World Series Game 7. Bottom of the ninth. 2 Outs. Down by 3. Bases Loaded. 0-2 Count. Every little leaguer in America has played through this fantasy in their head countless times. Envisioning themselves walking up to the plate, ready to face the closer from the opponent. Hoping, wishing, dreaming of hitting the grand slam that propels his team to victory. An instant baseball legend, going down in postseason lore.
I wondered to myself, who would I want up to bat if the Orioles found themselves in that iconic situation. A player has hit a “Super” Walk Off Grand Slam 27 times in MLB history, with the aforementioned walk off being described as a grand slam in the 9th or 10th with your team down by 3 runs. 15 of those, were true of the circumstance I described in the opening paragraph of this post. One of them, was by someone who should be pretty familiar to O’s fans.
Tell us who your guy would be on the BSL forums here.
The closest this has come to happening in the World Series, was Bill Mazeroski’s historic blast in the 9th inning for the Pirates in 1960. While that historic blast came in game 7 of the 1960 World Series it was with 0 outs, and Mazeroski even had a 1-0 count at the time.
So back to the main question here. Who, of the current Orioles, would you want at the plate. Well, there are some obvious choices. I mean we’re looking for a Home Run here. Heck! Matt Wieters hit a walk off Grand Slam earlier this season! Then again, that was with 0 outs as well, so maybe it shouldn’t sway our decision. Well Wieters’ .146 ISO in high leverage situations is good for 10th best on the team, so maybe he’s not our guy after all. Granted, his .192 ISO in 0-2 counts is the best on the squad so he has that going for him.
The obvious bet is Chris Davis, right? After all, Chris Davis has an ISO of .465 in high leverage situations, good for 2nd best on the roster. However his .118 ISO in 0-2 counts isn’t exactly going to instill confidence in even the most optimistic of fans. In fact, according to wRC+ Davis is 106% WORSE than the average player when he faces an 0-2 count.
What about Adam Jones? Somewhat contrary to popular belief, Jones does not simply swing for the fences in high leverage situations. His .418 wOBA is good for fourth on the team, but his ISO of .185 in those situations leaves him in the middle of the pack. As for 0-2 counts, Jones is seventh best on the club no matter how you slice it (wRC+ of 37, wOBA of .231, and ISO of .072).
Manny Machado has to be the answer then. The phenom has been unbelievable this season, though he suffers from a similar fate as Jones. In high leverage situations he’s just below average. On the other hand, he’s barely above average in 0-2 counts. All in all, we’re looking at an average contributor in the unique situation we’re looking at here.
So who is my guy?
Give me Danny Valencia in the box, and I’ll be crossing my fingers that he’s facing a lefty. Lefty closers are kind of rare, so let’s hope for this exercise that the closer has been pulled after loading the bases. It is game 7 after all!
Valencia leads the team in performance in high leverage situations across the board. His .571 ISO, .618 wOBA, and 303 wRC+ are all tops among current Orioles this season. Granted, Valencia isn’t perfect. He’s merely 4th best in 0-2 counts, posting a wOBA of .283 and a wRC+ of 72 in those situations. If you want to make an argument for sending Hardy, McLouth, or Wieters to the plate instead (the three guys ahead of him in 0-2 performance) please be my guest. Just consider that if you added up the ISOs for all 3 guys in high leverage situations, they’d still be .162 lower than Valencia.
That’s right. Hardy + McLouth + Wieters (ISO in high leverage situations) is roughly 1 Manny Machado worse than Danny Valencia in high leverage situations. I’m also taking the liberty of giving Valencia a SSS-pass on 0-2 counts since he’s only been in one 15 times this season (Please ignore that he’s only had 8 high leverage PAs).
The goal of this post is to have a little fun, and in the middle of an exciting and stressful playoff run take a moment out to consider who you want at the plate in this situation. Honestly, my pick would be Adam Jones, but it’s fun to look at the arguments that can be made for a guy like Valencia.