Do Munenori Kawasaki's errors tend to come "at the worst moment"?

Casey Janssen not very happy with Munenori Kawasaki's throwing error. - USA TODAY Sports

While watching Blue Jays in 30 (a condensed version of the game that generally shows only the payoff pitches) version of the July 11th Blue Jays-Indians game, Tom Dakers tweeted:

I had tweeted something similar during the game, so let's see if Tom and I were right? Has every single Munenori Kawasaki error in 2013 come in high-leverage situations, leading to large negative win probability added values? Below, I've tabulated the situations in which Kawasaki made each of his six fielding errors (they were all of the throwing variety):

Date


Pitcher


Inn.


Outs


Runners


Score


LI


WPA


2013-04-22

Aaron Loup

9

2

12_

Tied 1-1

4.40

-.047

2013-04-30

Aaron Loup

7

1

1__

Leading 6-4

1.81

-.090

2013-05-15

Mickey Storey

8

0

1__

Leading 11-1

0.02

-.001

2013-05-24

Ramon Ortiz

4

0

___

Trailing 9-3

0.16

-.006

2013-06-19

Mark Buehrle

5

2

_2_

Leading 4-2

1.33

-.023

2013-07-10

Casey Janssen

9

2

1_3

Leading 5-3

3.45

-.144

Looking down the "LI" (Leverage Index) column, we see that three of his six errors were made in high-leverage situations (defined as LI >= 1.50), and one of them (the one on 2013-06-19) was made in a higher-than-normal leverage situation. Let's take a look at the three high-leverage errors one-by-one.

2013-04-22

Bud Selig, in his infinite wisdom, has decreed that this video cannot be embedded, so click here to see it on MLB.com.

Here, Kawasaki cleanly fields Alexi Castilla's grounder to short. He could've tried a short toss to force the runner out at second base. It would've been close but I think the runner would've been out. The throw wasn't terrible but first baseman Encarnacion was not able to catch it off the shorthop. Encarnacion's glove actually made contact with the ball but instead of securing it, the ball was swatted away.

This was the costliest error because, although no runners scored on the play itself, the next batter hit a walkoff single to win the game.

2013-04-30

There isn't even a highlight video of Kawasaki's error.

Kawasaki didn't start the game and was brought on as a defensive replacement in the top of the seventh to replace Maicer Izturis (who moved to second to replace Emilio Bonifacio). Jacoby Ellsbury was on first, and Daniel Nava swings on the first pitch from Aaron Loup and grounded to short. Kawasaki fielded it cleanly, and tossed it right by Izturis who was covering second. Kawasaki had plenty of time to throw because Ellsbury was no where near the base.

That would've been an inning-ending double play, but a walk later, David Ortiz hit a bases-clearing double to turn a 6-4 Red Sox deficit into a 7-6 lead. Edwin Encarnacion would later hit a solo shot for the go-ahead run, and the Blue Jays hung on to win the game.

2013-07-10

Again, no highlight clip of Kawasaki's error was available on MLB.com.

This was actually the only error on this list that directly led to a run, and the one that was the ugliest. Kawasaki ranged quite far to his left to field the Nick Swisher grounder cleanly, and still had plenty of time to throw out the slow runner (Swisher wasn't even at the 45-foot mark when Kawasaki had the ball in his glove).. But again, Kawasaki rushed his throw to Encarnacion and didn't set his feet, causing the toss to sail right over Encarnacion.

His error brought a run in to score, and caused Casey Janssen to be lifted from the game in favour of Steve Delabar. Lucky for the Blue Jays, Delabar was able to preserve the one-run lead with a one-pitch save.

Conclusion

So, has every single error by Kawasaki been made in important situations? No, but I'm sure that Tom was being hyperbolic when he tweeted that. But so far his errors have tended to be made in high-leverage game situations, much more than expected if we assume that error rates don't change with leverage. FanGraphs' Glossary state that only 10% of game situations have an LI >2, yet Kawasaki has made 33% of his errors in those situations (I did not look at his individual leverage distribution).

This was just meant to be a quick post in response to Tom's tweet, and is not meant to be a complete study. In the future it would be nice to look at all fielders and how error rates are correlated with leverage index. It would be unfair to say that Munenori Kawasaki tends to flub up in important situations--remember that we have only explored the times where he has failed and haven't looked at all the plays he has successfully made in high-leverage situations. What we can conclude is that when Kawasaki does make an error in high-leverage situations, it tends to be because he rushes the throw.

All data from Baseball-Reference and/or FanGraphs.

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