Instant replay a winner for Yankees

What is Joe Girardi thinking? (Photo: MLB.com) There are very few things that a manager and his coaching staff has total control of during a game.

He can set the lineups, but can't make a player hit a home run on a curveball off the plate.

He can position the fielders in an optimal arrangement to maximize coverage of the diamond, but can't make the fielder dive to his left or right to get a groundball in the hole.

He can bring in his best middle reliever in the seventh inning to escape a bases-loaded jam, but can't make that pitcher execute the perfect sequence of pitches to get the batter out.

However, there is one area where a manager and his coaching staff can make a decision that directly affects the game: the new instant replay/challenge rule.

Notes on the Yankees instant replay challenges The Yankees don't have the league's most productive offense or pitching staff or defense, but they seem to have mastered this new ability to challenge umpire calls via replay.

The Yankees have challenged 24 plays this season and had 19 of them overturned, for a success rate of 79 percent that is the best in the majors.

The team has been very smart in its selection of plays to challenge, only initiating the replay process when they are almost certain the call will be overturned. Their 24 challenges are fewer than all but six teams, and their five unsuccessful challenges are the fewest of any team.

The most common play that the Yankees have challenged is a “force play”, which they have done 12 times with eight of those overturned successfully. More impressively, the Yankees have been successful on eight of their nine “tag play” challenges. The Yankees have also challenged two “hit by pitch” plays (both overturned) and one “boundary” play (overturned).

Brian McCann has benefited the most of any Yankee batter or pitcher from successful challenges, with three of them coming while he was at the plate. The opposing team that has been hurt the most by the Yankees' successful challenges is the Red Sox, who have been on the wrong end of five overturned challenges by the Yankees in 13 games.

Impact of a successful challenge How much does each individual challenge really affect the outcome of the game? We can measure this using a concept called win expectancy.

At any point in a game the chance of each team winning can be determined from historical data given the specific score, inning, number of outs, and number of baserunners. For example, if a team is losing and has a 25 percent win expectancy, that means that only 25 percent of teams in similar situations in the past have ever come back to win.

The change in that win expectancy from what it was with the “wrong call” to the “correct call” gives us a rough estimate of how much the successful challenge increased the team's chance to win the game.

One of the biggest changes in win expectancy due to a successful challenge by the Yankees came on April 20 against the Rays. Brett Gardner stepped to the plate in the fourth inning with two outs, a man on third and the scored tied 0-0. He drilled a deep flyball to right field that Wil Myers appeared to catch just before it went over the wall. Girardi challenged the out on play and it was successfully overturned, giving Gardner an RBI double that put the Yankees ahead 1-0.

That hit increased the Yankees chance to win by nearly 15 percent, from 48.8 percent to 62.4 percent. The Yankees would eventually go on to beat the Rays in the 12th inning, and though Gardner's double was obviously not the game-winner, if the call had not been reversed, the Yankees probably would not have had a chance to win the game in extras.

Though many fans may lament some of Girardi's lineup choices and late-game bullpen moves, it is very likely that he and his coaching staff's smart decision-making with the new instant replay challenge system has directly helped the Yankees win a few games this season.

Now, if only he could hit...

All replay information courtesy of baseballsavant.com