On Monday night, the Minnesota Twins began a three-game series in Detroit against the Tigers. It was Mike Pelfrey facing Max Scherzer. You likely watched the game or saw the box score already when you read this, so you know that the Twins fell by the final score of 4-3.

It was interesting to watch the game while at the same time calculating the Twins Win Expectancy after each and every play throughout the game. Win Expectancy is a number that changes with every game situation. Someone who had too much time on their hands looked at every play in MLB games from 1957 through 2005. It assigns a Percent-Likelihood of a team winning based on what happened over nearly 100,000 games.

Here is a look at the Top 5 Plays from tonight’s Twins-Tigers game in terms of effect on Win Expectancy.

#5 – Florimon Turns Double Play from Back Side. 

It was the bottom of the 5th inning and the Twins led 3-1. Mike Pelfrey had allowed a lead-off single to Alex Avila. With Avila on 1st, the Twins’ Win Probability was at 66.1% Omar Infanta blasted a one-hopper right at the Twins shortstop. Florimon fielded the ball cleanly but as he was throwing to second base, he was falling backwards. Despite his imbalance, he made a perfect feed to Brian Dozier who quickly turned and fired to first base to complete the double play. Now with two outs and no one on, the Twins’ Win Expectancy increased to 76.2%  Win Expectancy Change – 10.1%

#4 – “Hammer” Homers to give Twins 1-0 Lead.

A visiting team’s Win Expectancy when the game starts is just 46.1% Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer flew out. When Josh Willingham stepped to the plate, that Win Expectancy was down to 42.1% Scherzer didn’t give up many hard hit baseballs through the game, but Willingham did get a hold of this one for a solo home run that gave the Twins the 1-0 lead. Following the homer, the Twins Win Expectancy was 53.0% Win Expectancy Change- 10.9%

#3 – Dirks Homers to Cut Twins’ Lead in Half.

In the 2nd innings, the Twins added a second run on an Aaron Hicks’ ground out to take a 2-0 lead (which increased the Twins Win Expectancy by 4.3% to 69.8% After the Tigers and the Twins each posted one, two, three innings, Andy Dirks came up with two outs and no one on base in the bottom of the third. The left-hander’s solo home run cut the Twins’ lead to 2-1. It also cut the Twins’ Win Expectancy from 71.0% to 58.9% Win Expectancy Change – 12.1%

#2 – Arcia Double Gives Twins 3-1 Lead.

The Tigers (Dirks) cut the Twins lead to one run in the bottom of the third, but the Twins were able to get a couple of doubles to get that run back and reclaim a two-run lead. With one out, Chris Parmelee doubled to very deep right center field. After Trevor Plouffe struck out for the second out, Oswaldo Arcia fell behind Scherzer 0-2. However, he was able to fight off a fastball and hit a soft liner just inside the left field line for an RBI double. After the Plouffe strikeout, the Twins Win Expectancy was 57.8% However, after the RBI double, the Twins Win Expectancy jumped to 71.6% Win Expectancy Change – 13.8%

#1 – Fielder Blast Gives Tigers 4-3 Lead.
If you watched the game, or saw highlights, it was pretty clear which play of the game had the biggest effect on the Win Expectancy. When the bottom of the 6th inning began, the Twins’ Win Expectancy was at 73.3% After an Andy Dirks bunt single to lead off the inning, it fell to 67.5% Following the Miguel Cabrera walk to put runners on 1st and 2nd bases, the Win Expectancy fell to 59.5% However, after Pelfrey’s first pitch to Prince Fielder landed behind the wall in centerfield, the Twins Win Expectancy was just 23.1% Win Expectancy Change – 36.4%

Pelfrey was very good through the first five innings. Unfortunately, the struggles in the fifth inning happened, and happened quite quickly. Win Expectancy is a nice, fun tool that can be used to see the impact of individual plays on the game. Like all statistics, it isn’t a perfect tool.

For instances, when Fielder came up, the Twins Win Expectancy was 73.3% whether it was Fielder stepping to the plate or Don Kelly or Tom Kelly.

If you take a look at the Win Expectancy change for each player in the Twins lineup, it can show who had the biggest impact, positive or negative, in the game. It is extremely important to point out that this is a one-game sample, so performance (or clutchness), good or bad, has to be taken for what it’s worth. For this one game, here are the Twins hitters effect on Win Expectancy.

  • Brian Dozier                    -15.5%
  • Joe Mauer                       -9.2%
  • Josh Willingham              +5.6%
  • Justin Morneau                -11.4%
  • Chris Parmelee                -4.4%
  • Trevor Plouffe                 -4.9%
  • Oswaldo Arcia                 +14.3%
  • Aaron Hicks                    -2.1%
  • Pedro Florimon               -0.1%

Safe to say that Oswaldo Arcia was the Twins player who gave the team the best chance to win on Monday night.

Win Expectancy is just one way to look at a game. It is kind of fun to see how much each play affects the game, from the first inning to the ninth, or to extras.  On this night, one pitch completely altered the outlook of the game. Unfortunately, it was one pitch that meant a Twins loss instead of a Twins win.



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