Hwæt! Here is a curious photograph:
What is happening here?
This is a Major League baseball game. Anthony Rizzo, first baseman of the Chicago Cubs and Willson Contreras, catcher of the same, await, with some impatience, the arrival of St. Louis Cardinals leadoff hitter Kolten Wong. Rizzo, if you must know, is in possession of the ball.
Rizzo’s look is, I believe, more to do with bemusement than anything else, even if he can Contreras combine to give off the impression of Adults Who Are Very Disappointed In Your Continuing Shenanigans.
Where are they?
Chicago. More specifically, Wrigley Field. Even more specifically, first base.
Is this not an unusual place to find the defending team’s catcher?
It is not by any means unheard of. In some instances one might find a catcher at first base, protecting the defending team from the possibility of errant throws entering the dugout etc. etc..
But is this one of those instances?
No. This play was recorded — correctly — as a groundout to first.
Is Willson Contreras supernaturally fast? Kolten Wong supernaturally slow?
That most excellent baseball research tool Baseball Savant has Contreras covering 27 feet per second (18.4 mph; 2.743743e-8 c), 172nd in MLB. Wong is marginally slower. (As far as the writer is aware Contreras possesses no observed powers of teleportation; one presumes that if he did so he might find himself significantly more in-demand.)
And yet Wong has managed to get himself so out that both the first baseman and the catcher are both waiting for him at the bag.
If he was out by so much why did he even bother running?
Putting myself into the mind of Kolten Wong: 1) wow, I’m a pretty good baseball player! Look at me! I should stop doing this ‘writing’ thing and focus on my sports career instead. 2) perhaps I thought Anthony Rizzo would contrive to drop the ball somehow 3) perhaps I wanted to show that I was ‘hustling’ despite all previous suggestions to the contrary 4) perhaps I started running at some point and mental inertia prevented me from stopping.
De-Wonging myself, I consider Cliff Lee’s rather more thoughtful approach superior.
How is it possible that a baserunner is out by this much, anyway?
Is the wind traditionally credited with a significant role on ground balls?
No. This was clearly a special circumstance. Jon Lester’s 3-2 delivery to Wong was popped foul; Contreras and Rizzo chased it with Wong immobile, and then the wind annexed the play entirely, dumping the ball on fair ground near first base. Having chased (but not caught) the ball, both Rizzo and Contreras were on hand to make the play and touch the bag. Wong, not running on a ball clearly foul, was caught flat-footed.
Why was the wind so strong?
I believe (but am not sure) that it has something to do with nearby Lake Michigan. If true, this play would be the indirect result of the last glaciation, which saw the Great Lakes basin created by ice sheets gouging out huge depressions in the North American crust. When the climate warmed again, the Lakes filled, the lake effect arose, and some time later caused Kolten Wong to be extremely out.
What if I’m still having trouble understanding what happened?
Here, watch this:
Kolten Wong grounds out to first baseman Anthony Rizzo. pic.twitter.com/2eh3hN7M3x— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 6, 2020
Why didn’t you just show me the video in the first place?
Where’s the fun in that?
Hey! I’m the only one allowed to ask questions here.
THIS INTERVIEW IS OVER.