Devil Rays 7, Yanks 6

Player WPA pLI Pitcher WPA pLI
Matsui .208 2.30 Farnsworth .044 0.61
Jeter .201 1.83 Bruney 0.39 0.87
Minky .156 1.89 Myers -.036 1.56
Cano .104 1.90 Pettitte -.156 1.24
Posada .051 1.67 Vizcaino -.177 1.82
Giambi -.047 1.54 Proctor -.206 1.51
Phelps -.095 3.60
Abreu -.123 2.56
Melky -.161 2.27
Alex -.303 3.05

(What’s this?)
(Stats and graph courtesy FanGraphs)

Eek. Alex didn’t help himself much in the Leverage Index experiment. I suppose Abreu hitting a dinker the at bat prior didn’t help much, either. Anyway.

The viewer fatigue started kicking in during the top of the second. After a quick, eight-pitch first, Pettitte labored…and labored…and labored. I’d have blamed it on the cold, but Jae Seo didn’t seem to be having the same control problems on his end.

By the third, we were in “pull your hair out” territory. The Yanks were playing so sloppy, and the only reason they weren’t getting killed was because it was the freakin’ Devil Rays. Wild pitches, errors, passed balls (three, three, and one for the game, respectively). The inning did get a bit better, though, as Pettitte snuck in strike three on Jonny Gomes (decent acting job; I’d put him on par with Keanu Reeves). But then he blundered again by throwing to second on a pickoff play. Come on, Andy. Getcha head in the game!

I felt really bad for Matsui in the fourth. Poor guy couldn’t buy a hit, and when he finally hits one hard, Wiggington snags it. Yeah, I know he reached base and that it was officially scored a hit, but that was the Official Scorekeeper feeling bad for him. It was a hit, then immediately changed to an error. About three minutes later, it’s a hit again. Such a move should be illegal; OS’s should only be able to flip-flop once. Unless, of course, he goes by the name of John Kerry.

So after the Matsui “single,” Minky pops one up to center, but Elijah Dukes must have misjudged it, because he sprinted, then jogged, and the ball feel about five feet in front of him. Gotta catch those, rook! Anyway, at this point, Girardi suggests a bunt, since there are men on first and second with none out. So I whip out the trusty WPA calculator, and lo and behold, the current WPA with runners on first and second and none out in a tie game is .695. With men on second and third with one out, the WPA is .733. Sac bunt validated.

(For the record, I understand that more goes into the sac bunt than just the WPA outcome of one. It’s just that most objective evidence shows that the sac bunt normally amounts to merely a wasted out. It can be used effectively on occasion, as shown here.)

Despite him letting both inherited runners score, I thought that using Proctor in the fifth was an excellent idea. With Vizcaino and Farnsworth capable of handling the seventh and eighth, might as well use arguably your second or third best reliever to get out of a jam. Had he just let in the runner on third, I would have called it a success. Now I’m just calling it an experiment that will work more often than not, despite the sole sample we got last night. That’s the kind of flexibility this bullpen has — though you’d like to see that kind of situation in the seventh or eighth rather than the fifth, if for no other reason than starter longevity.

I made three notes during the top of the sixth inning:

  • Holy shiiiiiite
  • Jeter/defense
  • These are just long innings

The first was in reference to Duke’s tater, and the last is self-explanatory. The second I’ll allow the guys at NoMaas explain:

On defense, no one has looked worse than Derek Jeter. He committed two more errors to bring his total to three in just two games. In addition to his errors, Jeter has shown the range of a 75-year old woman. There were several balls on Thursday night which Jeter could have made a play on, but his lousy first step prevented him from doing so. How he wins Gold Glove awards is beyond our comprehension.

Speaking of Jeter’s defense, anyone catch Zobrist in the seventh? He made the Jeter-esque backhanded pick, leaped, and decided against making the throw. Smart man that Zobrist is. It looked like he realized mid-jump that he simply is not Derek Jeter — though he’s probably a better all-around defender. Okay, I promise not to bash Jeter’s defense…until they play another game.

The eighth is where the whole damn thing got frustrating. First, Stokes hands the Yanks a bases loaded situation by trying to get the lead runner instead of getting the sure out. So then we have this scrub against Abreu, and Bobby nearly gets doubled up. Okay, so now Alex is up. He took this chump deep on Monday, so things were looking bright. That is, until he popped one up to end the inning. It’s one of those moments where go from being so tense to basically losing all muscular tension and collapse on the couch.

Even after all that, though, I had one gasp of hope left as the ball left Jorge’s bat in the ninth. It looked good, and I tried to fool myself into thinking it had a chance, but the crack of the bat never lies. He just missed it, and the Yanks lost a close one.

Normally, I’m livid when the Yanks lose a game like this. It was a one-run affair, and they had more than their share of chances to take the lead at various points in the game. You can’t lose the winnable games. However, they played so damn sloppily that I can’t even get pissed at the loss. I’d like to blame it on the cold, but I’ll hold off on that, since tonight’s weather doesn’t look much better.

Moose vs. Cy Loewen. Let’s see if Phelps can figure this guy out. Lord knows the rest of the team hasn’t.

Ugly Loss

Baseball is not a cold weather sport, and tonight’s game certainly proved that. Sloppy fielding, bad pitching and untimely hitting led to on ugly loss on possibly the coldest April night I can remember. And since I was sitting in the Stadium, I felt that one. Now excuse me while I duck until some hot water and try to forget Bobby Abreu’s amazingly clutch fifteen-foot groundball with the bases loaded and one out with the Yanks down by a run.

Player WPAs are here!

Many thanks to David Appelman at FanGraphs for allowing me to use their WPA data on this site. As I mentioned Monday night, the WPA spreadsheet I used last year doesn’t work on a Mac, so I thought I was SOL regarding individual players’ WPAs. But, thanks to David and his wonderfully comprehensive website, we’re all back in the know when it comes to WPA.

Using this system has also opened a new area of analysis: Leverage Index. What this shows is how critical each situation was in which a player appeared. The stat shown on the table below, pLI, is the average Leverage Index per player plate appearance. The average LI is 1.00, and obviously increases as game situations become more critical.

So, without further ado, here’s is Monday’s WPA chart:

Player WPA pLI Pitcher WPA pLI
Giambi .225 1.04 Farnsworth .127 2.18
Jeter .130 1.68 Vizcaino .092 1.17
Posada .099 1.12 Henn .042 0.72
Alex .065 1.33 Rivera .017 0.21
Damon .048 1.09 Bruney -.066 1.05
Phelps .039 0.54 Pavano -.238 1.23
Cano .030 1.13
Melky .015 1.69
Minky .006 1.83
Matsui -.041 0.69
Abreu -.089 1.47

Even though Jeter’s WPA was nearly 10 percent lower than Giambi’s, we can put that into a better perspective by noting that Jeter hit in higher pressure situations. We can see that Minky didn’t add or take away, which is mitigated by his 1.83 pLI. Had he been in the negatives, we could have fumed a bit. Matsui had a bad day, but he was up in situations that were less pressured than average. So at least he didn’t kill the team with his bad day.

Of course, none of those caught your eye first. As Yankees fans (or even if you’re not), your eye likely went straight to Mr. Alex Rodriguez. Yes, his WPA is a modest .065, but his pLI was just 1.33. However, maybe it’s not best to only compare and contrast pLI and WPA.

Here’s the deal: I’m going to log each and every one of Alex’s plate appearances this season. It will be very simple: Leverage Index and the outcome of the at bat. Maybe this, combined with his WPA, will allow us to understand the whole “he doesn’t come through in the clutch” argument.

Otherwise, enjoy the numbers. Once again, if anyone has any questions about WPA, please e-mail me at RABJosephP (at) gmail (dot) com.

The art of deception, by Josh Beckett

Since there was no Yankees game yesterday — much to my rain-soaked chagrin — it seems appropriate to rag on the Red Sox, and Josh Beckett specifically.

I had planned to watch the Sox/Royals game last night, but a few tasks kept me from tuning in until the second inning, when it was already 3-0 Sox. Great. But, since Josh Beckett was on the mound, I figured it was still worth a watch. I flipped it off after the third, when Mark Teahen and Mike Sweeney blew a first and second, one out situation. I was disheartened once again in the fourth, after watching the Royals score a run, followed by Beckett finishing off the side.

The Red Sox increasing their lead kept me from flipping back to the game. So, in my ignorance, I believed that Josh Beckett pitched a good game. Boy, was I wrong.

First, he only ended up pitching five innings, leaving things to the bullpen for four. They ended up pitching well, but if they end up pitching four innings a game a couple times a week (and they’ve pitched nine so far in two games), they’re screwed. That’s a lot of strain on a bunch of mediocre or sub-mediocre arms.

The next stat that stands out is his strike total. 94 pitches, 46 strikes. Yes, folks, Josh Beckett threw more balls than strikes last night. That was reflected in his four walks, though he did strike out five and only surrender two hits.

It’s that kind of wildness that has many believing that Beckett is not one of the “aces” that were heralded on ESPN in February and March. He may have walked away looking decent last night, but if you’re walking four in five innings, you’re going to give up a few more runs on most nights.

If Beckett doesn’t improve significantly on this wildness (he surely won’t throw 51 percent of his pitches for balls every night), he’s going to run into a familiar problem: taters. Wildness can mean leaving pitches out of the zone and issuing a lot of walks, but it can also mean missing in the zone. And when you miss out over the plate, guys are going to take you deep, especially hitters in the AL East.

Of course, it is the first start of the season, and I may be jumping the gun a bit. However, it’s not like he pitched lights out last year and had an off game yesterday. In fact, yesterday seemed like a mere extension of last season. Here’s to hoping it’s another long one for Beckett and the Sox.

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images