Phillies Win A Statistically Improbable Game

As Jayson Stark will tell you, baseball is a great game because every day you have the chance to see something that has never happened before. Last night’s game against the Cincinnati Reds was as close to unique as we’ve seen in a long time.

19 innings. 26 position players and 15 pitchers used. 600 total pitches thrown. 155 total plate appearances. 73 pitches and five shut-out innings of relief from Danys Baez. Wilson Valdez, a position player, retiring the toughest part of the Reds’ lineup, including reigning NL MVP Joey Votto, and earning the victory when the Phillies won it in the bottom half of the 19th inning. One tenth-inning home run to break the tie, and another one in the bottom half to re-tie.

There was so much improbability involved in the game that I can only assume that Stark’s head exploded.

Recaps are boring so I’m just going to throw some trivia and stat nuggets at the wall.

  • The last time the Phillies played a game that went 19 innings or longer was July 7, 1993 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
  • The last time a Phillies position player pitched was May 13, 2002 when Tomas Perez pitched a third of an inning in a 17-3 blowout loss to the Houston Astros.
  • The last time a position player earned a victory was August 22, 2000 when catcher Brent Mayne pitched a scoreless inning.

11 plays had a leverage index of 4.00 or above (meaning it was a really important play); only one of them involved a hit.

Pitcher Hitter Inn. Outs Base Score Play LI
Herndon Hernandez 11 2 123 4-4 Ramon Hernandez grounded out to pitcher (Grounder). 6.86
Masset Polanco 9 2 123 3-3 Placido Polanco reached on fielder’s choice to shortstop (Grounder). Jimmy Rollins out at second. 6.38
Masset Brown 9 1 123 3-3 Domonic Brown fouled out to catcher (Fly). 5.71
Fisher Ibanez 19 1 123 5-4 Raul Ibanez hit a sacrifice fly to center (Fly). Jimmy Rollins scored. 5.71
Halladay Bruce 7 2 123 3-3 Jay Bruce singled to right (Grounder). Miguel Cairo scored. Drew Stubbs scored. Joey Votto advanced to 2B. 4.66
Halladay Rolen 7 1 123 3-1 Scott Rolen struck out swinging. 4.66
Romero Phillips 11 1 12_ 4-4 Brandon Phillips picked off. 4.62
Romero Bruce 11 2 12_ 4-4 Jay Bruce walked. Joey Votto advanced to 3B. Scott Rolen advanced to 2B. 4.43
Masset Mayberry 9 1 12_ 3-3 Chase Utley advanced on a wild pitch to 2B. 4.31
Masset Rollins 9 1 _23 3-3 Jimmy Rollins was intentionally walked. 4.15
Fisher Howard 19 1 _23 4-4 Ryan Howard was intentionally walked. 4.15

Note that Jay Bruce’s solo home run in the tenth earned just a 2.30 LI and Ryan Howard’s solo home run to tie the game back up in the bottom half earned a 3.42 LI.

EDIT: Tango offers clarification with my above comment:

Note that the LI is assigned PRIOR to the event occurring.  It is a description of the state that the batter and pitcher find themselves.  So, Jay Bruce found himself in a state where the LI was 2.30.  What you “earn” are wins (not LI), meaning that in this situation, rather than a HR being worth around +.14 wins, they were paying off at about 2.3 times that.  (He earned +.342 wins.) The change in win expectancy is how much more relief the Reds fans got (and the level of despondency that Phillies fans experienced).  Ryan Howard’s HR spun things around the other way.

Prior to the walk-off sacrifice fly by Raul Ibanez, the Phillies’ highest win expectancy came in the sixth inning when Ibanez tripled off of starter Travis Wood. The Phillies’ lowest win expectancy was after Bruce’s solo homer.

The following chart plots each player’s leverage index (pLI) for the game along with their win percent added (WPA).

As you can see, there weren’t too many players that landed in the upper-right quadrant.

The Phillies were 1-for-13 (.077) with runners in scoring position. The Reds weren’t much better, at 3-for-15 (.200). The two teams combined to go 4-for-28 (.143). The Phillies left 16 runners on base; the Reds 17.

Finally, how about this whopper from ESPN’s Steve Berthiaume on Twitter:

Links to video clips from

  • Stutes strikes out the side in the 8th [Link]
  • Howard ties the game in the 10th [Link]
  • Romero picks off Phillips [Link]
  • Herndon escapes an 11th-inning jam [Link]
  • Baez’s five scoreless innings of relief [Link]
  • Valdez’s scoreless inning of relief in the 19th [Link]
  • Ibanez’s walk-off sacrifice fly [Link]
  • Valdez post-game interview with Sarge, gets pied by teammates [Link]
  • Charlie Manuel’s post-game press conference [Link]

Did you stay up for the entire game? Feel free to post your thoughts and any interesting statistical factoids in the comments.

Game graph courtesy FanGraphs.

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  1. MplsPhilsFan

    May 26, 2011 07:42 AM

    I did stay up and watch the game (being in the Central time zone did help) and just kept remembering the epic 20 inning game bakc in 1993. The Mitchie-Poo game.

    The game itself was fun, and watching Baez and Valdez pitch the final 6 innings was more improbable than I could have ever imagined but I greatly enjoyed hearing Wheels, whom I normally cannot stand, reminisce about Harry & Whitey.

    One of the most unusual games I have ever seen, and I do wonder how both teams will respond to today’s game

  2. hk

    May 26, 2011 08:10 AM

    Nicely done, Bill. If Charlie had (correctly) pinch-hit Dom Brown instead of Utley for Madson following Valdez’s sacrifice bunt, the Phils might not have had to win such a statistically improbably game. Why in the world would he PH his better LHB with 1st base open? On another note, it looks like the Phils have finally found a role for Danys Baez…he’s the new designated pitcher in the 14th through 18th innings.

  3. Tom

    May 26, 2011 08:12 AM

    How about a shout out to the fans who stayed. I myself will never leave until the final out is made. The Phans that stuck around did a great job. I’ve never thought I’d get goosebumps from WILSON, WILSON, WILSON chants. Phenomenal job Philly Phaithful.

  4. Andy

    May 26, 2011 08:27 AM

    While the game was entertaining, I think I would have pinch hit for Halladay in the 6th with Ibanez on 3rd and Valdez on 1st with 2 outs. I know Halladay routinely throws 100+ pitches and he was only in the 90s by the 6th, but he had given up 8 hits plus a walk through 6 innings and was not quite as sharp as he usually is. Perhaps Charlie was deceived by the ease with Halladay got all three batters out in the 6th.

    Charlie certainly trusts his starters and often lets them bat in late innings, but in this case you can definitely make an argument that: 1. pinch hitting Utley for Halladay in the 6th would have given the Phils a better chance of adding extra runs vs nearly zero chance with Halladay and put pressure on the Reds and a tiring Travis Wood, 2. a fresh reliever probably would not have given up the tying runs in the 7th. Instead of saving his bullpen by stretching Halladay, Charlie burned it out by leaving him in one inning too long.

    Of course this is all hindsight and had the Phils gotten a SF earlier in the 6th or scored in 7th, 8th or 9th this would all be moot. After watching Charlie manage the Phillies for the last 7 seasons, its obvious that he relies on his instinct instead of game situation when deciding how long to let the starter pitch. Many times he’s been wrong when he lets the pitcher bat in the late innings only to surrender multiple hits or runs in the subsequent half-inning.

  5. Andy

    May 26, 2011 08:40 AM


    I remember listening to that 20-inning game against the Dodgers on the radio. Mike Williams pitched the last 6 innings, and although he gave up a run in the top of the 20th, the Phils scored 2 in the bottom of the 20th to win. Dykstra had the winning hit in that one.

    The Mitchie-Poo game was actually in the 10th inning of the 2nd game of a double header against the Padres about a week earlier than the 20inning game. I think that game ended around 2am.

  6. Colonelmike

    May 26, 2011 09:00 AM

    It’s a toss-up whether the most statistically improbable aspect of the game was Danys Baez tossing 5 shutout innings or a position player getting 3 outs.

  7. Brad

    May 26, 2011 09:13 AM

    My vote for twitter quote of the night was from @Philled_In at the beginning of the 19th:

    The last non-pitcher to pitch for the Phillies was JC Romero in the 11th inning.

  8. Tasselfoot

    May 26, 2011 11:50 AM

    Any idea what the record for most innings played in a 24-hour span is? This would count extra innings, double headers, night games followed by day games, etc etc. Guaranteed at least 28 innings. Looks like there was a 32-inning double header on 5-31-1964 (9 and 23 innings).

  9. Dan

    May 26, 2011 12:46 PM

    Andy, I’m a little fuzzy on all the details of how Halladay pitched (I watched it all, while doing some data entry my dad’s business), but I don’t think Halladay was pitching all that badly. The fact that EVERY hit he surrendered was a single suggests that it was more bad luck with BABIP than him not being sharp.

  10. Andy

    May 26, 2011 02:38 PM

    Halladay pitched fine, but not superb. He wasn’t dominating (no one does every game) and the Reds just seemed to hit the ball where it was pitched and bloop their way back into the game. I’m not criticizing Halladay at all here.

    But I don’t think anyone would have criticized Charlie for pinch hitting in that spot, and he probably would have if the Phillies had not been up by two runs already. He must have decided that Halladay with 90+ pitches and a two run lead was better in the 7th inning than a possible three run lead with any other pitcher from the bullpen. Then again, the way the Phillies are hitting right now, a PH probably would not have succeeded anyway.

    On a side note, Charlie just today let Cliff Lee hit in the bottom of the 6th with the bases loaded and no outs in a tie game and Lee whacked a two run double over the head of the center fielder (playing shallow). Lee had 80+ pitches. I might have pinch hit here, but the Phils bullpen is probably tired after last night anyway and Lee doesn’t look tired. Lee does look like a better hitter at the plate than Halladay. Lee probably would not have hit into a triple play here in the worst case.

    Also, the Phillies should never pitch to Jay Bruce.

  11. Andy

    May 26, 2011 02:41 PM

    Lee just now drove in another run with a single in the 7th. Three RBI for Lee. Wow!

  12. Brad

    May 26, 2011 06:30 PM

    While I think the question raised about pinch hitting for Halladay in the 6th is a good one, my main concern was when Charlie let him pitch to Bruce with the bases loaded and two out in the 7th. Halladay was done after the inning anyway, it was a high-stress inning for him, even if most of the hits were more luck-based than usual, and the hottest hitter in the league was up. Why not use Romero or Bastardo then, for the final out of the 7th? Obviously, Bruce would not have necessarily gone quietly–as we saw him take Bastardo deep a few innings later–but it seemed like the prudent move at the time. The problem, for me, is that it also seemed like the one move Charlie would never make; as if it would be too insulting to his star player to make him leave mid-inning. He seems to value his standing with the players more than winning, at times. And, yes, that is highly conjectural…

  13. hk

    May 26, 2011 07:28 PM

    Over the past two games, the Phillies winning pitchers are now 5 for 10 with 3 RBI’s.

  14. Mike B

    May 27, 2011 06:41 AM

    It was worth staying for the end just to watch Valdez shake off Sardinha.

    Might consider renaming this blog “Dump on Charlie Manuel.” Sheesh. Now he’s getting blasted for not taking Roy Halladay out of a game early enough?

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