In Game 2 of the ALDS last night, the Yankees left — let us check our math here — 1 million runners on base. (Okay, okay, it was only ten.) Still, they went just 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and, unlike in Game 1, didn't break through with a big inning. This is nothing we haven't seen before from these Yankees, but in the playoffs, such wasted opportunities are magnified in October. But which missed chances cost them the most? For that, let's look at the wWPA, or Winning Team Win Probability Added, numbers, via Baseball Reference. You can read a full explanation of win expectancy here, but basically, wWPA tells us the change in probability of the eventual victor winning the game from the before a particular at-bat to after it, given average teams. So last night, for instance, the single play the most increased the Orioles' probability of winning was Chris Davis's two-RBI double in the third. Tied for seventh on that list of key plays was Mark Reynolds's RBI single in the sixth. But slots two through six are all occupied by Yankee outs in promising situations (and Robinson Cano's groundout to with two men on to end the third isn't even among them). But which Yankee outs yesterday affected the win-probability numbers the most?
The situation: Top of the eighth, Orioles up 3-2, no outs, runner on first, Russell Martin batting.
The outcome: Martin struck out
wWPA: 8 percent.
The Yankees were down to their final six outs when Mark Teixeira led off the eighth with a long single. Allowing a lead-off runner to reach base in such a situation can be costly, but there would be no late rally last night: Brian Matusz struck out Martin to record the inning's first out, and the Yankees wouldn't even move the tying run into scoring position. (Curtis Granderson struck out as well, and Eduardo Nunez fouled out to end the inning. They wouldn't put a runner on in the ninth.)
The situation: Top of the fourth, Orioles up 2-1, two outs, bases loaded, Derek Jeter batting.
The outcome: Jeter grounded into a fielder's choice.
wWPA: 9 percent.
The Yankees were set up in the fourth: After Nick Swisher (career postseason batting average: .169) struck out to start the inning, Teixeira singled, Martin walked, and Granderson singled. Teixeira was held up at third, and so the bases were loaded for Eduardo Nunez, who popped out. And with two outs, Wei-Yin Chen got Derek Jeter to hit a ground ball to third, and Manny Machado stepped on the bag to end the inning.
The situation: Top of the fourth, Orioles up 2-1, one out, bases loaded, Eduardo Nunez batting.
The outcome: Nunez popped out.
wWPA: 10 percent.
Nunez's pop out from that fourth inning makes the list, too. With the bases loaded, a base hit by either Nunez or Jeter would have meant at least a tie game. (Martin, the baserunner on second, might not have scored on a single.) In Nunez's case, even a productive out could have pulled the Yankees even. Instead, they still trailed by a run.
The situation: Top of the seventh, Orioles up 3-2, two outs, runners on second and third, Nick Swisher batting.
The outcome: Swisher flied out to left.
wWPA: 12 percent.
The Yankees had already scored a run in the inning when Ichiro stole second as Alex Rodriguez was striking out. With first base open, the Orioles intentionally walked Robinson Cano to bring up Swisher, who, again, is currently batting .169 in his postseason career. The situation would become all the more promising when a Brian Matusz wild pitch advanced both runners. But Swisher, with a chance to give his team the lead on a base hit, flew out to left.
The situation: Top of the first, no score, no out, runners on first and second, Alex Rodriguez batting.
The outcome: Rodriguez lined into a double play.
wWPA: 12 percent.
The Yankees had an opportunity to get to Chen early last night: Jeter led off with a hit, and Ichiro reached on an error. Win probability numbers aren't specific to the particular teams playing in a given game or to the particular batters in a given lineup, but everything was working in the Yankees' favor here: They had the heart of their order due up, with nobody out. And A-Rod did hit the ball hard up the middle — but he hit it within diving distance of O's second baseman Robert Andino, who caught it in the air and flipped to second for a double play. The Yankees would score a run in the inning — if nothing else, this game gave us Ichiro dancing his way around Matt Wieters's tag — but the double play hurt their chances of putting together a larger rally.