The most exciting games of 2013

The 2013 regular season is over. (As closely as you follow baseball, this may not come as a surprise to you.) With the AL tiebreaker done and the playoffs impending, our attention is naturally drawn forward to the teams still contending for the World Series, and the games that will decide who gets there. But in this short pause between season and postseason, we should take a little time to look back and appreciate the best games that the last six months have offered us.

This article counts down the 10 most exciting games of the season just past. This would be a hugely subjective exercise except that, as readers who have been regulars here for the past year or more know, I have my own method for calculating game excitement. It’s called WPS Index (for Win Percentage Sum, or Win Probability Sum). As I am rolling it back out for playoff recaps this year—and have already done so for the AL Wild Card tiebreaker: see THT Live—this is a good time to reacquaint everyone with it.

The idea actually originated with our own Dave Studeman, who in the 2007 Hardball Times Annual offered a method of counting up the Win Percentage Added of each play in a game to create a measure of how exciting that game was. Being a new THT writer in 2012 and not having read as far back as that Annual, I ended up re-inventing the wheel, though with a couple of additions.

You can look at my original articles here and here for a full explanation, but I’ll boil it down to the short version here. Count up the absolute value of Win Percentage Added (meaning the change in likelihood that the respective teams will win) on each play of the game. To that, add the WPA values of the three highest-scoring plays of the game, the ones that would presumably stick in a fan’s mind as the most exciting. Then add the value of the final play of the game, to give an added boost to games with walk-off wins, or at least with good walk-off prospects before the final out.

Win Expectancy and Win Percentage Added are expressed as decimals: each team has a 0.5 WE at the start of the game, and an early solo home run in a tied game would produce something like a +0.1 WPA. The WPS Index takes the percentage numbers instead, so that homer would produce 10 WPS points. The median WPS Index for baseball games hovers a smidgen above 300, and my cutoff for what I call a great game is at 500. The games on this list are quite far beyond 500 points.

They are also all extra-inning games, the added frames giving more time for Win Expectancy to swing back and forth. This doesn’t mean the top reaches of the WPS ranks just count off innings to decide what games are the best. There were six games this year that went at least 18 innings: three made this list, and three did not. There still needs to be good back-and-forth in those innings for them to accrue high excitement value.

I could have scored the games using WPA numbers either from FanGraphs or Baseball-Reference. I went with the latter, because its search functions make it easier to comb out games with a reasonable chance to make the top 10 list. This explains any mild discrepancy between the scores given here and those I gave in earlier articles this year.

Okay, enough with the chatter, already. On with the list!

10. July 1, Arizona Diamondbacks (4) at New York Mets (5), 13 innings. WPS Score: 873.5

Arizona built a quick 3-0 lead on Paul Goldschmidt’s first-inning homer and Aaron Hill’s second-inning RBI single, but the Mets weren’t going passively. They loaded the bases in the first and got runners on the corners with no outs in the second, though each time Wade Miley shut them down. Mets pitcher Shaun Marcum prevented further damage through his six innings, but after his team misfired on another opportunity in the sixth, it looked bad for both New York and for prospects of a nail-biting game.

Bit by bit, that changed. David Wright singled Eric Young home in the seventh, and Marlon Byrd added a hit of his own before Heath Bell was sent in and quelled the uprising.

It would revive in the eighth on Omar Quintanilla’s triple (that Gerardo Parra injured himself diving for and almost catching) and Young’s double. Two down, one to go: Byrd got a double in the ninth, and Josh Satin drove him home to tie. John Buck walked behind him, and when a pitch got away from catcher Miguel Montero, he tried for second as Satin went to third. The attempt to advance a meaningless run blew up: Montero threw Buck out, ending the ninth.

Deflated but not daunted, the Mets kept pressing. A single and sacrifice in the 10th put the winning run a hit away, but reliever Chaz Roe, in his big-league debut, held them off the board. Roe had a worse time in the 11th, giving up a two-out walk to Anthony Recker that loaded the bases. Tony Sipp came in and got the third out. There was no big threat in the 12th, but the 13th began with a bang: Cody Ross’ leadoff homer that put the D-backs ahead 4-3.

With two outs to go in the bottom half, the Mets gave their reply. Satin doubled, and with the pitcher due up after Buck and no bats left on the New York bench, manager Kirk Gibson went against the book and intentionally walked potential winning run Buck. Terry Collins sent in hurler Matt Harvey to bat for David Aardsma, and his sacrifice moved the winning runs to scoring position, though with two outs. Gibson ordered four wide again, to bypass Quintanilla and get to reserve outfielder Andrew Brown.

This worked about as well as Buck’s dash for second base. Brown drove one into the left gap, Satin and Buck easily scored, and the Mets had pulled out a wild one.

And it wasn’t even the most exciting game of the four-game series. We’ll get to that one later.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

9. Aug. 25, Chicago Cubs (2) at San Diego Padres (3), 15 innings. WPS Score: 884.7

A low-scoring game at PETCO Park is a common enough occurrence, but this was ridiculous. Wonderfully ridiculous.

Neither team could crack the starters, Chris Rusin for Chicago and Andrew Cashner for San Diego, or their immediate successors. Nifty defensive plays kept snuffing out promising moments for both sides. Notably, Luke Gregorson’s snag of a scorching comebacker ended a mild Cubs rally in the eighth, and a deke play on runner Brian Bogusevic helped turn a Junior Lake fly ball into an easy double play.

The shutout held through nine innings, and more. Both teams threatened often, but both bullpens kept dousing the fires. Not even an Alexi Amarista double to open the Padres’ 12th could break the ice. That soon looked like the Friars’ doom, as the Cubs pounced on lucky 13.

Two singles and a walk loaded the bases against Brad Boxberger with nobody out. Nate Schierholtz grounded to Jesus Guzman at first, who threw home for the force. Schierholtz, who had stumbled getting out of the box, took the errant throw off the left side of his face. It ricocheted toward short, and everyone was safe. Bogusevic hit a sacrifice fly, but the Cubs couldn’t tack on more. That seemed all right: a two-run lead in this game looked utterly safe.

It looked even better three Padres batters later, with two outs and Jesus Guzman on second. Ronny Cedeno was San Diego’s last lick—and what a lick. He blasted a shot over Lake’s head in center, stretching it to a triple. He’d broken the age-old caution about risking the last out at third, and a good thing, too. Kevin Gregg’s 1-0 pitch to Amarista bounced in the dirt and off catcher Welington Castillo, and Cedeno broke for home. Castillo found the ball and shoveled it home in time, but it got through Gregg and Cedeno scored to make it 2-2.

A bizarre play had untied the game, and a bizarre play had re-tied it.

In the home 14th and visitor’s 15th, the first two batters got aboard, and moved over on infield outs to put two in scoring position with one down. Both times the pitchers escaped: Cubs’ Hector Rondon on a pair of K’s, Padres’ Dale Thayer on a force at home and a ground out. The excitement continued into the last of the 15th, with Logan Forsythe getting to second with two gone. After an intentional pass, Nick Hundley came up. He cracked a hit into center, and Lake’s throw home was not in time. San Diego had come all the way back from a 3 percent chance of victory to pull it out.

8. April 29, New York Mets (3) at Miami Marlins (4), 15 innings. WPS Score: 905.1

A matchup between two of the most promising young pitchers in the game, Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez, foretold a low-scoring affair. That’s what happened, but not so much due to the starters. Fernandez struggled through four innings, allowing two runs before being lifted: bizarrely, he struck out with two men on to end the fourth just before he was relieved. Harvey got through five-and-a-third of one-run ball, but had to throw over 120 pitches to get even that far.

The bullpens held the game at 2-1 Mets for a while. New York tried to exploit Donovan Solano’s error opening the ninth for an insurance run, but could get Ike Davis only to third. Miami did better against closer Bobby Parnell, greeting him with a double, single, and Nick Green’s sac fly to tie the game. With the winning run on, pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan hit into a 4-6-3.

Both teams got the leadoff man aboard in the 10th, but neither could convert. Miami got the worst of it when Giancarlo Stanton hurt his right hamstring trying to beat out a dribbler. The 12th saw twin two-out rallies move the go-ahead runner to third, Juan Pierre getting there with a single and two steals. The pitchers clamped down both times.

Miami seriously threatened in the 14th with two singles to start, but couldn’t finish, and it looked like that had finished the Marlins. The Mets finally broke through in the top of the 15th on a double, wild pitch, and Ruben Tejada’s single plating Lucas Duda. It was now or never for Miami, and the Marlins made it now. Against Shaun Marcum (yes, Marcum again), Greg Dobbs hit a one-out single, Justin Ruggiano walked on a full count, and Rob Brantly’s single not only scored Dobbs, but moved Ruggiano to third. That was critical, as Nick Green flied out deep to Duda in left. The throw never had a chance at Ruggiano, who crossed home for the 4-3 Marlins win.

This wouldn’t be the last super-long baseball game the Mets and Marlins played, or their biggest WPS score. We’ll get to that one later.

7. July 31, Seattle Mariners (4) at Boston Red Sox (5), 15 innings. WPS Score: 915.1

This game had good back-and-forth action after a scoreless first three innings. Seattle drew first blood in the fourth, but Boston pulled ahead 2-1 in the fifth on a rally that threatened a big number until Hisashi Iwakuma buckled down and struck out David Ortiz and Mike Napoli swinging. His Mariners responded immediately with two in the sixth; Boston replied slightly less than immediately with two in the seventh on Dustin Pedroia’s dinger over the Monster. Kyle Seager beat him on degree of difficulty by homering to right-center to tie the game at 4-4 in the eighth.

Things settled down until the 11th, when Seattle began mounting little challenges each inning that never quite became big-time threats. That was okay for a while, as Danny Farquhar tossed three perfect innings in relief to keep things knotted. Once he left for Lucas Luetge, though, it was Boston’s turn to threaten.

In the 13th, Luetge walked Jonny Gomes and wild-pitched him to second before popping out Stephen Drew to end the frame. The 14th was worse, a Brandon Snyder double and Jacoby Ellsbury sacrifice bunt putting the winning run 30 yards away. Shane Victorino flied out to Michael Saunders in center, and the Red Sox fans cheered, sensing Snyder was about to score and win it. Instead, Saunders threw home on the fly, shoulder-high to Humberto Quintero, who made the tag.

Buoyed by the game-saver, Seattle got Raul Ibanez and Endy Chavez on base with one gone in the 15th. Saunders hit a sinking liner to left that Gomes snared on a head-first dive. He then got up and, with Ibanez having gone far past third, ran it himself to second base for the unassisted double play.

Buoyed by that game-saver, Boston waited Luetge out. The Red Sox got three walks, one intentional, alternating with outs to give a bases-loaded, two-out opportunity to Stephen Drew. He laced a ball down the right-field line to win the game 5-4.

That wasn’t the only late, late heartbreak Seattle had suffered in 2013. We’ll get to that one later.

6. June 8, Miami Marlins (2) at New York Mets (1), 20 innings. WPS Score: 934.6

A rematch of the young hurlers from April 29 provided the hoped-for pitchers duel this time, one that grew into something much more. Jose Fernandez gave up a lone run in six innings of three-hit ball, and Matt Harvey went seven while yielding just one run. By the time the game was over, neither would have his team’s longest pitching stint of the day.

Miami threatened to break the 1-1 tie in the eighth when Adeiny Hechavarria led off with a single, stole second, and had Greg Dobbs walk behind him. On Juan Pierre’s bunt attempt, though, Hechavarria anticipated contact too much. Catcher John Buck picked him off second base, starting the 2-6-5 putout, and a subsequent double play buried the rally. The Mets got runners to second base in the eighth and ninth, but no farther, and the game went to extras. A lot of extras.

The next big chance to settle matters arrived in the home 12th. Daniel Murphy got to third with one out, and Marlon Byrd hit a fly ball down the right-field line. Marcell Ozunaran it down, and Murphy, a little off the bag after thinking it would drop, tagged and went for home. Ozuna threw a BB to the plate three strides ahead of Murphy, who trucked Rob Brantly but couldn’t dislodge the ball.

On to the 13th, complicated by both managers having already burned through their bullpens. Back-end starters got the call, Kevin Slowey for Miami, Marcum for New York. (Yes, Marcum yet again.) Both men belied the rough times they’d been having—a combined 1-11 record coming into the day—and pitched seven shutout innings apiece.

Too bad for Marcum that he went eight. Three straight singles in the top of the 20th inning, the third one a redemptive RBI for Hechavarria, snapped the run of 15 scoreless frames. Steve Cishek, kept around by manager Mike Redmond for the save situation, nailed down the game on seven pitches for the 2-1 Marlins win.

And for all of that, it wasn’t the most exciting insanely long baseball game played on June 8, 2013. We’ll get to that one—what do you mean, you’ve heard this before?

5. April 3, St. Louis Cardinals (9) at Arizona D-backs (10), 16 innings. WPS Score: 946.7

There is a reason why extremely long games tend to have low-ish final scores. First, it’s a little easier for the two teams to match scores over the first nine innings if they’re fairly low, and second, it’s far easier for teams to match zeroes in extras rather than to have the home team equal a one-spot, or greater, to keep the game running. This game neatly broke both those precepts.

Starters Lance Lynn and Brandon McCarthy both got roughed up. Lynn was driven out in the fifth by a four-run Arizona surge, capped by Goldschmidt’s homer off the top of the wall, that put the Snakes up 5-4.

McCarthy couldn’t handle the largesse, and his first start as a D-back got swept away by a three-run Cardinals sixth that put them ahead 7-5. This didn’t last, as Martin Prado imitated Goldschmidt’s wall-top bouncer to tie the game at seven through six.

The ping-ponging continued when Yadier Molina led off the seventh with a round-tripper to make it 8-7 Redbirds, but Arizona equalized with a three-single rally in the eighth. The ninth passed with little incident, as did the 10th and 11th. The 12th made up for that.

St. Louis met new reliever Josh Collmenter with a one-out rally, Pete Kozma’s single driving Yadi home from third. Collmenter prevented anything worse, but it looked grim for Arizona. Briefly. Cliff Pennington singled, then Cards pitcher Mitchell Boggs drilled Eric Chavez in the elbow. Chavez would have to come out after the inning, but the good news was that there was going to be another inning. The D-backs played for the tie at home, Gerardo Parra bunting the runners over and Prado’s sac fly bringing Pennington across. It was 9-9 after 12.

The Cardinals began the 13th with a single and sacrifice, but got no further, as Collmenter stiffened to keep them off the board inning after inning. St. Louis relievers did likewise, until the 16th. Fernando Salas walked Jason Kubel, who took second on Ian Kennedy’s bunt. Pennington, whose game-leveler in the 12th must have seemed long ago by now, rapped a hard grounder past Daniel Descalso into right-center, and there was no play at home. The D-backs had won the longest game ever played at Chase Field.

4. June 5, Chicago White Sox (7) at Seattle Mariners (5), 16 innings. WPS Score: 960.2

Remember what I said to introduce the Cubs-Padres game? Double it here. This game lasted longer in a perfect deadlock, then went berserk in the 14th inning.

Iwakuma was a stud starting for the M’s, facing one over the minimum for his eight innings of work. The early scoring chances would all be Seattle’s, but Chicago kept killing them off. The White Sox turned five double plays in the first seven innings, two of them from the outfield. In the third, Alejandro De Aza brought in Endy Chavez’s fly to center, then caught runner Brendan Ryan napping to double him off first. An inning later, Kyle Seager went for home on Nick Franklin’s line-out to right, but Alex Rios gunned him down. Both Rios and Seager would figure prominently in later action.

Both teams had chances in the ninth, but the scoreboard stayed all zeroes to carry them to extras, and beyond. In the top of the 12th, Rios led off with a single. He went just past second on Paul Konerko’s fly-out to center, but Michael Saunders’ throw to double him off sailed high past first. It didn’t matter: Rios had missed second running back, and the appeal play made it a double play after all.

He would make amends in the 14th, when the Pale Hose broke through. His base hit off Danny Farquhar drove in De Aza for the first run of the game, and Casper Wells knocked him home for the second. Chicago pummeled the Mariners for five runs in the inning, and few could be blamed for turning off their sets then and there. Fewer still could be blamed when Franklin flied out to open what seemed a meaningless Mariners’ 14th.

It got meaningful. Four straight singles off Addison Reed marched one run across, and brought up the tying run in Jason Bay. To the surprise of zero Mets fans, he struck out, and Seattle was down to its last gasp in Kyle Seager. One couldn’t expect too much: no major league player had ever hit a grand slam to tie a game in extra innings.

Until Kyle Seager. Five to five. And pity the poor little boy who got run over in the stands by the grown-up going after the home run ball. Hope that wasn’t his dad.

Chicago tried to bounce back in the 15th, getting the go-ahead man to third with one out, but Hector Noesi fanned the next two. Noesi couldn’t repeat the Houdini act next inning. The White Sox pushed two across on him, Rios driving in the insurance run that, after the 14th, didn’t feel like it secured that much. But Addison Reed—still in the game after melting down in the 14th!—struck out the side, all swinging, to send Mariners fans home sad and Ken Harrelson home happy.

3. July 4, Arizona D-backs (5) at New York Mets (4), 15 innings. WPS Score: 993.6

The Mets had to be getting a bit punch-drunk. Two with the Marlins, and now this.

The starters had almost identical good outings: Arizona’s Ian Kennedy and New York’s Dillon Gee both gave up two runs over seven innings on six hits and two walks. (Kennedy had the 8-7 strikeout lead.) The D-backs erased a 1-0 deficit with Wil Nieves’ two-run single in the fifth, set up by a Gerardo Parra bunt that scooted through the infield for a double. Gee patched things up with a two-out RBI hit in the bottom of the inning. Stalemate set in after that, runners stranded hither and thither, and extra innings beckoned.

Arizona had a chance in the 10th with a one-out single followed by a Martin Prado broken-bat blooper to center that dropped just in front of Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Tony Campana, though, had been playing halfway, and Captain Kirk fired a phaser shot to second to get the force. (Strap in: I’ll be doing more of that.)

The 13th brought bigger opportunities, and bigger disappointment, to the D-backs. They loaded the bases on a single, double, and intentional walk by David Aardsma. Cody Ross then got the unintentional walk to put Arizona ahead 3-2. Parra grounded to first for the force at home, then was hit outside the baseline by the throw back to first and was called out on interference. The remaining runners had to return to first and second, a crucial blow. Nieves’ following single would have scored Eric Chavez, but instead he was thrown out at home by Byrd.

Still, the Snakes led by one. Heath Bell got the first two outs in quick order, and faced catcher Anthony Recker, whose batting average at that moment was .167. And Recker wrecked the save with a game-tying home run.

So Arizona went back to work. A single, sacrifice, and grounder put Pennington on third with two outs, and Prado looped one into the right-center Bermuda Triangle to push them back ahead 4-3. But the Mets struck back again. With one out, Captain Kirk put one in orbit off Chaz Roe, then Eric Young walked to threaten a walk-off. The Mets were out of bench bats, though, and pitcher Marcum had to come in to bat for pitcher Brandon Lyon. He managed a sacrifice, but Roe kept it from mattering.

The third time, Arizona hoped, was the charm. With two outs in the top of the 15th, Parra, Nieves and Pennington strung together three singles to move a run ahead once again. Brad Ziegler, coming in for Roe, could not close it out cleanly. Two walks got the winning runs aboard with one out, and the second out moved them both to scoring position. Up came Kirk Nieuwenhuis—and Captain Kirk grounded out softly to end the game. KHAAAN!

(Hey, just be glad I didn’t make a bunch of “fireworks” jokes for a Fourth of July game.)

2. June 8, Texas Rangers (3) at Toronto Blue Jays (4), 18 innings. WPS Score: 1083.9

This was another match-up of good starting pitchers, Yu Darvish and Mark Buehrle, but early on it wasn’t a tight one. In the third, Colby Rasmus tagged Darvish for a two-run triple, and Jurickson Profar’s errant throw to third let Rasmus come home to make it 3-0 Jays. It stayed that way into the seventh, which is usually bad news for WPS: multiple innings stuck on a multi-run lead makes for weak scores. This game would remedy that, in time.

Jeff Baker nudged the Rangers closer with a second-deck solo shot into the second deck in the seventh. Texas threatened more in the eighth, getting Profar and Elvis Andrus to second and third with one out, but Steve Delabar shut them down there. Ron Washington pulled out the stops in the ninth, sending up three straight pinch-hitters who all got on base, closing the margin to 3-2. Andrus’ sacrifice fly then brought David Murphy home to tie it. Free baseball arrived—but nobody was expecting the two-for-one sale they got.

Here the game began making up for its unpromising middle innings with a steady diet of scoring chances. In the top of the 10th, Texas loaded the bases without benefit of a hit, but Jose Bautista’s arm turned Leonys Martin’s potential sac fly liner into an easy-looking double play. A few milder threats followed before the Jays’ 13th, which started with hits by J.P. Arencibia and Rasmus. A nifty wheel play on Maicer Izturis’ subsequent bunt, though, erased the lead runner and helped keep the game rolling.

In the 14th, Andrus walked, stole, and got to third on a bunt with one out, but reliever Brad Lincoln induced the comebacker to freeze, and eventually strand, him there. Baker smacked a one-out double in the 15th, and Leonys Martin wore the next pitch, but Lincoln bore down again to get two ground-outs and escape. Toronto tried to end it there, getting Adam Lind and Arencibia on the corners with nobody gone. Ross Wolf, in his fourth frame of relief, wriggled free on a foul pop, grounder, and liner.

The teams took a bit of a breath before the decisive 18th. Murphy doubled to lead off, and A.J. Pierzynski got hit by a pitch, setting Texas up. But Murphy got too aggressive and was picked off heading for third. Pierzynski took second behind him, but two ground outs mooted that. In the Blue Jays’ half, Emilio Bonifacio singled, but was still on first with two outs when he got aggressive and drew Ross Wolf’s pickoff throw.

Bonifacio went all the way to third on the error, and came home on Rajai Davissmack just inside third base. One side had finally cracked, and everyone could go home … and watch the end of the Mets/Marlins game.

1. April 29, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (8) at Oakland A’s (10), 19 innings. WPS Score: 1105.1

There was another top 10 game played on this date, but I didn’t mention that we’d get to this one later. You can only take a running joke so far.

Just like the No. 2 game, there was a stretch when it looked like this contest wouldn’t be close at the end. A four-run flurry by Los Angeles of Anaheim (gotta cover my legal bases) in the fifth made it 6-1 Angels. Oakland scratched one back in the sixth on a Brandon Moss homer—remember that name—but Albert Pujols took it right back in the seventh with his second tater of the night. The A’s needed a big number, fast.

And they got it. They duplicated L.A.’s four-spot in the eighth, but left the go-ahead runs on base. Their one-run deficit almost got bigger thanks to a Mike Trout-Pujols two-out rally, but Sean Doolittle came in and fanned Josh Hamilton to keep his A’s close. In the home ninth, Coco Crisp would walk, advance on a deep fly, then take a big risk swiping third with two outs. Yoenis Cespedesboomer off the wall in left-center would have scored Crisp from second, or first. It only got Cespedes one base, as he admired what he thought was a home run for far too long. Moss, possibly burdened with needing extra bases to plate the winner, struck out swinging.

Told you to remember his name. Now keep remembering it.

Extras came, with Oakland getting the better scoring chances. Chris Young tripled in the 10th and Jed Lowrie doubled in the 11th, but both were with two outs and neither man got picked up. A two-on, no-out opportunity in the 12th got snuffed on a bunt force-out and a double play. After that, nobody reached base until the 15th. Then a lot of guys did.

A Mark Trumbo single and Brendan Harris double set the table with one out, and A’s manager Bob Melvin ordered the free pass to Chris Iannetta. The good news: Andrew Romine grounded into a force at the plate for the second out. The bad news: Brett Anderson then walked J.B. Shuck on four pitches to put the Angels ahead 8-7.

The A’s needed help in their half to come back, and got it when Pujols dropped the throw on a grounder by Josh Donaldson, putting the leadoff man on. Derek Norris walked, then was the lone survivor of a 5-3 twin-killing that left him on second with two outs. It all rested on Adam Rosales, whose shot up the middle got the tying run home. He took second on the throw to the plate, then third on a passed ball, but he was not destined to be the winning run that night.

Offense receded to a murmur again until the bottom of the 19th. Seth Smith opened proceedings with a walk, but a force-out and a Cespedes whiff later, it looked like another zero on the board. Brandon Moss was stuck again needing extra bases to get the winning run home.

This time, he delivered. His walk-off home run won’t make it into any Brad Pitt movies (unless the sequel to World War Z gets really weird), but it did end the most exciting game (by WPS) of the 2013 baseball season. And it’s fitting that the most exciting game would end with the only walk-off homer on this list.

And that’s our Top 10. I hope it’s whetted your appetite for the games to come, not that we need too much help in that direction. You can follow my WPS-flavored recaps of those every post-game day at THT Live. October, here we come!

References & Resources
Baseball-Reference provided the WPA breakdowns vital to this article. Additional narrative help came via the baseball sub-sites of SB Nation, specifically:
Fish Stripes (Miami Marlins)
Lookout Landing (Seattle Mariners)
Gaslamp Ball (San Diego Padres)
AZ Snake Pit (Arizona D-Backs)
Bluebird Banter (Toronto Blue Jays)
Athletics Nation (Oakland A’s)

A writer for The Hardball Times, Shane has been writing about baseball and science fiction since 1997. His stories have been translated into French, Russian and Japanese, and he was nominated for the 2002 Hugo Award.
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10 years ago

Nice list. Since all of these games went into extra innings, it would be nice to see a similar list of nine inning games.

10 years ago

I found this game to equal 987.54.  I was there and thought it was boring for the first several innings as each pitcher was afraid to throw the ball.  They averaged a little more than an hour per 3 innings, without tv.  As it wore on, the extra innings were not too exciting as it appeared no one wanted to win and it was also getaway day for St. Louis.  Finally, the 15th came and I thought St. Louis was going to win, but a double play stopped their rally.  The Rockies finally got a couple of key hits to win.  I stayed only because I knew it would be my last chance to see Todd Helton in person.

Does this game make your list at all?

Shane Tourtellotte
10 years ago

Jim:  Congratulations.  By my own WPS count, you have officially discovered game number 4 1/2 on the list.  I’m just sorry you weren’t that entertained by it. (I do have to agree that much of the extra innings was lacking in tense situations.)

I don’t know how this one slipped through the net.  The search criteria I was using should have caught it, and did when I went over it again just now.  The only thing I can think of is that the game occurred right after my initial search of the season, and I somehow blinked and missed it during my follow-ups.  To quote a favorite line of mine from the original Star Trek:  “How fallible of me.”

I would find a way to crowbar it onto the list, except that it would ruin the storyline of two games from the same Arizona-Mets series making the list.  I like those little coincidences too much, like the two pairs of games on the same day.

10 years ago

Shane, I would not feel bad if I were you.  I now know I figured it correctly.  I learned a lot from doing this and for that I thank you.

For the other person who asked, this game came out approximately 620 after nine innings, depending on the last play.

Rowen Bell
10 years ago

If I understand your methodology correctly, it is systematically biased towards extra inning games – as evidenced by this year’s list.  Each extra inning played can only improve a game’s score, even if that inning is not fundamentally exciting in and of itself.

Here’s a suggested improvement.  First, using the entire season’s data, determine the average value of abs(WPA) per out.  Next, start with the score you’ve calculated, and subtract the number of outs in the game times the value from the previous step. 

This would normalize the level of excitement to the length of the game, and thereby (in my opinion) provide a fairer measure as to whether or not these extra inning games truly were the most exciting contests of the year.

10 years ago

Love the list, agree with the sentiments above. Finding a way to include the best 9 inning games would be a great list.

Shane Tourtellotte
10 years ago

mkredman, VB:  Watch this space.  Meaning watch THT on the 16th, when my next regular article is up.  I believe I can accommodate you.

Rowen:  That is not a bad idea at all.  It might be a grind to figure out abs(WPA)/out, but once done, that could be a good new perspective.  Thanks.