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“Late Night”

LaMonte Wade Jr.’s late game heroics may have been the difference in the National League West.

Milwaukee Brewers v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

I have a LaMonte Wade Jr. t-shirt in my closet right now. My friend sent it to me after the giveaway in mid-September.

Give me a sec...I’ll go put it on.

It’s funny to consider that the San Francisco Giants promotions team printed ten thousand of these shirts and handed them out for free, shooting them from a cannon, Lou Seal flip-pering ‘em out into the crowd of screaming tweens, hands outstretched, delirious and inconsolable like it was Candlestick in 1966, crying for the threads that bore the name Wade having never heard of the guy five months prior.

How could a player earn such an honor as a Weekend Giveaway in such a short period of time? How could such legend ascend so furiously?

There is no given formula, but a good way to do it is to help the Giants win a lot of games. Wade undeniably did that—and not in a nerdy, esoteric, calculator, statistics way that can only be shown through dense calculations.

Take a look at this highlight reel.

All of these hits come in the 9th inning or later. All of these hits either break up a tie, knock in the winning run, or set the table for the Giants to score more. To provide tangible, undeniable evidence that you contribute to your team winning games, a player needs to get hits in these situations. If you want ten thousand fans to wear your name on your back, you have to be a little flashy and come up “clutch” in close games against division rivals.

A player feels good about bagging one 9th-inning game changing hit in a season. LaMonte knocked six. He put together nearly four minutes of game-winning content. That’s one fourth of Marlon Brando’s screen time in “The Godfather.”

The ‘Late Night’ moniker was surely deserved, but no matter what time of day, Wade buckled down like no other with runners on base.

With no one on, Wade’s standard batting line: .193/.287/.381 with an OPS of .668 in 247 plate appearances.

Put someone on base when he occupied the box: .364 / .400/ .669 with an OPS of 1.069 in 134 PA.

Try any scenario. Runner on first and third less than two outs, runner on third with two outs, runner on second who is right-handed and born under an Aquarius star sign with one out–it doesn’t matter: LaMonte Wade Jr produced.

Who knows what would’ve happened to San Francisco’s season if Wade wasn’t in the lineup. It’s likely that someone else on the Giants roster would’ve stepped up in one or two of those late & close situations…but would they have won all six of those games Wade came through in the clutch?

Would someone have come up big against the Los Angeles Dodgers multiple times, the Arizona Diamondbacks multiple times, the San Diego Padres, the Oakland Athletics...

Definitely not. T-shirt earned.

Beyond his play on the field, Wade made the club better by his character and demeanor. He was optioned twice: once in May and once in June, both times having little to do with his performance but the enviable position of having a glut of talent. In his second game back, he hit a two-run homer in the 5th in a game the Giants won by one run. He hit a home run over his mom. He won the Willie Mac Award. It was fun to be a Giants fan in 2021—LaMonte Wade Jr. was often the reason why.

But will Wade maintain those high leverage splits next season? Maybe? Maybe not? This is the high level analysis you are looking for…

Some players need those “big moment” scenarios to focus them. We saw it with Camilo Doval towards the end of the year. The numbers suggest Wade seems to be that kind of hitter, but it’s always wise to expect some kind of regression in some-may-argue untenable numbers. Also, baseball pitchers are smart and are surrounded by an assortment of smart baseball coaches who make a living by poking holes through baseball swings. Opponents are going to get better at facing LaMonte and he is going to have to adjust.

Wade is going to have to differentiate himself in a crowded, lefty-heavy outfield–hitting ka-jillion in the 9th inning with runners in scoring position is a convincing start. If he keeps that up, you know he’ll get another t-shirt day. Might even be bobblehead worthy.