Friday, August 31, 2007

Piniella, Yost play against baseball logic

After the Milwaukee Brewers reached the first two runners in the ninth inning of what was then a 5-3 game, it seemed like both managers lost their cool and gave in to their impulses. The ordinary people are caught up in simple thinking and there's no doubt in my mind that two average Joe's would've played out the inning exactly how Piniella and Yost played it out. I didn't expect that kind of performance from two Major League managers, however.

Brewers had runners on first and second with nobody out when Yost called upon Hardy to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Sure, the bunt moved the tying run into scoring position, but it cost Milwaukee the first out of the inning. While some might be thinking that two chances to tie the game was a good thing for the Brewers, I challenge you: what good would tying the game have done? A tie isn't really a tie: if the Brewers did force a tie into the bottom of the ninth inning, the Chicago Cubs would've gotten two at-bats for the price of one.

Evidently, Lou Piniella didn't get it either. After Dempster retired Ryan Braun, Lou issued an intentional walk to Prince Fielder. I get that first base was open, I get that Fielder is the most dangerous hitter on the team, I get that it was a lefty-righty thing, but under no circumstances should you volunteer the go-ahead run on base! Does the intentional walk increase the chances that you end the game after 8 1/2 innings? Probably, but it certainly doesn't increase your overall win probabilities. Just four minutes after Yost closed the door to a big inning, Piniella opened it back up for him.

Speaking of the win probabilities, PROTRADE Live supports my arguments with their numbers. Had J.J. Hardy swung away, the Brewers would've had a 25% chance of winning the game. Instead, the sacrifice brought their chances down to 22%. Similarly, had we pitched to Prince Fielder, our likelihood of winning the game (not necessarily right then, but eventually) was 92%. The intentional walk brought that number down to 88%.

The intentional walk to Fielder did exactly what I was afraid of it doing. Because it loaded the bases, the scenario in a three-ball count is incredibly different. Even though Dillon's run at third base didn't mean a thing, knowing that ball four brings home a run, a run that makes it one step closer to a blown save, is completely different. In this particular instance, Dempster didn't give in and walked Hart and put the go-ahead run (the man we intentionally walked) into scoring position and shifted the momentum to the Brewers entirely as the bases still remained loaded. In other instances, Dempster might've grooved one over the heart of the plate.

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