Archive for Season Highlights

WPA #1: DeJesus Provides Sorrow For Morrow

Well, what do you know? We have finally made it to the top offensive play of this entire 2008 baseball season, and it happens to belong to a member of the Kansas City Royals. David DeJesus, to be exact. Somehow, the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, and Seattle Mariners—four of the worst teams in baseball this past season—managed to find themselves involved in the top two offensive plays of the year. Ain’t baseball great? DeJesus’s big play, which will be prefaced and summarized below, provided a win expectancy swing of 90.36%, about one-third to one-half of a percentage point ahead of Ronnie Belliard‘s second-best play, and Pat Burrell‘s third-place home run.

The game took place on July 12, in a matchup between Gil Meche and Jarrod Washburn. It also saw Horacio Ramirez, then a member of the Royals, take on his former teammates in Seattle. Would Horacio seek revenge? Oh, that’s right, he isn’t good enough to merit a storyline. Moving on. Take a look at the big spike at the end, as it is the biggest such spike this past season:


DeJesus has had an interesting career to date. His numbers in 2005, 2006, and 2008, are eerily similar, not just in raw totals but rates as well. 2007 appears to be an outlier, as his .291 BABIP was much lower than the .330+ marks he showed himself capable of in 2005, 2006, and 2008. Not many fans know about his production and potential, but he managed to put the Kansas City Royals in first place in at least one category this year: the top offensive plays.

After giving up a leadoff single to Ichiro Suzuki, Meche retired the next three hitters in the top of the first. His counterpart Washburn did not fare as well, as the Royals tacked on two quick runs on the heels of singles by Mark Grudzielanek and Alex Gordon. After one inning, the Royals led by a score of 2-0, that would last for no more than an inning. In the bottom of the second, Mark Teahen hit into a fielder’s choice, scoring Esteban German, and extending the lead to three runs.

After five innings, Meche was absolutely cruising, having walked nobody, allowed no runs to score, and given up just four hits, two of which belonged to Tug Hulett. In the sixth, however, he fell apart. Ichiro once again led off with a single, and two batters later, scored on a home run by Raul Ibanez. Jose Vidro then followed with a single. Adrian Beltre added a single of his own. With two on, and one out, Jeremy Reed hit a double, scoring both Vidro and Beltre, and giving the Mariners the 4-3 lead. The Royals’ win expectancy began the inning at 86.9%, and by the time it ended, had plummeted to 38.9%, a dropoff of 48 percentage points.

When the bottom of the seventh came to its close, their win expectancy had further been reduced to 24.9%. A 1-2-3 inning later from Horacio Ramirez, it had been nominally increased to 30%, but their offense appeared stagnant, and it was only a matter of time before the hard-throwing Brandon Morrow would enter the game. Sean Green and Arthur Rhodes kept the Royals off the scoreboards in the eighth, meaning the ninth inning would begin with the Royals having just a 16% probability of winning the game.

Horacio added another 1-2-3 inning, giving the Royals a 19.7% probability of winning as Morrow entered. John Buck struck out looking, and Ross Gload grounded out to second. Their win expectancy was now a measly 4.6%. Billy Butler then walked, to give the Royals a glimmer of hope. He was lifted in favor of speedster Joey Gathright, who would look to get himself into scoring position for a potential tie game. He didn’t even need to, as only a few pitches later, with just a 9.6% probability of winning, David DeJesus launched a two-run homer into orbit, blowing the save for Morrow, and winning the game for the Royals. His home run, worth a swing in expectancy of 90.36%, was the top offensive play of the 2008 baseball season.

Highlight #1: Sabathia, ‘Nuff Said

Well, here we are, my top highlight of the 2008 season. In third place was Chipper Jones and his quest for a .400 batting average that kept us all entertained well into June, and second place involved everyone, including the notoriously tough Phillies fans really pulling for Junior Griffey to hit that 600th home run. First place, however, is a no-brainer for me, and goes to CC Sabathia‘s absolutely incredible performance this season. And I’m not just talking about his statistics in a Brewers uniform, but while with the Indians as well.

CC started the season rather poorly, as after four games, his numbers were: 18 IP, 32 H, 27 ER, 14 BB, 14 K, an OPS of 1.170, and a 13.50 ERA. Over his next 14 starts, all with the Indians, Sabathia allowed just 25 earned runs, two less than his total in the initial four. He walked just 20 while striking out 109 and allowing only 85 hits in 104.1 innings. This resulted in a .591 OPS against and a 2.16 ERA. It is irresponsible and incorrect to ignore his atrocious first four starts, but he managed to put together a tremendous 14-start stretch before even landing a plane ticket to Milwaukee.

Following the trade with the Brewers, Sabathia had a somewhat wild first start in the senior circuit but followed it up with three straight complete games, one of which was a shutout. In these three starts, he amassed 27 innings, allowed just 15 hits and three earned runs, walked just three hitters and struck out 26 of them. All told, in 17 starts with the Brewers, he threw seven complete games, produced a K/BB ratio above 5.0 (128/25), and a 1.65 ERA.

Put together, he made 35 starts, threw 253 innings, walked 59, fanned 251, and surrendered 2.70 earned runs per nine innings. In case you are curious just how good he was following those four atrocious starts to begin the year–or just how bad those four starts were–here are his stats from starts #5-35: 235 IP, 191 H, 45 BB, 237 K, .570 OPS, 1.88 ERA, 5.27 K/BB, 2.45 FIP. Again, it is incorrect to ignore those starts, but this what Sabathia did from the end of April until the end of the season. He virtually willed the Brewers into the playoffs, and made four straight starts to close out the season on three days rest. His numbers in that span? 28.2 IP, 24 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 26 K, 1.88 ERA.

With the Brewers, he surrendered 4 ER just once, never venturing higher than that number. Three earned runs were allowed twice; Two earned runs on four occasions; 1 earned run six times; and no earned runs in four different starts. That is domination. His lowest game score was 43 and he produced a game score of 70+ in seven of 17 starts for the Brewers. I have never followed a pitcher, or watched each of his starts, for a team other than my own, except for Greg Maddux prior to this season. From the time Sabathia joined the Brewers, though, I found myself tuning into each and every one of his starts, growing more and more impressed with each passing pitch. His tremendous season, especially with Milwaukee, is my top highlight of the 2008 season.