If you're unfamiliar with Win Probability Added, you're really missing out. It's one of those sabermetric stats that's particularly fun because purposefully blindfolded Luddites can't complain about it not taking context into account; context is part in the stat itself. Win Probability Added (WPA) essentially attempts to quantify how much an individual player does to win an individual game. It takes "clutch" into account, as much as "clutch" actually exists; it notes whether a player made it more likely for his team to win, or less. For example, in yesterday's Yankees-Angels game, Robinson Cano hit a grand slam to give the Yankees the lead, so he has a high WPA for the game (.403), and Angels reliever Scott Downs, who gave it up, has a low WPA (-.318). In total, it all should add up to 0. After all, the goal is to win: WPA measures who did the most to help their team win. (The all-time WPA leader for batters is Barry Bonds, and for pitchers it's Roger Clemens, with Mariano Rivera sixth. However, the stat is only reliable for years since 1973 because of incomplete play-by-play data.)
Anyway! WPA. We explained it. But, as far as we could tell, no one had gone back throughout World Series history to find World Series WPA leaders — essentially, the players who have contributed the most to their teams winning World Series games. This morning, though, Beyond the Box Score did the work and posted its findings, and it's pretty fascinating.
You know that adage about how pitching wins you playoff games? (This is less an adage than "an obviously true thing that is nevertheless repeated and repeated and repeated throughout October.") Well, the World Series WPA certainly shows that: As Beyond the Box Score points out, of the eight people to post a WPA above two — essentially, those who have been directly responsible for more than two World Series wins — seven have been pitchers. The all-time World Series WPA leader is a man named Art Nehf, who helped the New York Giants win two World Series, in 1921 and 1922. But more to the point: Check out all these Yankees! This will happen when you have 27 championships.
Not surprisingly, Mariano Rivera is third all-time on the pitching list. Leading the hitting list is Lou Gehrig. But also showing up among the top twelve pitchers and hitters: Babe Ruth (who's fifth in hitting and fifteenth in pitching), King Kong Keller, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Hideki Matsui, Waite Hoyt, Allie Reynolds and ... Mike Stanton! Yes, the Yankees LOOGY is the twelfth most effective World Series pitcher of all time. He had a couple of those WS appearances with the Braves, but still: Mike Stanton is more of a legend than anyone could have possibly imagined.
Anyway, check it out. It's fascinating stuff, and a lovely quantification of how legends are really created.