WPA #5: It’s All In the ‘Stache

Moving right along on our look at the ten best offensive plays of the season, we find ourselves ensconced in a summer affair between the Yankees and Blue Jays, when Jason Giambi and his memorable moustache loomed large. On June 5th, Chien-Ming Wang squared off against Dustin McGowan in what turned out to be a huge come from behind win at Yankee Stadium. Though the Yanks got out to an early 2-0 lead, a Melky Cabrera error, a two-run single by Matt Stairs, and a two-run double from Lyle Overbay combined to give the Jays a 7-2 lead when the top of the fifth finally came to its close. From there, the game graph below beautifully illustrates what transpired:


The Yankees slowly inched their way back, scoring two in the bottom of the fifth on a Bobby Abreu groundout and Alex Rodriguez sacrifice fly. Now trailing 7-4, they held the Blue Jays in check in the top of the sixth, before a two-run homer off the bat of Wilson Betemit brought them within one run. The game remained 7-6 in favor of the Jays until the top of the ninth inning. Entering the frame, the Yankees had just a 17.1% probability of winning the game.

Alex Rios singled. Scott Rolen singled as well. Matt Stairs then uncorked a ground rule double, scoring Rios, and extending the lead to 8-6. At this juncture, the Yankees were reduced to a 3.4% probability of winning! Farnsworth went onto escape what had become a bases loaded jam without further damage, increasing the Yankees expectancy to a mere 10% on the nose.

BJ Ryan entered the game, looking for the save, and immediately retired Derek Jeter on a groundout. After Bobby Abreu lined out to centerfield, the Yankees had a 1.6% probability of winning this game. 1.6%! Alex Rodriguez then singled, and advanced to second base on a defensive indifference. Just 5.1% now. Hideki Matsui singled A-Rod home, cutting the score to 8-7, and doubling their expectancy to 10.4%. In stepped Jason Giambi.

This should have been Jorge Posada‘s spot in the order, but he had been lifted earlier for pinch-runner Shelley Duncan. Giambi was coming off the bench to deliver in a crucial spot. With Matsui on first base, Giambi did just that, by launching a walkoff two-run homer into the stands. The Yankees would win the game, having just a 10.4% likelihood of doing so as Giambi entered the batters box. While the sixth biggest play of the season resulted in an expectancy swing of 83.0%, Giambi’s home run vastly exceeded Velez’s triple, with a WPA of .896; in other words, his home run increased their chances of winning by 89.6%.

Yankee Stadium may be no more, and this may have been the first year in forever that the Yankees missed the playoffs, but they had at least one extremely memorable moment this past season, and it happened to be the fifth biggest offensive play of the season.

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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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Tom B
Tom B
7 years 8 months ago

Thats awesome, I was at that game in section 39. One of the few days this year i was proud of my team :/