The most critical at-bat of all-time

From SABR member Dave Studeman at The Hardball Times on March 28, 2012:

What has been the most critical at-bat in the history of major league baseball? Think about it.

Perhaps you want some definitions. By most critical, I mean the at-bat in which the championship of major league baseball most hung in the balance. By history, I mean every year since 1900, when baseball donned its modern form.

Any ideas?

Okay, let’s discuss criticality. For an at-bat to be critical, it has to occur in late-season games. I think that’s obvious, but just in case it’s not: When a game occurs early in the season, there is time left for the team to overcome its loss, or lose its lead. But when a game occurs late in the season, there’s no time left for major changes. You might not want to call late-season games more important, but you can call them more critical.

Let’s keep the clock moving forward. If late-season games are more critical, it stands to reason that postseason games are even more critical. World Series games are most critical. The seventh game of the World Series is the most, most critical.

Within that seventh game, late innings will be most critical. In fact, let’s just flash forward all the way to the bottom of the ninth. Take it to the extreme… two outs in the bottom of the ninth. The last tick of the clock.

The score and baserunning situation also have to be considered. A tie score is obviously tense and critical, but tie games go into extra innings if an out is made. So let’s give the visiting team a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth.

And baserunners? Put the tying and winning runs on second and third, and then you’ve got one heck of a critical situation: An out means the visiting team wins, but most base hits result in a home team win. That’s a swing of one full world championship.

So this is our hypothetical really, really critical situation: bottom of the ninth with two outs in the seventh game in the World Series, visiting team leading by one, runners on second and third. It’s happened once in the history of major league baseball. Recognize it yet?

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Originally published: March 30, 2012. Last Updated: March 30, 2012.