(Photo Credit: Yardbarker.com)
After the 2nd inning of last night’s game against the Red Sox, with starter Ervin Santana already at 52 pitches, I expected that it would be another long night of watching the bullpen flounder around, trying to get more outs than the amount of runs they’d give up, and probably failing. Over the night five innings, Santana surprised me and probably many others by rebounding and going 7 strong innings, giving up 1 run, while allowing 7 hits, 1 BB, and 7 K and throwing 115 pitches in route to a no-decision. After a game in which Saunders only lasted 4 innings and the team gave up 17 runs, it was a badly needed outing, and Santana delivered.
Going up against Jon Lester, who has not yet performed up with his talent level, it was also necessary if the Angels were to have any chance of winning. And oh, did they have chances. I don’t know if you have ever seen a Win Probability Added graph, but it basically shows the chances a team has of winning the game on a play-by-play basis. It’s actually quite interesting to watch, and I did it a lot during last year’s playoff run. To see how truly interesting it can be, check out the WPA graph from the Tigers-Twins game at the end of last year.
The Angels game last night showed a graph without quite as many swings, but the swings were still quite large, and certainly heartbreaking. See for yourself below:
When Bobby Abreu stepped to the plate in the top of the 8th inning with 1 out, the bases loaded, and the score tied, there was a 67% chance that the Angels take that game. That means that far more often than not, at least one run is scored in that situation, and a team that takes a lead in the 8th inning has a great chance of going on to win the game. With one swing, and a double play that ended the scoring opportunity and the inning, the chances of the Angels winning the game went from 67% to 38.2%. There was still a fair chance, since the game was still tied, but the Red Sox having the advantage of the last at-bat gave them a much better chance of winning. As it turned out, they didn’t even need that last AB.
Kevin Jepsen came in to relieve Santana, who as we’ve already mentioned pitched a great game, and promptly walked the first two batters he saw. JD Drew then singled to left, and it was suddenly bases loaded, no outs, and David Ortiz at the plate. For anyone that happened to pop onto Halo Hangout last night, my frustration with the sudden turn of fortune was probably quite evident. From the Angels having the bases loaded to the Red Sox loading them with no outs, the chances of the Angels winning plummeted from 67% to 13.4%. It was a drop worthy of the best roller coasters. Ortiz, thankfully, grounded into a double play, and suddenly there was a chance they might actually get out of it. Our chances of winning suddenly improved to 38.1%. A walk to Adrian Beltre to load the bases again dropped that to 36%, but still much better than we had. Jeremy Hermida changed all that. A double to left cleared the bases. Change pitchers to Scot Shields, and he promptly gave up a double to Mike Lowell. Shields decided to load the bases himself, I guess because it was the thing to do in the 8th inning last night, before finally, mercifully ending the inning without any further damage done. In one inning, the Angels went from a 67% chance of winning the game, to a 1.9% chance of winning. I don’t know about you, but those are not odds I like.
Of course, we know how the game ended. As T.S. Eliot would say, it was not with a bang but a whimper. A 1-2-3 inning for Papelbon, including K’s by Hunter and Matsui, and once again the Angels had their collective asses handed to them by the Red Sox. The WPA graph is just a nice way of graphically showing how close we were, and yet how far away we ended up.
After sweeping the Red Sox back in October, the Angels have to go against former ace John Lackey tonight to avoid being swept themselves. Maybe we should all say a prayer before the first pitch.