In the rubber match of the Jays opening homestand Ted Lilly returned from the disabled list to face Matt Clement.
Clement, hotly pursued by the Jays in the offseason, started for the defending World Series champions, giving Jays fans a first-hand look at the talent that eluded this organisation. However, equally as compelling was the chance to see how Lilly, who had barely worked this year, performed after coming off the DL. I attended my third straight game at the SkyDome (yes, the SkyDome), but unfortunately was unable to meet up with the Cheer Clubbers or other Bauxites.
However, the improvements to the Rogers Centre have been discussed relatively thoroughly and though they are impressive I wonít dwell on them any longer. Nevertheless, they are substantial and I have to give a lot of credit to those behind them as theyíve noticeably improved the experience at the Dome. In the end though, what we really care about is the product on the field and this series provided us with three memorable games.
Over at the Hardball Times, Studes has written several interesting articles about win probability this offseason. To read more about the concept, an introductory article is located here and here is an example of a game Studes tracked using WPA.
The basic concept is that each situation in a baseball game is isolated, and each teamís probability of winning the game is calculated before and after the play. The change in the win probability becomes the win probability added, which can be a negative number. Looking at the change in win probability allows the analyst to assign a percentage of winning (or losing) to each player involved in the play. Over an entire game one can examine how much each player contributed to the game in a more quantitative way.
As Mike Green mentioned in his article on his bullpen project, I intend to examine, time-permitting, win probability added over the course of the season for the Jays, where I plan to analyse bullpen performance in more detail. In this game report, Iíll share the WPA scores for yesterdayís game and examine a couple of performances in more detail.
Player WPA Score Orlando Hudson .362 Eric Hinske .262 Edgar Renteria .231 Ted Lilly .198 Jason Varitek .118 Pete Walker .060 Reed Johnson .050 Johnny Damon .049 Alan Embree .044 Scott Schoeneweis .044 Kevin Youkilis .029 Alex Rios .029 Jay Payton .013 Corey Koskie -.013 Vernon Wells -.020 Frank Catalanotto -.040 Russ Adams -.043 Shea Hillenbrand -.049 Bill Mueller -.052 Trot Nixon -.061 David Ortiz -.074 Mark Bellhorn -.078 Manny Ramirez -.106 Kevin Millar -.121 Greg Myers -.123 Matt Clement -.138 Miguel Batista -.256 Mike Timlin -.321
Obviously, the key contributors to the game were Hudson (primarily for his game-winning double), Hinske (the two-out single), Renteria (his game-tying single) and Lilly (for his overall performance). The poor relief performances of Timlin and Batista made them the two goats of the game, but Clement also ended up with a poor score, as did several hitters, mainly on the Red Sox.
In the game thread roster member Craig Burley expressed his opinion that Koskie was out at the plate when he tried to score given that Hinske had put himself into a rundown with a baserunning gaffe. Iíve watched the replay several times and Iím convinced that Koskie gets his hand on the plate before Varitek can tag him. Regardless of if Koskie was safe or out, it was still a heck of a slide on a nice attempt by Koskie to save Hinske from becoming a sitting duck. And Craigís point that you canít fault the umpire for the call because it was so close and he was positioned well is entirely correct. If you havenít seen and you get the chance, watch for O-Dogís reaction to Koskieís slide and then to the umpireís call. Itís great.
One of the flaws with WPA, and although I do think itís a very useful stat is also important to recognise itís limitations, whatever they maybe, is that Koskie gets no credit for this heads-up play and his smart slide. Itíd be tough to come up with any sort of stat that recognises that, but one should at least be aware of tendencies like that in a ballplayer. However, using WPA did allow me to break the play down and penalise Hinske for the third out, as it was his at-bat and overly aggressive base running that led to the play at home.
In terms of Koskieís WPA score, he added .067 to the game with his walk off Clement in the fifth inning with Wells and Hudson on and one out. Koskie lost .050 when he grounded out with Adams and O-Dog on base and two out in the third inning. He also lost points with his fly ball in the first and ground out in the seventh, but the two most important at-bats are described above. In the end, Koskieís performance was slightly negative, but barely noticeable.
Adams, who has been pretty solid so far this year, ended up with -.043 on the game, giving him the third worst offensive performance of any Jay, ahead of only Hillenbrand and Myers. Adams lost exactly that amount of points when he struck out with runners on second and third in the fourth. He was actually involved in several key plays this game, as he gained credit of .057 in the third with a walk, but lost .018 with his fielderís choice in the sixth inning and then .039 when he led off the ninth with a pop fly.
I was also particularly impressed with his decision on the Damon tapper in the ninth. Other similarly inexperienced shortstops might have tried to rush a throw, either to second or first, in an attempt to make the play and secure the win. In the process, there is a good chance they could have thrown the ball away and this would have been an extremely costly error, especially given Renteriaís single. Even though one out would have given the Jays the win Adams held onto the ball and let Batista go after the next batter. Adams will make errors this year, but if he continues to show a high baseball IQ and refines that portion of his game heíll turn into a good captain of the infield.
The bullpen numbers debate looks like it wonít go away anytime soon, and I donít think it should given the fact that I, and many others, donít believe the Jays are utilising their roster for maximum efficiency. Several Bauxites have expressed the sentiment, to which I agree completely, that if one member of the bullpen is eliminated it should not be Walker. His ability to pitch effectively in reasonably long stints is something that is needed in any bullpen, especially one with Towers and Chacin manning the back of the rotation. If a starter gets knocked out in the third Walker is the best pitcher to do three or four innings and avoid Gibbons using basically everyone else in the pen.
Plus, Walker looked extremely effective yesterday. His return to the big leagues following a disastrous 2004 is a nice story, but Walker looks to have the potential to be much more than a Doug Linton-style human interest piece. Walkerís pitches looked quite sharp yesterday and he seemed to be spotting them almost precisely where he wanted them. His injury issues explain his struggles last year in Japan and Walker looks to have fully recovered. If the Jays go down to six men, based on the way things look right now, I donít think Walker should be demoted. In a couple of months it may be a different scenario, but right now I think he fills an important role.
The fourth-most valuable contributor to the victory yesterday, Walker got seven outs in a row before giving up a single to Ramirez and then leaving before he faced Ortiz. Aside from a Bellhorn fly ball to right beside the fence, none of the balls were hit very hard and he struck out Varitek, Youkilis and Renteria. In fact, his score seemed a bit low and he did lose .039 of credit due to the Ramirez single, otherwise he would have been at .100 or so.
If you didnít get your fill of Boston watching the Jays take two of three from the World Series champs, Sportsnet is carrying their home opener at 3pm tomorrow against the Yankees. The Jays travel to Oakland to open a series against the very interesting Oakland Aís, which I am quite looking forward to. Today Kirk Saarloos faces off against Gustavo Chacin.
Thanks to Studes for all of his help with WPA. He has been, and continues to be, an outstanding resource.