MU-UT: Luck and the Ghost of Mackey Sasser

By Glenn Tanner - May 05, 2007

Back for game two of the Missouri-Texas series, and game one was a doozy.

Mizzou-RAH pulled off an 11-inning 7-6 win last night to improve to 7-0 in one-run conference games this season.

Several people smarter than me have studied one-run games and tend to agree that the ability to win one-run games is mostly determined by luck. I think I remember enough from grad school statistics to calculate that the probability of winning seven consecutive coin flips is 0.8%, so Missouri has had a lot of luck so far. Last night that luck manifested itself in extra-inning big flies by Chance Wheeless and Kyle Russell that died on the warning track, and most significantly, the winning run that scored when Preston Clark (who spent the summer backstopping for Team USA) was unable to accurately throw the ball back to the pitcher.

(A commenter yesterday correctly pointed out that the Texas middle infielders were also partially to blame for not backing up the play. I think it was Travis Tucker who retrieved the errant throw, and he actually made an incredible throw to the plate to make the play close, but his throw came from near the bag at second, rather than from just behind the mound, where it would have been fielded if backed up properly. Still, it's hard to blame Tucker and Josh Prince for assuming that Clark would make a catchable thrown; Clark's not exactly Mackey Sasser back there.)

Of course, the game only went into extra innings because of Clark's two-run, two-out, 9th-inning dribbler that somehow found a hole through the infield, so the Tigers had luck go against them, too.

Regardless, those kinds of plays are what make baseball great, and they've also moved Missouri (13-6) only a game behind first-place Texas (17-5) in the loss column.

Rick Zagone gets the start on the mound today for Missouri, and he's been pretty much the definition of a lucky pitcher this season, which can also be described as "benefiting from excellent run support." Though his ERA is a robust 5.15, his record is 6-0. His last three appearances have all been fugly (6.1 innings and 6 ER vs. A&M, 2 innings and 6 ER in relief at Baylor, and 4.2 innings and 7 ER vs. Tech), yet he somehow avoided taking an L in any of those games.

Mizzou stats

Texas counters with Adrian Alaniz, who has simply been one of the best pitchers in the nation lately. Though his overall numbers are excellent (11-2, 2.57 ERA), Alaniz has really been effective in Big XII play (.198 batting average against) and nearly unhittable at home (5-0, 1.06 ERA, .144 BAA).

Texas stats

The weather is what some of my female friends would call "bad hair weather." Temps around 80, with lots of wind, and absolutely Houstonian humidity. It's so humid that, although it's not raining, you can literally see moisture in the air as you look off into the distance. The wind will be a factor today, as it's blowing strongly towards left field. All four homers last night were opposite-field high flies in that direction, and the wind is even heftier today.

First pitch is at 2:00.

And by the way, Mackey Sasser is alive and well.

Posted by Glenn Tanner at 02:30 PM on May 05, 2007

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