World Series Defense: Does It Live Up To Expectations?

As I watched the ball sail just over Nelson Cruz‘ outstretched glove as he momentarily took his eyes from the ball to see how close to the wall he was I immediately began lamenting the lost art of defense.  It is easy for me to suggest Cruz should have caught the ball given the Texas Rangers their long sought after World Series victory but the mind plays tricks and an individuals survival instinct is strong.  I would guess that 7 out of 10 times Nelson would have reeled that ball in and secured the series victory but in the end David Freese not only delivered the tying run in the 9th with his triple, he drilled a walk off home run in the 11th.

For those who follow me on Twitter you might have noticed I was a bit agitated with the defense in last nights game.  Sure, the game was fraught with drama and intense action but do you really want to see a World Series, pitting allegedly the best against the best, hinge on a misplayed fly ball.  Freese’ triple was considered a hit but it just as easily could have been argued that it was an error to go with the 5 that were officially recorded between the two teams last night.  In addition to the recorded errors, their were questionable plays throughout the game where fundamental baseball seemed to be forgotten.

Once the game had ended I went to bed frustrated that the Rangers couldn’t seize the golden opportunity they had been given.  I make no secrets about my disdain for the St. Louis Cardinals and Tony LaRussa, but as Kerry Moss wrote earlier today, LaRussa manages teams to play with heart and to never say die.  The question I was left with is this:  How does the pitiful defense of these two World Series competitors compare to past Fall Classics?  So I dove into the statistics on and to find my answers.

I decided to limit my search t0 1970-2010 as this is reasonable sample size starting the year after the pitchers mound was lowered and offense came to the forefront in baseball.  During this current World Series 13 errors have been committed by the two teams, 8 by Texas and 5 by St. Louis going into game 7.  Over the past 40 years the winning team has committed the same or fewer errors 24 times.  That leans slightly in favor of a St. Louis victory tonight made even greater when you consider St. Louis plays at home with their Ace on the mound

In looking over the table that I created and attached to this article I expected to find more championship teams than I found.  I did note that of the 13 seven game series, 10 of the winners had the same or fewer errors.  Another edge to the Cardinals I suppose.

Here is the table:

A few comments about this chart.  In 1986, the heart wrenching collapse of Boston culminating in the ball dribbling between Bill Buckner’s legs in Game 6 is a perfect example of a player being overwhelmed by the moment.  That resulted in Boston’s game 7 loss and could be a harbinger of tonight’s game, made even worse if Cruz cant even play tonight after suffering a groin pull yesterday.  Rarely does a team lose game 6 and rebound which just adds to the legacy of the Big Red Machine when in the 6th inning of Game 7 Tony Perez told manager Sparky Anderson that he would hit a home run and everything would work out fine which of course for Reds faithful it certainly did.  If even one error is recorded tonight it will be the most in Word Series history in 29 years.  Not forever but longer than many of these players have been alive.

Another note is that you can not underestimate the effect of game pressure on this grand stage.  In 2429 games this season, 3053 errors were committed.  St. Louis committed 116 while Texas had 114 miscues.  Yet during this brief series the teams are averaging more than 2 errors per game.  Higher stakes prompt greater risks and expose the teams to worse outcomes.

2007 is to me the ideal way the World Series should play out.  Boston overwhelmed Colorado in a 4 game series but only 2 errors were committed and both of those were the responsibility of the victorious Red Sox.

Follow me on Twitter tonight as we enjoy the last night of 2011 Major League Baseball @JohnHeitz