## The most exciting games in MLB in 2021: Rays and in general (and some clunkers.)

Fangraphs plots the probability that the home team will win at each PA in a game vs. play. You can see what such a plot looks like on this page: https://www.fangraphs.com/scoreboard.aspx?date=2021-04-30 .

To me, these look like elevation profiles as if I were climbing hills on my bicycle. The most rewarding bike trip is completing a ride with lots of climbing.

So, I used Retrosheet data for the 2021 to recreate the probability profiles for every game in the MLB in 2021. Since we care about the Rays, I then ranked the profiles by total probability gained (and ignoring any probability lost) by the Rays in a game. I’m assuming that at the start of the game the Rays have a 50% chance of winning*. (Actually it is a bit more when they are the home team, less as the visitors.) The link above shows the worst Rays home game for 2021. They were down by 4 runs by the 3rd, eventually losing 9-2. At no point in the game, was there a chance the Rays would come back.

For context, if the team scores 10 runs in the first, the game is essentially over and the percentage added is 50%. If a team gives up 10 runs in the first, but comes back and wins, they will add 100%. If the game is tied, each inning the Rays keeps the other team from winning, they gain some positive value. This value during those shutout innings increases as we get closer to the 9th. Because of the "runner starts on 2nd base in extra innings" rule, extra inning games add a great deal to the positive probability added. The mean probability added each game is about 140% for each team. However it is skewed such that any game where one team adds less than 50% would be viewed as a clunker, and any game where a team adds more than 200% is exciting.

I’ll start with the clunkers. Here are the 5 games with the least probability added by the Rays (in reverse order).

5: 9/13: TBA at TOR. 46% added.

This game started close with McHugh going 2+. Yarby came in the 3rd and actually kept the Jays from scoring with the bases loaded. But in the 4th, it fell apart and Yarby allowed 4 runs that inning. With the Rays going down quickly to Manoah for nearly every inning, it wasn’t getting close. Yarby gave up 3 more in the 5th. Final score: 8-1 Jays with the only run by the Rays a homer by Meadows with 2 out in the 9th.

4: 7/17: TBA at ATL. 43% added.

Fried vs. Fleming. It was close at 0-0 through the upper half of the 3rd. But in the 4th, Fleming got fried by the Atlanta baseball team. 6 runs. He allowed another 1 in the 5th, and the game was over. Final score 9-0, Atlanta

3: 8/11 TBA at BOS. 24% added.

Evoldi vs. Fleming. Sox scored 3 in the bottom of the 1st, and they were off to the races. 2 more in the 2nd. 5 more in the 4th, all off Fleming. Enns gave up 4 in the 5th. Mejia was given the ball in the 8th and the Sox decided it was batting practice. 6 more runs. Final Score 20-8. And that was because in the top of 7th, Valdez gave up 7 runs to the Rays including dingers to Phillips and Z!

2: 7/2: TBA at TOR. 23% added.

Manoah vs. Patino. 2 runs by the Jays in the 1st. 4 more scored in the 2nd. But with Manoah mowing down the Rays, it was still a goose egg on the scoreboard for our boys. Springs gave up 4 more runs through the 7th. The most joyful moment of the evening came in the bottom of the 8th when Phillips took the mound and added to his legend. Final score: 11-1.

And now, the game for which the efforts by the Rays made the least amount of positive movement:

1: 8/14: TBA at MIN. 21% added

Maeda vs. Wacha. Rays go down in order in the 1st. Twins score 4 in the bottom of the 1st. Then 3 more in the 3rd. Rays doing nothing at the plate. In fact, the Rays do nothing at the plate all game. Final score: 12-0.

Rays get 3 hits (all singles), 1 walk. GDP twice. Team RISP: 0-0. But strikeout only 6 times. (3 by the leadoff batter, BLowe. )

Twins get 16 hits (4 doubles, 4 homers), walk 4 times.

Here are a couple links to this game:

https://www.fangraphs.com/boxscore.aspx?date=2021-08-14&team=Twins&dh=0&season=2021

https://www.mlb.com/gameday/rays-vs-twins/2021/08/14/632913#game_state=final,lock_state=final,game_tab=box,game=632913

Time for the thrillers. Here are the top 5 games for which the Rays provided the most "probability of winning" added. Note, there is no assurance the Rays won any of these games.

5) 6/9 WAS at Rays: 288% added by the Rays - Wander's first game! And he brings the Rays back with a 3 run homer. Is it enough?

4) 9/6 Rays at BOS: 295% - Rays down 7-1 in the first few innings. A grand slam, Little League style. Cruz’s best game. Can the Rays come back enough to defeat the Red Sox and their immature fans?

3) 9/12 Rays at DET: 329% - A definite Rays come back. Cruz and Phillips go deep. Can Kitt shut down the Tigers in extra innings?

2) 4/6 Rays at BOS: 371% - Rays take the lead in this early-season game. But the home team battles back. The game turns into a complete roller coaster. Which team will prevail?

1) 5/21 Rays at TOR: 371% - Outdoor baseball in Florida which means it was played in the most inviting ballpark in the majors in 2021. The Jays take the lead early on. The Rays keep chipping away at the lead with homers by Lowe and Ji-Man. But the Jays don’t quit. But is it enough to catch the pesky Jays?

Finally, if you want to see the most thrilling MLB games for 2021, (non-Rays division), here they are:

5) 7/19 NYN at CIN : 755 % added, combined

4) 7/3 BOS at OAK : 774%

3) 4/16 LAN at SDN: 779%

2) 4/6: ARI at COL: 820%

1) 8/25 LAN at SDN: 1040%

This post was written by a member of the DRaysBay community and does not necessarily express the views or opinions of DRaysBay staff.