For those who follow me on Twitter, I talked a lot about cWPA during this year’s postseason. I pretty much shoved it down everyone’s throats and most people didn’t really understand what it exactly was.
According to The Baseball Gauge, “Championship Win Probability Added (cWPA) takes individual game win probability added (WPA) and increases the scope from winning a game to winning the World Series.” WPA percentage points take into account just a specific game’s moment’s impact on the potential final result, whereas cWPA percentage points take into account the effect of a certain play on a team’s chances to win a World Series that season.
With that in mind, here are the top-10 most impactful hits by a Yankee since 1996, the beginning of the late-1990s Yankees’ dynasty:
10) Scott Brosius, 1998 World Series Game 3 (+13.0% cWPA)
The 1998 Yankees were one of the greatest teams in baseball history, going 114-48 during the regular season. They pretty easily, except for two losses in the ALCS to the Indians, made their way to the World Series to face off against the San Diego Padres.
In Game 1, the Yankees fell behind 5-2 after 6 1/2 innings against the Padres and ace Kevin Brown. The Yankees scored seven runs in the bottom of the seventh, ultimately going on to win Game 1 by the score of 9-6. In Game 2, the Yankees scored three runs in the first, three in the second, and one in the third to take a 7-0 lead after three innings in the Bronx, as they’d go on to win 9-3, taking a 2-0 series lead.
Game 3 in San Diego was scoreless through 5 1/2 innings before Yankees’ AL Cy Young winner David Cone allowed three runs in the bottom of the sixth. The Yankees would put up two runs in the seventh, but they’d be heading into the eighth inning down 3-2. After Padres’ pitcher Randy Myers walked Paul O’Neill to start the top of the eighth, closer Trevor Hoffman came in to try to lock things down.
Hoffman would get Bernie Williams to fly out to right, before walking Tino Martinez to put two runners on for Scott Brosius. Brosius was outstanding for the Yankees during the regular season, posting a .300/.371/.472 slash line with a 123 wRC+, along with 17 home runs and 71 runs batted in en route to a 5.0 fWAR.
On a 2-2 fastball left up, Brosius made contact and drove Hoffman’s pitch over the centerfield wall, giving the Yankees a 5-3 lead over the Padres. This was the moment that set in stone the fact that Brosius would win World Series MVP, as he hit .471/.471/.824 in four games for the Yankees.
The Yankees would go on to win the game, 5-4, and the series in four straight.
9) Alex Rodriguez, 2009 World Series Game 4 (+13.5% cWPA)
For this Yankees’ moment, I have to show the plays leading up to it as well. The Yankees were up two games to one in the 2009 World Series against the defending World Champion Phillies.
The Yankees had a 4-2 lead entering the bottom of the seventh inning, looking to take a 3-1 series lead in the World Series. The Phillies got one run back with two outs in the bottom of the seventh on a solo home run from Chase Utley, who crushed baseballs all series against CC Sabathia. The Phillies would tie things up in the bottom of the eighth with two outs on a solo home run from Pedro Feliz off Joba Chamberlain.
Needing to send the game to the bottom of the ninth still tied, the Phillies turned to Brad Lidge in the top of the ninth inning. Lidge got two quick outs before allowing a two-out single to Johnny Damon. On the first pitch to Mark Teixeira, Damon would steal second base pretty easily and with the shift on and nobody covering third base, he decided to also take third.
Teixeira would then get beaned by a 1-1 pitch, bringing Alex Rodriguez to the plate. Rodriguez would rip an 0-1 fastball down the left field line for a go-ahead double. After five years of Yankees’ fans breathing down his neck, the 2009 postseason and World Series was A-Rod’s coming out party. During the 2009 playoffs, A-Rod hit .365/.500/.808 with a 224 wRC+, along with six home runs, 15 runs scored, and 18 runs batted in.
The Yankees would get two more insurance runs in the ninth on a two-run single from Jorge Posada. New York would win Game 4, 7-4, and go on to win their 27th title in six games.
8) Alfonso Soriano, 2001 World Series Game 5 (+13.5% cWPA)
The Yankees were looking to win their fourth-straight World Series championship in 2001 as they faced off with an Arizona Diamondbacks team that had just come into the league in 1998 in their first World Series. The two sides had split the first four games of the series with one of the two sides looking to win Game 5 and be one game closer to winning the World Series.
Fast forward to the 12th inning—since I’ll explain how the Yankees originally got to this point later on in the article—as Chuck Knoblauch would lead off the bottom half of the inning with the score knotted at 2-all.
Knoblauch, who hit .250/.339/.351 (90 wRC+) in his fourth and final season with the organization, led off the inning with a single up the middle into centerfield off Diamondbacks’ reliever Albie Lopez. Scott Brosius, who played a bigger part in the game previously, would move Knoblauch to second on a ground ball to first base.
In stepped Alfonso Soriano, who hit .268/.304/.432 with 18 home runs and a 93 wRC+ in his first full season in the big leagues with the Yankees.
Soriano singled to right field to walk it off for the Yankees, giving them a 3-2 victory and a 3-2 series lead over Arizona. It was the Yankees’ second-straight walk-off victory against Arizona and their third-straight one-run victory.
Sadly, the Yankees would lose the next two games in Arizona and lose the series in seven games.
7) Ruben Sierra, 2003 World Series Game 4 (+13.7% cWPA)
The 2003 postseason was an interesting one that I’ll talk more about in the later moments, so let’s fast forward to a let-down of a World Series for the Yankees.
After dropping Game 1 to the Marlins, the Yankees took Game 2 and 3 to take a 2-1 series lead. Roger Clemens got the ball in Game 4 for New York and struggled in the first inning, allowing three runs. He wouldn’t allow another run for the next six innings.
The Yankees would score one run on an Aaron Boone sac fly in the top of the second off Carl Pavano, but that would be the only run they’d score through eight innings. Marlins’ closer Ugueth Urbina would get the ball in the ninth, looking to tie up the series at 2-all.
Urbina got Jason Giambi to fly out to left field to start the ninth, before allowing a single to Bernie Williams and a walk to Hideki Matsui. Jorge Posada would hit into a force out to make it two outs with runners on first and third.
The Yankees elected to pinch-hit Ruben Sierra for Karim Garcia and pinch-run David Dellucci to Jorge Posada. That would pay off huge dividends for the Yankees. Sierra would rip a 3-2 fastball down the right field line for a two-run triple, tying the game at 3-all.
All the Yankees would need was a hit from Aaron Boone, who as y’all might remember has come up big in the past for New York, but Boone grounded out to short to end the top of the ninth. The Yankees would end up losing on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning… and wouldn’t win another game all series.
6) Jorge Posada, 2003 ALCS Game 7 (+15.5% cWPA)
Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS was one of the greatest games in Yankees’ postseason history.
The Boston Red Sox had a 4-0 lead after 4 1/2 innings before the Yankees chipped away and scored one run in the fifth and one run in the seventh. However, the Red Sox got one back in the top of the eighth inning, making it 5-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth.
What happened in the bottom of the eighth further proved the following theory: The Yankees are Pedro Martinez‘s daddy.
Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, and Hideki Matsui all had hits, bringing the score to 5-3 with Jorge Posada coming to the plate. For some reason, Red Sox’ manager Grady Little stayed with Pedro Martinez… and that would end up costing Little his job.
Posada ended up blooping a two-run double into no-man’s land in centerfield between everyone, as Williams and Matsui would come around to score. *cue Posada fist pump*
Game 7 of the ALCS was tied. What happened next? Well, you’re going to have to keep scrolling for that one, but I assume most of y’all already know.
5) Derek Jeter, 2001 World Series Game 4 (+15.7% cWPA)
Let’s fast forward to the 10th inning of Game 4 of the 2001 World Series because the way that we got to this point is a little later in the article.
First off, Game 4 didn’t start until 8:30 p.m. ET on Halloween, so don’t forget that. Anyway, Byung-Hyun Kim for some reason was still in the game for Arizona in the bottom of the 10th, but he got the first two men of the inning out.
In stepped Derek Jeter.
After the first pitch of the at-bat, the clock struck midnight at Yankee Stadium, meaning that November baseball would be played for the first time in MLB history. Eight pitches later, Jeter walked it off to give the Yankees the win, tying the series up at 2-all.
As Jeter ran around the bases, a fan in the stands held up a sign that would later be Jeter’s nickname, “Mr. November.”
4) Aaron Boone, 2003 ALCS Game 7 (+16.3% cWPA)
Back to Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS between the Yankees and the Red Sox. If you don’t know how this game ended up being tied in the 11th inning, scroll back up.
Anyway, 2 1/2 scoreless innings went by from when the Yankees tied it up off Pedro Martinez and the 11th inning. Mariano Rivera threw three huge innings of scoreless baseball to get the Yankees to this point.
Alan Embree and Mike Timlin combined to give the Red Sox five outs to send the game to extra innings. Starting pitcher Tim Wakefield came out of the pen in the 10th and threw a 1-2-3 scoreless frame.
He wouldn’t do that in the 11th.
The knuckleballer would stay in for the bottom of the 11th inning to face Yankees’ third baseman (and current manager) Aaron Boone. On the first pitch Boone saw, he sent a long drive into the left field seats for a walk-off, pennant-clinching home run.
The Yankees were returning to the World Series for the sixth time in the last eight years.
3) Tino Martinez, 2001 World Series Game 4 (+19.1% cWPA)
Game 4 of the World Series was a must-win game for the 2001 Yankees. They couldn’t afford to go down three games to one.
Curt Schilling started for Arizona and pitched seven strong innings for the Diamondbacks, as a Shane Spencer solo home run was the only run that scored in the first eight innings for the Yankees.
Byung-Hyun Kim came into the game in the eighth inning and pitched a clean frame. He’d face the top of the Yankees’ order in the ninth inning.
Derek Jeter tried to get on via a bunt and failed… one out. Paul O’Neill provided the Yankees with some life with a single to left field. Bernie Williams followed him with a strikeout… two outs.
Tino Martinez, who had a 117 wRC+ during the regular season, had been struggling in the postseason and was the Yankees’ last chance. Overall in the 2001 playoffs, Martinez had a 59 wRC+ in 16 games.
Things can change on one swing, though. On the first pitch of the plate appearance, Martinez took Kim deep to centerfield, tying the game up at 3-all.
This game would go to extra innings, but if you’ve been reading this entire article, you already know how it ends.
2) Alfonso Soriano, 2001 World Series Game 7 (+24.8% cWPA)
This moment is probably one of the most forgotten moments in Yankees’ history, just because of what followed later in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.
Everyone and their mother knows that the Diamondbacks gave the Yankees a piece of their own medicine and came back from a deficit in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series to clinch their first title in team history.
However, what people forget is how the Yankees got that lead in the first place.
With nobody out in the top of the eighth inning, Alfonso Soriano stepped into the batter’s box in Arizona to face Curt Schilling. With two strikes, Soriano would take Schilling deep, giving the Yankees a 2-1 lead and bringing them to within six outs of winning their fourth World Series in four years.
You know the rest of the story, so I’d prefer to not talk about it.
1) Scott Brosius, 2001 World Series Game 5 (+25.9% cWPA)
Another big moment in recent Yankees’ postseason history came in the 2001 World Series, this time in Game 5.
First off, it’s important to understand what went down in the first eight innings. Mike Mussina and Miguel Batista squared off in the Bronx, each trying to help their respective team take a 3-2 lead heading back to Arizona.
Mussina was amazing for the Yankees, going eight innings with 10 strikeouts, only allowing two earned runs (both coming on solo shots). The only problem was that Batista was better, hurling 7 2/3 scoreless innings for the Diamondbacks, as Greg Swindell would get the final out of the eighth inning, sending the game to the ninth inning with Arizona up 2-0.
Byung-Hyun Kim would come on again in the series for Arizona, given the task with getting three outs to bring Arizona within one win of their first World Series championship. However, Kim was coming off a tough Game 4 outing where he gave up the tying and go-ahead home runs to Yankees’ hitters, bringing the series even.
New game, new night, same story.
Jorge Posada would lead off the bottom of the ninth innings with a double to left field. However, Shane Spencer and Chuck Knoblauch were unable to advance him any further. With two outs, in stepped Scott Brosius.
After taking the first pitch of the at-bat for a ball, Brosius drove the ball down the left field line for the game-tying, two-run home run.
The Yankees would go on to win the game… of course, you’d know that if you’ve been reading this whole piece, bringing them to within one game of their 27th championship. They wouldn’t get the job done, though, losing the next two games.
Still, Brosius’ home run increased the Yankees’ chances of winning a decisive Game 5 from a measly 5% to 54% and it increased the Yankees’ chances of winning the World Series by 25.9%, making it the biggest hit in Yankees’ history since 1996.