Most Yankees’ fans have probably been looking forward to 2012 since Alex Rodriguez swung and missed at the last pitch of the 2011 ALDS, but with a New Year fast upon us, what better time to take one last look back at the 2011 season? Instead of getting bogged with subjective recollections of the year’s most significant moments, it’s much simpler to let Win Probability Added (WPA) do all the heavy lifting. After all, with over 6,300 plate appearances to recall, more than a few high highlights, and low lights, might be dimmed by the shortcomings of memory.
Looking at the graph above, it’s easy to see why so much of a baseball season can seem like a blur. Over 57% of Yankees’ plate appearances registered a WPA of 2% or less, while 84% of trips to the plate moved the needle by 5% or less. Of course, without all of these seemingly inconsequential moments, the dramatic events that exist as outliers wouldn’t be possible. Listed below are those highlights and lowlights, both ranked by WPA.
Judging by the very forgettable nature of the two lists above, maybe using WPA to define memorable wasn’t such a good idea? After all, Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit doesn’t even crack the top 150 in terms of WPA, and that milestone will probably wind up as one of the most memorable moments in his storied career. So, when Yankees’ fans look back over the 2011 season, their mental scrapbook probably won’t resemble the WPA rankings.
However, Red Sox fans might have another take. Included on each list above is an at bat that defines both the beginning and end of Boston’s epic collapse. Before Russell Martin’s RBI double off Daniel Bard on September 1, it looked as if it was the Yankees that would be playing for the wild card, but after the Bronx Bombers’ comeback victory, the Red Sox went into a tail spin. What followed was an unfathomable 8-19 stretch and pennant race nose dive that culminated in the Yankees’ 8-7 loss to the Rays on September 28. Evan Longoria’s walk off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning of that game will always be remembered in Tampa, but you can’t blame Red Sox’ fans if they dwell on Jorge Posada’s fielder choice that short circuited a Yankees’ rally in the top of the inning.