Those Left Behind With a Piece of the Journey

Here is one list of names: Matt Albers, Chase Anderson, Jett Bandy, Jacob Barnes, Ji-Man ChoiOliver Drake, Eric Sogard, Brent Suter, Eric Thames, and Jonathan Villar.

Here’s another: Scott Alexander, J.T. Chargois, Tony Cingrani, Kyle Farmer, Josh Fields, Logan Forsythe, Wilmer Font, Corey Seager, Ross Stripling, and Chase Utley.

These are the 20 men — ten Dodgers and ten Brewers — who appeared on their clubs’ 2018 Opening Day rosters but will not — for one reason or another — appear in any of the seven games of this year’s National League Championship Series. One of the two teams they played for this year will advance to the World Series tonight, and will do so without these men. And yet, for some portion of the season at least, there they were, willing their teams along. And so, let us celebrate a few moments in which these guys were glorious, before the inevitable offseason cries of “That guy was a Dodger?” and “Oh! I’d forgotten about him!” set in.

Villar Takes Harvey Deep (+.238 WPA)

Unless you’re a Milwaukee fan, you might not even remember that Jonathan Villar was a Brewer this year. I’d understand. He spent the second half of the season toughing it out for the Orioles, who are best forgotten, and in my mind he is still most closely associated with the Astros. But the fact is that, yes, Villar was indeed a Milwaukee Brewer until July 31st, and on April 14th he was tasked with playing second base for the Crew against the New York Mets at Citi Field.

Harvey, brilliant in his home whites, set down Lorenzo Cain, Eric Thames, and Ryan Braun in order in the first, but then ran into trouble almost immediately in the second, yielding a double to Travis Shaw, before walking Domingo Santana ahead of an Eric Sogard strikeout. That brought Villar — then the owner of a .298 batting average (and a .298 OBP, but let’s pay that no mind) — to the plate. Harvey’s first pitch, a slider, missed badly down and in, and Villar wisely didn’t offer at it. On Harvey’s second pitch, however, Villar flicked his bat out and, almost apologetically, took Harvey deep down the left-field line. Here it is:

I think we can all agree that that was a nice moment for Jonathan Villar.

Chase Utley up past his bedtime in the desert (+.350 WPA)

It feels a little odd to include a guy like Utley on a list like this, which is meant to celebrate the little guy, but he meets all the criteria so I suppose we’ll let him in on a technicality. On April 2nd, which was the Dodgers’ first road game of the season, they played 15 innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks. They were a good 15 innings, too — the Dodgers went up 3-0 in the top of the first, only to see the Diamondbacks tie it with runs in the first, third, and fourth; then the Dodgers added on in each of the sixth, seventh, and eighth to make it 6-3, only to have Arizona tie it in again the ninth and send it to extras. The game proceeded at 6-6 for five innings of taut bonus baseball, until — in the top of the 15th, and presumably somewhat less fresh than he’d been five hours before, when the game began — Chase Utley came to the plate with Cody Bellinger on second, and proceeded to do this:

The Dodgers went on to lose 8-7. But that was nice, Chase.

Scott Alexander shuts it down (+.372 WPA)

Scott Alexander had kind of an anonymous season, as far as seasons by 6’2″ lefties go. His ERA was 3.68. His FIP was 3.57. Both numbers were fine. Scott Alexander was fine. Scott Alexander is not on the Dodgers’ NLCS roster. But on July 13th, he was asked by his manager to go out in the ninth inning of a one-run game against the Los Angeles Angels of Angel Stadium in Anaheim and close things out. Being presumably in search of something to get the ol’ heart moving, he proceeded to allow a double to Shohei Ohtani, which was understandable, and then a single to José Briceño, which was not. That single brought the Dodgers’ win expectancy down from 91 percent at the start of the inning, to 63 percent, when David Fletcher stepped up to the plate with one out. Which made it rather relieving for reliever Alexander that David Fletcher promptly did this:

Ji-Man Choi has a good night (+.463 WPA)

Sometimes you get a lot of WPA because you come to the plate with the game on the line in late innings and do something ordinary, like hit a single or draw a walk. And sometimes you get a lot of WPA because you come to the plate in some random anonymous middle inning and do something very good, like drive in four runs with one swing of the bat. That latter thing is what Ji-Man Choi did against Luis Garcia in the sixth inning of an otherwise unexciting game between the Phillies and the Brewers. This was Choi’s final swing as a Milwaukee Brewer–he was traded to Tampa Bay the next day:

Bonus Jake Arrieta Is Mad content in the above.

Kyle Farmer Drives in Barnes (+.678 WPA)

Kyle Farmer was, before the 2018 season began, featured in articles on this site that referred to him as, variously, one of “seven scrubs” and a “fringe prospect.” Neither of those characterizations are necessarily untrue, but they also failed to anticipate this one wonderful moment from June 19th, when Farmer came to the plate with runners on first and second in a game his team trailed by a run. It was the first game of a doubleheader the Cubs and Dodgers played that day, and Cubs pitcher Justin Wilson was a little bit rattled. After battling to a 2-2 count, and with an almost-casual delivery, Wilson left a 90 mph cutter just a little bit too far over the plate, and within seconds the Dodgers were ahead, as it turned out for good:

Eric Thames Sinks Wade Davis (+.822 WPA)

Here it is: The single most impactful moment by a Dodger or Brewer not featured in tonight’s game, and it’s a classic. The Brewers entered the bottom of the ninth inning of their August 3rd game against the Colorado Rockies down 3-2. They trailed the Cubs in the NL Central standings by one game. The Cubs had won that afternoon behind a José Quintana dandy, and a loss would have put the Brewers two games back headed into the long month of August. Which all made this ninth inning rather important for Milwaukee. Wade Davis managed to retire Mike Moustakas swinging, then walked Jesús Aguilar and Travis Shaw in order before retiring Jonathan Schoop on a pop fly. That brought Thames to the plate — still struggling, as he had been all season, and about to enter a spiral that would pull his average from .244 that day to .219 on September 30th. He did, however, have one more good swing in him:

Villar, Utley, Alexander, Choi, Farmer, and Thames. I’d wager they’ll be watching the game tonight. They helped these teams get to where they are right now. They’ll own a little bit of whatever celebration comes next.

Rian Watt is a contributor to FanGraphs based in Seattle. His work has appeared at Vice, Baseball Prospectus, The Athletic, FiveThirtyEight, and some other places too. By day, he works with communities around the world to end homelessness.

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Ryan DCmember
5 years ago

Wow that Thames home run was a BOMB. Big man make ball go far.