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%.
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.
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