Monday, May 10, 2010

Dallas Braden

Hats off to Dallas Braden, who pitched a perfect game yesterday. Braden, you may remember, is the Oakland A's starter who got all huffy because Alex Rodriguez walked across the pitcher's mound while returning to first base after a foul ball earlier this season. Frankly, I thought his reaction was immature and childish, so 27 up and 27 down is certainly a better way to be remembered.

Angst and I had a debate about this via text message yesterday, but for the record I will say that I've been watching baseball for 30 years and never heard a word about runners having to avoid the pitcher's mound at all times. Baseball, it sometimes seems, has more unwritten rules than written ones. But this one struck me as a stretch right from the beginning, the kind of thing a prickly kid with limited major league success should probably just shut his yap about.

Braden did not, yelling at A-Rod after he walked by and adding plenty of pointed comments in post-game interviews. I know it's good sport to mock Alex Rodriguez and to blame him for just about everything except the Chicago fire. Something tells me that if it had been Derek Jeter running across the mound instead, the press would be hailing the wily veteran for trying to get the immature hot-head off his game and for doing whatever it takes to win. Perception breeds reality, I guess.

Anyway, what struck me today as I looked at the boxscore for Braden's perfecto is that his WPA for the game was only 0.36. I will say that I am only passingly familiar with advanced baseball metrics, so it is entirely possible that I do not understand how Win Probability Added works. Wikipedia defined the stat as an attempt to measure a player's contribution to a win by figuring the factor by which each specific play made by that player has altered the outcome of a game.

WPA appears to work in whole numbers, so it would seem that a 0.36 WPA means that Braden contributed to 36 percent of Oakland's win yesterday. This seems rather low, considering that Braden retired all 27 batters that faced him.

I assume that WPA takes into account that Braden only struck out six batters, which means the other 21 outs were recorded by fielders on ground balls or fly outs. It must also take into account that Braden, as an American League pitcher, did not bat and therefore was not responsible for any of the team's offense that day.

It's just interesting to see that, according to WPA, even pitching a perfect game won't earn a pitcher "credit" for even half of his team's victory that day.


Anonymous said...

Actually, the winning team has a total of .500 WPA and the losing team -.500 (as each team theoretically has a 50% chance of winning before the game begins, and by the end one team goes to 100% and the other goes to 0%.

Braden's WPA would have been higher had the A's either scored fewer runs or had their scoring occurred later in the game. As it was, he was pitching with a four-run lead for the last five innings of the game, a situation where there's not much anyone on the A's can do to significantly increase their chances of winning the game (as the probability that they will win is already above 90%)

Jack Flynn said...

Thanks for the clarification! So then, Braden's 0.36 WPA actually accounts for 72% of Oakland's WPA that day? Can I then consider Braden "responsible" approximately 72% of the win?

TW said...

You apparently have never played baseball passed the age when it begins to matter. I thought Coach Curran would have taught you better, even if it was just in gym for nerds.

The reason it never came up is because it is so ingrained after decades upon decades of baseball played that no batter would think of doing it. Of course A-Rod is oblivious to most everything, while his trot might have been innoncent, HIS reaction during incident and after was bush league.

I suppose A-Rod never heard you can't knock the baseball out of the first baseman's mitt either?

He's pretty suspect, and I'm with Braden on this one. I hope he throws one at his temple, next chance he gets.

Jack Flynn said...

Hey, were you at Jamaica HS when Manny Ramirez hit an 800-foot home run off your pitcher? I never heard that story 30 times before.

You're all a buncha babies. Oooh, you can't that base runner come within five feet of the dirt hill the pitcher is standing on. Then he would be breaking an UNWRITTEN RULE and might be accused of not PLAYING THE GAME RIGHT.

It's all so ridiculous. Why, exactly, does the base runner have to respect the mound, O Exalted JV Catcher? What is the big deal?

TW said...

This is why you get your ass beat in basketball. You have no athletic skill and marvel at my abilities to excel both on the court/field and in the blogisphere.

Just about every pitcher in the history of pitching (sans Ollie Perez) lands his feet in the same spot at the bottom of the mound after every pitch. They start at the same spot on the rubber. Any change in this can effect command. Worst case scenario: this happened in the middle of an inning, A-Rod, by stepping through the mound changes the way the pitcher's landing place on the mound is configured. Next pitch the pitcher's foot lands awkwardly and he turns his ankle.

Is it outlandish, sure, but so is allowing a batter to go through 15 little rituals between pitches. How about the fact that all of a sudden (in the last 15 years) it has become taboo to pitch inside, like it is some sort of affront to the batter. I applaud Braden for holding onto his piece of the rock, even if some may think it is an overreaction.

I caught varsity all three years I played, one of those years I was radioactive. You? You couldn't hang after tee-ball. You probably would skulk along Cross Bay crying after another 0fer, hoping your mother set you up a nice tall glass of emasculation by singing "Puff the Magic Dragon" to you upon your return home.

Jack Flynn said...

I am going to dominate you this year. I lost weight, gained muscle and improved my stamina. You are in big trouble.

A-Rod ran across the back of the mound, so he did not interrupt Braden's landing point. Braden actually would have an argument if A-Rod had gone across the mound, for the reasons you mention. Complaining about crossing behind? Weak stuff.

By the way, I was a CYO All-Star in fourth grade. I still have the uniform shirt. My talent went south by the time I hit sixth grade.

TW said...

You know basketball is about skill, which you have none.

Its like Bender in "Breakfast Club"—'If he gets up, we all get up, it'll be anarchy!.' Back of the mound, front of the mound—stay the fuck off the mound!

There were only three boys in all of the three block swath of Broad Channel, I'm sure everyone made the "all-star team."