clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Looking back on the most tense moments of the 2022 season

A review of some of the most frazzling, high-wire game endings of 2022, with an assist from Leverage Index.

MLB: ALDS-Cleveland Guardians at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve spent some time in recent articles looking through different lenses at the various tightropes walked by the Yankees in 2022. There are quite a few to choose from: 16 walk-off wins (and a few more losses) make for a lot of content about WPA in the like.

Lots of dramatic endings and big swings in odds, momentum, and win probability naturally stem from plenty of very tense moments, and according to both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference, no team played out their season with a higher average Leverage Index than the Yankees. The 1.08 mark (where above 1.0 is considered higher-than-average leverage) given to them by both sites not only leads both leagues, it’s one of the highest averages posted by a Yankees team in recent memory. In fact, in only six other seasons did they play under higher pressure, with only one of those coming since the days of the Draft and the 18-year-old drinking age:

Baseball Reference/Stathead

Leverage Index generally has its upper limits, because there are only so many variants on a high-tension, late-game situation in which one pitch or swing permanently changes the outcome. Once again, the 2022 Yankees found themselves in a simply absurd volume of such situations. Let’s look back at the moments that, according to Leverage Index, were the tightest squeezes of the entire year:

5. April 8th vs. Boston Red Sox

Gleyber Torres vs. Ryan Brasier
Bottom 10. Bases loaded. Yankees trail by one.
Leverage Index: 8.99

Maybe Opening Day should have been taken as an omen: it took barely three hours of baseball season to bring the stakes about as high as they can be during a game, peaking when Alex Cora intentionally walked Aaron Hicks to bring Torres to the plate against Brasier. With the winning run on second and nowhere to put the hitter, the game almost hinged on whether Brasier could get Torres out without allowing the runner to advance. He couldn’t, the run scored, and the leverage lowered considerably on the Yankees end, which seems a little counterintuitive on the surface but tracks with the fact that Brasier finished the rest of the inning without any damage (before losing in 11 anyway).

4. July 12th vs. Cincinnati Reds

Wandy Peralta vs. Jonathan India
Top 9. Bases loaded. Yankees lead by one.
Leverage Index: 9.20

In retrospect, this might have been the first real gut punch of when things started to sour in 2022. It was a shame. Gerrit Cole delivered seven beautiful four-hit innings, punching out 11 and walking just one and exiting the game with a 3-0 lead. But for quite literally the first time all year, Clay Holmes really didn’t have it, and a few hits and hit-by-pitches later, Wandy Peralta came oh so close to an electric bases-loaded save before Jonathan India spoiled the party with his team down to the last strike. It was just the second time all year — and first since April — that the Yankees had dropped three straight. Hindsight can be grim.

3. June 2nd vs. Los Angeles Angels

Clay Holmes vs. Luis Rengifo
Top 9. Bases loaded. Yankees lead by one.
Leverage Index: 9.20

This one lived up to the billing, if tension is what was on the bill. Jameson Taillon opened this one by taking a perfect game into the eighth inning, and as you might recall, the offense did as much as possible to make it dramatic by failing to score until Anthony Rizzo delivered with two outs in the eighth inning to stave off what would have been an embarrassing defeat. (That hit on its own was enough for the fifth-biggest moment by cWPA in 2022.)

Because the Angels weren’t quite done yet and managed to load the bases against Holmes in the ninth inning, the Leverage Index soared up to 9.92 in what was not a small game for their overall championship odds, as Tampa Bay and Toronto were both well within striking distance in the AL East. Clay did what Clay does best and got the ball on the ground, and the rest was history.

2. May 4th vs. Toronto Blue Jays

Jordan Romano vs. Isiah Kiner-Falefa
Top 9. Two out. Bases loaded. Yankees trail by one.
Leverage Index: 9.21

How different the season might have played out with another shortstop in IKF’s stead... For all intents and purposes, this is the moment where things really began to go awry for Kiner-Falefa in the batter’s box. The pop was never there, but he was still reaching base and hitting a more-than-respectable (if empty) .311 entering May 4th. After going hitless and failing to capitalize on the opportunity you see in the clip, he proceeded without a knock over his next four starts, and hit just .210 without an extra-base hit for the rest of May.

1. September 8th vs. Minnesota Twins

Isiah Kiner-Falefa vs. Michael Fulmer
Bottom 9. Two out. Bases loaded. Yankees trail by one.
Leverage Index: 10.79

Yeah, there’s no kind way to say it: The two most high-leverage at bats of the season (within the context of winning the individual game) saw Isiah Kiner-Falefa at the plate with the tying and winnings runs within 180 feet and not an out left to spare. Fittingly, both netted the same result: a big ol’ L.

The 2022 Yankees were truly the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but it’s hard to not think long and hard about how many more critical moments might have swung their way — or not been necessary at all — with a different situation at shortstop.