Game Five of the World Series is in the books and it was literally one for the record books. As reported by Tom Verducci in Sports Illustrated.com, “The Astros overcame three leads and blew one of their own before finally prevailing in 10 innings, 13–12, in a game that required five hours, 17 minutes.” That does not begin to describe how insane the game was to anyone watching. Arguably two of baseball best pitchers, Astros Dallas Keuchel and Dodgers Clayton Kershaw did not last through the fifth inning. Kershaw who departed after surrendering a four lead; had never lost a game after being spotted a four-run lead before the fifth inning, previously going 19-0.
Astro manager A. J. Hinch said after the game, “Just when I thought I could describe Game 2 as my favorite game of all time, I think Game 5 exceeded that and more. It’s hard to put into words all the twists and turns in that game, the emotion, doing it at home, in front of our home crowd. Just exactly what you expect to come to the park with Keuchel and Kershaw pitching.”
David Schoenfield, writing in ESPN.com said “The 25 combined runs tied for the second most in a World Series game. The teams combined for seven home runs. The offenses were so locked in that the teams combined for 28 hits — and just 28 swings and misses. When the Astros were trailing 4-0 in the fourth, their win probability was 12 percent, but that doesn’t factor in the fact that Kershaw was pitching. When Brian McCann homered to give the Astros a 12-9 lead in the eighth, their win probability was 97 percent. The Dodgers still managed to tie it with three runs in the ninth.”
The theme for this World Series has been the use by both teams of cutting edge analytics. Verducci wrote, “Welcome to the World Series of analytics. Not only did this World Series pit two 100-plus-win teams against one another for the first time in the free agent era (the last such matchup was 1970), but also two of the most advanced analytical teams. The Dodgers, for instance, employ a Senior Analyst in Research and Development, Dan Cervone, who studied math and statistics at the University of Chicago, interned at Google, earned a PhD in statistics at Harvard, served a fellowship at NYU, and turned down offers from hedge funds to crunch baseball stats, or more accurately, according to his web site, focus on “spatiotemporal data and hierarchal models, with particular application to sports analytics and player tracking data.””
Yet all of these analytics would not have predicted such a Game Five as, after all, when Kershaw had a 4-0 lead, his prior record was 19-0. When the Astros were leading 12-9 in the top of the 9th, they had a 97% chance of winning. What went wrong? Tyler Kepner, writing in the New York Times (NYT), said the baseballs have much less of a grip and are much slicker in this World Series. He quoted Astros pitcher Justin Verlander, “I know Mr. Manfred [MLB Commissioner] said the balls haven’t changed, but I think there’s enough information out there to say that’s not true. I think the main complaint is that the balls seem a little bit different in the postseason, and even from the postseason to the World Series balls. They’re a little slick. You just deal with it. But I don’t think it’s the case of one pitcher saying, ‘Hey, something is different here.’ I think as a whole everybody is saying, ‘Whoa, something is a little off here.’””
Of course, Major League Baseball (MLB) pleads complete innocence and indeed complete ignorance. Kepner wrote, “Major League Baseball has consistently denied that the balls were different in the regular season, when major leaguers smashed a record 6,105 home runs. A baseball official who was not authorized to speak publicly said Sunday that the World Series balls were manufactured in July with the same process used for regular-season balls, and that they fell within designated specifications. The only difference, he said, is the color of the stamp on the ball, which is gold for the World Series.” Yet almost all of the pitchers interviewed by reporters have noted the change which does not allow them to grip the ball as tightly, thereby impacting the movement on their pitches.
What is the lesson for the compliance practitioner? Sometimes the equipment you are playing with changes, particularly when that equipment is controlled by someone other than yourself. In the compliance world, this means having a compliance program which is both nimble and agile enough to respond to changes in the business environment. This could mean in certain countries you need to more carefully monitor the information about your business partners to ascertain their governmental official and political party status as if they move from a private citizen to another category which would impact their politically exposed person (PEP) status, they could come under Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) purview.
This means you need an early warning system in the form of ongoing monitoring which can give you insights which might change the status of a transaction partner or business venture partner. Many companies which provide due diligence investigations provide real-time monitoring of changes in PEP status and also monitor adverse media reports to see if any untoward information arises during a relationship. The bottom line is that you not only can respond but regulators will expect you to do so under a best practices compliance program.
The World Series now moves back to Los Angeles for at least Game 6 and Game 7 if needed. The Astros send ace Justin Verlander to the mound. Fortunately, Verlander is a good old power pitcher, featuring his fastball. Not much subtlety involved so hopefully the MLB mandated slicker baseballs will not impact him too greatly. I do not know if my blood pressure can take much more of this but I for one would much prefer a win in Game 6 rather than going to Game 7. Go Astros!
If circumstances change in your business operations, will your compliance program be able to respond?Click to tweet
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2017