Brewers First-Half WPA Review, Part 1

Win Probability Added isn't a particularly useful stat for measuring player performance - it doesn't account for defense and a lot of baserunning, and it can't distinguish between a pitcher who strikes out the side in order and one who walks the bases loaded before getting out of the jam.

But it's one of my favorite stats because it's one of the few that meaningfully measures how much a player's performance matters, which is a lot more closely related to our experience as fans than just the performance itself. So I thought it'd be a good lens through which to examine the Brewers' first half. I decided to measure it on a game-by-game basis because a) you can just find the season-long totals here; and b) I think the game-by-game tally will be probably be more interesting anyway.

I'll start with the game MVP and LVP tallies for the season. (I'll have some hitting-specific stats and the best and worst of the season tomorrow, and then I'm undertaking a foolhardy attempt to measure fan anguish in a post I'll put up on Tuesday.) One note: Batting is included in pitchers' WPAs - in most cases, it didn't significantly affect their totals.

Brewers WPA MVP Leaders

15 - Prince Fielder
11 - Rickie Weeks
7 - Ryan Braun, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf
5 - Yovani Gallardo, Carlos Gomez, Chris Narveson
4 - Jonathan Lucroy, Casey McGehee
3 - Corey Hart, Mark Kotsay
2 - Marco Estrada, Zack Greinke, Mike McClendon, Sergio Mitre, Nyjer Morgan
1 - Erick Almonte, John Axford, Yuniesky Betancourt, Tim Dillard, George Kottaras, Josh Wilson

Brewers WPA LVP Leaders

9 - Kameron Loe
8 - Yovani Gallardo, Casey McGehee
7 - Rickie Weeks
6 - Yuniesky Betancourt, Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson
5 - Corey Hart, Randy Wolf
4 - Zack Greinke
3 - John Axford, Prince Fielder, Carlos Gomez, Mark Kotsay
2 - Erick Almonte, Zach Braddock, Shaun Marcum, Nyjer Morgan
1 - Ryan Braun, Craig Counsell, Tim Dillard, Sean Green, Danny Ray Herrera, Brandon Kintzler, Jonathan Lucroy, Takashi Saito

There are 8 players who have appeared in a Brewers uniform this year but have earned neither an MVP or LVP: Brandon Boggs, Mark DiFelice, Mat Gamel, LaTroy Hawkins, Wil Nieves, Jeremy Reed, Mike Rivera, and Mitch Stetter.

Of course, many of those MVPs and LVPs are for pretty inconsequential performances - a couple of meaningless hits in a lackluster loss or an 0-4 day in a blowout win. I wanted to measure the number of games that truly killed or lifted the team, so I decided to make the cutoff a .250 WPA - a quarter of a win added or taken away. Here are the standings for those games:

Most games with .250 WPA or above

8 - Prince Fielder, Randy Wolf
5 - Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum
4 - Chris Narveson
3 - Mark Kotsay, Nyjer Morgan, Rickie Weeks
2 - Yuniesky Betancourt, Zack Greinke, Casey McGehee
1 - Ryan Braun, Tim Dillard, Carlos Gomez. Corey Hart. George Kottaras. Kameron Loe, Jonathan Lucroy, Josh Wilson

Most games with -.250 WPA or below

6 - Yovani Gallardo, Kameron Loe
5 - Marco Estrada
4 - Randy Wolf
3 - John Axford, Chris Narveson
2 - Zach Braddock, Zack Greinke
1 - Erick Almonte, Tim Dillard, Sean Green, Corey Hart, Shaun Marcum, Mike McClendon, Takashi Saito

This is more for fun than anything else, so I won't comment much on it. There were a few things that jumped out to me, though:

- Prince Fielder has put the team on his back, dog. He has eight games where he was worth at least a quarter of an expected win, and no one else has more than three. His clutch-hitting woes from last year are regressing back to the mean, and it's been really fun to watch.

- Ryan Braun is the yin to Prince's yang: He only has one massively game-changing hit to his credit (the pinch-hit homer versus the Marlins), but despite coming up in tons of high-leverage situations, he's only been the LVP once. It's probably a good indication that he's doing a lot of table-setting and BMIRing, which is still extremely valuable.

- These numbers obviously don't come close to measuring how well someone is actually pitching, or should be pitching. But they do show what a general non-contributor Zack Greinke has been. Leaving aside his defense-independent stats, his WPA numbers are mediocre overall and terrible for an ace.

- Yovani Gallardo is either fantastic or awful - not much in between. So, basically an extreme version of what he's been his entire Brewers career.

- The less said about Kameron Loe, the better. Wait till tomorrow, though: Those numbers are even less kind to him.

Anything you see in there, or any questions about game-by-game WPA numbers? I have a spreadsheet of data to play with if there's something in particular you're curious about.