The new year is almost upon us, and with it will come a fresh start and fresh hope for the Cleveland Indians. But before we turn our calendars to 2012, we at Wahoo’s on First wanted to look back at the highlights of the 2011 season.
This week, we’ll be counting down the top Tribe plays of the 2011 season, as determined by Win Probability Added (check out the FanGraphs Saber Library entry for a full explanation). The countdown kicks off with Matt LaPorta‘s walk-off home run from July 30.
By the end of July, Cleveland had already been knocked out of the division lead. Having lost three in a row and seven of their last 10, the Indians found themselves 2.5 games behind the Tigers in the AL Central when they took the field that day against Kansas City.
It had been a particularly rough day for the Indians. The Royals took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, and the score remained unchanged until the eighth. Justin Masterson was pitching an absolute gem of a game—what else is new—but
as always it looked to be going to waste as the Tribe’s lineup was completely neutralized by Felipe Paulino.
The Indians finally broke through in the eighth when Michael Brantley‘s RBI single scored Lonnie Chisenhall from second, but the Tribe gave the lead right back in the top of the ninth when Tony Sipp allowed an inherited runner to score. 2-1 Royals.
On to the bottom of the ninth: Joakim Soria opened the inning by beaning Asdrubal Cabrera, and Travis Hafner replaced him at first base on a fielder’s choice. Carlos Santana doubled and Kosuke Fukudome tied it up with a sacrifice fly. Chisenhall’s walk made it two on with two out in a 2-2 game for LaPorta.
LaPorta was in the midst of a pretty bad slump when he stepped to the plate. He’d gone 3-for-27 in his last eight games with no walks, 10 strikeouts, and a miserable .342 OPS.
He took ball one from Soria, then hacked and missed at a cutter to even the count at 1-1. Then this happened:
The ball sailed over the left field wall and the Indians won, 5-2. LaPorta’s walk-off blast was worth .389 WPA, according to FanGraphs. It was by far his biggest at-bat of the season.
The Full Countdown
No. 1: Travis Hafner’s Walk-Off Home Run, May 13
No. 2: Travis Hafner’s Walk-Off Grand Slam, July 7
No. 3: Asdrubal Cabrera’s Game-Winning Homer, August 27
No. 4: Austin Kearns’ Go-Ahead Home Run, July 4
No. 5: Jack Hannahan’s Game-Tying Home Run, June 8
No. 6: Travis Buck’s Go-Ahead Home Run, May 21
No. 7: Travis Buck’s Game-Tying Double, July 9
No. 8: Travis Hafner’s Game-Tying Double, July 25
No. 9: Orlando Cabrera’s Game-Winning Homer, June 27
No. 10: Matt LaPorta’s Walk-Off Home Run, July 30