The Most Impactful Plays of the Postseason, Part 2

Yesterday, we counted down the 20th through sixth most impactful plays of the postseason through the prism of WPA. Today we look at the top five. You might notice a theme.

Rank Play WPA
5 NLDS Gm 3: Francisco homers off Garcia .399

Ben Francisco didn’t exactly take the bull by the horns this year. Granted the starting job for the first seven weeks of the season with Domonic Brown on the shelf, Francisco spit the bit — when Brown made his first start of the year on May 22nd, Francisco was hitting .221/.331/.368. He had rattled off five homers, and would add a sixth a few days later, but when he came up to the plate to pinch-hit for Cole Hamels — who had just thrown six shutout innings — Francisco had not homered in 127 plate appearances dating back to that May 25th blast. But with this three-run shot he broke the scoreless tie, turned the series back in the Phillies’ favor and likely erased a lot of the bad memories from his lost season.

4 WS Gm 6: Hamilton homers off Motte .442

Perd Hapley would have loved Game 6, because the story with this game is that it wouldn’t stop developing. Never was this more clear than with Josh Hamilton’s home run off of Jason Motte. When he hit it, your first thought was that this game keeps outdoing itself. Your second thought was that the game had to be over now, but then your third thought was to realize that even with Daniel Descalso, Jon Jay and Kyle Lohse scheduled to hit that this game — just like Councilman Dexhart — probably had a few more surprises in store. And it did.

3 NLDS Gm 1: Howard homers off Lohse .448

The final score would obscure the importance of this at-bat. Trailing 3-1, Ryan Howard would work the count full, and then foul off a changeup below the knees and one way outside before Lohse made a mistake on the eighth pitch of the sequence, flat-lining a changeup letter high. Sluggers call those cookies, and Howard’s blast to right field gave the Phillies the lead. It also opened the floodgates, as the Phillies would tack on two more in the sixth off of Lohse, and then five more in the seventh and eighth off of human white flag Mitchell Boggs. But the blast by Howard got the party, short lived as it was, started for the Phillies phaithful.

2 WS Gm 6: Berkman singles off Feldman .468

It seems fitting that the completion of Game 6’s second dramatic comeback would clock in at second place. For the second time in the game, the Cardinals were down to their last strike, but Lance Berkman roped a single to center that Hamilton might have had a play on had he not been in the ill-fated “no doubles” defense. At the very least, he may have been able to keep Jay at third or had a shot at throwing him out at the plate. But Hamilton was not only playing back, he was also shaded to left field, which was even more curious given the fact that Scott Feldman isn’t likely to be confused with a fireballer anytime soon. By the time Hamilton came up with the ball, Jay was already halfway between third and home, and scored the tying run easily.

1 WS Gm 6: Freese triples off Feliz .537

This isn’t a shocker — this was one of the most exciting plays in the game’s storied history, and it was so because the stakes were high. People were quick to criticize Nelson Cruz, and admittedly Cruz should have either caught it, or played it off the wall and held Berkman at third. But this wasn’t exactly a routine play, and Cruz isn’t exactly known for his glove work. In fact, looking back, you could make the case that Endy Chavez — who had pinch-hit in the top of the inning — should have stayed in the game for defense. Of course, none of this is to take away from the great at-bat from David Freese. Neftali Feliz had fanned Ryan Theriot and Allen Craig for the first two outs of the inning, and had just blown a fastball by Freese for strike two. But Freese was ready the second time, and nearly hit a 98-mph fastball with movement out of the ballpark. It was an incredible performance, and it should be celebrated for what it was — the most impactful play of the 2011 postseason.



Print This Post



Paul Swydan is the managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for Boston.com. He has written for The Boston Globe, ESPN MLB Insider and ESPN the Magazine, among others. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
adohaj
Guest
adohaj
4 years 8 months ago

gosh game 6 was intense

Telo
Guest
Telo
4 years 8 months ago

The player WPAs for that were pretty insane. Both bullpens lost multiple games, and Freese almost had a entire game won by himself, Berkman close behind. Crazy stuff.

Anon
Guest
Anon
4 years 8 months ago

Add .5 WPA to the starting WE of .5 and that is a win. By that logic, they won the equivalent of 3+ games.

In game 6 Freese had .953 WPA, and Berkman had .817 WPA. Is that the highest two player combination in a game ever?

Adrock
Guest
Adrock
4 years 8 months ago

Hey Paul,

I love your work, but please try not to use the word ‘impactful’ ever again.

It’s horrid business-speak and detracts from your and Fangraphs’ awesomeness.

I apologize for my pedantry, but headlines shouldn’t make readers cringe. Even if we pedants are only 10-15% of your audience, there are thousands of us out here.

[Crawls back into pedantry hutch].

adr3
Guest
adr3
4 years 8 months ago

Everybody impressed? Good.

Aaron
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

I don’t mind so much when people are trying to break new words into the language. After all, English is mutable. Yes, there are already perfectly good words to carry the meaning that the author intended but I don’t have a problem with more words in the lexicon. What does drive me crazy (we all have our silly pet peeves) is when perfectly good words lose their meanings because people conflate them with other words, using “disinterested” to mean “uninterested,” for instance. The problem in that case is that “disinterested” already has a very useful meaning and to misuse it threatens the integrity of that meaning. “Impactful,” however, doesn’t have any official meaning so why not try to give it one?

Barkey Walker
Guest
Barkey Walker
4 years 8 months ago

Many (snooty) people thing “impacted” should be used only when there is a physical obstruction or something for which this is a good metaphor. In this way, it’s probably not the best road to go down.

Peter
Guest
Peter
4 years 8 months ago

I prefer “impacty” or “impactiest”.

Stephen Stokes
Guest
Stephen Stokes
4 years 8 months ago

I am confused. I thought WPA for a given game should add up to 1. Please help me understand.

Anon
Guest
Anon
4 years 8 months ago

WP added. WP starts at .5 for each team. The winning team will have .5 WPA at the end of the game.

BVHeck
Guest
BVHeck
4 years 8 months ago

While guys like Freese and Berkman rounded up astronomical numbers, the pitching staffs sustained a bunch of negative numbers, bring the sums all the way back down to 1.

James
Guest
James
4 years 8 months ago

No Cruz walk off grand slam? Figured that’d be on here somewhere.

Crazy playoffs.

Anon
Guest
Anon
4 years 8 months ago

WS game 6 took spots 1, 2, 4, and 6. Simply amazing.

Also, the Cardinals were involved in all of the top 6 plays. Statistical proof for the name Cardiac Cardinals.

Taylor
Guest
Taylor
4 years 8 months ago

“Nelson Cruz isn’t known for his glovework”

he has a career 5.8 UZR/150. He’s not exactly a butcher out there

Kyle
Guest
Kyle
4 years 8 months ago

He also has a cannon for an arm which is always a good thing. Cruz is pretty underrated in the outfield, but yeah, he should have caught that ball.

I thought Carpenter diving head first while not caring about how he could have been destroyed for his career(after having only missed two years in his prime with really bad injuries)belongs on here. It showed he was manning up and would do anything to when regardless of his age.

Cody
Guest
Cody
4 years 8 months ago

Isn’t it underselling Freese’s triple to say it was the most “impactful” moment of the postseason? That seems like it is an understatement. It may be the most impactful at bat in major league baseball history, when adjusted for context.

Barkey Walker
Guest
Barkey Walker
4 years 8 months ago

323DP

channelclemente
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

The worst 7 inning I’ve watched in a long time followed by the most exciting 4 I’ve seen in a long while. Although I’m still trying to figure out how a major league bullpen manages to blow 3 saves in one game.

wpDiscuz