There are a lot of ways to watch a baseball game. The best will always be to watch live, of course, but sometimes that’s not an option. Sometimes you don’t even have to time to sit down and watch it later, and you might not even be able to enjoy a condensed game or highlights. That’s where FanGraphs’ win expectancy graph comes in. If you want a quick glance at what happened without video, they’re a great, temporary alternative. And the one from last night’s bonkers Game 2 of the ALDS tells quite the story.
If you are not familiar with the win expectancy graphs, or even win expectancy, FanGraphs themselves and Tom Tango, who pioneered win expectancy charts, have some in-depth explanations of how everything works. The gist of the FanGraphs graphs is this: Every time the inning changes, every time someone advances a base, every time a team records an out, and every time a team scores it graphs the current win expectancy for each team. For simplicity of the graphs, the away team is the bottom of the graphs, or zero percent, and the home team is the top, or 100 percent.
Most of the time they come out pretty straightforward. Take, for instance, the graphs from every playoff game last night besides Indians-Yankees. There were moments where the percentages dipped, but for the most part the win expectancy started in the direction of one team and continued that way until the game was over.
And then this hapened:
The first big drop for the Indians came when Aaron Hicks focused his inner Minnesota Twin origins and ruined everything good in the world with a three-run homer. That was enough to drop the Indians’ win expectancy from 50.8 percent — when Bird singled in prior at-bat — to a mere 23.0 percent. A 27.8 percent shift is massive, and it was actually the fourth largest of the game following the game-winning hit in extra innings that took it from 50 percent to a 100 percent in the Tribe’s favor, Jay Bruce’s game-tying solo shot in the eighth which moved the needle 30.1 percent, and a TOOTBLAN in extra innings.
Francisco Lindor’s beloved grand slam, which brought the Indians within one run in the middle innings, was “only” a 25.1 percent shift in win expectancy — from 7.7 percent when Joe Girardi ignored the pleas of his catcher and let Lonnie Chisenhall walk to first base, to 32.8 percent when Lindor caused an earthquake at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
Another interesting section of the graph, which we’ll call Erik’s Valley of Sadness, is that little teeny dip in the 11th inning. You may remember that as the moment Erik Gonzalez sailed a routine throw from third base all the way into the camera well behind first base. That dropped the win expectancy for the Indians a full 28.4 percent, the largest of the game, because giving the opponent a runner at second with no outs is dangerous business in extras. Luckily Ronaldo Torreyes gave it all right back with his TOOTBLAN and 360 no scope at the hands of Yan Gomes.
Looking at a graph after a game might not be the most exciting way to witness a baseball game, but when you need to sit back and digest what the hell you just watched, it doesn’t get much better than the one create by the Tribe last night.
Last night’s was special.