Today marks the end of 2012, and while many fans will be glad to turn the page on a disappointing year, this past season had its share of bright spots. So in an effort to end the year on a positive note, I compiled a list of the biggest Cleveland Indians plays of the season, as ranked by win probability added (WPA).
A quick primer on WPA: WPA measures the change in a team’s chances of winning (based on league historical data and the current run environment) between the end and beginning of a plate appearance or play. So if a batter’s team has a 50 percent of chance of winning when he steps to the plate in a specific situation and a 60 percent chance of winning after he gets a hit, he would be credited with +0.1 (10 percent) WPA for the at-bat. (For more information, check out the FanGraphs Saber Library.)
Without further ado, here are the biggest Indians plays of 2012!
- No. 10: Jose Lopez‘ game-tying home run (May 17 vs. Seattle) — +.430 WPA
Things looked bleak for the Tribe as the Mariners went into the bottom of the eighth with a 4-1 lead. Carlos Santana led off with a walk, but a Michael Brantley lineout and a Johnny Damon flyout seemingly killed the potential rally. But Casey Kotchman came through with a double to keep the inning alive, and Jose Lopez stepped up in the clutch.
What happened next? Well, that’s further down on the list.
- No. 9: Shin-Soo Choo‘s go-ahead double (April 14 @ Kansas City) — +.445 WPA
It had already been a tumultuous day in Kansas City—Jeanmar Gomez had been ejected for beaning Mike Moustakas and the Indians had blown a seven-run lead. In the top of the 10th inning, Jason Donald and Jason Kipnis led off with back-to-back singles, but a failed sacrifice bunt by Michael Brantley and an Asdrubal Cabrera flyout seemingly killed the momentum. That is, until Shin-Soo Choo stepped to the plate.
Chris Perez pitched a perfect ninth and the Indians somehow ended the day with a much-needed win.
- No. 8: Travis Hafner‘s game-tying home run (October 2 vs. Chicago) — +.456 WPA
Justin Masterson, Joe Smith, and Vinnie Pestano had teamed up to hold the White Sox to just one run through eight innings, but unfortunately Jake Peavy had done the same to the Tribe. Dayan Viciedo took Chris Perez deep with a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to give Chicago a 3-1 lead, which Peavy went out to protect in the bottom of the ninth. Michael Brantley led off the with a single, meaning the tying run at the plate was Travis Hafner.
Cleveland threatened later in the inning but could not score. Fortunately, Jason Donald provided another dose of late-inning heroics with a walkoff single in the 12th.
- No. 7: Asdrubal Cabrera’s game-tying double (September 29 vs. Kansas City) — +.464 WPA
After falling behind 6-1 in the second inning, the Indians had battled their way back to make it a two-run game by the bottom of the ninth. The final frame started off well with a Carlos Santana walk and a Lonnie Chisenhall single, but after Casey Kotchman bunted them over Cord Phelps struck out. With the Indians down to their last strike, Greg Holland made a mistake to Asdrubal Cabrera.
Holland walked the bases loaded, but Shin-Soo Choo flew out to end the rally and the game went into extra innings. A while later, Tony Abreu got to Scott Maine with an RBI single in the 14th as the Indians lost a 7-6 heartbreaker.
- No. 6: Asdrubal Cabrera’s game-tying home run (April 7 vs. Toronto) — +.469 WPA
Ubaldo Jimenez had thrown a gem in the second game of the season, but Brandon Morrow was equally effective in neutralizing Cleveland’s bats and Vinnie Pestano gave up a tiebreaking solo home run to Kelly Johnson top of the ninth. With the Tribe two outs away from yet another heartbreaking loss, Asdrubal Cabrera kept the Indians’ hopes alive.
Unfortunately the Blue Jays struck again in extra innings—just as they had on Opening Day—and Cabrera’s heroics were rendered meaningless in the 7-4 12-inning loss.