Before Yasiel Puig struck out to end Game 2 on Tuesday night, and before he hit a leadoff home run in the 10th inning to draw the Dodgers within one run of the Astros, but after he fired in a 94-mph throw from the outfield and struck a proud pose
Before Yasiel Puig struck out to end Game 2 on Tuesday night, and before he hit a leadoff home run in the 10th inning to draw the Dodgers within one run of the Astros, but after he fired in a 94-mph throw from the outfield and struck a proud pose while doing it, he tried unsuccessfully to track down Alex Bregman's ground-rule double to right leading off the eighth inning.
The ball hit Puig's glove and bounced into the stands, ending Brandon Morrow's night, and the domino effect was on. Bregman would score an important run, cutting a 3-1 Dodgers lead to 3-2. Kenley Jansen was asked to get six outs for the save. He didn't, and the Series is now tied at a game apiece after the Astros' epic 7-6 win in 11 innings in Game 2 of the World Series presented by YouTube TV.
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Puig, more than understandably disappointed that he wasn't able to make the play despite a diving effort, threw his glove into the ground in disgust. Given all the insanity that came after it, the play not made was quietly a big turning point in a pivotal game.
"I wasn't able to make that catch and he ended up getting a double," Puig said. "I thought for a while that it was my fault that we were losing, but that's how the game is. I feel like every ball that goes to right field is a ball that I should catch. That's just the way I play."
But was Puig being too hard on himself? Was it actually a play that should have been made? Digging into the Statcast™ data, the answer is that it's a play that could have been made, but it was far from routine.
From his starting point in right field, Puig was 65 feet away from the projected landing point of the ball, and he had four seconds to get there. (He'd run 63 feet when he dove, so his route was fine.) Put together, that gave the ball a 32 percent catch probability, which is to say that over the three years that we have Statcast™ data, outfielders who have been presented with similar opportunities make the play one-third of the time. Two-thirds of the time, that ball falls for a hit.
So right away, we know it wasn't easy, just because of how often that ball isn't caught. We can use those numbers to look at extremely similar plays, and you can see how impressive they look when they are made. Here, for example, is Mookie Betts going 63 feet in 3.9 seconds this April:
Here's Nick Markakis making a similar play back in 2015, also running 63 feet in 3.9 seconds.
Of course, there are many more examples of outfielders not making that play, and often not even coming close, so it's impressive in itself that Puig was able to get to a point where he got his glove on the ball.
But in a play that close, every fraction of a second or portion of a foot matters, and Puig's top speed was somewhat less than his usual. Statcast™ measures a runner's speed with sprint speed, defined as "feet per second [in a player's fastest one-second window]," where 27 feet per second is the Major League average, and the scale goes from roughly 23 feet per second (extremely slow) to 30 feet per second (elite top-end speed). Puig's average Sprint Speed this year was 28 feet per second, so above average. On this play, it was just 27 feet per second.
That may not sound like a big deal, and maybe it's not. But remember, Puig got his glove on the ball. Had he been running at his normal average top speed of 28 feet per second, or even his absolute maximum speed of 30 feet per second -- which is rare for him, but has been attained a few times this year -- he would've been a foot or two closer to the ball.
That might have been all Puig needed to actually make the play, particularly since, as you can see from this Statcast™ simulation image, the ball was tailing away from him off the bat of the right-handed hitter.
"He was furious with himself," noted FOX broadcaster Joe Buck after seeing Puig's reaction to the play. Still, this wasn't a mistake by Puig so much as it was an extremely difficult play that would have required a spectacular play to make. Close as he came, he couldn't quite pull it off, and while it wouldn't have mattered had Jansen not allowed Marwin Gonzalez to hit the game-tying home run in the ninth, it matters now.
"It's got to be the greatest game I've ever played in," said Bregman, and it's hard to disagree. Without his double and ensuing run, we may never have seen the fireworks that came afterwards, and they were thanks in part to a a great effort on a hard play that came up just a fraction of an inch short.
Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast.