August 25, 2018

Under Pressure, David Bote Says Let's Dance

Much was written in the aftermath of David Bote's pinch-hit "ultimate" grand slam nearly two weeks ago. (Some of it by me, although I never got my shit together enough to actually publish anything.) First time since 2011, or 1996, or 1936, or maybe ever, depending on what criteria you use. Regardless of the exact infrequency, though, it was rare and cool and awesome.

A few random items caught my eye at the time, most involving Win Probability Added (WPA). And so I started writing this piece. But my fuckheadedness got in the way, and pretty soon several days had passed and eventually I lost my window to post anything. Or so I thought, until Bote went and hit another walkoff yesterday and saved my lazy ass.

So I'm back in business, baby, and here are the top WPA seasons of all-time, provided you believe that time started in 1974, when (I'm guessing) Fangraphs play-by-play data became thorough enough to make accurate calculations:

I went 25-deep in part because HOLY SHIT Barry Bonds. He's got more than a quarter of the listed seasons, and even if you don't include the time he went all HGH on everyone's asses, he's got three years on there, which is still more than anyone else, as only Pujols and Prince Fielder(?) have two. But no, Bonds should definitely not be in the Hall of Fame for capping his career by doing something that damn near everybody else was doing.

Anyway, as of today, David Bote's seasonal WPA is 1.93, which doesn't even crack the top 2000 (not a typo). Still, I've added him to the list. I've also added plate appearances, so that I could then turn WPA into a rate statistic, normalizing it over 600 PAs:

On a per-plate-appearance basis, David Bote's WPA is topped only by the meta-human version of Barry Bonds. Now on-pace-for stats are always kinda bullshit, but WPA's inclusion of negative events makes it especially so; a bases-loaded double play in the ninth while trailing by 1 would wipe away more than a quarter of Bote's total. But this is still insane! Several of the seasons listed are among the most legendary offensive years in all of baseball history, and Bote, with his very-nice-but-hardly-spectacular 127 wRC+, has been so incredibly clutch that he's right there with them! Why are you not freaking out more?!?!? Should I not have said on-pace-for stats are bullshit?

I shouldn't have said on-pace-for stats are bullshit.

But seriously, they are.