I don't know about you, but I'm sick of stressful games. The only reason the Rangers avoided a fourth straight victory by just a run was because Nelson Cruz forced in three unnecessary scores.
Unsurprisingly, with two more tight games in the ALCS, we've had a few more additions to the list of largest positive moments of Win Probability Added in Texas Rangers playoff history. We are now just one big swing in Win Expectancy away from having a nice round list of 20 in this space.
For an explanation of what the basis for this list is, go here. That's key, because here is something that may surprise you: Nelson Cruz's walk-off homerun does not even make the list.
That is because WPA only measures how much the odds of winning in an average game were changed by the moment in question; a lot of context that we can add ourselves is ignored. That's fine, because WPA does exactly what it is meant to do, but you are also not wrong for expanding beyond what it is doing.
In general, your odds of winning at home with no outs and the bases loaded in the ninth inning or later are huge. 94.1% expectancy for the win, in fact. You have two shots at a sacrifice or three shots at a base hit to end things immediately.
However, what is ignored is what happened after. Some of the moments ranked higher on this list came in losses. Or, they came in series the Rangers went on to lose. Some of those that came in wins came in games where the Rangers piled on runs by the end, and perhaps would have won, anyway. This home run took a game that was in doubt and made it a win, the end. And while the Rangers still had three outs, the next two hitters had already failed with the bases loaded and no outs in the ninth. The win put the Rangers up a commanding 2-0 in the ALCS, and the blast came in historic and dramatic fashion. For all these reasons, it was not one of the biggest swings in Win Probability in franchise postseason history, but Nelson Cruz's second homerun against the Tigers Monday night can easily be argued as the biggest hit (so far) in the history of the franchise.
Continuing on. . .
19. 2011 ALCS, Game 1: The first game of the Rangers' second ALCS started out poorly. C.J. Wilson began the game with a strikeout, but then allowed consecutive singles, and followed them with a walk, loading the bases with just one out. The Tigers has a huge chance of scoring first, but Wilson fortunately induced a ground ball from Magglio Ordonez that Adrian Beltre turned in to a 5-3 double play. With 14% Win Probability Added, the Rangers' Win Expectancy moved back up to 55%, and they went on to win a one-run game.
18. 1996 ALDS, Game 3: The Rangers' first playoff series was tied 1-1 with Texas trailing the Yankees 3-2 in their home park. Future Ranger John Wetteland came in and faced DH Mickey Tettleton. Tettleton worked a walk, which sounds boring, but getting the tying run on with no outs is pretty significant. The result was still just a 38% Win Expectancy, but 14% Win Probability Added, but no one could capitalize and the Rangers lost the game. And the series.
17. 2010 ALCS, Game 1: Such a memorable series began as such a nightmare. The Rangers blew a big game one lead against CC Sabathia and the Yankees. Like '96, Texas opened the ninth at home down one -- this time 6-5 -- and got the lead-off runner on. This time it was a single by Mitch Moreland, but the impact is the same: 38% Win Expectancy, and 14% Win Probability Added. Just like 1996, the Rangers bunted him over and then ended the game without anymore advancement. Fortunately, the series ended up much better this time.
16. 2010 ALDS, Game 2: Fresh off the heels of their second playoff victory ever, the Rangers had a 2-0 lead in the fifth when Michael Young came up with two on and one out in Tampa Bay. Young muscled a James Shields pitch to centerfield, turning a tight contest in to a blowout with a 92% Win Expectancy. The home run ended up not being necessary due to a shutout started by C.J. Wilson, but at the moment it was 15% Win Probability Added for the Rangers. At the time, this was one of the best things to ever happen to the Rangers. It got better from there.
15. 2011 ALDS, Game 3: Make Napoli had himself a series in his playoff debut as a Ranger, making the list twice just from this game alone. With no outs in the bottom of the eighth in St. Petersburg, Mike Adams walked the tying run, B.J. Upton. Upton attempted to steal, but Ron Washington called a pitch-out at the right time and Napoli gunned him down for the first out, emptying the bases. Napoli's throw put the Rangers' Win Expetancy at 79%, good for 16% Win Probability Added. Texas went on to win.
14. 2010 ALCS, Game 3: The Rangers set the table in the first inning for Josh Hamilton in New York, and Hamilton made Andy Pettitte pay with a two-run shot, starting the game off with 16% Win Probability Added, and a 76% Win Expectancy. Texas ended up with a dominant 8-0 victory and a 2-1 lead in the series.
13. 2011 ALCS, Game 2: In Arlington, Detroit closer Jose Valverde came in to get his team to extra innings, and Adrian Beltre greeted him with an immediate -- and deep -- double. The Rangers' Win Expectancy shot to 83% for 17% Win Probability Added, but unfortunately, while the Rangers loaded the bases before getting an out, they failed to bring in the run. Fortunately, they got another chance in the 11th inning and did not waste that one.
12. 2011 ALDS, Game 3: Even after Upton was caught stealing, the Rays mounted a threat in the bottom of the eighth, putting runners on first and second. Neftali Feliz was called in to end the threat with two outs, his team up 4-3. A wild pitch advanced the runners, but Feliz settled down and struck out Ben Zobrist for 17% Win Probability Added. The huge K put the Rangers at 86% Win Expectancy, and they held on to win.
11. 2011 ALDS, Game 3: With two outs in the top of the seventh in Tampa, and the Rangers having recently taken a 2-1 lead, Josh Hamilton came up with the bases loaded. He pulled a line drive to right for a single, scoring two, giving the Rangers a 4-1 lead, and providing 17% Win Probability Added. The Win Expectancy jumped to 92%, and the insurance runs ended up being critical as the Rangers won 4-3.
10. 2011 ALDS, Game 3: With Feliz still in the game in the bottom of the ninth, Sean Rodriguez singled to center with one out in the bottom of the ninth, putting the tying run on. Kelly Shoppach came forth, but Feliz shut the door anyway with a double play, giving the Rangers a 4-3 win with 18% Win Probability Added on the final play.
9. 2011 ALCS, Game 2: With two outs in the top of the ninth, the Tigers managed hits off of Alexi Ogando and Mike Gonzalez to put runners on second and third. Neftali Feliz was brought in to end the threat, and began by intentionally walking Miguel Cabrera, which actually lowered the Rangers' Win Expectancy to below 50%. Feliz came through by getting Victor Martinez to pop up to Elvis Andrus for the out, raising the Rangers' Win Expectancy to 66%, good for 19% Win Probability Added.
8. 2010 ALDS, Game 3: With no outs and none on in the bottom of the seventh, Ian Kinsler pulled a home run to break a 1-1 tie against the Rays. 19% Win Probability Added took the Rangers to 19% Win Expectancy, heading towards a sweep and their first post season series victory. Unfortunately, the Rangers wasted the home run and failed to hang on, losing the game.
7. 2011 ALCS, Game 2: Not the homerun he will most be remembered for, even in the same game. In the bottom of the seventh, the Rangers found themselves down 3-2. They had not scored since the first inning, and were allowing the homerun-prone Max Scherzer to escape the long ball in Arlington. With one swing to open the inning, Nelson Cruz changed that and the complexion of the game by pulling a moon shot 1-2 pitch in to the upper deck, tying the game with 20% Win Probability Added. That set the Rangers' Win Expectancy at 60%, and they eventually pulled out the victory with a Cruz walk-off in the 11th.
6. 1996, ALDS Game 1: The Rangers first playoff game started with a 1-0 deficit to the Yankees, but all that changed with a three-run Juan Gonzalez home run in the top of the fourth, giving the Rangers 21% Win Probability Added, 71% Win Expectancy, and a lead they would never relinquish for their first post season victory.
5. 2010, ALCS Game 6: The hit that sent Rangers fans screaming around their living rooms. Fighting in a 1-1 tie with New York, and holding a 3-2 lead in the series, Vladimir Guerrero doubled to center with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, scoring two. The 3-1 lead gave Texas a 79% Win Expectancy, and the double was worth 23% Win Probability Added. From their, Texas got insurance runs, won the game 6-1, and went to their first World Series.
4. 2010, World Series Game 3: After dropping both games in San Francisco to start the World Series, Texas took an early lead in game three thanks to a three-run Mitch Moreland shot to right with two outs in the second. Texas's Win Expectancy jumped to 79% for 24% Win Probability Added. The runs proved more significant in hindsight, as Texas won 4-1. Without Moreland's home run, the Rangers likely never win even one World Series game.
3. 1996, ALDS Game 2: With a 1-0 lead in the series, trailing 1-0 in the game, with two on and two outs in the top of the third, Juan Gonzalez homered to left for a 3-1 lead and a 74% Win Expectancy. Good for 25% Win Probability Added. Unfortunately, the Rangers' bullpen could not hold the lead, and they lost the game 5-4 in 12 innings, as well as the next two and the series.
2. 2011, ALDS Game 3: With the Rangers trailing 1-0 in the top of the seventh in Tampa, Adrian Beltre opened the inning up with a single, bringing up Mike Napoli. Napoli continued his amazing display of power from the regular season, sending a towering home run to left and giving the Rangers a one-run lead. With 32% Win Probability Added, the Rangers' Win Expectancy soared to 72.2%, and the runs provided critical in a 4-3 victory.
1. 2010, ALCS Game 4: If you didn't see this list last year, I'm guessing you still knew what would be No. 1. This is by far the victor. In the sixth inning in New York, the Rangers trailed 3-2, and were one out from wasting a pair of baserunners when Bengie Molina came to the plate. TBS began playing a montage of Molina home runs against the Yankees in the playoffs, as though they knew the future. For a second it seemed like the montage was just continuing when Molina shifted his weight around for a home run down the left field line, and a 5-3 lead for the Rangers. 73% Win Expectancy. 40% Win Probability Added. The Rangers coasted to victory from there, taking a dominant 3-1 lead in the ALCS.