Game-Changer: Brian Roberts’ Triple | The Process Report

Game-Changer: Brian Roberts’ Triple

In addition to our regular notes (see below), for some games we will look at a play, at-bat, or pitching match-up that had a significant impact on that particular contest…the game-changer.

With a game that was dominated by pitching, the game-changer in the season opener was pretty easy to spot. Coming into the fifth inning, the Tampa Bay Rays trailed the Baltimores Orioles 1-0. According to the win expectancy listed at fangraphs.com, the Rays held a 34.8% chance of winning.

With one out, David Price allowed a walk and a single. This lowered his team’s odds to even 31% as Brian Roberts stepped to the plate. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Roberts laced a two-run triple into the left-center field gap, increasing Baltimore’s lead to 3-0. The triple by Roberts dropped Tampa Bay’s chances of winning down to 11.7%; a near 20% drop. He would score on a Nick Markakis sacrifice fly in the next at-bat which pushed Baltimore’s likelihood of victory over 90%.

In the lefty-righty matchup, the switch-hitting Roberts held the platoon advantage. Price is dominant against all types of batters; however, righties have fared a bit better, holding a 102 point OPS advantage over their lefty counterparts.

In this particular at-bat, Price fell behind 2-0 as Roberts took two changeups out of the zone. The Orioles’ lead-off man would foul off three straight fastballs before taking a fourth heater for ball three. With a full count, Price threw Roberts a curveball which was smashed into the gap. As R.J. noted in the previous post, Price had his curve working all night. On the other hand, this bender hung belt high and caught the middle of the plate. Roberts being a good curveball hitter did not help the situation either.

Another interesting aspect of the at-bat was the defensive alignment. Left fielder Johnny Damon was positioned straight up, keeping an equal distance from the foul line and the gap. Meanwhile, B.J. Upton was positioned to the right-field side of the “sunburst” located in center field. This is curious defensive positioning since Roberts has enjoyed more success as a pull hitter. That said, even if Upton had been shaded on the other side of the field, there was no way he gets to a ball hit that well. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how the team shifts the defense against Roberts.

On a night where runs were at a premium, Roberts two-run triple proved to be the deciding factor in the game. With one stroke of the bat, he swung the win expectancy by 19.3%. Unfortunately for us, the Rays were on the wrong end of that swing.



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