Welcome back! This post is the second in a two-part series; in part one, I looked at single-game contributions in the AL. Hit that link if you want to understand what I’m talking about here. Today, we cover the NL.
5. Martin Prado vs. Tampa Bay Rays, August 7th
It’s not easy to have a 4-4 game (plus a walk), including a home run, and get eight total bases in the same game. But when you do, you have a pretty good chance of contributing a heck of a lot to your team and landing on this list.
The Diamondbacks won this game 9-8, but they had to come from behind twice. They fell behind in a hurry thanks to a three-run first inning by Tampa Bay. But Prado, batting second in the order, followed Adam Eaton’s single with a walk, which allowed Eaton to score on a subsequent single by Paul Goldschmidt.
The next time up, he slammed a two-run homer with one out to tie the game at 3 in the 3rd. Later, in the 5th, he doubled to send Eaton to third. Eaton scored on an Eric Chavez single and Prado scored on the following Aaron Hill double. By the end of the inning it was 7-4 Diamondbacks.
In the bottom of the 6th, Prado singled, although no runs crossed the plate that inning, and the Rays scored four to pull ahead 8-7. Who else but Prado would come through, this time with a two-run single off Fernando Rodney in the bottom of the 8th. That put the D-backs up 9-8, where they’d stay for the win.
Prado’s WPA for the game: 0.769.
4. Paul Goldschmidt vs. Baltimore Orioles, August 13th
Perhaps Goldschmidt saw his teammate Prado’s performance and wanted some of his own. He didn’t get on base in every plate appearance like Prado did, but he did go 3-5 with two big home runs.
Goldschmidt struck out swinging his first time up, singled in his next plate appearance, and flew out in his third. When he came to bat the next time, the D-backs were behind 3-2 and facing the O’s closer Jim Johnson in the bottom of the 9th. Goldschmidt worked the count to 3-1 and then blasted a game-tying home run to deep left-center. In the bottom of the 11th with the score still tied, he faced O’s longman T.J. McFarland and sent the first pitch over the right-field wall for a walkoff blast. Goldschmidt’s WPA for the game: 0.798.
You can almost credit Prado’s and Goldschmidt’s performances to Randall Delgado. Delgado started the August 7th game against Tampa Bay and was responsible for most of the runs that necessitated Prado’s heroics. Delgado also started this August 13th game; he was better, but he still gave up enough runs that allowed a single player to play hero. I sure hope he bought Prado and Goldschmidt some fancy steak dinners.
3. Freddie Freeman vs. New York Mets, June 17th
Like Goldschmidt, Freeman got some MVP consideration for a year in which he notched a 150 wRC+ (.319/.396/.501 with 23 HR and 109 RBI). In the bottom of the 9th of this particular game, Mets starter Dillon Gee was working on a four-hit shutout. Freeman had doubled in the 2nd inning, singled in the 4th, and grounded out in the 7th. When he faced Gee this time, Justin Upton was standing on first base with one out. Freeman ripped a 2-2 pitch to deep right-field for a walkoff homer.
Freeman’s WPA for the game: 0.835.
2. Kevin Frandsen vs. Kansas City Royals, April 6th
What happens when a pitcher who doesn’t give up home runs faces a hitter who doesn’t hit them? Greg Holland came into his own as the Royals’ closer this year, surrendering just three home runs all year. Kevin Frandsen opened the year as the Phillies’ fourth infielder and hit five home runs all year. On April 6th they faced each other for the first (and so far, only) time in their respective careers.
The Phillies were behind 3-1 in the bottom of the 9th. Chase Utley walked, Ryan Howard also walked (and was replaced with Ezequiel Carrera), and Michael Young walked. Domonic Brown and John Mayberry, Jr. each struck out, though. With the bases loaded and two outs (and the Royals an 84% favorite to win), Charlie Manuel pinch-hit Frandsen for Humbereto Quintero. Holland reared back and threw just one pitch, a 97 MPH fastball near the top of the strike zone and on the outer third of the plate. Frandsen got the barrel on it and doubled to center field, bringing all three runners home for a 4-3 win.
Frandsen’s WPA for the game: 0.836.
1. Kyle Blanks vs. Philadelphia Phillies, June 24th
Blanks didn’t look all that special to start the game. It’s hard to look special when you’re facing Cliff Lee, though. Blanks struck out and scratched two singles in his first three plate appearances. It all came to naught, as the Padres couldn’t score. They entered the bottom of the 9th down 3-0, still facing Lee.
Carlos Quentin doubled, though, and Chase Headley moved him to third with a single. In came closer Jonathan Papelbon to work out of the jam. The first batter he faced was Blanks, though, who singled to center field and drove in both runners. Three batters later, he was on third base and scored the tying run on a passed ball.
The Padres held the Phillies in check in the top of the 10th, and Justin De Fratus came on to try and keep it that way in the bottom of the inning. Logan Forsythe popped out to short, but Chris Denorfia walked, Carlos Quentin got hit by a pitch, and Chase Headley walked to load the bases. Up again was Blanks, with San Diego in a great position to win the game. He delivered a walkoff single single that scored Denorfia for the victory.
Blanks’s WPA for the game: 0.871.
Since the pitchers hit in the NL, I should make it clear that the following WPA numbers reflect only what they accrued on the mound, not at the plate.
5. Henzderson Alvarez vs. Detroit Tigers, September 29th
This, you may recall, was Alvarez’s no-hitter on the final day of the regular season. Alvarez’s WPA was so high because the score was so close (1-0). For what it’s worth, Homer Bailey put up only a 0.466 WPA in his no-hitter because the Reds scored three runs for him, and Tim Lincecum added only 0.192 WPA in his no-no; he walked four and his Giants scored nine runs.
Alvarez’s line: 9 IP, 0 H, BB, 4 K. 1-0 win, 0.653 WPA.
4. Zack Greinke vs. Colorado Rockies, July 13th
How can someone help his team more than a a pitcher who threw a no-hitter? Noting that both games were won 1-0, the answer is that Alvarez came closer to costing his team the game than Greinke did. Alvarez walked Andy Dirks in the 9th inning when the score was still 0-0. That put his team in a dangerous spot, which subtracted from his WPA. But Greinke’s only baserunners were in the 5th and 6th innings when the Dodgers were ahead 1-0. These runners were on base in the middle of the game (instead of the 9th) and each runner would have tied the game (not put the Rockies ahead). So technically, these baserunners didn’t hurt the Dodgers’ chance of winning as much as Dirks hurt the Marlins’ chance.
Greinke’s line: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 9 K. 1-0 win, 0.688 WPA
3. Jordan Zimmermann vs. Cincinnati Reds, April 26th
How do you contribute more to your game than Greinke did in his? You do what Zimmermann did, which was allow just a single in the 3rd, early on when the Nationals would have had plenty of chances to score, and walk a batter in the 8th when your team’s ahead 1-0.
Zimmermann’s line: 9 IP, 1 H, BB, 4 K. 1-0 win, 0.707 WPA
2. Brandon McCarthy vs. Miami Marlins, May 18th
McCarthy’s line: 9 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 K. 1-0 win, 0.799 WPA
You know the drill by now; if you’re going to allow baserunners, allow them early in the game or when you’re ahead. Because Gerardo Parra led off the game with a home run, McCarthy worked with a lead the whole night. He gave up a walk and two singles in the 1st (on the last single, a runner was thrown out at the plate), a single in the 6th, and a walk in the 7th.
1. Kevin Slowey vs. New York Mets, June 8th
Like we saw in the AL, the NL’s biggest pitching contribution came in relief during an extra-innings game. In this case it was a 20-inning affair in early June. Slowey didn’t start but he may as well have, pitching 7 innings from the 13th through the 19th. He gave up 8 hits but no runs crossed the plate. In any other game, an eight-hit performance wouldn’t be all that helpful, but since no runners scored and the stakes were higher given the game was in extras, Slowey’s performance shines. His WPA was 0.838.