MLB Analysis: A Look Back at the Very Best Games of August
Well, August is in the books. Another month done. So what were the highlights and most memorable games of the month?
As it happens, I have a system I debuted last year that ranks how exciting a game is. There’s no point getting into a full account of how it works (methodology given at the end of this article if you're curious), other than to say it gives points for the things that makes games exciting and/or memorable: lead changes and comebacks, late-inning drama, extra innings, walk-off wins, how close the final score was, and outstanding performances by pitchers and sluggers.
Well, I’ve been tracking the games played so far throughout the 2012 season, and based on that system, here are the five most exciting games played in August:
5. Aug. 1, 2012: Rangers 11, Angels 10 (10) (38 points)
Normally these lists of the month’s best games are dominated by ones ending in walk-off home runs. Incredibly, none of theses games ended like that. Three of them have walk-off winners, but none came on homers.
This is one of those walk-offs, and it ended in impressive fashion. Entering the 10th inning, the game was tied, 7-7. Then the Angels scored three times in the top of the 10th for a seemingly insurmountable lead.
That’s when the Rangers pulled off maybe the greatest rally of the month. Between three singles, a walk, a home run, and an error, Texas scored four times (all while making only one out) for the win.
4. Aug. 30, 2012: Cubs 12, Brewers 11 (45 points)
This was a game where no lead was safe, so naturally it ended with a walk-off win. The Cubs led early, 3-0, only to fall behind badly 9-3. A six-run sixth tied it, but then Milwaukee scored twice for an 11-9 advantage. In the bottom of the ninth, the Cubs combined two doubles, two singles, and a walk for a three-run, game-winning rally.
3. Aug. 23, 2012: Angels 14, Red Sox 13 (10) (47.2 points).
Back and forth and back again. Initially, the Red Sox took a 6-0 lead, then the Angels stormed their way to an 8-6 advantage. And all of that came by the middle of the third inning.
Boston came back on their own for a 9-8 lead after six, but the Angels tied it 9-9 in time for the seventh-inning stretch. In the last five half-innings, at least one run crossed the plate. First, the Red Sox took a 11-9 lead in the bottom of the eighth, then fell behind 12-11 in the top of the ninth. Boston tied it 12-12 to send it into extra innings. The Angels took a lead in the 10th and held off a Boston rally for a 14-13 win, though the tying run was on base when the game ended.
A slew of lead changes (including a big six-run comeback), late inning drama, extra innings—all that adds up.
2. Aug. 24, 2012: White Sox 9, Mariners 8 (52.7 points).
This game had the wildest ninth inning of the year.
For eight innings, it was actually a fairly routine game, a boring one even. The Sox were up in an apparent laugher, leading 7-2 after eight frames. Then the wheels fell off in the top of the ninth as the Mariners rallied for six runs and an 8-7 lead.
However, instead of curling up and dying, the Sox fought back, scoring twice in the bottom of the ninth for the win. The last run actually scored when two Seattle fielders collided while going for a ball.
1. Aug. 15, 2012: Mariners 1, Rays 0 (57 points).
The others are great back-and-forth games, but this something quite different. It’s Felix Hernandez’s perfect game. Almost all the points here come from King Felix’s dynamite performance, but it gets a nice bump for being a 1-0 game.
Most/least exciting teams of the month.
Before moving on, let’s look at the teams that enjoyed the most and least exciting August. Being the most exciting team isn’t necessarily a good thing, and the least exciting team isn’t always a bad thing. We’re looking at late drama, and a team could lose a bunch late or win a slew early. We’re looking at this from the point of view of fans of the game, not fans of a team. Anyhow, here are the most and least exciting teams of the month.
August’s most exciting team: Seattle Mariners: 285.8 points.
Looking at the list of the month’s most exciting games, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the Mariners had the most exciting month. After all, they played in both of the month’s most exciting games.
Even if you were to exclude those two games, though, the Mariners still had a more exciting month than most squads.
Oh, and as an added bonus, it was also a good month for Seattle, as the M's went 15-12. In all, they had five games decided on a walk-off play (two of which Seattle won). They played in 11 games decided by one run (including three separate 1-0 final scores) and five games decided by two runs. In five of their games, a team took a lead in the ninth inning. And they also played a 14-inning game against Baltimore (which the Orioles won). In all, they had a lot of memorable moments.
August’s least exciting team: San Francisco Giants: 80 points.
It may not have been the most exciting brand of baseball, but I doubt Giants fans care that much. After all, their team went 18-11 in August, one of the best marks in all of baseball.
While the pennant race is thrilling, the games themselves often are not. There were virtually no late inning lead changes for the Giants. None of their games went into extra innings all month long (this on the heels of six extra-inning contests in 14 games in late July). They had only six games all month long score more than three points.
It hasn’t been exciting, but for the first-place Giants, boring has been beautiful.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail.
Read more great baseball stuff at The Hardball Times.