It’s official. Alex Gordon is retiring. While it’s a decision that no doubt makes sense personally for Gordon, as well as being mutually beneficial for the Kansas City Royals as they ramp up another young squad to win the franchise’s next World Series, it is no less painful.
Gordon will be best known for a variety of things. He is one of Major League Baseball’s greatest left fielders, ever, having won seven Gold Gloves at the position. He is a three-time All-Star who received MVP votes in two separate seasons. He is arguably one of the five greatest Royals of all time. And he has multiple iconic moments in World Series history.
Additionally, Gordon has had many wonderful, clutch hits throughout his big league career. There are an almost infinite amount of ways to rank these hits, but I am using two objective ones in order to keep things consistent throughout this series: Win Probability Added (WPA) and Championship Win Probability Added (cWPA).
WPA is a measure of the difference in win probability before and after an event. If the team’s win probability before a hit is 40% and the win probability after a hit is 50%, for instance, the hit’s WPA is .10, because it added 10% to the overall win probability. Similarly, cWPA measures the effect of events on the results of the World Series win probability; cWPA figures are lower, as it measure the probability of the result of an entire series.
Without further ado: the greatest hits of Alex Gordon’s career.
Honorable mention: August 8, 2019: go-ahead home run HR against Detroit
- WPA: .37
Those eagle-eyed Royals Review veterans may remember the previous version of this article that I wrote a little over five years ago. I used the same methodology for that article, and much of it is the same. However, I wanted to include a recent regular season event. While the Royals lost this game, Gordon’s three-run homer came with two outs and yanked the Royals from two runs behind to one run ahead in a single swing.
10. April 5, 2013: go-ahead triple in the top of the sixth against Philadelphia
- WPA: .42
In the beginning of an optimistic 2013 season, the Royals faced the Phillies in an early interleague series. Bruce Chen—remember him? fun times—pitched the Royals into a quick 4-0 hole. With the score at 4-2, Gordon came to the plate following a Billy Butler intentional walk, which loaded the bases with two outs. The intentional walk did not work, despite the lefty-lefty matchup. Gordon hit a clutch triple to the deepest part of the park, clearing the bases (even Butler). The 5-4 game became a 13-4 blowout, but Gordon’s hit was the catalyst. Also: Chris Getz sighting.
9. August 31, 2014: game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth against Cleveland
- WPA: .44
Coming into this night, the Royals were tied with the Tigers for the American League Central lead. Every win was precious. Gordon led off the ninth inning, his team down 2-1. With one swing of the bat, Gordon hit a rocket to right-center field to tie the game. In hindsight, it was eerily similar to the top hit on this list, and the Kauffman Center crowd erupted in happiness. One of the great joys of the 2014-2015 run was those late-season regular season games with a crowd nearly as raucous as the playoff crowds.
Unfortunately, the bullpen malfunctioned in this one, and Omar Infante hit a weak popup to end the game as a 4-3 loss.
8. August 1, 2007: go-ahead home run in the top of the tenth against Minnesota
- WPA: .48
Man, 2007 just seems like a billion years away. It was Gordon’s first season, and the iPhone had just been released. The Twins still played in the Metrodome. Fun times! Additionally, there is no video of this, so you’re just gonna have to close your eyes and picture it in your mind’s eye.
Ross Gload struck out to lead off the top of the tenth inning. Emil Brown, who had pinch-ran for Butler earlier in the game, then singled. After a Mark Teahen strikeout, Gordon stepped to the plate with two outs. Twins’ reliever Juan Rincon tossed a 1-1 pitch to Gordon, who hammered it to right-center field for a go-ahead bomb. Soria closed out the game in the bottom half of the inning.
7. July 23, 2011: game-tying double in the bottom of the ninth against Tampa Bay
- WPA: .51
Mitch Maier led off the bottom of the ninth with a strikeout. After a rare Chris Getz walk, Escobar traded places with him on a fielder’s choice. Backed against a wall with two outs and an 0-1 count, Gordon ripped a double into the right-center gap that scored Escobar from first, handing ex-Royal Kyle Farnsworth a blown save. Butler, immediately lifted for pinch-runner Mike Aviles after a leadoff single, quickly scored from an Eric Hosmer double in the bottom of the tenth.
That 2011 team was sure something. They were bad, yes, but they were interesting and full of future playoff stars. Salvador Perez would debut in a span of weeks.
6. July 8, 2008: game-tying double in the bottom of the 11th against Chicago White Sox
- WPA: .51
In a back-and-forth game against the White Sox, the Royals were able to come back multiple times. With the game tied 5-5, the game cruised to extra innings. Though the tenth inning was problematic, the 11th was particularly exciting. In the top half, AJ Pierzynski hit a ball to deep left-center field, allowing Joe Creed to score easily. Unfortunately, Esteban German unkorked a wild through that allowed Alexei Ramirez to score as well. 7-5, White Sox.
But, in the bottom of the 11th, Gordon came to the plate. Mike Aviles had previously knocked in German with a single. Gordon, one strike away from a lost ball game, shot a double to right field, scoring Aviles and evening the score at 7 all. Gordon again exhibited clutch skills, walking in the bottom of the 13th inning to load the bases after Robinson Tejeda had given up the go-ahead run to Chicago earlier in the frame. Of course, this was 2008, and Mark Grudzielanek hit into a routine ground ball double play to end the game down 8-7.
5. August 26, 2014: walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth against Minnesota
- WPA: .67
Five days before Gordon’s ninth-greatest hit, Gordon smacked his fifth-greatest hit. Unlike the game five days from this one, nobody was able to dull the brilliance of Gordon on this night in his first late-August display of clutch power. Alcides Escobar led off the bottom of the ninth with a single. On an 0-1 count, Gordon pulled a ball on the inner half, sending it to the Pepsi Porch for a two-run walkoff homer.
4. July 30, 2010: walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth against Baltimore
- WPA: .80
Down 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, Rick Ankiel (lol) and Willie Bloomquist (lolol) at the corners, and a 1-0 count, Gordon came through. Orioles pitcher Alfredo Simon tossed a mistake pitch up in the zone. Gordon did not miss it. He sent it into the home bullpen, ending the game 7-5 in favor of the Boys in Blue.
I would like to make a formal complaint to MLB Video at this point. Their older video content no longer exists, and as a result you are unable to witness the event that led to an 80% (!!!!) swing in win probability, a totally insane number.
3. 2014 ALCS Game 1: solo home run in the top of the tenth against Baltimore
- .057 cWPA
Hosmer, Moustakas, and Perez all had clutch extra-innings hits earlier in the playoff run. But, in a crazily high-scoring game in the ALCS that otherwise featured pretty good pitching, Gordon also got in on that action. In the top of the tenth, Gordon punished Buck Showalter’s somewhat bizarre decision to leave right-handed, sidearm pitcher Darren O’Day to face the dangerous lefty Gordon. Gordon smashed a go-ahead laser into the right field bleachers. Kansas City would not relinquish that lead, winning the game 8-6.
2. 2014 World Series Game 7: single with shenanigans in the top of the ninth against San Francisco
- .133 cWPA
Alex Gordon did not knock anybody in. Alex Gordon did not score. But make no mistake: this was a huge event. It is the fourth-biggest single event by cWPA in the entire 2014-2015 Royals playoff run.
What a hit, what an event. Game Seven. Down by one run. Two outs. Bottom of the ninth. Against a pitcher larger than life, in a moment larger than life. For a moment, it brought back the magic, even against the wizard who calmed it. History has been kind to Gordon and third base coach Mike Jirschele, as Kansas City’s 2015 World Series win has alleviated the “what if” factor of this play. History has also made watching this play more tolerable, letting us focus on just how bonkers it was rather than dwell on the pain of the next plate appearance.
1. 2015 World Series Game 1: The Home Run
- .154 cWPA
The second-largest hit by cWPA throughout the Royals’ two-year playoff run, this is one of the most memorable hits by any player in recent World Series history. Someday there will be a statue of it in Kauffman Stadium—as there should.
What are your favorite Alex Gordon hits? Let us know in the comments, and let us celebrate his long and storied big league career.