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Winnable Games

On Monday, May 17, the Boston Redsox led the New York Yankees 9-7 entering the ninth inning. The historical record tells us that a team has more than a 90% chance of winning that game. The Redsox lost, turning a winnable game into an actual lost game.

Let’s count a winnable game as any game where the team has at least an 81.21% chance of winning at any point during the game prior to entering the ninth inning. We see this happened 2430 times last year. Not coincidentally, there were 2430 games played in 2009. Basically, if you have more winnable games than actual wins, then this means you lost a few more games than expected. You can call it bad timing, or non-clutch, or whatever term you like.

In 2009, the Mets had 77 winnable games, but ended the season with only 70 wins. They also had 89 lose-able games (chance of winning as low as 18.79% or worse), and ended up with 92 losses. They led the league in not winning as many games as they should have. On the other end of the spectrum were the clutch-filled New York Yankees. The Yanks had 97 winnable games, compared to their actual 103, and 69 lose-able games, but ended up losing only 59. That’s an 8 game improvement.

The 2009 Rays had an interesting season: they had 19 games that were considered both winnable and losable. For example, on August 30, 2009:

In the bottom of the 8th inning, up by two, with two outs, they were in a winnable position: 86.4% chance of winning. After Polanco hits a three-run HR two batters later, they had a 83.9% chance of losing. The Rays led the league in most winnable/lose-able games. The Chicago Cubs were on the other end, with only four games that were both winnable and lose-able.

Finally, the Arizona Diamondbacks provided their fans with the most thrills. They had 99 lose-able games, but ended up with the win 17 times to lead the league. The Pirates were only able to win 5 of their lose-able games.

As for 2010, the Diamondbacks have taken a reversal, with 22 winnable and 19 lose-able games, compared to an actual 16-23 record. The Tigers on the other hand have 18 winnable and 24 lose-able games, compared to an actual 22-16 record. And the Redsox have been involved in seven games where they had the chance to both win and lose the game, to lead the league.