Reliving the Final Day in the AL, Visually

Below, you will find a graph detailing the probabilities that the Rays or the Red Sox would represent the American League as the Wild Card as the wild night of September 28th, 2011 progressed, based on Win Probability. Although we could never truly quantify whatever it was that happened yesterday, let these numbers be a handy guide as we highlight 16 of the key moments (with video links when possible) that ultimately resulted in the craziest night — and the craziest five minutes — in my baseball life and probably in baseball history.

Odds are calculated assuming a 50% win probability in a one-game playoff.

Click to embiggen as we dive into the night that was.

A. 7:48 PM. Dustin Pedroia hits an RBI single to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead and a WP of 70%. The Rays remain tied at zero in the top of the second, but the Yankees are rallying, loading the bases with two outs, giving the Rays a WP of 30%.

Overall Odds: Boston 70%, Tampa Bay 30%.

B. 7:51 PM. Mark Teixiera clears the aforementioned loaded bases with a grand slam, giving the Yankees a 5-0 lead and leaving the Rays a WP of 10%. The Red Sox fail to score again in their half of the third, as David Ortiz grounds into a double play and Ryan Lavarnway strikes out, but the Sox hold a solid WP of 60% at this time.

Overall odds: Boston 75%, Tampa 25%.

C. 8:05 PM. J.J. Hardy homers (his 30th!) to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead and stick Boston with a WP of 37%. Still, the Red Sox appear headed for a tiebreaker with a loss at this point, as Tampa Bay still trails 4-0 in the bottom of the fourth, with a WP of 8%.

Overall odds: Boston 64%, Tampa Bay 36%

D. 8:33 PM. After Marco Scutaro scored on a balk in the fourth inning to tie the game, Dustin Pedroia homers off Alfedo Simon in the fifth to earn the lead and raise the Red Sox WP to 62%. Simon wouldn’t record another out. In St. Petersburg, the Rays have all of one hit through three innings and still trail 4-0, for a WP of 4%.

Overall odds: Boston 79%, Tampa 21%

E. 9:07 PM. Baltimore starts a rally in the sixth, as Jon Lester walks J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis, giving Boston a win probability of 45%. Tampa Bay still can’t score.

Overall odds: Boston 72%, Tampa Bay 28%

F. 9:11 PM Vladimir Guerrero grounds into a double play. Threat over.

Overall odds: Boston 81%, Tampa Bay 19%

G. 9:30 PM. Rain delay in Boston with the score still 3-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, for a 64% win probability. Tampa Bay’s efforts still prove futile, as the Rays trail 7-0 following homers from Mark Teixeira (again) and Andruw Jones. The Rays’ WP is down to 1%.

Overall odds: Boston 82%, Tampa Bay 18%

H. 10:22 PM. After Yankee wildness leads to the Rays’ first three runs in the eighth inning, Evan Longoria breathes life into the Rays with a three run home run off Luis Ayala to close the margin to 7-6. It’s a home run one could feel coming — the Rays’ announcer declares it a “moment Evan was made for” seconds before the crack of the bat. The Rays still have work to do, but winning the game is a possibility now, and they hold an 18% win probability as rain continues to fall in Baltimore.

Overall odds: Boston 70%, Tampa Bay 30%

I. 10:42 PM. The Great Pumpkin strikes again. Dan Johnson, known for his pinch-hit game-tying home run in 2008 off Johnathan Papelbon, hits another pinch-hit game-tying home run with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth off former Tampa Bay Ray Cory Wade to tie the game. As the tarp stays on in Baltimore, it’s a whole new game in Tampa Bay. The Rays fail to finish it in the 9th, carrying a 50% WP into extra frames with the score 7-7.

Overall odds: Boston 57%, Tampa Bay 43%

J. 10:58 PM. Play resumes in Boston, as Mark Reynolds is hit by an Alfredo Aceves pitch, lowering Boston’s WP to 56%. Meanwhile, the Rays are an out away from taking their turn in the 10th, and their WP sits at 60%, giving them their first “lead” of the night since 7:15 PM.

Overall odds: Tampa Bay 52%, Boston 48%

K. 11:17 PM. Johnny Damon strikes out against Scott Proctor, stranding B.J. Upton at first base as the Rays and Yankees head to the eleventh. The Sox head to the bottom of the eighth, holding on to a one-run lead and a 70% WP. The tide is back in Boston’s favor.

Overall odds: Boston 60%, Tampa Bay 40%

L. 11:38 PM. Brandon Guyer singles to left, giving the Rays runners on first and second with one out, a 70% WP. At Camden Yards, the Red Sox have runners on the corners with one out as they look for insurance runs in the top of the ninth, giving them a solid 89% WP. At this point, a playoff seems more likely than at any other point in the day (62%). Both Boston and Tampa Bay would fail to score in the ninth and eleventh respectively.

Overall odds: Boston 59%, Tampa Bay 41%

M. 11:51 PM. Boston approaches the victory, as Jonathan Papelbon records two quick strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth. With the bases empty and Chris Davis coming to the plate, the Red Sox hold a 95% win probability and look to force at least a one-game playoff. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is in trouble at the trop, as the Yankees put runners on first and third with nobody out.

Overall odds: Boston 89%, Tampa Bay 11%

N. 11:55 PM. The worm turns. Jonathan Papelbon allows two straight doubles to the Orioles’ eight and nine hitters, Davis and Nolan Reimold, and the Orioles tie the game and have the winning run in scoring position, giving the Sox a 39% win probability, nearly equal to their total after the Hardy home run. At the Trop, the Rays escape as Jake McGee induces a grounder and and out at third thanks to a heads-up play by Evan Longoria and an awful baserunning mistake by Greg Golson. The Rays now have two out and only one on and a 52% WP, holding their best situation of the night.

Overall odds: Tampa Bay 56%, Boston 44%.

O. 12:00 AM. The Rays escape to the bottom of the 12th inning with the game still tied. The Red Sox are less lucky, as Robert Andino lines a ball into left field that slips in and out of Carl Crawford‘s glove and the Orioles walk off to finish Camden Yards’s season in style. The Red Sox must now hope the Rays, who own a 63% win probability, fall to the Yankees.

Overall odds: Tampa Bay 81%, Boston 19%.

P. 12:03 AM. As the fans in the Trop cheer the news of the Red Sox demise, Evan Longoria connects on a Scott Proctor fastball that seems to glide over the top of the left-field wall as it leaves the park. Never have the fates of a 162 game season changed more over 10 minutes of game action. The Rays take the victory 8-7 and win the Wild Card with a 91-71 record.

Overall odds: Tampa Bay 100%, Boston 0%.

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Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.

43 Responses to “Reliving the Final Day in the AL, Visually”

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  1. tdotsports1 says:

    this is awesome…

    +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. CSJ says:

    I would really like to see this as a tableau visualization. Could really look much better. Crazy visual still, though. Go baseball.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Crap Shoot says:

    So awesome.

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  4. Perfect delivery on this.

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  5. Max says:

    Awesome article. Really sums everything up nicely.

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  6. bender says:

    This is really amazing and just what I’ve been waiting for since yesterday.

    Minor point of contention though. In the top of the 2nd in the Rays game the score was already 1-0 Yankees, and Teixeira’s slammer made it 5-0, not 4-0. Not sure if the probabilities were based on this or if not.

    Really amazing graphic though.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Erich says:

      I love that the first five responses to this article are, “This is awesome.”

      This is awesome, although I know I’m not the 6th to say so. Good writes!

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Mario Mendoza of posters says:

    I almost forgot about Chris Davis’ almost-Gibsonesque double. Dude badly needs a sports hernia surgery and he was wincing all the way around to his slide into 2B.

    Plate discipline, no. Guts, YES.

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  8. Pelly says:

    Carl Crawford, you jokester!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Vin says:

    I was hoping for images of sad Red Sox fans but excellent summary nonetheless. What an amazing night of baseball, the playoffs will have a hard time topping this.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Nik says:

    This is an awesome way to visualize it. I’ve been thinking is it possible to combine all WPA graphs and weight them accordingly to find out “World Series Probability Added?” That could be an interesting way to find out who has really been clutch (or lucky).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • This has been done. At least in terms of winning the division. It just ends up looking really weird, with a lot of the top guys on the same team. The last couple of years basically the whole leaderboard were guys who played in game 163.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Sean says:

    This is what I come to fangraphs for. Amazing.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. BaseWinner says:

    Has someone already said awesome. This is phenomenal – you guys are the best!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Damaso's Burnt Shirt says:

    Amazing graph, amazing night unless you were a BoSox or Brave fan.

    I even have my Roy “Blade Runner” Batty final words…

    “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Oriole killer Johnathon Papelbon turn into Kevin Gregg. I watched Longo hit a line drive HR just over the LF corner. All those moments will be lost in time… like Sox and Braves fans tears in rain… Time to die. “

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Jack says:

    mr moore this is one of the best articles from fangraphs in quite a while very very well done

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Dave S says:

    outstanding job putting this together. kudos!

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  16. Mr. Verlander says:

    Even I found that entertaining to watch!

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  17. Mark says:

    Fantastic writeup. As a Sox fan I can’t really do anything but marvel at what happened at this point.

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  18. Slartibartfast says:

    M. 11:51 PM. Boston approaches the victory, as Jonathan Papelbon records two quick strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth. With the bases empty and Chris Davis coming to the plate, the Red Sox hold a 95% win probability and look to force at least a one-game playoff. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is in trouble at the trop, as the Yankees put runners on first and third with nobody out.

    Overall odds: Boston 81%, Tampa Bay 19%

    I can’t even believe it was only 81/19 at this point.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. Bernoulli says:

    I’m having a hard time figuring out how those total playoff percentages are calculated. For instance, the chance TB makes the playoffs should be:

    [prob of TB win and BOS loss] + [[prob of TB win and BOS win]+[prob of TB loss and BOS loss]*[.50]

    So at 11:51PM, when Boston has a 95% WP and Tampa has 18% WP (per Fangraphs after the Chavez single), I’d expect TB’s playoff chances to be:

    [.18*(1-.95)] + [.18*.95+(1-.18)*(1-.95)]*.5 = 11.5%

    How does fangraphs get 19%?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Alan says:

      Are you factoring in the chances of them both having the same result and going to a play-off?

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      • Jack Moore says:

        Right. The 37% “loss probability” for TB gets split 18.5% for Tampa to win and 18.5% for Tampa to lose. Due to rounding we get 19% chance of winning for Boston and the rest goes to Tampa (18.5%+63%), which got rounded down.

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      • DCN says:

        That is what he’s doing, though, with the [.18*.95+(1-.18)*(1-.95)]*.5 clause. So he gets

        Outright Win

        Tampa Win Sox Loss = .18 * .05 = .009

        One half of the sum of both tie scenarios
        Tampa Win Sox Win = .18 * .95 = .171
        Tampa Loss Sox Loss = .82 * .05 = .041
        Total = .212
        Divided by 2 = .106

        Grand total = .115, or 11.5%, as he said.

        This is the same formula I sketched out as I was reading this, and it worked for all the other numbers. It’s most likely that it was indeed a typo – 88.5% and 11.5% rounds to 89% and 11%, and if you transpose the figures that’s 81% and 19% (which was stated in the article).

        I think Bernoulli is right, as is TL commenting on Slartibartfast’s comment.

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  20. Ben says:

    As most everyone agrees, last night was one of the most amazing nights in the history of the sport. Reading around the usual baseball sites, none of them really do justice to the excitement, even’s video compilation of the day. Except this one. Jack, your article is perfect.

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  21. Sandy Kazmir says:

    Great job, Jack. That’s really cool.

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  22. Dash says:

    I like the article, but I have a point of contention:
    “G. 9:30 PM. Rain delay in Boston”
    “J. 10:58 PM. Play resumes in Boston”

    The games were played at OPACY.

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  23. joshcohen says:

    to reiterate what people have been saying:

    great article. really innovative/unique way of increasing my enjoyment of something already incredibly enjoyable!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  24. Jeff says:

    Archive this for the Best of Fangraphs collection. I want to be able to read this in a decade.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  25. Alex says:


    Is it safe to assume that someone will do an analysis of the following:

    1. Was last night really the ‘craziest’ in baseball history?

    2. Compare, statistically, this collapse with that of the 2004 ALCS?

    As a Yankee fan, I’m particularly interested in putting numbers on the latter.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  26. Eric W. says:

    “Click to embiggen as we dive into the night that was.”

    That’s a perfectly cromulent word.

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  27. king says:

    That graph on its side probably resembles the Xmas tree that the Rays fan felt he woke up under this morning.

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  28. josh nelsen says:

    As a baseball fan, last night was crazy and amazing to follow. But, as a Red Sox fan it was one of the worst nights ever!

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  29. Tommy Lasordas Pasta says:

    As a baseball fan, Holy CRAP! I’m so glad I switched over from the Dodger game to watch the Bosox choke away their season, only to also be treated to Longoria’s nail in the coffin. Somehow, “amazing” does not do it justice. “Epic” seems more apropos.

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  30. Phil says:

    Don’t know if anyone mentioned this … Longoria’s ball sailed just over the “Crawford Cut” at the Trop … You couldn’t make this stuff up … Divine intervention …

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  31. David says:

    “Click to embiggen”
    I think I`ll be checking this sight out more just because of that.

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  32. Frank says:

    My first thought after this happened was doing exactly this sort of piece, down to the labeled graph. But then I decided you guys would probably do it so I didn’t, and I was right.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  33. ffer82 says:

    Very nice account of games and relative time… Nice story… Awesome ending!

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