Saturday, May 1, 2010

Walk It Off

I watched tonight's game from my friend C.J.'s house in Connecticut. He's a decent guy, so he probably caught up on the blog before I arrived. How else would he have remembered my promise to learn about walk-off wins after Darnell McDonald's opening night?

Since I promised, and since tonight's game wouldn't be much fun to write about, this one's for you Ceej.

Some background... during the last inning of the game, if the team batting second is ahead, the game is over after the top of the inning. If the game is tied or the team batting second is behind, the game is over after the winning run(s) are scored.

On April 20th, against the Texas Rangers, the Red Sox were tied 6-6 in the bottom of the ninth (thanks to a homerun in the eighth, also by McDonald). McDonald hit the ball off the Green Monster, bringing in the runner to win 7-6.

McDonald's hit has been known as a "game-winning" RBI since the beginning of baseball. It's only been a "walk-off win " since the 1990s/early 2000s.

The term was first made known by a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle in an article about Oakland reliever Dennis Eckersley in 1988. I guess Eckersley had his own way of describing things, including game-winning hits.

At first the term was used to describe the dejected way a pitcher that allowed a game winning hit walked off the mound. Over time "walk-off win" evolved to depict the way the runner celebrated while he walked (really jogged) over homeplate.

Okay C.J., happy? Other readers, if you opened this post guessing it would be about the Red Sox walking off the now two losses to the Baltimore Orioles... that too.


  1. Will, Spencerport NYMay 2, 2010 at 6:37 PM

    And now it is a sweep. Ugh! And another walk-off loss. Ugh! At least they can get back to some home cooking.

  2. Stumbled across this blog and just wanted to point out that walk off hits (and walks) haven't been called "game winning RBIs" since the beginning of baseball. The term "game winning RBI" was only officially scored from 1980-88 and then dumped because it's a lame statistic in many cases.

    As a matter of fact "RBIs" have only been around since 1880, which is not quite the beginning of baseball either. But damn close.

  3. To clarify, "walk offs" and the official stat "game winning RBI" are two completely different stats. While all walk offs would be "game winning RBI" the reverse is not always true. Game winning RBI can come in any inning and referred to when any player put his team ahead for the final time in a game. So, in a 1-0 game, it could come with a lead off HR in the first inning.

    That said, when she referred to "game winning" RBI in her post, I don't think she was referring to the 1980-88 MLB stat, but rather generalizing by saying that before Eck made up the term, it was just known as the hit that won the game. Had she meant the official stat, my guess is "RBI" would have been inside the quotes.