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Game 2, Yanks v. Angels

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I've been very busy of late, but I promised myself that I would take a break to watch a playoff game from start to finish, and that just so happened to be tonight's Yanks-Angels game (like I said, I'll be the Yanks' guy for as long as they survive in the playoffs).

But these days, I don't like just sitting around and not doing anything, so I broke out the wonderful WPA spreadsheet and I tracked the game.

The problems in allocating credit came on a few different plays, so I came up with a few arbitrary standards, based on what I've read / heard about WPA:

  • On most balls in play, I awarded 10-20% to the defender.
  • On attempted steals, I tried to gauge the "jump" that the runner got and then give credit accordingly. I listened to the announcers and I watched the replaysfor that.
One thing that the WPA won't cover is how critical a play Chone Figgins made on Matsui's sharply hit groundball in the 5th inning. If that ball had gotten through, it was 3-0 and the Yankees were off to the races. It made a bigger impact than the .006 or so that Figgins ended up getting for the play... but really, these graphs are best for showing what happened in a game.

So here's Game 2, visually:

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.

Player            WPA

Cabrera          .311
J. Rivera        .203
B. Molina        .200
Escobar          .110
Giambi           .068
Posada           .065
Shields          .049
Cano             .041
K-Rod            .030
Lackey           .009
Proctor          .001
A-Rod           -.001
Kotchman        -.002
Williams        -.003
Finley          -.005
Leiter          -.019
Kennedy         -.025
Guerrero        -.032
Erstad          -.065
Sheffield       -.066
Matsui          -.075
Martinez        -.089
Anderson        -.105
Jeter           -.147
Figgins         -.181
Wang            -.277
The first few playoff games, this year, were fairly disappointing, but this game was arguably the best one we've had so far.

My hope is that no one else was planning on posting the WPA graph somewhere else, and if I've beaten them to the punch, just ignore this article. But I'll sort of trace back the game, mentioning a few of the more critical plays and questioning a few of the things that went on.

  1. Chien-Ming Wang stayed true to his regular season form today and, for the most part, pitched a very good game. The -.277 WPA doesn't do his day justice; most of that is simply because Lackey pitched a good game, too, and Wang couldn't get that last out. The most amazing thing: he got 20 outs from the Yankees. 4 were flyouts. 1 was a strikeout. 15 groundouts, and there were also a few errors on balls that were on the ground.
  2. By not walking anyone or striking anyone out, Wang was extraordinarily efficient through his first 6 innings and kept his pitch count down. Joe Morgan commented in the 6th or the 7th that Wang tends to put the ball up in the zone as he tires, and towards the end of his outing, more of his pitches were up. Considering how low the pitch count was, I was surprised by this, but I guess that it's just another example of how it's good to work on an individual basis.
  3. Lackey "battled," if you will, and he did seem to have good stuff. He couldn't command the plate, though; he walked 5 and only struck out three.
  4. Kudos to Mike Scioscia for bringing in Scot Shields for the high-leverage out. The one out he recorded was worth  a change of 5.5%, dropping the Yankees from a 65.7% win probability to a 60.2% win probability.
  5. Two monster home runs in this game: Juan Rivera crushed one out to center, and Jorge Posada unloaded on an offering from K-Rod in the 9th.
  6. I put it in the graph and I still can't understand it: how can A-Rod be running in the top of the 7th inning in a tie game with no one out and the heart of the order coming up? Unbelievable.
  7. The biggest swing on any play was the 2 RBI single for Cabrera, worth a 27.8% change in WPA. Bengie Molina's game-tying hit came in at 16.6%, Figgins' pop-out in the 7th caused a 13.4% drop for the Angels, and the Juan Rivera homer was worth 12.7%. For reference, the A-Rod caught stealing was worth 9.7%.
  8. If you've been reading us over the last month or so, you might remember reading SalB's great article on using WPA in evaluating sacrifice bunt situations, and, in this game, there was a sac-bunt with a positive change in WPA. In the 7th inning, with first and second and nobody out in a tie game, Adam Kennedy dropped down the successful sacrifice bunt, changing the win probability from 72.5% to 72.9%. It's just worth noting.
  9. Game 3 - Randy Johnson v. Paul Byrd, at The Stadium, 8:05 ET, Friday.
The playoffs are here and looking good, so far. I hope everyone's enjoying them...