Thursday, August 02, 2012
July’s most exciting games (and teams)Posted by Chris Jaffe
I have a system I debuted last year that ranks how exciting a game is. There’s no point getting into a full account of how it works (methodology given a the end of this article if you're curious), other than to say it gives points for the things that makes games exciting and/or memorable: lead changes and comebacks, late inning drama, extra innings, walk-off wins, how close the final score was, and outstanding performances by pitchers and sluggers.
Well, I’ve been tracking the games played so far throughout the 2012. season, and based on that system, here are the five most exciting games played in July:
5. July 3: Pirates 8, Astros 7: 38 points.
This was a lively back-and-forth game that saw the Astros bolt out to an early 4-0 lead only to have the Pirates roar back and take a 7-6 lead heading into the ninth. In the top of the ninth, Houston tied it only to allow the Pirates on a walk-off homer by Drew Sutton. And yes, walk-off homers count more than a typical walk-off does.
This game had a series of comebacks, drama on both ends of the ninth inning, and a walk-off blast – which is why the scores are so high.
As an added bonus, this win put the Pirates in first place, a place they haven’t been this late in a season in quite some time.
4. July 14: Orioles 8, Tigers 6 (13 innings): 42.7 points.
It’s the only American League game on the list. It was fairly generic until late, but then it had an improbably huge amount of late inning drama.
Trailing 4-1 entering the ninth, Detroit jumped on Baltimore’s bullpen to tie it, 4-4. In extra inning, Detroit twice scored in the top half of the frame to take a lead—only to give it right back. First Baltimore tied it 5-5 in the bottom of the 11th, and then entering the bottom of the 13th down 6-5, Baltimore first tied it on a J.J. Hardy homer before winning it on a two-run walk-off dinger by backup catcher Taylor Teagarden.
Yeah, that’s nice, especially since extra-inning comebacks count extra in my system.
3. July 17: Nationals 5, Mets 4 (10 innings): 46 points.
This game had a huge amount of back-and-forth action in the last two innings. Entering the ninth down 2-0 the Mets scored three times to take the lead, only to allow a lead in the bottom of the frame, sending the game into extra inning.
When the Mets offense scored to give them a 4-3 lead in the 10th, the Mets bullpen allowed the tying and winning runs to score to end the game. Thus each of the four last half-innings saw a team take the lead of pull even with the leader—or both.
Added bonus, it doesn’t effect the scoring but the Nationals won this one on a walk-off wild pitch. Ouch.
2. July 3: Brewers 13, Marlins 12 (10 innings): 53.3 points.
The highlight of this game was the Brewers blowing a seven-run lead. That doesn’t happen every day. They led 9-2 after six innings, yet it was tied by the middle of the eighth—and that’s despite the Brewers scoring a pair in the seventh.
In fact, Miami took a brief lead in the top of the 10th, 12-11. Obviously, it didn’t last as third baseman Aramis Ramirez won it with a two-run walk-off home run.
1. July 20: Braves 11, Nationals 10 (11 innings): 56.3 points.
Do you think blowing a seven run lead is bad? How about this: Washington blew a 9-0 lead in this game. Atlanta scored four in the sixth, and fourth in the eighth to tighten it. Then they took a 10-9 lead with a pair of runs in the top of the ninth.
Washington showed some resiliency in the bottom of the frame, scoring a run to send it into extra innings, but Atlanta got the win anyway.
July’s most exciting team: Milwaukee Brewers (306.7 points)
Not only were they the most exciting team for July, but the Brewers were also June’s most exciting team, with 243.3 points. As you can tell, 306.7 is a lot higher than 243.3 and sure enough, Milwaukee’s July scores as the most exciting month by any team in any month this year.
Mind you, I’m not defining “most exciting” by most fun to watch, or at least not most fun to watch if you have a rooting interest in the team. A big reason why Milwaukee scores so high here is because of a bullpen that can’t hold a lead. Milwaukee lost six of its eight highest scoring games.
But they had a lot of tightly fought games. 14 of their contests last month were decided by one run. That’s neat. A trio of others were decided by three runs.
Four of their games ended on walk-off at bats—including two games Milwaukee one, the July 3 game listed above and a July 1 game against Arizona.
If you like late drama, the Brewers were the team for you. In the eighth inning, seven times a team tied the score—and five times a squad took the lead. In the ninth there were four lead ties and three lead takings. Five times a Brewer game went into extra innings. Twice a team came from behind to win in extra innings. The Brewers did it to the Marlins on July 3, and then Philly did it to Milwaukee on July 25.
That’s a lot of heart-stopping excitement. But if you’re a Brewer fan, it certainly wasn’t always enjoyable.
July’s least exciting team: Toronto Blue Jays (57.2 points)
They earned 21 points in their wins and 36.2 in their losses. Runner up Cubs easily outpaced them with 72.8 points—and the Cubs were well-behind 28th place Cleveland at 87.1 points. Toronto's entire month barely scores as high as the Braves-Nationals game from July 20.
Toronto had only one game all month long decided by one run, a 1-0 loss to Cleveland on July 13.
There wasn’t a single ninth inning lead change or tying all month long when the Blue Jays were on the field. There were no extra inning games, either.
Since there weren’t many close games or late drama, Toronto’s points often come from great hitting or slugging performances, which don’t score as high. Five games featuring Toronto resulted in shutouts. Four times a pitcher for or against Toronto threw a four-hitter. Four times a slugger went deep more than once in a game.
You got to admit, that doesn’t sound as impressive as Milwaukee’s litany of walk-offs and late lead changes. That explains why Milwaukee ranks first and Toronto finishes last.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.