Before we get into the specifics of last night’s deeply disappointing loss, I wanted to touch on what it is to lose a game – any game – when you came into the 8th inning with a two-run lead. I was kinda hoping it would make me feel a little bit better this morning.
Spoiler alert … it didn’t really have the desired effect.
Here’s the win expectancy chart from last night’s game, via FanGraphs:
As you’d expect for a game that proceeded like it did, the Anthony Rizzo homer moved the needle comfortably in the Cubs’ favor as they took a 3-1 lead, and then as the Nationals ran out of outs, the trend line continued in the Cubs’ favor.
That little trough there before the Bryce Harper homer had the Cubs’ chances of winning at around 85% as the 8th inning began. To assuage my troubled mind, I was kind of hoping I’d wake up today to see that it was more like 70% or so, and I could think to myself, “Hey, well, a 30% chance of losing in that situation is gonna happen sometimes. Stinks that it was Game Two of the NLDS, but that’s baseball.”
… but at a mere 15% chance of losing. Look, I know this is all very artificial, internal mental dance that we play with ourselves, and it doesn’t mean anything on the field. But, still, it helps me unpack the big games the next day.
So, then, I can’t quite lean on the win expectance to feel better. But I can at least tell myself this: win expectance is a context neutral statistic. In other words, it doesn’t know or care that the 8th inning there wasn’t just any 8th inning, it was going through the heart of the Nationals’ lineup – one of the best hearts in all of baseball. Bryce Harper is really good. Anthony Rendon is really good Daniel Murphy is really good. Ryan Zimmerman is really good. For them, maybe that 15% chance of winning really was something closer to 30%.
Like I said, we’ll get into the specifics of the game in a bit. Blowing a two-run lead in the 8th inning is not good. It happens from time to time, since any win expectancy short of 100% allows for it. But … ugh. You just don’t want to see it in the postseason.