After the Swanson Miracle Homer, I posted a list of the top single-game WPA performances in Braves history. Dansby’s walk-off homer had a WPA (WPA, or Win Probability Added, is the winning probability after you come to the plate minus the winning probability before you come to the plate) of 0.89, and when you total up the rest of his at-bats in the game, his aggregate WPA was 0.861, which was the 27th best performance in Braves history. That single play, the two-out 2 run homer in the bottom of the 9th, is darn close to the best you can do, but I haven’t yet found a way to search individual play WPAs, so per-game WPAs are the best I can call up easily. As you can imagine, though, the top performances are dominated by walk-off hits with teams behind with two outs. The single best aggregate WPA in Braves history is this game in which Hank Aaron not only hit a 3 run homer with one out in the bottom of the 11th and the Braves trailing by 2 (note that that play is only worth 0.68 because there was only one out) but also:
- Doubled in Ralph Garr from 1st when trailing 3-1 in the 8th (0.24)
- Doubled with one out in the bottom of the 10th with the Braves down 1 run (0.17)
When added to a few earlier more-or-less irrelevant at-bats, this leads to an aggregate WPA of 1.159. That’s really good! (There are only 96 player-games of over 1.0 in MLB history.) He not only near-Dansbyed at the end of the game, but he hit a double which kept the Braves hopes alive in the at-bat before as well. In Braves history, only eight players have had game WPAs in excess of 1, the most recent being Jason Heyward’s performance in this game in which he not only had a bases-loaded two out single in the bottom of the 9th scoring the tying and winning run (0.73) but also walked leading off the bottom of the 8th trailing by a run (0.10) and drew a bases-loaded 2 out walk in the bottom of the 3rd in a tie game (0.12). What’s interesting about this to me is that WPA is so situation-dependent: it’s less what you do than when you do it. A walk to lead off a late inning is almost as important a walk that brings in a go-ahead run early.
The best aggregate WPA performance in baseball history is 1.503 by Art Shamsky in this game. Art hit homers in the 8th, 10th and 11th innings; his team was trailing every time he hit one; two of them tied the game and one gave the Reds the lead. Next time you hear someone talk about clutch performances in the late innings, just bring up Art Shamsky.
This got me naturally thinking about the worst WPA performances in Braves and MLB history. The worst single game WPA ever is by Jewel Ens for the Pirates against the Giants in this game from 1922. You may be mad at Ender, or Austin, or whomever for coming to the plate when you need a hit and not coming through, but Jewel’s game on this day was, well, not a jewel. He went 0-9 to start (it was an 18 inning game.) He struck out with bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the 9th trailing by 2. (-0.17) He flew out with the winning run on second and one out in the 11th. (-0.09) He flew out with two outs and the winning run on second in the 13th. (-0.11) He hit into an inning-ending double play in the bottom of the 15th with the bases loaded (-0.34). Finally, he struck out representing the tying run with no outs in the bottom of the 18th. (-0.08) Ouch…. or you can just start calling Ender Enser.
The worst-ever Braves WPA day was by Charlie Pick, 0-11 in the famous 1-1 26 inning tie game in 1920. But obviously, a lot of people had multiple chances to win that game and nobody did particularly well. But the second-worst performance (-0.672) was by none other than Dale Murphy in this game from 1977. Most of that (-0.55) came when he grounded into a double play to end the game with bases loaded and the Braves trailing by 1. (I think that’s almost the worst possible single-play WPA. You’re trailing, but your probability of winning is greater than 50 percent, and then after the play your probability is 0. The only thing worse would be to hit into a triple play to end a game with the bases loaded down by 1.) But he also grounded out leading off the bottom of the 8th, trailing by 1 (-0.08) and grounded out earlier in the game with a runner in scoring position.