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.