Oh boy, it's going to be a post about a Three Letter Acronym (TLA) for measuring some aspect of Baseball Statistic Accumulation (BSA). That's what it's going to be and you're going to like it and humbly ask for another.
Today's TLA of choice will be Win Probability Added (WPA), because I believe that I have something interesting to say about it. You probably have a good idea what WPA is already -- as it is often referenced in the game recaps that we do -- but if not, here's a short explanation.
When the first batter of the game comes to the plate, each team has a fifty percent chance of winning the game. Wait! What about home field advantage? What if it's the 1927 Yankees against the 2003 Tigers*? What if their starting pitcher is Roy Halladay and ours is Chad Gaudin? None of that matters in this context. Each game starts out at 0-0 with each team getting twenty-seven outs, so neither team has yet gained an advantage.
From there, the different plays of the game cause the win probability to change. If Derek Jeter is the first batter of the game and he hits a single, the Yankees win probability increases from 50% to 53.6%, meaning that Jeter has earned .036 of WPA. If Jeter makes an out, the Yankees win probability decrease from 50% to 47.8%, meaning that Jeter has lost .022 of WPA. In this fashion, a player will accumulate WPA over the course of the season.
Due to its nature, WPA is a good barometer of situational hitting. A single to break a tie in the ninth inning will add considerably more than a single in a ten run blowout, because it will have a much greater impact on which team will win the game. Conversely, a bases loaded strikeout will cause a proportionally greater drop in the team's win percentage, so the player responsible will be more severely docked.
I don't much buy into the concept of situational hitting and the stigma that surrounds it, but it is a fact that some plays are more important than others in determining the outcome of a game. I don't believe that a hitter can pick and choose when it's a good time to get a hit, but WPA will show who has been coming up with the biggest hits for the team, as a function of luck, skill, or black magic.
But before you take the jump, take a guess in the poll below. From following the team, who do you think has been providing the most value with important hits and a large volume of production? We're having so much fun.
If you already know the answer because you've recently looked it up or have already seen it in this post, don't vote. God, why would anyone do that. No respect for the honor system.
As you may have inferred from the date on the poll, I'm writing this from the distant past of Tuesday*. Unless something has drastically changed in the game(s) since -- it hasn't -- then the current Yankee leader in Win Probability Added is Mark Teixeira. I would not have guessed that. There's a poll because I doubt many of you will guess Teixeira either. Unless more of you are damn filthy cheaters than I expected.
*Time machines. By now, the time of this post has probably been re-classified as A Few Hours Before The First Velociraptor Attack.
I included a wOBA column so that we could have comparisons to a more absolute scale of hitting. From that, it is clear that Robinson Cano has been the Yankees best hitter from a context-neutral standpoint, but his struggles with runners on base have prevented him from excelling in WPA.
Meanwhile, Mark Teixeira has hit .271/.364/.525 in 143 plate appearances with men on base and .256/.345/.419 in 55 high leverage plate appearances. Not staggering, but solid situational hitting on a team that has largely struggled to come through with big hits.
Given enough time, I'd expect all of this to even out and for a ranking by wOBA and a ranking by WPA to be pretty close to the same. It would be great to see Alex Rodriguez get a few big hits and get out of Chris Stewart territory, but as of now, his hits have been coming at the wrong times.
Off topic, but shut up, it's my post and I'll do it anyway. I think that this hasn't been brought up because the team has been doing so well, but I really miss Eduardo Nunez. As a right handed bat off the bench, a pinch runner in a tight game, and a way to give guys on the left side of the infield a half day off, I think that he brings an element of speed and versatility that is sorely missed. Especially during interleague play in the bench-emphasized style of NL baseball. There would have been a lot of chances for him to pinch hit, pinch run, steal bases, and keep guys fresh.