It’s a topsy-turvy world when two swinging strikeouts are positive plays for the offense and a hit batter decreases his team’s chances of winning. But the Cubs’ 6-5 victory Sunday against the Blue Jays was a topsy-turvy kind of game.
We can evaluate just how much those plays contributed by using win expectancy (WE) and win probability added (WPA), both of which are available in play logs at Fangraphs.com.
After the Blue Jays scored two runs in the top of the 10th inning to take a 5-3 lead, the Cubs had a WE of 9 percent, which means teams in that position historically have won 9 percent of their games.
We can take it batter by batter from there, giving the Cubs’ WE after each play and the WPA each play contributed to the result.
• Kyle Schwarber struck out swinging but reached first on a wild pitch by Roberto Osuna. (The Cubs’ WE rose to 18.2 percent, with .091 WPA to Schwarber.)
• Ben Zobrist singled to right field, moving Schwarber to third. (Cubs’ WE, 36.2 percent; .180 WPA to Zobrist.)
• On Osuna’s wild pitch, Schwarber scored to cut the deficit to 5-4 and Zobrist took second. (Cubs’ WE, 44.3 percent; .081 total WPA.)
• Anthony Rizzo grounded out to second, with Zobrist moving to third. (Cubs’ WE, 41.2 percent; -.031 WPA to Rizzo.) Even through Zobrist took the tying run to third, the Cubs’ WE declined and Rizzo’s WPA was negative. Historically, the out has been more important than the base. Teams have scored more with a runner on second and no outs than with a man on third and one out.
• Javy Baez struck out swinging but reached first on a passed ball. This should have been an out, but catcher Raffy Lopez focused on looking Zobrist back to third and missed Baez. (Cubs’ WE, 45.7 percent; .045 WPA to Baez.)
• Baez stole second base. (Cubs’ WE, 54.1 percent; .083 WPA to Baez.) Baez’s steal put the winning run on second, and the Cubs’ WE crept above 50 percent.
• Jason Heyward was hit by a pitch. (Cubs’ WE, 53.6 percent; -.005 WPA to Heyward.) The hit batter opened the possibility of a force at the plate or a game-ending double play, leading to a slight decline in the Cubs’ WE.
• Alex Avila lined a single to right field, driving in Zobrist and Baez for the 6-5 victory. (Cubs’ WE, 100 percent; .464 WPA to Avila.)
WPA is cumulative across the season for individuals, measuring who has contributed the most in important situations. It’s affected by factors that don’t necessarily hold up from season to season, such as who bats in the highest-leverage situations and batting average on balls in play.
The Cubs’ leader is Anthony Rizzo at 3.90, followed by Willson Contreras at 1.98. But for one three-run rally with only two hits — both singles — the leader was Avila, and two strikeouts played a big role.
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