The 2013 postseason was a wild ride. We witnessed crazy endings, ill-timed errors, bizarre managerial gaffes, and plenty of the usual heroics. Perhaps you may be interested to learn how certain plays affected a team’s odds of winning the World Series. Luckily, we have a stat for that.
Most readers of FanGraphs are familiar with WPA, which forms part of the backbone for the statistic we’ll be using in this article — ChampAdded. Let’s start with some background.
Years ago, Sky Andrecheck developed a Championship Leverage Index (ChampLI). It is used to convert a single game into a share of a World Series. It was later extended so that we can calculate the exact share of a World Series that is attached to a given play. That’s the stat we’ll be using, ChampAdded.
It turns out that the math is very simple, just use the below table to determine the ChampLI for a given game and then multiply by the WPA of a play. For example, Game Seven of the World Series has a ChampLI of 1.00 since it’s winner-take-all. If a certain play has a WPA of .300, then that play is worth 30% of a championship (1.00 * .300 = .300).
The Hardball Times has been using ChampAdded to recap the postseason in their Annual publication since 2009. For each series, they pick out a MVP, goat and big play. It’s probably worth mentioning that the 2014 THT Annual is due to become available in mid-November and will include content from many of your favorite saberists and FanGraphs authors.
Full Disclosure: I contributed the postseason recap for the 2013 THT Annual and I am currently finalizing the 2014 recap.
Now that we understand how to convert WPA to shares of a championship, let’s look at some controversial moments from 2013 World Series.
Game One was relatively tame and only included one moment worth closer inspection. In the very first inning, Mike Napoli doubled with the bases loaded and one out. Cardinals outfielder Shane Robinson misplayed the ball, which allowed all three runners to score. The play was worth .054 ChampAdded or roughly 5 percent of a championship.
The Cardinals won Game 2 mostly because of a two error sac fly of the bat of Matt Carpenter in the seventh inning. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Craig Breslow were the goats on that particular play. Carpenter gets credit for the .059 ChampAdded, but the value of the second run falls on the shoulders of Saltalamacchia and Breslow.
Game Three is where things get truly interesting. As you may recall, this particular game ended with an obstruction call. Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay is credited with the .061 ChampAdded associated with the play, but Saltalamacchia and Will Middlebrooks are the ones who botched the play.
Fans on Twitter and in the FanGraphs game chat observed that a two-run double earlier in the game off the bat of Matt Holliday probably would have been caught by Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts had been playing third base up until that inning but moved to shortstop after Middlebrooks pinch hit for Stephen Drew.
Hypothetically, if we “blame” Middlebrooks for the Holliday double, the obstruction call, and the two important outs he made at the plate, his ChampAdded for the game would be -.173. In other words, he helped the Cardinals win 17.3 percent of a World Series. Ouch.
Game Three also featured a comical managerial miscue. Red Sox manager John Farrell fumbled a double switch, which led to Brandon Workman batting in the ninth inning of a tied ballgame. The out he made was worth -.015 ChampAdded.
Obviously, a pinch hitter has that same result roughly 70 percent of the time. Since it was a high leverage situation, any positive outcome would have really helped the Sox. Throwing away a plate appearance worth about 1.5 percent of a championship doesn’t sound like all that much, but it’s rare for a manager to affect his team’s chance to win the World Series by that amount.
Game Four once again provided plenty of eyebrow raising moments. Let’s start with the obvious. When Kolten Wong was picked off of first base to end the game, he was dinged for -.015 ChampAdded. Even though renowned postseason hero Carlos Beltran was at the plate with a chance to tie the ballgame, the Cardinals only had a four percent chance to win the game. That’s why the Wong pickoff is only worth 1.5 percent of a championship.
Both Mike Matheny and Farrell made questionable managerial decisions in Game Four. Those for the Red Sox worked out much better. Farrell opted to start platoon outfielder Jonny Gomes against the right-handed Lynn. Over his career, Gomes hasn’t hit righties well, but Farrell had been using him fairly consistently throughout the postseason.
Meanwhile, Matheny had a chance to pinch hit for Lynn in the fourth inning before the Red Sox did any damage. That decision would have gone against accepted convention. However, by allowing Lynn to bat, the Cardinals lost 1.5 percent of a championship (-.015 ChampAdded).
Later in the game, Matheny allowed Lynn to start the sixth inning after he labored through the fifth. That’s when the wheels fell off for the Cardinals. Dustin Pedroia reached on a two-out single. Lefty specialist Randy Choate was ready in the pen to face David Ortiz, but Matheny opted to use Lynn to pitch around Ortiz.
After a four pitch walk, Matheny brought Seth Maness into the ballgame. Gomes – who maybe shouldn’t have started the game – promptly delivered a three-run home run. That play was worth .139 ChampAdded and Gomes’ game total was .129 ChampAdded. Farrell was rewarded for his questionable decision. Matheny, not so much.
In Game Five, Farrell allowed starting pitcher Jon Lester to bat in the seventh inning in a situation that clearly called for a pinch hitter. Lester’s plate appearance ended with a -.042 ChampAdded, which was nearly three times as damaging as the Wong pickoff from the night before. That doesn’t even consider that the Sox are probably better off with a reliever pitching the bottom of the seventh. The next hitter, Jacoby Ellsbury, delivered a two-out, RBI single that was worth .043 ChampAdded, so the mistake was erased.
In the final game of the postseason, Matheny decided that Ortiz would not beat him. The Twitterverse issued a collective groan as Matheny walked Ortiz in four of his five plate appearances. Three of those were intentional. The sum total of those walks was .018 ChampAdded. Basically, Matheny gave away 1.8 percent of a championship out of fear that Ortiz could do worse damage.
Game Six also featured the single biggest play of the World Series. It came off the bat of Shane Victorino in the form of a three-run double. It was worth 12.7 percent of a championship (.127 ChampAdded). You’d think there would be more to say about the biggest play of the series, but it was a standard Fenway double off the Green Monster.
So that’s the 2013 World Series in a nutshell. The ChampAdded methodology is a fun, context-aware means of extending WPA to more fully evaluate postseason plays. As you can see with some of the plays above, ChampAdded is not always perfect, but it does provide a nice framework through which to view the postseason.
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