Game-Changer: Johnny Damon & Bases Loaded | The Process Report

Game-Changer: Johnny Damon & Bases Loaded

In a game where there are more than five runs scored, we finally had multiple game-changing moments to choose from. According to win expectancy, the biggest swing in momentum came way back in the first inning. With two on and one out in a game that the Angels already held a one-run lead, Alberto Callaspo’s two-run single shifted the percentage of winning by 15.4% in favor of Los Angeles. Callaspo’s hit certainly qualifies as a game-changer and provided nearly all the offense the Angels would need; however, in a normal offensive environment, a hit in the first inning is usually not the deciding factor.

While that play shifted the needle, it was not the at-bat with the most on the line. With the bases loaded and two outs in a 5-1 game, Johnny Damon came to the plate in the bottom half of the seventh inning. At the time, the Angels had left-hander Hisanori Takahashi on the mound. In the small sample size of 2010 –Takahashi’s first big-league season – he fared much better against left-handed batters (.542 OPS against) than right-handers (.786 OPS against).

Joe Maddon was left with the option of leaving Damon in (.340 career weighted on-base average versus LHP) or pinch-hit using Kelly Shoppach (.400 career weighted on-base average versus LHP). Because of Damon’s ability to hit LHP adequately enough, the correct decision was not clear cut. Any kind of out ends the inning, but Damon is more of a contact hitter whereas Shoppach takes an all or nothing approach to the plate at times. Maddon rolled the dice with Damon, who flied out to left field to end the inning.

Fangraphs.com describes Leverage Index as “an attempt to quantify this suspense so we can determine if a player has been used primarily in high-leverage or low-leverage situations.” The leverage index at the time of the Damon at-bat was 2.38 – the highest at any point in the game (anything over 1.5 is considered high-leverage). Even though the run expectancy for a bases-loaded, two-out situation is less than one run, had Damon’s ball dropped in the outfield, the game would have been changed quite a bit.



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