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About Last Night: the delightful improbability of Dylan Moore

A DMo is a wish your heart makes

hi mom!

If you checked out last night’s chart, you might have been surprised at the story the chart tells vs. what watching the game felt like. Per the win probability chart, the Mariners took a lead early on (Jose Marmolejos’s idiosyncratic home run), never surrendered that lead, and drove up a gently switchbacked road to the top of Mount Win, where they picnicked and posed for a family portrait. Per the actual experience of watching the game, the Mariners got in some early punches against a heavyweight prize fighter, then spent the rest of he game successfully ducking and feinting, beating the Dodgers at their own game, managing to stay upright until the final bell rang. And also the boxing ring was located on a spaceship, and the spaceship was hurtling towards a black hole while also being attacked by aliens, and oh whoops the airlock just busted.

Last night’s game felt stressful in a way no win probability chart can express thanks to the all-gas-no-brakes (or breaks) of the Dodgers’ 1-9 hitters. The thing about the 2021 Ur-Dodgers is you never know if you’ve caught them napping or if the eccentric billionaire is just giving you a five-minute head start before he opens the gates for all his rich friends to hunt you for sport. And there’s another thing the Win Probability formula can’t measure accurately, either: the contributions of one Dylan Moore.

People who “understand” “math” will tell you that these calculations are accurate; Moore’s catch resulted in an eight-point swing towards the Mariners winning, same as Justin Turner’s strikeout before that. People who watched the game will tell you the entire game hinged on this moment: the Dodgers had two on, two outs, with Will Smith—he of the 163 wRC+ last year, because even the Dodgers catcher has to be a heavyweight offensively—at the plate and the Mariners clinging desperately to a one-run lead.

Let’s see that again, but slower:

The Statcast/catch probability numbers won’t light up for this catch like they did for Mookie’s incredible game-ending catch the other day. The ball came off the bat at a mere 92.4 MPH, positively pedestrian in a game that featured nine balls in play hit 100 MPH or higher, for an xBA (definition) of .620. That’s still a good chance that should have been a hit, though; of all eight of the balls hit in this game with an xBA of over .500, this was the only one that didn’t fall in for a hit.

Oh wait, sorry. One of two.

Moore just seemed to be on the extreme of every outcome last night. He was also, per the Twitter account UmpScorecards, the recipient of two of HP umpire Chad Whitson’s most egregious missed calls with regards to win probability.

In the soft morning light following a win, maybe I can extend a little sympathy to Chad Whitson. Unlike your intrepid LL staff, Whitson has not been following the career of Dylan Moore with the same degree of bemused delight and intense scrutiny. While general Baseball Twitter delights in the stories of the Willians Astudillos and Sean Kazmars of baseball, Mariners fans have been watching their own improbable success story unfold at T-Mobile Park. A Rangers seventh-rounder in 2015, Moore’s resume reads like the typical minor-league lifer—a trade for “Other Considerations” to the Braves in 2016, a brief flirtation with the Mexican League, a coast-to-coast march across various MiLB affiliates—before finally getting his big-league shot with Seattle in 2019. Despite a 35 grade on his power, Moore slugged almost .400 in 2019, and almost .500 in 2020, all while holding down various infield positions and even weathering a move to the outfield. From 2019-2021, only Mallex Smith has been more valuable (+7 OAA) in the outfield than Dylan Moore (+5), despite Moore never playing outfield regularly in his career before coming to Seattle.

But probably, if you’re a Mariners fan, when you read “Dylan Moore” and “outfield,” you think of this play.

Last night’s heroics weren’t on this level: Moore had his feet in the dirt, where he’s most comfortable (although at third, which isn’t his typical infield spot), and more saliently, it wasn’t a stadium packed full of people saying a tearful goodbye to a franchise icon. Nick Stillman beautifully wrote up Moore’s catch that night and what it meant, not just for Félix but also for Moore himself, who had opened the season with a disastrous three-error inning in his MLB debut—at third base, from where he’d make his incredible play last night. As Nick pointed out then:

There’s some symmetry here. That the most desperate moment of an aging all-star in his last game is rescued by a rookie utility player who is best known for choking in his first.

Furthering the symmetry: Moore’s disastrous three-error game was against the defending World Series champs, the Red Sox; last night’s game was also against the defending champs in the Dodgers. Sometimes you can’t make this stuff up.

Look, we poke a lot of fun around these parts at Dylan Moore, from his inability to keep his tongue inside his mouth, to his idiosyncratic way of getting out of the box, to the improbable power residing within his Disney princess waist (which allows him to evade tags at home while still mashing huge taters). We, a group of ragtag outsiders in the baseball world, feel a kinship with DMo. We like him as a person, too, including his wife Paola, herself a gifted athlete, and his affectionate sisters who are not above razzing him online. When Moore had his three-error game against the Red Sox I was sitting in the Maple Grove and the very funny Joe Veyera started a Spartacus-style chant: “I am Dylan Moore,” that echoed across the Grove. (“I am Dylan Moore. I am Dylan Moore!” and so on.) There’s an Everyman quality to Moore that makes him easy to root for, a reminder of the greatness that lurks within us all, just needing the right outlet.

And there’s maybe no better symbol than DMo for this improbably fun Seattle Mariners club, and for this long-suffering fanbase, too: a long trudge through the darkness and the doubt to finally come out on the sunny peaks of Mount Win. After a year stuck at home, mired in fear and loneliness and frustration, nothing feels better than a little sunshine, no matter how improbable. We truly are Dylan Moore.

With thanks to Paola Robles-Moore for sharing this