The 2023 New York Mets might go down as one of the most disappointing teams in Major League Baseball history. However, no team is ever devoid of having exhilarating, game changing moments. A team can go from sure losers to unlikely winners after just one swing of the bat. One beautiful aspect of baseball is that these moments can happen at any time, for any team, to any player. In the world of statistical analysis, Win Probability Added (WPA) provides a tangible measurement of how “clutch” a play was. In other words, how important was that home run, strikeout, groundball, single, etc. to the team’s chances/probability of winning or losing that game?
Every single play has a WPA associated with it on a scale from -1 to 1. A number closer to one means a play increased the team’s odds of winning that game. Negative numbers indicate the play hurt the team’s chances of winning. The most significant WPA event can happen at any time during a baseball game. However, the most impactful events typically take place in late innings of close games.
They also typically occur (from an offensive standpoint) on a home run or multi-run extra base hit. When looking at the 10 biggest 2023 Mets clutch moments, or offensive plays with highest WPA, half of the list is home runs, another half occurred in the ninth inning or later, and four are walk-offs. Additionally, the earliest event on the list occurred in the top of the sixth and seven different players produced these events. These moments can truly happen at any time by any player.
Here’s a look at the top 3 clutch moments from last season.
2023 Mets Best Plays
May 17: Pete Alonso Walks Off the Tampa Bay Rays (WPA of 0.793)
In May, the Mets hosted the then-MLB best Rays in an early statement series. New York needed to play well to infuse hope and life into a young campaign marred by early struggles. What better way to make that statement than by beating the best.
After losing the first game of the series, New York’s offense came to life late against a dominate Rays bullpen in Game 2. The Mets erased three separate Tampa Bay leads of at least two runs, all in the seventh inning or later.
— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) May 18, 2023
Adding to the magic of the night was that the big blow came from a struggling Pete Alonso. The franchise icon started the game 0-4, but came to the plate in the bottom of the 10th against the electric righty Pete Fairbanks. With the Mets down by two with one out and two men on, the odds were not in New York’s favor.
However, Alonso mashed a walk-off homer into Citi Field’s left field upper deck. The play increased the Mets’ probability of winning the game by almost 80 percent (and raised it to 100 percent). Alonso’s electric homer (and energetic celebration) was by far the biggest 2023 Mets clutch moment by almost 30 percentage points.
May 17: Francisco Alvarez Ties the Rays in the Ninth (WPA of 0.494)
The second most clutch offensive play from the 2023 Mets season came one inning earlier. The Mets were down to their final out and losing by three. Rookie Francisco Alvarez represented the tying run at the plate against, believe it or not, a tough Rays righty reliever.
Now it’s Francisco Álvarez’s moment. Two innings after Mark Vientos’ game-tying, two-run homer, Álvarez hits a game-tying three-run homer. Wow.
Mets 5, Rays 5, bottom nine. pic.twitter.com/QBr1AUOet1
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) May 18, 2023
Throughout the 2023 season, Alvarez often shown a knack for coming up clutch in big moments. The Win Probability odds swung almost 50 percent in the Mets’ favor off of this play. This game-tying homer, which came from the ninth spot in the lineup, was a breakthrough moment for him. Alvarez came alive with the bat after this game, earned more playing time, and became a bright spot in a lost season.
May 21: Starling Marte Homers Late Against Cleveland (WPA of 0.480)
2023 Mets clutch moments can even happen in games where the Mets blow leads late in games and give fans the familiar feeling of defeat and despair. New York hosted the Cleveland Guardians right after taking the final two games against the Rays in hopes of extending a hot streak. The Mets took Game 1 in a wild walk-off win, but the series was delayed after rain postponed game two. New York’s quest for a fourth straight win had to wait until the first game of a Sunday double-header.
The game started well, as the Mets rode a solid Max Scherzer start to a 3-0 lead in the eight inning. However, things fell a part quickly for Adam Ottavino and David Robertson. After allowing two runs to score, Ottavino was relived by Robertson with two outs. Despite being just one pitch away from getting out of the inning, Robertson gave up a José Ramírez two-run homer. It was the biggest play of the game, per WPA, and gave Cleveland’s strong bullpen a late lead.
Luckily for the Mets, things just go your way when you’re hot. In the context of this game, that meant almost immediately getting the lead back in the bottom of the inning. With Brett Baty walking to lead off the eight, a struggling Starling Marte stepped to the plate against Cleveland set-up man Trevor Stephan.
CLE @ NYM
May 21st, 2023
Player: Starling Marte (2)
103mph Exit Velocity
Bot 8th, 0 outs
Pitcher: Trevor Stephan
95mph Fastball pic.twitter.com/b3ArdjaIkR
— Mets Homers (@NYMHomers) May 21, 2023
While 2023 was a lost season for Marte, this go-ahead homer was likely the highlight for him. It immediately gave momentum back to New York and picked up Ottavino and Robertson, two Mets that could’t be blamed for early season struggles.
Robertson would come back out in the ninth and smoothly close out the game. Marte’s blast gave the Mets their fourth straight win (in an eventual five-game streak). The opposite-field shot showcased how strong Marte is and how dynamic he can be. The Mets offense missed his production greatly in 2023 and will surely hope health brings back his 2022 contributions.
Photo Credit: © Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports