The year 2011 is drawing to a close, and what a year it was for the Cleveland Indians. It was a year of disappointments: injuries, slumps, and a conspicuous lack of action at Progressive Field in October. But there was also half-season in first place, the return of a local hero, and the debuts of some future franchise cornerstones. And, of course, there were the amazing clutch performances it seemed like we saw every night, at least for the first few months of the season.
In honor of the incredible comebacks and never-say-die attitude that characterized the Tribe’s winning streaks, we’ve counted down the 50 biggest Indians plays of the season by Win Probability Added, as calculated by FanGraphs. (Note that WPA measures the change each play makes in the team’s chances of winning, not how emotionally exciting it it is; Carlos Santana’s walk-off grand slam and Michael Brantley’s walk-off walk, for example, missed the cut because by the time their respective at-bats started the Indians were already almost certain to win.)
Here for your reading and watching pleasure are the top 50 Tribe plays of the season. We hope you have as much fun reliving these moments as we did.
No. 50: Carlos Santana‘s single, May 10 (.227 WPA): With a runner at first and no one out in a 4-4 game in the bottom of the ninth, Santana’s single off of Rays reliever Joel Peralta advanced the winning run to third base. Santana scored the winning run on Michael Brantley‘s walk-off walk.
No. 49: Grady Sizemore‘s single, April 29 (.227 WPA): The go-ahead run was on first with no one out in the bottom of the ninth against the Tigers, the score tied, 5-5. Sizemore’s base hit off of Joaquin Benoit advanced Jack Hannahan to third; both scored on Carlos Santana’s walk-off grand slam.
No. 48: Michael Brantley’s single, April 13 (.231 WPA): Down 3-2 with Adam Everett on first and nobody out in the eighth inning, Brantley got a base hit that advanced Everett to third and put the go-ahead run on base. He scored on Shin-Soo Choo‘s RBI groundout.
No. 47: Asdrubal Cabrera‘s two-run home run, August 1 (.235 WPA): With one out and a runner on first, Cabrera took John Lackey deep in the sixth inning in Boston to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead.
No. 46: Chris Perez‘ induced double play, May 21 (.239 WPA): With Joey Votto as the tying run on first and nobody out, Brandon Phillips‘ grounder got both him and Votto out to preserve the Tribe’s 2-1 lead.
No. 45: Michael Brantley’s RBI single, May 1 (.241 WPA): With two on and one out in the bottom of the eighth, Brantley’s base hit off of Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit scored Shelley Duncan to give the Indians a 4-3 lead.
No. 44: Ezequiel Carrera‘s double, August 23 (.244 WPA): With the Indians down by one in the bottom of the ninth, Carrera worked a full count against Seattle closer Brandon League before getting putting the tying run in scoring position with a leadoff double. Carrera scored on Shin-Soo Choo’s walk-off home run.
No. 43: Asdrubal Cabrera’s RBI double, May 13 (.245 WPA): With a runner at second and nobody out in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 4-2 game, Cabrera’s double off of Mariners reliever Brandon League drove in Michael Brantley and put the winning run in scoring position. Cabrera would score on Travis Hafner‘s walk-off home run.
No. 42: Jack Hannahan’s RBI triple, August 27 (.250 WPA): With two on and two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Hannahan ripped a bases-clearing triple off of Royals pitcher Danny Duffy to tie the game, 3-3.
No. 41: Grady Sizemore’s two-run home run, July 15 (.252 WPA): With a runner at first and two outs in the fifth inning in Baltimore, Sizemore teed off against Jake Arrieta to give the Indians a 5-3 lead.