The Cardinals' 19 Innings of Offensive Futility & Frustration In A Stat

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 17: Allen Craig #21 of the St. Louis Cardinals returns to the dugout after striking out against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium on August 17, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Over the weekend, the Cardinals and Pirates gave fans everything they expected and more from a series pitting two postseason contenders against one another. Pittsburgh came into St. Louis a game ahead of the Redbirds in the Wild Card standings. After splitting the first two games of the weekend series, the clubs faced a rubber match on Saturday. Win and the Cardinals would be tied with the Pirates for the second Wild Card bid; lose and the Pirates would open up a two-game lead.

Adding to the drama for el Birdos was the return of Jaime Garcia from an extended stay on the disabled list due to an injured shoulder. When right physically, Garcia is a top-tier starter; when pitching hurt, he can surrender six runs in two innings to the Astros. With Garcia presenting a question mark of sorts on the mound, manager Mike Matheny penciled in a lineup heavy on offense. Of the Cards' starters, only Rafael Furcal (.308) had a wOBA below .350.

The baseball gods being the sort that laughs at expectations, the game saw Garcia pitch brilliantly. The lefty notched a career-high ten strikeouts and didn't walk a single batter; however, the Pirates did manage two unearned runs due to an error by Garcia himself. The Cardinals offense, which looked so daunting on paper before the first pitch was thrown by Pittsburgh starter Jeff Karstens, managed only two runs, both coming on a Carlos Beltran double. And so, Garcia faced a "no decision" when lifted after being pulled from the game.

The Cardinals tied one hand behind their back when Allen Craig, who had two hits on the day and .308/.368/.573 line, was removed from the game by Matheny for a defensive replacement: Daniel Descalso. Descalso had logged a total of eight big-league innings at first base before Sunday. Matheny's curious substitution saw Dirty Dan more than double that total. In doing so, Descalso became a symbol of sorts as the Cards flailed throughout the extra frames, failing to mount much of an offensive attack against the Pirates relievers.

Time and again, the Cards failed to plate a run when batting with men on. Carson Cistulli tweeted that the WPA for Cards batters during the game as being the equivalent of losing 2.25 games. It was a perfectly timed tweet as it isn't often that a club can only lose one game when playing 19 innings. Cistulli's tweet caused me to bring up the WPA chart for the game on Fangraphs.

WPA stands for Win Probability Added and is a stat that doesn't have much predictive value but is a good descriptor of what happened in a given game. Fangraphs provides this definition of the stat:

WPA is the difference in win expectancy (WE) between the start of the play and the end of the play. That difference is then credited/debited to the batter and the pitcher. Over the course of the season, each players’ WPA for individual plays is added up to get his season total WPA.

Fangraphs also tells us why the stat is useful:

WPA takes into account the importance of each situation in the game. A walk off home run is going to be weighted more then a home run in a game that has already gotten out of hand. This makes it a great tool for determining how valuable a player was to his team’s win total.

When looking at the WPA chart for the game, the quality of performance from Garcia and Joe Kelly, who made his first relief appearance as long as many starts, sticks out. Of note as well are the solid performances from the right-handed relievers; the southpaws, not so much. Even with Rzepczynski and Browning combining to allow four extra-inning runs, the St. Louis pitchers had a positive WPA collectively.

Pitcher

IP

H

HR

ER

BB

SO

pLI

WPA

Kelly

5.2

4

0

1

2

4

2.19

.626

Garcia

8.0

5

0

0

0

10

1.29

.240

Boggs

1.0

0

0

0

2

1

2.40

.132

Mujica

1.0

1

0

0

1

0

3.46

.132

Salas

1.0

1

0

0

0

2

2.24

.132

Motte

1.0

0

0

0

0

2

1.77

.132

Rzepczynski

0,1

1

0

0

0

0

4.38

-.273

Browning

1.0

4

1

3

1

0

1.19

-.462

Total

19.0

16

1

4

6

19

1.89

.661


While there are quite a few solid-to-excellent performances by WPA from the pitchers, there is little in the way of positive WPA from the batters. Craig, who was pulled out of the game by Matheny, and Beltran are it.

Batter

AB

R

H

HR

RBI

BB

SO

pLI

WPA

Jay

9

0

3

0

0

0

1

1.23

-.053

Descalso

4

0

0

0

0

0

2

2.65

-.275

Craig

4

1

2

0

0

0

0

1.31

.069

Holliday

7

1

0

0

0

1

1

1.80

-.246

Beltran

7

0

2

0

2

1

1

2.28

.208

Freese

8

0

0

0

0

0

3

1.76

-.358

Wainwright

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

3.80

.004

Molina

6

0

2

0

0

1

0

1.88

.051

Schumaker

8

0

1

0

0

0

3

2.75

-.113

Furcal

8

0

1

0

0

0

0

1.79

-.285

Cruz

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

3.92

.097

Garcia

2

0

0

0

0

0

1

1.02

-.078

Carpenter

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

1.37

-.034

Robinson

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

2.25

-.062

Kelly

2

0

0

0

0

0

2

1.75

-.086

Total

68

3

11

0

3

4

15

1.99

-1.161


This chart captures the frustration of the Cardinals hitters on Sunday. In stranding 22 runners, they failed time and again over the 19-inning game. With each out, the hitters' WPA sank lower. Will Leitch hit the nail on the head when he tweeted in reply to Cistulli that the Cardinals batters' WPA on Sunday is "the ultimate, ideal example of advanced stats backing up what our eyes see."


Source: FanGraphs

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