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Hok Talk: Reliving the Wild Card Game

Has it really only been four years?

Salvador Perez watches a groundball roll past Josh Donaldson after hitting a pitch he never should have swung at or been able to reach.
I don’t need to describe this image for you.
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Watching and reading about all the currently ongoing playoff games makes me wish for the good ol’ days of the 2014 playoffs. It makes my heart sing to see Lorenzo Cain cheer and Mike Moustakas drove in game-winning runs. Many of you may not know or remember this but I got my start on Royals Review by doing FanPosts where I attempted to analyze the Win Probability Added of various games. I’m not sure how much anyone else cares about it, but it entertained me a whole heck of a lot so I thought this week we’d go back to my roots and relive my all-time favorite Royals game.

Let’s start with the stat everyone remembers from that game. The Royals, at one point, had what was projected to be a 2.9% chance to win the game. How often do teams come back to win at that point? 2.9% of the time. That’s how the stat works, silly. Did you know there’s actually a bit of confusion on this point, though? The graph on FanGraphs shows 2.9% but if you look at the play log it actually shows the lowest point being 3.2%.

One of my favorite things about WPA is just how random it can feel. Your spirits were crushed when Brandon Moss smack his second home run, but WPA says the lowest point of the game was actually when Mike Moustakas flew out to left to end the seventh inning. Brandon Moss’ second home run did qualify as the largest swing of WPA in the contest - he added 30.8% to his team’s chances for victory when he sicked that pitch from Yordano Ventura over the right field fence.

Salvador Perez had the honor of offering up the greatest positive contribution and greatest negative contribution in the entire contest. I’m sure you already guessed that his positive contribution was the game-winning single in the twelfth inning; it came in at a whopping 39.5% WPA added. But no player hurt his team more than Perez when he struck out for the second out with a runner on in the eighth. Actually, the worst three contributions in the game were all Royals players striking out. Rounding out the bottom of the list were Omar Infante striking out to end the eighth and Jayson Nix striking out to end the eleventh.

My absolute favorite part of the night, however, was the plethora of stolen bases. So I’m just going to straight up list those in order of lowest WPA to highest:

Wild Card Game SB WPA

Player Name situation score base stolen WPA
Player Name situation score base stolen WPA
Eric Hosmer 2 out in 1 1-2 CS Home -5.1%
Alcides Escobar 0 out in 8 3-7 2B 0.8%
Nori Aoki 2 out in 1 0-2 2B 0.9%
Lorenzo Cain 1 out in 8 4-7 2B 1.0%
Alex Gordon 2 out in 8 6-7 2B 3%
Christian Colon 2 out in 12 8-8 2B 4.3%
Terrance Gore 1 out in 8 5-7 2B 5.6%
Jarrod Dyson 1 out in 9 6-7 3B 13.3%

It’s really not surprising at all that Jarrod Dyson’s steal was worth significantly more than the others but it’s still nice to see it confirmed. It’s funny how much we remember stolen bases being the story of that game but that’s not reflected in the WPA at all and if you check out the various scores and situations when most of the bases were stolen it’s easy to see why. It took a lot more than those stolen bases to make that comeback. Their effect will probably always remain nebulous because they sure seemed to have an effect on the morale of the Athletics but we, as of yet, do not have any way to quantify that.

A couple final things of note, to me. When Alberto Callaspo drove in Josh Reddick in the top of the twelfth inning the game seemed over. But that was only actually a 17% WPA. Hosmer, Colon, and Salvy all out-did him in the bottom of that inning. The highest leverage index at-bats in the entire game, though, were tied between Nori Aoki’s sacrifice fly to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth and Christian Colon’s infield single to tie in the twelfth. The two most important moments of the game and the Royals came through both times. That’s how you win an elimination game.