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Finding the all-time postseason walk-off champions

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Which team has won the most postseason games in its final at-bat at home? The Yankees. But there's more to it than that ...

Jamie Squire

SB Nation 2014 MLB Bracket

On Sunday night, Kolten Wong hit a walk-off home run in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. Writers were quick to tweet out other recent Cardinals walk-off hits. There was the famous obstruction call from last year's World Series. There was the famous David Freese homer in 2011. There was the even more famous Ozzie Smith homer in the 1985 NLCS. Turns out the Cardinals are total jerks like that.

This led to the obvious question: Have the Cardinals had more walk-off excitement than most teams?

There are a couple of ways to look at this. There are the raw numbers:

Postseason wins ending in the home team's last at-bat

  1. Yankees (22)
  2. Red Sox (12)
  3. Braves (9)
  4. A's (8)
  5. Cardinals (8)

No surprise here. It's all original teams on the list, almost certainly because they had a 50-, 60-, or 90-year head start on a lot of the other teams. The top of the list of postseason games, all-time, isn't too much different:

Total postseason games through Oct. 13, 2014

  1. Yankees (377)
  2. Cardinals (240)
  3. Dodgers (184)
  4. Giants (175)
  5. Red Sox (168)

Considering the Cardinals have more World Series titles than any other NL team, and they're just one behind the Braves on the walk-off leaderboard, the answer is, "yes." They've had more walk-off tomfoolery than the typical team. They've had more postseason fun than almost every other team.

Except there's something unsatisfying about that answer. How can you compare the Cardinals to the Blue Jays, who have only been around since 1977? A better way, then: Tally up all of the postseason home games in each franchise's history and divide by the number of walk-offs to see who has really had a disproportionate amount of walk-off excitement. The Answer To This Question Might Surprise You.

Team Walk-off wins Home postseason games Total postseason games % of home wins ending in walk-off
FLA 5 17 33 29.41%
HOU 6 26 53 23.08%
NYM 7 39 74 17.95%
BOS 12 83 168 14.46%
TOR 3 22 41 13.64%
CLE 6 44 86 13.64%
TBD 2 15 30 13.33%
KCR 3 25 49 12.00%
SEA 2 17 34 11.76%
NYY 22 187 377 11.76%
ATL 9 84 164 10.71%
CIN 5 47 95 10.64%
ARI 2 19 36 10.53%
OAK 8 77 158 10.39%
WSN 1 10 19 10.00%
MIN 4 42 83 9.52%
ANA 3 34 64 8.82%
DET 5 58 120 8.62%
BAL 4 49 95 8.16%
PHI 4 55 103 7.27%
CHW 2 28 55 7.14%
STL 8 119 240 6.72%
MIL 1 15 31 6.67%
SDP 1 16 34 6.25%
LAD 5 91 184 5.49%
CHC 2 41 84 4.88%
TEX 1 21 44 4.76%
SFG 4 85 175 4.71%
PIT 1 47 96 2.13%
COL 0 9 19 0.00%
Total 138 1422

Or the answer to that question might annoy you. Yes, it's the Marlins who have had the most walk-off success in the postseason, relative to how many postseason games they've played. Even though they've been around since just 1993, the Marlins have more postseason walk-off hits than original-16 franchises like the Orioles, Phillies, Giants, White Sox, Cubs and Pirates. Not bad for a team that's never won its division. Imagine if the Marlins weren't originally owned by a decrepit VHS peddler, but instead owned by someone who saw the value in building the market up to its potential and pounced after that magical '97 season. It would have been a tough avalanche to stop.

Other notes:

  • The Rockies are the only active team in baseball without a walk-off postseason hit ... except that's kind of bogus considering the 163rd game of 2007 was one of the most exciting games in baseball history. If you give them credit for that one (I do), they've had a walk-off in 10 percent of their playoff games at Coors Field.

  • The Pirates have an amazing run of walk-off-free postseason baseball. However, if you're going to have just one walk-off ...

  • David Ortiz had three walk-off hits in the 2004 postseason, in case you forgot how ridiculous he was in that October. No other hitter in baseball history has more than two walk-off postseason hits in his entire career, and only six others had more than one.

  • The first walk-off hit in postseason history came in the 1910 World Series, and it helped the Cubs avoid a sweep. They lost the World Series the next day. No big deal. They'd be back.

  • Denny Walling had two walk-off RBI about a year apart, which isn't interesting, except it gives me an excuse to link to one of the best postseason series in baseball history.

  • The full list is here, for the completionists.

The Cardinals aren't the walk-offingest team in baseball history, not by raw numbers (Yankees) or adjusted numbers (Marlins). They're doing pretty well for themselves, so don't feel sorry for them, but know the Wong home run was something of a rarity, even for them.