One byproduct of the Ricky’s Boys Don’t Quit era: All of the comebacks create opportunities to pick up WPA along the way.
If you’re unfamiliar with Win Probability Added, the name of the stat does most of the explaining. At any point, the Sox have a probability of winning the game reflected by a percentage based the situation (score, innings, runners, outs, etc.). WPA measures how much a hitter adds to (or subtracts) from the team’s chances of winning a game based on the outcome of his plate appearances.
With so many late rallies and walk-offs, three different individual games outranked the top clutch performance from 2016.
No. 10: Rob Brantly
Sept. 28 | WPA: 0.399
It was fitting that the White Sox pulled off a classic comeback in their final home game of the season. Maybe Brantly wasn’t a classic part of that equation, but he came through nevertheless. He owned the game’s biggest play with a game-tying two-run homer in the eighth inning, and also added a single and an HBP to offset a second-inning strikeout with runners on first and second and nobody out.
(Tim Anderson doesn’t get WPA credit for scoring from first on a single.)
No. 9: Matt Davidson
July 31 | WPA: 0.442
This game opened with the ugly collision between Yoan Moncada and Willy Garcia. It ended with Matt Davidson’s second consecutive walk-off hit, this one a single off Roberto Osuna. He added a two-run homer the inning before, cutting Toronto’s lead to 6-4, and he also drew a rare walk ... and yet this wasn’t even the clutchest performance of the game.
No. 8: Melky Cabrera
July 4 | WPA: 0.454
This game is the only loss on the list, but the game’s back-and-forth nature offered plenty of opportunities to boost WPA. Sure enough, Cabrera put the Sox up 2-0 in the third inning with a homer, then hit a game-tying single with two outs in the ninth inning. A couple groundouts with runners in scoring position took some of the shine off it.
No. 7: Nicky Delmonico
Aug. 18 | WPA: 0.461
The headline on the recap was “Nicky Delmonico the difference,” and that shows up in his WPA. He hit a pair of go-ahead homers — a two-run shot in the sixth, and the game-winning inside-the-park homer in the eighth.
No. 6: Jose Abreu
July 31 | WPA: 0.502
One batter before Davidson singled home the game-winning run against the Blue Jays with two outs in the ninth, Abreu singled home the game-tying run. One weird wrinkle of WPA is that tying the game can be worth more than winning the game, especially at home (there’s an advantage to batting last). Trailing by one with two outs and runners on first and second, the White Sox had a 17 percent chance of winning the game at that point. Abreu hogged the most of the remaining 83 percent.
- After Abreu: Runners at first and third, two outs, 64 percent WP (+47)
- After Davidson: White Sox win, 100 percent WP (+36)
No. 5: Yoan Moncada
Aug. 10 | WPA: 0.514
Yoan Moncada’s first statement game was one of the first that came to mind when thinking what heroics might end up atop the list. That being the case, I was surprised it only ranked fifth since Moncada hit the game-tying homer in the ninth and a walk-off single in the 11th ...
... but a pair of strikeouts with runners in scoring position meant that he was at a WPA deficit before the late-inning heroics.
No. 4: Yolmer Sanchez
July 2 | WPA: 0.568
Sanchez reversed the Sox’ fortunes on one swing with two outs in the eighth inning. The Sox went from trailing 5-4 to leading 6-5, and they went from a 24 percent chance to an 84 percent chance of winning the game on the strength of his go-ahead homer.
No. 3: Avisail Garcia
April 16 | WPA: 0.632
With a runner on third and two outs in the 10th inning of a 1-1 game, Twins manager Paul Molitor could have ordered Ryan Pressly to pitch around the red-hot Garcia. Instead, Pressly went right at him, and Garcia made everybody on the Minnesota side regret the decision, from the dugout to the broadcast booth:
Garcia added three other hits, including a single that moved Jose Abreu from first to third with one out in the eighth, giving the Sox a great chance at tying the game (Davidson came through with a sac fly).
No. 2: Jose Abreu
June 27 | WPA: 0.653
It seems like the true WPA hero of this game was the Yankee bullpen, which issued six walks and an HBP over the last two innings and allowed the White Sox to come back. That said, Abreu took advantage of the opportunity by hitting a walk-off two-run single through the left side with two outs, which was the only Sox hit of the last two innings. The Sox only had a 28 percent chance of winning the game at that point, so you can do the math there.
This game could have ranked higher, but Abreu struck out with the bases loaded and nobody out an inning before. The Sox trailed 3-1 at the time, but they had a 52 percent chance of winning the game. That dropped down to 38 percent after Abreu’s strikeout, but he bailed himself out.
No. 1: Melky Cabrera
June 30 | WPA: 0.676
There’s lots of Win Probability to be gained when a team erases leads of 5-2 and 7-3. Cabrera delivered the bulk of it with a walk-off two-run single with one out in ninth.
Abreu’s walk-off against the Yankees was bigger hit in terms of swinging the game, as his came with two outs. Cabrera wasn’t in need of any particular kind of redemption, though. They say stats don’t capture the emotion of baseball, but WPA does a pretty good job of identifying which players were happy to get themselves off the hook.