Traditionally, win-probability systems
are purely context-dependent. In fact, however, I do not think that this is necessarily the appropriate starting point for measuring player value. Rather, I am interested in beginning with an assessment of players’ performances in the absence of the contexts in which the players actually performed. That is, what would the expected won-lost record be for a player, given his actual performance, assuming that performance had come in a neutral context? To answer this question, I construct a set of context-neutral Player Game Points. Once these are constructed, I can then add back in the contextual information
in a way that clearly identifies how players’ values were affected by the context in which they performed.
Context-Neutral win probabilities are constructed as follows. Player Game Points are divided into three categories for the purpose of calculating context-neutral win probabilities: independent events, base-state dependent events, and purely contextual events.
1. Independent Events
Most events can happen regardless of the base-out situation. One can strike out at any time, regardless of how many baserunners or outs there are. Similarly, a triple could happen at any time regardless of the number of baserunners. All batter results, except for double plays (which are base-state dependent), intentional walks, and bunts, fall into the category of independent events. Intentional walks and bunts are treated as purely contextual events, which are described below.
For independent events, the expected win probability of such an event is calculated for each event within the league-year using the Win Probability Matrix for the ballpark in which the event took place.
For example, the win probability of a home run at Wrigley Field in 2005 is calculated by taking every plate appearance that took place in a National League ballpark in 2005 and calculating, for that plate appearance, what the added win probability would have been had the game been played in Wrigley Field and the batter hit a home run. The context-neutral win probability of a home run at Wrigley Field in 2005 is then equal to the average of all of these probabilities. In this case, the average win probability added by a home run at Wrigley Field in 2005 was 0.140 wins.
In the case of events which may or may not lead to baserunner advancement – e.g., outs, singles, doubles – expected results are calculated based on average baserunner advancement, just as is done with contextual Player Game Points.
2. Base-State Dependent Events
Some events can only happen given certain baserunners or a certain number of outs. For example, one can only ground into a double play with at least one baserunner on and less than two outs. Any Player Game Points accumulated by a baserunner on third base can, of course, only be accumulated in a base-out state that includes a runner on third base.
For baserunner game points (except for stolen bases, which are treated as purely contextual events and discussed below) and double plays, the context-neutral win probability of the event is calculated the same as for independent events, except that the average win probability is only calculated across events with relevant base-out states.
So, for example, the context-neutral Player Game Points associated with a double play are calculated as the average win probability, given the ballpark in which the game takes place, added from hitting into a double play across double-play situations (runner on first base and less than two out). For a ground ball to the shortstop at Wrigley Field in 2005, the average win probability added by a double play is 0.015 losses (from the batter’s perspective) (on top of the 0.046 losses accrued from the initial ground-out).
For baserunner advancements and baserunner outs, context-neutral win probabilities are only averaged given the specific batting event and hit type. That is, the context-neutral Player Game Points for a runner on third base advancing on a fly out are calculated only considering plays in which a runner on third base advances on a fly out. Similarly, the context-neutral Player Game Points for a runner on first base who only advances to second base on a single are calculated only considering plays in which a runner on first base does not advance to third on a single.
3. Purely Contextual Events
While it is possible to remove much, if not all, of the context from most plays, there are certain plays which are, essentially, purely elective plays, and are therefore inextricably tied to the context in which they take place. In my opinion, it would be wrong to attempt to divorce these plays from their context.
Three types of plays fall into this category: intentional walks, stolen base attempts (including stolen bases, caught stealings, pickoffs, and balks), and bunts (regardless of either situation or outcome). In each of these three cases, the context-neutral Player Game Points are simply set equal to context-dependent Player Game Points.
Context-neutral win values for specific events by season are presented and discussed in a separate article
Context-neutral Player Game Points form the basis for context-neutral, teammate-adjusted Player wins and losses, which I call eWins and eLosses. The calculation of eWins and eLosses is described in more detail in a separate article
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