WPS recap: 2013 AL Wild Card Game

Another October day, another baseball playoff game. I hope you have enjoyed the gentle pace so far, because it is about to move into a brisk trot, with a break-neck gallop on Friday and quite possibly Monday. I will be providing my WPS analysis throughout, however many games get hurled at us. It can’t get much crazier than last year’s divisional round.

Yes, I’m just waiting to see how I get proven wrong on that one, now that I’ve offered myself up as a target. Should be interesting.

The Win Percentage Added numbers that go into building the WPS Index come from FanGraphs, for this game and all the playoffs this year. You’ll note that inning-by-inning scores are in whole numbers, but final totals go to a decimal point. I’m rounding down the inning scores for ease of reading: the tenths don’t matter that much, except when I’m being persnickety about adding everything up at the end.

Game       1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9    F
Rays       0   0   1   2   0   0   0   0   1    4
Indians    0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0    0
(Tampa Bay advances to ALDS)
WPS        1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9
Rays       5   5  16  33   6   2   5   6   4
Indians    5  10  12  34  36   5  22  11   1
WPS Base: 217.0  Best Plays: 47.1  Last Play: 0.1  Grand Total: 264.2

For the third straight day, we had a game below the mean in excitement (that mean being a little over 300), though it was the most exciting game of the string. At least, if you don’t count the spectators being taken out of it fairly early, and the three hours, 40 minutes needed to score four runs and record 54 outs. WPS does have its blind spots, I confess.

What moved this game ahead of its two predecessors was the same thing that made it so frustrating for Cleveland fans. The Indians put together a few big threats after Tampa Bay got ahead 3-0, threats that with one hung breaking ball and one good swing could have turned the game right around. Instead, Alex Cobb in the fourth and fifth, and Joel Peralta in the seventh, squeezed their team out of the messes without damage. This built some suspense—you can see that the Indians’ fourth and fifth beat any of the Rays’ innings for excitement—but didn’t build the foundation of a tight game that would have brought greater excitement further on.

There were a few points of interest in the game beyond the scope of bald statistics. We got to see an umpire crew conference in the first on whether Nick Swisher‘s foul tip was caught by Jose Molina, which I think was a first for me. It was time well spent, as they changed Gerry Davis‘ mind and got the correct call that it was a K.

This was not remotely the most interesting thing Molina did that evening. In case you didn’t see the game, sit down and brace yourself. Jose Molina attempted to steal a base. Granted, it was with two outs and (if I recall correctly) an 0-2 count on James Loney. Failure—and Molina did fail—would just erase Loney’s bad count and let him lead off next inning with a clean slate. Sabermetrically, this probably wasn’t a terrible time to try such a seemingly ludicrous thing.

As I was composing this, I went and looked up Jose Molina’s lifetime steal numbers. Holy cow: 17 steals, caught seven times. He’s actually decent at this. My faith in the folly of pudgy catchers trying to steal bases has been shattered. Maybe he should have been going on 0-1 instead.

The crowd at Progressive Field made a valiant early attempt to match the incredible volume of noise and support the Pirates faithful at PNC Park delivered the previous night. With the early scoring going against them, and no tempting target like Cueeeee-tooooo! available, they could not keep it up. By the ninth they were pretty silent, and after a pair of ricochets off corner infielders’ gloves to bring across the fourth Tampa run, there was a sprinkling of boos. A rough way for them to end the season.

One final comment. A shot in the eighth inning showed Cleveland’s Jason Giambi standing at the dugout rail. With his filled-out, graying beard, he looked oddly like Ernest Hemingway. There’s been talk for some time about Giambi’s prospects of getting a managing job in the majors. Whether a GM would want Ernest Hemingway running his team is an open question. As I recall, though, Hemingway had one of his characters muse about his wish to take Joe DiMaggio fishing. Maybe that style of handling players would work well for Giambi.

Or maybe I’m just writing this too late at night. Three hours, 40 minutes for a 4-0 game. Really.

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A writer for The Hardball Times, Shane has been writing about baseball and science fiction since 1997. His stories have been translated into French, Russian and Japanese, and he was nominated for the 2002 Hugo Award.
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Paul G.
Paul G.

Given Hemingway’s tendency to punch baseball players in the face, probably not.  At least not any time after the 1890s.