Sunday, May 3, 2009

Hangin' Around

After yesterday's game, I found myself wondering why it feels like it's better when a starting pitcher gives up runs later in the game. Mathematically, it would seem that if you are going to give up 5 runs (4 earned) like CC Sabathia did yesterday, it wouldn't matter very much when they come. You always hear announcers say things like "he's keeping his team in the game", but it hadn't occured to me that there might be some statistical justification for this. 

For my case, I'm going to use the WPA (Win Percentage Added) charts from Fan Graphs that the guys from RAB like to use pretty often. Simply put, these charts estimate the likelihood, based on the score the sitatuion on the field and historical data, of which team is going to win. For further explanation, you can study up here

The Yanks were leading 1-0 from the bottom of the first to the top of the 6th inning. During that time, their WPA fluctuated between roughly 50-70% in their favor. (The Angels loaded the bases in the second inning with only one out, which explains the dip early on). As I mentioned in a previous post, reacting to something Lar from Wezen-ball wrote, you can't subscribe to the fallacy of the predetermined outcome. At any point, the offense could have helped CC out and threw up a few runs, tipping the WPA in their favor, and changing the whole equation. It's not like Sabathia was destined to give up 5 runs (one unearned). The longer a starter carries a solid performance into a game, the more likely he is to leave the mound having thrown a gem. 

Now let's take a look at yesterday's game between the Sox and Rays:

Boston jumped on Tampa bay starter Jeff Niemann early and were winning by 5 runs in the top of the 2nd. Look at the WPA as a result. During the time of the game when the Yanks were at 50-75%, the Sox hovered in the neighborhood of a 75-90% chance of winning. Granted, Tampa Bay mounted a bit of a rally in the 5th inning and brought the score to 6-5, but the point still stands. 

Keeping your team in the game: It actually does count for something. There's something to be said for Hangin' Around:

[God, that Album Cover is creepy. Why are you such a weirdo, Edgar Winter? I'm sorry, but that's the only version they had on YouTube and I don't have time to upload my own.]

Was yesterday's loss dissapointing? Yes. Has Sabathia lived up to expectations so far? No. Should I stop answering my own questons? Probably. It was a tight contest much of the way, with some great defensive plays by Ramiro Pena, Melky Cabrera and even the Big CCheese. Thanks to CC's strong first six innings, the Yanks had their chances to win, they just didn't capitalize.

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