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Royals' win one of most dramatic ever

10/1/2014

I didn't feel like I gave proper perspective to Tuesday's night wild-card game, so here's a quick follow-up post. How unlikely and dramatic was the Royals' win, considering they trailed 7-3 in the bottom of the eighth, 7-6 in the ninth and 8-7 in the 12th? One way to measure this is using Win Probability Added, which Baseball-Reference.com describes as "Given average teams, this is the change in probability caused by this batter during the game." A change of +1 or -1 would equate to one win or less. In other words, a leadoff single in a tie game in the ninth changes your team's chance of winning more than a single in the fifth inning when trailing 5-2 or whatever.

We can add together all the WPAs of the individual batters to arrive at a team WPA. A game that features a lot of lead changes or dramatic comebacks is going to have a higher WPA and can even exceed 1.0 in rare circumstances. Baseball-Reference hasn't updated its WPA from Tuesday, but FanGraphs has Kansas City's team WPA at 1.063. That would be the fifth-highest for any postseason game -- out of 2,738 individual possibilities.

Here the four higher ones:

1. St. Louis Cardinals, Game 6, 2011 World Series: 1.377 WPA

There's a reason some call this the most exciting postseason game ever played. The Cardinals trailed the Rangers 1-0, 3-2, 4-3, 7-4 and then 7-5 entering the bottom of the ninth. They scored twice to tie it on David Freese's two-out triple, only to see the Rangers take a 9-7 lead in the 10th. Once again, the Cardinals tied it with two outs, on Lance Berkman's single. Freese then won it with a home run in the 11th.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates, Game 6, 1960 World Series: 1.251 WPA

Another popular choice for greatest game ever played, Bill Mazeroski won it 10-9 with a home run in the bottom of the ninth, but the Pirates had trailed 7-4 in the bottom of the eighth before scoring five runs, only to see the Yankees score twice in the ninth to tie it.

3. Chicago Cubs, Game 1, 1908 World Series: 1.135 WPA

The Cubs blew a 4-1 lead against the Tigers but then rallied to score five runs in the ninth to win 10-6.

4. Cincinnati Reds, Game 3, 1976 NLCS: 1.073 WPA

The Reds were down 3-0 when they scored four runs in the seventh. The Phillies scored twice in the eighth and once in the ninth to take a 6-4 lead, but in the bottom of the ninth, George Foster and Johnny Bench hit back-to-back home runs off Ron Reed to tie it and Ken Griffey Sr. eventually singled in the winning run.

And then come the Royals. So everyone who called last night's game "epic" wasn't exaggerating. It goes down as one of the most exciting postseason game not just of recent history but any history.

On an individual basis, Eric Hosmer, who went 3-for-4 with a key walk off Jon Lester in the eighth and the big one-out triple in the 12th, had a .599 WPA according to FanGraphs, which would rank 36th on the all-time postseason list. (Freese's Game 6 performance ranks No. 1.)