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Bloops: Most Valuable World Series HRs

Posted by Neil Paine on November 10, 2010

Consider this a retro-bloop, since I didn't catch it the first time around, but here's a great piece at ESPN about the most valuable World Series HRs of all time by "series WPA".

What's series WPA, you ask? It's basically like regular WPA, except it also take into account the probability of winning the series (using a process similar to this). In essence, these home runs are the blasts that most swung the probability of winning the entire World Series, rather than just changing the probability of winning a given game.

As for the #1 HR? Well, it came in this famous game... but it might not be the exact homer you're thinking of.

34 Responses to “Bloops: Most Valuable World Series HRs”

  1. Larry R. Says:

    What is often forgotten is that in the top of the ninth, with the score 9-8 Pirates, the Yanks had first and third with one out when Berra scorched one over the first base bag. Rocky Nelson, holding Mantle on at first, took it on one hop and stepped on first for out #2. But rather than running to second on the play, Mantle, who would have been a dead duck, dove back into first and somehow eluded Nelson's tag. McDougald scores on the play, tying the score at 9 and setting up Maz and his HR. If Mantle is out the Pirates go home with a 9-8 series-clinching victory and Hal Smith, not Bill Mazeroski, becomes the hero of the ages. Just incredible.

  2. JW Lewis Says:

    Recent articles on the 50th anniversary of this game have shed some new information on the top of the 9th play, or at least new to me. Hal Smith insisted McDougal would have been out at the plate had Nelson immediately threw home after stepping on the first base bag, but Nelson "lost" Smith in the crowd and instead looked to throw to second to retire Mantle, who was diving back into first safely.

    Just think...Smith could have hit the go ahead homer and got the last out at the plate with a tag.

    And I don't think Maz makes the Hall without the winning homer on his resume.

  3. Kelly Says:

    Maz was a fine 2B but I agree, he was in no way a Hall of Famer without the winning homer.

  4. BobBobson Says:

    yeah, always seemed he got in on that one shot... seems pretty weak in criteria otherwise

  5. Tmckelv Says:

    4 of the guys in the top 10 were on teams that ultimately lost the world series. Does anyone else feel like that is too high of a percentage (40% lost)? I guess anything is possible with such a small sample size.

  6. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Interesting observation Tmck. Obviously one play doesn't make a game, let alone a series. I don't see any easy way to compare how many of the highest-WPA plays this season were on winning or losing teams. You can use the event finder, but there are obviously way too many total plays to show on one page, and the sort only works for those which show on the page you are seeing.

  7. John Q Says:

    The Hal Smith HR is one of the most underrated, underreported, and unknown moments in BB history.

  8. John Autin Says:

    This is way off on a tangent, but I need to get it off my chest:

    In a previous thread discussing extra-inning postseason games, I averred (without any proof) that, in a game that could clinch the series for one team only (i.e., not a sudden-death game), the odds would grow in favor of the potential clinching team the longer the game went.


    Using the Play Index, I found 37 postseason extra-inning games in which only one team had a chance to clinch. The record of that team in those games was 16-21. In the World Series in particular, such teams were just 4-11.

    Just another piece of evidence that we don't know half of what we think we know about how emotion and "momentum" influence a postseason series.

  9. mike t Says:

    If you think Ozzie Smith belongs in the HOF then so does Maz.

    Maz was the Ozzie of second basemen. Their career averages and OPS are nearly identical. For his era, Maz's offense put him at the top 5 in hr's and rbi at his position during his "prime" years. I can't remember where I read that but it's been a few years. His ability to turn a double play was (is) legendary. Again, its been a few years, but he was near the top of career double plays turned, even though he was a 2b and every other player on the list was a first baseman.

  10. bluejaysstatsgeek Says:

    Are the series WPA numbers the same in baseball as they are in basketball? It seems like they should be, but if the probabilities are relative frequencies, they could be different.

  11. Chris Says:

    What about Puckett's game 6 walk -off homer in extra innings? That was pretty important too...

  12. Xander Says:

    Love the site, guys. I am, in fact, addicted.
    But perhaps looking at gourmet stats is taken a bit too far here.

    How is Joe Carter's walk-off, SERIES ENDING homerun only #4?
    Im pretty sure that his homer gave his team the highest probability of winning the series. Tied with Maz. Are these stats being measured against outcomes taking place in parallel universes?

  13. Thomas Says:

    2 things...

    1) the last paragraph of the article explains your complaint Xander. If Maz doesn't hit that home run the Pirates don't lose the game. The game just continues. If Hal Smith doesn't hit his home run the Pirates continue losing the game and possibly head into the ninth inning of game 7 losing.

    It's about win probability.

    Before Maz's HR: 63%
    After Maz's HR: 100%
    Total: + 37%

    Before Hal's HR: 29%
    After Hal's HR: 93%
    Total: 64%

    where's the discussion?

    2) I came here to say that I'd never heard of Hal Smith... and that sucks. Clearly his name should have been brought up at some point in any talk about heroics on the baseball diamond.

  14. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    The Mazeroski homer did indeed make his HOF election happen -- no doubt about that. But as for Smith, his was just one of many "heroics" in that game by both teams. Timing is what made Maz's blast so crucial -- and, I might add, made my elder sister cough up a whole ten bucks {big money for a guy who was only pulling down sixty a week working on an assembly line}. It, and possibly Ali's victory over Frazier {another financial windfall courtesy of Sis} are two of my more treasured sports memories.

    And to Thomas; don't feel bad. At the time there were two catchers named Hal Smith, and I rarely found cause to remember either one of them.

  15. SocraticGAdfly Says:

    @Mike T - BULLCORN on saying Maz and the Wiz are equivalent. Ozzie's offensive WAR for his career is almost 3x that of Maz and defensive WAR is 2x. Try actually looking at some relevant stats.

  16. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    I'd never heard of Hal Smith . . . his name should have been brought up at some point in any talk about heroics on the baseball diamond.

    Thomas — agreed. It was the only big World Series moment of Smith's career, and he came up huge.

  17. Mike Felber Says:

    Yes, The Wizard of Oz was a little better hitter-more so for peak-better defensively when you consider range & positional value, & played longer than Maz, even though his career encompassed 3 strike years. And he was excellent in SB & SB %.

    It is not even close re: total value that they added. Maz was not near HOF quality for peak or career, & Ozzie is a legitimate "lower tier" guy.

  18. Hartvig Says:

    Since we share an uncommon first name, I was aware of Hal Smith's heroics. What I wasn't aware of is that he was one of 2 Hal Smiths in the National League at that time (the other was a Cardinals pitcher) and their careers overlapped almost entirely. I guess the Smith part makes that a little less of an oddity.

  19. Hartvig Says:

    And I agree that Ozzie Smith's induction does not necessarily mean that Mazeroski belongs as well. Yes, he was the best 2nd baseman ever at turning the double play and the double play is huge. That however does not make him the best fielding second baseman of all time- I'd pick Frank White and Mazeroski and White's offensive comps are almost identical. White was 1 and done for the HOF voting and there's not much of a groundswell out there to get him back on the ballot.

    Players who have a one outstanding talent are over-valued in comparison to players who are very good in all aspects of the game. Some people think Nolan Ryan was the greatest pitcher ever because he struck out the most batters. Greg Maddux never led the league in strikouts but he was twice the pitcher Ryan was.

  20. Baseball America | Sports We Play Says:

    [...] are in basketball It seems like they should be but if the probabilities are relative frequencies they could be different. Chris Says November 10th 2010 at 832 pm [...]

  21. LJF Says:

    This is the one game in basbell history wish I had seen. You know what's fun? Simply looking at the WP graph for this game or looking through the play by play chart to look at the dramatic swings in the Win Probability. High drama, indeed.

  22. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    One thing the PI just taught me about 1960 Game 7: It's the only game in World Series history where neither team struck out.

  23. Bill Tuck Says:

    I remember Mazeroski's home run well. I was over at a friend's house. Both of us were pulling for Pittsburgh, and were very excited.
    Another thing I take an interest in is awards. Most of the time the voters get it right. Giving the player of the Series to Bobby Richardson has to be the worst one ever. Sure, he set a record for most RBIs in a Series and in one game. The Yankees would have won that game without his big day.
    In addition to Maz's seventh game homer he hit a two run homer in the first game, which provided the margin for victory. Also he made no errors in the field.

  24. Thomas Says:


    I've been hoping that something comes of this ( ... in terms of being on MLB network/espn/dvd anything.

  25. Joe Garrison Says:

    Ugh... Maz got into the HOF on his record. The home run ensured we did not forget about him while the voters finally got around to electing him.

    That said... yeah, it is the hall of FAME, and the homer did make him famous so I can see the reasoning behind the above posts.

  26. scott silveira Says:

    I have a scoresheet of my grandmothers of this seventh game, taken either from radio or TV broadcast. Her handwriting appears overcome on Maz's HR, denoted by four lines strewn all over. An amazing game.

  27. Mike Gaber Says:

    Another interesting player who appeared in the Maz/Hal Smith WS Game # 7 of 1960, was a pitcher named "Little" Bobby Shantz all 5'6", 139 pounds of him. doesn't list "Little" as his knick name, but that's what I remembered he was generally called by the media.

    Although he got knocked around in this game he had a nice 16 season career (1949-1964) and was the 1952 American League MVP going 24-7.

    He also won the AL Pitcher Gold Glove award 12 straight times.
    I bring the GG awards up since we have a nice heated discussion going on in another current post on the GG subject.

  28. kds Says:

    Thanks Mike Gaber, Shantz pitched for the Yankees in 1960, including the WS, was selected by the new Senators in the expansion draft, then was traded to the Pirates before the 1961 season. After the season he was selected by Houston in the NL expansion draft. So, how many players played for one team in a WS and their opponents in that Series the next year? And how many have been drafted in 2 or more expansion drafts?

  29. Thomas Says:

    Don't know about your second question but I know Renteria played for St. Louis in the series losing to Boston, then was (I believe) signed in that off season by Boston.

  30. LJF Says:

    @ 26 - Scott, that is so cool.

  31. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    And how many [players] have been drafted in 2 or more expansion drafts?

    No player has been drafted in more than two expansion drafts. Besides Bobby Shantz, the only other player that I know was drafted in two different expansion drafts is Al Fitzmorris.

    Shantz pitched for the Yankees in 1960, including the WS, was selected by the new Senators in the expansion draft, then was traded to the Pirates before the 1961 season.

    Probably apocryphal, but I recall reading somewhere that the new Senators, woefully unprepared for the expansion draft, traded Shantz to Pittsburgh immediately in exchange for two players and — the real prize — the Pirates' AL scouting reports, which they then used in drafting the rest of their expansion picks. I wouldn't bet on the story's standing up to close scrutiny, but it is amusing.

  32. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    I googled my "apocryphal" Bobby Shantz story, and darned if the traded-for-scouting-reports account isn't published as truth in at least one reputable source. From David Finoli and Bill Ranier, The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia (Sports Publishing, L.L.C., 2003), p. 138 (link):

    Before the 1961 season, “. . . it appeared [GM] Joe L. Brown had helped add depth [to] the Pirates by making an unusual trade. [1960 Pirates coach] Mickey Vernon had been named to manage the expansion Washington Senators in the American League. Expansion was a new procedure, and the Washington franchise had not prepared particularly well. Not only had they needed a manager, but they needed help deciding who[m] they would select in the draft. Brown worked out an arragement with the club that the Pirates would share their American League scouting reports with Washington, if the Senators agreed to draft Bobby Shantz, the left-handed reliever who had nearly beaten the Bucs in Game 7 of the Series, from the Yankees and trade him to Pittsburgh.

    “Brown sent pitcher Bennie Daniels and two players who did not figure in the team’s plans, first baseman R.C. Stevens and infielder Harry Bright, [to Washington] in return for Shantz.”

  33. Reference…?  |  Marcel Blog Says:

    [...] Bloops: Most Valuable World Series HRs » Baseball-Reference Blog … [...]

  34. eorns Says:

    Reading about Hal Smith reminded me of Endy Chavez taking a home run AWAY from Scott Rolen in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. It wasn't the World Series (and it only had a .08 WPA) but it belongs on the list of plays that would be remembered much much more if it weren't for events outside of the player's control.

    If there could be such a thing as fielding WPA, that one would be high up there! Can anyone think of any other game-saving or otherwise spectacular defensive plays in such a high-leverage situation?