A weekly email from the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) pointed out that David Freese’s performance in Game 6 on Thursday night for St. Louis “surpassed Kirk Gibson’s game-winning 1988 home run as the highest single-game WPA (win probability added) performance in World Series history.”
Timing, apparently, is everything with this stat. Don’t factor in the drama.
The link to David Schoenfeld’s piece on ESPN.com’s “Sweet Spot” blog (linked here), via SABR’s BaseballReference.com, explains how WPA determines the value of each play based on the score, inning and situation, and calculates how the odds of winning or losing the game changed based on that play.
The two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth, down-by-one two-run homer that the Dodgers’ Gibson hit off Oakland Hall of Fame reliever Dennis Eckersley in 1988 registered a .870 WPA for his moment, previously the greatest in World Series history. It wasn’t an elimination game. And there’s no way to quantify Gibson being a complete physical mess at the time, either.
Freese got a .969 WPA for his game — most of it from the two-out, two-strike, two-run triple in the bottom of the ninth that tied the game at 7-7 which, from this statistic, was more valuable than his game-winning home run in the 11th.
Add to that teammate Lance Berkman’s .832 — he tied the game in the bottom of the 10th with his two-out single. The fact the Cardinals were on the brink of elimination factored heavily into the equation.
Meaning, the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton didn’t register in the Top 10 with his two-run homer in the top of the 10th that could have been remembered as the series clincher.
WPA is a stat that can be a little tough to wrap your head around.
Bill Mazeroski’s Game 7 bottom-of-the-ninth homer to win the World Series for Pittsburgh over the New York Yankees didn’t make the Top 10 of this list. But teammate Hal Smith’s three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth with two outs to give the Pirates a 9-7 lead did?
Joe Carter’s 1992 World Series-winning homer for Toronto? He had a .596 for the game. Not Top 10. If Toronto lost that game, they’d only have been tied in the series against Philadelphia. But Ed Spraugue’s homer to win Game 2 of that series made the Top 10?
Bobby Thompson’s homer to win the NL pennant for the New York Giants in 1951? His game was .718. But not a World Series game.
Kirby Puckett’s Game 6 homer in the 11th in 1991 for Minnesota, to avoid elimination? It came when the game was tied, true, as did Freese.
Now, we demand a recount, especially if Sprague is somehow ahead of that one.