In the wake of last night’s events, some of you may be looking for more quantitative ways of celebrating the Unlikely Hero; or, alternatively, looking for the quantitatively correct imprecations with which to curse the Baseball Gods. Here at NotGraphsGraphs© (Putting the Graphs back in NotGraphs since 2012TM), we’ve got you covered: we’ve invented a metric called Unweighted Runs Beyond Expectancy (uRBE). It’s a name that doesn’t make sense for a number that doesn’t make sense, and if you knew how much they paid us here, you’d have a little more sympathy.
uRBE assesses each play by comparing its degree of heroism to its perpetrator’s likelihood of being a hero. It measures the former by Win Probability Added; the latter, rather crudely, by the player’s share of team offense for the year (according to wRC). So:
Juan Uribe created slightly less than eight percent of the Dodgers’ runs this year. (He also happened to be the Dodgers’ team leader in position-player WAR, which confirms the bankruptcy of the entire concept, but that’s a subject for another conversation.) His two-run dongpiece last night, which gave L.A. an eighth-inning lead they would not relinquish, tipped the scales at .443 WPA. Thus, Uribe’s home run was a 5-uRBE play: 5.62, to be exact.
Since Uribe acquitted himself surprisingly well at the plate this season, you might expect that we could easily find a More Unlikely Act of Heroism. You would be technically right, although you would also not be fully accounting for the fact that we are talking about Juan Uribe, a man who has been called in these pages “Yuniesky Betancourt’s hero”, and who has four children named Juan, Juanny, Janny, and Johanny, not that we at NotGraphsGraphs© would ever be bitter and surly enough to resort to ad hominem attacks.
In fact, even if we filter the pool to include only players with 426+ PAs (Uribe’s total), there were no fewer than 32 Acts of Heroism this season that were Less Likely than last night’s. Here are the top five:
#5: Wieters’ Tenth-Inning Walk-Off Single
Matt Wieters had 58 wRC this season, or 8.1% of the Orioles’ total. His two-out, two-run, come-from-behind walk-off hit against Addison Reed on September 7 was good for a .753 WPA (the eleventh-best play of the year, incidentally). This play was worth 9.33 uRBE. Wieters is a pretty good player, though, so I’m not all that impressed.
#4: Kozma’s Game-Tying Scamper
When Pete Kozma scampered home from third on Mike Zunino‘s passed ball in the bottom of the tenth, to seal the Cardinals’ walk-off win on September 13, he earned .344 WPA — which doesn’t seem like a huge number. On the other hand, Pete Kozma created only 24 runs for St. Louis this year, or only 3.4% of the team total. It all works out to an impressive uRBE of 10.25. On the other other hand, which is an imaginary hand since I only have two real ones, Kozma was visibly scampering at the time, which makes this Act a difficult one to respect.
#3: B.J.’s Bash Job
As is well known, B.J. Upton had a poor season. His 27 wRC accounted for only 3.9% of the Braves’ runs. But all of that was forgotten, or rather not yet remembered, on April 6th, when he tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a round-tripper off Carlos Marmol — setting the stage for his brother Justin to hit a walk-off shot of his own two batters later. The elder Upton’s hit was worth .442 WPA, which comes out to 11.28 uRBE. However, since we didn’t yet know at the time that B.J. was planning to take a break from baseball in 2013, this Act should come with a sizable asterisk.
#2: Sir Albert Defends the Kingdom
When Albert Pujols stepped in against Jose Veras on April 13, the Angels’ chances looked grim. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, they were down by one. But Pujols hit a hot grounder down the left-field line, scoring runners from first and second for the walk-off. It was the fourth-best play of the year. Albert went on to post a disappointing 54 wRC, which was 7.3% of the team figure. His heroic double earned him 11.47 uRBE. Unfortunately for him, Albert Pujols gave up any claim to being called Unlikely circa 2001.
#1: Arencibia Makes Up for Being Terrible
J.P. Arencibia‘s two-run homer off of Fernando Rodney, in the top of the ninth on May 6, completed the Jays’ comeback from a 7-0 deficit and handed them what proved to be the winning run. The play’s .723 WPA was especially striking in light of Arencibia’s woes at the plate in 2013. His 33 wRC made up only 4.7% of the Toronto total. The calculation gives us a shocking 15.42 uRBE — making Arencibia’s home run the Most Unlikely Act of Heroism, by a Regular Player, of This Year.
If we are to allow all players to qualify, then we must address such complications as the existence of wRC values at and below zero, which the authors failed to remember prior to conducting this study. However, preliminary results suggest that Adron Chambers‘ (0 wRC) 14th-inning walk-off single on August 13 (.306 WPA, infinity uRBE) would be difficult to top as a Heroic Act — or, as Chambers himself astutely put it, as a Doggone Late Hit. If you have other candidates to put forward, or questions about the methodologies used, please feel free to bring them up in the comments section, just as long as you quit talking about Juan Uribe, for the love of Christ.
Print This Post