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2014 Best Hitting Performances In A Loss: Thanks For Trying

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Not quite enough Will to Win

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

I have to admit this isn't an original article concept. I am taking this one from what FanGraphs is doing, or just wrapped up, but I'm not under any auspice pretending to invent or re-invent the wheel. I'm more so trying to customize the wheel for our particular model of car that is the 2014 Royals. My next article: What Kind of Car Was the 2014 Royals?

Much like the thinking of the FanGraphs authors, I'm also going to cover how individual Royals players performed on extreme ends of wins and losses.

FG's method evaluating performances is by WPA, but I'd argue against using WPA and using RE24 instead.

First, let's explain the two:

Win Probability Added (WPA) captures the change in Win Expectancy from one plate appearance to the next and credits or debits the player based on how much their action increased their team's odds of winning.

So we can automatically understand that a player is reward a higher WPA positive/negative in higher leverage situations. This also gravitates the results to games that are closer scoring and even more so to 0-0 or 1-1 games. WPA does a good job of showing how much a player added to his teams win expectancy, but there are some biases there.

RE24 from Fangraphs:

RE24 (or run expectancy based on the 24 base-out states) may sound like a computer error or a random assortment of letters and numbers, but the actual logic and mechanisms behind the statistic make it extremely useful for fans and analysts. It is based on the concept of run expectancy, which provides the average number of expected runs per inning given the current number of outs and placement of baserunners. The number "24" refers to the potential number of base-out states (zero, one, two outs and eight different baserunner arrangements).

Since run expectancy tells you the number of expected runs, any number of runs created above or below that value can be treated as runs above or below average for the batter or pitcher depending on the outcome of each plate appearance. Unlike wRAA, wRC, or Batting Runs, RE24 is context-dependent and assigns more credit for hits with men on base than with the bases empty. With league average set to 0, hitters with positive RE24 are creating more runs than we would expect given the situations they have been placed in and pitchers with positive numbers are preventing more runs than average given the situations in which they have been placed.

On the hitting side, RE24 is a measure of how well hitters are capitalizing on their opportunities while also not assigning extra credit (like RBI) to hitters who happen to come to the plate with men on base very often. For pitchers, particularly relievers, RE24 is useful because it allows for multiple pitchers to share credit for allowing a baserunner to score and assigns credit to pitchers who strand the runners of the pitcher they relieved.

That a little lengthier than the easier idea of WPA, but RE24 doesn't care about the score, but how the hitter performed with/without runners on base. Increasing/decreasing the run expectancy.

WPA is more about being "clutch" than having a good overall game. A player could go 0-4 with 4 strikeouts then hit the walk off home run and end the game with a fairly positive WPA. That doesn't mean they had the best performance, but more so they had the best at-bat (by WPA).

RE24 does a better job of counting for each at bat and adding them overall I feel. Maybe you disagree, and if you do feel free to let me know.

Maybe though RE24 skews towards higher scoring games because generally a lot of RE24 means a lot of offense, even if just on an individual level.

Today's entry: The best performance in a loss by a hitter.

#5. Nori Aoki - 9/16, 5-7 loss to the White Sox: 2.143 RE24

This match squared since Liam Hendriks against Chris Bassitt. That's a pretty unspectacular duel, and neither starter would make it four innings (Hendriks 3, Bassitt 3.2). Aoki would go 4-5 on this day and throw in a stolen base.

His first PA would be a simple 6-3 groundout, but in the third he'd single to right and be brought in to score two batters later by Lorenzo Cain. In the 4th Aoki would single again to right, and steal second, only to be stranded by Alcides Escobar grounding out. In the sixth Aoki would lace his third single of the day, this time driving in Alcides Escobar. Aoki would cap off a fourth single and his line for the night in the bottom of the 8th. This would mark back-to-back games for Aoki with four hits. This streak being a part of Aoki's franchise record setting number of hits over a 3-game series.

Ultimately the Royals would lose the game on  a blown hold attempt by Kelvin Herrera.


Source: FanGraphs

#4. Billy Butler - 9/24, 4-6 loss to the Indians: 2.145 RE24

Another outing where the starters didn't last as long. Jason Vargas would go four innings and allow four runs while Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer would go 4.1 yielded four runs too.

Butler would have a pretty Butler-esque game. He'd have a bloop single, draw a walk, line a RBI double, and strike out (would have been perfect if he grounded out too).

Butlers big cash in would be with Hosmer/Aoki on 1st and 3rd when he hit this double into left.


Source: FanGraphs

#3. Alcides Escobar - 9/20, 2-3 loss to the Tigers: 2.167 RE24

Hey look, another September game. Escobar was pretty #hot this game going 4-5 with a double.

This match was a late season ace-duel of James Shields vs Max Scherzer. To no surprise, Scherzer dominated the Royals during his time on the mound going 7 innings and allowing 1 unearned run. Shields matched Scherzer in walk and strikeout totals, but allowed 3 runs (all earned).

Escobar led off the Royals side of the opening frame with a double. Standing on second with no outs, the Royals were expected to score at least one run that inning (1.05 run expectancy). Ned would elect to bunt Escobar over (in the first inning again...) to third with Aoki. This didn't zap the Royals run expectancy by that much (a 1.05 to .90 drop), but it hurt their chances of scoring. Take a guess what happened: Escobar wouldn't even get a chance to score. Josh Willingham and Eric Hosmer would strike out promptly to end the side.

In Escobar's second at bat of the night, Dyson would single prior to him then Escobar would single as well. With no outs and runners on 1st/2nd, Yost would call for another bunt from Aoki and moved Dyson and Escobar to third. The Royals run expectancy would go from 1.41 (their highest of the game so far) to 1.31. Not a run-killer, but a negative net move. Still, runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out and Dyson at 3rd, the Royal stand to likely score a run. Unfortunately, Willingham would foul out and Alex Gordon strike out, leaving the Royals with still zero runs.

Dyson would again get on base ahead of Escobar, this time doubling. Ned Yost must have had enough bunting for the day and let Escobar swing away (the Royals were down just 1-0). Escobar then singled Dyson home thanks in part to an error by Ian Kinsler.

I know Ian. I know.

In the ninth, Dyson would again reach base on a single and Escobar would follow up with a single himself, setting up the tying and go-ahead run at first and second. Aoki would groundout, but in turn moved Escobar/Dyson to 2nd and 3rd. Ned would then put the game on the shoulders of...Raul Ibanez. Ibanez would take a ball then ground out on the 2nd pitch of the at bat, sending Royals fans home sad.


Source: FanGraphs

#2. Alcides Escobar - 4/20, 3-8 loss to the Twins: 2.251 RE24

A second Escobar appearance on this list also breaks the streak of September games, this one instead coming in the first-ish part of the season. Escobar wouldn't have an excitingly glamorous box score as he went 2-4 with a strikeout, a walk, and two RBI. As you can tell by the score, Royals pitchers didn't have much of a good game. Yordano Ventura would allow four earned runs, Louis Coleman would get tagged for an additional run, then Justin Marks would give up three more.

This game for Escobar was really just a good overall game in a not so valiant effort by the other Royals. Escobar walked in the 2nd to load the bases (.17 RE24), double in the fifth (.61 RE24), and then homered in the 8th to bring in Just Maxwell and rack up an additional 1.63 RE24.

That was kinda an underwhelming entry...

#1. Lorenzo Cain - 5/26, 2-9 loss to the Astros: 2.289 RE24

When you see a match-up of Yordano Ventura vs Scott Feldman you probably say "Hey... I bet one of those pitchers is probably going to do better than the other one." You would be correct in your assumption, but I'm assuming your assumption was Ventura as the good one. Alas you were wrong, stupid. Cy Feldman would spread 8 hits over 6 innings and yielding two runs on zero strikeouts. Meanwhile Ventura would give up 5 earned runs over 2.2 short innings with Michael Mariot relieving him equally as ineffectively, allowing another three runs in three innings.

Sorry guys. This is another underwhelming. Cain didn't do anything spectacular really. With the Royals already down five runs by the 2nd, Cain singled, then he singled again, then again, then again. Four singles in all four plate appearances knocking in just one run in the game.

Well, that was an uneventful last two. Let's spice it up a bit. Here are the two best performances in a loss by WPA!

#2. Mike Moustakas - 5/05, 6-5 loss to the Padres: .341 WPA

Our first extra inning game (which makes sense due to the way WPA works).

In the bottom of the ninth the Royals were up 3-4 before Jedd Gyroko homered to tie the game off Greg Holland.

After a couple spoiled chances by both sides, the Royals were tied 4-4 in the top of the 12th when Moustakas laced a single into right field (can you believe he pulled it?!?) to send the Royals ahead.

With most of the good relievers spent, Tim Collins came in to lock down the win. Instead of doing that, he allowed a single to Chris Denorfia, a sac bunt to Alexie Amarista, a double by Yonder Alonso (which somehow didn't score Denorfia from 2nd), and then finally...this:

#1. Alex Gordon - 8/31, 3-4 loss to the Indians: .448 WPA

This was a nationally televised ESPN game late in the season. Gordon's 9th inning plate appearance ended up being the biggest WPA moment of the game. Prior to his at bat, the Indians had about an 82% win expectancy. Then Gordon did this:

Gordon's batspeed and wrists make me faint...

Tied 2-2 in the 9th.

In the 10th, the Indians would take the lead via 2 runs allowed by Greg Holland. Before the Royals could attempt a comeback though, Mother Nature popped in.

TWENTY-TWO DAYS LATER

In the Royals half they wouldn't go fully quiet into that great night. Moustakas would single before being replaced by Gore. Two outs later Aoki would drive Gore in before Aoki was replaced by Dyson. Dyson would steal 2nd, but then Scott Atchinson would shut the door on an infield fly by Infante.