The Oakland Athletics have long been known to obsess over statistics. From glorifying on-base percentage to Brad Pitt's Oscar nomination, crunching numbers is king in Oakland.
Well no matter what numbers one might use, when Brandon Hicks came up to bat yesterday afternoon in the bottom of the ninth, he could not be looked upon as much of a threat.
Hicks entered the game in the seventh inning as a pinch-runner for Chris Carter and scored in the game-tying rally. In the ninth he came to bat against the two-time defending American League champion Rangers.
Into that at-bat, Hicks had played 11 games for the A's. He was batting .147. For his career, 44 games with Atlanta and Oakland, he was a .100 hitter.
However, this is Billy Beane's team. He does not care about batting average. He is an on-base percentage and OPS guy. So far Hicks has a career high .194 on-base percentage. His OPS is .430, which would make a great batting average. He had zero career home runs.
His OPS-plus going into the game was 18. That might not be high, but at least it is above zero. His career OPS-plus is -15. Even if someone does not have a grasp on how OPS-plus works, they should know that a negative number is not good.
And his WAR backs up that line of thinking. Going into that at-bat, the career WAR of Brandon Hicks was -0.7. That means that Brandon Hicks would cost a team nearly an entire win by himself.
Is there a less likely player who could have hit a walk-off homer than Hicks?
So when he hit the ball into the air yesterday afternoon, we can forgive Texas reliever Michael Kirkman for pointing up as if to say "catch the pop up." He wasn't expecting Hicks' first career home run.
Instead it was a homer and the A's had their ninth walk-off win of the year and fourth in their last seven home games. The A's also picked up a game on the Rangers, moved to three games above .500 and within half a game of a wild-card slot.
As for the Athletics, the only stat that matters was the one that Brandon Hicks provided: a victory.