Looking for examples of a similarly strange managerial move.
Last Sunday, Bobby Valentine pinch-hit for Jose Iglesias with two outs and a 2-2 count in the seventh inning of a scoreless game against the Blue Jays. Iglesias wasn’t hurt. Toronto hadn’t changed pitchers. However, the situation had changed slightly: on the last pitch Iglesias saw, Pedro Ciriaco stole second. Iglesias is a weak hitter (at that point, he was 2-for-28 on the season), so with a runner in scoring position, Valentine called for Daniel Nava to drive him in. Had Ciriaco not stolen second, Valentine would have left Iglesias in to play defense. Maybe he wished he had after Nava grounded out on the next pitch.
You might not know it from watching the World Series, but it often makes sense for a manager to pinch hit for his starter before the late innings.
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Mitchel Lichtman, or MGL, has been doing sabermetric research and writing for over 20 years. He is one of the authors of The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, and co-hosts The Book blog, www.insidethebook.com. He consulted for the St. Louis Cardinals from 2004 to 2006, as well as other major-league teams. He holds a B.A. from Cornell University and a J.D. from the University of Nevada Boyd School of Law. Most of the time these days you can find him on the golf course.
Should dedicated pinch-hitters like Matt Stairs be consigned to the Smoky Burgess Shale?
The latest news from Nats camp is that Matt Stairsappears set to crack the team's Opening Day roster, which comes as welcome news to those who prefer to take their players like they take their bench coaches: old, overweight, and rarely sighted outside of the dugout. Stairs played in 78 games for the Padres last season, coming to the plate just 111 times, predominantly in a pinch-hitting capacity; this made him the most sparingly used of any player to crack that many box scores. In four of those games, he earned his meal money merely by forcing a pitching change, giving way to another pinch-hitter and reclaiming his spot on the bench after being announced. So far this spring, he has characteristically received only 17 at-bats in his 12 games, but—also true to form—he has done quite a bit with his limited opportunities, recording six hits (three for extra bases) and adding two walks, enough to convince the Nats that the dedicated pinch-hitter is still worth carrying.
As Stairs prepares to enter his age-43 season (and his 19th in the majors), it's worth wondering whether we will (or should) see another player like him. The Canadian’s career has been improbable in a number of ways: for one thing, he didn’t play a full season in the majors until reaching the age of 30, the kind of late start that doesn’t often augur great longevity. For most of his career, “well-rounded” has been an accurate descriptor of Stairs' physique, but not his game. However, he began his professional baseball life in the Expos' system as an infielder, of all things, spending time at second, third, and short, something that—to those familiar with his play in later years—might come as a shock on par with the discovery that one's stodgy mom and dad dropped acid at Woodstock.
From the "they also played" gang, those few who have jobs to win and trips to Fresno to avoid.
Arizona Diamondbacks Pitcher(s): Just 11 years, a bad press conference, and all sorts of money since he was last a front-end rotation asset, Mike Hampton is in camp. This has to be one of those bad-penny propositions, where everyone who operates a franchise has to take a turn paying for a Hampton surgery, otherwise you haven't really made the grade as an owner. And they've got Micah Owings back, four years since he gave the Snakes cause to believe he might be a rotation stalwart. Given that this is the team that puts Zach Duke or Hampton in cleats, what's several bad seasons in a row between friends? Hitter(s): I already touched on the most obvious impact NRI, Russell Branyan, on Tuesday, but he's not alone. Wily Mo Pena makes for an interesting platoon possibility in left field with Brandon Allen if Kirk Gibson decides to build something that could bop. And we can always double-count Micah Owings, since he's one of the only active players who genuinely extends a roster to 26 by contributing as both a pinch-hitter—or maybe even a spot starter at first?—and as a pitcher.
Everything you ever wanted to know about the lost art of pinch running, past, present, and future.
With the help of Mat Kovach and Retrosheet, pinch running statistics in the last 50 years have now been compiled, along with leaderboards for seasons, lifetime, and most times removed, along with team and manager statistics. (E-mail me if you want this.) In compiling all this information, a few things jump out from the statistics, and so here are the highlights of pinch running statistics.
Two wounded rotations, two bullpens likely to work early to often and up to the challenge... will the difference be the Mets' eight-deep attack, or the Cardinals' power of one at the plate?
The beginning of the postseason marked a chance for Willie Randolph's Mets to consummate something the baseball world had anticipated for at least four months, the chance to show that their regular-season dominance was no fluke. Yet the run-up to the Division Series against the Dodgers brought disturbing news. Not only was ace Pedro Martinez, the symbol of the team's resurgence under Randolph and GM Omar Minaya, likely to miss a start due to his calf strain, but he was diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff that would knock him out into the middle of next year. The team's next pick to open the series, Orlando Hernandez, tore a calf muscle running in the outfield, knocking him out of consideration as well. Undeterred, the Mets retooled their postseason roster to play to their strength, a deep bullpen, and Randolph ably improvised his way through the series while the lineup punished nearly every mistake the Dodgers made. The result was a victory in straight sets, confirming that at the very least, the road to the NL pennant runs through the Big Apple.
Constructing a playoff roster is a critical part of advancing through the postseason. Christina breaks down the eight teams.
Bench Assets: If Jim Leyland pinch-runs for Pudge late in a game, Vance Wilson's a thoroughly useful backup catcher. Omar Infante is the Tigers' best reserve, hitting .277/.325/.415, and he's good enough to spot at four different positions. After that, you get into the "why are they here?" players, where only Leyland sees value, and only the opposition wants to see them on the field.
Is pinch hitting good or bad? Guest writer Andy Dolphin uses the 2005 Phillies as a point of departure and takes a closer look.
A strong bench would seem to be one of those indispensable elements of a successful team. After all, if you need to generate some offense late in a game, you need players on the bench you can count on. (Not to mention, of course, the need to give players a break and have replacements for injuries. For this article I'm just looking at pinch hitting.)
The 2005 Phillies seemed to have just what they needed, in the form of four quality outfielders: Bobby Abreu (.286/.405/.474) in right, Pat Burrell (.281/.389/.504) in left, and Kenny Lofton (.335/.392/.420) and Jason Michaels (.304/.399/.415) sharing time in center. This must have been a manager's dream, right? Lofton or Michaels on the bench, able to come in and get on base to keep a rally going? Let's see how it worked out.
I was at Safeco Field on Tuesday, watching a fast-moving game that was on pace to wrap up 3-2 Mariners in about two and a half hours, and ended up with one of the longest, craziest games I've ever attended.
I scored this game. I've been working on an article about scoring and finding a good card to match your style, and thought I'd finally settled on one. This game, of course, became the torture-test for a scorecard: