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Garret Anderson's Unsung Angels Win Probability Magic

While acknowledged as the king of Angels counting stats, advanced stats in two important games reveal a side of Garret Anderson's greatness heretofore untold.

Garret Anderson hits a three-run double in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. (<em>Photo: Jeff Gross | Getty Images Sport</em>)
Garret Anderson hits a three-run double in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. (Photo: Jeff Gross | Getty Images Sport)

Angels great Garret Anderson announced his retirement on Tuesday. At 38 years old, his words were not really a surprise, but it was a chance at a reflection...

A few years ago I was looking through a Bob Dylan songbook, with the musical chords and directions for all his songs. It was a thick book, Bob's been at it a long time. In the upper left corner of the beginning of each song is an instruction on how to play the bars of music. After many page turnings, I noticed that every song said the same thing: moderately. Over two hundred songs were in this book and all but three were to be played at the same pace: "Moderately". I thought of that songbook today when I reflected on the career of Garret Anderson.

If Bob Dylan were an Angels baseball player, he'd be Garret Anderson: showing up year and year out, always there, never as flashy as the pop stars or as hard as the rockers, never gloating with a number one hit or leading the league in anything you could quantify... but such an integral part of the team that you could not imagine a decade of Angels baseball without Anderson as much as the shape of popular music would be vastly different had Dylan not transformed it with his moderately paced playing out in Left Field.

Garret Anderson leads the Angels in so many offensive categories and so many longevity categories that it is pointless to mention one and not mention them all. The conventional wisdom is that if it is a counting stat, he is at or near the top of the all-time rankings as an Angel but if it is a rate stat, he is in the middle of the pack. And the "Advanced Stats" crowd would probably chuckle at the mention of G.A. ...But think again, the advanced stats reveal Garret Anderson might be the real reason that the Angels have a ring at all... read on...

When Garret Anderson cleared the bases with a double in Game Seven of the 2002 World Series, the greatness of that moment arrived too early in the game (the third inning) to be considered monumental and happened the night after the greatest comeback in a postseason elimination game in baseball history. The Angels have their one World Series ring in part because of Anderson's 5.3 WAR and 127 OPS+ that season, but those three RBI to break a one-one tie added 14% to the Angels Win Probability. And win they did. But in the celebration of it all, Anderson's three-run double in the third faded in team lore in comparison to Scott Spiezio's monster three-run home run the night before. Of course, that shot had only added 12% to the Angels Game Six win probability. So Garret was statistically ahead after all? Well, not exactly... in Game Six, Darin Erstad led the eighth inning off with a solo HR to make the score 5-4, adding 14% to the Win Probability, the equal to Anderson's hit the next night, and three batters later, Troy Glaus added 21% to the Angels chances with his two-run double to take the lead. So Garret was once again statistically dwarfed by advanced stats. Except that he wasn't. You see... two batters after Erstad and just before Glaus, Garret Anderson hit a single to LF with a man on. Although the score remained 5-4, that single increased the Angels' win probability by 27%.

According to counting stats, he leads the franchise. According to win probability added (WPA), Garret Anderson's key hits added more to the win probability of his team than anyone else in the two most important games in club history on back-to-back nights. If you were cheering too loudly for all the other highlights on those magical nights in late October 2002, now is your chance to cheer for Garret Anderson, ring and all.