Yesterday morning we looked at the five biggest hits of the 2015 Yankees season, and we did it two ways: the nerdy way with WPA and I guess what you would call the emotional way, which was based on my gut feel. Baseball wouldn’t be fun without emotion.
Today we’re going to look at the biggest outs of the season. Pitching outs, I mean. I don’t know why anyone would want to relive a bunch of Yankees hitters making crippling outs. Unlike the biggest hits post, I’m not going to bother with WPA for the biggest outs. It doesn’t work as well. The biggest outs are usually, like, +0.30 WPA, if that.
So instead this list of the five biggest outs is my subjective ranking. You’re welcome to disagree because there is no right answer. As you might suspect, these outs all came in the late innings of close games with runners on base. The kind of situation where a hit (or walk) changes the entire complexion of the game. Here’s my top five.
5. October 1st: Betances clinches a wildcard spot. (box score)
In the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t one of the most critical at-bats of the season. The Yankees were playing the last place Red Sox, and they were leading by three runs when Dellin Betances took the mound of the ninth. (Andrew Miller needed the night off for workload reasons.) Also, Dellin didn’t exactly face Murderer’s Row either: Deven Marrero, Sandy Leon, and Josh Rutledge. There’s like half-a-big leaguer in there.
But anyway, this out was big because it clinched the team’s first postseason berth since 2012. It was also the 10,000th win in franchise history. If that’s not a big out, I don’t know what is. To the video:
4. June 2nd: Wilson dives to turn two. (box score)
Okay, so this is cheating. This was actually two outs, not one, but they were part of a double play, so there’s no sense in breaking it up. On top of that, they were part of a really nifty play. It wasn’t a routine 6-4-3 twin-killing or anything like that. The Yankees and Mariners were in extra innings, Seattle got a leadoff man on base, then Rickie Weeks popped up a bunt. This ensued:
3. June 5th: Betances avoid catastrophe against the Angels. (box score)
This was the worst win of the season, if that makes sense. The Yankees punished Jered Weaver and took a nice, comfortable 8-1 lead into the ninth. When it was over, it was 8-7 and the Angels had the tying run at third base. They scored six runs in the ninth and were a great Didi Gregorius play away from tying things up.
2. September 22nd: Betances gets Encarnacion to miss by several feet. (box score)
Late season Betances wasn’t all that fun because he walked a ton of dudes down the stretch. A ton. In this game, which the Yankees lead 3-2 heading into the eighth, Dellin walked two batters as part of a chaotic inning. It went single, bunt, strikeout, walk, walk to load the bases. All of that happened against the top of the Blue Jays order too.
Betances, wild as ever, fell behind in the count 2-0 to Edwin Encarnacion, so this was the danger zone. It was getting bad. Dellin rebounded to get called strike one, then Encarnacion swung through a heater to even the count 2-2. Betances dropped the hammer on him next for the strikeout. A hammer way out of the strike zone. Look at this:
Missed it by that much. Betances escaped the inning with the 3-2 lead intact thanks to the strikeout and the Yankees eventually won the game in ten innings. The win brought the team to within 2.5 games of first place in the AL East with a little more than a week left in the season. It was part of their last gasp.
1. August 14th: Miller wins 12-pitch battle against Tulowitzki. (box score)
The biggest hit and the biggest out of the season both came in the same game. The Yankees were trying to run down the Blue Jays in the AL East and not doing a very good job of it, but, in this game, Carlos Beltran came off the bench to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead with a seventh inning three-run pinch-hit home run. It was clutch, as they say.
There were still nine outs to get after the Beltran home run, and Ivan Nova (!) and Betances were able to get three each with minimal scariness. The ninth inning went to Miller, who was still struggling after the coming off the DL. In fact, he blew his first save of the season in his previous appearance. The inning started with a fly out, but then a walk, a single, and a wild pitch followed.
The Blue Jays had the tying run at third base and the go-ahead run at second base with one out and the top of the order due up. Miller was able to strike out Ben Revere for the second out — Miller struck out 21 of the 47 lefty batters he faced this year (44.7%) — before getting locked into a grueling 12-pitch at-bat with Troy Tulowitzki. Miller went after him with sliders inside and fastballs away. Here’s the pitch plot via Brooks Baseball:
That view is from the catcher’s perspective. Tulowitzki took Pitch 1 down and in for a called strike, took all three fastballs for balls, and fouled off everything else before swinging and missing at Pitch 12. He might not have missed it either, I think he foul tipped it into Brian McCann‘s glove.
I could have sworn I remember seeing a video of this entire at-bat somewhere, but I guess I’m wrong. I can find no such thing. The final pitch will have to do, though that really fails the capture the intensity of the at-bat.
(For what it’s worth, the WPA on that strikeout was +0.24, the second largest out of the season. The largest? The strikeout of Revere at +0.30 WPA.)