Earlier today, we covered Jose Bautista‘s record-setting game for the Blue Jays. Jose went 4-4 with two home runs and the game-winning RBI in extra innings (and a walk for good measure). His Win Probability Added for the game is the highest in Blue Jays history, exceeding 100% in a most delightfully counter-intuitive way possible.

In the comment section of that post, reader “TOK” pointed out something truly bizarre: when Mike Trout hit for the cycle earlier this week, his WPA for the game was actually negative. WHAT? Hold on a tick…

WPA isn’t perfect and, more than anything, it isn’t predictive. It tries to tell a very simple story: it weighs the events of the game and how much each given baseball event impacted the final outcome.

Mike Trout had a great game, he hit for the cycle for Pete’s sake! His team also won in the a blowout, pounding the Mariners 12-0 The Angels scored three runs in the first inning and four in the fourth, all put putting the game to bed early. Trout isn’t most of his damage later in the contest, when the outcome no longer appeared in doubt.


Source: FanGraphs

When the game was within seven runs, Mike Trout came to the plate twice. He struck out in the first inning (when the game was tied) and beat out an infield single in the third. By the time he came to the plate in the fourth inning, it was already 5-0. His triple made it 6-0 and the rout was on.

WPA infomation is spotty or not available prior to 1945 so with the information we have, it looks like Trout is the only player in baseball history to manage to hit for the cycle without actually “contributing” to his team’s chances.

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt PA 1B 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB WPA ▴ RE24 aLI
1 Mike Trout 2013-05-21 LAA SEA W 12-0 5 1 1 1 1 5 0 1 1 -0.012 3.742 .348
71 Rich Gedman 1985-09-18 BOS TOR W 13-1 5 1 1 1 1 7 0 0 0 0.047 4.932 .488
72 John Mayberry 1977-08-05 KCR CHW W 12-2 5 1 1 1 1 2 0 0 0 0.068 2.731 .218
73 Candy Maldonado 1987-05-04 SFG STL W 10-7 6 1 1 1 1 2 0 0 0 0.071 1.820 .913
74 Gil Hodges 1949-06-25 BRO PIT W 17-10 6 1 1 1 2 4 0 1 0 0.079 3.725 .608
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/23/2013.

This is, of course, weird. While it might give a skeptic reason to question the validity of WPA it should also remind us that a five-run lead in baseball might as well be 20. That Trout struck out when the game was level then doubled home three runs in a seven-run game doesn’t sit right in our brains but the cold mathematics of the situation are what they are.

Baseball Reference lets us focus on just Trout’s at bats, using their share tool. The “problem” Mike Trout faced on Tuesday is the same problem with any “clutch” stats: he cannot create these situations for himself. He is a victim of the machinery of the game working around him.

Inn Score Out RoB R/O Pitcher wWPA wWE Play Description
b1 0-0 0 -2- O A. Harang -4% 57% Strikeout Looking
b3 3-0 1 A. Harang 1% 85% Single to 1B (Ground Ball to Weak 2B-1B)
b4 6-0 2 -2- R A. Harang 1% 99% Triple to CF (Line Drive to Deep CF-RF); Aybar Scores
b6 7-0 0 123 RRR L. Luetge 0% 100% Double to LF (Line Drive to Deep LF Line); Iannetta, Shuck, Harris Score
b8 11-0 1 R L. Luetge 0% 100% Home Run (Fly Ball to Deep CF-RF)
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/23/2013.

Sure, the Mariners could have staged a dramatic comeback and won this game. Teams come back from seemingly insurmountable deficits all the time. Well, sometimes. More often than not, a team that gets up big early hangs on to win the game. Like the Angels here.

If anything, both this game and the Jose Bautista game show just how much of a “team” game baseball is. One guy cannot win it alone. Even if a pitcher tosses a shutout, his offense needs to push across a run to get a win for the team.

As stated earlier today, any model built on “theory” like WPA tends to break down in the extreme cases. To say Mike Trout cost his team in this game isn’t true, but it certainly appears they would have been fine without him on this day. Mostly, it’s just weird. And fun! But weird.