The story of the Florida Marlins in 2008 could be summed up by saying they had a ton of offensive firepower, but poor pitching outside of Ricky Nolasco and very poor fielding as well. One of the heavy hitters, definitely known more for his power than anything else, is Cody Ross, the protagonist of the fourth biggest play of the season. Take a look at the game graph below, and compare it to our fifth biggest play, which involved Jason Giambi‘s walkoff:
When I first saw the graph for this June 7 game between the Reds and Marlins, it seemed odd: it looked like the big swing in win expectancy at the end of the game was not as impressive as Giambi’s. In fact, they were both very, very close, however the difference soon dawned on me. A bit before Giambi’s at-bat, the Yankees had a much lower probability of winning the game than the Marlins did with the same leading time before Ross’s plate appearance. Regardless, both were huge plays ensconced in the top five of all offensive plays this season.
Leading 2-0 in the fourth inning, Luis Gonzalez homered to extend the lead against Bronson Arroyo. An inning later, Jorge Cantu added a solo bomb of his own, giving the Fish a 4-0 lead through five innings. In the top of the sixth, that poor defense I mentioned earlier came back to haunt the Marlins. With two on and two out, back to back errors by Jorge Cantu and Wes Helms allowed the Reds to score a run. With the bases now loaded, Andy Phillips smacked a game tying three-run double to left off of Scott Olsen.
The game would remain tied until the bottom of the seventh, when our hero, Cody Ross, hit an RBI single. No sooner than the very next frame did Adam Dunn crush a solo home run to once again knot the game. The Reds attack continued against Logan Kensing, as singles by Jerry Hairston Jr and Jay Bruce extended their newfound lead to 7-5. After a 1-2-3 inning for Burke Badenhop, Francisco Cordero entered the game for the Reds, hoping to show why he received that ridiculous contract in the off-season.
At the beginning of the bottom of the ninth, the Marlins had a 9.8% probability of winning the game. Cantu led off with a double, increasing their WE to 20.8%. Wes Helms then grounded out, advancing Cantu to third base, but decreasing the Marlins’ expectancy to 12.6%. Dan Uggla walked, putting runners at the corners, and again increasing their probability to 22.1%. Luis Gonzalez followed with a sac fly, that, despite bringing the Marlins within one run, added another out and reduced their expectancy to 10.2%.
Ross then stepped up to the plate to engage battle against Cordero in a PA with a leverage index of 3.58. On a 1-1 count, Ross smashed a line drive over the outfield wall to win the game, 8-7. With just a 10.2% WE entering the plate appearance, Ross’s gigantic home run resulted in an expectancy swing of 89.8%, just slightly ahead of Giambi’s 89.6%, and good enough for the fourth biggest offensive play of the season.