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). Next in the countdown: Travis Buck‘s clutch home run against the Reds on May 21.
The Indians’ hot start was nearing its peak when the game began that afternoon at Progressive Field. At 27-15, they were 12 games over .500 and six games ahead of the Tigers and Royals (remember when they were in second place?) in the AL Central and had showed no signs of slowing down.
At least, until they ran into Homer Bailey. Tribe hitters couldn’t touch Bailey, and the 25-year-old right-hander took a perfect game into the fourth inning and had a one-hit shutout intact through six.
Luckily, Josh Tomlin was matching Bailey frame for frame. After Drew Stubbs‘ first-inning leadoff single Tomlin retired 18 of the next 20 Reds hitters he faced, and heading into the seventh inning neither team had reached second base. But then Tomlin beaned Brandon Phillips; he advanced to third on Jay Bruce‘s base hit and scored on Scott Rolen‘s groundout to give the Reds a 1-0 lead for the seventh-inning stretch.
Asdrubal Cabrera singled to lead off the bottom of the second with two of the Tribe’s biggest bats coming up, but Shin-Soo Choo flew out and Carlos Santana watched strike three sail by. So with a runner on first and two outs, the go-ahead run at the plate was Travis Buck.
Buck had yet to really find his groove with the Indians. He’d just been recalled from a stint in the minors, and after starting the game 0-for-2 his slashline for the season had fallen to a grim .250/.267/.318. In 45 plate appearances he’d yet to hit a home run and hadn’t drawn a single walk.
But when Buck saw Bailey lob a fastball right down the middle on the first pitch, he knew what to do with it.
For his trouble, Buck was rewarded with .459 WPA—just short of being one of the five biggest Tribe hits off 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