Late Game Management
We won! Woohah. However:
This isn’t anything we haven’t pointed out before, but since I said good things about Mike Hargrove’s line-up before the game last night, I have to point out how terribly he managed the end game.
Seattle – Bottom of 8th Score
Ron Villone pitching for New York
R Cano at second base.
E Perez walked.
W Bloomquist ran for E Perez.
Y Betancourt sacrificed to pitcher, W Bloomquist to second.
K Johjima hit for R Rivera.
K Johjima grounded out to third.
I Suzuki intentionally walked.
T Bohn hit for C Snelling.
T Bohn struck out swinging.
The inning starts out well, with Eduardo Perez getting the leadoff base on balls, which the announcers will tell you always comes around to score. They’re wrong, as you’ll see later, but it comes around to score even less often when the manager bungles the rest of the inning.
Using Tangotiger’s Win Expectancy chart, we see that the M’s are in a good situation. Tie game, bottom of the 8th, runner at first and nobody out, they have a WE of .673. In other words, the M’s would be expected to win this game two out of three times, considering they have 6 outs to go vs the Yankees 3 outs, and they have the potential winning run on base with no men out. It’s a good spot to be in.
Bloomquist pinch runs for Perez, which is totally defendable, especially if you’re going to have him steal second. If Bloomquist steals second, the WE raises to .738, a six point increase. If he gets thrown out trying to steal, the WE drops to .559, an eight point decrease. For the steal to make mathmatical sense in this situation, Willie would only need to be successful about 60% of the time. He’s 75% on the season and 85% for his career. Posada’s throwing out 36% of base stealers this year, and 30% for his career.
No matter how you break it out, the math works. Bloomquist is probably around 80% likely to swipe the bag there, which makes the reward well worth the risk.
Instead, the Mariners decide to have Willie stand on first and ask Yuniesky Betancourt to lay down a sacrifice, getting Bloomquist to second but using an out in the process. The WE goes from .673 to .656, a 1.5 point decrease. Yes, the runner is now in scoring position, but the Mariners are actually less likely to win the game now than they were before the bunt, because we’re running out of outs and are still tied.
The sac bunt to get the runner from first to second, especially when the runner is a base stealing threat, is a bad managerial decision. And Hargrove does it all the freaking time. If you want Betancourt to lay one down, have Bloomquist try to steal second first. Then, if he’s successful, bunt Willie to third. That’s okay, if you have to bunt. Getting the runner from second to third with less than two out is a big deal. But stop with the bunting a fast runner from first to second. It hurts the team’s chances of winning.
Then, of course, he compounds the problem with the absurd but totally predictable decision to pinch-hit T.J. Bohn for Chris Snelling. We like the fact that Bohn is here instead of Jones as the designated late game defensive replacement/pinch runner, but let’s not fool ourselves – he’s not much of a hitter. He’s vulnerable to breaking balls, chases pitches out of the strike zone, doesn’t make great contact, and has only gap power. Of course, he’s right-handed, while both Ron Villone and Chris Snelling are left-handed, so it was the by-the-book move to make.
It was just the wrong move to make. Chris Snelling can actually hit. He’s never shown a platoon split in the minors. He doesn’t have a swing that is exploitable by LHP’s. The M’s, needing a base hit to take the lead heading into the 9th inning, replaced a good hitter with a poor hitter, all in the name of getting a platoon advantage. A good LHB is a better bet against a good LHP than a bad RHB is. Mike Hargrove consistently fails to grasp this concept, and Bohn predictably struck out. Asking a kid to make his major league debut in that circumstance isn’t fair anyways, and having him pinch hit for a superior hitter is just foolish.
George Sherrill pitching for Seattle
T Bohn in right field.
K Johjima catching.
J Damon flied out to right.
J Mateo relieved G Sherrill.
D Jeter singled to right.
B Abreu struck out swinging.
A Guiel hit for C Wilson.
A Guiel walked, D Jeter to second.
A Rodriguez struck out swinging.
I’ve railed on this decision so many times, it’s not funny, but it has to be pointed out, because Mike Hargrove simply fails to grasp this concept, and it’s such an easy one.
When you’re the home team, and you go into the 9th inning tied, there can never be a save situation. Ever. It can’t happen. If you win, it’s going to be a walkoff win. You will never have a lead to protect. It’s fundamentally impossible.
Facing a situation where the Yankees had the middle of their order coming up, including two hall-of-fame RHBs, Mike Hargrove went with Julio Mateo instead of J.J. Putz. Why? Because it wasn’t a save situation, and J.J. is our closer.
This basic lack of understanding drives me insane, and Hargrove has done this repeatedly. Melvin did it too. It’s absurd, and the fact that a guy whose job is to make strategic decisions to help his team win can’t understand the concept is mind boggling to me.
Yes, it worked, and we won – huzzah. But we won despite the late game management of Mike Hargrove, who actually made it less likely the team would prevail. He made three lousy decisions in the span of 10 minutes, and the Mariners managed to overcome all three. But if you’re looking for reasons why the M’s suck in one run games this year, look no further than their manager. It’s nights like this that serve as glaring examples why Mike Hargrove just doesn’t belong inside the M’s dugout.