Levine: Shane Victorino and the hunt for the elusive 9-3 putout

From SABR member Zachary Levine at Baseball Prospectus on October 25, 2013:

According to his SABR bio, “Wild Bill” Johnson, the Tigers’ ace at the dawn of the last century, was described by sportswriters at the time as both a “slant ball pitcher” and “a giant (who) pitches, hits and fields equally well.” In his six postseason starts in 1907, 1908, and 1909, he had a 2.88 ERA but never did live up to that second portion.

The career .193 hitter went 0-for-16 in the postseason. He almost had a hit in Game 4 of the 1907 World Series, going up against Orval Overall—who was also in the news when Anibal Sanchez tied his previously unmatched record of four strikeouts in a postseason inning.

Wild Bill hit one to Cubs right fielder Frank “Wildfire” (no relation) Schulte, who denied him that base hit by fielding the ball and throwing to first for the out.

That’s the 106-year-old history that Shane Victorino stares down every time he fields a ball in right and thinks hey, there might be a shot at this. Nobody has achieved the 9-3 putout since in the postseason, though Lord knows Victorino has tried.

He tried in the ALCS against Jose Iglesias, who responded with a dismissive wave. In Game 1 of the World Series, he nearly ended the night by coming up throwing on David Freese, who slid in and was safe by a minuscule fraction of a second.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said it’s not something that Victorino and first baseman Mike Napoli have any sort of code for, just a feel for each other that the outfielder might come up throwing any time a ball is hit hard.

“The one thing that our guys have become accustomed to is what other guys in the lineup or on the field at the same time are likely to do,” Farrell said. “So they anticipate a certain play and that’s one.”

It’s not a play that typically works on the likes of Freese. Not that he’s anything special in the speed department; it’s just that Wild Bill was more the target demographic.

Four of the last five 9-3 putouts have been with pitchers running the bases. In addition to pitchers not being blessed runners, a good part of it is the fact that right fielders tend to play shallow when pitchers are batting, with little fear of a ball going over their heads.


Read the full article here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22109

Originally published: October 25, 2013. Last Updated: October 25, 2013.