Recapping the Top Offensive Plays

Over the last two weeks, I have used WPA, win probability added, to discuss the top ten offensive plays of the 2008 baseball season. The merits of this list could be debated to death, I am sure, but what cannot be denied is that these ten plays brought with them the biggest shifts in win expectancy. Hitting a three-run home run in the sixth inning, when down by a run may seem like a monumental play while watching the game in question, but a two-run walkoff home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning is likely going to vault a team from a 9-11% win expectancy to the 100% victory.

With that in mind, here is the top ten in its entirety:

10) Jason Michaels hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the tenth inning against the Cardinals on July 12. The Pirates trailed 10-6 entering the bottom of the ninth inning, and won 12-11 in ten innings. His play was worth a shift of 78.6%.

9) Nick Swisher, who didn’t make his first plate appearance until the 11th inning, hit a walkoff two-run homer in the bottom of the fourteenth against the Tigers on August 5. The home run was worth a 78.8% shift in expectancy.

8) Nate McLouth delivered a three-run home run in the top of the ninth, on April 14, off of Takashi Saito and the Dodgers. Unlike the other plays on this list, McLouth’s 79.6% shift in win expectancy was not a walk-off hit.

7) Nicknamed “the first half highlight” by, well, me, Josh Hamilton hit a walk-off dinger off of Francisco Rodriguez prior to the all star break. The home run, which occurred on July 9, saw a shift of 82.9% in win expectancy.

6) This was probably the oddest finish to any game this season. The Giants led the DBacks on September 10, 3-2, as the top of the ninth began. Chris Young hit a two-run triple to give the Snakes the 4-3 lead, before Eugenio Velez hit a two-run triple of his own to win the game for the Giants in the bottom half. Velez’s triple brought with it an expectancy shift of 83%.

5) On June 5, Jason Giambi and his moustache provided an 89.6% shift in win expectancy when he blasted a two-run walkoff home run off of BJ Ryan and the Blue Jays.

4) Two days later, on June 7, Cody Ross of the Marlins provided the fourth biggest play of the season, worth 89.8%, when he lined a two-run homer with a 1-1 count off of Francisco Cordero.

3) On May 2, Pat Burrell hit a two-run walkoff home run off of Giants closer Brian Wilson, an expectancy shift of 89.95%.

2) June 29, Ronnie Belliard delivered a two-run walkoff home run off of George Sherrill in an interleague battle for Maryland supremacy. The dinger brought with it an expectancy shift of 90.05%.

1) Finally, on July 12, David DeJesus hit, you guessed it, a walkoff two-run homer, off of Brandon Morrow. His home run, 90.36% worth of WPA, was the biggest play of the 2008 season.

And there you have it, the top ten offensive plays of the season. Brian Wilson appeared twice on this list: he gave up Young’s two-run triple in the top of the ninth in #6, before being bailed out by Velez, and gave up the walkoff to Burrell in #3. #1 and #10 both occurred on the same day, July 12. Three days prior, Hamilton hit his much shown home run off of K-Rod, meaning three of the top plays of the entire season occurred within four days of each other.

Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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15 years ago

I’ll repost this here from the DeJesus post:

Fun series. That said, let’s review the top 3 plays:

#1: 2-run, 2-out homer, runner on first, down 4-3: 90.36%
#2: 2-run, 2-out homer, runner on first, down 2-1: 90.05%
#3: 2-run, 2-out homer, runner on first, down 5-4: 89.95%
(#3 in the 10th inning, though my understanding is that WE doesn’t change in extras…)

Is there someway to explain why these have different WPA? Because they look identical to me. I could believe the number of runs scored might change the probabilities a little, as it might suggest weather conditions, pitcher usage, umpiring or some other factor. But, it would certainly make the game with the lowest total score the most difficult comeback, I’d think. The gap between #2 and #3 is awful small for that kind of effect. I think this is false precision of some sort, no?

Still fun.