The White Sox's wild, wild, wild win

The Tigers uncorking a week's worth of wild pitches in one inning shows why there's no predicting in postseason baseball.


King Kaufman
September 30, 2008 3:00PM (UTC)

The Chicago White Sox's 8-2 win over the Detroit Tigers in Monday's rainout makeup game offered a great example of why postseason predictions are just plain silly. There aren't enough games for predictions to make sense.

One of baseball's newest clichés is that the postseason is a crapshoot. Monday's wasn't a playoff game, but it was a single must-win game for the White Sox. They did win, and how they did it wouldn't have been mentioned if a million typists had been writing preview pieces at a million keyboards. Or a hundred monkeys, if you're looking for similar brainpower.

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Down 2-1 entering the bottom of the sixth against their former teammate, Freddy Garcia, the White Sox tied the game and loaded the bases without getting a hit. Garcia, in only his third start since returning from major shoulder surgery, walked Dewayne Wise to lead off the inning, then came out with a stiff shoulder after Wise stole second.

He was relieved by Armando Galarraga, a rookie who turned in a fine year as a starter for the Tigers, one of their bright spots. Galarraga threw two wild pitches to score Wise, then walked Jermaine Dye. Bobby Seay came in and threw another wild pitch, sending Dye to second. After striking out Jim Thome, Seay walked Paul Konerko intentionally and Ken Griffey Jr. unintentionally.

At this point you, the prognosticator, would have analyzed the teams' strengths and weaknesses and thought about the matchups and had it all figured out, and then you would have watched three wild pitches in one inning, two of them by a starter pitching as a reliever.

In the first 161 games this season the Tigers averaged one wild pitch every 23 and a half innings. Galarraga averaged one every 44 and two-thirds. He threw four wild pitches all year, and then Monday he threw two in two minutes.

What, you hadn't seen that coming?

After Seay -- two wild pitches in 56 innings -- added the third wild one, Gary Glover came in to face Alexei Ramirez, who hit Glover's first pitch into the stratosphere for a grand slam and a 6-2 Sox lead. Glover had been cut loose by Tampa Bay in July and signed with Detroit in August. In 18 and two-thirds innings as a Tiger he'd given up a generous six home runs. On the year, six homers in 52 and two-thirds innings.

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So OK, some things aren't out of the blue.

But would the well-traveled punching bag -- the Tigers are his eighth organization in 10 years, and only the first two traded him away; the others just released him -- have been in the game if the generally not-wild Galarraga or Seay had been able to throw strikes or at least keep the ball away from the backstop?

We'll never know, just as we couldn't have known beforehand. It's a funny game with funny bounces and a funny way of producing heroes and goats out of thin air. Luck and timing play too big a role in single games or short series for predictions to be anything more than a silly pastime.

If you tune in to Tuesday's A.L. Central playoff game between the White Sox and the Minnesota Twins, the game the White Sox played their way into on Monday, and the announcers are earnestly asking each other who they think is going to win, understand that they're just goofing around. Or they're deluded.

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Now, you can say intelligent things about an entire season, because there are enough games for the luck and out-of-character heroics or failures to even out and the best teams to rise to the top. And if you can do that, you're one up on this column, as the good people at WhereIStand.com have been kind enough to point out.

Working this column's side of the street a little bit, WhereIStand tracks the preseason predictions of a whole mess of typists and chatterers and then ranks them based on a formula that gives points for good predictions and takes points away for bad ones.

Out of 50 entrants, your justifiably humble servant finished 41st with his picks of the Yankees, Indians, Angels, Braves, Brewers and Diamondbacks as division champions. The formula's too complicated for me to figure out, which isn't saying anything, but I think the Brewers' happy weekend helped me out, because late last week the WhereIStand people informed me I was in 45th place.

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Most of the people down at the bottom of the list with me started the season thinking the Mariners were going to be a good team. That's the kind of company I'm keeping. The most accurate picker of the 50 was the very smart Keith Law of ESPN. Nobody got more than four of the six division winners. I got one. All of which leads me to one inescapable conclusion:

The Twins are going to beat the White Sox Tuesday on a dropped third strike in the 11th inning.


King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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