Ibanez launches a Killing Curse against the Orioles in the ALDS. - The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE
Who gave the Yankees to best chance to win during their 171 games in 2012? If you know anything about this team, the top few will stun you, I'm sure.
WPA is quite an enjoyable new statistic because it measures the true impact that each player had on each game, compiling total WPA swings by each player. It gives more weight to plays near the end of the game since the chance that the other team would win is much higher then than at the beginning. It is highly probable that we will eventually do a countdown of the biggest WPA swings of the season, but for now, here is a countdown of the highest total WPA games of the New York Yankees' 2012 campaign according to Baseball-Reference.
10. Jayson Nix, July 25, 2012 vs. Seattle Mariners, 0.417 WPA (1-1, 2B, 3 RBI)
Mariners: "We want a series win over the Yankees."
The Yankees had recently attained their high-water mark of the season in the American League East at 10 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles on July 18th. Then, they went to Oakland and were promptly swept in a four-game set by the rising Oakland Athletics, then split the first two games of a series with the Mariners while losing Alex Rodriguez to a broken hand after being hit by Felix Hernandez. They made a splash prior to the first game by trading for Ichiro Suzuki, but they still struggled. The final game of the set would be Ichiro's last in Seattle for 2012 after 10.5 terrific years. Derek Jeter hit a solo homer in the first against Hisashi Iwakuma, but the Mariners countered with two in the bottom of the frame against Ivan Nova. The game stayed scoreless for seven innings, and the Yankees kept squandering run-scoring opportunities. They appeared to be heading toward another frustrating loss.
The Mariners ran into trouble in the eighth again when Josh Kinney drilled Jeter and Lucas Luetge surrendered a pair of line-drive singles to Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira. The bases were loaded with none out, and the Yankees just needed a fly ball to tie the game. Luetge got Curtis Granderson to pop up a foul ball, then manager Eric Wedge brought in lefty Shawn Kelley to neutralize Raul Ibanez. Joe Girardi countered with Jayson Nix, his utility infielder. Nix came up with a huge bases-clearing double to left-center field, giving the Yankees a 4-2 lead. He scored on single by Russell Martin, and the Yankees finished with a 5-2 victory. It was Nix's only plate appearance of the day, but it was enough to make this countdown. Not bad for a guy who was a complete afterthought at the start of Spring Training. (Box score)
9. Mark Teixeira, June 9, 2012 vs. New York Mets, 0.418 WPA (1-2, HR, BB, HBP, 2 RBI)
Remember when the Subway Series was getting overly hyped this year? The Mets surprised baseball by actually doing well through the first couple months with a bunch of AAA players in their starting lineup. Looking back, it was pretty silly that some writers thought they could keep it up, but it did make this game a bit more exciting. The Yankees took the first on the 8th by a score of 9-1, then trailed 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning on the 9th thanks to a solo homer from Mets third baseman David Wright against Phil Hughes. Though Granderson walked to lead off the sixth, it seemed like he would be stranded when A-Rod and Cano did nothing against Mets starter Dillon Gee. That brought up Teixeira, who took the count to 2-2 before pulling a line drive deep to right field and into the "short porch" for a go-ahead two-run homer. The Yankees went on to win 4-2 to ensure they took Round 1 of the Subway Series. (Box score)
8. Mark Teixeira, July 6, 2012 vs. Boston Red Sox, 0.451 WPA (2-4, 3B, BB, 4 RBI)
Despite Boston's horrid finish to the 2012 season that put them over 90 losses, the games between the Yankees and Red Sox were highly competitive early on. This was one of those games, a classic back-and-forth affair at Fenway Park with a ton of offense. Led by Teixeira's two-run single with the bases loaded, the Yankees hung five runs on Josh Beckett in the top of the first, but the normally-reliable Hiroki Kuroda surprisingly gave it all back in the bottom of the frame in a rally capped by a two-run homer from Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Red Sox eventually carried a 7-6 lead to the seventh inning.
Failed prospect Andrew Miller (once involved in the Miguel Cabrera trade if you can believe it) put Granderson and A-Rod on to start the inning, but struck out Cano to bring Teixeira to the plate. Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine brought in Vicente Padilla to pitch to his nemesis. Tex crushed a 3-2 pitch to deep center field, and in most parks, it would have been gone. At Fenway though, it fell into the famous triangle, so the slogging Teixeira got his only triple of the season. It gave the Yankees an 8-6 lead, and they held it to win 10-7. (Box score)
7. Russell Martin, June 10, 2012 vs. New York Mets, 0.486 WPA (2-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI)
This game finished Round 1 of the Subway Series a day after the #9 game on this list. The Mets tried to salvage the final game of the three-games set at Yankee Stadium by taking a 3-0 lead late in the game with Jon Niese on the mound. With two outs in the inning, Andruw Jones reached on an error by Wright to bring Russell Martin to the plate. The Yankees' catcher was not having a good start to his 2012 campaign as he continued to struggle post-April 2011. Nonetheless, he was still a power threat, and he drilled a two-run home run to the "short porch" just out of the reach of right fielder Scott Hairston's glove. Four straight singles against Mets reliever Bobby Parnell in the bottom of the eighth gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead.
However, the Mets rallied to tie it against closer Rafael Soriano on back-to-back doubles from Lucas Duda and the struggling Ike Davis; it was one of only four saves that Sori blew in 2012. Pinch-hitter David Murphy tried to give the Mets the lead with a single to right field, but it was hit too hard to score the runner. Boone Logan relieved Soriano (who exited to a chorus of boos--stay classy, Yankee fans) and escaped the inning. Martin led off the ninth against flamethrower Jon Rauch and brought the count full. On Rauch's sixth pitch, Martin crushed it to deep left field for a solo homer, the Yankees' first walk-off clout since September 2010. The Mets were swept. (Box score)
6. Russell Martin, July 29, 2012 vs. Boston Red Sox, 0.509 WPA (2-2, HR, 2 BB, 2 RBI)
Curiously, this game came in an 10-inning loss to Boston. The now under-.500 Red Sox scored two early runs against Kuroda on a two-run double by Ryan Sweeney in the second inning, but they could not tack on any more as HIROK dazzled for the remainder of his outing. Young Felix Doubront pitched very well against the Yankees, holding them scoreless through six. Martin led off the seventh with a solo homer to right, getting the Yankees onto the scoreboard at 2-1. The score was the same when Russ came up an inning later, this time against former Yankee Alfredo Aceves with Jones on second base after a two-out double. Martin came up with another big hit, tying the game up on a single through the middle. Unfortunately, the Yankees would not win the game, as a rally against David Robertson in the 10th plated a run and Aceves shut them down to end the game. (Box score)
Stay tuned for the top five WPA games, which will be posted in the evening.