Angels Fly to the LCS

As has been the custom here at THT for the 2005 playoffs, let’s use Win Probabilities to analyze last night’s 5-3 Angels victory over the Yankees that secured their spot in the AL League Championship Series against the White Sox.

Although Win Probability (WP) doesn’t include a way to measure it, when Bartolo Colon left the game after just 23 pitches with right shoulder inflammation and a 3-1 count on Robinson Cano in the top of the second inning, I would bet that the internal WP counters of many an Angels fan took a nose dive.

And that feeling was likely reinforced when a few moments later the Yankees had cashed in on three walks, a single, and a sacrifice fly to plate two runs and raise their Win Probability to 67.5%. On the next play when Bubba Crosby stole second, their odds of winning reached 68.4%, which as it turned out, was their high point of the night. After that, rookie Ervin Santana settled down and would pitch into the 7th, giving up three runs before giving way to Kelvim Escobar and Francisco Rodriguez, who nailed it down.

As the game was winding down, Tim McCarver announced that the “Dell Defining Moment” of the game was Adam Kennedy’s triple to right-center with two outs in the bottom of the second that gave the Angels a 3-2 lead, a lead they would not relinquish. From a WP perspective, that was indeed the biggest play of the game, as it raised the Angels chances of winning 20.6% from 43.6% to 64.4%. The next biggest play of the game was Bubba Crosby’s single in the first that drove home the first run of the game and netted a 12.3% advantage for the Yankees. And although the Yankees didn’t have great odds of winning in the 9th inning, the around-the-horn double play that Alex Rodriguez grounded into killed their chances, dropping them 11.2% to just 3.5%.

As an aside, isn’t it silly when announcers say silly things like McCarver did last night as Rodriguez stepped to the plate in the ninth? His comment was (paraphrasing) that just as Randy Johnson was signed to win the big games, A-Rod had been signed by the Yankees for moments like this. If that’s the case, the Yankees are wasting a lot of money. A-Rod is a great player, deserving of the MVP award in my book, not because he might get a hit in a big spot, but rather for his sustained performance over the course of a season that increases his team’s chances of winning over the long haul. Ok, enough of that.

There were also two critical baserunning errors in the game by Robinson Cano. His caught stealing in the second inning with one out lowered the Yankees chances of winning 6%. Had he been safe, he would have increased the probability by 2.6%, and so his caught stealing represented an 8.6% swing. And in actuality, it was even more costly since he would have scored on Crosby’s single later in the inning had he been safe. Cano also was called out for interference (running too far inside the baseline) in the top of the 5th to end the inning. That play registered a 4.2% drop for the Yankees, and had he been safe, it would have loaded the bases for Bernie Williams and increased the probability of a Yankee victory by 3.5%.

As far as the player of the game goes, the broadcast team awarded it to Ervin Santana with good reason. A rookie entering the game in that situation and pitching as well as he did is certainly deserving. From a WP perspective, however, the big blow was Adam Kennedy’s triple, and despite grounding out twice and striking out after that, he earned a WPA of .173 to lead the Angels. Santana was charged with three earned runs in 5.3 innings, and so he was dinged with more than a few negative win probabilities along the way. The Yankees, on the other hand, were led by Derek Jeter, whose 7th inning homerun increased the Yankees chances from 10.8% to 18.6%. His two singles and sacrifice fly, combined with his homerun, gave him a WPA of .182 to make him the top performer of the game.

On the flip side, it’s not surprising that Mike Mussina was the goat, as he quickly accumulated a -.375 WPA. Hideki Matsui vied hard for the honor, however, with a WPA of -.233 on the strength of a strikeout with two runners on in the first, a fly out with a runner on in the third, a popup in the infield with two runners on in fifth, a popup to the catcher with a runner on in the 7th, and finally a ground out with two runners on in the ninth. Ouch.

Overall the game progressed as shown in the graph below.


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