Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Win Expctancy: Hitters, Week 2

I’ve posted this link before, but for a basic understanding of Win Expectancy, check out this article at The Hardball Times. It gives an in-depth look to an increasingly valuable statistic. But, here’s the basic gist of it: at any given point in the game, each team has a certain probability – as measured by 20 years of historical research – of winning the game. Win Expectancy is best used to measure how a team performs over the course of nine innings, as exemplified by the chart I post after most games (and I’m working on the appearance of said graphs. I’m not exactly adept with the nuances of Excel yet).

Furthering the utility of WE, a value is assigned to each player after a given plate appearance, dependent upon the outcome and how it effects the overall WE. Take this as an example: Team A is at a situation in a game where they have a 53 percent chance of winning (according to WE). Hitter X is at the plate, and he walks. Given the current situation, the team now has a 55 percent chance of winning, and Hitter X is credited .02. However, if Hitter X made an out in that situation, Team A’s probability of winning would have been reduced to 52 percent, and Hitter X would have been debited .01.

The reason I’m enamored with this stat is its relevance to winning. The guy who puts his team up 3-0 with a homer in the fourth is credited handsomely, and the guy who homers to increase a lead from 8-0 to 9-0 is credited, but not nearly to the same degree. All runs are not created equal, and WE attempts to dole out credit accordingly. So, when A-Rod hit that meaningless dinger Sunday against the Twins, he was not credited to the degree Cano and Giambi were for their respective homers. Baseball is all about situational strategy, and this is what WE is attempting to quantify.

1OaklandW 15-20.045-0.0380.0570.1430.0250.0560.033-0.0190.086
2OaklandL 4-30.0370.0330-0.2390.0280.0250.161-0.042-0.109
3OaklandL 9-4-0.032-0.116-0.05-0.142-0.1110.0640.0060.22-0.07
4AnaheimL 4-1-0.055-0.093-0.081-0.0280.081-0.0450.105-0.270.024
5AnaheimL 3-2-0.138-0.034-0.015-0.1230.122-0.085-0.11-0.054-0.114
6AnaheimW 10-10.1980.0420.0230.0840.0420.061-0.015-0.037
7RoyalsW 9-7 0.0780.335-0.118-0.0240.5550.117-0.06-0.151-0.015
8RoyalsW 12-50.1790.041 0.0140.089-0.0260.0630.25-0.081
9RoyalsW 9-3 0.0570.04-0.003-0.0450.045-0.0150.0830.08
10TwinsL 5-10.123-0.0270.123-0.098-0.051-0.064-0.014-0.065-0.369
11TwinsL 6-5-0.156 0.0350.0430.322-0.2640.1230.086 
12TwinsW 9-3-0.0210.2030.0820.039-0.0670.0210.020.046-0.032
 Totals 0.2580.4030.096-0.3340.99-0.0950.2970.047-0.6

We begin with the starting nine, since they have the greatest impact upon a game. As we may have expected, A-Rod stands out from the crowd, however, not for the same reasons we would have thought. His inconsistent stick over the season’s first two weeks has concerned the Yankees Faithful, but I don’t think anyone is harsher on him than Win Expectancy (okay, maybe my Dad is a bit harsher). After netting the Yanks 14 percent towards victory (I guess those are the best terms to put this in), he turned in four suckfests, including one in the very next game. It’s no coincidence that the Yankees are 0-4 in games where his contribution was negative 10 percent or worse. When one of your main anticipated contributors batting in the heart of the order is tossing duds, your team is going to have issues. Thankfully, there have been others around to pick up for A-Rod.

The main contributor: Derek Jeter. Not only does he have the single highest single-game WE – the 3-run shot against the Royals – but he has consistently been on the positive end. He only has one game under 10 percent, the second game of the season, and otherwise has been spectacular. He’s even turned in superb performances in losses. While these percentages may not be as meaningful since the Yankees didn’t end up winning, it proves that he’s the workhorse out there, getting his act together when no one else will. But as I stated after the Royals game, I’m not sure how much I’d trust his gross total. He deserved the 55 percent credit for the 9-7 victory, but I don’t think that should give him a free pass. He could ground into rally killing double plays for two straight games and still end up in the black. Therefore, take the running totals with a grain of salt. The real important numbers are those for individual games. Pitchers are slightly different, however, and I’ll get to that in their respective section.

This chart helps prove what we already know: Bernie is killing the team in the DH hole. He’s turned in three games under 10 percent, including an absolutely horrid performance in the 5-1 loss to the Twins Friday night. His positive contributions have been in the form of singles, meaning single runs at the most. Plus, few of his singles have come in opportune situations. I know that the Yankees have a lineup filled with studs and that they don’t need another big numbers guy at the bottom of the order. However, there’s a difference between Bernie and someone who doesn’t kill the team. I mean, we’re in the realm of Replacement Level for Bernie, and it’s only looking to get worse from here. Carlos Pena, where art thou?

If anything, this chart reminds us that Jorge continues to produce. He’s getting timely hits, and all in all looks like an improvement over last year’s incarnation. I’m not expecting him to put up monster numbers, but I think we’ll see his Win Expectancy gradually rise. At this point, he’s not killing the team, and all indications point towards a mild contribution. That’s exactly what this teams needs from their catcher. Let the big boys do the big smashing and let Jorge sit in the shadows and collect timely hits.

Next up: the Pitchers.