Friday, March 18, 2005

How important is momentum in baseball?

Often when I'm bored, I sit at my PC or laptop, and watch the top play archives on mlb.com. One thing that struck me from watching them today was how much momentum is an important factor in the post-season.

Look at the 2003 World Series, Ruben Sierra ties it with what was, and really should've been known historically as, one of the most dramatic hits in World Series history with his full count, 1st and 3rd, 9th inning, 2 out, game tying triple. However Jeff Weaver gives up the long ball to Alex Gonzalez in the 12th and the series is tied. The Marlins then won the next two games to win it all.

In 2004, in the ALDS, Joe Nathan was on the mound in the bottom of the 12th trying to earn the Win and give the Twins a 2-0 lead to take home with them. ESPN's Jon Miller was calling the game and said this, "The key for them (the Twins) maybe winning the whole series is right here, (in) Nathan's ability to get through this inning." So even in the second game of a five game series it was said that it could be crucial, and it was, the Yanks rallied, with back to back walks, a ground rule double scoring Cairo, and then Matsui hit a sac fly to plate Jeter, and win the game - the Yanks won both games in the Dome and went to the ALCS.

In that ALCS they played the Red Sox, led 3-0 and twice had their closer on the mound in save situations, but couldn't win it. I know as a Yankee fan I felt the series was over the moment Ortiz went yard in Game 4, and the moment he fought off a pitch into CF in the 14th inning of Game 5 I knew in my heart of hearts it was over, the momentum had swung, and of course for the Red Sox they had all the momentum imaginable to take into the World Series, getting through the slug fest in Game 1 of that series just confirmed they were going to win it all.

Momentum is so under-rated as an aspect of sport. If you have it with you or you know you are up against a team with it, the first psychological blow has already been landed. After the Yankees rally in the 8th in Game 7 of the ALCS did anyone think that the Red Sox could win it? I doubt it. Boone's walk off Home Run ended it; Jorge Posada's 2 RBI double won it for the Yankees.

2 threw a strike:

At 4:25 am, Anonymous Sox fan said...

What are your views on how a team switches momentum - if the Yankees have all the momentum up 3-0, how do the Sox change that?

 
At 4:31 am, Blogger Neil M said...

Sometimes when you are completely written off you can come back. I remember a fine columnist Bob Ryan saying it was all over, Matsui had won the series MVP twice as broadcasters had handed in their forms, but the Red Sox had unbelieveable spirit, the moment they sensed a chance, they would take it.

Momentum can ebb and flow obviously can the steal in Game 4 was massive, however in Game 5 the cut-down of Damon at 2nd in the 9th by Posada looked like a big momentum shifter but their was immense pressure on the Yanks in that series, no-one had ever blown a 3-0 lead in a race to 4 game series and sometimes pressure can kill momentum as you stop just playing, you play knowing that defeat would be unimaginable.

 

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