The new year is almost upon us, and with it will come a fresh start and fresh hope for the Cleveland Indians. But before we turn our calendars to 2012, we at Wahoo’s on First wanted to look back at the highlights of the 2011 season.
This week, we’ll be counting down the top Tribe plays of the 2011 season, as determined by Win Probability Added (check out the FanGraphs Saber Library entry for a full explanation). Next in the countdown: Jack Hannahan‘s game-tying home run against the Twins on June 8.
The Indians were still ahead in the AL Central when they took the field against Minnesota that afternoon, but their lead was precarious. They had only a game and a half on the surging Tigers, and had dropped seven of their last 10 games.
And what a game it was. Carl Pavano and Justin Masterson were both at their best that afternoon and runs were at a premium. The Twins opened the scoring with Ben Revere‘s RBI single in the third and got on the board again via Justin Morneau‘s RBI double in the sixth. The Indians responded with Grady Sizemore‘s solo home run in the bottom of the sixth, but after eight innings that was all they had managed against Pavano and Jose Mijares and the Twins led, 2-1.
Matt LaPorta led off the bottom of the ninth by grounding out on the second pitch he saw. Closer Matt Capps then retired Cord Phelps with a flyout after a seven-pitch battle. The Indians were down to their last out, and the tying run at the plate was Jack Hannahan.
Hannahan had cooled off significantly after his scalding start to the season and entered the game having hit just .167/.271/.214 in his last 26 games. He was looking for something to turn his season around, and boy did he get his chance.
He took the first pitch for a called strike, then watched two more pitches go by—both balls—to get ahead 2-1. Then Capps tossed a fat one right in Hannahan’s wheelhouse, and…you know what? Tom Hamilton tells it better than I can:
It was a long fly ball that barely made it over the fence in right-center, but regardless of the margin, it made it. Hannahan’s shot tied the game, 2-2, and sent it into extra innings.
The Indians ended up losing the game—the Twins rallied against Chris Perez in the top of the 10th, while Cleveland stranded potential tying run Shin-Soo Choo at second base in the bottom of the frame—but nonetheless it was Hannahan who kept them alive. At .489 WPA, his clutch home run was the fifth-biggest hit of the year for the Tribe.
The Full Countdown
No. 1: Travis Hafner’s Walk-Off Home Run, May 13
No. 2: Travis Hafner’s Walk-Off Grand Slam, July 7
No. 3: Asdrubal Cabrera’s Game-Winning Homer, August 27
No. 4: Austin Kearns’ Go-Ahead Home Run, July 4
No. 5: Jack Hannahan’s Game-Tying Home Run, June 8
No. 6: Travis Buck’s Go-Ahead Home Run, May 21
No. 7: Travis Buck’s Game-Tying Double, July 9
No. 8: Travis Hafner’s Game-Tying Double, July 25
No. 9: Orlando Cabrera’s Game-Winning Homer, June 27
No. 10: Matt LaPorta’s Walk-Off Home Run, July 30