Giants Defensive Positioning a Big Assist in Game 7 Victory

November 6, 2014

Madison Bumgarner will be remembered as the hero of the Giants’ 2014 World Series title, and he deserves every accolade. After holding the Royals to one run in Game 1 and no runs in Game 5, Bumgarner entered Game 7 in relief on two days rest and held the Royals scoreless from the fifth inning to the end of the game, preserving the Giants 3-2 lead. Bumgarner was spectacular, but the Giants didn’t win their third World Series in five years by simply deploying Bumgarner and then sitting on their hands. Their in-game strategies were subtle, but they were critical to their success.

My favorite example of such a strategy was in the bottom of the fifth inning in Game 7. Omar Infante had reached second base following a leadoff single off Bumgarner and a sacrifice bunt by Alcides Escobar. In his first inning of relief, Bumgarner was showing diminished velocity and poor command. He wasn’t yet in top form, and he was a base hit away from losing the Giants’ lead.

When Nori Aoki slapped a line drive down the left field line that was slicing away from the left fielder, it seemed like Bumgarner had done just that. Aoki’s liner was in the air for just 2.6 seconds. It is a play that Baseball Info Solutions’ Plus/Minus system expects to never get made. However, even as the ball quickly fell out of the sky, Juan Perez came out of nowhere to reach the ball and snag it before it touched down.




That out was made possible by the Giants’ decision to play Perez close to the left field line, which is not at all an obvious decision with a left-handed hitter at the plate. But it was no lucky break for the Giants. They knew that Aoki had a tendency to hit his line drives and flyballs the other way and often down the line. You can see that trend in Baseball Info Solutions’ Defensive Positioning software, which highlights red the sections of the field that Aoki's most recent balls in play have been hit to.




In the end, Bumgarner threw five scoreless innings to take home his third World Series ring and a World Series MVP. But without the help of the Giants’ excellent defensive positioning, it might have played out completely different.


COMMENTS (8 Comments, most recent shown first)

I thought that Perez was the winner of the "Sandy Amoros Award for Decisive Defensive excellence. :-)

12:44 PM Nov 12th
So, is this one of the main areas where teams are using sabermetrics these days? Has defensive efficiency increased in the Major Leagues at an accelerated rate in the last decade?
7:36 PM Nov 9th
Ron Wotus is on the Ray's list of managerial candidates, not that he is likely to get the job.
2:13 PM Nov 7th
Great point. Watching the game, I thought FOR SURE the game was tied. Perez is a terrific fielder, but he was basically jogging when he got to that ball. Great defensive read by the giants, and actually, there was an article about the great defensive positioning of the team during it's three runs to the championship on at some point during this year's NLCS. (can't find it)
4:57 PM Nov 6th
Just thought I'd give a shout out to Giants bench coach Ron Wotus who's in charge of their fielder positioning. I'm confident that Wotus took all this data into account before positioning Perez for Aoki's at-bat. Wotus was a very successful manager in the Giants farm system before being promoted to the big club as a third base coach and now the bench coach. You occasionally hear him in interviews on local sports talk shows here in the Bay Area, and it's obvious that he's a really smart guy. He was seriously considered for being the next Giants manager before they finally chose Boche. It will be interesting to see if the Giants' recent success results in Wotus getting an opportunity to manage for some other club. I know he interviewed at Colorado before they finally chose Walt Weiss.
1:49 PM Nov 6th
I was amazed at the bam-bam of this play, it was like somebody had a shortfielder in softball. The first blurt of the announcers was about Perez being in there for defense, then they went on about positioning. (note, commercial before link is soft pedophilia adporn by Samsung promoting the abilities of its new phonecam to take clandstine photos of young girls in school uniforms. That is for Maris):
1:41 PM Nov 6th
Thought I'd add, at the time the play was made, I was impressed, but not shocked -- off the bat, I figured the play probably wouldn't be made but that it might be. I didn't think it was an outlying kind of defensive play in this post-season, but more the kind of play that the winning teams often did make, and that there were quite a few other defensive plays in this post-season that were more surprising. But yes, in terms of importance, this was up there with any.
12:31 PM Nov 6th
Great general subject, but I don't think it's that unusual at all to play a lefty hitter like Aoki so close to the line against a lefty pitcher. Maybe you (or anyone) has some info on that, i.e. where he was played in general against lefties. I'd guess it wasn't far from where Perez played him.​
12:22 PM Nov 6th
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