All I Want for Christmas Is BR.com’s Play Index

Have you ever had a particular play from a baseball game long ago that you can’t quite recall? My memory of baseball events is always hazy. I can remember what sort-of happened, but the details are gone. For example, I was just thinking the other day about a Braves game against the Nationals in which the Jones boys hit back-to-back home runs to win the game. But was it just late in the game or extra innings? Why does this game stick in my head?

Well, now with Baseball-Reference’s Play Index (PI), it’s easy to find out. Sean Forman, the creator of the greatest baseball statistics website, has created the ultimate tool for baseball fans. By putting a front end on Retroseet play-by-play data, finding out minute details of games up to 50 years ago takes only seconds, and requires no special software or programming skills. Sean offered me a limited-time comped subscription so that I could take a full tour, and I’d like to share with you my experience.

So, how does it work? Let’s return to my memory of that Braves-Nationals game. It was either 2005 or 2006, and I know Chipper hit the first home run. So, I go to the PI, type in “chippe” into the search box—the auto-complete displays the text “Chipper Jones”—and then I click the “Batting Event Finder” box. The site then takes me to a page where I can search for every time Chipper stepped to the plate, walked, homered, scratched his crotch, etc. O.K., the scratching isn’t there, but you get the idea. I decide to chose home runs.

Here I see a list of every home run Chipper Jones has ever hit, all 357 of them: 36 against the Mets, 8 off Steve Trachsel, 99 to dead-center…you get the picture. Then I scroll down the list to 2006. I see the game situation of every home run he hit. I scan the Nationals homers for close-and-late situations, but I don’t see any matches. I scroll up to 2005, and there’s a possible match. Chad Cordero was on the mound, the score was 6-7 when Chipper stepped to the plate in the ninth with two outs, a runner on first (Pete Orr), and he belted a homer to right-center to put the Braves on top after working the count to 2-0. I click on the link to the expanded box score, and I see that Andruw Jones padded the Braves lead with a solo shot to left, just as I had thought. Why does this game stick in my mind? Well, the box score tells me: Blaine Boyer, John Foster, and Chris Reitsma had just blown a four-run lead in the bottom of the 8th. A devastating loss became a victory. A sour memory is replaced with happiness, and thanks to Baseball-Reference, I was able to relive it.

So, there is one small example of what the PI has to offer. I plan to use it a lot in the future. Unlike the rest of Baseball-Reference, a paid subscription is required to utilize all of this tool’s features. But, the fee options are reasonable, and it’s the information provided is well worth the price. I encourage you to take a tour, and I expect you will be as wowed as I am.

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