Pardon me if this has been done before, but I had an idea for quantifying how exciting a game is. Generally, an exciting game is one where the conditions of the game change a lot: lead changes, men on base, and each team's winning chance changing dramatically (this is somewhat different in my mind from a tense game, where the score is close, but there isn't necessarily much action). Now that we can calculate the win probability for any situation, we can also calculate the change in win probability, sum up the changes in win probability. The more the win probability changes, the more exciting the game. As a proof of principle, I went through the Indians 2008 data on Retrosheet, and calculated the cumulative change in win probability, and found the 4 most exciting games from 2008 (2009 data not yet available, win probability graphs from fangraphs.com):
4: April 7th, Indians 4, Angels 6, Excitement Score: 6.76. A low scoring game until the 9th, the Angels led 2-1 before Francisco Rodriguez gave up three runs in the ninth. The Angels won on a Torii Hunter grand-slam off Joe Borowski.
3: May 1st, Mariners 2, Indians 3, ES: 6.82. A close game throughought, the Indians got an early lead, but Betancourt blew the save in the 9th to tie the game 1-1. The Mariners scored on a Richie Sexson home run in the 10th, while the Indians countered with a bases loaded walk off Putz to tie it. Asdrubal won the game with a 2-out bases loaded single in the 11th.
2: Sep. 16th, Twins 9, Indians 12, ES: 8.4. The Indians took an early lead off Francisco Liriano, but Zack Jackson tired in the fifth but the Indians still lead 8-7. Rafael Betancourt blew the save in the ninth, and the Indians needed a Sizemore HR to stay in it, but Victor sealed the win in the 11th with a three run walk-off homer.
1: July 30th, Tigers 14, Indians 12, ES: 9.6. The Indians scored 8 runs in the first three innings, and three more in the sixth, but found themselves tied in the 8th as the Tigers scored 4 runs off Ed Mujica. Both teams scored in the ninth, and then the Tigers won in the 12th on a ground out and single. The Indians had loaded the bases in the 9th, 10th, and 12th, but only scored one run.
These results generally make intuitive sense, since high scoring games, lead changes, extra innings games, and close games are all exciting. The most exciting games all of all, had all four of those factors. If you guys like this, I could go back over the past decade of games to find the ten most exciting Indians games of the decade, it being 2009 and all.
(Technical notes: I got win expectancy by averaging the win expectancy from Baseball Prospectus over 2005-2009. Some situations are uncommon, making the expectancy spiky, and I could use better win expectancy data if anyone has it. Analysis was done in MATLAB using custom scripts.
I define Excitement Score as the cumulative change in win probability. Therefore the minimum ES is 0.5, if the away team scored an infinite number of runs before getting an out.)