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Highest WPA by a pitcher in a game

Posted by Andy on February 28, 2011

In another thread, some readers started discussing the best single-game performance by a pitcher as measured by his combined WPA from both pithing and hitting.

One reader pointed out that Rick Wise, in his no-hit game, scored 0.376 WPA as a pitcher but also 0.202 as a batter thanks to his 2 home runs. That's a total of 0.578 on both sides of the ball.

On May 5, 1968, Catfish Hunter pitched a no-hitter too, earning 0.489 as a pitcher. He also drove in 3 of the A's 4 runs and scored .190 as a hitter, for a total of .679, beating out Wise easily.

There are actually lots of games that score higher, I think. For example, in this 1972 game, Claude Osteen pitched a 10-inning complete game for 0.284  WPA as a pitcher. He also had a double, single, and 3 RBI as a hitter and a whopping 0.660 WPA. That's a total of 0.944 for the game. Most of his teammates had negative WPA scores thanks to getting very few hits.

What other games can you find that score as high?

This entry was posted on Monday, February 28th, 2011 at 7:30 am and is filed under Game Finders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

27 Responses to “Highest WPA by a pitcher in a game”

  1. jnolan33177 Says:

    Just goes to show how off WPA really is when it comes to telling how much you actually helped win games! Rick Wise dont allow 1 hit and drives in all the runs he needs, that right there should be 1.000 in my opinion as a pitcher and batter because not anyone else did much of anything that game. He even drove in insurance runs on his 2nd homer. As far as the other guys getting lots of hits also should be high, but a no hitter and 2 home runs to help yourself is the definition of winning games by yourself

  2. It's the guys who threw 15 innings at a time back in the day who really clean up. You can get a good list by just sorting pitching games by WPA on the Play Index but I like Mickey McDermott's 1.247 WPA in a game his team ultimately lost in 1951.

  3. @1
    Its pretty easy to walk through to the play-by-play and explain the WPA, though. Its a play-by-play probability snapshot, not a measure of dominance. He didn't participate in the go-ahead run. That's usually a big chunk of WPA, though here it was early in the game (2nd inning). His two-run HR would have been a bit more valuable with two outs instead of one. His second solo HR contributed only 2% because it was late in the game and there was already a three run lead.

    Getting that three run lead as early as the 5th inning depressed the pitching WPA for the rest of the game as well. A pitcher gets more WPA retiring the side in a tie game than he does retiring the side with a three-run lead. Also, WPA doesn't care if you allow any baserunners as long as you don't give up any runs. The out to get out of a jam will cancel the hits earlier in the inning. So, the no-hitter doesn't matter for WPA, only the shutout.

    A higher WPA-game for pitcher would be a shutout that stays scoreless until the very late innings, and then the pitcher provides a walkoff solo HR with two outs. You could artificially pump it up with lead-off triples in all his other at bats (stranding him each time so the game stays tied for his pitching and later PA's).

  4. @1,

    I think you are being too critical of WPA. The scale for WPA starts off assuming that each team has an equal chance of winning the game i.e. each team is at 0.500. When the game ends one team is at 1.000 and the other 0.000. Therefore achieving a WPA of .500 is the equivalent of winning a game by yourself because you would have taken it from even to what the statistic considers certain victory by yourself.

  5. Wow. I am honored to know that Joe Morgan reads our blog. Nobody else could have left comment #1.

  6. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Gaylord Perry had a 16 inning shutout where his WPA was 1.601. His batting WPA was in the minus, so 7 innings with the score tied in a 'sudden death' situation must really pile on the probability.

  7. @5

    If that is the case then Jon Miller can't be far behind, planting kisses on Joe's posterior region.

  8. To me a pitcher has to have a lot of K's to be truly dominant.
    The more fielding independent the better.
    I would look at some of Bob Gibson and Tom Seaver games as they were SO pitchers who could hit.
    Koufax and Unit couldn't hit a lick so I doubt you'd find many games where they were dominant on both sides.
    Guys like Ryan, Clemens, and Pedro played in the wrong league for most of their careers so slim pickins.

  9. I don't know how to calculate WPA, but I'm reminded of Tony Cloninger's CG win in '66 in which he hit two grand slams while driving in 9.

    Also coming to mind is Dave McNally's CG win in a 1970 WS game in which he hit a grand slam. Ironically, the opposing pitcher that day was Tony Cloninger, although he had been pulled a few batters earlier.

  10. The best I could find was Whitey Ford on April 22, 1959.

    14 IP 7 H 0 R 7 BB 15 K
    1 for 3 with a double and 3 walks at the plate

    combined WPA 1.573

  11. Yes! A mention of Rick Wise!

    There were a few great hitters on that Reds team. Quite an accomplishment. Interesting to see his WPA.

  12. Just a suggestion:
    - you have to acknowledge that all the highest scores will be more than 30 years old and involve guys permitted to pitch into extra innings
    - the highest pitching scores in recent years will come from either a) starters who allowed a significant number of baserunners but still worked deep into games (usually 1-0 games) or b) relievers who pitched multiple innings in extra innings. The highest pitching WPA in the last 20 years belongs to Mike Magnante who pitched the last 5.1 innings of a 16 inning win for the Royals in 1996: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/KCA/KCA199606150.shtml Also, of the 9 highest scoring WPA pitching starts of the last 20 years, 8 were 1-0 games, 3 were 10+ IP, curiously all were AL games or inter-league games under AL rules
    - there should be some minimum on both sides of the ledger or it will really just come down to the best pitching performances. Of course this rules out almost every AL pitcher the last 40 years.

  13. Here's a fun one - Satchel Paige in 1952 pitched the last 5.2 innings of a 17 inning game (scoreless of course) and went 3-3 and drove in the winning run before closing it out in the bottom of the 17th.

    Pitching WPA .891, hitting WPA .476 for 1.367 WPA total

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/WS1/WS1195206030.shtml

    Doesn't beat the Whitey Ford one above but any time you can mention Satchel Paige, it's a good post. . . . .

  14. I agree with #12....I think you have to limit this to 9-inning games for the comparisons to be valid.

  15. That said, the Osteen game is crazy.

    With two outs and the tying run on second in the top of the 8th, he batted for himself and drove in the run.

    Then, with two outs in the top of the 10th, score still tied, and runners on first and second, he batted for himself AGAIN -- and scored them both with a double.

    Did I mention that he was a career .188 hitter?

    It was a Sept. 30 game, so there would have been numerous pinch-hitting possibilities.

  16. How about the famed Marichal/Spahn 16 inning game?

    Marichal - 1.470 pitching, -.195 hitting for 1.275 WPA total
    Spahn - .970, -.146 for .824 WPA

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SFN/SFN196307020.shtml

    FWIW

  17. I question the use of the word "valid" in #14...this list IS what it IS. If you'd prefer to see something different, i.e. limited to regulation games, that's fine, but I think they are both valid.

  18. OK, found one higher - Jerry Walker in 1959 went 16 and went 2-6 a tthe plate

    1.591 WPA pitching, .011 WPA hitting - 1.602 WPA total . . . .

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL195909112.shtml

  19. @15 - THat's another reason it has to be a long-ago game - pitchers were allowed to hit in situations that would NEVER be allowed to hit today.

    How about this game?: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MLN/MLN195810080.shtml

    1958 World Series, Game 6, bottom of the ninth, tie game, Braves one swing of the bat away from a title and they let Warren Spahn bat for himself against Ryne Duren who was absolute money that year.

    Spahn K's, gives up 2 in the top of the 10th, the Braves lose and then lose Game 7. . . . .

  20. #11 -- True, there were some good hitters on the '71 Reds. But they were not a good offensive teamfor them, ranking 9th out of 12 NL teams in runs and BA, and 10th in hits. Just 3 weeks before Wise's no-hitter against them, Ken Holtzman had done the same.

    Incidentally, the no-hitter by Wise was the last one against the Reds until Halladay's postseason gem last year.

  21. @ 9 and Cloninger's big day.

    Cloninger's 3 for 5, with 2 GSHR and 9 RBI, was only good for a .159 offesnive WPA. Why? Because (I guess) the Braves won 17-3. So, Braves presumably would have won quite handily even if Cloninger had struck out 5 times.

    Cloninger's total WPA for the game was only .196. He earned only .037 defensive WPA for his 3-run, 7-hit, complete game.

  22. Did anyone get Vern Law's game on July 19, 1955, with is pitching WPA of 1.675? Too bad his batting was minus .222. Total 1.453.

  23. The thing about WPA is that truly amazing or dominant performances don't always rack up the biggest numbers. Someone mentioned a guy driving in 9 runs. Obviously, that is stupendous. But if he threw a shutout, most of those runs he drove in added little WPA, only because the game was so well in hand already. You really need a combination of a stellar pitching performance in a tight game (ideally into extra innings) and some hitting heroics. WPA doesn't necessarily tell us what was best... just what was most important or valuable. Obviously, a perfect game with 2 GSs is better than a 2-hit CGSO with 1 HR. But if you won the first game 22-0 and the second game 1-0, there was more value in the totality of the pitcher's contributions in the latter than in the former, as counter-intuitive as it may seem.

  24. Neither of these would be near the top of the list all-time but they both come to mind because they were recent.

    April 29th, 2009. Yovani Gallardo. Beat Pittsburgh 1-0. Drove in the game's only run with a solo HR in the 7th inning. Total WPA: .729

    Even better...
    May 13th, 2010. Mat Latos. Beat the Giants 1-0 on a complete game with 1 hit and zero walks allowed. Oh, and he drove in the game's only run with an RBI single in the 5th. Total WPA: .948

    Interestingly, that was the 2nd time Latos beat the (eventual champion) Giants 1-0 within a three week period. And Jonathan Sanchez took the loss in both games. Tough luck for Sanchez, I'd say...

  25. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Not sure if this is a record, but Saturday, September 17, 1977 - Twins vs Rangers featured to relief pitchers on either team have a WPA over 1, Gary Serum for the Twinkies @ 1.060, and Len Barker for the Rangers @ 1.086

  26. #25 - Duke. Cool find. Also, Barker entered the game in the 8th and threw a wild pitch while facing the first batter, allowing the go ahead run to score. The Rangers tied it in the 9th and Barker pitched 9 2/3 scoreless innnings after the WP to get the win - and the huge WPA.

  27. @1 and 4,

    One way of looking at it is that a pitcher (or any player, for that matter) with a WPA of 1.5 or so did enough to win three games, but his teammates were bad enough to lose two games :-)