Over the three games of the Division Series, only a single play delivered a Win Probability boost of more than 12.1%. For comparison, there were eight such plays in the Wild Card Series, which had fewer games. This is mostly a result of the D-backs' early dominance. As noted yesterday, here is the Arizona Win Probability at the end of the third inning in each contest this series:
- Game 1: 99.0%
- Game 2: 81.8%
- Game 3: 87.4%
That doesn't leave much room for late momentum shifts in the later innings, which are typically where you find the single plays with the highest change in WPA. Indeed, in Game 1, the average Leverage Index (measuring the potential change in a game, with 1.00 being average) from our pitching staff was just 0.11. This was the third-lowest figure in post-season history. After Merrill Kelly stepped onto the mound, no play the rest of the game was worth more than 3% of Win Probability. Nothing after the middle of the second surpassed 1%. Games 2 and 3 had average LI's of 1.47 and 0.95 respectively.
That all said, here are the five biggest plays for Arizona, in terms of contributing to the Division Series victory over Los Angeles.
#5. Game 1, top 2nd. Christian Walker RBI double (+11.0%)
This was not the first run of the game, Arizona already being 1-0 up. But it doubled the advantage, and pushed two men into scoring position. You might have thought Gabriel Moreno's home-run which followed would have been more valuable, increasing the advantage from two to five runs. But with nobody out, the men on second and third were already "expected" to score after Walker's hit. The Gabbomb was worth 8.9%.
#4. Game 3, bottom 3rd. Geraldo Perdomo home-run (+11.2%)
Unlike the other games, the Diamondbacks did not get on the board in the first inning. Or the second. So there was a palpable sense of relief when Perdomo broke the deadlock with this shot. It opened the flood-gates, though for obvious reasons, each of the home-runs which followed were of declining Win Probability. Ketel Marte's was worth 10.0%, Walker's 8.2% and Moreno's a mere 6.1%
#3. Game 2, bottom 6th. Andrew Saalfrank K of James Outman (+11.6%)
This was probably the first time in Game 2, the Dodgers had posed a serious threat. Saalfrank took over from Zac Gallen with two on and one out, and seemed overawed by the situation. Considering his limited MLB experience, who can blame him? He had trouble locating his sinker, allowing a walk and an RBI single. Los Angeles still had the bases loaded with one out, and their WP was up to 43%. But on a full-count, Saalfrank threw a perfect sinker, dipping just below the zone, and the hitter swung over the top for an out, man.
#2. Game 2, bottom 6th. Ryan Thompson ground-out of Kolten Wong (+11.9%)
Though the Dodgers' WP was down to 31%, the Diamondbacks were definitely not out of the woods. The very next play had an even bigger impact on the game. Thompson came in to take over from Saalfrank, and Dave Stewart was continuing to empty his bench and avoid wasting the opportunity. But left-hander Wong was unable to do anything, grounding out weakly to Walker, and leaving the bases full of Dodgers. The roles would be reversed in Game #3, Saalfrank getting the final out in the seventh after Thompson struggled.
#1. Game 2, bottom 7th. Ryan Thompson gets Freddie Freeman to GIDP (+13.7%)
Thompson's work was not done, however. He came back out for the seventh and M.000kie Betts reached on an error, again bringing the tying run to the plate. But a sweetly-turned double-play started by Marte cleared the bases. Though it was NOT - as Bob Costas almost said - inning ending. Freeman had fouled one off his leg a couple of pitches before, and that definitely seemed to hamper him going up the line.
All told, Arizona combined for +150%. They started each game at 50%, and ended it at 100%. So, which player was the biggest contributor? Moreno? Thompson? Probably surprisingly, the answer is actually Brandon Pfaadt. His 4.1 scoreless innings on Wednesday was worth +18.3%. A key factor was the early scoreless offense, which made the zeroes he posted in response more valuable. Hard to blame Merrill Kelly, when the Win Probability was already 90%, before he threw his first pitch. His WP was 5.6%, and Gallen in Game #2, with a smaller head-start, was +13.4%. Thompson was actually the leader when Pfaadt left the game, due to Ryan's +20.6% in Game #1. But his wobbly outing cost him -11.3%, dropping him to fifth among pitchers. Saalfrank's -0.2% was the sole arm below zero.
On the position player side, Marte proved the man to beat, at 15.0%. This shows that it can be less about what you do, than when you do it. Not that Ketel struggled. But his 1.000 OPS was below that of Carroll, Walker, Moreno and Tommy Pham, who all had lower WP for the series. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was second among hitters, on 13.6%, and he wasn't among the top five by OPS. Here again, negative contributions were hard to find. Only two came in negative, and one of those was Jace Peterson's single at-bat. I guess that leaves Alek Thomas to be the series Least Valuable Player for Arizona, though at -0.3%, he was hardly a problem. For LA, their three worst position players were David Peralta (-14.8%), Betts (-15.4%) and Freeman (-28.7%).