WPA: Rangers v. Mariners, 4/18/2006

This week, I tried to do the WPA as a sort of running diary, where I commented on various things that I noticed while listening to the game on the radio and I kept tabs on the changes in the Win Expectancy, throughout the game. I might do this format more often; it makes for an interesting look... kind of like a primary source of exactly what was going on when it happened, rather than a retrospective look at it, like we normally do when we evaluate things.

As an aside, I was unable to use my own subjective judgments in assigning fielding scores, so I relied on the descriptions of the commentators on the radio in assigning defensive credit.

Anyway, here's the graph.

Credits: I stole the code, originally, from Eric Simon at Amazin' Avenue (that's to do the enlarged image in the link), and Dave Studeman from The Hardball Times made the spreadsheet.

The blue line is the win probability; the pink line represents "P," which is a measure of criticality.

You can see that the game was never really all that much in question. The Rangers' Win Expectancy doesn't drop lower than .699 after the end of the 1st inning, and there are only minor bumps along the way. This was a wire-to-wire victory for the Rangers, undoubtedly.

Quickly shifting gears, here was the running diary of what I wrote as I listened to the game...

10:15 PM: The King starts out a little shaky... Nevin put one out to right. Nevin gets .189 for the homer.

10:19 PM: Rangers at 65.6% for the game right now. Here comes Koronka out with a bit of a cushion.

10:25 PM: Koronka walks Ichiro on 4 pitches... everything is down in the zone in this at bat to Lopez, according to MLB Gameday. Lopez strikes out, though, on a pitch in the dirt, according to the Mariners' broadcasters.

10:27 PM: The balk only takes away .010 from Koronka. I initially credited it to "No One," but then I changed it to Ichiro b/c his speed induced the balk, in a way.

10:31 PM: Koronka hit 91 mph on the last fastball to Sexson... that's the upper end of his velocity range, according to the broadcasters. The 25-year old's having some control problems in the early going, obviously.

10:34 PM: Inconsequential? Ichiro's steal of third adds a mere .004 to the Mariners' total... but Johjima's walk loads the bases, and the Mariners are up to 37.1%. Now batting: Carl Everett. P-value: .083.

10:37 PM: Koronka walks the bases loaded, throws 27 pitches, and the Mariners get squat as Everett goes 4-3. Rangers up to 70.5% on the game; Everett's groundout was a -.075 and is the second largest swing of the game, thus far.

10:41 PM: Jimenez loops a single into center and bumps the Rangers up to 73.1% for the day. The King is struggling with his command and Texas is waiting him out nicely... Wilkerson smashes a 97 mph heater and drives the Rangers up to 85%. Rough day for the King, who has is averaging 4.5+ P/PA thus far.

10:48 PM: Growing pains today? We see flashes of the King's prowess... and remember, Dr. K's first few starts in 1984 weren't special, either. "A weak wave" from Mr. Matthews there for the second strike, then he loses the bat for the third. Four strikeouts in two innings for Hernandez, but he's also logged 50 pitches. Rangers are up to 82.8% Win Expectancy already, and Felix Hernandez is at the bottom of the pack with a -.278.

10:55 PM: Down by 4, Betancourt smokes the first hit of the game for the M's with two outs. It was worth +.009. A couple of lineouts from Beltre (who bats 7th) and Ichiro just add to the heartbreak for Mariners' fans, who look like they're in for a long night. The Rangers are up to an 86.6% Win Expectancy.

10:59 PM: Hernandez could use a quick inning here, and Michael Young obliges by swinging at the first pitch. Teixiera, on the other hand, has no such pretensions, and he takes an 8-pitch at bat and smokes a double to center. That man can hit.

11:02 PM: Rangers looking to put it out of reach. Nevin singles to center and they've got runners at the corners with one out... Win Expectancy: 89.4%. This could get ugly in a hurry.

11:05 PM: Blalock is Hernandez' 5th K in the game, but Jimenez survives and walks. That IS Hernandez' first walk, but Hernandez isn't inducing grounders like he normally does. Enter Brad Wilkerson...

11:10 PM: Wilkerson continues to pile up the strikeouts (41.7% of PA!), as does Felix (26.2% K/PA on the season). Win Expectancy: 84.6%. Hernandez worked out of the bases loaded jam in the 3rd, but he's thrown a ton of pitches (79) so far.

11:19 PM: Leadoff single from Jose Lopez is squandered by terrible baserunning; he got doubled off on a short flyball to center. Sexson strikes out, and the Rangers are up to 88.4%. So far, the graph would look pretty boring. The game's MVP is Phil Nevin, with a +.208, and his home run was also the "turning point," thus far. The LVP is Felix Hernandez, who has "battled" but has not done a particularly good job. Ichiro's +.036 leads for the Mariners. That's a fairly good indicator of how bad a game this has been for them.

11:25 PM: Eight strikeouts from the King, who is not at his best today. I fear the ones where he IS at his best for the rest of the American League. That's already 91 pitches, though; he probably has only one inning left in the tank. And we're not talking about it, but Koronka's really pitching a good game in his own right, who really settled in after that first inning walkfest.

11:28 PM: All right! Some criticality! The p-value is back up to .084, which isn't particularly high, but it's as high as we've seen. Mariners' fans cursing at Everett for his bad timing, who gets that hit that would have been so much more helpful in the first.

11:32 PM: The Mariners' announcer is extraordinarily disheartened by Bloomquist's near double, which JUST missed the foul line. Bloomquist came through, though, and puts the Mariners on the board with an RBI single... that's +.080, and it drives the Rangers' Win Expectancy down to 74.8%. This is the most critical part of the game, thus far.

11:36 PM: The double steal just moved the Win Expectancy down to 69.9%... excellent usage of the tactic by the Mariners. Betancourt's pop-out, though, was HUGE, worth a -.083.

11:38 PM: Ichiro logs an F-8, and the rally is over... great job by Koronka to stay in there and work through it. The Rangers' Win Expectancy is at 84.4%, now. (I checked the totals; I split up the double steal for each baserunner. In total, it was worth +.049 for the Mariners.)

11:44 PM: Quick inning for Hernandez, who hit that magical 100 pitch mark again. Nevin made an out that inning, but he's still the game's MVP, by far, at the halfway point (+.203 now). Hernandez has his total "up" to -.214; those two homers killed him.

11:47 PM: Even as Ibanez moved the runner over, it was worth -.022. Why? When you're down by more than a small margin as the game progresses, outs become ever more precious... the Rangers are at 77.7% right now with Sexson up and Lopez on third.

11:52 PM: Koronka logs his 4th strikeout in the game, through 4 2/3 innings. That's worth +.058 for the Rangers... again, the importance of outs shines through. Johjima flies out to center, the Mariners strand another, and the Rangers jump up to 87% for the day. Koronka has thrown 92 pitches so far, and he has a WPA of +.150. Not bad for the youngster, who outdueled the most hyped young pitcher in years.

11:56 PM: Jake Woods comes in... and Blalock walks on four pitches. Woods' first strike comes on his 6th pitch, and the announcers didn't think that it was. D'Angelo Jimenez just walked, too. Win Expectancy: 90.9%.

12:00 AM: The clock strikes 12 in Southern Pennsylvania, and Wilkerson gets another walk. Woods' strategy was to bust Wilkerson inside, but Woods just can't find the plate well enough for that to work. Win Expectancy: 93.7%, now.

12:04 AM: After a Barajas strikeout, Laynce Nix gets one past Sexson, ends his strikeout streak, and picks up the runners. That's worth +.055. Matthews hits a sac fly to right immediately afterwards, and this one is probably out of reach. Win Expectancy: 97.3%.

12:07 AM: Woods just doesn't have it, and he walks Michael Young. Will no one rid Seattle of this meddlesome pitcher? (No, I'm not advocating an assassination... just a quicker hook.) The inning mercifully ends on a Teixiera strikeout, but Woods logs a -.094 on the inning, and the Rangers jump up to 97.1%. That's just about all she wrote.

12:09 AM: Koronka's done for the day and pitched a good game... the Rangers turn it over to Rick Bauer.

12:14 AM: The Rangers' announcer just facetiously noted that they just set the year's record for the number of 3-2 counts in a game... they may be right. Mariners keep fighting... 1st and 3rd, nobody out. Rangers down to 92.7%.

12:17 AM: Sacrifice fly for Willie Bloomquist, but it was actually worth -.020 because of the outs thing. The sac fly is a true one-run play, and the Mariners need a lot more than that.

12:20 AM: That's a start... Betancourt hits a triple that gets under Matthews' glove, making it 7-3. Ichiro just grounded out and Betancourt scored. It's 7-4 now, but the bases were cleared. Lopez' groundout sorts out the damage a little more; the Rangers are still at 90% for the game. Bloomquist leads the field for the Mariners at +.073. There are only 3 Mariners above .000. For the Rangers, Bauer is their lowest scorer at -.065. They have six guys above .000, and Nevin, the game's current MVP, leads off the 7th.

12:26 AM: Woods has better command in this inning, and he set down Nevin and Blalock quickly.

12:29 AM: I spoke too soon... another walk, this one to Jimenez. Woods is done, and George Sherrill is on his way in; Woods scores a -.084 for the game, which, all things considered, isn't all that terrible.

12:33 AM: That kind of game: George Sherrill, who just logged one out and has a .009, ranks fourth on the Mariners for the day.

12:43 AM: Tying run at the plate - Adrian Beltre. Rangers are at 88.4%, still.

12:44 AM: Beltre fans on 3 pitches, all of which were apparently low and away, but in the strike zone. Texas stands at 93.4% for the game.

12:50 AM: Mariners pitchers have logged 14 strikeouts on the day, and George Sherrill has the second highest WPA on the Mariners for the game. And, for all of that, they're at a 92% Win Expectancy. There's more than one way to skin a cat, indeed.

12:55 AM: Otsuka makes quick work of 8-9-1 in the Mariner order, and we move onto the ninth inning. Win Expectancy: 96.9%.

1:10 AM: Cordero slams it shut in the 9th, and the Rangers win, 7-4. This was generally a pretty uneventful game, with a few exceptions. Nevin led the field in WPA with +.187, which is not that high, for a game leader. Felix Hernandez, likewise, was the LVP with a -.214, which is not all that low, compared to some of the other ones we've seen. Here's the WPA table.

PLAYER Off Pitch Field WPA
P. Nevin .187 .000 .000 .187
J. Koronka .000 .150 .000 .150
B. Wilkerson .109 .000 .000 .109
D. Jimenez .063 .000 .006 .069
A. Alfonseca .000 .053 .000 .053
L. Nix .037 .000 .013 .050
A. Otsuka .000 .048 .000 .048
W. Bloomquist .048 .000 -.001 .048
F. Cordero .000 .036 .000 .036
G. Sherrill .000 .022 .000 .022
A. Beltre .015 .000 .002 .017
M. Young .011 .000 .004 .015
R. Soriano .000 .006 .000 .006
J. Lopez -.001 .000 .000 -.001
C. Everett -.009 .000 .000 -.009
M. Teixiera -.028 .000 .004 -.024
Y. Betancourt -.028 .000 -.002 -.030
G. Matthews -.028 .000 -.002 -.030
R. Sexson -.027 .000 -.005 -.032
H. Blalock -.026 .000 -.010 -.036
Ichiro -.039 .000 .000 -.039
K. Johjima -.062 .000 .000 -.062
R. Barajas -.049 .000 -.013 -.063
R. Bauer .000 -.065 .000 -.065
J. Woods .000 -.084 .001 -.084
R. Ibanez -.122 .000 .000 -.122
F. Hernandez .000 -.214 .000 -.214

And, as always, here are the game's Top 5 Plays.
  1. Carl Everett, Bases Loaded Groundout, 1st inning (+.075) - Koronka, the young pitcher for Texas, struggled mightily in the first inning; he balked and walked the bases loaded. With two outs, Carl Everett had the opportunity to bring the Mariners right back into the game (they'd gone down by 2 already). But Everett couldn't come through, and he grounded out harmlessly to second base.
  2. Willie Bloomquist, RBI single, 4th inning (-.080) - After missing a double by inches along the third base line, Bloomquist straightened it out a bit and knocked in Carl Everett with his single in the fourth inning. It cut the Ranger lead to 4-1 and brought the game closer. Bloomquist and Beltre ran a successful double steal soon afterwards, putting two men in scoring position...
  3. Yunisky Betancourt, pop out, 4th inning (+.083) - But Betancourt's pop out was the second out, and it wasn't able to even bring in one of the runs. This basically crushed the value of the double steals (the result was, essentially, as if Betancourt had sacrificed the runners along to second and third), and it put the pressure on Ichiro to convert. Ichiro didn't, and the game was pretty much decided at this point (after Ichiro, the Rangers were at 84.4%).
  4. Brad Wilkerson, 2-run homer, 2nd inning (+.118) - Duplicating the big hit from Nevin in the first, Wilkerson doubled the lead from 2 runs to 4 runs. Wilkerson, who has struggled early on and is striking out at unbelievable rates, put the exclamation point on two ineffective innings from the King (although he was striking people out). Hernandez, at his best, gets a ton of groundballs, and we didn't see that side of him today, especially not in the early going.
  5. Phil Nevin, 2-run homer, 1st inning (+.189) - I would put this as the game's turning point, because the Rangers never really looked back. Gary Matthews, Jr. started things out with the K, but right after that, things got ugly for Felix Hernandez. Nevin hit an opposite field home run, and the Mariners were down by two without even having hit. They battled throughout the game, forced a ton of 3-2 counts, and made it interesting at times, but Nevin's homer set the tone for the game and ended up being the deciding factor.

We didn't get to see the amazing pitcher that everyone thinks Felix Hernandez will be tonight, and we didn't really see a great game. It was sloppy in many ways, and the pitching was not great tonight. This game had its moments, but if we can see anything from a game like this, it's that the Mariners do not have the offensive firepower to keep up with a loaded lineup like the one in Texas, especially when their pitchers (Hernandez, and to a greater extent Woods) are ineffective. If Texas can put together a pitching staff, they might be able to hang around the race. Seattle, on the other hand? Probably not.
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