When you're hoping that both the A's and Indians make the playoffs, and they're playing against each other, it presents something of a problem. Who do you root for? An Oakland sweep to put them in position to win the division? A Cleveland sweep to fend off New York for the Wild Card? An even series so that one is no better off than the other?
The obvious choice, of course, is to cross your fingers and hope that the teams you hate find a way to lose. The Angels certainly did that in spades. Not only did they suck against Spiroid, but they blew their one golden opportunity when "Mr. Clutch" bounced into a gritty, intangible 5-2 double play and Molina followed with an easy chopper. And then to get so close to escaping a hairy bottom of the ninth, only to lose it because of the friggin' Dobber? That's satisfying baseball. You get the double pleasure of beating the Angels and making sure they don't pick up a game in the division. When you root for a bad team, these are the kinds of things you remember in October while the rest of the world watches the World Series.
Biggest Contribution: The Dobber!, +36.4%
Biggest Suckfest: Richie Sexson, -23.6%
Most Important Hit: Dobbs single, +35.7%
Most Important Pitch: Erstad DP, +35.1%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +44.4%
Total Contribution by Hitters: +0.3%
You couldn't ask for a better job by the bullpen. Facing a bases-loaded-nobody-out situation in a tie game really is as hard as it gets, and Sherrill/Putz got through it with ease. It sucks for Franklin that he couldn't complete what some people think was a masterpiece, but honestly, does anyone here really think he could've wiggled out of that unscatched?
After last night, it's important to remember that Win Probability Added is not a measure of individual performance so much as it is a measure of how much a player helped or hurt his team's chances of winning. So, while Franklin only allowed the one run in 8+ innings of work, he was pitching in a 1-1 game, and he left with the bases loaded. Had he been pitching with a 4-1 lead (or something), his rating would've been higher. So it goes. Just another pile of kindling on the "Franklin = hard-luck pitcher" bonfire.
It didn't really occur to me until now that the win expectancy graphs can be used as quantitative manifestations of fan emotion during a game. Think of it as a 0-1 scale, where "0" means despair and "1" means joyous rapture. After all, you're feeling your worst when the team looks like it's going to lose, and you feel your best when it's in good position to win. It adds another element to the whole chart thing, one that has the added benefit of being a lot easier to understand.
And you can take it to another level, too, where the slope of the tangent lines to the graph show what I like to call "mood acceleration" (I probably would like to call it that, if I didn't make it up just now). In more basic terms, it's the speed with which your emotion changes for better or worse. If the Mariners score a run in the first and hang on for the rest of the game, gradually inching closer to a 100% win expectancy, that's going to be a boring game where you're content, but a little disinterested. If, however, they sink pretty low before rallying to victory - like last night, for example - that's a hell of a lot more exciting, because your mood undergoes a rapid, almost instantaneous change. It makes sense, then, that your highest "mood acceleration" points will come during the biggest hits and pitches of the game (as listed underneath the graph), as these line segments have the greatest slopes.
So that's your math lesson for the day.
By this point, I shouldn't need to remind you that, despite Franklin's impressive runs against line, last night's performance is not sustainable. We all know that, because the entire blogosphere has hammered that into our heads time and time again (myself included). Franklin deserves credit for keeping the Angels off balance most of the game - which he really did - but at the end of the day, nobody really remembers what he did, because everyone's thinking about what transpired in the ninth. And that, my friends, was real good pitching. For the second time this year, Sherrill came in during a bases-loaded-nobody-out situation and, for the second time this year, he induced a double play ball to third base. Hargrove then recognized that that the next hitter, Bengie Molina, hits lefties pretty well and decided to call on righty-killer JJ Putz to end the threat. As implied by Putz's .190/.275/.259 line for opposing right-handed hitters, he got the job done, and the Mariners went on to win. Net cost of the two relievers who escaped the jam? $680,000. And to think, there are some guys in baseball getting paid five times as much to get the job done less often. Ignoring Thornton and Nelson, I'm really beginning to like this bullpen.
When people stop me on the street and ask me why I hate the Angels so much (note: this doesn't actually happen), they usually get some incomprehensible shotgun rant about the after-effects of the 2002 World Series. This is why I love the Internet: much quicker answers are easily linked, such as this one and this one. Is Darin Erstad some sort of crazyclutch hitter? Of course not - he's a bad hitter riding a reputation based on one fluke October to cover up for the fact that he's actually hit worse with men in scoring position for his career than he has overall. Is Chone Figgins the team MVP? Of course not - his .742 OPS is more than 200 points below Vlad Guerrero's, qualifying him as a league-average hitter who just happens to play a bunch of positions.
And yet, as obvious as these answers are to us, their opposites are thought of as divine truth by Angels fans, engraved on stone tablets and handed to them by a burning bush. It's like the whole Scott Podsednik thing in Chicago - these people cling to whatever they can to prove that they're succeeding without the benefit of wacky formulas or stathead GM's, regardless of what's actually going on. It goes without saying that both teams have their share of reasonable fans, but the overwhelming majority of them would stare at you like you're crazy if you told them that their teams are winning because of good pitching and one great hitter.
Another game starts in four hours so I'll stop here. Jamie Moyer goes up against young lefty Joe Saunders, better known as "Some Guy" to most of the league. 1:35pm PDT first pitch.