Some notes from yesterday's game:
Win Probability Added (WPA) graphs have gained a lot of momentum in the online baseball community as of late. The concept has been around for a while, as many readers are probably well aware, though its popularity has really begun to burgeon within the past few months. The great site fangraphs.com posts daily WPA graphs of every major league game. Here's the one from yesterday's game, courtesy of the aforementioned fangraphs.com:
Individual Blue Jay totals:
J Speier 2.5 %
S Schoeneweis 1.6 %
G Chacin 0.2 %
L Overbay 20.3 %
V Wells 17.9 %
S Hillenbrand10.1 %
B Molina 9.4 %
T Glaus 6.8 %
F Catalanotto 6.7 %
R Adams 1.9 %
A Rios -0.3 %
A Hill -6.6 %
E Hinske -9.3 %
R Johnson -11.0 %
Of course, one caveat must be kept in mind when assessing WPA graphs: since the percentages are heavily dependent on the context within which a play occurs, they don't necessarily reflect each player's true performance. However, it's still interesting to see which players came through the most during high-leverage situations.
Gustavo Chacin was once again the fortunate beneficiary of a win. He left the game tied at 3-3, but was awarded the victory due to the run support generated during the bottom of the 7th inning.
"How am I 4-0?"
AP PHOTO/CP, Aaron Harris
Shea Hillenbrand, who had all of one at-bat, had the third highest individual contribution due to his timely two-run single in the 7th inning.
After that inning, the game was basically over, considering the Blue Jays' Win Probability was close to 90%.
Anyway, on to some more thoughts regarding last night's game...
- John Gibbons made several of in-game decisions last night, most of which worked in his favour. He replaced Lyle Overbay with Shea Hillenbrand after John Halama relieved the struggling Jim Brower. Overbay was in the midst of having a great game, but Hillenbrand has historically performed better against right-handed pitchers, so it was a justifiable decision. One decision that may have induced a furrowed brow or two, on the other hand, was using Scott Schoeneweis to finish the game in the ninth inning. He has one of the most extreme platoon splits among all major league pitchers. From 2003-2005, right-handed batters posted an .829 OPS against him, while the left-handed batters he faced in that same timespan only managed to post a paltry .549 OPS. Despite that, Gibbons summoned him in to face the Orioles' two best right-handed hitters, Miguel Tejada and Melvin Mora, with the potent right-handed bats of Ramon Hernandez and Javy Lopez waiting in the wings. Fortunately, the Blue Jays had a four-run cushion with which to work, and Schoeneweis managed to leave the inning unscathed, but he should really be relegated to primarily pitching against left-handed batters.
"Should I lead or should you?"
AP PHOTO/CP, Aaron Harris
- It's been said before, but it's worth reiterating: Bengie Molina is very, very slow. To watch him run (I'm not quite sure if that's the appropriate word to describe it) in person is truly a sight to behold. If he continues to hit, however, his baserunning deficiencies will be easier to tolerate.
- The loudest pops of the night went to Vernon Wells and Alexis Rios. Wells has been popular for years, so that wasn't much of a surprise. However, it was amazing to see how much support Rios has earned from the fans with his strong performance in '06. I'm still not absolutely convinced that his improvement is permanent -- over 900 at-bats in the majors should never be easily discounted in favour of a month's worth of inspired play, lest we forget -- but if that's the case, he should easily be one of the two or three most popular players on the team.
- Speaking of the fans, the atmosphere was very different than it was during any other game I attended in the past. The noise level in the upper deck was high throughout the game, with chants and waves taking place virtually every inning. After the game, people, both sober and intoxicated, were making a bunch of noise about the victory. In fact, two hours after the game ended, I ran into people who were still publicly celebrating the win. Even though many of them probably just needed an excuse to make noise, and although I'm much more reserved with regards to sports (probably not always a good thing), I think it's great to see a type of widespread support that seemed to be lacking throughout the past ten years. It's probably foolish to derive any conclusions from one night (especially one during which tickets cost only $2), but it was good to see nonetheless.