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The 10 most important pitching performances of the Giants' last three postseasons

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Does Madison Bumgarner appear on this list? You'll just have to click and find out.

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You see the title up there, right? Well, I'll start:

  1. Madison Bumgarner, Game 7, 2014 World Series
  2. Madison Bumgarner, Game 7, 2014 World Series
  3. Madison Bumgarner, Gam..

Wait! Hold on for a second. This is a list of the 10 most important outings from Giants pitchers in the postseason over the last five seasons, but it's not an arbitrary list. I know that Bumgarner's outing will be the mural on the ceiling of your mausoleum, and I'm not going to argue against it being the best individual performance of the three championship runs. This is about Win Probability Added, a fancy stat that's actually easy to explain.

Before the game, win expectancy has each team as having a 50-percent chance of winning. Every player has a WPA of zero. Now say the home team's pitcher allows a leadoff home run, and now his team has a 30-percent chance of winning. The difference is 20 percent, and the pitcher's WPA is dinged by -.2. Every play he's involved with for the rest of the game is added or subtracted from this total. When he leaves the game, we have a number that tells us how important his performance was to the eventual result.

This means that a pitcher throwing a shutout in a 1-0 game is going to rate higher than a pitcher throwing a shutout in a 11-0 game. That's what the stat is about: context.

Baseball-Reference let's us search for the best WPAs from Giants pitchers in the postseason from 2010-2015, so we can see who helped the team's chances the most. It's a list! I was told that the Internet loves lists. Here is a list:

10. Madison Bumgarner, Game 2, 2012 World Series

We touched on this briefly yesterday, but the Giants started Barry Zito over Bumgarner on purpose in an elimination game, and it made sense to almost everyone. There wasn't a huge controversy about it. That's how screwed up Bumgarner was. Here was the mood from the basement:

Here's something I'm not willing to give up for a 2012 World Series: Bumgarner's health. And this Bumgarner we've watched for the last two months is a tired, tired man. His command is off because his arm slot and release are all over the place. He's forcing something that isn't there, and it's hard to watch. He's leaving pitches up constantly, and his velocity is down.

lol like I know what the hell an arm slot is. Still, it was two months of disappointment leading into Game 2, and the Giants were starting Bumgarner because they didn't have a choice. They were just hoping the extra rest helped.

It did.

This is not the last time Bumgarner appears on this list.

9. Brian Wilson, Game 6, 2010 NLCS

This performance shouldn't count because I still have to take medication because of it. Brian Wilson came in with two on and one out in the eighth. A double down the line would have won it for the Phillies, and they would have won Game 7. There's no doubt in my mind.

Carlos Ruiz probably deserved that double. He hit it hard enough. The Giants were just lucky.

Sorry, Chooch.

After that inning, Wilson kept nibbling nibbling nibbling, eventually putting the winning run on base with a walk. Then he made the best nibble pitch in the history of nibble pitches, and the Giants won the pennant. Really, the WPA comes from his miracle double play. Somewhere in Philly, there's a round-headed kid sitting on the curb, wanting to know why Chooch couldn't hit the ball two feet higher.

8. Madison Bumgarner, Game 5, 2014 World Series

You might look at the score and wonder how this got here. It was a close game for a long time, though, with little margin for error. In the eighth, the Giants poured it on.

Juan Perez hit a ball here against Wade Davis:

I still can't process that. Pretty sure Kubrick directed the video of that at-bat from a soundstage in Burbank.

Compare this Bumgarner with the one from #10. Different, right? More confident. Better stuff. Stronger. Game 7 gets the press, but don't forget just how dominant he was to put the Giants up 3-2 in the series.

This is not the last time Bumgarner appears on this list.

7. Tim Lincecum, Game 5, 2010 World Series

My boss's boss came in the day after the Giants won this game, and he was angry. "I had tickets to Game 6! They would have won it at home!" I wanted to pull his ears off. You don't mess with the baseball gods like that. Take yer damned World Series win and buy tickets for the first two games next time. (Ha ha, like there was going to be a next time.)

Lincecum's slider made Bengie Molina look awful in this game. Molina wasn't exactly an OBP monster, but he could certainly make contact. Considering he caught Lincecum for years before this, you would have guessed that he would have a pretty good idea of how to approach him. He wasn't expecting an improved, wipeout slider, though, and it showed.

Also, we probably don't talk about Edgar Renteria around here enough.

6. Madison Bumgarner, Game 4, 2010 World Series

I remember trick-or-treating with my two-year-old daughter, going from house to house at a huge block party, with every house blaring the game from the radio. I dont' think I missed a pitch. That will always be one of my favorite baseball memories.

This was also when I started thinking the Giants might actually win. Kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and when the Rangers won Game 3, I figured that was the beginning of the end. A Rangers win would have meant a best-of-three series, essentially, with Cliff Lee starting one of the games. It could have gone horribly wrong.

Instead, Bumgarner had the best game of his postseason career to that point.

This is not the last time Bumgarner appears on this list.

5. Matt Cain, Game 2, 2010 World Series

Like Bumgarner's start in #8, this was a taut, nerve-wracking game for the first eight innings. Like that game, a ball missed leaving the park in center by a couple inches. Unlike that game, Cain was shaky at times, and he needed even-year bullshit to get out of tough spots. Luckily the Giants picked up a gigantic tub of it from Costco before the postseason started.

Watching that video makes me wistful for the Cain of yore. He can still come back, you know. He can still come back. He can still come back, you know. He can still come back.

4. Jonathan Sanchez, Game 3, 2010 NLDS

Surprised? How dare you. (I was a little surprised, too.) Without this outing, there's no Brooks Conrad, no unlikely comeback, and it was Sanchez at his very best. He was in command, and his stuff was, uh, dirty. When Buster Posey wanted the ball down, Sanchez buried it. It was great.

Sergio Romo's WPA wasn't as good in this game. That's alright, though. Sanchez didn't contribute a whole lot to the postseason run after this, but he certainly had a part in that very important game.

3. Madison Bumgarner, Game 7, 2014 World Series

I know, I know.

Now if there were a WPA that also correlated to the win expectancy of a championship, this would be #1 with a bullet. WPA also doesn't give a rip about two-day's rest. The formula doesn't have a spot for bonus points or general badassery. It sees five high-leverage innings, and it's impressed. Just not as much as we are.

Note: Google gives me a green line under "Bumgarner Game 7," and it suggests "Bumgarner's Game 7" instead. That's how we know a game capture the public's imagination in this wacky modern world.

2. Tim Lincecum, Game 1, 2010 NLDS

Of the hundreds of baseball games I've attended in my life, this is the single-best individual performance I've ever seen. Consider that in August, Lincecum looked irredeemably broken for the first time in his career. Consider that in the All-Star Game, he looked jittery and erratic. How was he going to respond to his first postseason start?

Then he allowed a leadoff double. I was about to sit on the bathroom floor for the next three hours, later. He allowed one more hit for the rest of the game and struck out the world, though.

Note: I've been to three postseason games since 2010. This one, Game 2 of the 2010 World Series, and Game 2 of the 2012 World Series. All three are on this list. Please pass the hat next time and get me tickets to a postseason game. Nice tickets. I'm not just some slob, you know.

1. Yusmeiro Petit, Game 2, 2014 NLDS

Petit's WPA for this game was almost twice as high as Bumgarner's Game 2 start in the 2012 World Series, for example, and that was a 7⅔-inning, scoreless start in a 2-0 game. That's how crucial every out was in Petit's outing.

Here's the win-expectancy graph:


Source: FanGraphs

If Petit gave up a dinger in his fifth inning of work, no one would have blamed him. Just one of those things, great outing. Instead, he threw six scoreless, marvelous innings. He allowed Brandon Belt to be the hero and Hunter Strickland to be remembered for something else in that postseason.

He allowed the Giants a chance to go up 2-0 and not sweat their Game 3 loss so much.

He basically won the World Series that night. Okay, fine, I guess Bumgarner helped too, but do we get the Legend of Bumgarner without Petit's brilliance that night? We probably don't.

In an era of ridiculously important postseason performances from Giants pitchers, Petit's might have been the most important. Don't yell at me about it. Yell at WPA. Before you do, though, note that WPA makes an excellent, excellent point.