Note: I'm using the "Read More" function so as not to distract your attention from Joe Giovannetti's most recent post. Enjoy!
The Astros are going to the World Series.
And, again, I picked a relatively stable game to evaluate with WPA.
The blue line is the win probability; the pink line represents "P," which is a measure of criticality.
PLAYER WPA Oswalt .210 Ausmus .092 Everett .086 Lane .044 Biggio .040 Y. Molina .038 Qualls .027 Thompson .024 Wheeler .017 Flores .013 Grudzielanek .008 Isringhausen .003 Palmeiro -.002 Mabry -.005 Burke -.006 Rodriguez -.010 Taguchi -.014 Ensberg -.014 Walker -.021 J. Tavarez -.030 W. Taveras -.036 Berkman -.038 Edmonds -.041 Eckstein -.052 Nunez -.061 Sanders -.062 Marquis -.068 Pujols -.075 Mulder -.146First off, anybody anywhere who picked White Sox-Astros for the World Series at the beginning of the season, please link me to where and when you wrote that. I'd like to see it and congratulate anyone for that bit of unlikelihood. I doubt that I'll get any responses to this one, but I figured I'd give it a shot.
Second, as far as a "sentimental favorite" for the series goes, the White Sox haven't won a Series since 1917. The Astros have never even BEEN to a World Series in their 44-year history. Both teams are easy to pull for in this series.
Third, Thom Brenneman started out the broadcast by comparing "momentum" and "realism." Realism won out in this one. Oswalt's a better pitcher than Mulder, and the Astros were up 3-2 in the series.
Roy Oswalt fittingly was the Game's MVP, according to WPA, with his score of .210. His stellar pitching performance set the tone for the game. If there WERE any lingering effects from Game 5, Oswalt's mastery of the Cardinals allowed the Astros to do their thing, put up a few runs, and take the win. Whether or not you put any stock into that is entirely up to you. I can't prove it was or wasn't a factor.
The graph, as I stated before, was fairly stable, so the "Top 5 Plays" won't be that significant, unlike Game 5, in which Pujols' HR swung the game by 73%.
Let's channel VH1's Rachel Perry and count 'em down:
5. Craig Biggio, RBI single, 3rd inning (+5.5%): Biggio's single sort of downplayed the importance of #3 on the list, but, by the numbers, the second run of the game was worth a 5.5% swing. He roped a single to left and the Astros had jumped up to a .715 WPA. The way Oswalt looked in his first 2 innings, any Cardinals fan had to have been worried.
4. Adam Everett, Infield single, 3rd inning (+6.1%): Everett beat Mulder to the bag on this one, and I was very surprised to see that. Mulder has a reputation as a very good defender and Rate agrees; it puts him at 108. Everett's hustle put the Astros in a very favorable situation and a pretty obvious bunt situation, in my opinion, with Oswalt coming up, runners on 1st and 2nd, no one out. The expected run value of that situation is around 1.5, according to a Harvard statistician. (Prospectus puts it a bit lower.) Nicely done by Everett.
3. Mark Mulder, wild pitch, 3rd inning (6.6%): As I said before, Biggio probably would have driven him in anyway, but the wild pitch did get things going for the Astros. Mulder wasn't bad, but you could tell that at some point, Mulder lost his touch. In the 4th, you saw a bunch of flyballs, while, in the first two innings, everything was on the ground. Speaking of that, the Cardinals threw three wild pitches. None of them were easy plays, but Yadier Molina has a well-earned reputation as a great defender. Three in one game is tough to reconcile, even on a few bad pitches.
2. Yadier Molina, Single, 5th inning (-7.3%): They were already down by 3, at this point, but the win expectancy numbers liked the fact that the Cards were bringing up the tying run at this point. The situation was first and second, nobody out. I hate to say that the game turned on the call on the ensuing play, but it seemed fairly clear that the runner was safe at second on the comebacker to Oswalt. The difference in 1st and 3rd, one out, and bases loaded, no outs? 14.1%. I hate to bash the umps, but that's a huge deal. The play itself would have been worth 9.6%, which would have topped the list. In any case, outs are a big deal, and the next play was costly. The way Oswalt pitched, it's questionable that it would have made a difference, but you don't like to see that.
1. Jason Lane, HR, 4th inning (+8.9%): Sure, it was the third run and just served to pad the lead, but, in a relatively stable game, crediting 100% of a run to one player is worth a lot. Lane's been a stathead favorite for a while, and, while he didn't really fulfill his promise THIS year (just a .316 OBP), his 112 OPS+ was important for an offense desperate for runs at many points this year. Guys like Lane and Burke can make names for themselves on the stage of the NLCS, and it's always fun to watch.
The World Series starts Saturday... I assume that the Astros will throw Clemens in Game 1, but I don't have any information to confirm that. The LCSes didn't live up to last year's, but last year was historic. Hopefully the World Series compensates for that in 2005.