The Vulture Report: June 13th, 2016

Sorry for the late report. Work has snowballed on me which hasn’t allowed the usual time for creative writing (just a lot of ranting).

June 7th, Tony Cingrani of the Cincinnati Reds. Oh dear Lord was this game a comedy of incompetence. That the Reds came out of it with a win is ridiculous. The Red-mess was leading the Cardinals 6-1 going into the 8th inning. I haven’t checked the stats on that but usually that big a lead so late in the game means you’re going to win 99.99999% of the time. And the Reds did win. 7-6.

The sun was in my eyes [Editors note: this was a night game]
Starter John Lamb was on cruise control for most of the game but his defense turned into Jello in the 8th. More specifically, Brandon Phillips turned into Jello. Lamb did start the inning by walking Grichuk, but then a double play ground ball became a force out when Phillips made a throwing error to first. Not content with that gaffe, in the very next play he made a fielding error allowing another base runner and Gyorko to move up to third base.

Now comes the pitching change.

No not Tony we’re still far away from that. I just need a little more context. Blake Wood relieved John Lamb to pitch to Aledmys Diaz with men on 1st and 3rd, 1 out. He allowed a sacrifice fly scoring Gyorko. 6-2.

Then came the conga line.

Hit by Matt Holiday, Hit by Stephen Piscotty and Double by Johnny Peralta. When the dust settled it was 6-4 with the tying run on second. Now Tony comes in to save the day. He got Matt Adams to fly out and mercifully end the threat.

Let’s move forward to the events of the 9th inning which concern the feathery outcome. Tony sandwiched a fly out between two hits. Usually you’d like that to be a hit sandwiched between two outs. Face with this pickle Tony bore down and allowed a game tying double to Matt Carpenter (I believe the Cardinal Way is to get as many players named Matt in your lineup). Matt was called out at third trying to stretch his double into a triple. Alas replay saved the Reds. Tony managed to get the last out without resorting to more fireworks.

Bottom of the 9th. At this point Joey Votto had enough of this crap and launched a bomb to a walk-off win.

And who got the win? Why Tony of course. If I were John Lamb I’d personally throttle Brandon Phillips, Blake Wood and Tony Cingrani. Not necessarily in that order.

June 12th, Gonzalez Germen of the Colorado Rockies.Look up the definition of Journeyman Reliever in the dictionary and you will find a picture of Gonzalez staring back at you. He’s 28 and is generally an effective, if unremarkable, relief arm. Generally.

Not that day.

Not my fault that guy was on second base.

He managed a vulture with no earned runs you say?!? Not as unusual as you would think. Inherited runners are great way to screw up the game without actually making your final line look bad. On Sunday he joined the illustrious corps of men who take credit for somebody else’s work. The Zap Brannigans of baseball if you will.

Germen came in at the top of the 7th inning of a 1-0 game not because Tyler Anderson was pitching badly (6.1 IP, 6H, 6K, 0BB) but due to some sort of favorable match-up. At least I assume that, because Tyler was allowed to pitch to one more batter (Brett Wallace, lined out to right) after giving up a ground rule double to Alexei Ramirez. And In any case a pinch hitter was brought up so that ended the match-up before it even started.

Germen got Sanchez to popup. But then walked Amarista before Jon Jay punished a ground ball to the outfield allowing Ramirez to tie the game 1-1. Myers struck out to end the frame. No worries. In the bottom of the 7th, Mark Reynolds immediately mashed a bomb to give the Rockies back the lead 2-1. Germen would pitch one clean inning later but he still stole that win from Anderson who pitched for more innings and didn’t actually allow the hit that scored the run.

Dishonorable mention: June 12th, Jonathan Papelbon of the Washington Nationals. I bring up Papelbon (also known variously as Papsmear, Papelbum,  The D.C. Strangler and in some circles, The Douchenozzle)  because Craig called his performance a Vulture. Now technically speaking this wasn’t a vulture because Papelbon came in to a tie game so there was no blown save. However it certainly feels like one because he didn’t preserve the tie and put his team in a position to lose by allowing a Maikel Franco home run only to be the winning pitcher thanks to Jayson Werth heroics.

Now consider the scenario if the frames of the inning were flipped and Papelbon was pitching at home. If he allowed just 1 run with a 2 run lead we’d credit him with the save. Not a good performance sure, but good enough.

Consider the starter who pitches the game, allows a run, but his team scores two. We generally view that performance favorably because despite the run he still pitched effectively afterwards. It just so happens his team scored two runs. If his team is shutout he still gets the loss.

Naturally, if Papelbon actually had a lead then it would be a Vulture by the agreed upon definition at the start of the season.

Quite a quagmire!

Then there’s the other question. Who did Papelbon vulture the win from? Joe Ross? He was staked a three run lead but gave it up, so not good but not bad? Hey 7 IP, 3ER is a quality start. Solis? he pitched a clean 8th so I guess he would be the best candidate? It’s not like Papelbon got lit up, Maikel Franco punished him but after that he got the next three hitters and sat them down. Viewed in isolation Papelbon had an effective performance marred by a homerun. Not good, but not disastrous and it could easily have happened to Solis.

I warned at the beginning of the first report that there are definitely gray areas when it comes to vultures. But I said wouldn’t indulge in that because it makes it harder to quickly collect the stats and draw a firm line. Maybe this can be revisited next season if I plunk some money on a Baseball-Reference subscription and I can get the play index to return these kind of outcomes. Vultures are like the Win-Loss-Save stat that begat them: an imperfect arbitrary definition that entertains but doesn’t really illuminate.

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