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.
|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|
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.
|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|
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.