In terms of significant, game-changing moments, no World Series game in history compares to Wednesday night’s epic between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros. In the sixth inning, Corey Seager hit a two-run homer off of Justin Verlander to break a 1-1 tie. In the top of the ninth, Marwin Gonzalez hit a solo shot to tie the game 3-3. In the 10th, Jose Altuve broke the tie with a solo shot. In the bottom half of that same inning, Enrique Hernandez’s RBI single tied the game, and then in the top of the 11th, George Springer hit a two-run homer that would put the Astros up for good. Each of those five plays increased the scoring club’s chances victory by 25% according to Win Probability Added. That’s never happened before in a World Series game.
Since 2002, only one in three games have produced plays with at least one play with a WPA of .25 or greater. To put that in greater context, consider: there have been only 18 plays total this posteason that produced a WPA of .25 or greater. Here they are, in order of impact on win probability:
|10/25/2017||10||2||Enrique Hernandez singled to right (Grounder). Logan Forsythe scored. Enrique Hernandez advanced to 2B.||Dodgers||Astros||.468|
|10/15/2017||9||2||Justin Turner homered (Fly). Yasiel Puig scored. Chris Taylor scored.||Dodgers||Cubs||.394|
|10/7/2017||8||1||Bryce Harper homered (Fly). Victor Robles scored.||Nationals||Cubs||.388|
|10/14/2017||9||1||Carlos Correa doubled to right (Fliner (Liner)). Jose Altuve scored.||Astros||Yankees||.369|
|10/25/2017||9||0||Marwin Gonzalez homered (Fliner (Fly)).||Dodgers||Astros||.350|
|10/25/2017||10||0||Jose Altuve homered (Fliner (Fly)).||Dodgers||Astros||.350|
|10/24/2017||6||2||Justin Turner homered (Fly). Chris Taylor scored.||Dodgers||Astros||.306|
|10/25/2017||6||2||Corey Seager homered (Fly). Chris Taylor scored.||Dodgers||Astros||.306|
|10/7/2017||8||1||Ryan Zimmerman homered (Fly). Anthony Rendon scored. Daniel Murphy scored.||Nationals||Cubs||.300|
|10/6/2017||8||0||Jay Bruce homered (Fly).||Indians||Yankees||.298|
|10/6/2017||3||2||Aaron Hicks homered (Fliner (Fly)). Starlin Castro scored. Gregory Bird scored.||Indians||Yankees||.278|
|10/12/2017||5||2||Addison Russell doubled to left (Grounder). Willson Contreras scored. Ben Zobrist scored.||Nationals||Cubs||.271|
|10/25/2017||11||0||George Springer homered (Fliner (Fly)). Cameron Maybin scored.||Dodgers||Astros||.261|
|10/9/2017||8||3||Anthony Rizzo singled to center (Fliner (Fly)). Leonys Martin scored. Anthony Rizzo out.||Cubs||Nationals||.259|
|10/16/2017||2||2||Todd Frazier homered (Fliner (Fly)). Starlin Castro scored. Aaron Hicks scored.||Yankees||Astros||.258|
|10/9/2017||8||2||Josh Reddick singled to left (Grounder). Cameron Maybin scored. George Springer advanced to 3B.||Red Sox||Astros||.253|
|10/9/2017||5||1||Andrew Benintendi homered (Fly). Xander Bogaerts scored.||Red Sox||Astros||.253|
|10/6/2017||6||2||Francisco Lindor homered (Fliner (Fly)). Carlos Santana scored. Yan Gomes scored. Lonnie Chisenhall scored.||Indians||Yankees||.251|
Of the eight biggest plays in the postseason this year, four occurred in Game 2. Hernandez’s single in a losing effort produced the highest WPA of any play in this postseason.
Since 2002, only five plays in the World Series have been more significant:
|GameDate||Inning||Outs||PlayDesc||Home-Away||Score After (Home-Away)||WPA|
|10/19/2009||9||2||Jimmy Rollins doubled to right (Fliner (Liner)). Eric Bruntlett scored. Carlos Ruiz scored.||Phillies-Dodgers||5-4||.827|
|10/17/2005||9||2||Albert Pujols homered (Fly). David Eckstein scored. Jim Edmonds scored.||Astros-Cardinals||4-5||.734|
|10/3/2003||11||2||Ivan Rodriguez singled to right (Liner). Alex Gonzalez scored. Juan Pierre scored. Luis Castillo advanced to 2B.||Marlins-Giants||4-3||.734|
|10/23/2005||7||2||Paul Konerko homered (Fly). Juan Uribe scored. Tadahito Iguchi scored. Jermaine Dye scored.||White Sox-Astros||6-4||.578|
|10/11/2009||9||2||Vladimir Guerrero singled to center (Fliner (Liner)). Chone Figgins scored. Bobby Abreu scored. Torii Hunter advanced to 2B.||Red Sox-Angels||6-7||.570|
|10/10/2010||8||1||Eric Hinske homered (Fliner (Fly)). Alex Gonzalez scored.||Braves-Giants||2-1||.553|
|10/10/2016||8||1||Conor Gillaspie tripled to right (Fliner (Fly)). Brandon Belt scored. Buster Posey scored.||Giants-Cubs||4-3||.551|
|10/27/2011||9||2||David Freese tripled to right (Fliner (Fly)). Albert Pujols scored. Lance Berkman scored.||Cardinals-Rangers||7-7||.538|
|10/5/2003||8||2||David Ortiz doubled to right (Liner). Nomar Garciaparra scored. Manny Ramirez scored.||Red Sox-Athletics||5-4||.525|
|10/3/2014||8||1||Delmon Young doubled to left (Liner). Nelson Cruz scored. Steve Pearce scored. J.J. Hardy scored.||Orioles-Tigers||7-6||.516|
|10/6/2004||12||1||Alex Rodriguez hit a ground rule double (Fly). Miguel Cairo scored. Derek Jeter advanced to 3B.||Yankees-Twins||6-6||.503|
|10/3/2014||7||2||Matt Carpenter doubled to right (Fliner (Fly)). Yadier Molina scored. Matt Adams scored. Jon Jay scored.||Dodgers-Cardinals||6-7||.502|
|10/9/2005||9||2||Brad Ausmus homered (Fly).||Astros-Braves||6-6||.488|
|10/7/2003||9||2||Sammy Sosa homered (Fly). Kenny Lofton scored.||Cubs-Marlins||8-8||.487|
|10/13/2012||9||2||Raul Ibanez homered (Fly). Mark Teixeira scored.||Yankees-Tigers||4-4||.487|
|10/7/2012||8||2||Tyler Moore singled to right (Fliner (Liner)). Michael Morse scored. Ian Desmond scored. Tyler Moore advanced to 2B.||Cardinals-Nationals||2-3||.474|
|10/27/2011||10||2||Lance Berkman singled to center (Fliner (Liner)). Jon Jay scored. Albert Pujols advanced to 3B.||Cardinals-Rangers||9-9||.471|
|10/27/2015||9||1||Alex Gordon homered (Fly).||Royals-Mets||4-4||.469|
|10/7/2013||9||2||Jose Lobaton homered (Fly).||Rays-Red Sox||5-4||.468|
|10/25/2017||10||2||Enrique Hernandez singled to right (Grounder). Logan Forsythe scored. Enrique Hernandez advanced to 2B.||Dodgers-Astros||5-5||.468|
As illustrated by this table, 19 plays have recorded a greater swing than Hernandez’ single in a postseason game. Notably, all of those in the World Series were produced by the team that ultimately won the game. Hernandez, of course, was on the losing side.
Combining the FanGraphs database with Baseball-Reference’s Play-Index, I went back through every World Series game since 1903. I found only three games in which a batter got a hit with a WPA greater than Hernandez’ own and yet whose team went on to lose the game.
- In 1972, Bobby Tolan of the Cincinnati Reds hit a two-run double off of the relieving Vida Blue to put the Reds ahead of the Oakland A’s 2-1 in the top of the eighth inning. The A’s came back in the bottom of the ninth to score two runs to win the game and take a 3-1 series lead before winning in seven games.
- In 1964, Tom Tresh came to the plate down 2-0 against Bob Gibson with two outs in the bottom of the ninth with Mickey Mantle having reached on an error. He hit a game-tying home run, but Tim McCarver hit a three-run homer in the 10th and Gibson close out the game in the bottom half of the inning. The Cardinals took a 3-2 series lead and won in seven games.
- In 1924, with one out in the bottom of the ninth, Washington’s Roger Peckinpaugh hit an RBI double that tied the game at two runs apiece against the New York Giants. In the top of the 12th inning, New York’s Walter Johnson, who had pitched the entire game, gave up hits to Ross Youngs and High Pockets Kelly. New York won that Game 1, but Washington took the series in seven games. Thanks in part to Frankie Frisch’s efforts on the Veteran’s Committee, 10 players who participated in that series eventually made the Hall of Fame.
On average, there have been 2.4 plays with a WPA over .25 per World Series. Allow me to repeat: that’s not per game, but per series. Wednesday night’s game alone more than doubled that average. Indeed, only one other playoff contest in history has, like Game 2, featured as many as five significant plays. Among all playoff games searched through the Baseball-Reference Play-Index (based on a hit search, so big walks, hit-by-pitches, and errors might be missing), the only other game with five big swings was Game 2 of the 1985 ALCS between the Kansas City Royals and the Toronto Blue Jays. That game featured runs in the bottom of the eighth, the top of the ninth, and both halves of the 10th, as the Blue Jays took a 2-0 series lead before succumbing to the eventual champs in seven games.
Since 2002, there have been only five games featuring at least four hits with a WPA greater than .25. Before Wednesday, only one of those games occurred in the World Series. It shouldn’t be too hard to guess which game that was.
Game 6 of the 2011 World Series had four significant plays above .25, which is one short of Wednesday night’s game. As the graph here indicates, however, there were a bunch of smaller back and forths throughout the entire game.
Compare that to the Game 2 graph:
Wednesday night’s game meandered along a bit due to good pitching performances from both clubs. That’s not to suggest that good pitching performances are undesirable, of course, just to say that they tend to facilitate fewer swings in win probability. The minor back-and-forths in the Cardinals-Rangers matchup, meanwhile, tended to be a bit bigger than the Dodgers and Astros.
Here are the top plays by WPA in each of the two games, pitted head to head:
|Game 6, 2011||Game 2, 2017|
|David Freese tripled to right (Fliner (Fly)). Albert Pujols scored. Lance Berkman scored.||3.33||.538||.468||4.9||Enrique Hernandez singled to right (Grounder). Logan Forsythe scored. Enrique Hernandez advanced to 2B.|
|Lance Berkman singled to center (Fliner (Liner)). Jon Jay scored. Albert Pujols advanced to 3B.||6.42||.471||.350||2.79||Marwin Gonzalez homered (Fliner (Fly)).|
|Josh Hamilton homered (Fly). Elvis Andrus scored.||2.95||.428||.350||2.24||Jose Altuve homered (Fliner (Fly)).|
|David Freese homered (Fly).||2.19||.376||.306||1.26||Corey Seager homered (Fly). Chris Taylor scored.|
|Lance Berkman homered (Fly). Skip Schumaker scored.||0.84||.217||.261||2.71||George Springer homered (Fliner (Fly)). Cameron Maybin scored.|
|Adrian Beltre homered (Fliner (Fly)).||1.53||.213||.174||0.62||Joc Pederson homered (Fly).|
|Michael Young doubled to left (Fliner (Liner)). Josh Hamilton scored.||2.02||.172||.103||1.68||Yasiel Puig homered (Fliner (Fly)).|
|Yadier Molina walked. Lance Berkman scored. Matt Holliday advanced to 3B. David Freese advanced to 2B.||4.75||.162||.092||3.47||Cameron Maybin advanced on a stolen base to 2B.|
|Jon Jay singled to left (Fliner (Fly)). Daniel Descalso advanced to 2B.||3.31||.140||.089||1.37||Alex Bregman hit a ground rule double (Fliner (Liner)).|
|Nelson Cruz homered (Fly).||0.9||.125||.085||0.58||Carlos Correa homered (Fliner (Fly)).|
|Ian Kinsler hit a ground rule double (Fliner (Liner)). Craig Gentry scored.||1.26||.117||.081||2.24||Cameron Maybin singled to center (Liner).|
|David Freese walked. Lance Berkman advanced to 3B. Matt Holliday advanced to 2B.||3.61||.109||.080||2.23||Alex Bregman singled to left (Fliner (Liner)). Josh Reddick scored. George Springer advanced to 2B.|
|Elvis Andrus singled to left (Fliner (Liner)). Ian Kinsler advanced to 3B.||1.52||.096||.080||2.01||Carlos Correa singled to center (Grounder). Alex Bregman scored.|
|Mike Napoli singled to right (Liner). Nelson Cruz scored.||1.59||.095||.068||1.24||George Springer doubled to left (Grounder).|
|Josh Hamilton singled to right (Grounder). Ian Kinsler scored. Elvis Andrus advanced to 3B.||1.76||.091||.059||1.29||Marwin Gonzalez walked.|
|Daniel Descalso singled to right (Liner).||1.64||.086||.056||1.44||George Springer singled to left (Liner). Josh Reddick advanced to 3B.|
|Matt Holliday walked. Lance Berkman advanced to 2B.||2.1||.079||.053||1.34||Carlos Correa singled to left (Liner).|
|Nelson Cruz reached on error to left (Fly). Nelson Cruz advanced to 2B. Error by Matt Holliday.||1.08||.079||.050||1.2||Chris Taylor walked.|
|Ian Kinsler singled to center (Grounder). Derek Holland scored. Ian Kinsler advanced to 2B.||0.78||.077||.048||1.67||Logan Forsythe walked.|
|Lance Berkman walked.||2.4||.075||.044||3.31||Logan Forsythe advanced on a wild pitch to 2B.|
We know that Game 2 featured (by our somewhat arbitrary measure) five “big” plays. As the table here illustrates, however, Game 6 from the 2011 Series was responsible for a greater share of notable plays outside those top five. Game 6 did go longer, which is one reason it might have produced more in the way of quantity. But looking at leverage index gives us a little more insight into not only what did happen, but what might have happened.
In Game 6 back in 2011, 32 of the game’s 109 plays (29.3%) featured a leverage index above 2.0, and 11 plays (10.1%) above 4.0. On Wednesday, 21 of 95 plays (22.1%) had a LI above 2.0, and only Enrique Hernandez’s at-bat was above 4.0.
Wednesday night’s Game 2 was certainly one of the wilder World Series contests in history. In addition to the two games highlighted here, only two other World Series games have featured four hits with a .25 WPA or greater: the Oakland-Cincinnati matchup from 1972 mentioned above and Game 4 of the 1957 World Series between Milwaukee and New York. The latter series featured inner-circle Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, and Warren Spahn, as well as Hall of Famers Whitey Ford, Red Schoendienst, and Enos Slaughter.
There might not be that much of a point in debating between the two games. Game 6 in 2011 was a great game. Wednesday’s Game 2 was also great. It would be fair to just leave it at that, although this post proves I couldn’t so I wouldn’t blame anybody else who couldn’t leave it alone, either.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.