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Second Thoughts Game #7: Padres 6, Indians 8

Second Thoughts Game #7: Padres 6, Indians 8
David Murphy's three-run blast in the fourth inning iced the game for the Indians. (Photo: AP)
April 9, 2014
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Let’s break down the Cleveland Indians’ victory over the San Diego Padres last night. We will walk through the game, examining some of the key moments of the game. First, a quick summary from last night:

  • Corey Kluber’s fastball control isn’t fully locked-in yet, but he was way too much for the Padres and should continue to be a sneaky-great #2 pitcher the rest of the year. His cutter was particularly nasty, making many righties lock-up and lefties swing right over the top.
  • David Murphy may very well be this year’s Ryan Raburn, only with about 200 more at-bats….and all the counting stats that come along with that.
  • Cody Allen is dominant, but we should probably just enjoy him while we can because once-dominant relievers, like Vinnie Pestano, can fall apart quickly and unexpectedly. We have him under team control for a while longer: no need to go all crazy and sign him to an extension, too.
  • Let’s hope warmer weather brings better defense because it was hard to watch the Indians out in the field. Also, Asdrubal Cabrera may have a bad reputation from a sabermetric standpoint, but he makes special plays consistently look easy. Last night, he picked a short-hop pick-off throw from Yan Gomes and whipped the ball to third to get the runner. It went down as a 2-6-5 pick-off and the stat goes to Yan Gomes increasingly attractive defensive reputation, but the credit is all Cabrera’s. Great play.
  • This game, despite three Padre runs in the ninth, was never really in question after the fourth inning. Really.

This last point may seem odd to anyone who watched the game last night: the ninth inning was high-stress, wasn’t it? After Pestano gave up three runs and put a runner on first, the Padres brought the tying run to the plate and I feared the worst. Fortunately, John Axford came in and slammed the door to preserve the 8-6 win. I felt like the Indians had a legitimate shot at losing a game they controlled throughout.

A great new site called, illustrates the box score and provides  win percentages throughout the game.  Some of you may be familiar with win percentages, but for those who aren’t, here is the brief summary:

  • Expected win percentages take the current situation of the game and calculate each respective team’s chances of ending the game with more runs. The calculations are based on all teams performances in similar situations, so it isn’t team specific.
  • This method has its flaws: it doesn’t account for who is on the mound or up to bat. For example, if the Padres would have had Miguel Cabrera up to bat and the Indians had me pitching: it would be the same win percentage as if it was me up to bat and Craig Kimbrel pitching.

Here is what a visual box score looks like to start the game:

Image credit:

Note the ribbons on the right side, with Cleveland on the far right and San Diego on the left.  We can see that prior toEverth Cabrera’s double the Indians had a slightly higher than 50% chance of winning the game: this is due to the fact that slight more than 50% of home teams win games overall. However, once Cabrera knocked a double, things swung against the Indians and they had a slightly less than 50% chance of winning due to the fact that a runner on second with zero outs is likely to produce a run, which would mean the Padres are a little more than 50% likely to eventually win the game.

Individual plays typically have small impacts (1-3% in either direction) on the overall game, but some have huge impacts and can change the win expectancy percentages by large amounts. To provide a good example, let’s look at the fourth inning where the Indians put two men on base, via an error and single, and then broke the game open on a David Murphy three-run homer:

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As we can see, the Indians already had close to 75% chance of winning the game entering the bottom-half of the 4thdue to the fact that they held a 3-2 lead. When Michael Brantley flied out, those chances dropped a few percentage points, and then grew to about 80% when Asdrubal Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall both reached.

What this means is that 80% of teams, who hold a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth with runners on first and second and one out and who are playing at home, eventually win the game.

After a Yan Gomes groundout moved the runner’s over (see the diamonds shift to the right on Gomes row in the boxscore), David Murphy came to bat. He moved the Indians win percentage from 75% to about 95%. At this point, the game was essentially over if you look at how past games eventually concluded. Following another Jedd Gyorko RBI in the top fo sixth, the Indians struck for two more runs in the bottom half and held an 8-3 lead. They would maintain this margin until the top of the ninth.

Going into the inning, the Indians win percentage was 99%, as you would expect, with a five-run lead. However, following Pestano’s meltdown, aided by a Nick Swisher error, the Indians’ winning percentage was all the way down to….96%?

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This was very surprising, given the sweaty palms experienced during the game. How could the game be such a forgone conclusion if the Padres had the tying-run at the plate? Basically, those three runs may make the game feel close, but the ability for the Padres to plate the needed two-runs to tie the game was very low, given that there were already two outs. Even if they did tie it up, the Indians had a chance to respond and score a run of their own. This ability for the Indians to counter-punch in the ninth further diminishes the chances that the Padres hypothetical comeback would lead to an eventual win. The Indians had it in hand the whole time!

It has been interesting to watch games this year and then go see how my perception has meshed with the expected win percentages. Most of the time, I have been over-stating the importance of late-game activities and under-stating those in the early going. Granted, if a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth flips a one-run deficit into a victory, that will drive the largest possible change: near 90% loss to an eventual win, but those are few and far between.

Actually, the play that had the largest impact on either teams’ win percentages was Jedd Gyorko’s two-run double in the top of the fourth:

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As you can see, this brought the game from an 85% Indians victory to about 60%. Not only did this hit make it a one-run lead, but Gyorko was on second base with one-out and represented the tying run. That hit was hugely impactful on the expected outcome of the game. Once Kluber settled down and got the final two outs, the win percentage crept back up to 75% again and set the stage for David Murphy’s blast.

These win percentages are a great way to ground ourselves in what really impacts the outcome of an individual game. Often times, we get caught up in the “big” plays late in games, but it’s usually not the determining factor in a contest; often times, as with last night, the outcome of the game was largely determined much, much earlier.

User Comments

April 9, 2014 - 1:47 PM EDT
Thank you for using and discussing our graphics! We hope that our website can spark discussions such as this one, and our win expectancy plot is just one of the ways we hope to do this.

We are currently in open beta, and would appreciate any feedback from both the authors and readers of this site.

Thanks again, and we hope to see you on Statlas!
April 9, 2014 - 10:46 AM EDT
Vinny sent down......Bauer and CC Lee recalled.
matt underwood
April 9, 2014 - 10:32 AM EDT
i know it is early but asdrobab... oof. can we send him to souvenir city? bring up lindor already?

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