Unlike 2006: A-Rod Wins the Game!

In yesterday’s 10-7 victory win against the Orioles, Alex Rodriguez‘s game winning grand-slam was the second biggest hit he’s had in the pats 6 years according to Win Probability Added (WPA). It brought his team from a mere 28.8% chance of winning to a complete victory.


In 2006 however, Rodriguez was about as far from being a clutch hitter as you could possibly get. But before we delve into why, let’s get familiar with two stats: REW and OPS Wins. REW is calculated much like WPA, except it uses Run Expectancy (as opposed to Win Expectancy), which doesn’t take the score or inning into account. It does however account for how well a batter does with runners on base. OPS Wins on the other hand is how a player would do in a completely context neutral environment.

Looking at 2006, Rodriguez’s 3.18 OPS Wins and his REW of 3.34 wins are fairly close, but in general he did a little bit better than expected with runners on base. When you take into account the inning and the score (or late and close situations), he accumulated just 1.18 wins. Basically he performed much worse than he should have in high leverage or “clutch” situations. This is measured by a stat called “Clutch” which is the difference between WPA and OPS Wins once leverage adjusted. Rodriguez’s Clutch was -2.16 wins; the third worst among qualified players in 2006.

Last season was the worst season he’s had in the past 5 years in terms of clutch hitting and probably his worst season ever. Yet in his previous two seasons with the Yankees he was actually a clutch hitter with a Clutch of .76 wins in 2004 and .41 wins in 2005.

Since joining the Yankees, he’s still the 9th most valuable player in baseball according to WPA. If we look at just the Yankees batters since 2004, he ranks first in terms of WPA.

Batter                WPA
Alex Rodriguez      11.27
Derek Jeter         10.54
Gary Sheffield       8.91
Jason Giambi         7.61
Hideki Matsui        6.46
Jorge Posada         2.92
Bobby Abreu          1.96
Johnny Damon         1.76
Tony Clark           1.05
Tino Martinez         .77

Whether you like him or not, he has been the most valuable Yankees batter according to WPA the past 3 seasons including the few games played this season. Of course, Mariano Rivera bests him by half-a-win with a WPA of 11.73.

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David Appelman is the creator of FanGraphs.

8 Responses to “Unlike 2006: A-Rod Wins the Game!”

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  1. Trev says:

    Do you consider it a problem that WPA “gives” closers so much value because of when they pitch? Without taking context into account, Johan Santana is worth much more than Francisco Rodriguez — yet WPA gives more credit to Francisco than Johan. Francisco’s “value” as measured by WPA comes not from his performance but his usage which is something the manager controls, not the pitcher.

    Is there anyway to fix this “flaw”? Take out run support from WPA?

    [For the record, I don’t think it could/should be touched, but there’s no way you can use WPA for comparing a SP to an RP or a pitcher to a hitter.]

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  2. dackle says:

    Hmm, that’s exactly why I got interested in WPA — to compare closers to other pitchers. Francisco’s value comes not just from his usage, but from his performance in high-leverage situations, which has a much higher impact on his team’s winning percentage than, say, Johan working in the top of the 3rd with a 4-0 lead. It works both ways for Frankie — on one hand he scoops up much more WPA by virtue of working the ninth inning, but his runs allowed are also penalized much more heavily, so it’s not like he’s getting a free ride

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  3. I think there’s something intriguing about looking at who contributed what in the role they’re given.

    If you want to take the context out of of WPA, you can look at BRAA for pitchers (or REW, same thing really). That’s how many runs/wins they “saved” over the course of the season.

    David Gassko suggested a middle ground to me where I raise the run environment for relievers, and drop it for starting pitchers. Just for grins, I’m messing around with that today.

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  4. tangotiger says:

    In response to Trev, REW gives you exactly what you want: a pitcher’s performance, irrespective of inning/score.

    And Mariano Rivera controls his leverage index (LI) as much as Adam Everett controls that he’s getting balls hit to him at SS: the great player will be placed in a position by his manager to maximize his skillset. This means putting Everett at SS, making 4 plays a game, not 2. And this means putting Rivera when the LI is 2.0, not 1.0. In both cases, the players were able to double the impact of their skills by being the great player they are, but letting their managers control how they are used.

    There are two things:
    1 – The starter/relief problem is that it’s easier to pile up good stats as a reliever than as a starter. The REW for a reliever would be something like +.020 wins per 9 IP (i.e., .520), while that of a starter would be -.010 wins per 9 IP (.490). But, of course, the average starter is a far better pitcher than the average reliever. It’s just that starters have one hand tied behind their back (they have to pace themselves).

    2 – You can consider “chaining” in that if Mo is not pitching when the LI is 2.0, someone else will. So, rather than give him the full impact of the 2.0, he gets something in-between 2.0 and 1.0.

    However, none of this takes away from WPA or REW. Those numbers are what they are, just as a HR hit in Coors is what it is. You need to apply the necessary adjustments if you want to make comparisons.

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  5. Pizza Cutter says:

    David, I’d love to see those adjustments when you get through with them. Gassko’s suggesting is intriguing, although I suppose it should be checked as to whether the run environment really is higher in the late innings. (It could have been done, I just don’t know about it.)

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  6. I did two separate runs for these, one with a run environment of 4.33 and one with 5.33. Then I took only the relief appearances in the 4.33 run environment, and the starting pitchers from the 5.33. Ends up looking like this:

    Name                 pWPA
    Roy Oswalt           5.10
    Johan Santana        4.90
    Joe Nathan           4.43
    Francisco Rodriguez  4.42
    Brandon Webb         4.38
    Jonathan Papelbon    4.26
    Chris Carpenter      4.06
    John Smoltz          4.04
    B.J. Ryan            3.89
    Roy Halladay         3.86
    Bronson Arroyo       3.74
    Chris Young          3.68
    Nate Robertson       3.56
    Anibal Sanchez       3.52
    Derek Lowe           3.42
    J.J. Putz            3.41
    Barry Zito           3.29
    Takashi Saito        3.27
    Jason Schmidt        3.25
    Jered Weaver         3.18

    The starting pitchers are more valuable than before while the relievers are somewhat less valuable. 6 of the top 20 are still relievers opposed to 11.

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  7. Trev says:

    Thanks for doing that David (Appelman).

    By changing to run environment, are we saying that instead of comparing K-Rod’s %chance to give up a HR to all pitchers (say HR% of 6%) we’re comparing K-Rod to all relievers (say HR% of 4%)? Ergo, when K-Rod gives up a HR he loses WPA in comparison to what the average RELIEVER would have done vs. the average pitcher.

    An adjustment like that makes sense to me, but it does destroy some of the “simple elegance” of WPA.

    P.S. I notice that in the 2006 (raw) WPA, Johan has 4.12 WPA and Oswalt has 3.68 WPA, whereas in the revised WPA Oswalt has more WPA than Johan. (See also Halladay vs. Carpenter).

    Is this some sort of league/park adjustment?
    Follow-up: Is WPA league/park adjusted?

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  8. Trev, I believe this is more or less what that does. It puts relievers in a more realistic run environment for relievers and starters in a more realistic run environment for starters.

    It does take away some of the simplicity. This was just an experiment for the time being and I don’t see implementing in the regular stuff.

    When you change the run environment, you’re messing around with each situation so even the starters/relievers may not be in the exact same order. They should still be pretty close.

    The run environments are not currently not park adjusted, but will probably be soon. However the league run environments are set at the correct level.

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