10/19/11 | 5:46:00 PM
Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog
These days, thanks to the movie “Moneyball,” everyone is talking about evaluating baseball through the lens of data and statistics. As the World Series matchup between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals begins, we thought: why not take a look at what the search data says about the players, managers and other aspects of the 2011 baseball postseason?
Let’s start with the teams themselves. The Cardinals are more popular in search than the Rangers. Perhaps that’s because the Redbirds—not your typical underdogs with 10 World Series titles and 18 pennants—were 10 games back from the NL Wild Card in September, and have since overpowered the regular season’s best Phillies, then their division mates the Brewers to win the NLCS last weekend. The Rangers are in the World Series for the second year in a row, still without a title to their name; yet searches were higher in the last months for the team they defeated in the ALCS, the Detroit Tigers, who saw an even steeper increase in search interest than the Cardinals.
The Cards are known first and foremost for their hitting, but Chris Carpenter overtook first baseman Albert Pujols for a period earlier this month after the former pitched a complete game against Philadelphia to advance his team to the NLCS.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ breakout star, hometown hero and NLCS MVP David Freese is (as recently as our data goes) an underdog in search—outpaced in the first half of the month not only by Pujols and Carpenter but by other slugging teammates like Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday.
On the AL side, searches for the Rangers’ Nelson Cruz were below those for teammates Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton until October 11, when he hit the first-ever postseason walkoff grand slam, took his team to an early lead in the series against Detroit and himself to the lead in searches (for a while) as well as the MVP title.
Matching up the Rangers and Cardinals top players, we find that Albert Pujols is the subject of nearly double as many searches as Josh Hamilton. And as of October 12, Nelson Cruz had double the searches of David Freese—we’re guessing that’s changed a bit since Freese was named MVP on Sunday. We have our eye on the data to see how these player matchups go over the course of the series.
Famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa, who had an entire book written about his shrewd game strategy back in 2005, is more searched for than Texas manager Ron Washington, who’s been at the helm since the 2007 season. But neither is as popular in search as Texas owner and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.
As always, there were some twists during this year’s playoffs, starting with the rally squirrel—a big hit in St. Louis. The rally squirrel made two live appearances during the Phillies/Cards series, including one in which he (or she) ran across home plate and distracted Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt. The Cardinals ended up winning, and the rally squirrel’s likeness has since shown up in the stadium on T-shirts, towels and homemade signs. Perhaps the squirrel had a hand in helping the Cardinals overpower the Brewers and their “beast mode,” too.
While the World Series is on our mind, we’re also starting to plan our Halloween costumes. Luckily, we can recycle from last year: Brian Wilson of the San Francisco Giants—the 2010 MLB champions—is still a hot Halloween costume choice.
Finally, although starting tonight all eyes will be on the Rangers and the Cardinals, neither team appears on the list of most-searched teams in 2011 so far. According to search data, fan favorites this year were the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves. The Yankees and Phillies went out in the first round of the playoffs, while the Braves and Sox both failed to claim hold of a wild card spot in waning days of the regular season.
With sunflower seeds in hand, we’ll keep our eyes out over the next few days to see which of these two World Series teams will finally get their chance in the national—and search—spotlight. Having spent summers traveling up to Busch Stadium for games, I know who I’ll be rooting for!