Grantland: Tony Womack’s World Series RBI the second-biggest play in baseball history

Oct 28, 2015, 7:50 AM | Updated: 8:11 am

Arizona Diamondbacks fans will never forget Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. And the play they will always remember came from one Luis Gonzalez.

His single off Mariano Rivera to bring in Jay Bell won the first championship for the Diamondbacks and for a Big-4 Arizona sports team. The big moment went to the star of a star-studded team, the guy who hit 57 home runs that year, was an All-Star, won the Home Run Derby and finished third in MVP voting. Gonzalez was the guy and should never pay for a beer in the state of Arizona for the rest of his life.

One writer, though, thinks there was a bigger play in that game. Rany Jazayerli put together a list for Grantland breaking down the biggest plays in the history of baseball and ranked Tony Womack’s RBI double earlier in the inning as the second-biggest since 1948.

To compile this list, Jazayerli looked at a few stats: Win Probability Added and Championship Probability Added.

“WPA is computed by figuring out a team’s probability of winning a game — based on the score, the inning, the outs, and the baserunners — before a particular batter hits and afterward, and then calculating the difference,” Jazayerli explains.

CPA calculated by multiplying a play’s Win Probability Added by the impact the game has on winning a championship. For Game 7 of a World Series, that impact is 100.

Here’s how Jazayerli breaks down Womack’s game-tying hit:

Setting: 2001 World Series, Game 7 (Arizona 3, New York Yankees 3)
Score: 2-1, New York
Situation: Bottom of the ninth, one out, men on first and second
Win Probability Beforehand: 35 percent
Event: Womack doubles to tie the game and move the winning run to third base
Win Probability Afterward: 85 percent
Championship Probability Added: 50 percent

Yes, that Tony Womack. The one who had a career line of .273/.317/.356, good for a 72 OPS+. The one who played 13 years in the majors and managed only 2.3 bWAR for his entire career.

But with the Diamondbacks down a run in the ninth against the greatest closer who ever lived, Womack came through. Mark Grace had started the rally with a leadoff single, and then Mariano Rivera threw the ball away on a sacrifice bunt attempt, putting men on first and second with none out. Rivera partially redeemed himself when the next hitter bunted and Rivera got the lead runner at third base, bringing up the light-hitting Womack. Rivera’s cutter was death on left-handed hitters. The Yankees were still favored to win.

Then Womack somehow kept his hands back on an inside cutter and pulled it down the right-field line. The game was not only tied — the winning run was on third base with just one out. Rivera then hit Craig Counsell with a pitch to load the bases, and with the infield drawn in, Luis Gonzalez was able to fist a pitch into short left field to end the series.

The best reliever ever, the best postseason pitcher ever, against a really bad hitter. And the hitter won. That’s baseball. That’s why we watch.

Womack played five more years in the league — two more with the D-backs — and ended his career with 1,353 hits, 368 RBI, 368 stolen bases and 36 home runs.

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Grantland: Tony Womack’s World Series RBI the second-biggest play in baseball history