Interesting Rarely Known Sports Facts/Tidbits Thread


Welcoming our new insect overlords
We don't have bullpen data prior to 1901. For the most part this doesn't matter. No team in the 19th century carried a bullpen. Your spare pitchers were your other starters. A spare relief pitcher might also be a spare outfielder. In the 1870s you either were not allowed substitutions or you didn't even bother with carrying substitutes. If you wanted to take the pitcher out you sent him to the outfield and brought in the outfielder. You would almost NEVER take out a pitcher carrying a lead. So bullpens/relief pitchers were practically non-factors.

I thought of the 1899 Cleveland Spiders though. They were five tool bad. Bad hitting, bad pitching, bad fielding. They had bad relief pitching, right? They were third in the league in complete games. 138 complete games in 154 games total. This team where the "ace" went 4-30 constantly left their starting pitchers out to dry. The Spiders finished their season with 36 road games and I'm imaging a scenario where they tried to carry as few players as possible to save money.


Welcoming our new insect overlords
Baseball-Reference's Stathead (formerly the Play Index) added a Pivotal Play Finder. Essentially it uses Win Probability Added and takes it a step further to create Championship Win Probability Added. How much a play turned the tide towards a World Series championship. It's a fun little toy. The most important play in baseball history by this measure was Hal Smith's home run in game 7 of the 1960 World Series. That home run in the bottom of the 8th turned a Pirate deficit into a 9-7 lead. The most important regular season play, Bobby Thomson's home run. Take away tiebreaker games and the biggest regular season event was a bases loaded single by Carl Yastrzemski on the last day of the 1967 season. Gabby Hartnett's Homer In the Gloamin' was second, which is a great outcome.

A couple years ago I thought about a list of biggest strikeouts in baseball history. I'm curious what list this stat creates:
1. Bryan Shaw K's Javier Baez 2016 World Series, Game 7, 9th inning.
A successful squeeze bunt would've given the Cubs the lead. Baez missed.
2. Walter Johnson K's George "Highpockets" Kelly 1924 World Series, Game 7, 9th inning.
First and third one out, tie game. Walter Johnson struck him out.
3. Grover Cleveland Alexander K's Tony Lazzeri 1926 World Series.
They teach about this one in history class
4. Alejandro Pena K's Paul Sorrento, Game 7, 1991 World Series.
First and third with two outs. Sent Game 7 to extra innings.
5. Tug McGraw K's Jose Cardenal, Game 5, 1980 World Series.
A forgotten classic. After coughing up the lead in the top of the ninth, the Royals loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning.
6. George Mullin K's Ed Abbaticchio, Game 6, 1909 World Series.
A strikeout/caught stealing double play lead to the first Game 7 in World Series history between the Pirates and Tigers.
7. Bill Donovan K's Del Howard, Game 1, 1907 World Series.
Odd one here. Tigers lead Cubs 3-2 with two outs, runners 2nd/3rd. Howard strikes out but reaches on an E2 and the runner scores to tie the game. Game ends in a tie after 12 innings.
8. Ralph Terry K's Felipe Alou, Game 7, 1962 World Series.
Yankees lead 1-0 in the ninth. Matty Alou reaches on a bunt. Felipe strikes out, failing to move the runner. Willie Mays' double later in the inning put the Giants on the verge of victory before Willie McCovey hit that hard line drive. So ultimately not even one of the two most memorable at bats of the inning.
9. Jose Mesa K's Bobby Bonilla, Game 7, 1997 World Series.
Indians up a run in the ninth. Moises Alou singled. Mesa following by striking out Bonilla. The Indians never got closer to the win.
10. Johnson K's Kelly, Game 7, 1924 World Series, 11th inning.
This time first and second with two outs.


Welcoming our new insect overlords
I think Alexander's is the greatest since he was at least half dead when he struck out Lazzeri.
I think there's a good argument that it's the most famous strikeout of all time. Unless you're a Mets fan.

Also notable, the Baez at bat also featured the most consequential stolen base ever, since an error allowed Jason Heyward to take third base as well.