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The Smallest Sample Size 07/31/13: Doubleheader Dominance

Two doubleheaders within the same division showcased two match-ups of teams on opposite sides of the spectrum. Also, the Indians keep on winning thanks to clutch hitting from their bench players and one trade candidate may have hurt his value after last night's showcase. Take a look at yesterday's baseball with leverage and win probability!

Justin K. Aller

Yesterday featured two doubleheaders between NL Central foes scraping the bottom of the barrel (Brewers/Cubs) and battling for first place (Pirates/Cardinals). The Brewers and Pirates swept their opponents in the two-game sets and now Pittsburgh sits 1.5 games ahead in the NL Central. Kevin Gregg, possibly pitching his last game in a Cubs uniform, struggled in the most intense situation of the day and may have significantly hurt his trade value over the past week. Meanwhile, outside of the doubleheaders, Ryan Raburn provided the biggest swing in win probability as the Indians won their sixth in a row.

The Smallest Sample Size -- Game Results for 7/30/13

Photo credit: Getty Images

Brewers 6, Cubs 5

In the first game of the double header, Yovani Gallardo's start was cut short due to left hamstring tightness, leaving with a line of three earned runs on three walks and six hits in under five innings. John Axford was really bringing his ERA down from his absolutely awful but somewhat unlucky April over the course of the past couple months but has been stumbling lately. Still, with yesterday's performance, Axford had thrown 15 Shutdowns and only 5 Meltdowns since April 13th.

Carlos Villanueva pitched decently with 6.1 innings of four earned runs and two homeruns but couldn't pitch a complete game, inevitably turning the game over to the hyper-volatile Cubs bullpen, who unsurprisingly suffered a Meltdown and lost the game. Somehow, the Cubs aren't leading the league in Meltdowns as they are ranked 5th with 50 and five behind the White Sox, who lead the league with 55. Jean Segura continued his torrid second year, case for the NL Rookie of the Year award, hitting another homerun for a .255 WPA in four plate appearances. Meanwhile Kristopher Davis's pinch hit three run dinger proved to be the most important with a .295 WPA.

Brewers 3, Cubs 2

The second half of the doubleheader ended in a similar fashion of the first. Tyler Thornburg (.371 WPA) was able to silence the Cubs offense through six innings only to give way to a Burke Badenhop Meltdown (.-371 WPA). Jake Arrieta, making his first start in a Cubs uniform, only gave up two hits, three walks and an earned runs in sixth innings. Kevin Gregg, pitching in the most intense situation of the day (4.29 pLI), suffered a devastating Meltdown (-.648 WPA) that resulted in two earned runs on three hits and a walk in one inning. Jeff Bianchi only had one hit, but made it count in the most important situation (3.17 pLI) (.426 WPA).

More on the Brewers at: Brew Crew Ball More on the Cubs at: Bleed Cubbie Blue

Pirates 2, Cardinals 1

Hey, Clint Hurdle used his closer in the ninth inning of a tie game and his team won! Lance Lynn (6 IP. 3 H. 2 BB. 7 SO. 1ER) and A.J. Burnett (7 IP. 3 H. 3 BB. 9 SO. 1ER) were mired in a pitching duel before turning it over to their bullpens to duke it out and see who would give up a run first. Both St. Louis and Pittsburgh compiled four Shutdowns from their bullpens but consecutive walks to Russell Martin and Gaby Sanchez set the stage for Alex Presley to hit a walk-off single. Matt Holliday went 2-for-5 but provided little help in his high-leverage situations (2.64 pLI) which contributed to his -.300 WPA. Carlos Beltran went 0-for-5 and but was equally as detrimental to the Cardinals' winning probability as Holliday with a -.301 WPA.

Pirates 6, Cardinals 0

Whereas the first game of the Pirates/Cardinals doubleheader was an even matched competition of two teams duking it out for first place, Pittsburgh dominated St. Louis in the second. Starting the day a half game back of the NL Central lead, the Pirates now hold a 1.5 game lead thanks to seven shutout innings from Brandon Cumpton (.310 WPA). Tyler Lyons threw a decent six innings but the St. Louis offense just couldn't get anything going. With Yadier Molina possibly heading for the disabled list as Andrew McCutchen started to catch fire, the NL Central title and NL MVP race may have swung in Pittsburgh's favor.

More on the Pirates at: Bucs Dugout More on the Cardinals at: Viva El Birdos

White Sox 4, Indians 7

The White Sox lead the league in bullpen Meltdowns with 55 and Matt Lindstrom blew the game with a -.669 WPA while recording only one out. Andre Rienzo had a successful major league debut debut, giving up three runs (zero earned) five hits, three walks and six strikeouts over seven shutout innings. Midway through the eighth inning, Chicago's win expectancy was 71.3%. Once Rienzo gave way to the bullpen, all hell broke loose, with four runs being given up in just one inning. On Monday, it was Jason Giambi. Last night, it was Ryan Raburn providing the ultimately clutch pinch hit that led to a win. Raburn's single was in an intense situation (5.87 pLI) and was responsible for the biggest win probability swing of the day (.526 WPA).

More on the White Sox at: South Side Sox More on the Indians at: Let's Go Tribe

Astros 3, Orioles 4

Chris Davis lives!! He hit his first homerun since the All-Star break albeit against Lucas Harrell. With Bud Norris being scratched as trade rumors swirl, Harrell slid in for a spot start and ran into some trouble in the fourth inning, walking the bases loaded and allowing two earned runs on a single. Then, Davis crushed a bomb to opposite field two innings later. Wei-Yin Chen struck out nine but allowed eight baserunners and three earned runs in 7.1 innings but only provided a .074 WPA. Darren O'Day and Jim Johnson both recorded Shutdowns in relief and in high leverage situations.

More on the Astros at: The Crawfish Boxes More on the Orioles at: Camden Chat

Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports

Giants 3, Phillies 7

Two perennial playoff teams fighting for relevancy in 2013 slugged it out for who is more disappointing last night. Barry Zito continued his road woes, allowing four runs in under four innings, increasing his season ERA to 5.09. Michael Young, supposedly only willing to waive his no-trade clause to return to the Rangers, showcased some power with a two run homer. John Lannan notched his sixth quality start in 11 opportunities while Carlos Ruiz also hit his first homerun in 169 plate appearances after hitting 16 in 421 in 2012.

More on the Giants at: McCovey Chronicles More on the Phillies at: The Good Phight

Nationals 1, Tigers 5

Stephen Strasburg gave up a grand slam to Alex Avila, his first homerun allowed with more than one man on base and that's all she wrote. Once the game was tied, the Tigers were expected to win until they practically sealed the deal with Avila's salami.

Anibal Sanchez surprisingly only managed one strikeout in seven innings. If he would have stayed healthy this year, Sanchez would have made a conceivable case to run for the AL Cy Young with a 2.59 ERA and striking out 27.7% of his opposition with an 11.8% swinging strike rate. His FIP (2.46) suggests his dominance is legitimate whereas xFIP (3.08) believes there is a slight regression coming. Sanchez's career 8.2% HR/FB rate implies that he has been a bit better than league average at keeping the ball inside the park so I'm more inclined to think that Sanchez will continue to be a seriously effective starter, assuming his shoulder doesn't act up again.

More on the Nationals at: Federal Baseball More on the Tigers at: Bless You Boys

Diamondbacks 2, Rays 5

Roberto Hernandez really only ran into trouble in the top of the first inning by hitting Gerrado Parra with a pitch and then allowing a single to Aaron Hill. After the threat was quickly erased by a double play and groundout to first, it was nothing but smooth sailing for the Rays. Desmond Jennings led off the bottom of the first with a double and scored on Ben Zobrist's single. With only one out recorded and James Loney hitting a run scoring double, Arizona's win expectancy plummeted to 23%. Hernandez only allowed two runs on three more hits and a walk for the rest of the game while striking out six. If it weren't for Endy Chavez's homer in the ninth, Hernandez may have been able to throw a "Maddux."

More on the Diamondbacks at: AZ Snake Pit More on the Rays at: DRays Bay

Rockies 3, Braves 11

Juan Nicasio fell apart in four innings, allowing eight runs on 10 hits and three walks, equal to a horrible -.598 WPA. Alex Wood pitched a quality start with seven innings of three-run ball on six hits and a walk. Jason Heyward notched his third straight multi-hit game and may finally be showing signs of life. All in all, the top third of Atlanta's lineup were able to get on base in nine of their fifteen plate appearances with Freddie Freeman blasting two homeruns. This game was practically over after the four inning as the Braves had a 96% win expectancy.

More on the Rockies at: Purple Row More on the Braves at: Talking Chop

Mets 4, Marlins 2

Zack Wheeler flirted with a no-hitter until the seventh when he started to tire and lose his command. Still, he only allowed two runs on three hits and three walks over seven innings. Once he gets a hold of his control and command, the Mets will have one of the most intimidating 1-2 punches in Matt Harvey and Wheeler.

Nate Eovaldi walked five and allowed four hits but only gave up two runs in six innings. Chad Qualls came into a high leverage situation (2.89 pLI) and excelled. In fact, after seeing Qualls' now infamous fist-pump fail, I looked up his peripherals and found this intriguing tidbit:

The Marlins had the upper hand after tying the game in the seventh until Marlon Byrd led off with a triple. Failing to get a ball out of the infield, the Mets stranded Byrd on third and the two teams' win expectancy bounced around until Steve Cishek (-.288 WPA) loaded the bases in the tenth and John Buck's single brought home two runs.

More on the Mets at: Amazin' Avenue More on the Marlins at: Fish Stripes

Mariners 2, Red Sox 8

Boston ran away with this game thanks to a power outburst from their core players and six dominant innings from Brandon Workman where he only allowed one run on a walk and six hits while striking out nine. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Jarrod Saltalmacchia all smashed homeruns. Joe Saunders struggled through his five innings as evident by five earned runs on two homeruns and nine hits. Not a single player in either lineup held an average leverage index over .83 in the game.

More on the Mariners at: Lookout Landing More on the Red Sox at: Over The Monster

Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports

Angels 11, Rangers 14

Source: FanGraphs

As evident by the ridiculous win probability chart above, Texas and Anaheim were locked into a serious slugfest last night. C.J. Wilson (-.395 WPA) was lit up in four innings, allowing six hits and a whopping 14 baserunners. The Angels were able to fight back, chasing Derek Holland after six innings and hitting Joakim Soria and Tanner Scheppers hard. After A.J. Pierzynski grounded into a double play in the eighth inning, the Angels actually had a win expectancy of 97.7%. Then, Geovany Soto hit a three run homer off of Dane De La Rosa but Texas was still a long shot to come back and win (21.3% win expectancy). Ernesto Frieri registered yet another Meltdown in a high leverage situation (3.53 pLI) and the Rangers tied it in the ninth only to win it in the tenth with a Leonys Martin three run dinger off of Daniel Stange. With a walk and three hits in six plate appearances, Adrian Beltre was a key factor in Texas' win (.466 WPA)

More on the Angels at: Halos Heaven More on the Rangers at: Lone Star Ball

Royals 7, Twins 2

Mike Moustakas hit two homeruns, accounted for over half of Kansas City's offense and provided a .400 WPA. The Royals now hold the longest win streak in the majors with seven consecutive wins. Unfortunately, Cleveland has won six in a row and continues to be 4.5 games ahead. The Royals were originally going to put Ervin Santana on the trade block before this recent hot streak and last night's start would have made a great showcase for his services. Mike Pelfrey, headscratchingly still on a major league roster, couldn't pitch more than four innings. Brian Duensing recorded a Meltdown with three runs on four hits in an inning of work leading Kansas City to cement their win.

More on the Royals at: Royals Review More on the Twins at: Twinkie Town

Blue Jays 5, Athletics 0

Mark Buehrle: opposing offense silencer! With seven shutout innings, Buehrle (.263 WPA) has continued to get better as the season has gone on. Dan Straily shows flashes of dominance and then has starts like this where he struggles to miss bats and gives up runs in bunches (-.207 WPA). With a FIP, xFIP and SIERA lower than his ERA, Straily has been experiencing some bad luck but neither predictor evaluates him as anything more than a mid-tier starter. Overall, Toronto was in complete control after Jose Bautista's first inning dinger and not a single player on either team encountered an average leverage index over .77 except Josh Reddick (1.00 PLI).

More on the Blue Jays at: Bluebird Banter More on the Athletics at: Athletics Nation

Reds 2, Padres 4

The Reds had a 75.4% win expectancy in the sixth inning but couldn't close out the game due to a Sam LeCure Meltdown in an intense eighth inning (.336 WPA) (2.45 pLI). Will Venable, who Chris Denorfia pinch hit for last night (and won the game), played the hero in this one (.469 WPA) reaching base in all four plate appearances via two doubles, a single and a walk. Edinson Volquez walked five and allowed two runs in under seven innings. Mat Latos had better command and control but still allowed two runs in six innings. Joey Votto walked three times in the game, increasing his walk rate to 16.4% which is about three percent off of last year's rate (19.8%); yet he still leads the league in walks in 2013.

More on the Reds at: Red Reporter More on the Padres at: Gaslamp ball

Yankees 2, Dodgers 3

Mark Ellis (.419 WPA) led the Dodgers to a win last night with a walk-off hit in the ninth, boosting Los Angeles' post-All-Star break record to 10-1. Through seven innings, this was a rubber match between Andy Pettitte and Zack Greinke who both provided an identical .132 WPA. New York's offense couldn't really get anything going throughout the game besides a Lyle Overbay two-run dinger. Shawn Kelley, pitching in a high-leverage situation (2.46 pLI) melted down with singles by Ellis and Andre Ethier. Thanks to Ethier's clutch baserunning and steal of second base in the ninth, Ellis' single was able to bring him home for the win.

More on the Yankees at: Pinstriped Bible More on the Dodgers at: True Blue LA

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All statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.

Mike Mulvenna is a writer at Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @mkmulv.

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