Games » Cleveland IndiansSep26
I hate to say I told you so, especially when what I told you was the Royals were much more likely to lose a game in the seventh or eighth inning than the ninth. Bruce Chen threw great and looked on the verge of winning his 12th game, but the verge was as far as he got. (What the heck is a ‘verge’ anyway?)
If you paid attention, you could see the pitching change coming: Bruce had thrown 119 pitches and was about to face the top of the order for the fourth time. The more often a batter faces a pitcher, the more the odds shift in favor of the batter. Even though Chen throws every pitch known to man from every angle known to mechanical engineers, the batters get a better idea of what he’s got with every pitch.
Ned Yost did the logical thing with a 3-0 lead: got Bruce out, brought in a reliever (Jesse Chavez to face Trevor Crowe…and I don’t know anything about those match-up numbers) to get the last out of the seventh and handed the ball to the reliever with the second-best ERA in the eighth inning. (The reliever with the best ERA, Joakim Soria, was going to get the ball in the ninth.)
The only problem with the game plan was the reliever with the second-best ERA, Robinson Tejeda, coughed up five runs in the eighth. The first two hits were cheapies (as a manager, the alarm bells aren’t going off quite yet (although the tying run at the plate is worrisome), but then Robbie hung a slider. Shelley Duncan parked it in the cheap seats and the game was tied, just like that.
A single and two doubles later (don’t blame Ned, you don’t use your closer in a tie game and nobody better was available) and the game was over. A manager can make all the right moves and they still might not work out.
The seventh inning…
Time to focus on something that went right: In the seventh inning Mike Aviles got a two-out single. He then stole second, the right thing to do. If Mike stays at first it will probably take two more hits or a walk and a hit (in that order) to score him. Coming into this game Billy Butler’s had a .385 on base percentage and Kila Ka’aihue had a .196 batting average.
So, if you’re the manager, which bet would you rather play: 38% (Billy’s on-base percentage) and 19% (Kila’s batting average) or 69% (Mike’s stolen base percentage) and 31% (Billy’s batting average)?
You don’t need to be Amarillo Slim to figure out which gamble is the better choice: you send the runner and live with the results, knowing you played the best odds available (just like sending Tejeda out for the eighth).
(By the way, you could leave the runner on first and play slugging percentage odds, but unless you have Barry Bonds AND his pharmacist at the plate that gamble is a long-shot.)
Another factor to consider is how Aviles being on base affected the pitches Butler saw: with Aviles on first Billy saw nothing but fastballs. The Indians were worried about the stolen base and were trying to be quick to the plate. Once Aviles got to second, Frank Herrmann, the Indians pitcher, could quit worrying about the stolen base (it’s unusual to steal third with two outs because the runner is already in scoring position) and throw a breaking pitch. Herrmann threw a slider, buried it, the ball wasn’t blocked and Aviles advanced to third.
Now Herrmann was right back to throwing fastballs. There was a runner on third, the one breaking pitch he threw was a wild pitch and one more ball to the screen and the run would score. As a result, Butler saw three more fastballs, 96, 96 and 95 MPH and whacked the third one for a hit.
I hope you’re seeing how all this stuff is connected. Kinda interesting, aint it?
While we’re on the subject: there are three basic plays in baseball. The bunt, the hit and run and the steal (I know there are variations on all these, but let’s concentrate on the three main plays).
A manager has three basic plays and loses one of them with every out (as always, once again there are exceptions based on score, stage of the game and who’s at the plate, but quit interrupting me and let me get on with this).
With 0 outs every option is available.
With 1 out, you lose the bunt. Bunting a runner into scoring position means you’re counting on a two-out hit, an iffy proposition. The exception is the National League where they figure the pitcher’s going to make an out anyway, why not advance a runner?
With 2 outs, you lose the hit and run. Making the hitter swing at a bad pitch with two outs might end the inning.
The only play that remains viable throughout the entire inning is the steal, my favorite offensive play. If you’re a team that steals, every time you have a runner on, you force the pitcher to throw more fastballs, force him to rush his delivery to the plate and force the middle infielders out of position.
There’s no stat that shows how often a batter gets a hit because his team plays small ball, but I’ll guarantee you it’s significant.