I love watching movies based on books. And while there are many cases in which the cinematic vision lacks the depth and richness of its literary progenitor, there are many more that capture the spirit and intent of the written word in manner befitting our own imagination, or perhaps even improve upon it.
I’m sure you’ve got a list of your own, but for my money, you can’t do much better than Jaws and Forrest Gump (better than the books), The Shawshank Redemption and Jurassic Park (nearly as good as the movies), and the Harry Potter flicks (missing some ancillary details, but visually spot-on).
I like checking in on my website’s real-time traffic for much the same reasons; it’s really cool to me to have a visual representation of the impact of a tweet I might send out or of a new Facebook post. And that’s why I also love seeing the win probability indices on Fangraphs.
For those of you who may not be familiar, win probability simply measures the likelihood that a given team will be victorious. While many of the statistics upon which we rely are context-independent, this measurement is purely situational. As such, I find it interesting to look back at games to see the fluctuations in win expectancy over the course of 9 innings.
So as a movie provides a visual representation of the written word, a win probability chart takes that which we see on the screen and condenses it into a story we can read in a little green line. To see just how this works, let’s take a look at this weekend’s Cubs/Sox series.
As you can see below, the Cubs held the upper hand throughout much of the first 8 innings until a JB Shuck sac fly provided the Sox with the only offense they’d need on the day. When Chris Coghlan singled to lead off the 7th, the Cubs possessed a 63.9% chance to win the game. By the time Taylor Teagarden struck out to end the inning, those chances were down to even-money. It was all downhill from there.
In a game which saw many Cubs fans beating the hell of imaginary Jon Lester effigy dolls as I tried in vain to defend him, the Cubs never had chance. This graph might as well be illustrating my high school social agenda, it’s got that little hope for success. The sense of woebegone-ness was real here, folks, and you can see it in the decidedly downward trend.
This is basically the mirror image of the previous day, as Jake Arrieta struck out the side to open the game before receiving two runs of support (which is two more than his counterpart from Saturday has seen in 4 starts) in the bottom of the 1st. And, in true ace fashion, Mr. Honey Beard even helped his own cause by hitting his first career homer in the 5th.
But even had he not shown Lester how a real ace handles a bat, Arrieta could have gotten by on the meager offering from his downtrodden teammates. He was peddling more smut than Larry Flynt at an AVN convention, throwing pitches that baffled White Sox hitters. Justice Potter Stewart was probably rolling over in his grave, shouting, “I see it! I see it!”
That green line charts the course of our emotions though, doesn’t it? I know I was a lot happier watching Sunday’s game than I had been in either of the previous contests. Much of that happiness was born of relief too, as a sweep at the hands of the Sox would not have been the best way to enter the All-Star break.
The Cubs really needed this win, just as they need a few days’ rest. So here’s to hoping they take the time to decompress and flush out some of the bad hoodoo that seems to be flowing around the team here of late. With a relatively easy schedule coming up over the rest of July, they could really have an opportunity to set themselves up for second-half success.
And that should make for a lot of pretty-looking graphs.