The Most Clutch Hits Of 2013
With the 2013 season winding down, let’s take a look at the most clutch hits of the year. I put clutch hits in two categories, the first one being hits with the highest Win Probability Added (WPA), and the second one being hits in situations with the highest Leverage Index (LI). The reason for this separation is that hits with a very high WPA come in situations with a lower LI because the chances of winning are so low. WPA and LI data is provided by Baseball Reference’s Play Index. Pitch types are from Texas Leaguers and home run data is from ESPN Home Run Tracker.
5. 6/17 New York Mets @ Atlanta Braves. Mets starter Dillon Gee was looking for his first career shutout. After retiring Jason Heyward on a groundball to second, Justin Upton singled to left, bringing up Freddie Freeman. With a 2-2 count, Freeman saw a slider from Gee, and he launched it high in the air to right. When it landed 365 feet from home plate, the Braves had a dramatic win, and Gee and the Mets had a heartbreaking loss. WPA: 0.80.
4. 4/6 Kansas City Royals @ Philadelphia Phillies. Down 3-1 in the 9th, the Phillies would face the Royals flamethrowing closer Greg Holland. He would promptly walk the bases loaded before striking out the next two hitters. Kevin Frandsen would enter, pinch-hitting for Humberto Quintero. Frandsen would swing at the first pitch he saw, smacking a double to deep left-center that would empty the bases, giving the Phillies a walkoff win. WPA: 0.84.
3. 4/13 Houston Astros @ Anaheim Angels. The Angels were trailing 4-3 in the 9th when Mike Trout legged out an infield single, putting runners at first and second with two outs for Albert Pujols. After missing with a curveball, Astros closer Jose Veras threw Pujols a sinker, which Pujols ripped on the ground down the left field line. Trout scored from first, and the Angels had a victory when their season still looked like it could be saved. WPA: 0.84.
2. 8/29 Oakland Athletics @ Detroit Tigers. The Tigers entered the 9th inning down 6-3, a tall order in any case, but especially tough considering All-Star Grant Balfour and his 1.76 ERA and 33 Saves was on the hill. With two outs, the Tigers got a little rally going, and when Torii Hunter stepped to the plate they had runners on first and second. Their Win Expectancy was still just a meager 10%. With a 1-1 count, Balfour offered another slider, which Hunter sent over the wall in left-center, 396 feet from home plate. WPA: 0.90.
1. 5/11 San Diego Padres @ Tampa Bay Rays. Down 7-6 in the bottom of the 9th, Ben Zobrist drew a walk off of Padres closer Huston Street. This raised the Rays Win Expectancy from 4% to 9%, and brought Evan Longoria to the plate. Longoria made contact with a 2-1 slider, driving it to deep left-center. When it landed 448 feet later, the Rays were celebrating a huge comeback win. WPA: 0.91. Longoria has had several big hits for the Rays, such as his 2011 walk-off homerun off Scott Proctor to clinch a playoff spot on the last day of the regular season.
5. 9/7 Chicago White Sox @Baltimore Orioles. Conor Gillaspie had just given the White Sox a 3-2 lead with a solo homer off Tommy Hunter in the top of the 10th. White Sox right-hander Addison Reed retired the first hitter, and after two singles, he struck out Nate McLouth. This would bring up Matt Wieters. LI:. 8.30. Batting from his weaker left side, Wieters looked over the first three pitches, running the count to 2-1. Reed fired a slider, and Wieters knocked it down the rightfield line, scoring Dickerson and Markakis.
4. 6/10 Arizona Diamondbacks @ Los Angeles Dodgers. Los Angeles had a 3-1 lead on the Diamondbacks in the top of the 9th, and pricey closer Brandon League was on the mound. The Diamondbacks mounted a rally, and when Willie Bloomquist stepped to the plate, the score was 3-2 with the bases loaded and two outs. LI: 9.30. Swinging at a first pitch sinker, Bloomquist hit a groundball to shortstop Nick Punto. Punto stopped it with a dive but couldn’t hold on, and pinch-runner Josh Wilson scored from second. A shaky Heath Bell would hold on, and after the win, the Diamondbacks had an 8.5 game lead on the Dodgers. Yeah, times have changed.
3. 9/18 San Francisco Giants @ New York Mets. Santiago Casilla was entrusted with protecting a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the 9th inning. After he walked two of the first three hitters, closer Sergio Romo took over. After he gave up two hits and a walk, the score was 4-3, and the bases were loaded. After Omar Quintanilla flew out, Josh Satin, who had singled off Romo the night before, came to the plate. LI: 10.73. Romo offered four straight sliders, none of which Satin offered at. With a 2-2 count, Satin stroked a single to left, scoring Zach Lutz and Anthony Recker. I wonder what Bob Costas was thinking about the Mets celebration.
2. 7/1 Arizona Diamondbacks @ New York Mets. In the top of the 13th, Cody Ross had given the D’Backs a 4-3 lead with a solo shot off David Aardsma. Josh Collmenter was sent in to finish the game. After a double and a strikeout, John Buck was intentionally walked to bring up Aardsma. As the Mets had no bench players left, Matt Harvey was sent up to sacrifice bunt. After the bunt, Omar Quintanilla was intentionally walked, setting the stage for journeyman outfielder Andrew Brown. LI: 10.73. On an 0-2 count, Brown roped a fastball to left-center, and the Mets walked off. Mets fans, at least you had two of the most dramatic walkoff wins in 2013.
1. 5/26 Cleveland Indians @ Boston Red Sox. Chris Perez took the mound in the 9th for the Indians trying to protect a 5-2 lead. After an ineffective seven hitters, Perez exited with the bases loaded, two outs, and two runs already in. Terry Francona summoned righthander Joe Smith to get Jacoby Ellsbury. LI: 10.83. On a 2-1 count, Ellsbury smoked a sinker to left-center, scoring Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew. This would allow the Sox to pull even with the New York Yankees, the last time the Yankees would be in first.