December 7, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Tuesday, September 03, 2013
40 years ago today, the White Sox had arguably the greatest one-game clutch performance by any batter in franchise history. It would be an argument not based on the game’s overall importance; it was a routine affair without any real pennant race impact. It’s an argument based just on what the guy did in that game.
And according to at least one metric, no ChiSox hitter ever did as much to help his team win a game as Carlos May did 40 years ago today.
The metric here is Wins Probability Added (WPA). This is the “story stat,” designed to show how each plate appearance affects the chances that a team wins the game. Each squad starts off with a 50/50 chance of winning and the victor ends at 100 percent, and the loser zero percent. It’s a “story stat” because it tries to gauge how the game feels.
And Carlos May was king for the day all those years ago.
On Sept. 3, 1973, the White Sox hosted the Texas Rangers for a Labor Day doubleheader, and May would own the first game.
Early on, not much happened to affect either team’s WPA very much. That’s just the way the stat is designed—big things later move it dramatically. Still, May made the most of his early opportunities at the plate. He drew a walk in the second inning with the Sox down 1-0 (and then later scored the tying run). In the fourth, May hit a routine fly out, but that dropped Chicago’s chances of winning by just two percent. May finally got his first hit in the sixth, a single with no one on and no outs.
In all, he had a mildly positive WPA so far, but he was about to get many more chances to make his mark—and he’d take full advantage of them.
May’s first great moment came in the bottom of the seventh. The Sox had entered the inning trailing Texas 6-2, but had put together a rally. They’d scored one run already to make it 6-3, and had two more men on when May stepped to the plate with two outs. With one swing, May tied it on a three-run homer. Just like that, Chicago’s chances of winning skyrocketed from 12 percent to 52 percent. And there was still plenty of game left to play.
Texas spurted ahead to another lead, 8-7, and in the bottom of the ninth, May again came to the plate with a chance to be a hero. With a runner on third and two outs, May again drove home the tying run, this time on a sharply hit single. Chicago’s chances for winning again leapt up by 40 percent: from 16 to 56 percent.
The game went into extra innings, and in the bottom of the 11th May again came to the plate. This time he didn’t need to tie the game. It was already tied, 8-8. But there were runners on first and second (though this time with just one out). Chicago had a 71 percent chance of winning, but May made it a full 100 percent with his RBI walk-off single.
In all, Carlos May’s WPA on the game scored at 1.204—meaning he’d done enough by himself to account for 1.2 wins. It’s the best WPA performance by any Chicago White Sox hitter—and it was 40 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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