David Bote’s Ultimate Golden Grand Slam Was More Improbable Than You Think

David Bote is a man-sized good-luck talisman, and on Sunday night he was the human embodiment of every young child’s backyard baseball dream. Down three runs in the bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, two outs, two strikes. And Bote went big fly, after which he flew around the bases without one touching the ground, reaching first so quickly the ESPN score bug hadn’t registered the score.

Part of that also had to do with the speed at which the homer left the yard, 110 mph to be exact. Not that such a hard hit was surprising coming from the man who still leads MLB in average exit velocity, but in that moment and under those circumstances…come on.

Pinch hitters aren’t supposed to do that. Guys who’ve never hit 15 homers in pro ball aren’t supposed to do that. Guys who bounce around the minors and who get shuttled to the big club five separate times aren’t supposed to do that. The tale of the tape agrees that it shouldn’t have happened.

Bote only goes 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, not exactly comparable with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. But Hawk Harrelson would probably tell you Bote possesses TWTW in spades, though saying the best replacement player in baseball willed that ball out would be giving him short shrift.

The Cubs were not supposed to win that game, not when Max Scherzer was dealing the way he was and certainly not when Bote was down to his last strike. After Ben Zobrist grounded out to open the 9th, the Cubs’ win probability was at a mere 1.9 percent. And though it had gone up following Ryan Madson’s implosion to load the bases, I’m guessing it was close to zero when Bote took a borderline four-seamer for strike two.

And then this happened…

You’ve probably seen it a few thousand times by now and some of you may have even come to accept that it really did happen. I’m almost there myself.

Here’s the thing though: Homers like that don’t happen. And I don’t mean to the Cubs or whatever, I mean at all. When you factor in all the circumstances, Bote’s grand slam was a once-in a lifetime event. Per Rany Jazayerli, Bote’s walk-off was only the third “Golden Homer” — a walk-off grand slam with the home team down three runs and down to their last strike — since 1988.

That’s three in 30 years. Three in 3,394 grand slams hit. So Bote had something like a 0.09 percent chance of hitting that dinger. But wait, there’s more.

Bote was the first Cubs player to hit a walk-off granny with his team down three runs since Ellis Burton in 1963. And it gets even better.

In addition to being “golden” and “ultimate,” there’s another wrinkle that makes Bote’s slam even more incredible. Not since the Reds’ Slammin’ Sammy Byrd (I don’t think that was really his nickname) in 1936 had a player hit a walk-off grand slam to erase a 3-0 deficit.

While we can’t completely trust the data prior to 1974 (and it gets even dicier prior to 1950), Baseball Reference tells us that there have been 6,236 grand slams hit since 1936. That means Bote had something like a 0.04 percent chance of hitting a homer in that situation. And Byrd hit his with no outs, so Bote’s really in a class of his own here.

Again, it wasn’t supposed to happen. Of course, neither was Bote’s big fly a couple weeks ago to tie the game and set Anthony Rizzo up for the win. As much as I try not to ascribe too much additional value or meaning to individual games when there’s still more than a month of baseball left, it’s hard not to do just that with this one.

I mean, when you think that what Bote did Sunday night hadn’t happened in over 80 years…I mean, wow. You can’t help but sail away.

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