Wednesday 2 May 2012

Bottom of the 9th, 7-7, nobody out

That title, up there, it's almost always the game situation that provides us with a magic moment. I often have to look up the game summary or box score to figure out exactly what the title will be. Today, I did not. Brett Lawrie makes remembering the magic easy to do.

I often hold off on showing you the play, or the link to build a little tension, but I'm just going to give it to you right off the top, because that's what Brett Lawrie did. With nobody out, and the count full, Brett Lawrie swung the bat, and won the game. would like you to Click here so you can watch it happen in full motion video and sound.

Boom goes the dynamite, indeed. Everybody jump around! Did he just do that? Yes! Now we all go home!

For those of you not students of the game, I must tell you something important here. There are no clutch hitters. No major league baseball hitter has shown any real ability to get better at hitting when his team is behind, or he is the tying or winning run. Great hitters are great all the time. Bad hitters are bad all the time. With random variations thrown in. There are no clutch hitters, but there are clutch hits.

The walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth, that's the kind of clutch hit that narratives are written about. Ask Joe Carter. Brett Lawrie already knows quite a lot about clutch hits. His 71st big league hit was a walkoff home run. You have to be in the right place at the right time to get a walkoff hit. It must be the 9th inning or later. Your team must be tied or behind. There must be enough runners on for your team to take the lead, given certain outcomes of your at bat.

Lastly, you must do the right thing.

Brett Lawrie did exactly the right thing on May 1st,2012. If you are Lawrie fan, you know he's tried this move out before. It was September 5th, 2011, and in the bottom of the 11th inning, in a 1-1 count, Lawrie hit a solo home run to walk off the Boston Red Sox. It looked, in part, like this. says this is old enough that I can show it to you right here. Isn't that convenient?

A quick trip to my calculator shows me that 2.8% of all the hits Lawrie has made in the major leagues have been walkoff home runs. That's crazy. And makes him seem magical. Right place, right time, right thing. 2.8% of the time.

If you don't agree with me, I'd like to direct your attention to another MLB player with exceptional talent. He has been around a little longer that Brett, and has had time to amass 2,406 hits against major league pitchers. He's got quite the reputation for being able to get hits whenever he needs them. He's led the league 7 times in the hits category. His name is Ichiro Suzuki. Now here's the funny part, this link is to an article about Ichiro's first walkoff hit (hit, not homer, mind you). In the text of the article, we are told that it's the 1953rd hit of Ichiro's career. So, there's one walkoff for him, 2 for Brett.

It turns out, Ichiro thought that getting a walkoff hit was really cool. The next night, he was in the right place at the right time, and for the second night in a row, he did the right thing. He homered off Mariano Rivera and won the game, bringing his career walkoff hit percentage to 0.001%. So, Brett and Ichiro Suzuki now are tied in game winning hits. However, Lawrie has a 2-1 lead in walkoff home runs.

I don't know what will happen tomorrow, but I know what happened to end the game on May 2, 2012, and it was magical to me.

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