What's remarkable is that there hasn't been a single "I can't believe we won that" game. And I'm not setting the bar Mother's Day Miracle-high. We haven't come back from a 12.5% chance of winning all season. We haven't come back from 15.0% since April. We haven't come back from 15.0% at Fenway. I've been tracking this for some years now and I can't remember a team that devoid of late-inning heroics.
The best comeback of the year was May 21st in Baltimore, when they were down 5-2 going into the bottom of the 5th, tied it in the top of the 6th on a balk by Tommy Hunter, and went ahead the next inning.
The best late-inning comebacks were:
April 9 in Toronto, where they went into the 9th trailing 2-1 and scored 3 times, the big hits being Pedroia's leadoff double and Sweeney's two-out seeing-eye hit through the 1B hole that scored pinch-runner McDonald when Arencibia couldn't handle the throw;
April 23 in Minnesota, when Ross hit a 2-run bomb in the 7th to tie the game 5-5, then homered in the 9th.
The best Fenway comebacks:
June 21st vs. Miami, when Salty doubled and WMB homered in the bottom of the 8th to tie it 5-5, Kalish singled and went all the way to third on Aviles' hit-and-run groundout to first, and Nava singled him in;
May 26th vs. Tampa, when Salty hit a 1-out, 2-run walkoff bomb for a 3-2 victory.
Compare these modest efforts to the last two nights, or to blowing the 9-0 lead to the Yankees on national TV, or the 3rd game of the year in Detroit where they blew a 96.3% chance in the 9th and a 95.0% chance in the 11th, or July 3rd in Oakland, where they had a 2-1 lead and 2 on and no one out in the 9th (and hence an expectancy for 1 insurance run, on average) and Punto bunted into a double play, Kalish was caught stealing third, and Aceves gave up 3 hits and a Crisp SF in the bottom of the inning.
In case it's not clear, the latter list of calamities is to be expected from a team with a mediocre closer. We're still winning 91% of the time after getting to a 90% win probability.
It's the lack of big-time comebacks that is amazing. How does a team with a good offense go an entire season without coming back from 2 down in the 9th, or from 1 run down with 2 outs? I'm now thinking that this is a big reason why the team is 9th in wRC+ but 24th in WPA. We're missing 6 or 7 comeback wins*, which is enough to account for all our bad karma and then some, and enough to put us in the first wild card lead..
So, the question I ask SoSH: why? I think there are three possible components:
Luck. Maybe we just haven't run into nearly as many closer off-nights as you'd expect.
Lineup. Maybe we have too many guys who feast on mediocre pitching but are overmatched by your typical closer.
Intangibles. Maybe we've been unduly pressing all year in such situations, lack the confidence or spark to come back in this way, or however else you want to frame it.
How would you break it down? (Or am I missing a factor?)
*If you look at WPA, what's missing is 4.5 wins, which is precisely our bad karma. The difference is because we've been 1.5 wins better than average at coming back from 12.5% to 25% win expectancy. I suppose to be fair, you have to credit that, so it might be more accurate to say that with a normal amount of comebacks, we'd be tied for the WC.
Edited by Eric Van, 05 August 2012 - 06:35 AM.