With the League Championship Series already in full swing for both leagues, last week’s Divisional Series may already be an afterthought. Luckily, we’re here to refresh your memory with a WPA review of all of the series, with the bests, the worsts, and some other notables.
WPA is the ultimate story statistic, taking into account every bit of context about the game as it can. You can check out our glossary entry on WPA here as well as the ever excellent Saber Library’s take here.
5. Danny Valencia, Game 1
1-3, BB, RBI, +.219 WPA
Not a terribly impressive line, but context is everything. Valencia struck out swinging twice, but with bases empty and at least one out each time, none mattered much. His walk in the sixth tied the game, and his single in the eighth brought the go-ahead run to the plate with only one out.
4. Mariano Rivera, Game 1
1.1 IP, H, SV, +.237
If there’s ever a time to go to the ace reliever, it was when Joe Girardi went to Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the eighth in Game 1. Rivera entered with a two run lead and two outs but with two runners in scoring position. The Leverage Index sat at a whopping 4.25, and Rivera easily shut the door, retiring four of his five batters faced (including a questionable call on a Delmon Young single).
3. Mark Teixeira, Game 1
2-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, +.274 WPA
Teixeira had the big blow in the initial game, as his two-run tiebreaking home run in the 7th inning turned out to be the difference. That home run gave the Yankees a 78.5% win expectancy, and the bullpen did the rest.
2. Lance Berkman, Game 2
2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, +.292 WPA
Berkman gave the Yankees the lead on two separate occasions, breaking an early 1-1 tie with a solo HR (+.135) and putting the Yankees up for good in the 7th with an RBI double (+.192), with the latter giving the Yankees a 75% win expectancy late in the game.
1. Phil Hughes, Game 3
7 IP, 0 R, 6 K, 1 BB, +.294 WPA
Hughes put up the best pitching performance in the series, shutting out the Twins as counterpart Brian Duensing gave up the runs which would allow the Yankees to clinch the series.
5. Brian Duensing, Game 3
3.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 1 K, 1 BB, -.182 WPA
Duensing got hit around by the Yankees, including a homer off the bat of Marcus Thames which effectively ended the Twins hopes. When Duensing exited, the Twins win expectancy was a mere 9.6%
4. Nick Swisher, Game 2
1-4, 0 R, 0 RBI,
Seems like a relatively neutral game for Swisher, but he was unclutch in game 2. He grounded into a double play to end the fourth in a tie game (-.138) and grounded out to end a threat up by two runs in the sixth (-.059).
3. Francisco Liriano, Game 1
5.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 7 K, 3 BB, -.225 WPA
Liriano pitched extremely well for the first five innings, but couldn’t carry it through the sixth. The Yankees tallied four runs in that fateful inning, knocking the Twins win expectancy from 85.1% down to 36.5% by the time Liriano was pulled from the game.
2. Carl Pavano, Game 2
6 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 3 K, 1 BB, -.264 WPA
Pavano didn’t actually pitch that terribly, but like Liriano and Duensing, the Yankees got plenty of hits off of him and that was enough to give them a lead. The Twins offense didn’t give either of their starters any leeway, and as a result they look like goats here.
1. Jesse Crain, Game 1
0.1 IP, HR, 2 R, -.303 WPA
Crain gave up the Teixeira home run which ended up deciding game 1, which turned out to be the single biggest pitch of the series. This was Crain’s only appearance in the ALDS, and as such he compiled the lowest WPA of any player despite only being involved in four plate appearances.
Best Overall Series
Hitter: Curtis Granderson
5-11, 2B, 3B, 2 R, 3 RBI, +.310 WPA
Granderson was Mr. Clutch for the Yankees. He plated the tying run in the 5th inning of game 1 with a triple worth +.298 WPA and also had a double and scored a run to start the scoring in Game 2.
Pitcher: Mariano Rivera:
3.1 IP, 2 H, 1 K, 0 R, 2 SV, +.293 WPA
The big game for Rivera was, as mentioned above, in Game 1, and he had relatively inconsequential appearances in game 2 (a three run save) and game 3. In true Rivera fashion, he did not allow a run in the series, shattering bats as he worked.
Hitter: Nick Swisher
4-13, 2B, HR, 3 R, RBI, -.257 WPA
That hardly looks like a bad line, but Swisher was bad in big spots, like the plays mentioned above, and was good in meaningless spots. His HR came up 6-0 and the double came with nobody on and two men out with the lead already in hand.
Pitcher: Jesse Crain
0.1 IP, HR, 2 R, -.303 WPA
All three starters in bottom 5 single-game WPA
Denard Span: worst Twin hitter, -.213 WPA
Jon Rauch: best Twin pitcher, +.127 WPA
Joe Mauer: -.060 WPA in series, best WPA score of +.017
Jim Thome: -.110 WPA in series, no positive WPA games.