Posted by: Peter | October 9, 2009

Punch in the face

Fangraphs win expectancies: ALDS game 2

Fangraphs win expectancies: ALDS game 2

That was absolutely one of the most brutal innings I’ve ever witnessed. Joe Mauer is robbed of a double by a terrible call. He gets a single out of the at-bat anyway–but the next batter, Jason Kubel, hits a single that probably would have scored him if he had been on second. This turns out to be incredibly important because what ultimately happens in the inning is that the Twins load the bases with no outs, and then proceed to make three outs on five pitches without scoring a run. Perennial goat Delmon Young’s line-out was actually the most respectable of the three outs–he hit it right at Mark Texeira, but it was a well-hit ball that mostly turned into an out because of bad luck.

The same can’t be said of the weak efforts from Carlos Gomez and Brendan Harris. All told, the cumulative effect of those three at-bats was to drop the Twins chance of winning a mind-boggling 47.8%, from 83.5% to 35.7%.  After that, it seemed inevitable that Mark Teixeira would start off the bottom of the 11th with a walk-off homer to cap off the collapse.

If that all wasn’t painful enough for you, imagine watching it the way I did: In a New York City bar, surrounded by screaming Yankee fans who were always there to chime in with the exact reverse of my emotions. I keep telling myself that we all wrote this team off a month ago anyway, and it lessens the pain a bit.

Small comfort that it is, I can also say that I had one positive baseball experience today, when I discovered postseason.tv, the new project from Major League Baseball’s Internet department. I’ve been a customer of mlb.tv for about five years, because it allows me to watch Twins games even though I don’t have cable or live in Minnesota.  The service has had its ups and downs, but I do think it’s gotten much better since its frustrating early years. Now that it’s integrated into Boxee, it’s easy for me to stream baseball from my computer onto my TV, essentially replicating the cable experience without the expense.

With postseason.tv, MLB has implemented something I’ve wanted to see for a long time: access to all of the raw camera feeds that go into a finished broadcast. You can flip between, say, the center field camera, the dugout camera, and the home plate camera, or put up to four different cameras on screen at once. The experience takes a while to get used to, but once you get the hang of it it adds a new layer of richness to the game.

Reviews of postseason.tv haven’t been all positive. But it seems to me that $9.95 is actually a pretty decent deal for what you get, and it’s a mistake to expect the service to be a full replacement for the finished TV broadcast.  I do agree that it has some problems, many of them technical: it’s generally impossible to get all four cameras exactly in sync, for example, which makes it a bit hard to move back and forth between watching different camera angles (much less sync them up with the TV broadcast, which is supposedly what you’re intended to do with the service.)  But the underlying concept is a very good one, and I’m optimistic that it will eventually develop into something more powerful and more usable.

Ultimately, the availability of alternative video sources could be combined with another innovation I’ve long hoped for, DIY play-by-play, to create a thinking person’s alternative to the lowest-common-denominator antics of the mainstream sports broadcasts. Of course, MLB and the other sports would fight this development, just as the record companies fight against sampling and remixing. But it still looks to me like the wave of the future.

None of that, obviously, makes up for tonight’s game but there nothing to be done for that except look ahead, and hope for another miracle in the Metrodome.

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