Happy New Year, errybody, hope it was safe and drunkardly. I wanted to take a look at some of the biggest Win Probability Added swings for individual plays for the last season and was hoping that it would awaken some ancient feelings. In this first piece I wanted to take a look at the batters to isolate the 10 best moments of 2010. To do this I took a bit of time and compiled every single play for each player (while they were here) from the Fangraphs player pages. If you click HERE you can play with the data yourself, but beware that it’s still a bit of a work in progress and the Batters and Pitchers tabs are all you should really need. The really cool thing about the workbook is that the links all should work, so if you click any of the blue hyperlinks it will take you back to that game, which is basically what I will be showing here. Without further ado, let’s see the top-10 biggest positive swings for 2010:
There are two factors to calculating WPA. The first is the actual event, such as a single. You may be saying to yourself, “I’m a smart person, how the heck is a single, one of the most important plays of the season?” Well, the second part of WPA is leverage. Down by one, with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth is about the highest leverage that can possibly exist. So even though this single changed our Run Expectancy by a mere .47 runs, our Win Expectancy increased from 18.8% to a much stronger 60.6%. Here’s a video of Los driving in the tying run and here’s a video of the overall recap if you think it adds a bit more context. If you’re fiending for live action as much as I am then I highly suggest mainlining that second video into your skull because that was a big-time win while we were still chugging towards the playoffs.
In #10 we saw a game-tying single when any out would have ended the game. If you saw the clip above, you saw that Willy Aybar ended up with the walk-off Reach-on-Error. In #9, Boots was able to lessen his pace a bit as he walloped a pinch-hit airbender that took the Rays from a Win Probability of 26% to 68.5% as the Rays tried to dig out of a Matt Garza magma hole. We would go on to lose this game in extras due to some phenomenal defense by the Yanks. Check out the video HERE. Zobie was robbed on an extra base hit and then Crawford gets nailed at third trying to advance on a weak fly out breaking one of the many cardinal rules that you don’t get thrown out at 3rd to end the game. Thanks for making it interesting Boots.
Moment #8 bring us to another pinch hit scenario as the recently-called-up Matty Joyce announced that he was going to be a force to be reckoned with at the Major League level. To set the stage a bit, the Rays were down 4-1 in the 8th against a very tough Twins team playing in their brand new stadium in front of a packed house on Independence Day. Francisco Liriano had been dealing all day, but had driven up his pitch count and could go no further. Alex Burnett was brought in to keep the mood calm but ::POW:: Bartlett leads off with a double and then ::THWACK:: Sean Rod pokes a single through short. That’s the end of Alex Burnett as the Twins want to see lefty Jose Mijares face Carl Crawford in this situation. Craw immediately spanks a ground rule double that drives in Bartlesby to make it 4-2 and moves Roddy up to 3rd. In steps big, bad Evan Longoria, meanwhile the Twins counter with Matt Guerrier. Longo rips a single to left that drives in Roddy and moves Craw up to third. So now it’s 4-3 and Guerrier has to face the clutchy Willy “Boots” Aybar with 2 on and no out. So ::WHAMMY:: Boots with a Fur (double for those that don’t speak good) ties it up and puts runners on second and third.
What an inning so far, the Rays are rallying and this is about as good as you could hope for, right? It was looking that way as Guerrier sandwiched a walk to Upton between a weak Jaso groundout and an even weaker Ben Zobrist foulout to first. In steps the pinch hitter Matt Joyce with the bases juiced and two down in a tie game in the 8th. The leverage is pretty high here at 5.64 (1.0 is a pretty “normal” situation. For this you need to watch THIS first (1:30ish). Joyce steps in and hits an absolute bomb to dead center to break this one wide open. A shaky Grant Balfour makes it interesting later but by then Gonzo had raised our Win Probability from a slight favorite 53.5% to 96% and just about ensuring that July 4th festivities would be a celebration after all.
This game was so frustrating to me. Nothing was really working with the sticks against Kevin Slowey, whom is generally thought to be a fairly mediocre pitcher. Then Beej hits what looks like a double or maybe a homer and it gets ruled as a longball. Finally a bit of a reason to cheer. Then we get the bases juiced and the Twins walk in a run. I remember screaming at my TV when Jason Bartlett was brought off the bench with the bases still loaded in the 8th inning. With the lefty brought in I could rationalize the move a bit, but this was about the apex of my Jason Bartlett hate, and LOOK at what he does. A no-doubter into what appears to be a bunch of confused Celtics fans that takes our Win Probability from 6.6% to 52.4%. Sounds good, we’ve tied it up and still have Benoit and Soriano on the bench so we’ve got a good chance to win the game. Then Kubel hits a ball off a speaker that plinko’s around up top and the winning run comes in as it falls harmlessly in the infield. What an absolute heart-breaker that the umpires couldn’t come together and make the right call. At least we got a good Maddon interview out of it as he had this to say. I agree, Joe, it’s not cute anymore. Build the damn ballpark already.
We’re going all the way back to the second game of 2010 for the 6th wildest WPA swing. If you’re a Rays fan then you know that Carl Crawford is basically rubbish against left-handers. Stats aside, he has a completely different mindset at the plate where he seems to go into flail-mode as soon as he sees a same-hander out there. So with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth against freshly-minted Oriole closer Mike Gonzalez there wasn’t a whole lot of hope that Craw would do much more than maybe make some weak contact and hope to poke one through. Instead, he laces a double to RF that brings in the tying and winning runs and brings our Win Probability from 52.3% all the way up to an obvious 100%. Peep this I don’t know what I like better about this highlight, watching Longo drill one out of the universe or the dueling water buffaloes trying to score when they should be grabbing the oxygen tank next to 3B. Of course trumping both of those was Crawford’s double since it was of the walk-off variety in extremely high leverage. I know it’s not just me, but I sincerely miss Staat’s going bonkers at the end of that game. I could go for some more of that.
This was a really sweet one. Only a couple of weeks after #6 on our list, we were treated to a real duel between Wade Davis and Josh Beckett. Here’s the video. You may remember that this game was suspended and then finished up the next day in a weird double header. This is another weird game as we saw Varitek and both burned the monster (PtB taking our Win Probability from 42% to 90.1%) and the amazing 11th inning that isn’t capture by WPA as it only focuses on offense. If any of those balls squirted through then we wouldn’t have even seen this death rattle from Burrell and who knows how the standings would have looked as that four game sweep in Stinktown was certainly a confidence booster.
This game featured a nice duel that we won’t be seeing the last of as Wade Davis and Phil Hughes squared off at the Trop. Outside of the early Swish homer, Davis cruised pretty effectively, but the problem was that Hughes was doing much of the same. That is, until Matt Joyce stepped into the box in the bottom of the 6th down 2-0. Prior to the at bat the Rays were expected to win at about a 23.8% clip. After the horn had finished sounding the Rays were up 3-2 and expected to win at a rate of 71.9%. They held on to complete the nice comeback as neither team had another guy reach base over the final three innings. Thanks Gonzo for another big blast, I’m looking forward to a lot more in 2011.
Here’s a real topsy-turvy game with the division on the line. It’s not very often that you get to see a guy wash out in the majors, go to Japan, come back state-side, and then become famous for hitting incredibly clutch home runs. Now imagine seeing this done by a guy with bright orange hair. This is the game that led many to start calling DanJo The Great Pumpkin. It’s not really my cup of tea, but it works and as long as Dan has more of these ridiculous fortune-changing moments, then I’ll call him whatever he wants. Here’s a look at the game, a real nailbiter, where one player put the team on his back and willed them to victory. You’ll probably remember this as the Jeter the Cheater game, but I prefer to remember DanJo’s bombs and Staat’s calls, particularly the second. GD I miss that.
A’s fans came out in full force (16,000 announced attendance) for this one, probably because the Rays don’t have any real fans willing to fly to Oakland for a Saturday game. It was a pretty tight affair with David Price having a meh start, but when it came down to the battle of two good bullpens, the Rays emerged victorious. They might now have if not for a little guy name Sean Rodriguez. Roddy is known for three things, mashing lefties, playing solid defense wherever you put him, and lastly, he’s never heard the word “no” uttered from the lips of a lady. On this day, he got to show off number 1 and if they gave bonus points for length then this should have been a 3-run homer as it was positively crushed to center erasing the 1-run deficit in the process. Sean is yet another guy that we’ll be getting back next year that should look to continue his evolution as a ballplayer.
What’s that? You thought we had seen the last of Roddy? WRONG! Here he is again in our #1 spot for biggest WPA blasts of 2010. The Jays led the entirety of this game, but the Rays picked up three in the top of the 7th to get the game back to 5-3. By the time that Roddy stepped up to the plate in the top of the 9th it was 5-4 with the bases loaded and two outs for a win probability of 23.5%. Any sort of him touching first prolonged the game, but if he couldn’t the the Rays would walk away losers for the day. His bases clearing double brought our Win Probability to 91.6%, and though Sori made it interesting, the Rays still locked up this game.
Sure we see a few shining moments from our departed starts Crawford and Pena and even Aybar with a couple clutch moments, but don’t forget all the great times by all the guys that look to continue to provide jaw-dropping moments next year. Joyce, DanJo, Brignac, and Rodriguez were all over these highlights, but don’t forget about Zobrist, Longoria, Upton, Jaso and the rest of the crew. This is still a solid team that knows how to win. I hope you enjoyed this piece and would love to see some of your favorite plays from the season. If you can find them on mlb.com’s video site then link them in the comments and we can all enjoy what everyone found to be the best moments of 2010.