Brandon’s Big Game

I imagine it must have made a splash at the time, but I completely missed Brandon Crawford‘s 7 hit game last August, only the fifth time since 1913 (and first since 1975) that a player has rolled a lucky seven (or more). But that wasn’t the only remarkable aspect of Crawford’s game; he also posted the 3rd highest recorded single game WPA score.

After the jump, more on baseball’s best WPA games and why Crawford’s is especially unusual.

Here’s the list of games with 7 or more hits, led by Johnny Burnett’s ridiculous 9 hit game in a losing cause more than 80 years ago.

Results
Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H
2B 3B HR RBI BB WPA RE24 aLI
1 Johnny Burnett 1932-07-10 CLE PHA L 17-18 11 11 4 9 2 0 0 2 0 0.909 4.886 2.124
2 Brandon Crawford 2016-08-08 SFG MIA W 8-7 8 8 1 7 1 1 0 2 0 1.444 5.576 2.692
3 Rocky Colavito 1962-06-24 DET NYY L 7-9 11 10 1 7 0 1 0 1 1 0.561 2.511 1.676
4 Cesar Gutierrez 1970-06-21 (2) DET CLE W 9-8 7 7 3 7 1 0 0 1 0 0.488 3.206 1.496
5 Rennie Stennett 1975-09-16 PIT CHC W 22-0 7 7 5 7 2 1 0 2 0 0.082 4.177 .190
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/26/2017.

Like three of the other four games in the list, Crawford’s heroics came in a close contest, resulting in some impressive WPA scores, especially Crawford’s, enabling him to become the 49th player to crack the top 50 WPA games. The only player to make it twice …  Hank Aaron at game no. 16 (1971-09-10) and game no. 28 (1959-08-18).

The highest recorded WPA games are led, of course, by Art Shamsky’s famous heroics in a losing cause for the Reds.

Results
Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB WPA RE24 aLI
1 Art Shamsky 1966-08-12 CIN PIT L 11-14 3 3 3 3 0 0 3 5 0 1.503 4.614 2.510
2 Kiki Cuyler 1932-08-31 CHC NYG W 10-9 6 6 2 5 0 1 1 5 0 1.447 5.291 2.525
3 Brandon Crawford 2016-08-08 SFG MIA W 8-7 8 8 1 7 1 1 0 2 0 1.444 5.576 2.692
4 Dolph Camilli 1941-09-01 (1) BRO BSN W 6-5 8 7 2 5 2 0 1 3 1 1.398 4.722 2.610
5 Jimmie Foxx 1932-07-10 PHA CLE W 18-17 10 9 4 6 1 0 3 8 1 1.307 7.227 2.212
6 Jim Pagliaroni 1965-09-21 PIT NYM W 6-5 5 4 2 3 0 0 1 3 1 1.287 3.915 2.124
7 Brian Daubach 2000-08-21 BOS ANA W 7-6 5 5 1 3 0 0 1 4 0 1.253 3.479 2.796
8 Nelson Cruz 2014-09-07 BAL TBR W 7-5 6 5 2 4 0 1 2 7 1 1.220 5.800 2.142
9 Bobby Grich 1979-07-15 CAL NYY W 5-4 5 5 1 4 1 0 1 5 0 1.211 4.687 1.886
10 Mel Hall 1984-06-27 CLE MIN W 6-4 5 5 1 3 1 0 1 5 0 1.206 4.505 2.448
11 Carlos May 1973-09-03 (1) CHW TEX W 8-7 6 5 2 4 1 0 1 5 1 1.204 5.944 2.403
12 Willie Mays 1962-05-26 SFG NYM W 7-6 5 4 3 3 0 1 2 3 1 1.204 3.686 1.858
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/26/2017.

Shamsky’s 3 homers in only 3 PAs came about because he entered the game late, as part of an eighth inning double switch; no other substitute player has matched that home run total in any game, regardless of WPA. This game is also notable for the efforts of Pirate third baseman Bob Bailey who posted a 0.969 WPA that included a tie-breaking two run, two out double in the 11th that set the stage for Shamsky’s last dinger, a two out, game-tying shot in the bottom of the inning. Two players recording .900 WPA in a game has been recorded only one other time, in the A’s 18-17 win over the Indians (game no. 5 on the list above) that featured Jimmie Foxx’s 6 hits and three home runs for the victors, and Johnny Burnett’s remarkable 9 hits (game no. 1 on the first list) for the losers.

But, I said Crawford’s game was unusual among high WPA games, so let me explain why.

  • Eleven of the top twelve WPA games featured two 0.400 WPA events during the game or one of 0.500 WPA. As you have likely guessed, Crawford was the exception with a top WPA event of only .333. Only Dante Bichette at WPA game no. 18, and Mike Greenwell at game no. 48 (when he drove in every Red Sox run in a 9-8 win) also do not have a .400 WPA event, but both had multiple .300 WPA events compared to just one for Crawford. Instead, Crawford steadily built up his WPA total with four more PAs that each improved Giant winning prospects by 18% to 27%. In fact, Crawford may have bested Shamsky for the top WPA game had he not twice run into the final out of an inning, in the 4th and 14th frames (and assuming that not doing so the first time would not have ultimately resulted in an earlier decision in the contest).
  • Three of Crawford’s 8 plate appearances came with the bases empty (including on both of his extra-base hits) and two more with only a runner at first base. Of the other three PAs with RISP, one was his lone out of the game, an inning-ending strikeout. Not your typical setup for a high WPA/high LI game.
  • Crawford recorded his WPA feat as a shortstop. Next shortstop on the WPA game list is the Mets’ Jerry Buchek, checking in at WPA game no. 43 (1.063).
  • Crawford neither scored nor drove in 3 runs. You have to go down to WPA game no. 45 (1.059 by the Twins’ Eric Soderholm) to find another such game.
  • Crawford did not hit a home run. Only three more of the top 50 WPA games were also homerless (Ryan Langerhans no. 25, Willie Montanez no. 41, Joe Garagiola no. 50).
  • Crawford’s 7 hits came off 6 of the 9 Marlin pitchers who worked in the game. It’s a different era now, of course, but that’s more pitchers than any of the other 7 hit games (Colavito had hits against 4 of 6 Yankee pitchers, and Gutierrez and Stennett had hits against all 5 of the opposing pitchers in their games), and especially more than Johnny Burnett’s 9 hits that came off only two A’s pitchers, including 8 hits against reliever Eddie Rommel*.

*Rommel pitched 17 of the 18 innings against the Indians (his 14 runs and 29 hits allowed are both the most recorded by any winning pitcher), likely because of a short bench owing to the contest being a one game Sunday “road trip” to Cleveland (local law in Philadelphia did not permit Sunday baseball, so A’s manager and owner Connie Mack saved on travel costs by taking a much reduced roster on these enforced singleton road swings during home stands, a penny-pinching tactic that was particularly surprising given that the A’s were a top flight team in the early 1930’s, so losing one or two games because of a short bench might ultimately cost his team a pennant). If you’re wondering, Rommel’s outing is not the longest recorded relief appearance; that distinction belongs to Zip Zabel of the Cubs, who relieved starter Bert Humphries in the first inning of a June 17, 1915 contest and went the rest of the way (as did 36 year-old catcher Roger Bresnahan in his final season) in Chicago’s 4-3 win in 19 innings over Brooklyn’s Jeff Pfeffer who went the distance for the Robins (Pfeffer is the only pitcher since 1913 with a pair of 18+ IP CG losses).

The Giants reached the All-Star break last season with the majors’ top record of 57-33 but stumbled badly the rest of the way at 30-42, including 2-11 to start the second half. Did a win in this historic game right the ship, at least temporarily? In a word, no. San Francisco lost the next game and 6 of the next 8; only a 6-2 finish allowed them to sneak into the wild card game against the Mets.

As for Crawford, there was nothing to indicate a game like this might be in the offing. Nor did the game set him off on a hot streak. Crawford went into this game on a 5 for 31 run and followed it with 4 for 27. Such is the nature of baseball.

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30 Comments on "Brandon’s Big Game"

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e pluribus munu
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This is a wonderful piece, Doug. Aside from the stealth ordinariness that characterized Crawford’s extraordinary day, there are so many terrific games to explore in this post! Look at Kiki Cuyler’s game on August 31, 1932. It’s not just Cuyler’s WPA — the entire scenario in the bottom of the 10th, with the Cubs down by four runs with two out and the bases empty. . . . I wonder how rare that is. Stennett’s game is remarkable for the fact that by the time he comes up for the second time, his team has a 94% WP and it… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest

The Colavito game, Tigers losing to Yankees in 22 innings, lasted 7:00 hours. Yogi Berra at age 37 caught the entire game for the Yankees—strange, to say the least. Elston Howard pinch hit, so he wasn’t on the DL, and John Blanchard played the entire game in left field.

As for the seven hit list, three of the players had oWAR under ten for their careers. Gutierrez ended up in negative territory. But no one can take that one game away from any of them.

Voomo Zanzibar
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Other than a pinch hit appearance, Yogi got 4 days off after that, and only one start in a week.

e pluribus munu
Guest
It’s true that he got some time off, but this was only his third start as a catcher all year; he’d caught a full game the day before, and the game time was 7:00. But Howard had pinch hit in the 7th, before it was obvious the game would be long (he came up with the bases loaded, and if he’d delivered, it wouldn’t have been). Blanchard, who had become the regular Right fielder, could have been shifted to catch during the extra innings, but Mantle had been removed in the seventh, and moving Blanchard would probably have meant putting… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Cesar Guitierrez was an unlikely 7-hit getter.
1970 was his only season as a starter, and he was good for -26 RBat
After his big day, it took him 12 games and 42 AB to get his next 7 hits.

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