Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Where Does "The Sandberg Game" Rank In WPA?

On this date in 1984, Ryne Sandberg was 5 for 6 and hit game tying HRs in the bottom of the 9th and the bottom of the 10th (the latter with two outs and 1 on). The Cubs beat the Cardinals 12-11 in 11 innings.

But the big deal is that both of those HRs were off of Hall of Fame reliever Bruce Sutter. The game was televised nationally, I think on NBC. It was, if I recall correctly, a warm sunny day at Wrigley Field (I saw this game on TV).

Sandberg was not a big star yet, although he did win the MVP award that year. It was only his third full season and he had not yet played in an All-Star game. His career average entering the season was .261 with just 15 HRs in 327 games (all statistics used here are from Baseball Reference).

He did enter this game with a .321 average but just 7 HRs in 66 games (a pace of only 17 for a full season).

But how hard was it to homer against Sutter? He gave up 9 in 1984 while facing 477 batters. He faced Sandberg 6 times that year and gave up those 2 HRs. So when not facing Sandberg, Sutter gave up 7 HRs in 471 PAs. The year before he gave up 8 in 384 PAs. When not facing Sandberg over those two years, his HR per batter faced rate was 1.76%. This sounds about average.  The NL HR per batter faced rate over those two years was 1.81% (again, without IBBs removed).

He also issued 18 IBBs, so that HR rate might be higher than average. Sutter had a higher IBB rate than average, which was only about 1% (Sutter's was about 2%).

So yes, it was a big deal to hit those HRs. But at this point in his career, Sutter was about average in allowing HRs. In fact, not counting Sandberg, he allowed a higher HR% vs. righties (2.4%) than lefties (1.6%) over those two years.

Sandberg has said "It was one of those wild games, wind blowing out a little bit so it was going to be an offensive game from the get-go." See Wrigley 100 June 23: The Sandberg Game. There was, however, only one other HR in the game.

So what was Sandberg's WPA in that game? 1.063. It is the 35th highest since 1941, according to the Baseball Reference Play Index. Here are the top 40:

Rk Player Date WPA
1Art Shamsky8/12/1966 1.503
2 Dolph Camilli1941-09-01 (1) 1.398
3Jim Pagliaroni9/21/1965 1.287
4Brian Daubach8/21/2000 1.253
5Nelson Cruz9/7/2014 1.22
6Bobby Grich7/15/1979 1.211
7Mel Hall6/27/1984 1.206
8 Carlos May1973-09-03 (1) 1.204
9Willie Mays5/26/1962 1.204
10 Del Ennis4/26/1949 1.197
11Jim Hickman5/28/1970 1.181
12Hank Aaron9/10/1971 1.159
13 Dwight Evans6/23/1990 1.145
14Dante Bichette6/10/1998 1.141
15 Ken Boyer1961-09-14 (2) 1.14
16 Cody Ross6/7/2008 1.139
17 Will Clark6/22/1988 1.133
18 George Brett5/28/1979 1.126
19 Bobby Bonds4/29/1969 1.126
20 Ryan Langerhans9/7/2005 1.119
21 Barry Bonds8/12/1991 1.119
22Brandon Inge8/24/2003 1.113
23Hank Aaron8/18/1959 1.112
24Bill Melton1970-08-02 (2) 1.107
25Tim Harkness6/26/1963 1.107
26Wilin Rosario9/18/2014 1.087
27Mike Young5/28/1987 1.087
28 Fred McGriff8/24/1996 1.084
29Roy Sievers7/16/1958 1.083
30 Bob Allison4/16/1963 1.082
31Josh Hamilton7/9/2011 1.081
32 Ted Williams1946-07-14 (1) 1.072
33 Kevin Mitchell8/13/1987 1.064
34 Willie Montanez7/11/1976 1.064
35Ryne Sandberg6/23/1984 1.063
36 Jerry Buchek1967-09-22 (2) 1.063
37 Jose Bautista5/22/2013 1.062
38 Eric Soderholm5/13/1972 1.059
39Raul Mondesi4/5/1999 1.056
40 Steve Finley9/10/1996 1.056

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