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Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Greatest postseason hitting performances

By David Schoenfield

Does Adrian Beltre's three-homer game rank as one of the top postseason hitting games of all time? After all, he belted three home runs in a slim 4-3 victory. One way to measure this is via something called WPA -- win probability added -- which takes into account the score and inning of the game to determine the change in win probability of the game based upon the outcome of each plate appearance. Under this method, the greatest WPA for one game is Kirk Gibson's two-out, two-run, bottom-of-the-ninth home run for the Dodgers in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, which scored a WPA of .870.

Just for fun, here is the rest of the top 10 via that method, courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com:

2. Steve Garvey, Padres, 1984 NLCS Game 4 (.854 WPA): Went 4-for-5 with five RBIs in a 7-5 win over the Cubs, including a walk-off, two-run homer. The Padres retired Garvey's uniform number because of that game.

3. Charlie Keller, Yankees, 1941 World Series Game 4 (.826): This is the famous game in which Mickey Owen dropped the third strike, leading the Yankees to score four runs in the ninth to win 7-4. Keller hit a two-out, two-run go-ahead double in the ninth, and also had an RBI single in the first during a 4-for-5 game.

4. Cookie Lavagetto, Dodgers, 1947 World Series Game 4 (.822): Lavagetto's pinch-hit two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the ninth broke up Bill Bevens' no-hit bid and gave Brooklyn a 3-2 victory.

5. Michael Tucker, Braves, 1998 NLCS, Game 5 (.812): Don't remember this one? Me neither. Tucker went 3-for-5 with five RBIs, including a three-run homer in the eighth as Atlanta beat the Padres 7-5.

6. Brian Jordan, Braves, 1999 NLDS, Game 3 (.806): It's OK, all those Braves playoff games from the '90 runs together. The Braves won 5-3 with Jordan hitting a three-run homer in the sixth and a two-run, two-out double in the 12th.

7. Stan Hack, Cubs, 1945 World Series Game 6 (.806): The Cubs' leadoff hitter, Hack went 4-for-5 with two walks and three RBIs in a 12-inning 8-7 victory, including the winning double with two outs.

8. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies, 2009 NLCS Game 4 (.754): Rollins' line doesn't seem that impressive -- 2-for-5, double, two RBIs -- but that double came with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to score two runs and give the Phillies a 5-4 win.

9. Francisco Cabrera, Braves, 1992 NLCS Game 7 (.737): Reckon you might know about this one.

10. Gary Carter, Mets, 1988 NLCS Game 1 (.724): Orel Hershiser had finished the season with 59.1 scoreless innings. He took a 2-0 lead into the ninth, but Darryl Strawberry's RBI double knocked out Hershiser and Carter's two-out double off Jay Howell knocked in two runs for a 3-2 lead.

Now ... that's a great list, although probably not what you had in mind for best hitting performances. Those are all late-game clutch performances that snapped victory from the jaws of defeat. Here is another list of six performances that stand out to me for their all-around awesomeness, trying to avoid lines from blowout games like this one.
Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.