Saturday, November 5, 2022

World Series Trivia: The Best World Series Performance from Losing Players

We’ve got another quiz today, in preparation for Game 6 (and potentially Game 7). I’ve been looking for more uses for my big Win Probability Added dataset (for anyone who missed those, see here, here, here, and here). And while watching the games in Philly, it occurred to me that this year’s loser is either going to be the team that threw the second-ever World Series no-hitter, or the team that tied the record for most home runs in a World Series game.

Either way, that would be an impressive resume for a runner-up, which served as the inspiration for today’s question: Which players have added the most Win Probability to their team’s chances while ultimately falling short? My cutoff ended up being 0.3 WPA, which yielded a 44-person list. That total seemed low, but given that we are dealing with only one series rather than the entire playoffs, and with teams that only won somewhere between 0 and 3 games on top of that.

(Also, although they’re combined here, I separated out pitchers’ batting WPA and pitching WPA for convenience’s sake, just like I did on the other quizzes.)

[some mild spoilers ahead]

I was expecting a bunch of legendary performances from all-time greats, and there are a few of those: a half-dozen eventual Hall of Famers, a couple more future ones, some well-known asterisks, and a few assorted borderline snubs and Hall of Very Good-types. However, most of the performances themselves are maybe less-than legendary? I could only think of three or four eventual answers going in, and most of the other ones were more of the “Oh yeah, that guy did have a pretty good October” variety. And there’s probably a higher ratio of players that I just wouldn’t think of, compared to the other quizzes that I’ve made so far.

Really, I suppose that makes sense; we tend to remember the winners overall. For example, what would you say are the most memorable World Series moments from teams that didn’t win it? Carlton Fisk’s 1975 homer stands out. Brett Phillips’s walk-off from 2021 and the 18-inning game from 2018 are also notable, although I wonder how much of that is from recency bias? Josh Hamilton’s tenth inning almost-game-winner in 2011 Game 6 probably counts, even if it is also heavily overshadowed by many other moments from that game. Ditto Rajai Davis in Game 7 of 2016. I guess you could say something like Bill Buckner’s error, but including a moment of the losing team actually losing feels like it deserves a separate category. Again, though, a lot of these teams might have won one or no games, so that’s a bit of a confounding factor here.

Since I’ve been previewing how the current playoffs would fit into the other quizzes, I’ll note that the only player above 0.3 WPA for the series so far is Ryan Pressly, at 0.68. There are a number of players above 0.2 WPA though (Alex Bregman, J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper, Cristian Javier , Framber Valdez, Bryan Abreu, David Robertson, Ranger Suarez), so there’s still time for that to change, especially with up to two games left.

As a preview for the days ahead at Hot Corner Harbor, my annual Best Active Players without a World Series quiz is ready to go right after the series ends, and I have another quiz idea that could serve as a nice postseason wrap-up. So look for those in the coming days!

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