The Yankees' Top 10 WPA Swings of 2010

After toying around with the Yankees’ cumulative WPA scores, I became increasingly curious to find out the individual plays that were the most impactful on the Yankees’ 2010 season, and it appears that neither Fangraphs or B-Ref contains sortable lists of team (or league) leaders with said data. I also discovered that full-season WPA scores, while a helpful benchmark, like any other isolated statistic doesn’t always tell the full story.

Hitting on that latter point first, it’s no surprise that Robinson Cano led the Yankees with a 3.64 WPA on the year, followed by Alex Rodriguez and his 3.58. Nick Swisher was third, at 2.09, followed by Brett Gardner (0.99), Mark Teixeira (0.79) and Curtis Granderson (0.39). I imagine this is roughly the order one would expect this past season’s iteration of the Yankees to fall in line in terms of WPA, although it is a bit surprising to see Gardy ahead of Tex and Grandy.

However, in 2009, Cano managed a -1.51 WPA, the worst mark of his career — not to mention the fifth-worst in the American League — in a season that he wOBA’d .370. I’m not aware of a metric that measures the delta between a player’s wOBA and WPA, but if someone were to take the time to create one I’d have to imagine Cano’s 2009 would be up there with some of the widest gaps of all time. None of the other bottom 10 WPA players in 2009 (including the likes of Yuniesky Betancourt, Alexis Rios, Vernon Wells, Jhonny Peralta, Mark Teahen and Orlando Cabrera, among others) came anywhere close to a .370 wOBA — the nearest was Jermaine Dye‘s .344. We all know Cano struggled with runners in scoring position in 2009, but it’s hard to argue against the fact that he still had a fantastic year, one good enough for a 4.4 fWAR.

Moving back to 2010, only six of the Yankees’ everyday players even posted cumulative positive WPA marks. Marcus Thames was at 0.10 (for what it’s worth, Nick Johnson was 0.28), but 237 plate appearances isn’t an everyday hitter. Somewhat surprisingly — although when you look at how poorly he ended the year, it probably isn’t that surprising — is Jorge Posada‘s -0.17 WPA in 2010. The Yankee who added the least win probability in 2010? Why, none other than Derek Sanderson Jeter, at -1.18 (down from +1.41 in 2009). Well, technically Austin Kearns was worse (-1.43), but we only had to live with the damage he inflicted for two months.

Anyway, getting back the initial impetus behind this post, I went into Fangraphs and culled the top 10 individual WPA scores for the Yankees in 2010:

Quite the trip down memory lane, isn’t it? I didn’t realize that Swish’s walk-off two-run bomb against Koji Uehara (who has the indignity of yielding the top two largest WPA swings the Yankees would see in 2010) was the biggest WPA swing of the season, but it makes sense considering the circumstances. Prior to that point it had been one of the Yankees’ most frustrating games of the season, with the offense getting shut down by Brad Bergesen of all people and the O’s about to complete the first-ever sweep of the Bombers at new Yankee Stadium.

Alex Rodriguez pops up quite frequently on this list, which is weird considering how clutch he’s not (SARCASM ALERT). A-Rod’s biggest hit of the season was that absurd three-run bomb off Uehara nine days after Swish’s walk-off, in another game the Yankees really had no business winning. I was watching that one at Bleecker Heights with MJR, and we couldn’t believe how pathetic Kevin Millwood was making the Yankee bats look. Thankfully A-Rod made it all better with one monster swing of the bat.

Alex’s other biggest WPA moments were the game-tying bomb against Jonathan Papelbon in that fateful May 17 game (Marcus Thames‘ game-winner in that May 17 Papelbon game checked in at slightly less (.428 WPA) than Alex’s bomb, which carried a .454 WPA); the bases-clearing double against Matt Harrison in Texas; and the two-run single (Alex reached third on an error) against Seattle on July 8. Interestingly, that game against the Rangers is the only one on this list the Yankees lost.

Tex’s biggest swing of the year was his go-ahead three-run shot against Tony Sipp and Cleveland on the Sunday before Memorial Day. I remember following that game along on my BlackBerry at my family barbeque in Westchester that day and being enraged that the Yankees were on the cusp of splitting the series with the Indians and subsequently losing my mind upon being informed of Tex’s blast.

Robinson Cano‘s biggest moment of the season was his memorable go-ahead two-run blast against George Sherrill and the Dodgers on June 27, capping off one of the Yankees’ biggest comebacks of the season. Curtis Granderson checks in at #8, with his monster go-ahead two-run shot against Jake Westbrook in Cleveland bringing the Yankees another victory they really didn’t deserve, as Westbrook had been utterly masterful up to that point.

And Nick Swisher sandwiches the list out with his mammoth tie-breaking solo shot against Jon Rauch at Target Field. Prior to checking the numbers I would’ve expected Swish’s second-biggest hit to have been either the game-winning single off Lance Cormier or tie-breaking solo jack off Joaquin Benoit in the July 16 game, but those two plays checked in at 3rd (.379) and 6th (.279) on Swisher’s WPA log.