The Day in Boston, Graphed

From Advanced NFL Stats, this was the Patriots-Saints Win Expectancy graph from this afternoon.


And from us, this is the Red Sox-Tigers game from tonight.

Source: FanGraphs

Both teams bottomed out with a win expectancy of around 4%. The odds of two teams with a 4% chance of winning both winning is 0.16%. Not 16%, but 0.16%, or to put it in words, it would happen once about every 625 opportunities.

You can bet that October 13th, 2013 will go down as one of the most memorable days in Boston sports history.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

68 Responses to “The Day in Boston, Graphed”

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  1. SaladFingers says:

    Amazing day to be a Boston fan. After the conclusion of that Pats game, I couldn’t help but feel like something magical was going to happen at Fenway, even when Scherzer (who was incredible, by the way) was cruising and the Sox looked down and out.

    Baseball is the best.

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  2. DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy says:

    And my bandwagon fan brother quit on both games early lol

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  3. Person says:

    As if Boston fans needed more incentive to consider themselves special. So lame.

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  4. Corey Crawford says:

    So this makes up for 2 goals in 17 seconds on June 24?

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  5. James says:

    The end of the first one is a faithful representation of my heart line graph at the moment.

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    • Jason B says:

      If it’s doing that at the moment, I would curtail your message-boarding and get thee to a doctor, double-time.

      Don’t worry, we’ll still be here after the quadruple bypass.

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  6. james wilson says:

    That was a hell of a loss for Detroit to take, and it looked to me as if they indeed took it very hard.

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    • Timeghoul says:

      There’s zero chance they recover from that one. Don’t see them taking another game in this series and I don’t even think the remaining three games will be close.

      Tough for Tigers fans as that game effectively probably ended an era in Detroit, in that possibly the best rotation ever will be broken up with Scherzer likely being traded in the offseason.

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    • semperty says:

      Best part is that the Tigers were a good route from Torii Hunter from this never happening.

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  7. Tim says:

    Patriots don’t play in Boston

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    • Ian R. says:

      Define ‘Boston’ in this context. The Patriots don’t play within the city limits, but Foxborough is in the metro area.

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      • Beau Hammel says:

        No one from Mass would consider Foxboro part of the Boston metro area.

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        • B N says:

          Well, it’s in the “Greater Boston Area” (see also: suburbs). People from outside of Boston don’t quite get that there are three meanings of the word Boston geographically:

          Boston (a.k.a Boston Proper) – A really frickin’ small city with dense population that you can pretty easily walk across in a day.
          Functional Use: When you live in the area and say you’ll “meet them in Boston”, this is what you mean.

          Metro Boston – Generally what people mean when they say Boston. Includes areas like Cambridge, etc., that aren’t technically part of Boston Proper.
          Functional Use: When someone from out of the region is “driving up to see someone in Boston”, this is usually what it means.

          Greater Boston – An expansive swath of the Boston metro statistical area around the size of LA. Covers Boston, plus tons of suburbs with rail lines into the city.
          Functional Use: When Boston suburbanites are talking to people out of the area, they say “I live by Boston” to avoid the awkward conversation of naming a town no one knows and having to resort to saying it is by Boston anyway. Sort of like saying, “I’m from New York” when you live in White Plains.


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        • Bip says:

          I feel a lot of cities are probably much like that, in that the city name can actually refer to multiple thing. Los Angeles is similar in that way, but is also the opposite another way.

          In particular, “Los Angeles proper”, to borrow your terminology, is actually much bigger than people (even those from here) often realize. Hollywood and Van Nuys are among commonly referred to regions of Los Angeles proper that many might mistake for independent cities. Los Angeles is so big in fact, that I don’t think those inside of it ever refer to another part of it as “Los Angeles”; everywhere has a more specific name that is more useful for navigating internally.

          Geographically, the county is not exceptionally large, as one might expect given the size of the city. It is, for one, not large enough to encompass Anaheim, leaving no sense in which the Angels are “of Los Angeles.”

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        • MustBunique says:

          This is untrue. Foxboro is for sure inside of 495 which counts as Greater Boston. No one from Eastern Mass would ever deny that…

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      • Jonathan says:

        It actually isn’t remotely close to the metro area. The Boston metro area ends, at the farthest point south anyone will realistically try to claim, Braintree. Foxboro (No ugh) is closer to Rhode Island than it is to Boston.

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        • Ian R. says:

          It’s Foxborough, officially speaking. The Postal Service calls it ‘Foxboro,’ and it’s often dropped on signs and things, but I usually see it called ‘Foxborough’ in the context of sports.

          And yeah, as Jaack said, the Census Bureau includes it in the metro area. It depends on how strictly you define the term ‘Boston’ or ‘Boston Area.’

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      • Jaack says:

        Take up your beef with the Census Bureau. They define the Boston MSA as Suffolk, Plymoth, Norfolk, Middlesex and Essex counties in MA as well as Rockingham and Strafford in NH. Foxboro is located in Norfolk county, 22 miles from Boston.

        Also if we want to be even more pedantic about it, Foxboro does technically have the ugh at the end in its official name, but its is usually dropped.

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        • JCA says:

          Gillette Stadium is closer to Providence than Boston.

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        • Ian R. says:

          Sure, and it’s closer to Quincy than Providence, not to mention Braintree, Franklin, Randolph and Weymouth, which are all legally cities even though they’re called towns.

          All of that is immaterial, of course. As far as pro sports are concerned, Boston is the closest major city to Gillette, and so the Patriots are generally lumped in with the other Boston teams. Given that Foxborough is part of Greater Boston, I don’t see the issue there.

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    • SKob says:

      Must be a Giants fan… think about it… there it is! Yes, they play in Jersey!

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    • Mike G says:

      And the Redskins play in Maryland. Your point?

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  8. Eric M. Van says:

    Actually, the Pats bottomed out at 1% (the 4% was after the interception with 2:16 left) and the Sox at 2.8%, before Middlebrooks’ 1-out double.

    That’s .028%, or once in 3,571 times.

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  9. Just a fan says:

    All credit to the red sox but one has to wonder, why was Joaquin Benoit pitching to ortiz with the bases loaded in 8th? They don’t have another lefty in that bullpen?

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    • Z..... says:

      You figure that Benoit has the split that he throws. I’m too lazy to look up numbers on Ortiz or Benoit, but I wouldnt be surprised if Benoit has better numbers against lefties than righties. Ortiz was also getting beat by changeups these first two games. That was also his first career HR against Benoit. The Tigers have Phil Coke, and Ortiz has struggled against him in the past, but he is out of favor. They went down with their “closer.” He isnt very good, but he is their closer

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    • Pesky23 says:

      I think at that point you use your best pitcher. Should have brought him in for Pedroia. But why wasn’t Benoit still pitching in the 9th? Was Porcello really the better option? Looking forward to more of Leyland managing for the save instead of the win.

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    • baseballbaseball says:

      yes, phil coke. and that should answer your question.

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      • SKob says:

        Coke = 5.40 ERA in 38.1 innings and demoted to the minors. That is the real answer! Coke would be used to get Ortiz out in the 6-7 innings, not with the game on the line… At least, before last night that was the case!

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    • crapshoot says:

      It’s an interesting thought experiment. Who would you rather have pitching to Ortiz in that situation: a below average left hander or an above average right hander who also happens to be your best pitcher available? I think Benoit is the correct choice even in hindsight but clearly this entire situation could have been avoided by more diligent bullpen usage. Smyly had a sign on his chest that said “break glass in case of emergency only” and Leyland panicked.

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  10. Brian Lonsway says:

    why was Smyly used for Elsburry? Yeah he fudged up & walked him.. but the real problem is with the make_up of the postseason roster.. Where is Darwin Downs? If Phil Coke or Jose Alveraz are not going to pitch to Elsburry in that situation.. Then what the f*ck are they doing on the roster?? You absolutely have to save Smyly for the chance that Ortiz comes up.. No questions asked.

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    • Guest says:

      Ya with a 5-1 lead, I expected Smyly to stay in through Ellsbury, Pedroia, and then see Ortiz, but I guess Leyland didn’t like the walk he issued.

      Btw doesn’t this article demonstrate the uselessness of win expectancy?

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      • semperty says:

        No one said WE is perfect, just gives you a rough idea of the odds of a comeback. We’re talking sports here – anything is possible – WE just maps out the general chance your team has.

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      • Jay Stevens says:

        WE doesn’t account for game-time situations, such as the suckatude of Detroit’s bullpen, so as a real game-time predictor tool, it ain’t perfect, but it’s built on past performances, so it does show, in a historical context, how unlikely an event is.

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        • not that bad says:

          Detroit’s bullpen isn’t actually THAT bad, just one bad game. I believe by xFIP that they are about average or slightly above, right?

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      • Bip says:

        If WE was 100% accurate, then 1 of out every 100 times that a team reached 1% win expectancy, that team would win, prompting someone to point out that WE is pointless when in actuality we got the exact result we expect.

        Probability. It’s hard to conceptualize.

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    • Nathan says:

      I think some of your thinking is flawed here, but I think your bottom line point that Smyly should’ve been saved for Ortiz is absolutely right. The numbers don’t lie — while Ellsbury is better against righties, he’s roughly 15 points better against them by wRC+. Big Papi is roughly 90 points better against righties. You need to hold your best lefty for Ortiz, especially given that Veras is a really good reliever, period, regardless of handedness splits! Veras had plenty of good pitches left in him when he was pulled.

      We’re all definitely Monday morning QB’ing, and really, this isn’t even so much a direct criticism of Leyland as it is a criticism of the current state of in-game management across baseball. There are probably 20 other managers in MLB that would’ve done the same things Leyland did in that 8th inning (and even that number probably gives too much credit to managers at large… it might be closer to everyone but Joe Maddon, who for all his enlightenment relative to his peers, would probably have done something screwy as well).

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  11. TheGrandslamwich says:

    Great. Now there might be a Fever Pitch 2.

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  12. Nathan says:

    I’ll be interested to read some more analysis of the game. As a Tigers fan, in retrospect, I’m disappointed in how Leyland handled his bullpen in the 8th inning. I can’t help but think that’s the biggest difference in this game — Farrell may not have done anything special in how he handled his pen after the Tigs put their 5 on the board, but he certainly didn’t make any judgments that were nearly as questionable as Leyland’s 8th.

    He burned two of his three best bullpen arms (Veras and Smyly) for a grand total of one out. I think it was really a case of one bad decision (pulling Veras) snowballing into more.

    For his career, Veras allows a 0.315 wOBA against lefties. This is entirely average, and with a 4 run lead, and two righties to follow Ellsbury, having a reliever that’s roughly average against lefties is totally fine. The worst Ellsbury can do at that point is make the game 5-3. I realize that’s only half the story, as Ellsbury does rank slightly below average versus lefties through his career. But Veras is a quality reliever and should be trusted to face a single lefty in the middle of three righties. The psychological aspect of this is what is really irritating to me — if Veras were the “closer,” is there any doubt that Leyland (or any manager, for that matter) would’ve left him in against Ellsbury even if there was a more significantly unfavorable handedness split than actually exists between the players?

    This decision really started a Rube Goldberg machine for the Tigers. Once Veras was out, the best short-relief righty option the Tigers had was Alburquerque, and as is evidenced by both his numbers and the eyeball test, while his pitches can be electric, his location is erratic and his fastball can straighten out dangerously.

    Honestly, in this case, Alburquerque actually did quite well. He burned some nice pitches past Victorino, and Pedroia’s hit wasn’t exactly a scorcher — you look at that play and tip your cap to Pedroia for being a good hitter, knowing that Alburquerque pitched him fairly well and the defense just couldn’t quite get to the heavy grounder.

    That said, the issue I have with this is A) Veras should still be in the game to face these two righties, and he’s better than Alburquerque! and B) the decision to bring in Alburquerque was clearly based on handedness, but if you actually look at the splits Alburquerque has shown in his (admittedly) short career, he is more effective against lefties! I have to think that has something to do with the fact that he throws a very heavy slider.

    So the chain reaction of bad decision continues to the Ortiz PA. I understand what Leyland was thinking — we have a 4-run lead, this guy is my closer, he can get 4 outs. I wouldn’t disagree that Benoit is capable of getting 4 outs.

    But how rational is this line of thinking anyways? Your only effective bullpen lefty (Smyly) is unavailable because you were unwilling to let Veras face a single lefty (who is much less dangerous against righties than Ortiz is) in the middle of three righties. So the initial bad decision eliminated the ability to match the best possible lefty up against Ortiz, which is fucking absurd, because unlike Ellsbury, who shows a narrower split, Ortiz is a MONSTER against righties and just below-average against lefties!

    So let’s forget the shit sandwich Leyland put himself into here, and grant that with Big Papi coming to the plate, you can only put the past behind you and try to make amends by making the best possible decision for the situation in front of you. Bringing Benoit in is probably a good choice — he’s good against lefties, as is Alburquerque, but he’s got sample size and experience on his side.

    And now I know I’m really nitpicking, but I have to ask, what’s the justification for letting Benoit throw even a single pitch in the zone? Looking back at the pitch data on Brooks Baseball, Benoit really made a pretty good pitch (could’ve been down more, but he painted the outside edge), and it was a case of Ortiz simply besting him. But Leyland should know that Ortiz had absolutely dominated righties this season. There are five guys beneath Ortiz in that Boston lineup that, while respectable, are all cakewalks comparatively. I know the idea of walking in a run is revolting, but I don’t see how you can throw something hard anywhere in the zone, at least not unless and until you get Ortiz to bite on a pitch in the dirt and get into a more favorable count.

    And the cherry on top of the shit sandwich… why doesn’t Benoit come back out in the bottom of the inning? He hardly threw any pitches, and the ones he threw were very good (even the one that Ortiz took deep was a solid effort)!

    I’m sure most of this is simply me being a frustrated Tigers fan, but I think there’s a lot of truth here. Leyland also really boned up the bullpen advantage he would’ve had if the game had gone long by burning his three best relievers the way he did. Farrell had already had to dip into his pen, so if the game hits extras, the over-management in the 8th inning burned good arms up and leveled the pens back out.

    I’m probably letting my fan emotions get the best of me here, so hopefully Dave or someone posts an article later today with some more objective analysis of the 8th inning. :)

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    • RC says:

      David Ortiz OPS splits the last 4 years: (vs RH minus vs LH)
      2013: .359
      2012: .065
      2011: -.054
      2010: .460

      So, other than that wierd blip in 2011, he shouldn’t ever be facing a RH late.

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      • crapshoot says:

        But not all left handed pitchers are created equal. Phil Coke was awful this year and Benoit has good splits against left handers in general. I don’t think you can say definitively that the talent disparity between Benoit and Coke is not enough to overcome the favorable matchup that playing the lesser pitcher affords. Regardless, Leyland shouldn’t have been forced to make this decision in the first place. If Drew Smyly isn’t your designated Ortiz-killer than what is he there for?

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  13. Bob says:

    The grand slam is embarrassing but not as embarrassing as being no-hit for 8.1

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  14. Dan says:

    Perhaps not. But Embarrassment Above Replacement Series would be a cool acronym.

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  15. gmw says:

    Pats win probablility was 1% at it’s lowest
    wp = .99 for saints see here:

    RedSox was 2.8% according to your graph after drew grounded out to shortstop

    sooo .028 x .01 = .00028 (once every 3571 times)

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  16. Jeffrey Winer says:

    While I loved watching both of my teams come back in exciting fashion, I have to take exception to the idea that given the MINIMUM probability for both teams being 4%, that the overall chances of winning was 0.16%. The minimum probability drastically underestimates the overall probability of winning a particular game. While there is not closed form solution to this, I would estimate that there was about a 1-2% chance of both teams winning given only the minimum probabilities both equaling 1%

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    • Bip says:

      The probability of winning a particular game is constantly changing. The chances that both the Red Sox and Pats would win yesterday is about 25%, if we look at it from a point before either game had started. Looking at it now, the probability both teams win is 100%. However, knowing the outcomes of both games up to the point that the WE of each team was about 4% means the probability is actually .16%.

      Probability is only necessary in absence of knowledge. Therefore what we assess probability to be depends heavily on our frame of reference and state of knowledge. There is a state of knowledge at which the actual observed outcome had a probability of .16%.

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