And, by close, I mean there was an actual tie between this play, and Nick Ahmed’s game ending dive and throw against the Rockies. Each of those received 35% of the votes, which left it up to me, in my capacity as Speaker of the SnakePit House, to cast the deciding ballot between the two. It wasn’t easy: I ended up re-watching them both several times, but eventually came down on the side of Jarrod Dyson. The main factor which tipped the balance for me was the leverage of the situation. If Ahmed didn’t make the play, the D-backs would still be five runs up with one out to get. If Dyson didn’t make his, a four-run lead is potentially wiped out, or at least, heavily reduced, with a huge momentum swing.
Indeed, you can put a specific value on the Win Probability of each play, using the calculator here. For Dyson, Arizona’s WP after he made the catch was 89.58%. If he hadn’t made it, the WP depended on what exactly happened. If it was a grand-slam tying the game, it was 42.34%. Even if it hadn’t made it over the fence, becoming say a two-run double, with runners on the corners, our WP would have dropped to 73.13%, making it worth at least 16.45%. The Ahmed play? Obviously, 100% afterward. But otherwise, we were still virtually guaranteed victory: a five-run lead with a man on first and two outs is still a WP of 99.86%, meaning for all its merits, Nick only added 0.14%.
There’s also Justin Upton’s reaction. I’ll admit, there’s nothing sweeter than seeing any opposing hitter think they hit a home-run, stroll out of the batter’s box towards first, and then discover it isn’t the case. The only way I can imagine this play possibly as having been any better, is it had come against the Dodgers and Yasiel Puig. Once again, for your viewing pleasure: here’s Upton in GIF format. There are likely a few Arizona fans, still holding an anti-Upton grudge for whatever reason, who were especially delighted that it happened to J-Up. I wouldn’t go that far, personally; however, the obvious schadenfreude to be had is still a factor in the almost infinite repeat value of this play.
Also worthy of note, is Jarrod not being content with making the catch, and bouncing off the wall. He also got the ball back in to the infield quickly, preventing the runner on first base from advancing into scoring position. Factors elsewhere in the game perhaps enhanced the impact as well, for Upton had already hit one home-run earlier on. And shortly after this catch, Nick Ahmed hit one deep to center, which went off the glove of the Angels’ center-fielder and over the wall demonstrating how not to do it [That Ike Grout guy, or whatever his name is, will never amount to anything much...], and giving the D-backs back their four-run lead.
“You saw Justin’s reaction – that was kind of how we were all feeling but the opposite way. That’s probably, what, the third or fourth one he’s done already? You hear about how fast he is, how good he is, how he can change games with his glove and on the bases, but until you actually see it on a daily basis, you can’t really appreciate it. How easy he makes them look, man. It almost looked routine and that’s one of the best catches I’ve ever seen.”
— Paul Goldschmidt
In conclusion, all I can add to the above is, it was nice to have a Dyson that doesn’t suck. :)