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.

Comments (13)

  1. What a weird thing. The SABR-haters are going to field day with this one.

    • I doubt the sabr haters are even close to finding out about WPA. They are still trying to crack WAR.

    • WPA is such a different beast to the rest of the advanced stats that i don’t think it really matters. It’s not predictive. It doesn’t show who played better. It really doesn’t say anything, other than quantify a narrative.

      This being absurd doesn’t take away from any of the value of other advanced stats. It just shows how silly of a stat WPA actually is. It has a use when examining individual situations and player usage in those situations (i.e. not using a top reliever in a low leverage situation one night and not having him available for a high leverage situation the next night) but, to look at a player’s individual WPA over a game or season is just a fun and silly excercise with no real ‘baseball’ value.

  2. Jose went 4-4. He had a walk worked in there somewhere.

  3. “Jose went 4-5 with two home runs and the game-winning RBi in extra innings.”

    He went 4-4 with a walk.

  4. I predict Trout will have have a higher WAR than his team has wins. Just like last year when the Angels lead the league in combined WAR from their players yet didn’t make the playoffs. What a flawed stat.

    • The Angels had more wins than the Tigers but didn’t make the playoffs. WHAT A FLAWED EVERYTHING

    • More flawed than ….? Which stat better summarizes each team member’s contributions to its win total?

      Of course it’s going to be inaccurate — it’s not a simple count stat like hits or strikeouts.

      Anytime you compile information and then summarize it, you are going to be off by some margin. Summary stats are based on “other things being equal” — which “other things” rarely are.

  5. “Victim of the Machinery of the Game” is one heckuva epitaph.

  6. Jack Morris can pitch along, giving up runs like nobody’s business, while his offence carries the day, and his mistakes just don’t matter that much.

    Or Hernandez can pitch brilliantly and give up a single run in the 9th while his offensively-challenged team puts up zeros, and people wonder why he doesn’t tough it out and get the win.

    Basically the same idea. What you do only matters when it matters. It’s actually pretty nice to have a team that helps it not matter that much.

  7. How does someone hit a home run off that pitch? Unreal.

  8. Hey! In real baseball a pitcher can throw a shutout and contribute all the offense.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *