold me on the fact that the pitch was almost impossible to hit for a home run  

Just have to give the accolades to Kendrick. 

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