The 2016 Detroit Tigers were not known for their clutch hitting, as their absence from this year's postseason could probably attest. Despite ranking second in team OPS with men on base (.784, second in the American League to the Red Sox), they struggled to score runs when it mattered. The problem with this OPS split is that it lacks context. If the Tigers are winning 10-0 and someone gets a base hit with the bases loaded, it would not be that memorable.
However, there is a stat that brings context into the situation: win probability added (WPA). FanGraphs has a detailed description of WPA, but here's a quick explanation. Over the course of a game, the chances of the Tigers winning will vary depending on the score and inning. As events happen, the win probability changes. Say the probability of the Tigers winning is at 45 percent, then Miguel Cabrera hits a home run. This increases the Tigers' chances of winning to 65 percent. That 20 percent difference, or .200 WPA, gets added to his total for the game.
The following is a list of the plays that had the greatest positive impact (in terms of WPA) in a single game for the Tigers this season.
5. James McCann singles
Date: July 30 | WPA: .467 | Opponent: Houston Astros
The situation: The Tigers were ahead 1-0 going into the ninth inning, riding a hot start by Justin Verlander. However, the Astros scored two runs in the top half of the ninth, and the Tigers found themselves behind 2-1. With two outs in the bottom of the inning, Justin Upton walked, Tyler Collins singled, and then James McCann singled in the tying run. Jose Iglesias finished the win by singling in the winning run, but McCann’s single was the biggest hit of the inning according to WPA.
4. Justin Upton homers in extras
Date: September 5 | WPA: .484 | Opponent: Chicago White Sox
The situation: The Tigers and White Sox went into extra innings tied 2-2. In the top of the 11th inning, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez walked to put men on first and second. Ian Kinsler pinch ran for Victor, but that did not matter. Justin Upton hit his 21st home run of the season, and third in the last four games in the midst of his late-season surge. The Tigers ultimately hung on to win 5-3.
3. Jarrod Saltalamacchia hits a grand slam
Date: April 13 | WPA: .503 | Opponent: Pittsburgh Pirates
The situation: The Tigers entered the sixth inning behind 2-1 to the Pirates. After two quick outs, Miguel Cabrera doubled, J.D. Martinez walked and Nick Castellanos singled to load the bases. Then, Jarrod Saltalamacchia belted a grand slam to put the Tigers ahead 5-2. It was the 100th home run of his career.
2. Justin Upton homers
Date: September 4 | WPA: .524 | Opponent: Kansas City Royals
The situation: The Tigers entered the eighth inning trailing 5-4 to the Royals. Former Tiger Joakim Soria came in to pitch and Miguel Cabrera promptly singled to start the inning. Soria got the next two outs, but surrendered a home run to Justin Upton. This gave the Tigers a 6-5 lead, which became the final score in a big Detroit win.
1.Jarrod Saltalamacchia homers
Date: August 29 | WPA: .549 | Opponent: Chicago White Sox
The situation: The Tigers and White Sox were battling all game with the lead changing four different times. The final time came in the eighth inning when the Tigers were down 3-2. J.D. Martinez started the inning with a walk. One out later, Jarrod Saltalamacchia smashed a home run to give the Tigers a 4-3 lead and eventual win.