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Some thoughts on that crazy World Series Game 5

There’s so much to say about such an epic, memorable game.

World Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Houston Astros - Game Five Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Sunday night’s Game 5 was one of the most epic battles in World Series history. The Dodgers and Astros exchanged leads frequently, and in dramatic fashion. When Austin Barnes singled in Logan Forsythe in the fourth inning to make it 4-0, the Astros had a win expectancy of 12.4 percent. The Astros won on a walk-off in the 10th inning by the score of 13-12.

It was a wild ride for viewers, to say the least. I can’t even imagine what the fans at the game were going through. Just look at this WE chart. I don’t know if Astros fans crashed after the game or were so wired on adrenaline that they couldn’t sleep until morning.

There’s a lot that we can go over in this game, so I can’t go everything. Let’s take a look at a few topics below.

There was a lot of offense for a big strike zone

While watching the game, I had a thought that I am sure a lot of other viewers had: home plate umpire Bill Miller had a big, inconsistent strike zone. Checking out the results on Brooks Baseball showed that it was not as bad as I had originally thought. It was still subpar, though.

I was most surprised at the results with left-handed batters at the plate. It was actually pretty good.

Brooks Baseball

With right-handed hitters, on the other hand, the results were not so good.

Brooks Baseball

It is quite surprising that such a large strike zone led to so much offense. Five of the seven home runs hit were by right-handed batters.

Did the alleged new baseballs lead to all the offense?

SI’s Tom Verducci recently reported that the pitchers believe the World Series baseballs to be different. They think the balls are slicker and therefore more difficult to handle. Yu Darvish and Justin Verlander claimed that this affected their sliders because it prevented them from getting a proper grip on the ball.

Clayton Kershaw is known for his curveball, but he also has one of the best sliders in the game. By Brooks Baseball and the eye test, it did not look any different in Game 5 than it usually does. It had more or less the same velocity and movement. He only got one swing and miss on it all night, though. No, the problem with the slider that night was the same problem Kershaw had with all his pitches: His command was terrible.

That is a very strange sentence to write. Kershaw was visibly frustrated on the mound about it. Just look at the location of the slider that Yuli Gurriel hit out of the park. The pitch was right in Gurriel’s wheel house.

Brooks Baseball

Verducci’s article focused on throwing sliders, which is understandable given the importance of grip to the pitch. The thing is that grip is also important for command in general. Greg Maddux in his prime would not be able to command a slick ball. That is why hitters tend not to care if pitchers use any illicit substances to improve their grip. If pitchers can’t grip the ball, then they can’t command it, and if they can’t command it, then the hitter might get accidentally plunked. It is also why using petroleum jelly and any substance to make the ball slick on purpose are illegal. It reduces spin rate, which can give the ball erratic movement. In other words, it can give a pitcher a fastball with knuckling action.

I am not saying this to give Kershaw or any other pitcher from last night a pass. I can’t prove that the slick baseballs were the reasons for the meatballs that were thrown. I am sure a taxed bullpen had something to do with it, too. I am just saying that it could be a factor, and to give people something to think about.

Not the best night for Dave Roberts

From what I have gleaned from Dave Roberts, he seems to be one of the better tactical managers in baseball. The Dodgers deserve a lot of credit for training him well, and Roberts deserves a lot of credit for being open-minded to modern baseball tactics. I might be forgetting something, but I can’t recall any major gaffes that Roberts has had in the postseason.

On Sunday night, however, Roberts made at least two big mistakes. Both of them came in the seventh inning.

At the beginning of the seventh inning, the game was tied 7-7. The win expectancy was at an even 50 percent. Justin Turner led off the inning with a double off Brad Peacock. This added 11 percentage points to the Dodgers’ win expectancy. Kiké Hernández came up to the plate with the go-ahead run on second base and no outs.

And he bunted. He actually bunted. The process is bad enough, as we will get to in a moment, but the results were just as bad. It was not a great bunt, and Turner got thrown out at third base. The Dodgers lost almost all the win expectancy they had gained. Even had the sacrifice bunt been successful, it would have been a negative play overall as a result of giving away an out.

Cody Bellinger sort of bailed out Roberts there by hitting a triple next. However, had Roberts actually let Kiké hit, he might have driven in Turner and then score himself on the subsequent triple. This could have cost the Dodgers a run during Game 5 of the World Series, which they lost in extra innings.

Bunting with a man on second is never a good idea unless the pitcher is hitting. But this was a bunt decision so egregious that you would think that Roberts was being advised by Ron Washington. The play in question is designed to maximize the chance to score one run at the cost of lowering the chance to score many runs. Why would you play for one run against a team that had one of the best offensive seasons of the live-ball era? The Astros responded with four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning alone!

Houston had some help, though. Roberts made the strange decision to have Brandon Morrow pitch the seventh inning, even though it was his third straight night of pitching and he has been used excessively during the postseason. Morrow has also struggled badly with injuries in his career.

I understand that Roberts was in a tough spot not getting even five inning from his starter. I understand that his choices out of the bullpen were limited. Unfortunately, none of that excuses putting Morrow into the game to face the top of the Astros lineup.

It was about as bad of an outing as I have ever seen from a pitcher. Morrow gave up four runs on six pitches — with two home runs — and he got no outs. Morrow’s performance was worth -0.59 WPA. The Dodgers went from having roughly a two-thirds chance to win the game to having almost no chance to win the game. Obviously this game cared nothing for probabilities, but it is important to spell out just how bad of a decision this was.

Joc Pederson pinch-hit for the pitcher the eighth inning. The Dodgers might have been better off having him pitch the seventh. In all seriousness, Roberts should have went with Ross Stripling or Josh Fields instead. Roberts stretching out relievers where he could would not have been a bad idea given the off day on Monday.

A great “what if”

Alex Bregman has not been great this postseason, hitting .219/.271/.453, albeit with four home runs. But he was 2-for-6 in Game 5 including the game-winning single that drove in Derek Fisher. If that were his first hit of the postseason, Astros fans would have been immediately forgiven him for the prior lack of production.

Hat tip to Joe Sheehan for pointing this out: Had the Astros signed Brady Aiken with their first overall pick in the 2014 draft, they would not have Alex Bregman right now. The Astros were able to draft him thanks to that compensatory pick they got for not being able to sign Aiken. Even if another Astro had gotten the game-winning hit, the team would have had a big hole at third base all year.

Aiken, unfortunately, has performed poorly in his minor-league career. Even if he were well on his way to becoming the pitcher that scouts thought he could be when he was in high school, no high school pitcher advances to the major leagues as quickly as an advanced college player. Because of their age, it takes years for them to fill out and develop into a major league quality pitcher.

All rebuilding processes require a fair amount of luck, no matter how well it is being executed. Remember that the Astros chose Mark Appel over Kris Bryant in the 2013 draft. It was a completely defensible decision that most if not all teams would have made at the time. It’s now clear that it was a disaster. As questionable as the Astros’ handling of the Aiken situation was, it led to luck swinging in their favor in their acquisition of Bregman. It could lead to their first World Series championship.

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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.