Bobby Valentine does air quotes with single fingers.
What does this mean?!? Is he saying that what he is quoting is a quote within a quote — and that his entire production of speech, everything he says, already has quote marks around it? Does he start the day with an open quotation mark, then end the day with a closed quotation mark, and in between he has to use single quotes for distinction? Probably, right.
Now to this Sunday Night’s box score:
Joey Votto, 1 for 2, two walks.
Votto’s performance added up to a Win Probability Added of about 12 percent. That was, on Sunday, the best WPA performance for the losing team.
I was thinking about this because Jered Weaver on Saturday had a Win Probability Added of .674 — nine shutout innings, in a 0-0 game — but his team still lost. That’s this year’s highest WPA for a player whose team lost. Now, the sum of a winning team’s WPA is going to be 0.50 in every game, so Weaver single-handedly pushed them past the point of a win, and the rest of the Angels combined for a -1.174 WPA. And a loss.
That got me playing around on Baseball Reference’s Play Index looking at the most extreme WPA games ever. And the highest WPA ever for any position player was by Art Shamsky, a Cincinnati Red, who in 1966 produced a WPA of 1.503 (!!!), which is as far ahead of No. 2 (1.284) as No. 2 is ahead of No. 28. And that’s not the amazing thing.
Shamsky’s team lost. And that’s still not the amazing thing.
Shamsky didn’t even start the game. He came in in the eighth inning as part of a double switch. He got three at bats:
• Trip No. 1: His team trailing 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth, Shamsky comes up for the first time. There’s a runner on base and his Reds are 31 percent likely to win the game. He homers to center field, and now the Reds are 85 percent likely to win.
• Trip No. 2: His team is now trailing 9-8 in the bottom of the 10th, with an 11 percent chance of winning. With one out, he homers again, tying the game and giving the Reds a 58 percent chance of winning. The Reds load the bases with one out but can’t score, and the game moves forward.
• Trip No. 3: His team now trailing 11-9 in the 11th — geez, bullpen — Shamsky bats with two outs, a runner on and a 5 percent chance of winning. He homers! Reds now 51 percent to win.
He never gets to hit again. In the 13th, the Reds allow three runs. Their leadoff man gets on and the inning looks like it could be set up to bring Shamsky up with two outs as the tying run once more, but a double play ends the game with him in the hole. Boo.
One final amazing thing about all this: Shamsky sort of sucked at baseball!
- WPA that day: +1.503
- WPA the rest of that season: -.659
- WPA the rest of his career: -.535
A few weeks ago, I noted the small-sample surprise of Freddie Freeman’s platoon splits:
On Sunday, he homered against Cole Hamels, giving him one of those intriguing small-sample splits you get this early in the season:
- Vs. RHP: .218/.330/.321, one home runs
- Vs. LHP: .281/.406/.553, three home runs
That was completely contrary to his minor league numbers. But just as quickly as a small-sample illusion emerges, a small-sample illusion dissolves. Since then, Freeman is hitting .188/.176/.250 against lefties (even smaller sample) and his season line against LHP is now .250/.327/.458. That line makes a lot more sense. His weak performance against righties is the only curiosity now.
Craig Kimbrel, BB.
Craig Kimbrel has made 28 appearances this year. Of the 28 first batters he has faced, he has walked seven, or 25 percent. Of the other 83 batters he has faced, he has walked six, or about 7 percent. You might think this has to do with his warm-up, or his comfort with a new mound, and you might even consider it a serious issue that disproportionately harms a reliever and that Kimbrel will have to overcome if he wants to stay an elite reliever well into his career. Or you might consider it a fluky little oddity that happens over the course of 28 batters, or even over 50 batters, since Kimbrel had almost an identical rate in his short time in the majors last year.
Bobby Valentine thinks it’s evidence that Kimbrel is a sociopath.
“Some people say he walks the leadoff hitter sometimes just to make it a little more challenging. In their dugout yesterday before the game — believe me, they said that!”
Yikes! That’s something I definitely don’t believe.
A week ago, Mets owner Fred Wilpon brutally murdered slapped with a trout sent to bed without supper criticized in the New Yorker three of his best players. (Of course, given the Mets’ trainers, hurt feelings can mean a trip to the 60-day DL. Very, very good joke.)
“We’re snakebitten, baby,” Wilpon said, like a boss.
Which reminded me of another owner who called his team snakebitten: Ted Turner, back in 1977.
Turner, famously, got so frustrated by his team that, at one point, he actually took over as manager for a day. A few of his quotes about his Braves that season:
“I’m sitting here and I’ve got a cocked pistol in my hand. Who can I give the Braves to in my last will and testament?”
“First recollection I had of Atlanta when I was a kid was a movie called ‘Gone With The Wind.’ You know what happened in that, don’t you?” Atlanta was burned to the ground. “Yea. It’s happening again.”
“Hopeless is an understatement.”
“The only consolation is it looks like it’s going to be so bad it’ll be a laugher. Maybe that’s better than coming close and losing and having a tragedy.”
Just like Wilpon, right? Not really. Turner summed it up like this:
“(Manager Dave Bristol’s) a pretty solid guy. He’s a college graduate, he doesn’t have a drinking problem, the players respect him, but he’s no Houdini. There’s no depression among the players. Everybody loves everybody. There’s not one hateful, spiteful character on the team. The blame’s on my shoulders.“
Turner could actually claim to be snakebitten, too. The one game he managed — what was the 17th straight loss for the Braves — came down to the ninth inning. Runner reached, Turner sent out a pinch-runner (named Rockett!), and a pinch-hitter, and with two outs Darrel Chaney hit a double that should have scored the tying run. It hopped over the wall for a ground-rule double, and Turner ended his career 0-1 as a manager.