ESPN picks up on Win Probability for College World Series

Yes, you read that correctly. The Worldwide Leader has added a nifty little dropdown from the top bar in its College World Series broadcasts this year. I caught the last inning or so of tonight’s game between Oregon State and Cal State-Fullerton, and it would show below the score for a few seconds every couple of batters. Obviously, anyone and everyone who has never heard of WPA is calling this ESPN’s desperate attempt to increase viewership and/or pulling a page out of their World Series of Poker coverage. This is hardly a new concept for baseball, though it’s interesting to me that ESPN decided to roll it out for the CWS coverage.

So far, the dropdown graphics haven’t intruded with the broadcast, which is a plus. Then again, I find the concept of win probability positively fascinating, so perhaps I’m not the best judge. I understand that Orel Hershiser tried to explain the concept on the air, but I don’t know what he said, so I don’t really know how ESPN is calculating it. I’ll try to follow up on this tomorrow or Monday, and perhaps I’ll track one of the games myself to see if they’re properly accounting for things like the run environment, which is probably much higher in the land of aluminum bats (UPDATE: The best numbers I found were a couple of years old, but they show that the average is somewhere around 6-6.5 runs per team per game).

I’m sure there will be plenty of people all over this by next week, but if you’re new to Win Probability, I can suggest a few links:

The One About Win Probability” by Dave Studeman of THT

Dave’s WPA spreadsheet

Dave’s 2006 article on developments in the blogosphere (includes some pros and cons of using WPA, acknowledging that it’s not the Holy Grail of baseball stats)

Christopher Shea’s win expectancy finder

Tangotiger on his Leverage Index – the key companion to using WPA

The inimitable FanGraphs, which use Tango’s charts to track every MLB game

(See my newer posts on this topic for more: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

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