Heroes and goats of the 2022 MLB Division rounds

Oct 11, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros designated hitter Yordan Alvarez (44) is interviewed after hitting a walk-off three-run home run against the Seattle Mariners during the ninth inning in game one of the ALDS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 11, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros designated hitter Yordan Alvarez (44) is interviewed after hitting a walk-off three-run home run against the Seattle Mariners during the ninth inning in game one of the ALDS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

Every MLB postseason series has a highly visible hero and goat … or two.

When the full record of the 2022 postseason is written, the four just-completed series that advanced the Phillies, Padres, Yankees and Astros at the expenses of the Guardians, Mariners, Dodgers and Braves will be no exceptions.

Based on Baseball-Reference Championship Win Probability Added, here are the nine most impactful heroes and goats of the division round. Because I know you’ll ask, one name conspicuous by its absence from this list is that of Jeremy Peña. True, he hit the game-winning 18th inning home run for Houston, but Pena’s pedestrian 4-for-16 series with just that lone RBI left his Championship WPA contribution at just 1.63, well short of “hero” status.

Hero 1: Yordan Alvarez, Astros. +11.81. This one is as obvious as the outcome of the series, a three-game Astros sweep. Alvarez’ Championship WPA was nearly double that of any player on any series-winning team. His Game 1 three-run bottom of the 9th home run turned a two-run deficit into a walk-off victory and set the stage for the sweep. His third inning double in that same game scored Houston’s first two runs. His sixth-inning Game 2 home run erased a Mariners lead and put Houston ahead to stay.

Goat 1: Robby Ray, Mariners, -8.29. It was Ray who threw the game-turning pitch that Alvarez sent into the Minute Maid seats to end Game 1. He made only one other series appearance, a two-batter mopup after Jeremy Pena’s 18th inning home run in Game 3.

Hero 2: Robert Suarez, San Diego Padres, +6.27. Padres manager Bob Melvin leaned heavily on his bullpen to get past the Dodgers, nobody moreso than Suarez. He pitched in three games, covering four innings and allowing no hits. Replacing Yu Darvish, he escaped a two-on, nobody out jam in the sixth inning of San Diego’s Game 2 win, protected a one-run lead through the eighth inning of Game 3, and covered a two-run  lead through the eighth inning of the series clinching fourth game.

Goat 2: Josh Naylor, Guardians, -6.74. Hitting in the middle of Cleveland’s order, Naylor batted just .182 against the Yankees. He did drive in three runs, but missed many more opportunities. In a 4-1 Game 1 defeat, he batted four times with runners on base and failed to score any of them. In the pivotal moment for Cleveland in Game 5, with runners at second and third and one out, Naylor again failed to drive anybody home.

Hero 3: Jake Cronenworth, Padres, +5.70. Cronenworth was 7-for-16 against the Dodgers, homering and driving in five runs. In Game  3, his first  inning base hit gave Blake Snell an early lead. His seventh inning hit in Game 4 capped San Diego’s five-run rally, driving in the two go-ahead runs.

Goat 3: Aaron Civale, Guardians, -6.27. Cleveland manager Terry Francona entrusted the decisive Game 5 start to Civale, but the move blew up in the Guardians’ collective faces. Civale lasted  only five batters, walking one, hitting one and throwing a three-run bomb to Giancarlo Stanton that put his team in a hole from which it could never recover.

Hero 4: Giancarlo Stanton, +4.67. That Stanton home run effectively won the series for New York. Despite getting just two hits in 16 at bats, he drove in a team-high six runs because both of his hits were home runs.

Goat 4: Myles Straw, Guardians, -5.55. The Guardians had a lot of potential goats in their five-game loss to New York. Straw batted just .111 in 18 at bats, batting four times with runners on base and failing to move any of them. It fell to Straw to kill Cleveland’s last-gasp Game 5 rally. Coming up with two on and two out, he grounded routinely to shortstop to end the series.

Hero 5: Anthony Rizzo, New York Yankees, +4.30. Rizzo was 5-for-17 with a home run and four RBIs against the Guardians. His sixth inning Game 4 double gave the Yankees a vital insurance run.

Goat 5: Will Smith, Dodgers, -4.58. The Dodgers catcher and frequent cleanup hitter batted .188 against the Padres, driving in just two runs. In LA’s three losses, Smith batted nine times with a total of 15 teammates on base and failed to drive any of them in.

Hero 6: Luis Garcia, Astros, +4.14. Garcia worked the final five, tortuous five innings of the 18-inning series-clinching Game 3 marathon, allowing just two hits and fanning six in anticipation of Jeremy Pena’s home run.

Goat 6: Triston McKenzie, Guardians, -3.27. McKenzie put his team in an early Game 3 hole, allowing four runs in five innings. That Cleveland rallied in the ninth to win the game reflected nothing on McKenzie’s harmful work.

Hero 7: Harrison Bader, Yankees, +4.11. How do you feel about the Montgomery trade now, Yankees fans? Bader’s four hits against Cleveland included a team-high three home runs to drive in four runs. Statistically, both his Game 1 and Game 4 home runs were the days’ decisive blows.

Goat 7: Tommy Kahnle, Dodgers, -3.25. Kahnle pitched in all three Dodger losses, and was at the scene of the crime for San Diego’s winning Game rally. Tasked with protecting a 3-0 Dodger lead entering the seventh, Kahnle walked Jurickson Profar, then allowed a single to Trent Grisham and a run-producing single to Austin Nola before Dodger manager Dave Roberts could get him out.

Hero 8: Josh Hader, Padres, +4.01. Hader saved all three Padres wins, pitching scoreless ball in protecting leads of two, one and two runs.

Goat 8: Max Fried, Braves, -3.19.  In a division series strikingly devoid of influential figures, the contribution of Atlanta’s ace was most costly to the Braves. His Game 1 start lasted just three and one-third innings at a cost of six runs, four of them earned.

Next. What happened to the Dodgers in the NLDS?. dark

Hero 9: Brandon Marsh, Phillies, +3.80. Philadelphia’s victory was a team effort, but to the extent there was a star it was Marsh. He kick-started the series-clinching Game 4 with a three-run second inning bomb off Charlie Morton.

Goat 9: Justin Turner, Dodgers, -3.05. Turner batted .154 in the series. Coming up six times with runners on base, he failed to get a hit and fanned three times.