In other posts, I’ve mentioned how I like an underdog story. I like when I see a team come back from the brink of extinction to live to see another day. But I also like when a team is not supposed to make any progress be able to crush all of the stats and predictions. This is what has happened with the Dodgers and Brewers. Both teams are driven by analytics. They can spend days crunching the data, in order to determine their chances at winning the National League Championship Series. Regardless of those numbers, no one could have predicted what actually happened. It’s literally something that even Brandon Woodruff’s father didn’t see coming.
Which was – the fact that Brandon Woodruff was able to hit a home run off of the three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw during the NLCS Game 1 on Friday night. The Brewers were losing to Kershaw and the Dodgers, 1-0, when Woodruff, hit one of the most incredible and shocking home runs that might ever be seen in a postseason game. When it comes to shock factor, we have to consider the following:
- Kershaw never before had given up an extra-base hit to a left-handed-hitting pitcher in his career. They were hitting .089 against him, with 11 singles in 124-bats, 82 of which ended in strikeouts.
- In two-strike counts against Kershaw, left-handed-hitting pitchers were 4-for-107, a .037 batting average.
- Kershaw is the toughest lefty for left-handed batters to hit all-time (minimum 250 starts), holding them to a .195 batting average.
- Woodruff had only 90 at-bats in eight years since high school–three years in college, three years in the minors and two years in the majors.
- Only two relief pitchers had ever hit a postseason home run before Woodruff did it: Rosy Ryan of the 1924 Giants and Travis Wood of the 2016 Cubs.
All of these elements came together in what seems like a perfect storm. What’s interesting to me is how deep statistics are in the MLB. The fact that teams can predict whether or not they’re going to win, or even hit a ball all boils down to statistics. But we don’t see quite the same number in other sports. Take basketball for example. LeBron can hit 75% of his three-pointers in one game, but the next he could miss every single one of them. While that’s a bit of a stretch, my point is that statistics can’t be applied to other sports in quite the same way, which makes this entire scenario extremely fascinating.
Further, the Brewers won the game, but just by a hair. Even if they hadn’t of won, Woodruff’s home run brought something to the stadium that it had been missing. While not necessarily important, Woodruff’s humble upbringing certainly adds to this story. He is originally from Wheeler, Mississippi, which is an unincorporated community near Booneville. Booneville is named for Daniel Boone’s relatives. It’s only about 25 miles from Tupelo. Why am I even telling you this? I think it’s a bit of a good news story and it outlines just what can be done with a little bit of hard work – statistics be damned