Baseball

5 Most Important Moments of the Regular Season

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cWPA, or championship win probability added(or subtracted), is a relatively new stat to baseball. The statistical masterminds over at Baseball-Reference unveiled this new stat in 2020. In summary, cWPA calculates the percentage change of a given individual play or player’s season on a team’s chances to win the World Series. It is calculated using leverage index and a few other factors, but the full explanation can be found here. The leaderboard recently was shaken up with a new moment at the top of the list, so with the regular season coming to a close, I thought it might be an interesting idea to revisit the top five moments of the season deemed statistically most significant. 

#5

Springer Homers Off Of Barnes (8/8/21)

cWPA: 0.74% 

George Springer’s 3-run go-ahead bomb off of Matt Barnes in the 8th inning of an August 8th game at the Rogers Centre in Toronto takes the fifth spot on the list. Toronto came into this game with a record of 60-50 while the Red Sox sat at 65-49. Boston had jumped on Toronto starter Hyun Jin-Ryu early in the game for 7 runs, leading 7-2 after the fourth inning.

With a 93% chance of a Red Sox win at the start of the bottom of the fifth, the Blue Jays slowly but methodically began chipping away at the Sox lead with two runs in the fifth then two more in the seventh. When Springer stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 8th to face Barnes with Breyvic Valera and Reese McGuire on base, the table was set for a special moment. Springer delivered, sending a 2-2 2 out pitch to deep left-center, giving the Bluejays a lead they would hold on to for the final frame. While back in August this might have just felt like one impressive win for Toronto or one blown lead for Boston, the ramifications of this moment are clear with Toronto only a single game behind Boston with four games to go. 

#4

Jacob Stallings Walk-Off Slam (7/17/21)

cPWA: -0.76%

It may be confusing to associate the concepts of Pirates and Mets baseball with a World Series this year, but there was a time in fact in which the Mets moonlighted in being an above-average baseball team. However, this series coming out of the All-Star break in Pittsburgh put the writing on the wall for what was to follow. The Mets, propelled forward by six shutout innings from Tylor Megill led 6-0 going into the bottom of the 8th, good for a 99% chance of victory.

In came Seth Lugo to hold down the 8th, where everything promptly exploded. The Pirates tacked five runs on the board in the inning, closing the gap to just one run. The Mets even scored an insurance run in the top of the ninth, but you just cannot escape fate. Edwin Diaz managed to strike out two batters in the frame, but a hit by pitch, walk, and an infield single loaded the bases for Jacob Stallings. All he needed was one pitch to end the game, knocking a grand slam that just found its way into the left-field seats. While this may have been the beginning of the end, honorable mention to Dom Smith for almost fully clearing the wall on his attempted leap to rob the slam. 

#3 

Ozzie Albies Walks-Off The Reds (08/11/21)

cWPA: 0.77% 

It is the bottom of the 11th, and there are Braves on first and second base. The Braves are at this point in time 59-56, emerging from their lackluster beginning of the year and instead beginning to show signs that they are the Braves of yesteryear. The weight of their offense is shouldered largely on the long-ball, and it is not any different here. Second baseman Ozzie Albies steps up to the plate with two down, staring down Lucas Sims of the Reds.

The Reds managed to get a run across the plate in the top of the 11th, meaning that if Albies records an out here, Atlanta goes home tonight winless. Sims begins the at-bat with three straight fastballs, the first two up and outside for balls, the third low but close enough Albies takes a hack at it and misses. Sims then throws one more fastball, catching a bit too much of the plate. Albies then proceeds to deposit that ball in the stands in right field, tying the Phillies for the division lead. Losing Ronald Acuna Jr. for the year led to questions regarding the rest of the year for the Braves. Would they sell at the deadline? Would this be a year to forget? Ozzie Albies proved that there was still a fight left to be had in Atlanta, fitting with the possibility of clinching the NL East tonight. 

#2 

Ryan McMahon Stomps On Philly Hearts (09/09/21)

cWPA: -0.80%

Who am I to question the numbers, but this certainly does not feel like the second most important moment of the MLB season. On September 9th the Phillies, sitting just two games over .500 at 71-69 found themselves only three games behind Atlanta for the division lead. If you have read anything about the Rockies season though, you may know that they have been rather dominant at home this year, while managing to be abysmal on the road.

Fortunately, the Phillies were hosting this series. Thanks in part to strong starts by both Ranger Suarez and Antonio Sentenzela, the score was 2-1 in the Phillies favor going into the top of the 9th. The good fortune came to a swift end though, with back-to-back bombs by Ryan McMahon and Sam Hillard putting the game on ice. The high percentage is likely a result of the damage this loss did in the long run to any potential Philadelphia playoff berth. If Philadelphia fans want someone to blame for the extension of the MLB’s 2nd longest playoff drought (1st if the Mariners manage to pull it off in the next few days) look no further than Ryan Mcmahon.

#1

Giancarlo Stanton Sends One To Lansdowne St. 

cWPA: 0.81%

Oh yeah, this absolutely makes sense. The most historic rivalry in baseball, competing for potential home-field advantage in the Wild Card game. A massive 472 ft home run off of the bat of one of baseball’s more well-known stars, it feels scripted right out of a movie. Moments like that, regardless of your stance on either team participating, are examples of why you come to love this sport so much.

Baseball is inherently romantic, and Giancarlo Stanton’s home run is all the evidence you will need. The cLI (Championship leverage index) for this exact moment was a whopping 15.41. To put that into perspective, a moment in a game of average importance is rated at 1.0, meaning Stanton’s home run came at a time roughly 15.5x more important than an average baseball game. How’s that for clutch hitting? This moment was multifaceted too, serving not only to benefit the Yankees with nearly a full percentage increase in World Series likelihood but also slashing the Red Sox by half a percentage point as well. With one game currently separating the two clubs while they both maintain grasps on both of the two wild card slots, it’s likely that this single swing of the bat changed the location of the Wild Card game and the trajectory of two teams’ seasons. 

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main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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