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 on the countdown: Travis Hafner‘s RBI double against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, July 25.
This was one of the best games of the season, and many fans probably remember it for another play: Jason Kipnis‘ walk-off hit. But while Kipnis’ clutch performance was more obviously dramatic, Hafner’s great piece of hitting was even more important to the Tribe’s victory.
The Indians were already in trouble by the time the Angels came to town. They’d already fallen two games behind the Tigers in the AL Central, and they’d just dropped four straight games. Clearly they needed to start the series off on the right foot.
The Indians got off to a strong start: Asdrubal Cabrera‘s first-inning RBI single was an impressive feat considering it was off of Dan Haren. Fausto Carmona and Joe Smith held the Tribe’s 1-0 lead through seven innings, but Bobby Abreu made it a whole new game with his two-run eighth-inning homer off of Vinnie Pestano.
After Cleveland didn’t answer in their half of the eighth and the Angels went quietly in the ninth, Halos closer Jordan Walden came in to finish out the game. Michael Brantley led off with a single, then—in an incredibly risky move—stole second base. Cabrera struck out, and Hafner stepped to the plate with the tying run on second and one out.
Hafner was in a bit of a slump when he stepped to the plate: in his last six games he’d gone 5-for-23 with only one extra-base hit and a .501 OPS. He was 0-for-3 on the game with a strikeout, a popout, and a groundout.
But he didn’t waste any time getting going in this at-bat. Walden threw a 99-mph fastball right down the middle and Pronk teed off:
Hafner lined it off the wall in left-center and slid in for a double as Brantley crossed the plate to tie the game, 2-2. Carlos Santana‘s walk, Jack Hannahan‘s hit-by-pitch and Travis Buck‘s fielder’s choice then loaded the base for Kipnis’ walk-off base hit.
Pronk’s hit was worth .418 WPA—a great piece of hitting, no doubt, but Tribe fans with good memories should know that it wasn’t anywhere close to his best clutch performance 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