Albert Pujols led the National League in Runs Scored last year with 115. Joey Votto ended the season 4th in runs scored with 106, but Votto had a greater impact on his teams scoring than Albert Pujols did in 2010. Votto led the majors last year in Situational Wins, 6.1. As a team the Reds scored the most (790) runs in the National League, but to be the division champions again this year they are going to need Joey Votto to do what he did so well last year – hit when it matters most. If he doesn’t, Pujols is there to take over his title.
Kevin Youkilis consistently does an outstanding job at helping the Boston Red Sox when the game is on the line. In 2010 he didn’t make the top ten in WAR, BA, RS, Hits, TB or RS, but in the American League he was 10th in situational wins (2.7) and 8th in WPA (3.4). Perhaps, if the Red Sox could figure out a way to get Youkilis in those situations more often he might be the game changer for 2011.
In the heavy scoring American League Miguel Cabrera is pivotal in keeping the Detroit Tigers with the rest of the pack. He scored 111 runs, second in the American League behind Mark Teixeira. Cabrera was second in the American League in Situational Wins (5.2). The Detroit Tigers allowed too many runs last year but without Cabrera having a repeat of his 2010 stats the Tigers might not be in the mix for the AL Central title this year.
Jayson Stark has a great article on Jayson Werth and his responsibility to his new team: The responsibility of being a leader with the Washington Nationals. One major league player told me to be a guy who comes through in the “clutch” you have to be a team player. Well, the Philadelphia Phillies had only one ballplayer last year in the top ten for situational wins, Jayson Werth. Many ball players believe even if they are facing the best pitchers in baseball (which happen to be your old teammates in Werth’s case) you get a pitch to hit at every at bat, it’s just a matter if you’re ready for the right pitch. Will Jayson Werth be ready? He has the ability to be a game changer.
The Yankees will score a lot of runs, they always do. In a tight division race they’ll need them at just the right time. Robinson Cano had 334 TB last year, 3rd in the American League. Not only was he on base a lot but he was 5th in situational wins, 3.6.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of the 2011 game changers, but a nice start to get us excited for 2011. The best part of the game changing momments and the ballplayers who deliever is when they impact the entire season.
In The Hardball Times Annual this year, Dave Studenmund takes WPA even further than situational wins and puts the entire 2010 season into a single number by using WPA and Championship Leverage Index. Using Championship Leverage Index he outlined some of the most crucial games and moments of the year for 2010. He wrote, “Some teams, such as Baltimore and Kansas City, had their “most crucial” games on the first day of the season. Their tires went flat immediately.”
Wow. While it’s true that at any point in the season we can witness a ballplayer impact his team in a high leverage situation, you might want to grab some tickets for Opening Day, if you can! It just might be the most important game of the season.
Baseball’s great moments for 2011 are just around the corner. The most crucial batter and pitcher match ups of the season haven’t happened yet and every fan, every team, every player has hope. Baseball is perfect right now.
Enjoy discovering the unknown moments for 2011; those special times both fans and ballplayers remember for years and years to come.
Anna came into this world loving baseball, was raised by The Hardball Times and writes for It’s About The Money and ESPN’s Page 2. You can follow her on her fancy new Twitter account, @Anna__McDonald. IIATMS can also be found on Facebook here and you can follow on Twitter here.