Posted By Jeff Fletcher on September 12, 2012 12:58 pm
After Jerry Blevins’ miraculous escape in the A’s win on Tuesday night, he joked that he was expecting a little pie-love, ostensibly for what he figured was the pitcher’s version of a walk-off.
And you know what? He’s absolutely right.
If ever there were a situation in which a pitcher could pull his team out of a deficit to win a game, this was it. And to see what I’m talking about, let’s look at a little thing called win probability. Don’t panic that I’m going all stat-geek on you. Win probability is a very easy concept. It uses previous outcomes to figure the chances of victory for each team given each specific situation in a game, based on the score, the inning, the outs and the runners on base. It also takes into account the run environment, and I’m not exactly sure how that’s calculated, but it measures the difference between ballparks and eras. You can play around with the calculator here.
If you look at this chart, you see that the moment Blevins took the ball, the A’s were actually underdogs. They had a 35-percent chance of winning that game, even though at the moment they were actually winning.
Poker players, like me, are all familiar with this ahead-and-behind phenomenon. Let’s say one player has a pair on the flop and the other guy has two overcards, a flush draw and a straight draw. Even though the second player is losing at the moment, there are so many cards out there that will put him ahead that, with two cards to come, he’s better than 50-50 to hit one of them.
So Jerry Blevins was out there with nothing but a pair — hey, this is a better analogy than I thought — and the Angels had all the outs. (Except in poker outs are good, but in baseball they are bad. Anyway…)
By now you know that Blevins flipped the odds and pulled the A’s out from behind to protect their lead. (What a sentence that is!)
And guess what? It was a pretty rare feat. Since the A’s had a 35-percent chance to win when he entered and 100-percent chance when he was done, he added 65 percent to their win probability. Only three times in A’s history has a pitcher pitched one inning or less and added more than 50 percent to his team’s win probability. The only one that was more dramatic than Blevins was Mark Guthrie in 1999. Guthrie actually faced the exact same situation as Blevins (up one, runners at the corners, no outs, bottom of the last inning), but the difference was he did it in a slightly different “run environment.” Back in 1999, runs came a lot easier for some reason (read: steroids). Guthrie did it at the Metrodome.
Now, someone get Jerry Blevins some pie!