WPS recap: AL Wild Card tiebreaker

It’s playoff season again, and like last year, I’m doing reviews of all the postseason fun here at THT Live. Also like last year, I’m using my Win Percentage Sum (WPS) system, built to measure game excitement, as a foundation for my own comments. For a short refresher on how WPS works, check the start of my homepage article today. For a long refresher, check the two articles I wrote last year explaining how it works, here and here (but mainly the first one).

Unlike for my other article today, Win Percentage Added data used to calculate WPS comes from FanGraphs, not Baseball-Reference. B-R is great when researching things that go back a ways, but for events happening right now, as I write, FanGraphs is tops. The final index is calculated to tenths of a point, but inning-by-inning numbers are given as rounded whole numbers for easier scanning.

I had expected to begin this work tomorrow for publication on Wednesday. Tampa Bay and Texas had other ideas. Technically this is a regular-season game, but I’m kicking off my playoff coverage with it, because a win-or-go-home game deserves no less.

Game       1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9    F
Rays       1   0   2   0   0   1   0   0   1    5
Rangers    0   0   1   0   0   1   0   0   X    2 

WPS        1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9
Rays      19   5  28   5   5  22  11   5   6
Rangers   10  18  20   7  15  29   9  25   X
WPS Base: 242.1  Best Plays: 36.8  Last Play: 0.6  Grand Total: 279.5

A somewhat below-average game in excitement overall. The Rays got a multi-run lead fairly early and never let their edge get below two. The Rangers came back promptly twice after scoring innings for Tampa Bay, which helped recover some excitement, but they never quite got back into it.

Pre-game analysis noted that Rays starter David Price had a poor career record against Texas. The more sophisticated analysis concluded that this was a small sample size and not indicative of what would transpire in the game. Post-game analysis concludes that that was some good sophisticated pre-game analysis.

Other pre-game analysis noted that Rangers starter Martin Perez, still being a rookie, might be rattled by the pressure and could be on a short leash. The first inning argued for the former proposition. Perez yielded three singles and a walk to the first four batters, and only Desmond Jennings‘ balky hamstring getting him thrown out stretching for two prevented the Rays from taking the lead on those four baserunners. But Perez bore down, limiting the damage to one.

The leash wasn’t as short as anticipated. Even after Evan Longoria‘s two-run homer, Perez stayed in, and he justified the move by setting down eight straight Rays. Ron Washington then lifted him to get Alexi Ogando against Longoria—who promptly started a two-double rally that notched a fresh run.

Baserunning escapades dotted the game. On top of Jennings’ leadoff not-quite-double, there were two pickoffs by Price. The first one against Elvis Andrus in the first was classic. As first baseman James Loney received the throw, he turned to move his right foot across the bag, blocking Andrus off completely. It wasn’t long ago that I finally got to read Weaver on Strategy, and the Earl of Baltimore wrote about that being the very way you had to play a pickoff attempt. His wisdom lives on.

Beyond that, there was also Sam Fuld‘s steal of third base in the top of the ninth, trying to exploit Tanner Scheppers‘ wide-set stance. Scheppers’ throw to third flew into left field, and Fuld tallied some insurance that the Rays didn’t really need.

The umpires were a bigger part of the story than one might like, though thankfully not as big as they could have been. Home plate arbiter Jeff Kellogg was calling a wide strike zone on the third-base side. By the fourth inning, Texas fans were giving him derisory calls on his balls and strikes, with a notably sarcastic cheer when he called one strike right down the pipe.

More worrisome was Leonys Martin‘s play on a Craig Gentry fly in the seventh. Replay clearly showed he trapped the ball, but left-field umpire Bruce Dreckman called it a catch for the third out, taking away at least one run from Tampa Bay. Had there been a Texas comeback, this would have been a huge controversy. Instead, we’ll just cross our fingers a little harder that we get through October without one of these turning a crucial game before expanded replay comes next year.

Nelson Cruz, his Biogenesis suspension having elapsed with the end of Game 162, was Texas’ designated hitter for Game 163, and he received a huge ovation from the home fans his first time up. PED grouches got the last laugh as Cruz went 0-for-4, hitting into the final out of the game and the Rangers’ season.

Thus, the regular season ends with a game that felt like the beginning of the playoffs. Or maybe it’s the other way around. I’ll be glad for tomorrow’s Reds-Pirates game, which has absolutely no identity confusion.

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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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Better pre-game analysis concluded that the Texas batters who gave Price the most trouble no longer played for Texas.


The bloop was hit by Delmon Young, not Craig Gentry.

Shane Tourtellotte
Shane Tourtellotte
Jim:  Post-comment analysis notes that you divined the specifics of the sophisticated pre-game analysis at a sophisticated level of your own. I will now stop this affected style, hopefully for good. Jason:  Darn it, I thought I had kept things straight, but picking a batter for the wrong team is just embarrassing.  My sole defense is that my computer monitor and TV screen are one and the same, and I was caught between tasks when Young hit the fly ball that Martin trapped.  I had to see it initially on the TBS replay—the one where the scoreboard obscured the ball… Read more »

Shane, it happens. I’m much less concerned about your error than the fact that 6 umps failed to see an extremely blatant trap. I had a flashback to the Joe Nathan “strike” to end the game vs Zobrist. Just assumed the Rays would lose twice in the same season to the Rangers on arguably the worst calls of the season (IMO, as a Rays fan.)