...and, inspired by this RBI Baseball representation of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between Bill Buckner and the Boston Red Sox, I thought I'd briefly explore the Win Expectancy relevance of the most famous error in baseball history.
Biggest Contribution: Hendu!, +30.3%
Biggest Suckfest: Bill Buckner, -67.6%
Most Important Hit: Henderson homer, +34.1%
Most Important Pitch: Stanley wild pitch, -41.6%
Most Important Other Play: Buckner error, -50.0%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -21.7%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -47.0%
I think what people tend to forget is that Buckner made his mistake only after Calvin Schiraldi and Bob Stanley allowed the Mets to score two runs to tie it up after having nobody on base with one out left. Had the Boston bullpen done its job, Buckner never would've gotten the chance to screw up in the first place. That said, he does deserve more criticism than anyone else when it comes to talking about why the Red Sox lost the game, because his Win Probability Added was beyond awful (as you'd expect from a guy who goes 0-5, strands eight runners, and commits an error to lose the game). His -67.6% rating isn't historically bad - I remember Eddie Guardado beating that with a blown save one time last summer - but it still really sucks when you consider that it only takes -50% for a team to lose. In Win Expectancy terms, Bill Buckner lost a game and a third for the Red Sox that day. Hell, Buckner, Stanley, and Rich Gedman combined to lose them about three games. So, while Buckner hurt the most, he was far from being the only reason why the BoSox lost.
Looking at that WE chart, what really stands out to me are the huge up-and-down swings. The trendline passes through the break-even point (a 50% chance of winning) 11 times during the game, twice hitting it exactly. Had I been a fan of either team in attendance or watching on TV, I probably would've felt like the game was as good as won or lost about five or six times before it actually ended, which is just remarkably stressful and dramatic. As tense as it's been to watch the Mariners a few times, I can't imagine dealing with this kind of anxiety. It's probably fitting that the game ended the way it did, with the huge emotional swing besting all the previous ones and doling out one final "like-you-really-thought-it'd-be-that-easy" slap in the face to all the Boston fans paying attention for good measure.
The whole point of this exercise was simply to re-visit the game from a Win Expectancy standpoint, and I didn't really plan on writing much about it, so I'll cut myself off here. The brief summary: some guys were good, some guys were bad, and one guy royally sucked. And, for once, history actually gets it right, with much of the blame going to the guy who really deserves it. While a few Red Sox players could've performed better under the circumstances, Bill Buckner had his worst possible game at the worst possible time, and it cost his team a championship. That blows.
Jarrod Washburn and Cliff Lee tomorrow at 4:05pm PDT.