Baseball: Where The Little Things Are Often The Biggest Things Of All

OK, so that title is a bit hyperbolic. It's probably a bit more accurate to say that in baseball, the little things are often far bigger than they seem. Or, as FanGraph's Jeff Sullivan suggests, one of the great things about baseball is that you can so often recognize and appreciate "The Moment Before The Moment."

The "Moment Before/Biggest Little Thing" in question comes from the top of the final inning of last night's fantastic, curse-busting/extending Game 7. The moment it happened, it stuck in the back of my head as "big/important," at least potentially. And it turned out to be super-duper big; game-deciding big. Here's the way Sullivan describes it:

In effect, it’s a stolen base, a stolen base that didn’t need for a pitch to be pitched. When the ball landed in Rajai Davis‘ glove, the Cubs had a 50% chance of winning. After Almora arrived at second, that jumped up to 57%, and then the Rizzo walk pushed it to 59%. That’s pretty much all Almora, a rookie who didn’t know he’d be doing anything until the inning’s first at-bat. Almora had a moment, setting up the Ben Zobrist Moment. The Almora play was not the biggest one of the game. But it was a key contributor to the biggest sequence of the game.

And here's what it looks like, courtesy of Sullivan. (Paradoxically -- or unsurprisingly, depending on your view of MLB and its various media strategies -- the actual highlight is not yet embeddable. It can be found HERE, though.)

Huge, huge stuff there. Fantastic base-running that absolutely transformed the (eventually, winning) inning. Is it "bigger" than the Zobrist double that happened moments later? Not really. And wondering about its impact on the outcome might not even be "bigger" than wondering why Shaw and Co. went back to that outside corner when Benny "MVP" Z. had so clearly indicated that he was trying to go the other way; a question that mystifies me as much now as it did last night, and one that probably deserves as much scrutiny as Almora's dash. (I have nothing to say about the attempted squeeze. Nothing will make that understandable.)

Heck, I'm not even sure it's bigger than the SB/E2 that moved Heyward from 1B to 3B in the top of the 9th inning, forcing Terry to replace Coco "Pop-Gun Arm" Crisp with a younger, harder-throwing, nearly-non-hitting Michael Martinez, ensuring that Mike "Closer" Montgomery would face a far easier challenge in the final AB than if Gomes had managed to keep Heyward at 2B. Or if Kipnis had managed to knock Gomes throw down before it squirted off to his right. Or if Lindor had been moving to back up the throw as it was made instead of after, when his movements were mostly meaningless.

Sure, those are all "little" moments when compared to the massive in-game swings like Raja Davis' improbable HR, Bryant's mad dash to score all the way from 1B on a single, or the weird wild pitch off the noggin of Ol' Man Ross that led to two runs. But they loom large over the outcome of the game, all the same. And it's that ability to trace the threads and foundations of the key, "big" moments through these seemingly-small, incredibly-important crossroads that makes baseball so rewarding. And it's a huge part of why I (and at least for today, all of Chicago) love baseball so very, very much.

Attribution(s): "Happy Cubbies" courtesy of Getty Images, which allows the use of certain images "as long as the photo is not used for commercial purposes (meaning in an advertisement or in any way intended to sell a product, raise money, or promote or endorse something);" "The Art of Base Ball Batting" is from the Internet Archive Book Images via Visual Hunt and has no known copyright restrictions.