By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) The win expectancy charts at Fangraphs.com only calculate a team’s chances at the conclusion of given play, so not exactly everything that happens — or doesn’t, in this case — factors in.
When Blake Treinen struck out Addison Russell with the Nationals leading the Cubs, 4-2, in the ninth inning Thursday, Washington’s win expectancy stood at 96.4 percent. Jeimer Candelario reaching base after being hit by a pitch reduced that probability to a mere 91.4 percent, but it went back to exactly 96.4 after a play that was described as “Victor Caratini reached on fielder’s choice to shortstop (Grounder). Jeimer Candelario out at second.”
That’s true, but it fails to provide what the likelihood of a Cubs loss was in the middle of that innocuously described action as it occurred. All second baseman Daniel Murphy had to do to end the game was make the turn at second after receiving the flip from Trea Turner, but he couldn’t get enough of a grip on the ball to throw out the less-than-speedy Caratini and end the game. It was over right there, until it wasn’t.
Two singles and a double later, and the Cubs had what general manager Jed Hoyer thought they had been missing. Visiting earlier in the day on the Spiegel and Parkins Show, Hoyer noted that the Cubs “just haven’t had that event … that’s brought us together, that’s allowed us to play consistently good baseball week in and week out.
“It’s going to happen, I don’t know why it wouldn’t,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer pointed to the game on July 31 of last season, a victory over Seattle at home after trailing 6-0.
“We won that game improbably,” Hoyer said, “and then we won 11 or 12 in a row (10, really). We haven’t had that kind of win, that kind of galvanizing moment.”
If Hoyer feels his team needed to overcome improbability to spark better play, they just did.